Monday, December 14, 2015

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge Cake

It has been quite a long break since I last wrote what we were eating and what I was baking.  Life seems to be incredibly busy and always moving forward.  We have traveled to NYC and Chicago to visit friends and family, made it through Thanksgiving, and are gearing up for Christmas!  It seems like there is never a break to breath!

This past weekend we had a beautiful reason to celebrate.  Joe's Men's ALTA tennis team won the championship a couple weeks ago!  This has been a long time coming since they have gotten so close so many times!  After an exciting finish, it was only appropriate to celebrate.  We had his team over to our place this past Friday night to celebrate the big victory.  No celebration is complete without a cake.  So, of course I gave Joe some options for cakes.  He managed to pick the most complicated one!  I was in a time crunch as well since I had traveled the end of last week, but it was all worth the stress!  So, be warned this isn't the quickest cake to make, but it is well worth it!  So, here we go!

Salted Caramel Chocolate Fudge Cake

2 cups plain flour
1 3/4 superfine sugar
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup + 2tsp buttermilk
1/2 cup + 1tsp vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup + 2tsp very hot coffee

Salted Caramel
1 1/2 cup super fine sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup + 3tbsp double cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp - 1 tbsp sea salt flakes

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
1 cup superfine sugar
4 large egg whites
1 cup + 1 tbsp softened unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
8 tbsp (or more to taste) salted caramel

Whipped Ganache
7 oz dark chocolate
3/4 cup + 1tbsp + 1tsp double cream

Note: I made superfine sugar by processing granulated sugar in a food processor for about a minute

  1. Bake the cake the day before you want to ice it. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Grease and line two 20cm/8in round tins.
  2. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and bicarb of soda together into a large bowl, stir in the sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla extract, pour into the dry ingredients and beat well until smooth and combined. Add the hot coffee, a little at a time, until it is all combined, the mixture will be very liquid, don't panic! Divide the batter between the tins and place in the centre of the oven, check after 35 minutes - a skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean or with a few moist crumbs, but no wet batter. They could take up to an hour to bake though, mine took 55 minutes, just check every 5-10 minutes after the 35 minute mark.
  3. Once baked, remove to a wire rack, still in their tins, and leave to cool completely. Once cold, wrap the cakes in their tins in clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight, or for at least an hour. It is far easier to slice a cold cake in half neatly.
  4. Make the salted caramel: Place the sugar and water into a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring to the boil and cook, swirling the pan, NOT stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the colour changes to amber. Remove from the heat and pour the cream - be careful as the caramel will bubble ferociously and rise up in the pan. When the bubbling stops, add the butter and whisk till combined, it may not be completely smooth at this point.
  5. Return the pan to a medium heat and cook at a gentle simmer, whisking the whole time, for a couple of minutes until the caramel is smooth and free of lumps. Whisk in the salt, a little at a time, tasting as you go (CAREFULLY - the caramel is very hot!), until it's at the right level of saltiness for you. Make sure that the salt is actually fully combined, and not just sinking to the bottom, before adding more. Leave the caramel to cool completely, it can be made the day beforehand and stored in the fridge for up to a week.
  6. To make the salted caramel swiss meringue buttercream, put the egg whites and sugar in an extremely clean heatproof bowl (use the bowl of your stand mixer if you have one). Place over a pan of simmering (not boiling) water (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water) and whisk with a hand whisk (not electric) until the sugar has dissolved completely and the mixture is warm to the touch, if you rub some of the mixture between your fingers it should be smooth and you shouldn’t be able to feel any graininess, this will take about five minutes. If you want to get technical about it the mix should reach 60°C/140°F on a thermometer.
  7. Remove the bowl from the heat and attach it to your stand mixer with the whisk attachment or use an electric hand whisk, whisk the egg whites until it forms a thick, glossy, bright white meringue and is completely cool, the bottom of the bowl should feel cool to the touch, this will take about 10 minutes.
  8. Once the meringue is cold, switch the mixer to a low speed and begin to add the butter, a tablespoon at a time, make sure that each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next; the meringue will deflate a little and may begin to look curdled, don’t panic! This is normal, just keep adding the butter gradually and whipping away and it will come back together. If, once all the butter has been added, your mixture is runny, the butter may have been too soft or the meringue still warm, just put the bowl in the fridge for 15 minutes or so then carry on whipping.
  9. If, even after a decent amount of whipping, it still looks curdled, place about 4 tablespoons worth of the mixture in a small bowl and microwave for 10-15 seconds, it should become runny, pour this back into the bowl of buttercream, down the side of the bowl while whisking, continue to whisk for a few minutes and it should come back together. Once the buttercream is completely smooth and silky and all the butter has been incorporated, whisk in the vanilla extract and salted caramel.
  10. Remove the cakes from the fridge and carefully, using a long, sharp serrated knife (like a bread knife) slice each one in half so you have four layers. Place one layer on a serving plate or cake stand and spread over just over a quarter of the buttercream, then drizzle over a tablespoon or two of the salted caramel (you can thin it with a little more cream or warm it VERY slightly until it becomes pourable if needed - I'm talking no more than 10 seconds in the microwave, do not let it become warm or it will melt the buttercream). Top with another layer of cake and repeat until you have three layers of buttercream; place the final layer of cake on top - use one of the bottom halves, upside-down, so that you have a flat top.
  11. Spread the remaining scant quarter of buttercream thinly all over the cake, it does not need to be neat and you will be able to see cake through the buttercream but try to get it fairly smooth and cover the cake evenly; this is your crumb coat - it will stop cake crumbs from getting into your ganache. Place the cake in the fridge for at least fifteen minutes while you make the ganache.
  12. To make the ganache, chop the chocolate and place in a heatproof bowl. Put the cream in a small pan and heat until just simmering, pour it over the chocolate, making sure that it is all covered; leave to stand for 5-10 minutes then stir until smooth. Leave the ganache until it has cooled to room temperature - it should have thickened but still be spoonable, like pudding (you can pop it in the fridge to speed this up). Whisk with an electric whisk until it has lightened in color and has the texture of thick whipped cream, do not over-whip or you will end up with chocolate butter...which sounds delicious but is not what we want here! Immediately spread the ganache all over the cake - work fairly quickly as it doesn't take long for it to start to set.
  13. To finish, drizzle over the remaining salted caramel.

Photo and recipe from here

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Bali, Indonesia and Seoul, South Korea

September 3, 1015-September 13, 2015
Bali, Indonesia and Seoul, South Korea

We woke up bright and early Thursday morning to get ready for our long trek to Bali.  We had packed the majority of our things the nights leading up to the trip but had some last minute things to do.  Around 9:30, Joe’s dad arrived to take us to the airport.  He had already picked up Rox the day before so we sat down and relaxed a bit.  Josh and Caroline came a couple minutes after Jim did.  Before we knew it, the house was locked up and we were heading out the door to the airport.  We had a 12:15 flight so we hit the road a little before 10 and didn’t hit too much traffic.  After getting all checked in at the international terminal we took the train to Terminal E for our departure.  We had about 30 minutes before boarding so we caught up on emails before heading off.

We were seated pretty far back in the plane in a row of 4.  All of our flights this trip are via Korean Air. The leg room is quite a lot bigger than the Delta international flights so we were excited (especially since there are two tall guys traveling).  We got settled in and before we knew it we were off!  After some drinks we were all settled in and acquainted with our area.  A guy a couple rows in front of us had the cutest puppies, although when he went to the bathroom they would go crazy!  About two hours in it was time for our first meal experience.  I wasn’t sure how I would react to the meals since I have some issues eating on planes, but I was pleasantly surprised that the food smell was completely different since they were serving Asian food.  Josh I enjoyed some beef and noodles, Joe ate the bibimbop (an Asian stir fry type meal), and Caroline had the chicken and rice.  All of it was fantastic!  After enjoying the meal it was time to watch some movies!  They had quite the movie selection to entertain us but after two movies it was time to turn to the magazines.  The time passed quickly and after a couple more drink rounds it and about 8 hours into the flight it was time for meal number 2!  This time around Joe and Caroline enjoyed a different kind of chicken and rice, Josh braved the fish and potatoes (he wouldn’t recommend it!), and I had noodles with cream sauce.  After dinner time it was time to sleep the remainder of the flight.  In not time we were landing in Seoul, 1 hour early from the original arrival time!  I guess the pilot flew fast!

Once we landed in Korea we waited in line for a bit to get through a little security line before finding our gate.  Since we were flying with the same airlines it was not too far of a walk to our next gate.  As we settled in for about a 2 hour wait we all got caught up on the world (yes we were all on our phones the second we found out we had wi-fi) and found out the yellow jackets had won their first home game!  We all cleaned up a bit in the bathroom and brushed our teeth before starting our next leg of the trip.  This flight was about half as long as the first so we were excited for the 7 hours.  We failed to hear any of the boarding calls for our flight (we were sitting 1 gate over to avoid all of the people) and luckily Caroline happened to look up and see that people were boarding and the gate was almost empty!  We packed up our stuff really quick and got to the gate right at final boarding call!  We had another row of 4 seats on this flight so we sat down and got settled in!  We enjoyed a snack and drinks right away and then settled in to some reading and movies.  About 2 hours in it was time for a meal again!  This time Caroline and Josh got yet another variation of chicken and rice which they did not enjoy as much as the others and Joe and I had beef and noodles which were very tasty.  They topped it off with a wonderful ice cream for dessert!  After wrapping up the meal we all took a couple hours to nap since we have been sleeping on and off for the past 20 hours.  With about an hour and a half left in the flight they turned the lights on and brought pizza and bananas for snack time.  Before we knew it was time to land and we had survived the 14 hour and 7 hour flights!

We walked through customs pretty quickly.  We were lucky that our bags were literally the first 4 bags out!  That meant we had little to no lines walking through customs.  The airport looked like a regular airport and fairly large as we walked through.  Once we exited the secured area there were large lines of people holding signs for pickup!  I have never seen that many before!  We found our guy since he was holding a black sign instead of the standard white one and then we were off to his car and off for the 15 minute drive to our hotel.  For the first 3 nights we are staying at The Villas, Seminyak, which is near the beach.  We checked in fairly quickly then were escorted to our villa.  We had originally booked a two bedroom villa but they upgraded us to a 3 bedroom villa!  We walked through the door into paradise!  We got the tour of the three bedrooms, all including a HUGE bathroom, patio, and bed area.  We also had an open space that consisted of a living room, dining room, and kitchen area.  The third room was separate in a pool house type feel.  We decided we would keep that one for when we were rinsing off from the pool.  We also had a fruit basket that had the most amazing fruit, half of which I had never seen before.  We snacked on the fruit and enjoyed some drinks before calling it a night around 2 AM. Of course, since we had slept on and off the past 24 hours we weren’t too tired and Joe and I finally got up and moving around 6AM to watch the sun rise.
OBSESSED with the fruit here!
3 bedroom villa with a pool!  Thanks for the upgrade :)

Day 1
We woke up at 6 and enjoyed some relaxing time by the pool.  I walked around and took some pictures of our villa and rooms while Joe answered some emails. Josh and Caroline got up around 7 and we hung out until breakfast was served.  The chef comes to your villa to cook if you would like and we opted for that!  We all ordered different things from the menu.  Joe ordered the Indonesian breakfast of Mie Goreng, Josh got eggs benedict, I ordered the homemade Bircher Muesli, and Caroline ordered the traditional breakfast which was eggs and pastries.  The chef and assistant arrived at 7:45 to cook breakfast at our villa.  After about 30 minutes breakfast was served.  Everything was amazing!!!  Joe’s was an Indonesian noodle with some vegetables and with rice chips.  We were all so amazed by breakfast that we all ordered it for tomorrow’s breakfast.  After breakfast we got ready for the day then ventured out to explore.  We aren’t right on the beach in Semenyak so we started the walk knowing the general direction of the beach. It was about 9:30AM and the town was bustling.  There were scooters everywhere and we were amazing by the crazy drivers!  We are glad we weren’t on the streets and had a driver the whole trip.  We enjoyed walking through the city then spent a little of time at the beach before turning around and heading back.  Once we got back the boys swam in the pool a bit and enjoyed some local beer that they bought at the convenient store across the street from us.  Once they got dried off and dressed it was time for lunch.  

We headed to Bo & Bun, a place somewhat close to the hotel.  There we enjoyed bulgogi fries (fries with ground meat on them) and then Joe ordered 18 hour pho, Josh had pad tie, and Caroline and I enjoyed the chicken basil wok meal.  It was all so good, but Caroline and my meal was perfect!  After lunch we headed back and got ready for the second half of the day.  At 1 PM Made, our driver for the week arrived for the day. We did introductions and then hit the road.  The first part of the day was the beach tour.  We started at Nusa Dua which is a new beach.  There was a nice relaxing beach that wasn’t too crowded, but the main feature is called Water Blow, which is an area where the waves crash in the rocks and it is a beautiful site to see.  After that we headed to Pandawa Beach which seemed to be more of a local beach. They had a boardwalk that was very busy and everyone wanted us to sit under the “brella”.  We ventured to the end of the beach and enjoyed walking by the water.  We spent about 40 minutes there before heading to the last beach, Padang-Padang beach which is the beach where eat pray love was filmed.  The beach was absolutely stunning with rocks sticking out and huge waves.  The walkway to the beach is supper narrow stairs and we met our first monkey there.  Once you get to the bottom of the steep stair pathway the beach opens up.  This is where all of the Europeans come to sit!  The beach isn’t all that big so it looked crowded with everyone there.  The water is beautiful at all of these beaches, but the prettiest at Pandawa Beach.  After exploring there a bit we headed to our last stop of the day.  The highlight of the trip was the Uluwatu temple.  We arrived before 5 and walked all the pathway.  This temple sits on top of a cliff and is stunning.  The water has eroded away huge cliffs for a very scenic view.  The waves were huge below and the water was so blue with super white waves.  After walking around there we sat down for the last part of the day, the fire dance show.  This is a traditional dance that tells a story with fire.  The view is spectacular as you sit in the arena that opens up to the view of the Indian Ocean.  The sun set throughout the majority of the show which lasted about an hour.  It was interesting to see part of it be quite traditional and then the end seemed entertaining and modern. Once the show wrapped it was dinner time.

We headed to Jimbaran Beach for dinner.  This is an area on the beach that is lined with restaurants that set tables on the beach to face the water, lined with candles, and is known for the fish.  As we watched the fire dance we saw all of the boats coming in for the day with all of their catch to be cooked up for dinner.  Per a suggestion, we ate at Made Bagus.  You walk through a very warehouse type building where they have the fire going and are cooking and then it opens up to a beautiful beach.  We were seated right away and ordered soon after that.  Joe and I ordered a combo meal for two that had fish (not sure what kind), clams, calamari, prawns that were all a sort of BBQ flavor but not as sweet, more smoky.  With that we got a side of Indonesian spinach which was sautéed.  Everything was very much my taste and we enjoyed it so much!  Josh ordered a seafood platter to and enjoyed a lobster tail, fish, prawns who preferred the fish to be deboned but loved the flavor.  Caroline ordered chicken sate which she said was good but plain.  We finished up dinner and headed back to the hotel.  After some showers and a bit of relaxing we were all in bed and asleep by 10 after a long day!  We were ready for a good long nights sleep before heading out for another day of exploring. 

Day 2
We woke up around 7 and relaxed by the pool a bit before the cooking crew arrived at 7:25.  They were done around 7:40 so we sat down and enjoyed breakfast before getting ready for the day and meeting Made at 8:30.  We hopped in the car and drove for just under an hour to get to our first even. We went to a village and watched a Balinese morning dance performance.  They do a really good job writing out the story line so that you can follow what is going on.  It is normally a story about their gods, kings, and spirits fighting (good vs. evil).  We enjoyed this performance a lot more than we had the previous fire dance.  The music was all very traditional music played in the background and this story line was a little easier to follow.  Once we wrapped up the dance we headed to Tenganan ancient village. This is the oldest village in Bali and still very much runs like one.  The villages like this are all owned by the community so nobody owns property, but they all work together to make the village run.  We learned about different crafts like the drawings on the wood boards that were done by scratching on palm leaves then staining them with burnt macadamean nuts, painting on egg shells, and their traditional scarf weaving techniques where they hand die the threads for a year before they can even start!  We then got to go inside the temple and learned about how they are preparing for an offering ceremony in about a month.  It was so neat walking through the incredibly old villages.  We made a quick stop for lunch at Lotus Restaurant near the ancient village.  We enjoyed a spring roll for an appetizer then Joe had Be Pasih Sambal Matah which is Mahi Mahi steak marinated and grilled and served with turmeric rice and vegetables, Josh had green chicken curry, Caroline enjoyed some noodles with chicken and vegetable, and I had chicken skewers with fried rice and egg and some vegetables.  

After the village we headed to Ujung Garden.  This is one of the most stunning gardens I have ever seen.  There are flowers everywhere and as well as pathways around the waters and over the waters to little buildings and gazebos.  We loved walking around and exploring the area, looking at the flowers, and were in awe or the beauty.  Once we wrapped up there we headed to Tirta Gangga.  This is a temple that we had been looking forward to going to.  It is over the water and has steps that you walk across to that are floating in the water to reach the temple.  We made friends with a puppy there that liked to join us in our pictures and follow us around.  In the water we saw some of the biggest coy fish that looked like they were hundreds of years old!  After that it was time to start the trek back home.  We stopped at the Sidemen rice terrace on the way home and saw a beautiful view of some rice fields along with red peppers growing.  We also stopped at another rice field that was filled with water where they were harvesting some of the rice from the small section to spread out along the patty.  It took about 3 hours to make it home (we didn’t realize we had gone that far!).  To wrap up the date we went to Merah Putih which was recommended to us and is a traditional Indonesian restaurant.  We ate this meal tapas style and ordered two large plates and three small plates.  For the small plates we enjoyed some octopus, quale, and duck that was prepared in a traditional way, and for our large plate we had pork ribs and pork belly with some rice.  All of it was amazing, although the service was quite slow for our taste.  We enjoyed some drinks but after browsing the desert menu it was all too contemporary for us so we headed back to the hotel.  We got back around 8 and relaxed for a bit before hitting the bed pretty early!


Day 3
We were all up well before 7 after a long night of sleep.  After eating Asian food for the whole day yesterday, we all opted for a pancake breakfast this morning to be made in our villa.  We got up and relaxed for a bit before starting to pack up our stuff to head to the next hotel.  We had a full day ahead of us so it was nice to have a couple hours to relax, eat breakfast, shower, and get packed.  The pancakes were a nice change of pace from the food we had been eating, and at 8:45 we headed to check out then hit the road at 9 for a fun filled day!

We started the day at Tanah lot temple.  We came at the perfect time because it was low tide. When it is high tide in the middle of the day you cannot get to the actual temple.  Since it was low tide we could walk a lot closer to the temple.  We started by walking around and then we got blessed a monk (we believe) so that we could walk up the stairs and get a better view of the temple.  You put water on your face then they put a thumb print on your forehead with rice.  We wondered around the cliffs a bit before heading out.  Our next stop was the monkey forest which was my favorite.  We went to one of seven monkey forests in Ubud.  You buy food for the monkeys (peanuts) and feed them.  The monkeys are literally everywhere!  We had a good time feeding the monkeys initials. I wanted to hold a monkey so we tricked one into jumping on me with food.  Two jumped on at once and had a bit of a fight off my back but then one of them won.  I fed that monkey then Joe did the same.  We walked around a bit more and saw a snake and the bat area before heading back to the monkeys.  There Josh and Caroline got a picture together.  Josh then tried to get another one on his back and got some action!  The two monkeys that jumped on them had a little too much fun together and had an accident on his shirt.  It was VERY entertaining to say the least and luckily all of our luggage was in the car so he had a change of clothes.  Joe and I held one more monkey before we headed out.  From there we headed to Jatiluwih Rice Terrace. This is the largest rice terrace in Bali.  We drove around for a while and then found food.  We ate at Billy’s Terrace Café where they had an Asian buffet.  Although it was not our favorite food, it feed us and got the job done.  We then started venturing through the rice terraces and learning about way rice grows and how they harvest it.  It was so fun learning all about the rice.  From there it was time to head to a view of two of the 4 lakes in Bali.  They call it the twin lake view because it is a look out over the two lakes that are separated by a thin strip of water.  From there we headed to Munduk which is one of the largest water falls in Bali.  On the way there we stopped to look at the local coffee that is the most expensive coffee in the world.  The coffee beans are eaten by a cat and then pooped out.  Seems gross but its super expensive everywhere else besides here.  We also saw how cloves grow which was really cool along with some other spices.  The walk there and back was quite beautiful and gave us a good warm up for the Mt. Batur hike.  From there we headed to our last stop, Pura Ulundanu Beratan temple.  We were super excited about this temple and were a bit disappointed. It was obviously beautiful, but because it is dry season there isn’t any water all surrounding the temple like we believed.  After walking around there for a bit it was time to head home.

We headed back and got checked into our hotel.  Here they did not have two bedroom villas so we got two one bedroom villas with pools that were adjoined by a wall.  The rooms are a bit smaller than what we had at the first place, which was huge, but beautiful.  We have an outdoor shower, bedroom, sitting area, and a bathroom with a tub.  We got settled in and then headed on the shuttle to downtown Ubud to fine some dinner.  Josh and Joe really wanted to go to this restaurant called Luxe Café.  After a not so wonderful experience with the driver (he spoke no English) we headed on a trek to find the restaurant.  The driver pointed both directions when we asked him where we were heading so we started off in the wrong direction.  After about a quarter of a mile we realized we were going in the wrong direction and then found the right street right where we got dropped off.  We walked down that street for about a mile and realized we were lost.  At this point in time I was quite grumpy and tired and not so excited to still be walking around when we had to get up at 2:30 AM for our hike.  We finally made it back to our starting point with about 30 minutes to spare so I convinced everyone they could only eat chocolate cake for dinner.  After a beer and chocolate cake we headed back to the hotel on the shuttle and packed up for the next day before heading to bed.  


Day 4
We got a wake up call at 2:30 AM ready to hit the road.  Our hotel packed up some fruit and pastries for our guide to carry and then Made picked us up.  It was about an hour drive to get to the bottom.  We met our guide and started the trek.  The first part was quite easy for about 30 minutes.  After that it was straight up for an hour.  By straight up I mean super steep!!!  Luckily there were almost built in stairs which I thought made it nice.  We made it up in about an hour and half which our guide said was one of the fastest hikes.  We made it to the top and broke into our breakfast while waiting for the sun to rise.  For everyone that wants to hike, it is cold up there.  We thought cold for Bali was not so cold since its always hot and sweaty here, but it means really cold and windy!  We were frozen at the top!  The hike started cold but after we got moving we warmed up and even took off our light jackets.  When we got to the top we quickly bundled up!  The sun rose a little after 6 and it was BREATHTAKING.  We were very lucky that there was no fog or clouds in the sky so we had a perfect sunrise with views for miles!  The sun rose quickly, and before we knew it it was time to return.  We saw the crater first and then headed down a different path to get back to the base.  This was nice because there are a couple hundred people that hike the mountain every morning so we did not have to deal with the crowds.  The hike down was a bit intimidating and we were slipping and sliding everywhere but we survived the hike down and were one of the first people back even though we took the long route. 

After the hike we headed to the natural hot springs to relax a bit and enjoy what they believe they have healing powers.  It was a bit uncomfortable because there were all guys and Caroline and I felt a bit weird but it was a good experience.  After that we headed to “breakfast” a restaurant, Kintamani, that had the most breathtaking view of Mt. Batur.  We sat outside and started with tea and coffee, then enjoyed some fresh fruit, and wrapped up with fried rice.  Made (our driver) joined us and we loved the conversation with him!  We have really taken a liking to him after spending a couple full days with him!  After breakfast we headed to our last stop, the Holy Spring Temple which was one of my favorite temples although it was not on our original list.  It was really neat to see the people bathing and the process of going from one spout to the other.  Made does such a wonderful job walking through these places with us and explaining every tradition, ritual, and answers all of our dumb questions.  After walking around the area and seeing the irrigation system, the blessings, etc. it was time to head back to our hotel.  It had been a VERY early morning so we were ready to relax by the pool for the second half of the day.

We went to the main pool for a couple hours and opted out of staying at our rooms.  The main pool has a beautiful infinity edge that looks onto the forest and down onto the river.  At the pool we enjoyed some drinks and a pizza for a snack.  After a couple hours at the pool we headed back to the room, cleaned up, then headed to downtown Ubud.  We walked around a bit and explored downtown in the daylight before settling down for dinner.  We ate dinner at Clear, which was a restaurant I really wanted to go to because it is their “healthy eating” restaurant.  Although Caroline and Josh didn’t enjoy what they got, Joe and I loved everything we ordered.  We started the meal with nachos and a hummus plate that had zucchini hummus, black bean hummus, and red pepper hummus on it.  Then I ate a feta quesadilla and some stuffed mushrooms, Joe ate ahi tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes, Josh ordered a sushi roll and was surprised that the rice wasn’t rice like in America but actual sticky rice, and Caroline ordered pesto pasta that had a certain spice in the sauce that wasn’t very good.  We wrapped up there before heading back towards the city center.  Before heading back we had to stop by Gelato Secrets and enjoyed some sorbet and gelato.  I loved my passion fruit and guava gelato flavors and the others got variations of chocolate and enjoyed them!  Right before the shuttle arrived we watched a religious processional through the main street of Ubud, then headed back to the hotel at 7.  We were all so worn out from the day that we headed straight to bed!

Day 5
Since we went to bed before 8, both Joe and I were up by 4:30 AM.  This was OK for Joe since he could get caught up on emails for a bit before heading out for the day.  This morning we decided to head into the restaurant for breakfast to see what it was all about.  Since Josh and Caroline weren’t up yet Joe and I headed to breakfast around 7 AM.  Breakfast was fantastic!  We started with juice, which was really a smoothie.  I ordered jack fruit and honey melon and Joe ordered banana pineapple and both were absolutely fantastic!  For breakfast I enjoyed an omelet with sausage, spinach, and sun dried tomatoes and Joe got French toast with caramelized bananas.  Both were good but Joe’s was definitely a winner! They also gave you toast with three different homemade jellies, one was strawberry, one was a pineapple citrus type jelly, and one was a guava and something else jelly and all were fantastic.  We finished up breakfast and tea right about when Caroline and Josh arrived.  After we wrapped up breakfast we all settled in by the pool for a couple hours and read and relaxed.  We had a long couple of days so this was our relaxing day. We planned to head to downtown Ubud at 10:30 but our plans were changed when we realized the shuttle did not leave then.  After learning the shuttle was not until 11:30 we went back to our own pools and relaxed while the boys drank a couple beers that they had purchased at the convenient store a couple days earlier.  We hit the road just before 11:30 for Ubud.

We arrived at the city center and walked to lunch.  Lunch was at Bebek Bengil which was recommended to us by Made the day before.  They are known for their crispy duck.  We all ordered the Bebek duck which is half of a fried duck, fruit, salad, and potatoes or rice.  We enjoyed our meal a lot and the restaurant is absolutely beautiful.  After lunch we headed about a half a mile down the road to our spa!  We had booked a spa package the day before at Shangrila Spa which was also recommended to us by Made and had great reviews on trip advisor.  We booked a 4 ½ hour package and it was phenomenal.  We all went in different orders but I started with a sound table to start which was literally a table that had a musical instrument below it that was almost like a xylophone.  They played that below you and I assume the vibrations relax the muscles in your body.  After that it was time for the reflexology portion.  The foot and leg massage was amazing and it was relaxing to have a cold lavender towel on your head.  Those two took about forty five minutes.  From there it was massage time!  The first 30 minutes were the head, neck, and shoulder massages and then the next hour was the traditional Balinese massage.  This was a total body massage that literally put me to sleep a portion of the way though it because it was so relaxing!  After an hour or so they did a salt scrub for 15 minutes before you showered off and cleaned up.  After showering we all met up again and enjoyed an amazing mint relaxation tea and fruit before wrapping up the last two hours.  The next forty five minutes were spent getting a pedicure (you could get a mani or a pedi) and then the last part was an hour long facial.  The facial was so many steps I am not even sure I know what all they did!  All I know is that at one point it smelled like chocolate and the lady said it was a mask with cocoa beans.  Although parts were a bit painful, we all came out with skin as soft as a baby’s bottom and glowing skin all over.  

After wrapping the massages we headed to dinner at Siam Sally which is a Thai place.  We found out they had happy hour until 7 so we ordered some drinks and appetizers to start.  We ordered some chicken dumplings and spring rolls that were both amazing.  After that it was time for the main course.  The guys ordered cashew chicken and pad Thai entrees to split, I had seafood “drunken” noodles, and Caroline had some chicken fried rice.  Besides the fly that Caroline found about halfway through her meal in the fried rice the dinner was absolutely amazing!  I loved the pad Thai the most and ate a lot of that since I didn’t absolutely love the sauce on my noodles ( I ate all the seafood out!).  From dinner we walked about a mile to desert at Carmel which was amazing!!!!!!  We all got different mini cakes, everyone else ordered some variation of chocolate while I ordered a guava cake and all of them were amazing and looked super cute!  Once we wrapped desert it was already 8 so it was time to catch the shuttle back to the hotel and head to bed.  Although it was a relaxing day, we really felt like we deserved a day where we weren’t quite as busy (plus with the spa’s being so cheap we had to take advantage of it!).  Tomorrow is another day with Made so we called it a night once we got back to the hotel so we could get up and going early the next day!

Day 6
This morning we still woke up around 5 AM which has become quite a trend.  After a couple hours in the room and spending some time getting ready we headed to breakfast around 7:30.  Although the hotel we are staying at is beautiful when it comes to the views and the room, I am not sure that we would come back.  Breakfast is delicious but customer service is lacking a lot, and as for amenities, there isn’t an iron in the room and the hair dryer barely works.  For a high end villa it just doesn’t seem to live up to the standards when it comes to anything beyond a stunning view and nicely up kept rooms.  For breakfast today I got mango juice, Joe got pineapple, Josh got apple carrot, and Caroline got orange.  For the meals we all enjoyed toast and jelly while I ate the banana crepes, Joe and Caroline got pancakes, and Josh ordered eggs benedict.  All of it was quite tasty and we had no complaints.  After that we headed up to the main area to meet Made.

Today we were exploring the art villages.  We started with the gold and silver smith village.  The first stop was at the modern jewelry place where we saw how the silver was made.  After exploring the store we went to the more traditional place and viewed the jewelry and saw some pieces being made.  After some heavy negotiation I purchased a simple silver chain so that I can put my pearl from Fiji on it and have fond memories of our 2015 vacations!  After those we went down the street to a local compound.  Throughout the villages there are compounds that are fully walled off areas that house a handful of families.  Made walked us through the compound and explained the location of all of the places and the significance.  All of the compounds are laid out the same, with the oldest member staying at the front of the compound and the temples and kitchens always found in the same area.  From there we headed to the painting village.  I was so excited to visit the painting area and explore the beautiful art work.  Let me tell you, they are talented!  At the first place both Joe and I and Josh and Caroline found paintings we loved.  After closer examination we found that they were a bit dirty and could not be cleaned.  From there we headed to the next place that was a bit more upscale.  Josh found a painting he thought would be perfect for his mother but found out it was $3500.  Although everything is negotiable here, that just wasn’t even close.  Beyond that one painting, we didn’t find anything that peaked our interested so we were off to the next one.  Here, they had a lot of beautiful paintings.  Each of these places had about 10-15 rooms that had paintings all over the walls and stacked on the floors.  It takes a while to wonder through all of them but most of the rooms have specific styles so you can skip some areas.  We were looking for more floral paintings so it made it a bit easier.  After much thought, many paintings looked at, and A LOT of negotiation by the guys, we both walked away with stunning paintings made by the same artist!  I am so excited to put our first real painting up in our home!

After the purchases it was past 1 so it was time for lunch.  Lunch was at Bu Oka which was the best suckling big in the area.  Suckling pig is the local meal here and we were told we must eat it before we leave.  We all ordered the special which came with rice and “fresh vegies” (these are long beans sautéed with some other things), pork roll, fried meat, sausage, and pork skin.  Although all of it was fantastic, the pork was so juicy and tender!  We were all very impressed!  From there it was time for cooking class!  We attended cooking class in Payuk Bali.  We arrived a bit early so we sat down and had some tea before the class started.  We started by putting together a traditional offering basket and making an offering.  We learned that a family makes an average of 25 offerings in a day!  From there we learned to make coconut oil and coconut milk from fresh coconut!  Oil is made by grating coconut and then mixing in a bit of water.  You bring that water to boil then skim the oil off the hot water.  You boil the water again and then the water should all be evaporated and a clear coconut oil should remain.  It should be completely colorless.  For milk you put a lot more water in and when grating the coconut you do not include the shell.  After mixing in the warm water you strain the coconut mixture with a cheese cloth and you get your coconut milk.  Fresh coconut milk is only good for a day before it gets sour.  

After that demonstration it was time for cooking.  In the class we made three sauces, peanut sauce, Bombu Bali (their basic sauce for everything), and Sambal Ulek (their spicy sauce).  For the soup we made Soup Ayam which is a chicken soup.  We also learned to make steamed rice which is how it is traditionally done in Bali.  You initially team the rice, then you soak it in water, then you steam it again.  It is quite a process!  For the entrees we made Chicken Sate, Pepes Ikan (steamed fish in banana leaf), and Ayam Bumbu (Balinesian fried chicken that was spicy).  For a “salad: we made Sayur Urab which was vegetables in spicy coconut sauce, and for desert we made Kolak Pisang (braised sweet potato in palm sugar gravy).  The class started with dicing all of the ingredients for the whole meal.  From there we steamed rice.  After that we had to make the sauces.  All of these were hand ground and took quite some time and some muscle.  We did not finish the grinding, this was done by the helpers, but we did quite a good job!  After that we prepared all of the chicken.  From there we had to make all of the sauces that had been ground into paste.  After adding ingredients like coconut oil, coconut milk, salt, pepper, etc. and sautéing them we made all three of the sauces.  After the sauces we made the spicy chicken.  Following that we made the skewers that were later grilled.  From there we finished the entrees by making the chicken and wrapping it up in the banana leaf.  We finished by making the soup and the salads which were pretty simple and finally the desert.  After we cooked we sat down to eat!  My favorite was the chicken sate with the peanut sauce as well as the fish in the banana leaf!  I wasn’t a fan of the soup, salad, or desert, but that was just because of my taste!  We had such a blast doing the cooking class for 4 hours and the staff was incredibly friendly! 
After dinner Made took us back to Carmel where we all got new deserts that were different from the night before.  Joe got a tiramisu mouse, Josh got a chocolate dome while Caroline got a chocolate cake, and I got an ice cream bar.  We also got a cheesecake to share since that was the bakers favorite.  All of it was AMAZING!!!  We are obsessed with this place!  After that we headed back and hit the bed before 9 PM!  We were shocked that our time here was coming to an end and we would be packing everything up tomorrow morning and enjoying our last day!

Day 7
Today was our final day in Bali before heading to Korea.  Our plan was to sleep in this morning, but shocking, I was up again at 5.  During the night we were all woken up by the only rain storm since we had been in Bali, and let me tell you it was pouring!  The rain didn’t last long and we were back asleep in no time.   After waking up and writing and catching up on emails and Facebook for a bit I started packing up our room.  We were shocked at how many dirty clothes we had collected over the past week!  I finished up packing and then we all headed to breakfast around 7.  I ordered mia goring, Joe got the ham and cheese breakfast sandwich, Josh and Caroline got the French toast, and we all enjoyed some fruit smoothies.  After wrapping up breakfast we got in our swimsuits and headed to the pool for a couple hours.  Around 11 we headed back to the hotel and spent the last hour showering and getting everything together to leave. 

At noon we headed to downtown Ubud with Made.  We started the afternoon with lunch Naughty Nuri’s which is a their famous BBQ ribs place.  It is a small restaurant and probably the most run down from the ones we have been at but the food was amazing!  The guys got ribs with potatoes while I got noodles and chicken and Caroline had a BLT.  We spent the next four hours walking the Ubud market.  This is the largest market with local crafts for sale and it is huge!  We loved seeing all of the scarves, jewelry, wood carvings, trinkets, and paintings.  We worked our negotiation skills (by we I mean the guys) and ended up with what we believe are wonderful deals!  We walked away with some gifts for our parents and some more art work for our home!  We are in love with the art work here!  After finding everything on our wish list we headed out to the last stop.  Bali Pulina is known for making the most expensive coffee in the world, the coffee that cats eat and poop out.  We walked around and saw the cats, learned about the process of how the coffee is made, saw other fruits and spices growing, and then had a tasting.  They brought out a flight of about 8 teas and coffees that we got to try!  We loved trying all of these unique flavors even though Joe and I are not coffee drinkers!  Here they sold it for about 400,000 IDR for 100g, which is much cheaper than anywhere else in the world, but still super expensive, especially for us non-coffee drinkers!  From there we headed back to the market.  Joe had fallen in love with a painting and after leaving he realized he really wanted it, only to find out they closed at 5 and we were about 45 minutes late.  I guess we will just have to come back! From there it was time to start the trek to Seminyak.  Our flight was at 1:45 AM so we had a bit of time to kill.  We went to dinner at Bo & Bun which we had gone to earlier in the week.  It was an easy choice since we didn’t have reservations.   We ordered bulgogi fries and some Asian tacos for appatizers then Caroline got cashew chicken, I got pad Thai, Josh got chicken and basil, and Joe had lemon grass pho.  Everyone was very pleased with their meals.  We wrapped up dinner around 8 so Made took us to a villa in Seminyak that belonged to his boss as a rental that was currently vacant to get showered and relax for a couple hours.  The house is beautiful with a pool, outdoor kitchen, and three bedrooms!  Maybe we will stay here next time around J  After relaxing for a bit we headed to the airport around 11.  We arrived around 11:30 and got checked in.  When we checked in Joe and I got a pass for the lounge so we headed there for about an hour.  We snacked on some food and deserts there and Joe enjoyed a beer.  We got to the gate right on time and boarded just as we got there.  After boarding we settled in and were ready for the overnight flight to Korea.

Day 8 – Seoul, Korea
We arrived in Seoul right after 9 AM.  We all slept pretty well on the flight so we were ready to spend the day exploring all that Seoul had to offer.  Jae, a friend of Joe’s had put together a day trip for us since he was very familiar with the area!  Since we had checked our main luggage all the way to Atlanta, customs was quite simple and quick to get through.  As we walked out of the door to get to our hotel shuttle, we saw the shuttle was about to pull away and got on the shuttle to the Best Western right by the airport just in time!  It was a short 3 minute ride to the hotel where we dropped off our luggage, got changed, then hopped right back on the shuttle to get to the airport for the train to Seoul.  The train ride is about an hour to City Hall which is where the heart of Seoul starts.  We found the train station at the airport fairly easily and found the train waiting to depart right as we arrived.  Talk about good timing!

After the train ride we arrived in Seoul just before 11.  We all decided we were absolutely starving so we started wondering around to find some food.  This is the first time that we have traveled that we felt completely inept when it came to the language.  The language barrier is huge since we have no idea what the symbols even mean!  After checking a few restaurants to see if they have an English menu and getting rejected we finally found a spot.  I couldn’t tell you what the restaurant was called since it was all in Korean but the waiter did a great job trying his best to explain to us what we could order and how much it would cost us.  Joe is familiar with Korean food thanks to Jae so he was able to do most of the translation after he heard the name of the food.  Josh, Caroline, and I opted for the crispy fried pork while Joe got a shrimp soup.  Everything was absolutely fantastic and I split the soup with Joe since his was so good!  After we finished eating we were ready to explore.  Joe had been attempting to find Myeongong for lunch since that was Jae’s recommendation but he got turned around a bit when we arrived so we had to figure out where we were.  Our first stop was the Gyeongbokgung Palace.  We arrived just in time for the changing of the guards ceremony which was really neat to see! After the ceremony ended we strolled the palace a bit.  The place is huge!  We finally made it to the back corner where the temple is found.  We sat down and relaxed for a bit there before heading out to the next stop.  Net we went to Insadong which is a traditional and cultural district.  We wondered around there in awe or all the amazing street vendor food and crafts area.  After wondering there for a while we made our way to the Cheonggyecheon Stream which is a river that flows through the heart of Seoul.  We walked down the river a bit and wondered our way to Myeongong where we found more street vendors and shops to browse!  We did a bit of gift shopping there before we decided it was early dinner time.  We had seen so many good street vendors that we decided we would want to try those, but first we needed some Korean BBQ!  We had found a street full of Korean BBQ on our stroll through Seoul and had dropped a pin where we needed to go so we made our way back to the street.  Along the way we stopped by the Catholic cathedral which was huge! 

For dinner we enjoyed flank steak and pork belly at the Korean BBQ place.  The waiter helped us with the grill and told us when to flip the food.  Joe was experienced in Korean BBQ so he coached us through all of the little side bowls that they brought out and let us know what was what.  We also had some seaweed soup and some kimchee soup which Joe ate most of.  The guys enjoyed two beers before we started wondering around again.  This time we wondered our way back to Insadong where Caroline found her makeshift Christmas ornament and the guys enjoyed a waffle with ice cream from the street vendors.  All of the vendors ranged from 3000 to 4000 won for the most part.  After we wrapped up in Insadong we headed back to Myeongong since we thought that food was better.  The next vendor was a place that served sausage on a stick, some which were stuffed with fish cake (we believe).  I thought they were fantastic although I am not sure the others were onboard!  Last, they went to a stand that had wraps to finish up the night.  After about 14 miles of walking, we were all thoroughly exhausted and ready to head back to the hotel!  After getting lost a bit we finally found the metro stop (thank goodness there is free wi-fi just about everywhere in Korea!) we finally sat down to do the jumper train to the main one that took us back to the airport.  

The guys wanted to try and take the “fast” train but after an unsuccessful trip out of the gates we had to ask the train guards to let us back in through the gate without purchasing another ticket so we could make it back!  We finally got to the train and were all exhausted and ready to sit down.  After about an hour we arrived back at the airport where we caught the shuttle to the hotel.  The hotel shuttle leaves every 30 minutes so we waited a bit but not too long!  We were shocked at how cold and windy it was outside while we waited for the shuttle, we were not prepared for the cold!  Once we got to the hotel we got checked in, enjoyed some complimentary drinks, and were off to bed in no time!

Travel Home
The travel home was uneventful.  Security was quick and once we got to the airport we enjoyed some Dunkin Donuts!  Can you tell we are missing American food?  We got settled in for the almost 13 hour flight!  We all thought we would be sleeping but none of us seemed to be able to sleep except for Joe. We read some books, watched some movies, and ate similar foods as the flight to Korea.  Josh would kill me if I didn't add this in here, but he is the champion in tetris.  Very last minute he beat Joe's high score so for this trip we have to give him the gold medal. We arrived around 9:30 AM in Atlanta and after getting through customs we were met by Joe’s dad to take us home.  We were greeted with water and biscuits, what more could we ask for!  Now that is a welcome back to America!  We were sad to see vacation come to an end but also ready to get back to reality!  We hope that this is the first of many vacations with the Andrews clan, and I don’t know about them, but we had the best time!  There really isn’t much we would have changed about the trip!  The weather was perfect and sunny the whole time and the company was even better!


  • Go see is beautiful, cultural, bustling, and fantastic!
  • In Bali book Made.  He without a doubt made our trip what it was...
    • Depending on the day and what you do he ranges from $40-50 a day which for a 12+ hour day is VERY reasonable
    • He is also your tour guide
    • He has awesome food suggestions
    • He knows a million fun facts
    • He helped us put together our whole entire itinerary
    • He priced out every activity for us so we knew what to prepare for for the trip
    • He has great English
    • Book a tour here: 
    • He is won't regret it!
  • Get out of your comfort zone! As Americans we are use to certain foods, cleanliness levels, etc.  In order to experience the culture you have to get over your fear or a bit of a dirty kitchen, toilets in rural areas not being clean (an normally without toilet paper), restaurants not quite up to the US standards when it comes to looks, but it makes the trip authentic and worth it
  • Temples
    • Still not sure what a temple is, some are underwhelming, some are overwhelming, but all of them were a cultural experience!
  • Visit the monkeys, they are the best (in my opinion!)
  • Hotel number 1: The Villas - Bali
    • We got a sweet upgrade
    • Maybe not the vest views but the hotel, amenities, etc. were wonderful!
  • Hotel number 2: Villa Semana
    • Wouldn't recommend it
    • The hotel and the views were breathtaking
    • The hair dryers are the worst thing I have ever seen and there is no iron in the room
    • Most of the staff does not speak English and don't seem too happy/nice
    • Are not accommodating at all with the shuttles, etc. even though we had 4 people and a car full.  You must get dropped off in 1 area even if you pass the location you would like to go to in Ubud, which just seems strange to me. 
  • Don't miss out on a spa day...they are so cheap it's a must do!
  • Explore foods from all different cultures!
    • We had the best experience and it was VERY reasonably priced!
  • So much to see with so little time, we enjoyed hopping from one place to the other and got to see so much of Bali!
  • If you are in shape enough, hike Mt. Batur, but be warned, it is cold, and it is not the easiest hike you have done!
  • The 24 hour layover in Korea was well worth breaking up the flight and allowing us to see Korea
  • Korea has great food :)
  • If you want to know how much we spent, etc. just let me know!