December 17, 2010

Happy Week-Ending!

Photo courtesy of Pictory Mag ...

December 16, 2010

Marshmallow Wreath

I've got to make this little number this weekend...

Bring on the Hot Cocoa!

October 21, 2010

Fall Fashion Color

It's been a while since I've posted.  Quite honestly, I've been in the middle of a huge writing project!  Someday, hopefully, great news about The Great American Novel by yours truly will be posted here on Gorgeous Bits.

In the meantime, thank you for your emails asking where I've been lately... it makes me feel well loved (and missed!)

I'll be getting back to more posts soon, but in the meantime, enjoy this piece of eye candy from a fabulous fashion blog, Garance Dore.  I'm daydreaming about a bright, colorful, up-beat fall wardrobe.


If I had endless piles of money, I'd buy every single pair of these in every single color.

Happy Fall Kittens!  

October 7, 2010

Classic Cassoulet


cassoulet, originally uploaded by Sam Turner.
This may be one of the worst dishes to photograph... all gloppy and stewed looking with unexciting beige-y colors. But man O man. It is divine in terms of how it makes the house smell on a crisp weekened day and it will lure people to your home, kitchen and table like nobodies business.

Yummy oven-crisped garlic bread served on the side to scoop up the soupy bits would be perfect too.

I'm throwing down the gauntlett this weekend with my favorite classic French cooks-all-day recipe, but if anyone cares to engage in a Cassoulet Off with me, please plan your recipe, create and photograph it then email me the results. 
I can't wait to find out which ones are best. And this weather SCREAMS for it darlings.

Any ideas for an apple dessert?

Smoked Sausage Cassoulet (or apple chicken sausage is good too)
Just plan to make a day ahead for the best flavor...

  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 pounds assorted fully cooked smoked sausages (such as kielbasa and andouille)

  • 4 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced
  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage
  • 1/2 cup brandy
  • 2 14 1/2-ounce cans diced tomatoes with roasted garlic in juice
  • 3 15-ounce cans Great Northern beans, drained, liquid reserved
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen baby lima beans, thawed
  • 1 cup (or more) canned chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 4 cups diced country-style bread
  • 1 pound tomatoes, seeded, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350°F. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium heat. Add sausages; sauté until brown, about 25 minutes. Transfer to plate and cut into 1/2-inch rounds.
Add leeks and garlic to same pot. Sauté until beginning to soften, about 8 minutes. Mix in apple, rosemary and sage. Add brandy and simmer until almost evaporated, about 5 minutes. Mix in canned tomatoes with juices, canned beans with 1/2 cup reserved liquid, lima beans, 1 cup broth, tomato paste and cloves. Add sausages. Season with pepper.
Bring cassoulet to boil. Cover pot and transfer to preheated oven; bake 30 minutes. (Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Uncover; cool 1 hour. Refrigerate until cold; cover and keep refrigerated. Before continuing, rewarm in covered pot in 350°F. oven 40 minutes, adding more broth if dry.)
Heat remaining 1/4 cup oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add bread and sauté until golden brown, stirring often, about 25 minutes. Combine fresh tomatoes and parsley in large bowl; mix in bread. Season topping with salt and pepper. Spoon onto warm cassoulet. Bake uncovered 15 minutes longer.

{Recipe found on Epicurious.com.  It's hands down the best one I've tried!}

October 4, 2010

Love is Like Salt

The Chef's at Oregon Culinary Institute have a terrific little experiment they do with the students in Term 1 in regards to teaching them about the importance of salt. 

To be specific, what can just the right AMOUNT of salt do to a dish?

First, the chef's create five batches of perfectly pure cream of potato soup.
Next, they season or salt each one a little differently...

the first batch, no salt = no flavor.  VERY bland.
the second batch, just a tiny bit of salt.  Slightly better, but not enough seasoning to bring out the true    flavor.
the third batch... just the right amount.  The flavor of the potato is bright, vibrant, full of it's own potent possibility.
the fourth batch, a little too much salt.  Slightly overwhelmed with salt, the soup is a mere a shadow of itself.
the fifth batch, WAY too much salt.  The potato is rendered invisible.

I think love is sort of like that.

If you are in a relationship let's say, and there is no "true love", it is boring.  Not passionate.  Lack luster.
With a little love, a relationship can survive, but it doesn't really aspire to much.
Just the right amount, and love can bring out the best in two people...  you know, pretty much MAGNIFY the best traits in each person.
Too much... well, maybe there isn't such a thing as too much love.  But if there is, maybe a person can feel overwhelmed, lost, not themselves anymore.

So there you have it.  My opinion.  My rambling of the day.

Worth it's salt?

October 3, 2010

Sunday at the waffle stand


Sunday at the waffle stand, originally uploaded by uncommonmuse.
Oh yum.

A huge benefit to living in Portland is the fact that we have fast and easy access to the most phenomenal street food in the whole world. And I'm not just making that up. Truly. Check it out here

On Sunday mornings, when you crave a hot cup of coffee and a breakfast treat that is the crowning glory of all breakfast treats, you must head to North Portland, my neck of the woods, for a handful of delicious waffle-y love.

Flavour Cart is outstanding.

October 2, 2010

Demise of the Fruit Fly


IMG_2400, originally uploaded by uncommonmuse.
Every fall, it seems we have a tremendous problem with these wispy, annoying, tiny pests.
I swat at them helplessly as they bombard not only the freshly picked late-season fruit, lusciously crisp apples and fading garden tomatoes adorning my kitchen counters, but they are constantly dive-bombing into unsuspecting glasses of wine.

A fan-tabulous and old-timey solution my Grandmother Gi Gi used to keep the little buggers from taking over her compost bucket (yes, she composted back in the day) was to fill a juice glass partway full of inexpensive red wine, (the less expensive kind, don't waste the good stuff of course) top the glass with tightly fitted Saran Wrap, then poke a few holes into the top of it. Then, just set it out and wait.

Within about 24 hours you'll have a virtual graveyard of pesky fruit flies floating around in your boozy trap.

...and don't feel too bad, my guess is they expired happily. With a tremendous last buzz. ; )


PS~ this photo was my attempt to show a somewhat attractive trap.  But the truth is, you'll really need to poke slightly larger holes in the Saran Wrap. The fruit fly guys will get in, but they'll be too disoriented and woozy to get out.
And that's a good word for the day: Woozy Fruit Fly.

October 1, 2010

The Laundry Room


retro 2, originally uploaded by linus_lohoff.

Emma snuggled her soft pink cheek into the crook of my neck.  I breathed in the familiar powdery scent of baby and covered her up with a soft blanket, still warm from the dryer.  I stood there for a moment, quietly rocking from side-to-side in the ancient mommy dance, shifting my weight from hip to hip in rhythm with the white noise lullaby of the dryer.  I stopped for a second to pull a faded yellow blanket from the dryer and draped it over her and tucked it around her sleeping body.

I was in the heart of our home.  The laundry room was warm and silent.  It smelled of fabric softener and faintly of spray starch, and, for some reason, I always felt completely safe here.  This was a housewife’s unofficial sacred space.  In this sanctuary, mothers transform dirty laundry to clean, neatly folded piles of clothing.  It is physical proof that we love our family, and we clothe them with that love.  Even our choice of detergent and stain remover is a declaration of love.  Almost magically, a mom can resurrect a favorite t-shirt seemingly ruined by stray drippings from a melting Popsicle.  

It was in this center of my home where I often found myself dancing my children to sleep, sneaking bites of fruit roll-ups by the handful, and every once in a while crying hidden behind the door, my sobs muffled by the spin cycle.  (If your husband thinks you are in the throes of a huge load of laundry, he will not interrupt).  It is the perfect escape.  Rearrange the piles of laundry just a little, and voila --

instant Mom Fort.

Today was my birthday and my wedding anniversary, and our house was a quiet safe-haven to celebrate the milestone of our 14 years of marriage.

            There was a knock at the door.  I stopped moving and strained my ears to listen for my husband’s footsteps.  Deciding that I didn’t hear any, I stepped out into the living room and glanced at the kitchen wall clock.  9:35 PM.  As I made my way to the door, still holding Emma, I ran through a quick list of people that it could be, but couldn’t arrive at any likely candidates. 

As I approached the glass-paneled front door, I could see that the front porch light threw a yellowish glare onto the grave faces of two police officers as they stood motionless on the other side of the door. 


Little did I know, my safe suburban refuge was about to be demolished.


{from the journal entries writing project}

September 19, 2010

writing is my SuperPower



I keep a lot in.

I used to think it was noble and strong, the right thing to do, even when you are pushed.  turning the other cheek takes incredible strength.
I used to think being strong meant being quiet and & "taking it on the chin", even when people who were mean, ignorant and wrong lashed out at me.
I thought I was being heroic.


I loved to read about heroes when I was a kid,
their stories formed my world, my perspective, my view...inspired me and made me want to be like them.

heroes from greek myths, noble heroes, super heroes...people who against all odds stood up against the current when they had to for the "greater good".
Saints and legends, from the story of Jesus to the story of Batman, they were so noble, they took it on the chin from everyone.   No matter what happened, how they were treated, what injustice came their way, they pushed through it.

I decided that should be what a person should aim for, that is the strength of character a person should strive for.

somewhere along the way  I missed something though.
I guess I thought it was noble to keep in anything bad or ugly, to protect even the villian from shame by not confronting things that were wrong.
I shut down when I have to face demons.  I've combatted them with nice-ness.

I could probably nice someone to death.

not very heroic actually.

some things in my past have become a weight upon my chest.
a ghost on my back.
even when I am right or have a reason or a point, I can't say outloud what I want to say.
 I lock up.
I shut down.
I don't stick up for myself very well at all.

but I've finally found my voice.

I can write.
I can express myself with eloquence in the words that pour through my fingertips..,

and now I'm writing down the bones.
skeletons in closets are not as intimidating when you see them in black and white.
I'm shining a light on them by writing them down .

in any good story about a hero, whether or not it's a mythic legend or an ordinary housewife, the hero has a choice to face the darkness or be consumed by it.

maybe a hero can use truth and story as a weapon of defense;
a super power.

I'm putting the words in order.
remembering my story and clearing out the demons from the past, putting them on paper is opening me up to see with even more clarity who I was and how I got here and why I believe what I believe and do what I do and how I have become who I am now.

I've been careful and polite for a long time.   I''ve taken the path of least resistance my whole life and it has haunted me.

it's about time to be my own superhero.

September 14, 2010

Diggin This.

September 3, 2010

Hum Bao at Pike Street Market


I am known to swoon over a good Hum Bao.

Not only does the soft, slightly sweet, warm doughy savory pastry make me deliriously happy because it seems to be a most excellent comfort food, but Hum Bao has romantic connotations for me as well... it was exactly what my husband and I ordered on New Years day many years ago when we first decided to move in together.

Every once in a while, on cool rainy Sunday mornings, we take my children to China Town down town Portland, and treat them to Dim Sum and Hum Bao at The House of Louie.

Last week, the hubs and I introduced Emma to the best Hum Bao in Seattle...

September 1, 2010

Breakfast in Seattle


I know I know. 
I've been missing in action for the past week or so.

No worries, though, all is well... it just so happened that a very romantic Subtly Amazing Husband whisked me and my youngest daughter off to Seattle for a week as an "end of the summer" and anniversary (five  years!) surprise.  It was quite last minute, as we found out that we were both able to take some time off our work at the Culinary School right after the August class began.  My only regret was that the older, adorable kiddos had volleyball and football try-outs and daily doubles, so they couldn't join us, and stayed in town with dad. 

The hubs strapped our bikes to the back of the car.  I packed a bag of notebooks, felt pens, and books for Emma to entertain herself in the backseat, and we took off for a road trip.

I have been back at work this week, catching up, but for now I thought I'd share a few lovely photos of an AMAZING breakfast we were treated to by old friends, Shawna and Brian on our last day of vacation(I took their wedding photos a while back!)




(we met their new little bundle of joy, Ursula too) 













At Lola in downtown Seattle, close to Brian's work, we munched on fresh "made-to-order" doughnuts with marscapone and marmalade to begin with, and Emma was thrilled to find out that they happen to be her favorite Food Network Star, Giada De Laurentiis guilty pleasure as well.





Shawna ordered a Seattle Specialty, "Tom's Big Breakfast," which was somewhat of an Octopus Hash. 
She let me try it -- it was superbly delicious.


 and Brian ordered the most photogenic breakfast entree on the menu


Everything was fantastic and the restaurant was vibrant and humming at 10:00 in the morning that Friday.  


One thing about working at a Culinary School is that vacations are partly, sometimes MOSTLY, centered around what and where to eat. 

More to come about that, as well as more Seattle Adventures in the next few postings~

August 20, 2010

Dulce de Leche Cheescake Bars

We are taking the kiddos on a quick little Road Trip to the high desert this weekend.


I’m packing our shorts, tee shirts, sweatshirts and books, figuring out what roadside attractions we should stop at to take classic dorky family snapshots at, and tonight I’m baking Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars to nibble on in the car on the way over.

The sweet/salty goodness is wonderful, and they wrap up easily in a little parchment paper.   They are super easy to make and addictive.  Double the recipe if you like, and keep a batch in the freezer to pack in lunches when school starts up again.

The kids will love them.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bars:


Crust:

• Nonstick vegetable oil spray

• 2 1/4 cups crushed graham crackers (about 17 whole graham crackers)

• 2 tablespoons brown sugar

• 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted

Filling:

• 3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature

• 1 cup sugar

• 3 large eggs

• 1/2 cup purchased dulce de leche* (found in the Latin food section at most grocery stores)

• 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Glaze:

• 2/3 cup purchased dulce de leche

• 3 tablespoons (or more) heavy whipping cream

• Fleur de sel

For crust:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 13 x 9 x 2-inch metal baking pan with nonstick spray. Mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon in medium bowl. Add melted butter; and stir until coated. Transfer crumb mixture to pan. Press evenly onto bottom of pan. Bake until crust is light golden, about 10 minutes. Cool completely on rack.

For filling:

Blend cream cheese and sugar in processor until smooth and creamy, for about 1 minute, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add eggs 1 at a time, processing 3 to 5 seconds to blend between additions. Add dulce de leche and vanilla; process until blended, about 10 seconds. Spread batter evenly over cooled crust. Bake until just set in center and edges are puffed and slightly cracked, about 38 minutes. Transfer to rack; cool completely.

For glaze:

Heat dulce de leche and 3 tablespoons cream in a bowl in 10-second intervals until melted. Stir to blend, adding more cream by teaspoonfuls if too thick to pour (amount of cream needed will depend on brand of dulce de leche). Pour glaze over cooled cheesecake; spread evenly.
Refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour (glaze will not be firm). DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill.

Cut cheesecake lengthwise into 4 strips, then crosswise into 6 strips, forming 24 bars. Sprinkle bars with fleur de sel.


Have a fabulous weekend Kittens.


{recipe and Dulce de Leche Bar photo from Epicurious.com}

August 19, 2010

Summertime Bubbly


Hana Awaka sparkling Sake is an irreverent but glamorous nod to Pink Champagne... not quite as lovely as The Good Stuff, but not as low brow as Mountain Dew spiked with generic vodka either.

And it's the absolutely perfect refreshment on a warm weekday summer evening.

My friend Kelly and I discovered this sincerely sweet sparkling pink Sake on a road trip last year in Seattle.  We played the appropriate road trip soundtrack, (Annie Lenox, Ingrid Michaelson, Feist and Cat Power) and we stopped in at the Asian Market, Uwajimaya in downtown Seattle to shop for fruits and foods we'd never seen before and didn't recognize.  What we accidently discovered was this little treat:

Hana Awaka is lightly and bubbly, a sweet pink Sake that's in a very pretty bottle.  Cava and Prosecco are perfect light sparkling wines that I love to splurge on every now and again, and I usually keep a small supply on hand in the fridge to celebrate lifes everyday surprises. Now this Japanese version is added to my list of favorites.  The flyer at the market declared that it would "bring your taste buds alive with bursting bubbles," and it actually did. The flavor was light and sweeter than most sakes, which I enjoyed immensely. 

In Portland, we have precious few hot summer nights to enjoy sparkling wines, but you can find this particular beverage on the shelves of the downtown Burnside Fred Meyer store and at the Beaverton Uwajimaya.

It's super girly.
Best served with a bedable pink straw.
Pink of course.

August 17, 2010

Joe + Sue = A Wedding


I've been busy working on photos during the past couple of weeks... I always want to perfectly capture the momentous day, and show not only what happened, how it looked, and what the couple is like, but how it felt.

When I take wedding photos, for strangers, or, in the case of Joe and Sue last weekend, close friends, it is a pleasure for me in every aspect.  I adore making emotionally powerful images that reflect who the bride, the groom, their family and friends are. 


 I blend into the wedding like a stealth photographer-ninja and I capture the one of a kind day as it unfolds with my camera. 


I am moved by every wedding I have the honor of recording.  I think I get emotional every time, because my own marriage and wedding, to my subtly amazing husband, is so meaningful to me.  I cannot help but feel overwhelmed and honored to be given the responsibility to record that special of a day for years to come.



Love is a magical thing.



Happy Wedding, Happy Life Joe and Sue

August 5, 2010

August Snow


Jake Davis Test Shots: Tanya Romero from Jake Davis on Vimeo.

I've been preoccupied with editing and post processing lately. Joe and Sue's wedding was a smash hit last weekend and I have the photographs to prove it.  (watch out for the dance-off stills, they will rock your world)  I'll have some eye candy ready to post early next week, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, thought I'd introduce you to one of my favorite little films, done by a terrific up-and-coming film/video artist, Jake Davis

It's really stunning, and makes me think that someday, I need to visit New York in winter.

Ciao for now Lovelies~

August 2, 2010

Otter Pops for Grownups


During the hot days of summer, sometimes nothing tastes better than an icy cold frozen neon colored Popsicle confection.  

Whether you go for the classic suburban standby Otter Pops, or the naturally flavored, healthier versions found at Whole Foods and New Seasons, try this handy little tip to make a special treat for Moms and Dads:

Freeze the pops in their plastic sleeves for about 1 hour.  Stand a few up, in a tall glass, then carefully clip open the top and squeeze out about an inch or two of frozen pop.  Let it melt slightly, until it is about the consistency of a Slurpee.  Using a funnel, top off with a bit of white rum or tequila and re-freeze.

PS~ Be sure to label the adult version of pops in the freezer!

July 30, 2010

Have a gorgeous weekend darlings.


{photo by Nathanial Goldberg, first published in Italian Vogue}

July 29, 2010

Taking Photos of Your Kids


Sometimes I take for granted the fact that my adorable kiddos have grown up mugging for the camera.
I’m biased of course. Being the typical proud mom and part time professional photographer, I think my children are adorable and photogenic. All kids are photogenic, and really, all parents can take professional looking photos of their rugrats. You don’t even need a fancy or expensive camera.  


But there are some tricks.

Trick #1:

Take your camera everywhere – One reason why my kids always look relaxed in photos without the awkward squinty-eyed overly dramatized smile is because they are used to me shooting photos of them. ALL THE TIME. I wear a camera like jewelry, and consider it a part of my outfit.


When you are just getting started, tell yourself you don’t even care about any of the photos you take during maybe, the first three days you are clicking away… just get comfortable with your camera and learn about what it can do while your children get comfortable in front of it.


Trick #2:

Camera angle – I am always surprised at how many people stand too far away from their subject, making it a small focal point in the middle of a lot of distracting scenery. Get down to your child’s level. Kneel, or sit at the table with them. If you start taking a lot of photos, they’ll get used to you sooner or later and go about their business while you get the perfect portrait.


Trick #3:


The right lighting – whenever possible, I try to use natural light. Soft, pastel light indoors is flattering and realistic, and the grey and overcast Portland weather is actually ideal for taking photos inside near a window. Soft grey light streaming in through the windows in the early part of the day is perfect and acts like a natural soft box. If the light is too dim and your lens is not quite fast enough, try to steady yourself as much as possible to avoid camera shake. Sit down, or even lie down on the floor near your child as they play in the window light and click away. If you happen to have an on camera flash, turn it off and test out a few shots without it. If they are too blurry, turn it back on for sharper images. Another trick with on camera flash that I love is to use it in its full glory when you are outside in the sunshine. It freezes the actions, sharpens the picture, fills in shadows and makes bright colors pop!



Trick #4:


Interesting props—don’t try to ‘pose’ your child… let them rifle through the dress up pile and create their own outfit. Buy a photogenic oversized red ball or fill a clear clean plastic cup with bubble solution in the summer and let them simply play. One of my favorite portraits of a brother and sister was a photo I took of them sitting together on a patchwork blanket with their teddy bears and tea-cups, having a party. In the fall, think about buying bright yellow rain slickers and boots, and let them do a little puddle stomping while you shoot photos(turn the flash on to capture the splash suspended in mid air!).

The key here is, make it fun.

Trick #6:


Have a relaxed attitude – with the practice of taking photos every day, you’ll become more acquainted with your camera and you won’t feel the pressure of getting ‘just the right shot’ on Holidays and during those milestones we want to freeze forever in the family album. Kids seem to sense the pressure of posed photos and seem to either melt down or misbehave more than usual, making it almost impossible to get a good picture. As the photographer, make them comfortable by smiling yourself, resisting the urge to pose them or bark orders at them, like photos are a chore. Let them be themselves. My favorite photos of kids are when they are simply being themselves and don't feel the pressure to perform.  I catch the best expressions when my kids are not even smiling.



My last piece of advice is to stretch the boundaries of your creativity. Think about new angles to shoot from, like lying on your back on the ground looking up at your child, swing next to them as you video tape on the swing set while playing in the park. Take photos of the bits and pieces of your child’s world… their pudgy toes, focus on their hand holding a crayon, or have them hold out a favorite toy for you to shoot with them looking like a bit of a blur in the background.


Sometimes, let them make a face...



These kinds of photos can be immensely emotionally satisfying and convey much more than the sum of their parts.   These are the photos of real life.

July 28, 2010

Brophy's Tea

Chef Brophy is an enigma.

We met about 9 years ago, when I started working for another culinary school in town, and right away, I knew he was a likable character.  We are both happily working at Oregon Culinary Institute now, a smaller, locally owned school that was started up by some of the most experienced and passionate chef's from a much larger chain brand school.  Chef Brophy is not only an accomplished Chef and instructor, he's also a Master Gardner, a Marine Biologist (most specifically, an 'edible inner tidal specialist') and he's cooked and taught professionally for over 34 years.  Brophy's stoic demeanor, his bristly moustache, and bushy eyebrows subtly disguise the very dry sense of humor bubbling just beneath the surface.  (the sparkle in his eyes give him away most of the time) He is one of the most well educated and interesting chef instructors I know.  He has encyclopedic knowledge of sea food, gardening, heirloom tomatoes, mushrooms, how to raise chickens in the city, and of course... tea. 

This morning, Brophy brought me a lovely gift.  My own can of his favorite morning beverage, the weird and wonderful tea he recently turned me onto:  


It's an acquired taste to say the least.  You either love it or you hate it.  The strong scent of campfire wafts through the air in my office when I brew a cup of it.  Chef Brophy suggests bringing water the the peak boiling point so that the dried leaves unfurl and give you the strongest and most aromatic and strong flavor. 

The taste and smell of reminds me of pulling my sweatshirt around me while sitting close to a summer campfire.  It reminds me of the smell of fall in the forest, keeping warm on the beach at the Oregon Coast and roasting marshmallow's over an open flame.

Brophy said this particular sort of tea used to be popular with sailors and was served to men in battle in Europe years ago.  One story tells of a warehouse in China where many soldiers camped nearby, and when they left, the tea makers had to quickly finish drying the tea by roasting the leaves over fires made of damp pine.  When I looked online, I found another story about a similar smoky tea, Russian Caravan:

"The name refers to the long, overland journey that tea would travel on from China to the markets in Moscow. Wooden chests of rather bland tasting tea would travel on camel back, often taking a year to complete the journey. This Russian-bound tea was famous for the smell of the many campfires it would absorb along the way. And thus, the smoky tea varieties became associated with Russia, and often have Slavic or Russian monarchy names, like Czar Nikolai or Ekaterina"

I love a good story behind the things I eat and drink. 
It elevates the experience.