Friday, November 25, 2011

More than a Vacation...

From what I can remember, Amman, the capital of Jordan, is a fascinating city filled with culture and history. It is a unique blend of old and new, ideally situated on a hilly area between the desert and the Jordan Valley.
In the center of the city, ultra-modern buildings, hotels, smart restaurants, art galleries and boutiques rub shoulders comfortably with traditional coffee shops and tiny artisans' workshops. Everywhere there is evidence of the city’s much older past.

Due to the city’s modern-day appeal and difficult climate, almost half of Jordan’s population is concentrated in the Amman area, the main city. The suburbs and housing consist of mainly tree-lined streets and concrete and dirt roadways.

The downtown area is much older and more traditional with smaller businesses producing and selling everything from fabulous jewelry to everyday household items, and gifts to intrigue the tourists. The people of Amman are multi-cultural, multi-denominational, well-educated and extremely hospitable. They welcome visitors and take pride in showing them around their city.
Amman, Jordan is where most of my family is from and have lived at sometime. My grandparents on my mother’s side still reside there.
The last time I visited was when I was 15, I hope to travel there and maybe study in Jordan in the near future. Because I seldom visited there it became difficult to assimilate to the lifestyle there, compared to the simple luxuries I enjoy every day here in the United States.  I learned a lot visiting there each summer; I especially learned how it felt to be independent and responsible by flying overseas alone. I enjoyed feeling the confidence I gained from doing well outside the comforts of my life in America.

Over time, I realized the importance of understanding my heritage and experiencing the lifestyle people in Jordan experience every day.  Living in the Middle East over the summer and noticing how life is and the discipline people have learned and assimilating to the culture and lifestyle, I took that opportunity to grow and learn in any way that I could. I became more aware of life, more familiar with both Jordanian and American cultures, as well as with those of who surrounded me.

Those who have never traveled to the middle east will be surprised to see that Amman is a very diverse city. Palestinian, Iraqi, Circassian, Armenian, and many other ethnic groups reside in Amman. The city went from 20,000 inhabitants to more than 2 million people in less than a century partly because of massive influxes of refugees from Palestine and Iraq.
Despite the common misconception that most Jordanians do not understand English, that is certainly untrue. Tthe most commonly known language is English, and French is the next known language, Arabic being the main spoken language of course.   It never hurts to know a few useful phrases and come prepared with a translation book, or to have the names and addresses of places you are going written in Arabic for use with a taxi driver.  I can not wait to visit again and enjoy the beautiful heritage that I will never stop appreciating.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Restaurant Review-Chicago Fire in Folsom

Chicago Fire is Sacramento and Folsom California's most popular place to taste authentic Chicago Pizza. It opened its first location in Folsom in February of 2003. The main theme of Chicago Fire is to serve unique and authentic Chicago-style pizza. The most popular orders of their Chicago Pizza favorite is a flaky deep dish, gourmet stuffed, or the popular choice of Chicagoan’s, crispy wafer thin crust, which is served in sliced squares. They have a simple menu and sometimes a long wait, but it has always been worth the wait every time I have gone there. They offer a full table service, a full bar, a great selection of wines to choose from, and a more upscale environment to enjoy pizza at a reasonable price.

When I first went to Chicago Fire, I intended to try their thin crust pizza by recommendation of my friends. It is rated the best thin crust pizza in the area. Not only was it the best in the entire Sacramento area, but it was just as good as thin crust pizza I had in Chicago two summers ago. In Chicago, we've found the pizzerias tend to use a corn flour dough, which gives the pie a grainy consistency. The owner told us that Chicago Fire uses wheat flour which produces a smooth texture.
My friends ordered random appetizers that were equally as delicious such as, artichoke, chicken wings, spinach salad, and their signature Margherita pizza, which of course had to be enjoyed with a pitcher of margaritas. The salad was awesome and the artichoke was a perfect starter for the group. The margaritas were a bit on the sweet side but the fact that we could get them in pitcher form made up for it.

Their menu claims that, "The crust is wafer thin and has no rolled edge. The toppings are placed under the cheese and the pizza is cooked on the stone deck of a very hot pizza oven, resulting in a crust that is thin, light and crispy. The browning of the cheese and areas of chocolate brown/black crust is a sign of the authenticity of this pizza" .We had the "Traditional" and the crust was a delicious flavored crunchy with fresh chopped tomato, basil, garlic, olive oil, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. We also had the spinach salad which had fresh spinach, crumbled bacon, crumbled egg, red onion, homemade spinach dressing & homemade croutons. Everything was delicious even the mojitos we ordered, from their 15-year experienced bar tender.

When we first arrived, we did have to wait for our table, so they gave us a hand held "beeper' that lit up with red dots when our table was ready and it took about a half hour. There are many places within walking distance to pass the time so we decided to go directly across the street and do some wine tasting there. We had some fabulous wine and the owner had just bought the store, surrounding art galleries are also a must see.

 We expected that there would be a wait for the restaurant. There is both indoor and outdoor seating. We were seated in a very large booth surrounded by glass in an open and light part of the restaurant. The great food and drinks made up for the lacking service, we repeatedly had to find our server and ask for water, and to be refilled or for a second order of drinks. Most people seem to overlook the sometimes poor service experience, because the food is worth it. I would say that this is definitely a place worth visiting!