Why Starbucks to Go is Illogical: Thoughts of a Seated Observer

Look at this parking lot in front of a Starbucks—empty. Evidence of about a half dozen cars that have come and gone in the last 20 minutes after stopping to “grab some Starbucks”. This makes me think… and want to share some thoughts to simmer on. I love to walk into Starbucks and grab a tall Pike or Veranda blend and sit for a moment. During one of those moments, I contemplated why some people stop at a cafe—Starbucks or otherwise—grab a drink and go. Sure, they may be in a hurry, or need their daily caffeine fix.

If people are in that much in a hurry, then why not stop at a gas station or through a fast food drive-thru to “grab” a coffee or beverage? Whether it’s for an espresso, cafe au lait, or cafe Cubano, or a drip—stop and savor it.

Why bother to stop at a cafe, get out of your car, wait in line and then leave again? Is it the taste these people crave? the quality? the status of a brand like Starbucks or other inter/national chain? If you grab-and-go no one is going to see it anyway. Furthermore, by rushing off, you’re not going to fully enjoy your beverage. Imagine this: you will probably sit in traffic, rush through a store or forget your drink in the car to melt away… so why not save some money and even some time by by-passing cafes all together?

espresso-at-cafe
My husband and I lingering over an espresso and people watching in Paris for the better part of an hour (of course, we enjoyed it while it was still warm).

Traditional cafes are for sitting. Have people simply forgotten that Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and other American coffee establishments fall into this category? That’s part of the reason they, and all other cafes, are pricier than the average gas station or drive-thru offerings. People are not paying extra for convenience either (what’s convenient about waiting in line?), they’re paying for the atmosphere, but are not using it like it’s intended to be enjoyed (unless they’re camped out inside to work).

5 more people have come and gone since I started this note. In all of the other countries that I can think of that I have visited, the cafe is a beautiful place were people get their coffee or beverage, sit down and then take in or establish some quality of life: A chat with a friend perhaps, a cigarette, or just to watch the day in motion.

I know that here in America, our popular culture is oftentimes a fast-paced- want-it-now-not-in-five-minutes kind of society, but there is so much more to be enjoyed when you stop and smell the coffee sometimes.

The Bold Character Behind 4 European Coffees from Ireland, Spain and Italy

From France to San Francisco, you’ll find coffee enthusiasts enjoying numerous varieties of coffee beans prepared in every way imaginable, but in Paris, for example, you may find patrons sipping their coffee just a bit slower than their American counterparts. Sure, in a quality-conscious society the traits of the bean and its extraction are important to us, but let’s not forget the character behind coffee consumption.

When taking in these 4 European coffees at coffee shops across America, don’t rush. Consider the character of the European social experience, which includes an expertly prepared coffee that’s typically enjoyed while lingering at a cafe and taking in a bit of quality life.

Café con Leche / Origin, Spain

This coffee treat, meaning “coffee with milk” in Spanish, is a popular breakfast stable in communities around the world, such as the Philippines, but most common in Spain and Latin American countries, such as Cuba. Cafe con leche is traditionally made with strong or bold coffee, usually espresso beans, that is then mixed with scalded milk.

Lattes / Origin, Italy

A latte, the shortened form of the Italian caffè latte, consists of espresso and steamed milk. The method of producing latte art is created by expertly pouring the steamed milk’s foam into the shot of espresso to produce a design on the surface of the latte. It’s a difficult art that depends on the quality of the espresso machine, the temperature of steamed milk and the experience of the barista.

mezzeculture-large-latte-cappuccino

Irish Coffee / Origin, Ireland

This coffee treat, meaning “caife Gaelach” in Irish, is served hot and is made with either espresso or brewed coffee poured over with whiskey, sugar and (not whipped) cream floated on top. Usually enjoyed in the evening, it’s become popular in communities around the world, such as Spain (where the whiskey, coffee and cream are poured in layers), Irish coffee as it’s known today was invented by an Irish chef in the 1940s.

jksdjsk

Espresso / Origin, Italy

This coffee treat is a popular stable in communities around the world, and originated in Italy, where it’s consumption. Espresso is both a brewing method and a beverage, and although any bean or roast level can be used in it’s preparation, it’s extraction requires specialized skill and equipment. Served as either a single (solo) or double shot (dopio), espresso is enjoyed prepared across a variety of the world’s most popular espresso beans today.

espresso-mezzeculture

6 Sweet and Savory Dutch Delights Worth Tasting from The Netherlands

By Author and Blogger, Jessica Lipowski

Certain countries around the world are internationally renowned for their cuisine, for instance the French, Chinese, Thai and Spanish. The Dutch however also have their own specialties, which deserve an honorable mention. Potatoes and fish form the foundation of the traditional diet, mainly due to the proximity of the sea and the potato being one of the main crops harvested in the Netherlands. But the country is home to additional delights. Join the culinary tour to learn about a few of the other delectable foods the Dutch have to offer.

Stamppot

Stamppot is a Dutch staple. Typically prepared in the winter months, this classic comfort food is a mashed mixture of potatoes and a vegetable, usually endive, carrots or kale. Warm, savory gravy is ladled on top of the potato mound to provide additional flavor. Sausage is served on the side and often dipped in mustard.

Stamppot dutch food
Stamppot / Jessica Lipowski

Bitterballen

Bitterballen are small, round deep-fried snacks, crispy on the outside and warm and savory on the inside. The thick gravy-like filling is made from bits of meat, bouillon, flour and butter as well as other spices and seasonings. The Dutch snack, usually consumed after work or in the weekends and paired with beer, is dipped in a spicy mustard and accompanied by pickles and pickled onions.

Bitterballen dutch food
Bitterballen / Jessica Lipowski

Herring

Herring is a must. When most people think of this fishy delicacy, they think of pickled herring preserved in a jar. In the Netherlands, though, the fish is served raw, the fleshy pink bringing color to the product. The flavor is strong, yet mouthwatering and fresh. The Dutch have two ways of presenting the herring. In Amsterdam it is common to receive it sliced up in small pieces served with pickles and onions on the side. In Rotterdam, you may be able to eat the fish by its tail, a typical image that comes to mind when herring and the Dutch are used in the same sentence.

herring dutch food
Herring / Lane Blackmer

Pancakes

The Dutch love this dish, whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Falling somewhere in between the thickness of fluffy American pancakes and the thin French crepes, the Dutch typically make theirs with bacon, cheese or both baked in, more savory than sweet. The end result should be warm on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside.

pancakes-photo-by-berj-alexanian
Pancakes / Berj Alexanian

Cheese

Probably one of the most famous products the Dutch are known for is cheese. There are numerous varieties – from Gouda, Beemster and Edam to young and old in terms of age – so be sure to try all the options available to see which is your favorite.

Stroopwafels

If you have a sweet tooth, read no further. Stroopwafels will be your version of dessert heaven. A stroopwafel is the combination of two thin wafer-like cookies with a gooey caramel filling on the inside. Originating in the city of Gouda, the treat started out as a poor-man’s cookie. Now it is one of the most highly regarded sweets. If you’re lucky to find a freshly made one, that’s best but you can also buy them in the package, still a very tasty second.

Stroopwafel dutch food
Stroopwafel / Jessical Lipowski

Don’t miss out on other Dutch favorites such as kroket (similar to bitterballen) and speculaas (a type of spiced cookie). As the Dutch say, “Eet smakelijk” or “Enjoy your meal.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Follow Jessica Lipowski on Twitter @JLipowski or her blog. She is also a host of two weekly twitter chats: a cultural travel chat using the hashtag #CultureTrav and another on the road less travelled (#TRLT).

Hold Your Local Coffee Shop’s Espresso to these 7 Standards

Forget the popularity of latte art for a moment, and let’s explore the famed art of espresso. It’s considered the real coffee art in many parts of the world, especially in European countries, but to a degree seldom known or knowingly experienced by the everyday Joe—or cup thereof in the US. For American coffee aficionados in-the-know however, the difference of taste in filtered home brewed coffee versus the delicate intricacies of perfectly prepared espresso is like comparing hurried pencil scribbles with the distinction of a Monet—for the discerning eye, nose, and taste buds, the senses beholding espresso should be as discerning.

For those who don’t know espresso beyond its place on a shelf or a menu, the first difference is in the extraction: espresso coffee is extracted by forcing steam through a basket of tightly-packed, finely-ground coffee. To be consumed properly, espresso coffee is also served in small demitasse-style cups and most popularly as single or double shot dosages.

Unlike its filter-brewed counterpart, drinking espresso coffee shouldn’t be about snuffing out a bad night’s rest, getting a caffeine fix or maintaining a kind of coffee high, but rather about maximizing flavor.

Here are seven things your taste buds should know when ordering or making your next espresso shot. Peer over your barista’s shoulder, or ask questions, but don’t settle for a bad espresso.

  1. The origin of the coffee bean.

    Find out how long your beans been roasted for in order to get the best flavor tones. If you like complex flavors like chocolate or caramel, then dark beans are for you, but if your palette prefers floral or fruit, then go for light roast espresso.

  2. The age of the roast.

    Who loves a day-old brew? You know, the kind you make and put in the fridge for later. Yeah, no one really. The same goes for weeks- or day-old roasted beans. Make sure you’re using freshly roasted coffee beans or capsules, whether you do it yourself, or trust your favorite local coffee spot to use quality beans.

  3. The age of the grind.

    If the beans can’t be roasted fresh, then the grind should be. Whether you’re making espresso at home or ordering somewhere local, it’s always best to grind the beans just before pulling the shot to get the freshest flavor. If you’re using espresso capsules at home, then the grind has been pretty much perfected for you.

  4. The texture of the grind.

    No one likes weak, watery anything so mind the grind. A grind that’s too coarse can result in a badly extracted espresso with sour aftertaste. Likewise, a shot that’s pulled from a grind that’s too fine can become over-extracted and result in a burnt and pretty bitter flavor. If you’re preparing a shot at home, then just make sure to check your settings on your own machine.

  5. The ratio of espresso to water.

    Illy, for example, holds x gram dose of espresso. You’ll need X ml to make a double—or dopio, as the Italians say—shot of espresso. For a home brew machine, make sure to fill the water reservoir as instructed. Make sure the filter has warmed up and a cup is preheated to ensure the best flavor.

  6. The cleanliness of the basket.

    Nothing taints the flavor of an espresso like an oily spout. If you’re watching your espresso come out like water in a kinked hose, then the portafilter basket probably needs cleaning. A well-kept local espresso spot will know to clean their baskets frequently to maintain a high-quality product. When it comes to your own machine, take note that your basket is clean and dry.

  7. The cherry crema on top.

    When pouring an espresso, you’ll want the crema, the peace crème de la resistance, the foamy grand finale of a perfectly brewed espresso to taste smooth and sweet. It’s recommended to keep your brewing time to about 30 seconds to achieve the best result.

Lastly, don’t forget a glass of water to cleanse your palette. When considering a place to have an espresso, whether at your table or in the neighborhood, proper technique is as much part of reputation as it is taste.  Most people would accept a refund for a bad espresso, because hey, some places promise to ‘make it right’ or it’s F-R-E-E. But, if you really want an authentically prepared espresso shot, then you may not want to go to those places. Here’s a hint: if the espresso machine is displayed like a work of art rather than hidden behind a counter, then you’re probably in the right place.

What if, Like Bourdain, We Saw our City as a ‘Cultural Wellspring’

Surely I’m not the only one that loves to live vicariously through Anthony Bourdain’s worldwide travels and culinary adventures, especially through his recent stories on the CNN Show, “Parts Unknown,” which airs Sunday’s at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

This last episode really excited me though because he traveled to his native state of New Jersey for a taste of its hometown cultural experiences. The story included a stop for Italian-American fare at the landmark Baltimore Grill in Atlantic City, which has been serving spaghetti and pizza for over 70 years.

“I’m here to feed my soul, the cultural wellspring that is New Jersey,” Bourdain said in his newest episode, and this is what really got me excited—references to local cultural experiences that can ignite curiosity, appreciation, value and hopefully love for what’s in our own backyard. And most importantly, for the unique people behind them so eager to share their heritage from abroad.

In one of his recent Tumblr posts, Bourdain references ‘Jersey Italian’ as being eternal to New Jersey culture. I had to Tweet back to the show about it when they featured the post—I’m not sure if it was seen, but that short reference to Italian heritage as part of the fabric of NJ culture spoke volumes to me.

@HelenCho @Bourdain @PartsUnknownCNN Amen at Jersey #Italian ‘eternal’; #cultural authenticity in our own backyard.

— MezzeCulture (@MezzeCulture) May 31, 2015

His brother Chris Bourdain said in this recent article in the New York Post “I remember we were trying Japanese food and Indian food long before anybody had ever thought of such things,” he recalled. “It’s just what our parents were. They appreciated those kinds of things.”

How cool is that? That before Tony traveled the world so that travelers could feel like locals, he grew up exploring the world locally in his own city. Can’t wait to learn more when Bourdain comes to Austin in July. I’ve already got my ticket to see his show on July 9th. Check out his 2015 Tour Anthony Bourdain: Close to the Bone.

Personally, I’m hoping to learn more about how I can encourage more Americans to become cultural enthusiasts—to encourage them to get to know the world through the genuine international people and places around them.

In a CNN article supporting the episode, “Don’t trash Jersey until you’ve traveled it,” Cindy Y. Rodriguez, Special to CNN, wrote of six places to check out in New Jersey for a taste of local culture—among them, where Jersey City for a diverse food tour, and West New York for what she dubs “some of the best Hispanic food in the tri-state area.”

This episode was raw and real, which I love about every episode. Thank you, Mr. Bourdain. A first-generation American myself, I truly believe that inspiring people to view their own backyard as a ‘cultural wellspring,’ could do wonders for enabling people to bridge cultural divides, span cultural distances, and even overcome common travel barriers (half of Americans don’t have passports).

That’s what the idea behind MezzeCulture was in 2015 and now what Mezze Weekly represents as a travel magazine—inspiring new cultural and international experiences to love locally, and beyond the pages of lovely guide books and the media, but by stepping outside your front door. By exploring authentic local destinations for international culture expressed through food, drink, music and more.

One day, I hope to add New Jersey and other US cities to the list, as well as their wonderfully authentic destinations, and the stories of the people behind them. But, for now we’re working on building that community of cultural enthusiasts and destinations in 6 other cities—what are your favorite local cultural activities near you?

(image is courtesy of digidreamgrafix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The Thread That Connects Us

Guest Post By Jessica Lipowski

Around the world, people are fundamentally the same. No matter where you are, in which country you are visiting or living, you will find numerous similarities. Of course, we all know there are differences, but at the core we are alike. Please allow me to explain.

When I lived in Utrecht, a city situated in the center of the Netherlands, and commuted to Amsterdam on a regular basis, I noticed several universal traits. As I walked along the cobblestone streets to the train station, people were swiftly walking or biking by, in a hurry to get to work. At the station, the atmosphere was even more alive like a beehive. I bumped into many of the same passengers each morning, sometimes waving and nodding a brief hello as recognition.

In the train, some munched on their homemade peanut butter or cheese sandwiches (not the two ingredients together mind you), while others purchased a croissant or piece of fruit beforehand at the station in the few minutes they had until the train departed. Sometimes I’d catch someone doze off en route, but most were busy checking their email, reading or preparing for the busy day ahead. What’s more, I noticed coffee was, and is, a staple. It seems to be a universal truth across cultures that people love and need their caffeine.

As I biked in Amsterdam, weaving through rush hour traffic, I saw the mothers and fathers dropping their kids off at school, tiny, little fingers interlaced with the parent’s. This sight melted my heart. To this day when I see a moment like that, it takes me back to my childhood, when I would go to school and my Mom or Dad would drop me off, kiss me goodbye and wish me a great day. It’s very much the same here in the Netherlands.

Over the last four years, I’ve seen young couples kissing on a bench along the historic canals. I’ve seen elderly couples holding hands, taking a mid-day stroll or just waiting for the tram. I’ve seen young children climbing on a play structure, shrieking in pleasure. I’ve seen families gathered around the dinner table, sharing a meal together and engaging in conversation. These sights, familiar and comforting, are ones you can find everywhere, not just in Amsterdam.

People are people. Amsterdam is home to 178 nationalities, and while we may have been raised in different environments, in general we share the same emotions, stresses and joys. We want to do well. We simply want to live, laugh and love. It is part of being human, no matter from which culture we come. In a way, we are all tied together by the same thread.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

This post originally appeared on Jessica Lipowski’s website. Read the post here, titled “What We All Share,” and follow her on Twitter @JLipowski. She is also a host of two weekly twitter chats: a cultural travel chat using the hashtag #CultureTrav and another on the road less travelled (#TRLT) .

4 Reasons I Love Anthony Bourdain’s American Tour for Shaming the Foodie

While I was sitting at La Patisserie bakery a couple years ago, I read about Anthony Bourdain’s North American Tour Close to the Bone coming through Austin in July. It was May, so I bought my ticket to attend his stand up tour.

Watching his shows I’m always inspired, and I’d always wonder if, as an American, he might contemplate the influences of international food and how they differed in America—fast forward to the live Q&A session during the show, and those same thoughts raced through my mind as he started answering questions from the audience, but I couldn’t see a microphone-clad usher on the balcony for mine. I was partly hoping to ask him, half chickening out, and all the while wishing I could afford to sit closer for a better shot at doing so.

In any case, at the show I learned 4 things that later made me reflect on that day at the bakery. It was then that I was enjoying a ham and cheese croissant and café au lait quite reminiscent of Paris. After the show and now looking back, I realize that the food and drink was satisfying for many reasons, but not the most important ones.

That day I became more conscious of looking beyond my self-centered reasons for liking my food and coffee to focus on the more important story. Sure the coffee warm, the dough was flaky, and it reminded me of France, and of course I was hungry, so it brought me comfort.

But there was more to my meal that I missed that day: the authentic story from the food’s cultural perspective.

How often do we judge good food based on our own beliefs of how it should taste, or what it should look like?

Or how its quality should make us feel or look while eating it?

During his show in Austin, Anthony Bourdain reminded me how.

Like him, I am now more conscious about appreciating food for its most important qualities: not enjoying just for how it tastes to me, but appreciating it for its origins, creation, and the artisan that made it, or the company it brings with it.

When we attempt to look beyond ourselves that’s when we’ll know food’s greatest power and story, and that’s when it can truly open us up to new experiences.

How often do you enjoy food because of the story it tells you?

The ability to be perceptive brings on a sort of sophisticated wisdom, which is something that I believe Bourdain has contributed in opening the eyes of millions  of people to a certain degree of empathy through his food journies around the world.

His experiences, as experienced during this television shows and also revealed during the stand up tour, are filled with a bit of cynical humor because well, who wouldn’t be a little sarcastic after seeing the world through his lenses. That would’ve been a good question to ask during the live Q&A. It must change someone in ways that we can only dare to understand or reach ourselves.

Here are four ways that Bourdain reminds the self-proclaimed ‘Foodie’ to cherish food the right way.

  1. Care less about personal food choices

    We must try to be aware of how our personal food choices can make us feel entitled, and how we view others who have differing views might make us treat them badly. Bourdain tried to make us understand that our currently popular choices to be vegan, gluten-free, and organic can play to the tune of our ego when we treat other people badly (e.g., each other, our servers, restaurant owners, etc.) because of our choices.

  2. Reconsider ingredients you don’t like

    People can radically abhor certain foods, and we must try to remember that someone’s use of ingredients that we don’t care for doesn’t give us an excuse to impose our customs or illicit any sort of hatred. Bourdain brought up the example of MSG being blamed for what’s called ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,’ saying it is caused by our own societal discrimination or racism. His comments drew a roar of applause, short of a standing ovation, from the audience.

  3. Ask yourself what food and drink you take for granted

    We must try to appreciate that in many parts of the world food is magnified when it is scarcest, and that’s when people should and do share it the most. While it’s our choice to be vegan, organic or the like, Bourdain shared that in most of the world meat is scarce and sacred in ways that small bits are used to flavor tons of other daily ingredients. He asked us not to diminish the opportunity to dine with others or allow relationships to develop with people because of that—because the poorest people of the world will gladly kill their month’s allowance of chicken to show absolute honor and generosity towards their guests.

  4. Understand food in order to start new journeys

    If we are willing to listen, to be shown and to participate in the lessons, we can learn so much from food. Personally, the show inspired me to keep sharing the MezzeCulture message: that is to encourage people to look beyond the guidebooks and the television and to start getting to know the world’s cultures and people through the stories of authentic food, drink and entertainment available in their own backyards. Our neighbors and their businesses can teach us about their culture in much the same way as the locals we meet while traveling.

If you’ve attended the show then I hope these four points will touch you as they did me. The tour continued through the end of July, with stops in Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and Chicago.

Overall, the show was great and will hopefully make you ask yourself those tough questions. I really enjoyed learning about Bourdain’s family, his refrigerator (ha!), his takes on food at home, references to New Jersey clams and mussels, and his personal learnings, as well as experiences with colleagues along his long and successful career.

I believe that food can bridges barriers, it’s experiences can create empathy, and that empathy allows us to value people because of its power to touch the heart and change minds. Daily, I’m learning how that affects the choices and experiences I pursue while exploring the world’s cultures through local food, drink and entertainment in my own backyard. That’s why I tune in to CNN’s Anthony Bourdain: Part’s Unknown on Sunday’s, and why I could hardly wait those 9 weeks for the tour to hit Austin.

@BourdainTour we’ll look forward to seeing the show in Austin on Thursday! Look for us cheering for international food from the balcony.

— MezzeCulture (@MezzeCulture) July 8, 2015

P.s., Tony if you ever read this, my question that I didn’t get to ask at the Austin tour stop was…

After all your travels around the world, what do you feel is the reason food, drink and entertainment in a country of origin requires comparable experiences in the U.S. to be critically-acclaimed in order to be considered good enough?

Author Jessica Lipowski Shares How to Bike Like The Dutch

Guest Post By Blogger and Author Jessica Lipowski

The city of Amsterdam is synonymous with biking. According to iamsterdam, the Amsterdam Tourist Board, the city is home to an estimated 881,000 bicycles and only 811,185 inhabitants, more bikes than residents. On average, 58 percent of the population cycles daily. Biking is more than a method of transportation; it is a way of life.

Completely different from any other city I’ve experienced, biking in Amsterdam is like a fast-paced game. Peddling along in the designated bike lanes, others fly by, accustomed to the speed. Parked bikes are peppered across the city, sometimes clustered together in huge structures like that at Centraal Station or sitting outside on the street, locked, in residential neighborhoods.

At first, the Dutch intimidated me as they made their way from Point A to Point B while chatting on their cell phone, holding hands with a lover or even riding with an extra passenger sidesaddle on the back. Out of shape, I couldn’t even comprehend biking 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) to commute to work or meet up with friends. My first biking experience in Amsterdam was a disaster, almost colliding with a tram and losing a shoe, twice. Now, after living in the Netherlands for more than four years, I can keep up with the best of them. On average, I bike 8 kilometers (5 miles) one way to go somewhere and weave my way through the city, knowing the fastest route.

Tips for Biking in Amsterdam

  • Stay in designated bike lanes, often marked with a biker painted in the path or with white dotted lines on either side.
  • Observe traffic rules (even if you are tempted to follow someone ignoring signs). One in particular is worth mentioning. There are little triangle shapes on the road, indicating who has the right of way. If the triangles are upside down and facing you, you must yield.
  • While most Dutch do not wear a helmet, it is better to be safe than sorry, especially if you are feeling unsure.
  • Respect other cyclists. It is fine to bike side-by-side, but if it is particularly busy do not block the entire bike path. Be courteous to your fellow cyclists.

Growing up in metro Detroit, I learned to ride my bike as a young girl around the age of six, but biking for me was a fun activity in the spring and summer months. For the Dutch, however, biking is ingrained at a young age. It’s viewed as an efficient mode of transportation, not necessarily promoted for being green or as exercise. Of course, those two aspects are added benefits, most certainly helping the Dutch maintain their slim figures, but the bicycle is a great way to drop off and pick up children from school, do grocery shopping, meet up with friends or get to and from work. Families even cycle in groups, whether heading into the city or for a picnic in the park.

Tips to Incorporate Biking Into Life Back Home

  • Hop on your bike to meet-up with friends, especially if you’re meeting for a drink. If your city does not have designated bike lanes, research cyclist rules and follow those practices. You can also bike on the sidewalk, but respect pedestrians, as well.
  • Explore the local area by bike. Biking gives you the opportunity to look around and take in your surroundings.
  • Instead of taking the car to go grocery shopping, hop on your bike. Invest in saddle bags and a backpack. You will naturally bring less groceries home, but this enables you to shop for a day or two at a time and use the freshest ingredients for your upcoming meal.
  • Research groups in the area that you can join. Who knows; perhaps your new best friend – also a cyclist – is just out there waiting to be found.
  • Wear a helmet.
  • In the end, it’s simple; enjoy!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Follow Jessica Lipowski on Twitter @JLipowski. She is also a host of two weekly twitter chats: a cultural travel chat using the hashtag #CultureTrav and another on the road less travelled (#TRLT).

Try These 8 Shareable European Plates for a Meal with Friends

The ultimate lunch or night out with friends isn’t complete unless there’s food to be passed around—after all, sharing is caring. When friends go out for food or drinks in Europe, you’ll find that many times multiple dishes with individual portions are ordered and dining is communal.

Going out for dinner and drinks isn’t just about the food, but about bringing friends together, and international cuisines are known to be most shareable. In fact, European restaurants are known for a great social atmosphere and offer lots of options to make a mix-and-match out of dinner or incorporating small, unique shareable dishes as part of the experience.

Explore a new cuisine in your city, and add interest to your next night out with friends by considering a restaurant offering one of these eight plates ideal for sharing.

Dish out Spanish Paella

An ideal dish for sharing in Spain, this pan holds plenty of rice topped with abundant seafood.

Bite into British Fish and Chips

The English love this fried battered dish, sometimes in beer and usually cod, with lots of fries.

Give a Go at French Escargots

These cooked snails are typically served in a delicious garlic butter sauce and parsley garnish.

Delight in Italian Calamari

A whole plate of sliced squid turned crispy rings of tender goodness with a wedge of lemon.

Relish in Belgian Moules Frites

Steaming hot mussels with a side of crunchy fries and mayo keeps hearts warm in Belgium.

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#moulesfrites #stmartinderé #summersancerre

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Snack on Dutch Fries

These are a late night street food often served with mayo fritesaus, a fun staple in The Netherlands. 

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Belgian fries #bruges #belgium #frites #fries #mayonnaise

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Grab a Greek Spanakopitakia

You’ll love these popular bite-size spinach and feta cheese pies wrapped in crunchy filo dough.

Pop in a couple Belarus Latkes

Try just one of these crispy potato pancakes and you’ll know why it’s the country’s national dish.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BHxkhDMDmun/

Featured image source://platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js
ladies night. facepalm.” (CC BY 2.0) by  aaronisnotcool

This is Why America is not a ‘Melting Pot’

It’s been proven that beauty is refined in diversity. Because when we take a canvas and mix, or melt, all the colors together into a single composition, it blocks individual characteristics and essentially creates a void of color.

So, to me, America is not a melting pot. It’s a kaleidoscope of color.

By allowing each individual color’s unique properties to shine on its own part of the canvas, it brings out a composition that is pure, and ‘cultured’ because it’s free of our own coarse perceptions of what is beautiful. That’s also how I see diversity and the cultural contributions of immigrants in the U.S., and why I became inspired to join and partner with the Welcome.us campaign celebrating Immigrant Heritage Month in June.

In America, especially in recent years, we’ve gratefully had opportunities to chase our dreams, to travel, and to see and get to know the world through the places we go and people we meet along the way. Along the way, we discover affinities and commonalities, not by mixing them up, but rather by viewing them in light of their natural beauty, and then adopting them with an open heart.

But only if you let your guard down.

It takes courage, knowledge, empathy and love to do that. I think for most people who have ever gone to a local cultural event or traveled abroad, and gone out of their comfort zone, they get it.

I founded the cultural event company MezzeCulture in 2015 and the online magazine Mezze Weekly this year to help more people do that. To encourage the nearly half of Americans who’ve never traveled abroad to do it, and those who have to do more of it. Both communities are about exploring cultures through stories and activities in your backyard. Local businesses become beacons of world discovery, for getting to know the world in our own backyards.

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Nearly 1 in 5 small businesses, and almost 40% of restaurants are owned by recent immigrants, those who are foreign born, first or second generation immigrants. Why? Because they’ve gone out of their comfort zone too and reaped the rewards. They have a cultural story, and are eager to share it with anyone who is willing to listen and in the cases of services businesses like restaurants and musicians, to experience it socially.

It is when we can see, empathize with and appreciate the characteristics of the individual, that the ever changing beautiful canvas of a kaleidoscope comes  into view. America’s rich multicultural heritage makes it the most diverse country in the world. It is home to 189 million citizens spanning 15 ancestries, and over 80 million foreign-born, first- and second-generation Americans.

Yet only half of our country has ever traveled abroad.

I’m grateful to have traveled internationally, letting my guard down, learning to bridge different cultures—both as an American and as the daughter of immigrant parents. My experiences have brought an inherent understanding of the unique challenges of being an American of recent immigrants, but also of the multidimensional refinement of our perception of beauty when one culture is allowed to be positioned next to another.

For the half of Americans who have passports and have experienced the diversity in the world, millions are shedding light on the beauty of our local immigrant communities. It is only when international experiences—whether abroad or locally—reach the heart that empathy can develop to illuminate the beauty of diversity in our own backyards.

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“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I was born in America in 1983, as a first generation American to immigrant parents of Middle Eastern heritage, and today feel fortunate to live in a country that has the greatest potential to be tolerant of differences, where we can get to know people of different backgrounds because of America’s heritage.

I’m also proud to be a Welcome.us partner because I believe that by elevating the worldwide influences that make America unique, we can break down barriers, span distances and bridge cultural divides by uplifting the history, authenticity and charm of our country’s rich multicultural heritage.

It’s a privilege to share my story to support the like-minded mission of Welcome.us co-founder Tolu Olubunmi, and her team, who are showcasing the inspirational stories of American immigrants, who will one day ha e the same opportunities as citizens who came before them. residents who  MezzeCulture is my way of helping to elevate immigrant businesses in local communities by turning international travel experiences inside out and illuminate them locally.

In an age of globalization, it’s often easy to forget the origin and value of the unique people and places around us, but through MezzeCulture and Mezze Weekly’s communities, local businesses and partners we can unite across diversity by celebrating cultural heritage through every destination, experience and story contributed to both platforms to intersect the cultural affinities we have in common.

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At both MezzeCulture and Mezze Weekly, this collective effort can expand not only cultural tourism in every city the platform reaches, but also creative and enrichment tourism activities anywhere. The MezzeCulture platform is starting with Austin, Houston, Miami, Washington DC, New York City, and San Francisco.

For more than half of Americans who have never traveled abroad and even for veteran travelers who relish in authentic cultural experiences, barriers often get in the way of international travel. My hope is that both MezzeCulture and Mezze Weekly encourage people to get to know the world through the cultures, traditions and origins of the immigrants around them in addition to the inspiration they’re used to through guide books, online media and television.

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By trying international culture expressed through food, drink, music, shopping, and more locally, people can be inspired to integrate, embrace and overcome barriers like cultural knowledge, and time, hassle or cost of travel, while sampling international activities in their own city to illuminate a kaleidoscope of color, so to say.

Sources: Ancestry statistics according to the 2000 U.S. Census; Immigration statistics according to a 2015 MigrationPolicy.org article.