Tag Archives: Travel

Do This!: Italian Cooking Classes in Tuscany. Jet-Set to Villa Life: Eat, Drink and Be Italian!

6-Day All-Inclusive Tuscan Getaway at Villa Campestri

6-Day All-Inclusive Tuscan Getaway at Villa Campestri

Have you ever dreamed of jetting off to Italy, lounging in a Tuscan villa, inhaling the perfume of olive groves, all while sipping on a nice glass of chianti? Oh, and spending your days learning the art of Tuscan cooking and then eating your accomplishments under the Tuscan sun. Well, dream no longer. Writer, Historian and Food Authority Nancy Harmon Jenkins has planned two great trips this Spring.

Immerse Yourself in a 6-Day All-Inclusive Tuscan Cooking and Tasting Experience
March 25-31: with Chef Michele Forgione
(Montreal’s Osteria Venti)

or
April 22-28: with Chef Sara Jenkins
(NYC’s Porchetta, Porsena)
and World Famous Butcher, Dario Cecchini

Dario Cecchini Video

Learn to make pasta, focaccie and other Tuscan Specialties

Learn to make pasta, focaccie and other Tuscan Specialties

The All-Inclusive Scoop:

  • 6 nights accommodation at Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort
  • Week-long olive oil immersion focused on learning how to choose and use olive oil, harvest, production and cooking techniques, and the creation of flavor profiles
  • 3 structured extra-virgin olive oil tastings based on both excellent and defective olive oils
  • 4 cooking classes, focused on using olive oils in cooking and traditional, seasonal Tuscan cuisine with Nancy Harmon Jenkins and the Villa Campestri chef
  • Special demo and cooking class with Chef Michele Forgione (March) or Chef Sara Jenkins (April)
  • Visits to: Tuscan farmers market, cheese producer, grist mill, winery, and other related activities
  • Tuscan wine tasting with noted wine authority Burton Anderson
  • 5 lunches and 6 dinners (with vino), including two lunches at select local restaurants, one at a noted winery, and a final gala dinner at Villa Campestri
  • Transfer services within the tour itinerary
  • Guided visit to Scarperia, a town reknown for its handmade knives (its twin town is Laguiole, France!)

See Photos of Food52’s October Trip to Villa Campestri

All you need to do is get there! Pack your bags and buon viaggio!

Book March 25-31: with Chef Michele Forgione 
or
Book April 22-28: with Chef Sara Jenkins 

This Could Be All Yours!

This Could Be All Yours!…and a Nice Glass of Chianti

Or Bring Italy Home:
Homemade Fresh Mozzarella
Homemade Ricotta
Secret DiLaura Family Frittata with Sweet Italian Sausage
Homemade Gnocchi and Sauce: Channeling My Italian Grandmother
Grandma’s Italian Wedding Chicken Soup

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Banish the January Blues in Mexico — Join Legendary Writer Betty Fussell For A Food Writing & Cooking Immersion

ingredients for squashflower soup

ingredients for squashflower soup

There’s not much going on in January except cold weather and post-holiday blues. To me, this sounds like the perfect time to jump on a jet plane and escape to Tepoztlan Mexico for a week of honing culinary skills with local women and perfecting your food writing with legendary journalist and writer Betty Fussell.

squashflower tamales

squashflower tamales

Start your day rapping words with Betty and end it wrapping squash flower tamales {and then eat them, of course!}

making tortillas in the market

making tortillas in the market

Learn the art of making your sentences sizzle and then throw your hand-pressed tortillas on the grill — you’ll never buy the ChiChi’s package again.

Margarita

Margarita

Master the mix your sentence ingredients and then shake up a Mexican cocktail {or two or three} that will put the frozen margarita machine to shame.

The Scoop:

  • January 4-13, 2013 — 9 nights, 8 days in legendary Tepotzlan, Mexico
  • Exclusive to an intimate 10-person group
  • All breakfasts at your hotel, plus 7 workshop lunches and 5 dinners
  • 5 morning writing workshops with Betty Fussell
  • 2 hands-on cooking workshops with village women
  • Market tours and participation in the village fiestas, including the famous Three Kings Day celebration
  • Opening sunset reception and closing banquet
  • Airport transfers between Mexico City and Tepoztlán
  • Guides, cultural events and health insurance for your entire trip

Ready, Set, Book

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Travel Bite: Seeking Surf, Serenity and Serious Mexican Food at Rancho Pescadaro

Rancho PescadaroI recently jetted off to Rancho Pescadaro for a Baja-beachy wedding. This is a part of Mexico I would strongly suggest everyone visit — it’s safe, it’s serene, it’s lacking in the Spring Break-scene we’ve grown accustomed to associating with Mexican getaways. At Rancho, the food doesn’t get much fresher {straight from the ocean or garden}, the cocktails don’t get much more quenching {cilantro margaritas and mezcal sours topped the list} and it’s all enjoyed al playa or poolside, with stunning mountain and ocean views in every direction and with a staff at-the-ready to make every second worth the trek. Here’s the recap…

Wed 2:05pm: find out tomorrow morning’s Dallas to Cabo leg of my flight is cancelled due to tornados is Dallas. Damn. Call AA. Told there is zero chance of getting me to Cabo for the wedding and suggest I take the refund. Wisely decline and hang-up with unhelpful agent. Crisis mode: kayak, travel agent, Spanish customer service line. Spanish customer service line wins. All three traveling friends rebooked on three different new flights. How does that equate to zero chance? Lesson in persistence.
Thurs 4:30am:  Wake-up. LGA to Houston smooth sailing. Check departure board upon arrival, see earlier connection to Cabo than booked on. Inquire at gate if I can get on and told again there is “zero chance.” Respond I have no checked bags and this changes gate agent’s heart. “Ok with a middle seat?” For this? YES! Reminder why I never check a bag. Ever. Middle seat ends up in the exit row and with no seat to my left. Me thinks my travel karma has switched courses.
Thurs 12:15pm: Arrive in Cabo 3 hours earlier than originally planned (thank you tornado?)
Thurs 12:25pm:  Almost get through customs in a blink. Written warning for the apple I had in my purse. Oops. Wonder how that will come back to haunt. Don’t mess with Mexican customs.
Thurs 12:35pm: find friend arriving from earlier flight. Jump in rental car, roll down windows, off to Rancho Pescadaro via lunch stop in Cabo. Hairy ride on mid-construction Mexican road. Half dirt, half pavement, with a lot of swerving. Roll windows up, buckle seat belt.
Thurs 3:30pm: arrive at stunningly beautiful Rancho Pescadaro. Greeted by friendliest staff who grabs our bags, takes the car keys and promptly leads us to the most important spot on the property: poolside bar. First name introductions all around. Three refreshing cocktails whipped up — first taste of the Rancho Colada. Ready for a swim.

Pescadaro Pool

Pescadaro Pool

Thurs 6:00pm: Beach-front welcome dinner. Sangria, massive bowls of homemade pico di gallo, holy moly bowl of guacamole, steak fajitas with handmade flour or corn tortillas, BEST mole I have ever had {Rancho can I get the recipe?}, caramel flan. Sundown, temperature drops, mexican blankets at the ready, fire pits ablaze, full moon rising and the sound of unruly waves crashing behind us. Welcome indeed!

Mexican Dining al Playa

Mexican Dining al Playa

Chef Buena Makes a Mean Mole

Chef Bueno Makes a Mean Mole

Fri 5am (7am NY): woke up right on body clock cue. Drank triple filtered water. Looked up at my sea blue bed netting that was more romantic decor than purposeful bug-catcher at this time of year. Rolled over and willed myself back to sleep.
Fri 7am: Wake up round two. Opened the curtains and stepped out onto my private balcony. The evening desert chill is still in the air as the sun is in its low rise. Grabbed a blanket, my book and curled up on my private outdoor lounging bed, listening to the fountain below. This is a way everyone should start everyday.
Fri 8am: Roosters are crowing in a distance field, the air is warming. Check outside my hotel room door. Complimentary breakfast has arrived. Array of sweet fruit-tasting fruit. A pot of steaming freshly-pressed Mexican coffee and a charming woven basket housing two cinnamon-sugar dusted donuts. Joy. I read, sip, nibble and, of course, snap a few shots.

Mexican Breakfast

Mexican Breakfast

Fri 8:50am: Air is inching toward hot. Birds join me on the balcony for a few pecks of leftover breakfast. Another hour of soaking myself in this morning bliss and then complimentary yoga?

Yoga Rancho Pescadaro Style

Yoga Rancho Pescadaro Style

Fri 9:30am: Sun is hot to the point that lounging on my outdoor bed involves sweat on the brow. Sunscreen crosses my mind.
Fri 10am: Time for sweat with intention. Yoga.
Fri 11:30am: Pool, poolside cocktails and fresh fish tacos. Yes, life is good.

Poolside Cilantro Margarita and Fresh Fish Tacos

Poolside Cilantro Margarita and Fresh Fish Tacos

Fri 8pm: Restaurant recommendation in Todos Santos from Chef Bueno at Rancho: Tre Galline. Translation — three hens. I was meant to eat here. An authentic touch of northern Italy found in Southern Baja. Chef Angelo greeted us with smiles and showed off every simmering pot from his kitchen — table-side! I loved this preview and asked for his recommendation. He insisted on bringing me a little bit of everything and I did not disagree with that genius plan. Grilled eggplant-wrapped cheese, sweet potato-stuffed tortellini topped with almond slivers, spinach tortellini stuffed with cream with parmesan, homemade lasagna, and to finish braised goat over grilled polenta.  Not what you would expect on beach vacation and for that I loved it.

Tre Galline

Tre Galline

Fri 9:30pm: Drinks at the Todos Santos Inn. A charming 19th-century brick B&B that should be top of your list if you’re more of a town-dweller than a beach-bum.
Saturday: Rinse. Repeat. Sunrise, breakfast, pool, then a destination wedding to remember. Sangria and popsicles chilled off the crowd before the beach-ceremony. Chilled gazpacho, ceviche and margaritas kicked off the post-nuptual celebration. And a whole roast pig with freshly caught ocean fish were delightful departures from your typical wedding filet and salmon choices.  Poolside dancing, late-night piñata-smashing and a taco and s’mores cart made this party under the Mexican moon one for the ages — and for a long 14-hour travel day back to New York.

Wedding Mexican StyleSo when you’re looking to plan that beach getaway that steers clear of jello shots or jamaican braids and guarantees your boss can’t reach you on your cell phone, consider Rancho Pescadaro in lovely Baja Sur. Only regret? Not making it to Baja Beans for “the best coffee in town.” It’s only a 5 minute drive up the road, so be sure to stop in for some java, pastries and cafe dining al fresco. Thanks to the entire staff for making this such a memorable destination getaway.

Adios Rancho

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Do This!: Italian Cooking Classes in Tuscany. Jet-Set to Villa Life: Eat, Drink and Be Italian!

6-Day All-Inclusive Tuscan Getaway at Villa Campestri

6-Day All-Inclusive Tuscan Getaway at Villa Campestri

Have you ever dreamed of jetting off to Italy, lounging in a Tuscan villa, inhaling the perfume of olive groves, all while sipping on a nice glass of chianti? Oh, and spending your days learning the art of Tuscan cooking and then eating your accomplishments under the Tuscan sun. Well, dream no longer — you have two months to find a flight and book this trip. The rest awaits you…

Immerse Yourself in a 6-Day All-Inclusive Tuscan Cooking and Tasting Experience
with Writer, Historian and Food Authority
Nancy Harmon Jenkins

Learn to make pasta, focaccie and other Tuscan Specialties

Learn to make pasta, focaccie and other Tuscan Specialties

The All-Inclusive Scoop:

  • 6 nights accommodation at Villa Campestri Olive Oil Resort
  • 5 Tuscan cooking classes
  • 1 Tuscan wine tasting
  • 1 Special extra-virgin olive oil tasting
  • Visit and lunch in a Chianti Rufina (DOCG) winery
  • Guided visit to local cheese producer
  • Guided visit to Scarperia, a town reknown for its handmade knives (its twin town is Laguiole, France!)
  • Price includes all meals (including wine), travel services within the tour itinerary, service charges as well as 10% VAT

All you need to do is get there! Pack your bags and buon viaggio!

This Could Be All Yours!

This Could Be All Yours!...and a Nice Glass of Chianti

Or Bring Italy Home:
Homemade Fresh Mozzarella
Homemade Ricotta
Secret DiLaura Family Frittata with Sweet Italian Sausage
Homemade Gnocchi and Sauce: Channeling My Italian Grandmother
Grandma’s Italian Wedding Chicken Soup

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Hot & Kickin’ Chicken McSpicy. Are You Lovin’ It?

Chicken McSpicy

Chicken McSpicy

A friend of mine is traveling throughout India, and although the Taj Mahal is on the agenda, the more interesting updates have come from his food excursions involving 15 cent street food, exotic fruit carts and my favorite, a stop at McDonalds. Below is a guest contribution pointing out some of the finer points of the multinational take on an American favorite.

Dear Chicken McSpicy,

You are tasty, but not as good as your Indian cousin, Paneer McSpicy. The chicken part of you is indeed apppropriately spicy and delicious, however your ‘cooling creamy sauce’ (per your packaging) is a bit of a letdown. I was expecting a raita-like substance, while you gave me mayo. I can get that on 42nd, between 7th and 8th.

Also on your packaging, what does “Love whole chicken thigh” mean? It could be read in numerous ways: 1) You love presenting a whole chicken thigh to me. 2) You would love to be able to present a whole chicken thigh to me but can’t, since you only cost $1.25. 3) The words ‘is a’ are missing and it should read “Love is a whole chicken thigh”, which still makes no sense.

Sincerely,
PbR

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Barcelona Digested: Food for Foodies

And so comes the end of my Barcelona digestion. The recap of everything there is to love about Mercat de la Boqueria, how chocolate is central to Catalonia and where to go when you want to eat like a local, can only be ended with a summary of the places you must visit if you’re someone like me. Someone who takes more pictures of her food, than any 15th century painting or statue. The best thing about Barcelona is its astounding mix of traditional and avant garde — for that reason, it might just be one of my top 10 favorite cities to eat in.

Tapac 24 {Tapas and Great Breakfast | L’Eixample}
Tapas bar of acclaimed chef Carles Abellan, owner of Comerc 24. Great place to grab a full breakfast if you’re craving more than a typical croissant or boccadillo. It’s just off Passeig de Gracia, so an easy stop in this area before or after you check out the block of discord and Gaudi’s famous architecture. I had the most delightfully crispy edged egg, with a gooey yolk that ran all over a pile of roasted potatoes and chorizo. Um, yes. Why don’t they eat more breakfasts like this in Barcelona?

Breakfast at Tapac 24

Federal {Australian Farm-Fresh & Great Breakfast | Poble Sec}
Poble Sec is a new up and coming area, and is home to some of the best new restaurants {Ferran Adria of El Builli fame just opened Tickets and 41º here}. Federal is Australian-owned and serves an amazing full breakfast, which is hard to find in Boccadillo-loving Barcelona. The kitchen closes at 4pm on Sunday and there is always a wait, so plan to get there no later than 3pm. I had the most amazing coconut-banana bread w/ honey labne and a free-range egg with a yolk the color of a setting sun. Amazing.

Coconut-Banana bread with labne honey

Free range eggs straight from heaven

ABaC {High-End Dining |Tibidabo}
ABaC is the Per Se of Barcelona. Very quiet dining, inventive cuisine, extremely attentive service.  This should be on any high-end dining list and is worth every penny. I’d tell you everything I ate, but would ruin the surprise — just know that there was frozen “lipstick” involved.

ABaC: Maresme peas royal with Iberian consommé and citrics, barnacles and sea cucumber

La Botifarreria de Santa Maria {Spanish Meat Market | Born}
If you’re looking to smuggle some acorn-fed Iberico ham, Serrano ham or sausages in your suitcase, this is your place. If meat is what you’re looking for, come here and take in all the varieties — there’s even a Coca-Cola infused sausage.

Cured Meat!

Honey and Cheese Market {Market}
Stop by this market every other Friday and Saturday outside the Santa Maria del Pi church. Another great place to pick up some local goods for gifts — sample honey from eucalyptus, thyme, oranges, lavender, you name it and pair it perfectly with some delicious local goat and sheep’s cheeses.

Hone and Cheese Market

Other previous written-up foodie favs:

Cacao SampakaArtisanal Chocolates to die for

Mercat de La Boqueria The best market on the planet. Clearly, since it’s in every Barcelona Digestion that I wrote.

Everything you want to read about Barcelona:
Barcelona Digested: Hang with the Locals – Cava and Cafe Catalonian Style
Barcelona Digested: Chocolate Central
Barcelona Digested: Mercat de La Boqueria
recipe goodness :: barcelona favorite recreated | balsamic chick pea salad

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Barcelona Digested: Hang with the Locals – Cava and Cafe Catalonian Style

Barcelona: Where the locals go

When I travel, I want to know where the locals hang out.  What’s the best bite in town?  Where do they go to grab a drink?  How do they spend their Saturday afternoons.  Of course I’m sure there is some overlap with where the non-local, tourist types visit as well, but in an effort to sum up the recs I got, tried and loved, here’s a list of favs to get your cava and cafe con leche Catalonian style.

El Xampanyet {Cava & Tapas Bar | La Ribera}
Must do. A fantastic cava and tapas bar, serving the bubbly in ‘50s style champagne glasses. Hang out with locals standing at the bar for a few bites before going out. Family-owned since 1929, it has both good energy and an historical air that makes trying a bite of this and a bite of that, that much more enjoyable. Its bright fluorescent lighting gives it the feel of an old-school NYC Jewish deli, serving up great food in an unpretentious setting. And since the Catalonians like to come and go frequently, the people watching never stops.

El Xampanyet

Mercat de La Boqueria {Food Market | Barri Gotic}
It’s on every list. Stop here to eat what you see. Mounds of beautiful fruit, roasted nuts, chocolates galore. Also fun to admire the fresh seafood, chickens with their crown still on and even a few lambs heads w/ eyeballs – no prepackaged grocery store cuts here. Go early and enjoy watching the owners set up shop or eat at two of the best food counters in the market before it gets too crowded with tourists {Pinotxo or El Quim}.

Piles and Piles of Sweet Goodness

Pinotxo {Coffee & Tapas Bar | Barri Gotic, in La Boqueria}
A tiny family run bar, but the owner is one of the most well known in Barcelona. Go early for breakfast (9am), ask for the specials and hang with the owner and other market locals who stop in for a quick coffee and bite before the rush of the day begins.

Pinotxo

Meson del Café {Coffee Bar | Barri Gotic}
Tiny 100-year old café with delicious picardia (coffee w/ condensed milk and whiskey). It’s small and kitschy, which makes it a great place to perch and people watch while reenergizing.

Meson del Cafe Picardia {mmm}

Cal Pep {Seafood Tapas | Born}Great tapas bar known for their fresh seafood. Cal welcomes his patrons with his raspy voice and personal recommendations. It’s diner style seating with an impressive line-up of waiting patrons along the wall, but the distraction of watching the excitement behind the counter will keep you entertained.

Cal and his team

Fresh Clams from Cal Pep

Quimet y Quimet {Tapas Bar | Poble Sec}
Small little tapas bar where you rub elbows {literally} with the locals in a small, standing room only space. The walls are attractively lined with bottles of wine and spirits and the bar showcases all the tapas basics. Inventive combos still rely on the traditional canned food items, but stack up bites like roasted pepper, cream cheese, canned crab, langoustine, caviar, drizzled in balsamic, olive oil for a sensational snack. Also try the dried beef with truffle oil and olive tapenade.

Um, Yes Please. Thank you Quimet y Quimet!

How could you say no to these tapas?

Can Manel la Puda {Paella Outdoor Cafe | Barcelonata}
Excellent paella along a café strip in Barcelonata. This is the perfect Saturday afternoon destination to enjoy a glass {or bottle} of cava and some of the most delicious, fresh seafood paella I have ever had. This is how the locals spend their weekends — a lifestyle I could get used to rather quickly.

Outdoor Paella Cafes in Barcelonata

The right way to spend a Saturday afternoon

More Barcelona Digested:
Barcelona Digested: Chocolate Central
Barcelona Digested: Mercat de La Boqueria
recipe goodness :: barcelona favorite recreated | balsamic chick pea salad

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Barcelona Digested: Chocolate Central

When you hear the phrase “spanish cuisine,” it’s likely your first associated thoughts are about tapas, paella, or maybe even Iberico ham. But you should not discount how central chocolate is to the Barcelona food scene. Almost every cafe and even several bars I visited prominently displayed churros and hot chocolate on their menu {a tempting departure from bar nuts}. Artisanal chocolate shops can be found on nearly every winding road. One of my favorite stands at La Boqueria had no less than 100 different bite-sized chocolate confections to savor. And one of the main architectural must-sees, Casa Amatller, was once home to a wealthy family that made their money in the chocolate business. Heck, there’s even a museum dedicated entirely to chocolate. If you are a chocoholic, Barcelona is your city — xocolata bites below…

Cacao Sampaka {SHOP & CAFE | L’Eixample}
Albert Adria
{brother of El Bulli legend, Ferran Adria} may be known for his newly acclaimed Tickets and 41º restaurant and bar combo, but his passion is actually chocolates and Cacao Sampaka is his workshop. It’s only a short walk from the “block of discord” {Casa Amatller, Casa Batllo, Casa Lleo Morera, La Pedrera} and definitely worth the visit, whether you’re looking to pick up a gift or just savor some of the best chocolate bites from cocoa nibs to handcrafted truffles. There’s a cafe in back, but I couldn’t even make it past the walls and tables that allured me with beautiful packaging and inventive flavors. I would have taken some pictures, but I got my hand slapped when I tried. Next best thing: buy some for yourself, be delighted by each perfect little square and then take a picture of the box.

Cacao Sampaka

Casa Amatller {SITE | L’Eixample}

Chocolate Carvings

To the left of Casa Batllo {a Gaudi must-see}, this house has equally as interesting modernist architecture to check out {and it’s free in contrast to the hefty entrance fee at Gaudi’s Casas}. The stonework of this house alludes to the chocolate business and hobbies of the original owners and a small museum inside tells the history of their chocolate trade. When you first walk in, be sure to check out the stonework depicting a monkey making, eating and, ahem, digesting his chocolate {photo to the left}.

Casa Amatller

Mercat de La Boqueria {SHOP | Barri Gotic}
Amongst all the amazing fresh fruits and vegetables, there are also several chocolatiers displaying truffles and chocolate candies in practically any flavor combo you can dream up. I counted over 100 different handcrafted specialties at this stand, which is the first one you’ll see when you enter La Boqueria. Grab a bag, a set of tongs and start nibbling.

Chocolate at La Boqueria

Escriba {SHOP & CAFE | Barri Gotic}
Right outside La Boqueria, this pastry shop sells artisanal chocolates and is known for its Easter cakes and chocolate sculptures. There’s also a small cafe in back, where you can snack on any number of their delights {by now you may be in need of a savory bite to offset all this chocolate — try their outstanding Jamon Iberico croissant}.

Escriba

Cal Pep {RESTAURANT | Born}
One of the best meals I had in Barcelona was at this tiny diner-style, small plates casual seafood restaurant. But it wouldn’t be a complete meal without dessert — Cal’s version of churros and chocolate take the form of doughnut-round churros drenched in a liqueur-spiked, warm chocolate sauce. Delish.

Churros and Chocolate

Museu de la Xocolata {MUSEUM & CAFE | Born}
If you really have your heart set on seeing large sculptures entirely made out of chocolate, add this to your list. I did not find it entirely worth the trip, but for a mere 4euro and a free chocolate bar as your entrance ticket, there’s not much to lose in planning a quick 30 minute stroll through the exhibit. Yes, that is a chocolate version of Sagrada Familia.

Chocolate Sagrada Familia

More Barcelona Digested:
Barcelona Digested: Mercat de La Boqueria
recipe goodness :: barcelona favorite recreated | balsamic chick pea salad
Barcelona Digested: Hang with the Locals – Cava and Cafe Catalonian Style

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Barcelona Digested: Mercat de La Boqueria

Mercat de La Boqueria

There is so much to write about the Barcelona food scene — it is arguably one of the top eating destinations in Europe with a mouth-watering balance of traditional and cutting edge restaurants, cafes and shops to eat your way through. In an effort to fully digest my week in Barcelona, I set out to categorize the best dining experiences and quickly noticed Mercat de La Boqueria was on all of my lists. It is a not only a place to find beautifully vibrant produce, locally sourced butcher stands and mounds of fresh-off-the-boat seafood, but it’s a specialty foodies dream, where one can seek out Iberico cured ham, artisanal chocolates, regional olive oils and spices. La Boqueria even houses a few legendary tapas bars that come highly recommended and are visited by locals. It is a place to eat what you see, buy gifts that will be reminiscent of Barcelona and explore the heart of Catalonian cuisine the way Catalonians do. Deservedly, Mercat de La Boqueria gets its own post.

A picture is worth a thousand words:

Fresh Seafood

Perfect Produce

Piles of Fruita

Sweet Mandarin Oranges

Artisanal Chocolates

The Land of Fruits and Nuts

Once Happy Chickens

My New Goat Friend

Where to Eat @La Boqueria:

If you’re interested in grabbing a bite of prepared food, I highly recommend paying an early morning breakfast visit {9am} to Pinotxo or El Quim de la Boqueria., two petite walk-up establishments that have no more than 10 bar stools at the bar. Showing up before the masses only adds to the experience, as you can have a quiet one-on-one chat with the owners and taste some of the most unique creations that aren’t always available when the market is abuzz with visitors. You’ll understand how special this early morning hour is when you visit the market midday and struggle to not bump elbows.

My Other New Friend and Infamous Owner of Pinotxo

The Next Pinotxo Generation Serving Up Egg Tortilla

Amazing Chick Pea Breakfast

Mercat de La Boqueria Must-Do Tips:

 

  • Go early (9am) to watch all the purveyors set up each nut, chocolate and fig, to perfectly present their bounty. The quiet of the early morning hour is spectacular in contrast to the midday buzz — the best way to take it all in.
  • Breakfast or Lunch at Pinotxo — A tiny tiny family run bar, but the owner is one of the most well known in Barcelona. Good things come in small packages. Go early (9am-ish) and ask for the specials to avoid the rush.
  • Breakfast or Lunch at El Quim de la Boqueria – Quim has been at the helm of this kiosk bar for the last 20+ years. It’s a place for fresh seafood and high-end tapas.
  • Buy some goods and make yourself a picnic to take to Park Guell for an outdoor lunch overlooking the Barcelona sprawl.
  • Things to try: exotic fruit, bite-sized chocolates, horchata, anything your heart desires!

More Pictures to Devour:

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And More Barcelona to Digest:
recipe goodness :: barcelona favorite recreated | balsamic chick pea salad

Barcelona Digested: Chocolate Central
Barcelona Digested: Hang with the Locals – Cava and Cafe Catalonian Style

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Detroit’s Slows Bar-B-Q is Quickly Becoming a Motor City Beacon

Detroit's Slows Bar-B-Q

Despite being a city that has largely fallen to corruption, been abandoned and left for broke, there seems to be a lot of positive attention on Detroit these days – TV shows, Oscar nominated movies, NY Times articles, documentaries. Regardless of these outside influences, Detroiters remain proud of and hopeful for the Motor City on their own. When some small gem succeeds against all odds, the buzz spreads quickly drawing crowds that give the establishment a feeling of being part of a more populous metropolis.

So when the NY Times wrote a piece on Slows Bar-B-Q, I figured it was time to pay a visit to this Motown miracle while I was home for Thanksgiving. Despite being a Monday night, the tables were full and the projected wait exceeded 20 minutes. To pass the time, we grabbed a craft beer from a selection of about 20 local and national artisanal brews and perused the menu. I was happy to learn that all the meat is sourced from Niman Ranch, a network of family farms that raises its livestock sustainably, using all-vegetarian feeds and no antibiotics and added hormones.

Slows Pulled Pork Sandwich "The Reason"

After we finally got a table, we ordered several items from the menu to sample a little bit of everything. By far the best thing we ate was “The Reason” – Niman Ranch pork butt, smoked slow and pulled, bathed in Slows sauce and topped with a signature crispy and slightly spicy coleslaw, thin dill pickle strips, and served between two thick slices of Texas toast. With a selection of Slows sauces on the table, we were able to adjust the flavor of everything we ordered to our liking – spicy, sweet, apple-based, mustard-based, and even a seasonal sauce. I would also highly suggest the mac ‘n cheese – an item that is a perfect companion to any good BBQ, Slows uses jumbo macaroni shells and a generous amount of gooey, melty cheese to make each bite truly rewarding.

Slows Bar-B-Q Sauce Selection

 

The Skim: If you happen to be in Detroit and are looking for a Reason to appreciate this once-thriving city, be sure to add Slows Bar-B-Q to your list of memorable Motown stops. The Detroit renewal may be slow coming, but it’s through establishments such as this that will continue to inspire growth and polish the city’s tarnished image. While you may be tempted to order their smoked, dry rubbed ribs, take my recommendation and go for the juicy, flavorful pulled pork sammie – it’s named such for good Reason.

Map: 2138 Michigan Avenue
Reservations: Not Taken

Phone: 313.962.9828

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Travel Bite: Puglia on a Plate

In honor of Puglia Wine Week and to bring you a special edition from the hills of Italy, I asked my brother to contribute a guest blog recapping the honeymoon highlights from Puglia. So much to say and eat, so grab a glass of vino and enjoy!

Guest Grubber: Brian D.
When we were choosing our honeymoon destination it was pretty daunting to know that we could go anywhere in the world we wanted and that we were about to escape for three weeks of uninterrupted freedom.  Since both of us are gainfully employed by companies we do not own, it was pretty clear to us that this opportunity doesn’t come around all that often.  Because of that, the paradox of choice kicked in in a big way and we struggled to narrow it down to a short list.  We made our way through all of the continents and ultimately came to the conclusion that we wanted to go somewhere with good weather, great food and to a place that neither of us had been before.

After checking the September weather patterns of almost every place on earth, our final decision was to travel to southern Italy and make our way by car from Puglia, through Calabria and into Sicily.  Interestingly, we went into the trip thinking that it was going to be all about Sicily, but now that we are home it is clear that the star of the three weeks was our time in PugliaPuglia, for those that don’t know, is the region of Italy in the “heel of the boot”.

Puglia, or Apulia, is an interesting place.  It is more agricultural, than industrial, and it is definitely a much less popular tourist destination than some of the bigger cities like Rome and Florence or areas like the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast.  The accommodations in the area are based largely on the concept of Agritourism, where people stay at farmhouses, or “Masserias”, that were fortified back in the days when the landowners had to deal with foreign intruders and have since been converted into very comfortable bed & breakfasts.  The place we stayed was called Masseria Torre Coccaro, a 39 room country estate halfway between the airports of Bari and Brindisi and surrounded by acres of olive groves and vegetable gardens.

Masseria Torre Coccaro

We stayed at Coccaro for 7 nights and used it as our base to explore the region.  In hindsight, we couldn’t have chosen a better place and, unfortunately for our waistlines, we were able to sample some of the best food we have ever tasted.  Here are the highlight bites:

The restaurant at Torre Coccaro

Fresh Seafood from Savelletri

Set in stables from the 1600’s, the restaurant offered up some of the best food on our trip. First off, their breakfast put the rest of the hotels we stayed at to shame.  As for the rest of the meals, they collaborated with local farmers and bordering Masserias to source the best meats and cheeses.  They had a network of people that help them find wild products like porcini and cardoncelli mushrooms, asparagus, snails, myrtle and berries.  The nearby fishing village of Savelletri brought them fish daily, including freshly-caught scampi, shrimp, tuna, snapper, and local spiny lobsters. To top that off, almost all the fruits and vegetables served are produced on the estate.

Cooking School at Torre Coccaro
This wasn’t something we planned to do, but when we arrived at the property and learned that there was a school on site we couldn’t pass it up.  We had a ton of fun with chef Donato, learning how to make typical Apulian dishes including fresh bread, 6 or 7 different types of pasta, a simple pizza with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella and capers, a fried version of a calzone called “Panzerotto” that is unique to the region, sautéed “sweet olives” that were picked that day and unlike anything I have ever had, an eggplant terrine and baked fish (Orata) with fresh vegetables.  Luckily we weren’t forced to eat everything we made, but we were able to sample most of them.  Needless to say, we didn’t have dinner that night!

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Local Puglia “Mozzarella Farm”
Another treat that was offered up on arrival was a visit to the farm just down the road that raised cows and made fresh mozzarella and burrata cheese daily.  For those that don’t know, “burrata” means buttered in Italian and is usually made from mozzarella and cream.  The outer shell is solid mozzarella and the inside usually contains both mozzarella and cream.  That said, this farm also made another version of burrata filled with fresh ricotta, which was new to me and even better than the classic version…who knew it was possible.  Believe it or not, we spent 45 minutes with 3 workers that spoke about 3 words of English, collectively.  It could have had something to do with the free samples they kept pushing on us, but we just couldn’t tear ourselves away.

Hand Pulling Mozzarella

Masseria Il Frantorio
Another masseria, Il Frantorio, just down the road and on the way to the town of Ostuni, gave us one of the culinary highlights of the trip.  They served up a seven course meal that was both creative and delicious.  So much so that we didn’t realize that the entire meal was almost entirely vegetables (sourced from their garden on the property of course, BUT vegetables nonetheless!)  It wasn’t until the last main course, when a filet of local swordfish was served, that we looked at each other and said “wow, I didn’t even notice”.  The highlight of the meal was a pair of fried carciofi (artichokes) drizzled with reduced sweet wine alongside lampascioni fritti (hyacinth bulbs) with orange honey.  Pretty simple, but super delicious when paired with a glass of late harvest Primitivo di Manduria.

Fried Carciofi at Il Frantorio

Al Fornello di Ricci
In the town of Ceglie Messapica lies a restaurant called Al Fornello di Ricci that Mario Batali called the best in Puglia.

“The place is perfect! If you are within 200 miles of this place and choose not to eat here, you are mistaken” Mario Batali

Needless to say, we are suckers for marketing, or at least Batali hype, so we had to check it out.  The meal did not disappoint.  Across the board, the dishes were simple, but the flavor of each was intense.  We knew we were in the right place when the tasting menu kicked off with a selection of eight different antipasti, ranging from simple beet chips to fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with fresh ricotta.  After that we had two pasta courses, a main of locally-raised lamb, and dessert — each course paired with a different wine and included in the fixed price.  Delicious. The only downside was the 45 minute drive back to Coccaro after the meal…as you might expect, driving on Italian country roads while in a food coma isn’t usually a recipe for success.

Fava Bean Crostini and Fried Zucchini Blossoms

I could probably keep going, as there are tons of other great meals and experiences that I left out, but it’s really just more of the same goodness.  So as the Italians say, “Basta!!!” or “enough”.

Overall the trip to Puglia far exceeded our expectations and the fact that it never felt touristy and overrun just made it that much more special.  We came home with the feeling that we had somehow outsmarted the rest of the tourists in Italy, standing in line at the Uffizi in Florence or craning their necks to take in the tower in Pisa.  We couldn’t be happier with our decision to spend a week there and in some ways wish it was longer.  Our only fear now is that we don’t get back before the rest of the world figures out what a great region it is!

Non Basta?
Do This!: First Ever Puglia Wine Week
Bistro Don Giovanni: Napa-Sourced & Italian-Inspired
Bocca di Bacco: I say PotaTO, You say PoTATo

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