Tag Archives: food

Rolling through Tuscany

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May 30th, 2012

Phew….we made it! Today was my first time driving in Italy, and oh, what a journey. I, the captain and my partner Matt, the co-captain, braved our way from Rome (eek!) to Saturnia and then on to Chianciano Terme.

We departed about an hour late due to some confusion at the car rental agency and headed for Saturnia; which may host the most beautiful, natural hot springs in the world! When researching for my Europe trip in 2010, I came across blogs and pictures regarding Saturnia’s lovely hot springs; or ‘terme’ in Italian. Since then it has been a must on my so called ‘bucket list’.

I planned this drive through Tuscany for weeks. I had several road maps and Google maps/directions to boot. Needless to say, Google failed me, as the directions  rendered themselves useless after the third step. But in the end, getting lost in Tuscany isn’t so bad.

 

After driving 20 minutes out of the way, then re-tracing our tracks, we then had to go down the road we returned from once more to ‘hopefully’ head in the ‘general’ direction of Siena. By this point I thought we’d never make it.

Miraculously, after about three hours (total trip was supposed to be two and a half hours) we saw a SIGN! A sign for Saturnia! It took us about 45 minutes to reach it, but it was totally worth it! (so many exclamation points because it was THAT exciting!)

When we finally made it, we parked our car, stripped down and got into our bathing suits. We walked for about one minute down a rocky road and could see the luscious springs.

If I could describe the sight in one word it would be ‘heaven’, if I were religious that is. But hey, this could be my heaven. This is what pictures are perfect for, because I couldn’t possibly give the springs justice with my description.

On the inside, there are some sharp rocks to be mindful of, and there is no easy way of getting from one ‘dip’ to the next. So I would not recommend going very far in the springs if you aren’t agile. Also, there is an odor due to the sulphur, but it isn’t very pungent and you do get used to it rather quickly. Needless to say, the first thing I did when arriving at our hotel in Chianciano Terme was have a shower!

Getting to Chianciano was another story…but I will leave it at we ‘eventually’ made it. We checked in to our hotel at 10pm. Thanks to Google maps, and not having a GPS we were only 4 hours behind schedule.

After my shower, we headed out for a fabulous dinner at a local pizzeria. I had a seafood pasta, that was one of the best I’ve ever had; while the co-captain had a prosciutto cotto e funghi pizza. We drank the best bottle of wine we have had since arriving in all of Europe at a mere 8 euro, along with limoncello, tiramisu and café. It was a wonderful experience.

You know the tiramisu is good when sharing you literally draw a line down the middle to divide it.

  

Tomorrow we set off to Montepulciano for the day, the to Sienna where we stay the night.

Until tomorrow!

LR

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Rome

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Sigh…in the most wonderful way ever! I am here in Rome, Italy. I have been here for three weeks now and I had no idea that a person could relax so much. Seriously, Rome has turned me into the Goddess of relaxation. I literally just woke up from an afternoon nap…and I slept-in this morning… like all my other mornings!

That being said, today wasn’t the most eventful day, as I have only walked outside to get some fresh groceries. But I have been touring this incredible city other days.

On the food note, while in I was introduced to better quality foods than I was used to having back in Toronto. Nice’s food is still super amazing don’t get me wrong, but I am enjoying my food experiences in Rome much more. I guess Italian food is more my style…which might not be good for my waistline. One of my favourite things to do here is to go grocery shopping for fresh ingredients then come home and cook. Let’s not forget about the tasting part…that’s pretty fun too!

Here is one of our feasts complete with Caprese salad, Parpardelle pasta with a porcini mushroom and truffle oil sauce along with our focaccia.


When cooking Italian it is impossible not to buy fresh ingredients. This is why there is nothing BUT fresh ingredients everywhere you look. I have found a small produce shop nearby that has great quality fruits and vegetables at the cost of basically nothing. I once filled my bag with carrots, a lemon, a lime, arugula, basil and lots of tomatoes at a cost of only 1.80 euro. This is why I go back everyday, to buy the freshest ingredients.

    

It is also possible to buy focaccia and pizza dough rolled up ready to bake at home. It comes out so fluffy and delicious. I love topping the focaccia with fresh mozzarella, plum tomatoes and fresh basil, for the most amazing lunch!

Here I topped the focaccia with mozzarella, proscuitto and arugula.

Here pasta is .99 euro and feeds both of us twice…did I mention it is fresh pasta? I have never had pasta like this. The pasta is actually quite hard to overcook and I can always achieve the “al dente” state. Also, I have never, ever, seen so many pasta choices; some types I’ve never even heard of until now.

Here is some succulent Osso Bucco alongside Paccheri Pasta. This meal was and still is our best in Rome!

The food and drink prices have decreased from Nice. We are buying .85 euro wine and really “soaking” it up.

We got all this stuff (Aperol liquor, 4 beers, 1L red wine, juice, mixed seafood salad, soft cheese, Pesto, jared clams, pizza dough, 2 artichokes, mushrooms, sparkling water and mushrooms) for 17 Euro! What amazing value!

Also, right now is artichoke season in Italy, so for the first time my boyfriend and I cooked and ate fresh artichokes. Once cooked, we scraped the harder leaves between our front teeth to get the small portion of edible artichoke that is on each leaf. One by one, we were getting closer to the ‘heart’ of the artichoke. This is obviously the best and most ‘meaty’ part of the ‘choke. This was a fun experience and we have even bought more artichokes for this evening.

 

 

I can’t wait to get back in the kitchen!

Ciao

My Sunday in Barcelona

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Last week I visited Barcelona for 5 nights. I tried every food dish I wanted to try, such as:

Tapas- Some of the best were: patatas bravas (which are fried potatoes with a spicy sauce) and fried cod balls (which are a mixture of salt cod mixed with a doughnut batter).

This is a display of tapas which is in almost every restaurant or bar. However, the dishes vary from place to place.

Cod fritters from La Boqueria Market. Yum!

Pan con Tomate- This is toasted white bread that you drizzle with oil, then rub with raw garlic and tomato. This was such a simple dish with so much flavour! I will definitely continue to do this back home.

Such a delicious yet simple appetizer or snack. Just be careful because the raw garlic packs a lot of punch!

 

Ceviche – Because before I went I crazily thought there would be lots of Mexican food (but we did manage to find a great Mexican restaurant, I also had some great Nachos)

Sangria – which was tasty a refreshing!

Surprisingly, I ate less than I normally do, simply because of later eating times and the tapas seemed to fill me up.

We took in lots of sights and scenery; I’m pretty sure we walked the majority of the city. We visited the beaches, Guell Park, Arc of Triumph, La Boqueria and more.

Park Guell

Arc of Triumph

                                

However, my favorite day was Sunday, our last full day. My boyfriend and I started out at a small, local restaurant where we had pan con tomate as well as fried anchovies.

Then we visited the breathtaking Sagarada Familia Cathedral. The interior is just as impressive as the entire exterior and this is a must see if you find yourself in Barcelona.

We then wandered for miles and found our way to La Rambla district where we went to London Bar, a bar that has been open since 1910 and used to be frequented by the likes of Dali, Picasso and Hemingway. The décor has been kept the same, which gives a relaxed glamour to the place. It also serves as a venue, where we heard singers take part in an open mic night.

Then on our adventure home we stumbled upon a market at night near the Arc of Triumph. There were amazing craft and clothing vendors along with food and drink vendors. This is when I realized we only had 10 euro left.

We browsed the crafts, knowing we could not possibly afford anything, before heading for the food and beer. Our first purchase was 1 light organic beer and another dark beer at 2 euro a pop. We then jetted across the street to buy a 1.5 litre beer at the convenience store for 1.50 euro….much cheaper. When we returned to the market, large beer in tow we got a lamb shwarma for 3 euro. At closing I bargained with a vendor using my last 1.50 euro to buy a chicken taco with the greenest, freshest guacamole money can buy. It may have been my best euro fifty spent.

  

We ate and drank on some grass while listening to the live bongo circle that had formed.

After this, we headed home.

I truly fell in love with Barcelona this day.

Cooking In

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As I have stated in the past, the food in France is great. Not only the food you eat at restaurants but also the quality of food is higher than what I am used to.

Here are a few dishes I have cooked up whilst living in France.

Sushi- The sushi in Europe itself is super expensive, so I knew if I wanted some I’d have to make it. However, I did not know where to buy sashimi grade fish, so I settled for shrimp, egg and avocado nigiri along with California rolls.

Stuffed Mushrooms- This is a little recipe I learned from Matt. I stuffed these mushrooms with their stems, breadcrumbs, chorizo, shallot, oil, parsley and other seasonings. Then I cooked them in a skillet on a very low heat.

Carpaccio- I didn’t do much work here, as I bought the Carpaccio pre-sliced. I did however marinate the slices in a lemon and oil mixture and then topped with rocket and some parmigiano reggiano.

Seafood pasta- I bought about 6 clams, 12 mussels and 8 shrimp for under 2 Euro and decided to make a pasta dish. After stewing some fresh tomatoes and seasoning my sauce I added white wine. Once the alcohol cooked off I added my shelled friends to steam. This took about 1 minute. The juices that are released from the seafood add so much flavour, so be sure to always cook the shellfish in with your sauce. It would be a shame to waste the juices.

I paired the sauce with fresh linguini and it was a joy to eat!

Duck breast- We finally cooked a French meal! We purchased a large duck breast that was in an Herbs de Provence marinade. Matt scored the duck breast before cooking it in the oven to a perfect medium rare. We used the excess fat drippings to cook some thinly cut potatoes. This meal was magnifique!

Spaghetti Bolognaise- This is one of my classic meals I make. I cook the beef along with lots of onion and add garlic just before my meat is finished. I add crushed tomatoes when the garlic is finished (before it starts to brown). Then I add seasoning and red wine. I add just enough to cover all the ingredients. Then I cook the sauce uncovered on a medium heat. Once my sauce has reduced and the liquid has thickened I pour over a bed of spaghetti. I garnish with parsley and fresh parmigiano cheese.

To Lyon and back

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We travelled to Lyon, not to be confused with the almighty king of the jungle, although we did see a Lion during our trip.

 

To start off our trip we stopped at a tourist trap, this was unbeknownst to us at the time. As a starter I enjoyed some lovely smoked salmon with a whipped butter topping while Matt had a traditional Lyonnaise sausage in a Beaujolais sauce; but these were the highlights of the meal. For our next course, I had a pot of mussels, which were adequate. They were lacking a bold flavour but did the trick. Matt on the other hand opted for the “faux filet” which of course was a bad cut of beef that was chard to the max; but of course with the addition of yet again the same Beaujolais sauce it was hard to detect solely by its appearance. The taste was another story, the flavour of ‘burnt’ could not be hidden, no matter how much Beaujolais or sauce one has consumed. For our final course I had the crème brûlée, however, something was off putting about it as well. The dessert had a lemon flavour that didn’t mesh well with the custard. Yet again, Matt seemed to upstage me in battle of the gross, he ordered what he thought to be crème caramel (he was told that’s what he ordered) but he received an egg tart that tasted like scrambled eggs, not bad if you wanted breakfast. All in all we managed to get out of there in once piece and had nothing but better meals for the rest of our stay.

 

      

 

 

Walking around the large town of Lyon was charming. The old town was enchanting with its cobblestone streets, restaurants, cafes and its hidden ‘traboules’. During World War II the French used these medieval covered passageways as escape routes or meeting spots. The alleys are very inconspicuous; it was hard to find them, even with an address!

           

 

We also trekked up what seemed to be 500 stairs and then some winding hills in order to see the lovely panoramic view of the city. From here, the whole town was visible, along with its two rivers the Rhône and Saône.

 

 

We spent our last two days exploring Le Parc de la Tête D’or, which is not only huge, but had a zoo on its grounds. We saw all kinds of animals and even stopped to drink a beer while watching Capuchins ‘monkey’ around. On our second day we rented bikes and travelled through the rest of the park while stopping to feed some ducks and geese. This was my Lyon highlight!

     

All in all Lyon is a lovely place to visit, the city is clean, the people are more relaxed than most people are in the rest of France, it holds the record for the most restaurants per square inch and there is plenty to see and do while there. If I weren’t already living in Nice, Lyon would be my next choice to settle down in.

 

 

 

LR