How to Eat and Drink from Barcelona to Venice

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by Bob Wyman

grilled-sea-bass-in-hvarMy wife, Peggy, and I recently returned from a cruise from Barcelona to Venice with a few extra days in the Veneto for wine tasting and despite being an occasional internet food blogger (and therefore a food expert without any real knowledge or training – I do so love the internet), we still learned a few things that might help you eat and drink your way across Europe. Enjoy!

Eat the local food: I know that this can be scary for some, but just do it. Even though Peggy and I were on a cruise, we found plenty of chances to eat off the ship, and part of the fun of traveling is trying what you’ve never had before, or just the better, more authentic local versions of the dishes found at home. For Peggy and me, this meant mounds of homemade pasta in every shape, size and texture – and pasta is never scary. In Sardinia, the pasta was fregola, which looks like big couscous, tossed with local shellfish and bottarga, a local specialty of cured fish roe that has been salted and preserved and then grated over the pasta (okay a little scary, but amazingly good with a briny deep sea flavor). In Malta, we were told rabbit was the local staple and while the few times Peggy and I have eaten rabbit it has felt a bit like eating the Easter Bunny, the fried rabbit was fantastic, with a crisp and sticky garlicky outer shell covering the tender sweet meat. (Once, in Sweden, we were told to try the reindeer, which we ate and enjoyed, but then it felt like eating Rudolf.) In Hvar, Croatia, a small beach resort town, the fish is brought in fresh, and then grilled with coarse salt. We were told to eat it and we did. No regrets.

Riding The Ghan in Australia

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by Matt Armendariz

ghan-graphic-1-550pxIndividual cabins. The dining car. Pre-dinner aperatifs in the lounge. While some people may believe that these amenities are relics of a bygone era of travel, their features and comforts exist on The Ghan, part of Australia’s Great Southern Rail Line that connects the Northern Territory to South Australia.

All vintage idealistic notions aside, this Thoroughly Modern Matthew wanted to see if it was possible to go from point A to point B in a velocity I don’t travel in that often: S-L-O-W. Would the lack of crowds and technology compliment or confuse me along my journey? Would I tire of a trainride that is the antithesis of fast, modern travel? And could I even survive without wifi?

Well, I did. And I loved every minute of it.

After spending a few days in a very muggy Darwin, I boarded The Ghan as a band played on the platform. It added a vintage send off as I imagined Australian travelers might have experienced decades ago. Had I not been lugging audio and video equipment I might have forgotten I was standing in 2012.

Train travel was once a major method of getting around, and The Ghan, formerly the Afghan Express, has been doing so since 1929. As it cuts through the outback, you realize that this massive area is where camels and trains excel; not much else would be able to make it across this inhospitable trek. The trainline itself was expanded in 2004, allowing travelers to make it completely across Australia, from The Northern Territory all the way to Adelaide in South Australia. I had stops in Katherine and Alice Springs and met such lovely people.

Eating Off the Map of Scotland

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by Nancy Ellison

fg 748 1841Well, the first thought I had driving through the streets of Edinburgh (and then later by train on the Royal Scotsman) is that the most impressive thing about Scotland is the great big hairy-chested men that roam about - similar perhaps to the “We like great big hairy- chested men – we are the senior class” which we used to sing about so wistfully at Marlborough. Now I know about which I sang! Seeing these critters who do indeed roam the streets in thin tee shirts and shorts when the rest of the world around them are dressed in sweaters and jackets, only remind me that they toss trees (the Caber Toss) in contest at the Highland Games and that in Clan Fightin’ Days of Yore, they would tear off their kilts to go into battle - running naked through the heather and the thistles. Into Thistles? Naked? Who would dare pick a fight with these manly men?

So what do manly men eat? Well apparently they love dainty frothy deserts like Cranachan (a mixture of whipped cream, whisky, honey, fresh raspberries with toasted oatmeal soaked overnight in – what else - whiskey), Bread and Butter Pudding, and Edinburgh Fog with Sponge Fingers - whilst consuming a great deal of Whisky and Vanilla Fudge… together!

Sounds good to me! Also sounds kinda like Southern Cookin’ (see earlier recipe on Mary K’s Pig Pickin’ Cake). Surely if Texans (Scots Irish to the bone) like their bacon baked in brown sugar until crisp) we can down our whisky with vanilla fudge. (Interesting factoid, the most delicately tinted whisky is distilled in used Tennessee Bourbon kegs)

Lou Lou's London

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by Nancy Ellison

loulousextnancy ellisonIs it an accident that LouLou's opened near the residence of Bertie Wooster? I don't think so!

I am certain I saw ol’ Bertie and his ‘brilliant’ Mayfair pals yukking it up downstairs at one of Loulou’s fab bars - London’s hot (no not just hot, SCALDING) new club, 5 Hertford Street, which opened this spring In London.  

Fictional or not, Bertie Wooster, Jeeves and their creator, P.J. Wodehouse would all agree that Robin Birley’s new club is the new ‘trump card’ among all the new private clubs that are creating London’s energy, sex appeal and god only knows what else among its beautiful young things.  

How did we get in you ask?  Our friend British Historian, Andrew Roberts, who collects private clubs as any BYT might, made the arrangements. Thank you Andrew.  Thank you Robin!

For one thing, as I said, it has Robin Birley, son of Sir Mark Birley and Lady Annabel Goldsmith (as in ANNABEL’S) who clearly knows how to create a place in which simply everyone wants to be seen (more on this later). 

Jewels from the East

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by Dennis Starks

burmatempleI'm just back from Myanmar and it is a jeweled kaleidoscope. Aung San Suu Kyi has finally been released from house arrest to accept her Nobel peace prize. The repressive Myanmar government has begun to open the doors and this corner of the wiggly third world is trying to hoist itself into the twenty first century.

I had timed my arrival for a full moon Buddha night and as soon as I had settled into the hotel I headed straight to the mother of all temples, the magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda. I'm sure someone said it first, but its true that some metaphors just can't be improved upon. Time really IS like a river, and life is like a dream.

On this particular night the moon was a golden orange in the sky. I had a gentle rain to set the mood as I climbed the staircase to the temple with the monks in saffron robes. I got that familiar little rush of anticipation as I entered the magical world of spirits and wishes and prayers. There were candles and chanting and bells to ring and the aroma of incense perfumed the air.

It’s funny that a kid from the suburbs should feel most at home in the temples of Asia, but it’s true for me. The rain washed my sins away and left me feeling immaculate. I lingered a long time in the temple and all its little golden niches, savoring the heady atmosphere. I descended the stairway behind a group of monks in the amber light and stopped at the bottom for a coconut on my way home.

Flanagnan's Dublin

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by Michael Tucker

me-at-odonoghues-300x229We just spent a few days in Dublin on our way home from Italy. When we departed Rome on Thursday it was ninety-seven degrees and dry as toast; when we got off the plane in Dublin two hours later it was in the mid-fifties and drizzling. The first thing I did was to buy a wooly sweater and a cap. I love Europe — you can change cultures as easily as changing your clothes.

We were there to visit our friends Marc and Cathy. He’s an American of Irish descent and she’s a Dubliner born and bred. They showed us a grand time, a brilliant time. That’s the way they talk over there.

First stop on Thursday evening, we met Marc at O’Donoghue’s bar — a perfect place to slip into the spirit of the Auld Sod. I noticed that Irish bartenders aren’t mixologists. They draw pints, they pour shots and they engage one and all in charming conversation — that’s it. I asked for a gin Martini and the barman looked at me quizzically.

“So, that would be a bit of Martini in a glass and then … a bit of gin?”

“Well, more like a slug of gin and then just a whisper of Martini.”

“Ah, just a whisper then,” he said with a smile. The smile is everywhere.

Where to Eat in London

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by David Latt

img 5921Going to the Olympics will be a huge amount of fun, especially if you know where to eat. Before I left on the trip, I used Facebook and Twitter to ask for restaurant recommendations.

My wife's cousin who lives in Switzerland insisted that when we were in London, we had to go to Yotam Ottolenghi's food shops selling ready-made or, as the English call it, "take-away" salads, mains and desserts.

I visited the Belgravia Ottolenghi at 13 Motcomb Street (there are others in Notting Hill, Islington and Kensington and a small sit down restaurant called Nopi near Oxford Circus).

Ottolenghi is a showman who puts his flashiest products in the front window. The tarts, cup cakes, muffins and cookies are drop dead gorgeous.

Just inside the shop, farmers market fresh salads are displayed in large oval bowls on elevated platforms, the better to grab your attention. Almost as an afterthought, the few mains like cold chicken and baked salmon are tucked out of sight in a refrigerated section.

I Napolitani

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by Michael Tucker

melanzana-eggplantBrian and Maria Gabriella are Americans who live in Umbria part of the year. They’re opera singers and run a travel business on the side, which affords them some great travel perks as they check out possible adventures for their clients. They recently got back from a trip to Sicily and were regaling us with stories.

“I ate pasta with eggplant and tomatoes every day for two weeks,” said Brian. “Sometimes twice a day. “If I never see another bowl of pasta with eggplant and tomatoes, that’ll be just fine.”

All I could think of was that I wanted a big bowl of pasta with eggplant and tomatoes. He got me going.

And then the universe – as it will do sometimes if you’re lucky and aware – dropped a remarkable coincidence in my lap. The next day I was out shopping for, you guessed it, eggplant and tomatoes, and there was a truck parked in our little piazza manned by three guys from Naples. The back of the truck was filled with gorgeous produce, fresh from the south – not only the veg I needed for my pasta, but crates of red and yellow peppers, nectarines and strawberries so fresh that if you didn’t eat them within ten minutes, they’d be over.

Back in the Boot

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by Michael Tucker

our-cherry-treeWe arrived this morning in Italy, which makes us very lucky people.

Everything is different here. It’s like Brigadoon. You would think that air is air, sky is sky, light is light – it’s the same wherever you go, the same world, right? Nah. Italy is enchanted. They even speak a different language over here. Crazy, no?

Today – to tide over my jet-lagged body until dinner – I had half a salami sandwich. That’s all we had in the house at that point. I sliced a thin piece of whole grain bread off the loaf, slapped three or four slices of salami on it, folded it in half and took a bite. It’s not the same, baby.

Nowhere else in the world does a salami sandwich taste like this.

I took my sandwich outside to look at our vegetable garden and I noticed that our cherry tree had ripe cherries on it. Crazy, no? The problem is that it’s a big tree, which means that most of the good fruit is ten, fifteen feet off the ground.

How Not To Behave Like A Glutton In Rome

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by Matt Armendariz

romedinnerPlease enjoy this guide to not letting your eyes and stomach get the best of you while roaming around the city. Because folks, I only have your best interests in mind and would hate for you to pack on an additional nine pounds  (you read that right) while visiting this amazing city.

Let this be a lesson to you and plan accordingly. I happen to do gluttony very, very well. I’m sure the Pope would have something to say about that.

In all sincerity there is pure pleasure in being surrounded by people so passionate about the food of their country.  We were never short of suggestions and everyone was so gracious about explaining what makes their food so special. For me it was an eye-opening experience and one I hope to relive again very soon.

Ignore the Three Dinner Rule

Was it sheer excitement? Stupidity? Taking advantage of a good thing? You decide. But having three dinners in one night might have something to do with it. But could you blame me? With our useful guide and best friend Kristina we found ourselves stopping for pizza on the street, salumi, cheese and wine (with snacks!) and some gelato before ever making it to the restaurant. And then dessert.  I’ve been on Tapas Crawls in Spain before but I really outdid myself here.


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