Travel

ImageNorcia is a secluded, walled city in the mountainous region of the Valnerina in southeastern Umbria. Its history dates back to the fifth century before Christ. St. Benedict and his twin sister were born there in the year 480. Other than that, Norcia is famous for its pork products and its black truffles. It’s the pork capital of Italy – so much so that the shop of a pork butcher anywhere in Italy is called a norcineria.

There are two very different pasta dishes that go by the name alla norcina. Version one — often made with fresh pasta like fettucine or the local Umbrian pasta, strangozzi – is simply pasta with fresh truffle grated over the top. Of course, it’s not that simple. Actually you chop a clove of garlic together with a couple of anchovies, put them into olive oil in your pan. Heat and stir into a paste. Toss the cooked pasta into the pan, stir and then grate the truffle over the top. That’s one version. Alla Norcina version two is a whole other kettle of macaroni. It’s generally served over dried pasta – usually penne or rigatoni. It features pork sausage and it’s one of the most satisfying recipes in the repertorio – especially in the winter when you want to warm yourself from the inside. So simply, it’s pasta with crumbled sausage, cream and truffles. But once again, it’s not that simple.

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ImageWhat do I look for in a travel experience? The answer is simple: culture, nature, world-class shopping + food and the best nightlife, parties + events I can find. Sometimes in one day! Like many world-class cities London offers diversity, and my trip there this past fall provides a great example of how I was able to combine my favorite vacation pastimes.

In a stroke of good fortune, breakfast at the Soho Hotel resulted in me to sitting next to Howard Marks, best-selling author, intellectual and international drug trafficker. Howard had just wrapped up his press junket for his latest film Mr. Nice. Howard responded to my invitation to my hotel, the Shangri-La in Santa Monica, with a rather charming explanation that he was unable to enter the US due to his previous 'career activities'.

I caught a Black Cab (one of London's great style icons) to Regents Park for a midday stroll around one of the great parks of London. A stroll around the Midsummer Nights Dream style Rose Garden in the parks Inner Circle and the Japanese themed Duck Pond and waterfall which never fails to centers me. Regents Park Inner Circle is perfect for smelling the roses, literally and figuratively.

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xevening.jpg We were going to take a cab to Damascus for dinner, but we couldn’t get our visas, so we headed south.  I was in Jordan, the Middle Eastern Sundance Lab had ended.  The aspiring filmmakers and their mentors were dispersing back home to Cairo, Beruit, Ramallah and Casablanca.

With time on our hands – the writer’s strike had been called 24 hours before – a fellow mentor and I headed south with our guide, Mohammad Gabaah, to the desert of the Wadi Rum (The Valley of the Mountains, in southern Jordan.)  You’ve all seen it –  yes, you have – even though you don’t realize  it.   It’s the last leg of the journey T.E. Lawrence took, when he crossed on camel to get to Aqaba, 45 miles west.  (The guns are no longer facing the wrong direction.)   And where David Lean spent nine months shooting his hagiographic biopic.

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fog.jpgI went snowboarding at Big Bear yesterday with a friend.  As we drove up the mountain, we were immersed in a fog so thick that you couldn't see more than 5 feet in the distance.  We figured a gloomy day was sure to be our destiny.  We continued to drive into the higher elevation as we got closer the ski area.  At about 7000 feet, the fog disappeared instantly and gave way to the clearest bright blue sky I've seen in ages.

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budapest.jpgMy Hungarian grandma made the best apple strudel I've ever had. Here in Hungary it's apple season and apple strudel is showing up on many of the restaurant menus. Yesterday, on the Pest side of the Danube, I came upon the Strudel House. I ordered the sweet cottage cheese-filled strudel, mainly because it was served with a rosehip sauce, which I wanted to taste.

During my two days in the countryside, I saw rose bushes heavy with hips. This restaurant served sauce they had made with freshly harvested rosehips. The sauce had the fragrance of fermented grapes, and I think the little cottage I stayed in that was nestled in the middle of a vineyard in the countryside had bed linens sprayed with the fragrance of rosehips.

Well, the strudel had flakey layers surrounding the cottage cheese filling, the rosehip sauce was a delicious complement and one perfect scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream put the dessert over the top. It was a late-night treat. It wasn't as good as the one my grandma used to make, though.

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