Category Archives: Travel

What you might be surprised to know about eating in Italy

Cappuccino

Drinking a cappuccino in Venice

Guys, I went to Italy. And there’s really no other way to put it except to say that I fell in love with it. Just like everyone said I would. If you’ve never been, you’re probably envisioning incredible pizza with fire crackling in wood burning ovens, romantic glasses of prosecco consumed outside on cobblestone streets, giant bowls of homemade pastas carefully crafted by little old grandmas in 500 year old kitchens, and gelato up the ying yang.

That last one really gotcha, didn’t it?

Well, I’m here to tell you… it’s all true. IT’S ALL TRUE. Only it’s better. Every cappuccino, even those from little tourist shops, was creamy and strong and frothy and smooth. Every pasta was handmade because what’s the alternative? Boxed pasta?! Bite your tongue. But not really. You’ll need that to taste with, dummies.

So instead of describing ad nauseum all the dishes I loved in Italy, below is a “I was surprised by” list of eye openers.

You might be surprised to know that…

Truly authentic Italian restaurants are only open for a few hours at night
I don’t know why this is. But almost every single restaurant we went to for dinner was only open from 7PM to 11PM or 8PM to 10:30PM. And if there was any doubt that those were their true hours, one night we ate at an adorable little spot in Rome and come 11PM, closing time, our waiter told us they were out of dessert. Out. of. dessert. We nearly cried. And stole our neighbors’ chocolate torte.

Pappardelle

Pappardelle at Trattoria la Casalinga in Florence

Wine is dirt cheap.
It’s like they’re BEGGING you to drink with every meal! When wine is 4 euro for half a litre, how could you say no at lunch? Or at 2PM? Or at 9PM? Or… you get it. We had the warm-wine-rosies for 90% of the trip.

Gelato really is good everywhere.
When people said this to me before I left, I thought, “Well sure, because gelato I buy here at the grocery store is ‘good,’ too.” I was dumb. Gelato is AMAZING everywhere in Italy. We inadvertently popped into a super touristy shop in Florence where two gelato ran us FOURTEEN EURO (eeps) and it was still just as delicious as the cheapo, clearly more local, gelato we got in Venice for 3 euro.

Gelato near Circus Maximus in Rome

Gelato near Circus Maximus in Rome

If you order a pastry with your cocktail, you’re a dope.
This one I’m not sure of, either. Our first morning in Venice our lovely apartment host Giulia took us out for coffee because our apartment was still being cleaned. She told us the official drink of Venice is called a Spritz, an aperitif made with prosecco, Campari, and sparkling water, so we ordered two. The BF also ordered a croissant because he was hungry. Giulia thought this was HILARIOUS. “A croissant with a Spritz?!” “Yeah… why?” “Ooookaaaay…” Cue eye roll. We don’t really know. But that’s okay. It was all delicious.

Spritz in Venice near Teatro Italia

Spritz in Venice near Teatro Italia

Italians really love to feed you.
Twice we ordered midday meals or snacks that were freaking huge and we had no idea. But the lovely people who served them to us were so smiley and proud of their creations that we couldn’t help but eat every bit on the plate, no matter how tight our pants were getting. It only reminded me that cooking and serving someone the meal you created is a really gratifying experience, and it’s one of the reasons I love making food.

A platter of cheese and meat in Florence

A platter of cheese and meat at Il Club del Gusto in Florence

First course and second course are suggestions. They are great suggestions.
In all three cities we visited, Venice, Florence, and Rome (and perhaps in all of Italy?) pasta is a first course, and entrees and proteins are the second course. When The BF and I finally came around to this manner of eating, we loved it! Portions are small (cough normal cough) enough that you’re not stuffed on pasta before the second course arrives. You’re just… teased. And at the end of the meal you feel full and complete but not disgusting.

An ocean of fish (ha!) at Paradiso Perduto in Venice

An ocean of fish (ha!) at Paradiso Perduto in Venice

Ciao Italia! Thanks for treating us so well. We’ll see you real soon.

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Studio Diner in San Diego, CA

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I spent last week in San Diego, CA with The BF and his amazing family, and in between Christmas feasts I ate a whole lot of junk food. There’s just something about this time of year that makes me want to fill my face with everything fattening, filling, sugar-coated, and greasy.

That’s normal, right?

Anyway, I thought I’d pick one meal out of many to highlight a new spot I’d never heard of in San Diego. If you’re in the area and looking for something delicious late night (or any time, really) this is the SPOT.

Studio Diner, 4701 Ruffin Road, San Diego, CA (Kearny Mesa neighborhood). The diner is a 1940s throwback, decorated with movie memorabilia and set just outside Stu Segall Productions, a working TV and movie set (Silk Stalkings and Renegades were filmed here). Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives filmed an episode here and it’s been bustling 24/7 ever since. The menu is chock-full of diner favorites, and breakfast is served all day (and night) long.

On the menu:
Chili “Crew” Burger with coleslaw
Monte Cristo
Black and white shake

Verdict: I died and went to diner heaven! Truth be told, I have yet to find a really great old school diner in New York City. They’re all Greek, or giant portioned, or overpriced and underwhelming. But this place hit the spot. The burger was open faced and covered in chili, red onions, and cheese and resting on a toasted bun. The coleslaw was creamy and clearly freshly made, the milkshakes were super thick and come half in the fountain glass and half in the tall silver shake cup, and the Monte Cristo was fried to perfection. I highly recommend this spot at any time of the day, but specifically in the wee hours of the morning. Just be forewarned: it’ll be packed.

 

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Happy Turkey Week!

I’m off for the week, kids! I’m holing up in the Adirondacks with nothing but booze and family. What else could I ask for?

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Suggested Reading

Doolin, Ireland

Just a quick “Happy Monday!” post to alert of a great article by Frank Bruni, former New York Times restaurant critic, that ran in the Times on Friday about Bruni’s trip to Ireland. If you’ve never been to Ireland then you will only get a tiny hint of what he’s talking about, and if you have been this article will probably give you nostalgic goosebumps. If you live there… you’re probably rolling your eyes. Whatever.

To Ireland, A Son’s Journey Home

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Relax and Un-wined


A few months ago a friend of mine asked if I’d like to go with her and two of our other friends on a wine and bike tour out on Long Island. I asked one question: do I have to know how to bike? Now, don’t get me wrong: I know how to “bike”. But as my brother likes to (lovingly) recall, I walked my bike down our 10-degree-inclined driveway until I was 16 years old because the hill was too “steep” to ride down and I was scared to fall off. Not that falling off would’ve been so bad. I did plenty of that, too. Somewhere in our family archives are Mother’s Day pictures of Little Lauren Four Eyes with a massively scraped up chin and forehead from an earlier neighborhood debacle between her and the pavement. And somewhere else in those family archives are family vacation pictures that are missing Little Lauren Pre-Teen Gangly Legs because she took a tumble down a Jamaican roadway and had to ride for most of the tour in a van with a kindly tour guide who offered her a sample of some of the local greenery IF you know what I mean.

Needless to say I’m not super adept on 2 wheels. But my friend reminded me that if they were going to be serving alcohol on this trip, it would most likely be easy enough that even the drunkest amateur would make it through unscathed.

So off we went last Saturday, pop music blaring out of our little green ZipCar rental, on our way out to the North Fork of Long Island to enjoy a hot, sunny afternoon with North Fork Bike Tours. We showed up a bit early and stopped in for a cold beer and some nachos at a townie bar where they were having a baby shower in the back room. If you’re rolling your eyes then you don’t know class.

We arrived at the scheduled meeting spot on time and ready for a ride. We hopped on bikes and followed our friendly guides, Jason and John, down the road to the first winery. I am happy to report that I never, not once, fell off the bike. I almost hit someone. But she didn’t even notice so it doesn’t count.

Wine casks at Pellegrini Vineyards

The first stop on our bike tour was Pellegrini Vineyards. I’d never visited a winery before (save for special events at Casa Larga Vineyards in upstate New York) and it was fascinating to tour the rows of vines, visit the giant casks that press and process grapes, and go down into a cool cellar where row upon row of barrels waits to produce the tasty wines we were lucky enough to sample. I’ve admitted here that I don’t know a whole heck of a lot about wine, but I do know Pellegrini served up a lovely chilled 2010 East End Select BBQ red that changed my mind about chilled red wines (aka loved.it.).

Vineyards at Pellegrini Vineyards

The next stop on our tour was Pugliese Vineyards. We tasted the wines here but didn’t tour the premises. At this point in the tour I think we were all too hungry to care about vines and grapes and casks and whatnot and North Fork Bike Tours served up a delicious selection of sandwiches from Love Lane Kitchen in Mattituck. I was wholly impressed by the spread: Cuban sandwiches, mozzarella with chicken, tomato, and pesto, steak sandwiches, chicken salad on fresh bread… and then tiny cupcakes to finish it off. As we lounged in the grass in the shade of a massive tree in front of a koi pond out in the “country”, I took a breath and relaxed into my alcohol-infused-calmness. A break from the city. Bliss. I picked up a bottle of a Pugliese Pinot Grigio to take back home with me, back to real life.

Our bike ride back to the original meeting place was only around 2 miles and it was incredibly peaceful just lazily drifting along the main road in Mattituck as the sun settled below the treeline. The sore butt bones I incurred the following day were well worth it.

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I am BACK!

A few snapshots from my amazing vacation, first in San Diego and then in Norfolk, Virginia. I’ll make some real posts when I recuperate but for now… here you are, my friends.

In N Out! Maybe I ate it twice…

Sea World! San Diego

Me and The BF… in a photo booth, but using an iPhone. Like you do.

So SoCal.

Shamu!

Beautiful Norfolk, Virginia

A latte for Lolly

It was 106 degrees in Colonial Williamsburg, but I ordered soup at Blue Talon restaurant. It. Was. Worth it.

Oh Waffle House. You have my heart.

 

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ROCH! And things that I will eat when I’m there.

Rarely do I find myself this excited to go to a location in April that is currently experiencing snow… but Rochester is my home. I get to see my weirdo-but-awesome family, meet the newest dance girl baby, and indulge in some of this… Okay… LOTS of this.

It’s a garbage plate. And I can’t wait to bury my face in it. Have a happy weekend, kids!

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