Maine, Travel

Moving On

It’s always a little sad for a Foodie Adventure to end as it is a wonderful week with great people and the best ever hosts, Michael and Mary Jo, who work so hard to make it a perfect experience. End it must though, and everyone moves on.

Since we were in Europe, the hubby and I decided to maximize our trip by taking a Danube cruise, long on our bucket list. The timing worked out pretty well, but we had a few days before the ship’s departure. Finding it to be a short trip from Rome to Croatia, we went to Dubrovnik.

With its lovely coastal views, it is a lovely place.

It’s hard to believe that just over 20 years ago much of Dubrovnik was in ruins thanks to intensive bombing by the Serbs.

Today most of the city has been restored and is a major tourist destination.

With its charming Old Town, filled with interesting sights and shops, it is easy to see why.

Nowhere have I ever seen so many eateries as there are in such a compact space.

Because of its proximity to the sea, seafood is on every menu.

In some ways Dubrovnik reminds me of Maine because so much of its economy depends on the tourist trade which is about a five month season. That means people work very hard during that time in order to earn enough money to survive the winter.

From Dubrovnik we ventured on to Budapest, a vibrant city filled with beautiful architecture.

While there is much to do there, what we like best about Budapest is spending time with one of our former exchange students and her family. What made this meeting very special was meeting Lulu, the newest family member named in my honor. Talk about turning to mush, this little one completely stole my heart!

Part of spending time with Lulu’s parents means we get to experience their life which includes weekends on Lake Balaton, the largest lake in Central Europe where so much of the activity centers around the water.

After an all too short visit, it was time for us to say good by and board our ship to begin a Danube River cruise that would take us from Budapest to Prague. Wow, this is a lot of stimulation in a short period, but each part of the adventure holds something new.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Italy, Travel

Say Cheese!

Cortona is known for its pecorino cheese and after today’s experience I’ll never think of it the same! Except for milking the sheep we Foodies dived into the whole process of making it.

Under the watchful eyes of Lapo and his daughter Ilaria, we were going to learn the traditional process.

There was no escaping Lapo who first linked arms to ready us for the plunge. Don’t be deceived by this smiling face. Having noticed this tub of liquid, I was a little worried about what was to happen next.

It didn’t take long to find out. I was up to my elbows in warm liquid with something spongy under my hands and instructed not to squeeze but to lay hands gently on the top of the blob that was forming. Minutes later Lapo pulls a chunk of something out of the liquid for taste testing. There was no resisting as both my hands were still immersed.

Finally, this part of the process was complete and Ilaria with help removed a big blob that had miraculously formed.

Next, each of us received a healthy chunk pressed into a plastic container.

Then, we proceeded to mash and mash and mash some more until no liquid seeped from the container. During this phase the liquid was poured off to be used for making ricotta. Nothing goes to waste here!

Finally, we were done. Salt was sprinkled on the top of the cheese and it was arranged in a tray where it would cure for two months.

At this point I’m thinking having visitors make rounds of cheese that would lead to a finished product was a pretty tricky way of getting unpaid labor. Ah, but Lapo is clever because he had each of us Foodies etch an initial on our cheese and when it was mature we could have it sent to the U.S. for only 20 euros plus shipping. How do you like that for marketing? Combined with the wine we purchased in Spello, the group can have one heck of a wine and cheese party when it all arrives!

Experiences like this and the reward that follows are what make a Foodie Adventure so much fun. There is always something unexpected that results in laughter accompanying a shared experience. That is the stuff of memories.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Italy, Travel

Foodie Adventure V: Spello

Spello is another of Umbria’s medieval towns, and it has won my heart.

Everywhere are colorful pots of flowers hanging on walls making Spello seem such a happy place.

Even the pets appear enchanted to be surrounded by such beauty.

Handwork is part of what defines Spello whether it be textiles

or pottery with designs unique to the area.

In addition to what we think of as typical to Italy, this artist also does some wonderful contemporary pieces. No way was I leaving Spello without making a purchase. The hard part was deciding what!

It wasn’t just textiles and pottery that were handmade. So was the clothing at this shop where we ladies went crazy. The shop owner designs what she sells and works with seamstresses and weavers to have it made. Talk about my kind of place!

I couldn’t get enough of the friendly faces and the small shops packed full of good things to eat and drink.

Putting a perfect end to the visit was a wine tasting and dinner at Enoteca Properzio where a charming father/son duo kept us Foodies entertained with their presentation about the products made by their family. With all that we bought to ship home we made the evening well worth their effort!

Yes, Spello put a charm on me, and if you are ever in Umbria be sure to take the time to ferret it out. It’s one of those very special places.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Italy, Travel

Foodie Adventure V: Assisi

As many times as we’ve been to Italy, we’ve not been to Umbria so I was delighted to learn that this Foodie Adventure would include side trips to towns not too distant from Cortona.

For a number of years, the medieval city of Assisi has been high on my list of go to places, and it is now a place I’d definitely return.

I so enjoyed wandering its cobblestone streets where there is much to take in.

With all of its textures, the architecture is reminiscent of a time long past.

As you are probably aware, Assisi is best known for being the birthplace of St. Francis who is honored with a basilica and monastery bearing his name.

No photography is allowed inside where the walls and ceilings are adorned with frescoes. Many were done by Giotto whose work influenced that of many artists who followed.

Outside, I was fascinated by the colors and textures of the construction materials.

Studying these, I marveled at the skills possessed so many centuries ago when building was done without sophisticated equipment. It is doubtful that the same could be created today.

Assisi is also the birthplace of St. Clare remembered for ministering to the poor. In the cathedral bearing her name, she is interred.

From the outside, one doesn’t notice anything but the beautiful design of this window, but inside, with the light shining through, is revealed a creation of stained glass.

These are the highlights of my visit to Assisi, but with more time one could find more to explore and enjoy.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Italy, Travel

Foodie Adventure V: CORTONA

If you have followed Lulu’s Musings for a while, you’ll know that one of our favorite travels is Chef Michael Salmon’s Foodie Adventures. The hubby and I have joined him and his wife in France, Spain and three different locations in Italy to enjoy touring and cooking.

Always one of the treats of the adventure is where we stay. This trip our base is a lovely villa near Cortona in Tuscany where the movie Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed. Right outside outside my window are glimpses that remind me of the film.

What happens on a Foodie Adventure is that we see the sites during the day, and if you’ve ever been to Italy you know there’s no shortage of fascinating places to visit.

After a full day, the group, usually 16 to 20, returns to join Chef Michael in the kitchen to prepare the evening meal. Believe me, it takes all of us to prepare the four courses, and somehow Chef Michael keeps an eye on all and gives helpful hints so that we get everything just right.

Presentation is ever so important to Chef, and by the end of the week all of us improve our plating skills.

In addition to everything else, ladies find some time for shopping. Every little town has something tempting to drain the wallet of euros to the chagrin of hubbys.

No place is more costly than The Mall, a famous outlet for designer clothes. Even at discount prices Armani, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Valentino, etc. are priced higher than I am comfortable paying.

While the shopping is going on, you can be sure the men find a good place for gelato!

As the week goes on I’ll share with you some of my favorite parts of the Foodie Adventure and maybe even a recipe or two from Chef Michael’s kitchen. I hope you will join me.

I so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Food, Random, Travel

Foodie Adventure 3: Other Things

Can you tell this is an organic pig?
Can you tell this is an organic pig?

Yes, Foodie Adventures are about cooking and eating, but there’re other things, too.  In Catalonia, it was a visit to an organic pig farm

dairy farmand a dairy farm where cows produce enough milk for more than a million cartons of yogurt to be  produced each week.

cheeseA visit to a cheese maker required being covered  with plastic garb so as not to contaminate the production area. 

cheeseSeeing how some cheeses look during the ripening process makes you wonder how they can taste so good when finished.

chocolateYou can bet this chocolate factory was a favorite stop.  As we sampled, we were told that to get the full benefit of chocolate, it is best to let it melt in your mouth.  Do you know what a challenge that is!

chocolateHere it was  impossible to resist stocking up on tasty and beautifully packaged sweets.

wineryNo Foodie Adventure would be complete without visits to wineries where a little more is learned each time about the process of making wine.

wineryIt was fascinating to visit Freixenet, a huge and sophisticated operation that produces 90 million bottles each year.  

wineryWhile it is not always typical for wineries to export, that is not true here.  Freixenet cavas and wines are sent to more than 140 countries across the globe.  After seeing this facility, I have new appreciation for the black bottle cava I use for mimosas!

foodWhether in the U.S. or elsewhere, learning how what we eat and drink is produced and where it comes from is eye opening and has taught me not to take for granted what is on my table.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Food

Foodie Adventure 3: The Food

The best part of a Foodie Adventure is preparing and eating the food.  Surprised?

Foodie Adventure/SpainAt the end of each day’s touring, we enter the kitchen to find a colorful array of fresh fruits and vegetables with which to prepare the evening meal.

Foodie Adventure/SpainThe meat or fish is equally as fresh, prepared to order earlier in the day.

Foodie Adventure/Spain

Under Chef Michael’s watchful eye, we get right to work slicing and dicing, blending and sautéing.

Foodie Adventure/SpainThe evening meal is a multi course affair of delectable dishes.  I especially like the salads with lots of flavorful ingredients and topped, if you desire, with fresh anchovies.  I can’t get enough of those!

empanadasIt’s hard to say what menu item is a favorite, but with today being Cinco de Mayo, it seems a good time to share these delicious empanadas.

Spinach and Chorizo Empanadas

1 pkg. puff pastry

2 T. raisins

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped

1/2 lb. spinach, washed and finely chopped

1/2 lb. chorizo, coarsely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

4 anchovies

2 cloves garlic

3 T. pine nuts, crushed

1 egg beaten with 1 t. water

Soak the raisins in warm water for 10 minutes.  Drain and chop.

Heat the oil in a large skillet and sauté the onions for 2 minutes over high heat.  Add the chorizo and cook through.  Reduce heat to medium and add the spinach.  Toss to coat lightly with oil and cover for 2 minutes.  Remove cover and stir the spinach.  Turn heat to high, add the anchovies and garlic, cook until liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and pepper.  Stir in the raisins and pine nuts.

empanadasCut dough into 3 inch circles.  Brush the edges with egg wash and place about 2 t. filling in each circle.  Fold over and seal.  

empanadasBrush with egg wash, place on slightly greased baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve immediately.

Though these were an appetizer, I would have been very satisfied to have them and a salad for a complete meal.  The empanadas are that good!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

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