A Month in Rome:Advice One Foodie to Another

As much as I wanted to take Anthony Bourdain’s advice on skipping touristy stuff in Rome, I couldn’t help myself. A month in Rome gave me more than enough time to see both tourist attractions, while also maintaining a tight budget. It was at times difficult, yet simple, to keep my money in my pocket since Rome has evolved into a serious tourist trap. Food is no longer authentic in most restaurants. You find yourself exhausted looking for authentic pasta, gelato, or suppli and at times unsatisfied. As a true foodie on a budget, my grand advice to anyone traveling to Rome is COOK! cook as much as you can. DSCF6962

If there is anything worth trying in Rome it’s buying amazing produce at a local farmers market and making a simple meal. I cooked four days out of the week, even though at times, I got home exhausted. I always looked forward to the bright white carrots, sweet onions, fresh basil, etc. waiting for me in my fridge. If you really can’t cook then at least treat yourself to a cooking class and learn a bit about the cities food history, because ultimately food can you tell you a lot about a culture. Always look to have an authentic experience.

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The formula to achieve an authentic experience is:

Eat where the people that live there blog about+ experience the nightlife+ avoid any lines tourist are on+ visit a street food market. Below are must eat places in Rome and random photos of the city .

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Must visit:

-Gelateria del Teatro: Via Dei Coronari 65

Best Gelato in Rome point blank!! try all the flavors

-La Moretta Trattoria

Must have their Carbonara Ala Romana: pasta with pork and egg yolk, one of Romans most common dishes

-Hosteria Grappolo d’oro

Cacio e pepe pasta to die for!: pasta with pecorino cheese and black pepper

-Testaccio Market( Farmer’s/Street Food Market)

Try the porchetta there but also try the Trippa sandwich from Cucina Romanesa

-Eataly

Best Suppli( Italian street food) ever

Make sure the cheese inside is runny and goeey

Great place for wine and olive oil to bring back

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Happy Travels!

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120 Hours in Granada, Spain

The city vibrates with influences from Arabic, Jewish, Spanish, and gypsy Romanian decent but like any modern city many have migrated from all over the world bringing their culture’s cuisine along with them. If you’re looking to travel cheap and consume lots of beer Spain is undoubtedly the perfect place to visit being that every drink is accompanied by a tapas (side snack of cured ham, cheese, fried seafood, or meats in stew smothered over French fries). As long as you’re drinking you will never go hungry. I had visited for 120 hours and left with a memorable experience. There is nothing like a city that although is extremely popular in tourism stays true to its culture as the city paints it onto its food, architecture, spirit, and people.

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Los Italianos Heladería

Calle Gran Vía de Colón, 4, 18001 Granada, Spain

This place is the first thing you should do when you arrive. It’s located in a traffic packed central plaza in Granada, across the street from the backside of The Cathedral. For just 3 euros you can’t get what they call a Capricho—a cone stuffed with about six different scoops of the ice cream flavors that are soon to be changed out—an ice cream bomb explosion in your mouth. I don’t know the secret in the base for their ice cream but it’s the reason behind the consistent richness and pungent taste in all the flavors offered. Staff is super friendly and one scoop is just one euro if you’re not into stuffing your face with six flavors.

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*Michelle Obama had ice cream here with her daughters.

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The Sacromonte Neighborhood

Near Rio Darro—Keep walking up the cobble stones.

Visit Sacromonte at night. The fun begins as the streets fill up with local folks desiring to watch a flamenco show and eat tapas alongside a glass of wine. The Sacromonte neighborhood is a mountain of cave “dive bars” in which gypsy flamenco music is played and dancers are dressed to entertain your night away. Walking around this neighborhood also gives you great view of The Alhambra at night and during the day. The C2 bus near the central plaza takes you straight to the caves, just request the stop with the bus driver.

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The Alcaicería

Between Plaza Nueva and Plaza Bib-Rambla

If you’re looking for knick-knacks and souvenirs to take home this would a place worth stopping by. Located near the rear of The Cathedral it is a place where you can buy an assortment of exotic teas, spices, leather wallets, and cheap cool Arabic inspired jewelry. The vendors are not aggressive in the way most street market vendors can be. They are also not too big on bargaining but give it a try anyway.

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Sierra Nevada

Plaza de Andalucía, 4 Edf. Cetursa – 18196 Sierra Nevada – Granada –

 The Sierra Nevada is both beautiful in the summer and winter and a moderately cheap place to Ski and snowboard compared to ski resorts in the U.S. Rentals start at just 9 euros but if such activities are not your thing just climb onto the cableway for 5 euros. Soak up the great views higher up the mountain and enjoy the local restaurants serving hot chocolate and churros.

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Seafood Tapas For Days

Seafood is extremely cheap in Granada, Spain. Tapas can range from 3 to 6 euros for a decent plate of fried fish, octopus, or calamari.

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Feast At A Mediterranean Restaurant

Don’t leave Granada without having a decent plate of Mediterranean food. Couscous, chicken simmered in spices and raisin all oven-cooked in a clay pot is a must. Most of these restaurants are found near The Alcaicería. There would mostly likely be expeditors outside trying to lure you in for some dinner and hookah.

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La Alhambra

Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n, 18009 Granada, Spain

No need to explain why you should visit this palace. It is one of the most visited historical places in the world.

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Morning Pastries Oh la la!

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Morning Pastries Oh la la!

Whilst the butter proofs in the oven as layers of puff pastry rise between seconds, the butter curls spherically into seventeen layers of flaky morning pastry. Ring! Yells the convention oven as the double egg washed croissants have browned to perfection. Oh the magic, the science in baking as layered butter in detrempe beautifully symphonizes with steam in the convention oven to create such a phenomenal treat.

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Have a croissant with some tea or coffee with a splash of cream. Slice the pastry in half and add blueberry jam, whipped butter, or almond cream filling. With every bite the pastry crackles in your mouth crumbling on your plate and lap like snowflakes. Fingers greased with butter, nonetheless no one ever cares.

Morning buns proof in the oven whilst layers of paton are rolled in coarsely ground cardamom, orange zest, and sugar. Open the oven doors—for they are ready to be indulged as aromatic steam seeps into your nostrils. You crave this treat filled with butter, a kick of zestful acidity and love.

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The perks of being a baker are the harmonious smells in the kitchen. For while others sleep tight in their beds, I bake at 5 am with nothing but caffeine and love for pastries running through my veins. Buttoned up in my chef jacket and apron I stand below the concrete streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn baking my soul away.

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Two Solid Weeks of Wwoofing

On June 1st I embarked on an adventurous quest seeking to learn more about how food is grown, so I decided to Wwoof. For those unfamiliar with Wwoofingusa.org the abbreviation stands for “worldwide opportunities on organic farms.” The site is your middleman in giving you access to hundreds of organic farms all over the world. You then contact the farm of your preference, whether it be that you want to work with livestock or vegetation, then set up an arrangement in which you volunteer a certain amount of hours at the farm in exchange for food and shelter. I thought it was a fair exchange so I was on board. I initially found out about the site through engaging conversation with another volunteer on a rooftop farm in Brooklyn and so I got to researching. Coming back now from wwoofing in California for two weeks I thought I’d share some tips and suggestions from my short-lived experience for other potential wwoofers.

First and foremost, when searching for farms make sure that it is really the right fit for you. Ensure that the hours required of you and tasks are really something you are willing to do. When contacting the farmers ask them to be detailed about what your possible day-to-day routine would look like. Ask them what past wwoofers have done on the farm. Really do your research guys!

Solitude. Most farms will be in a rather secluded area, and as that may sound like the perfect place to get away and possibly meditate and reflect on life, things can get a bit too secluded if you’re of a younger age. When finalizing accommodations with the farm of your choice make sure to research things to do in the neighborhood. It is recommended that on your days off you just escape into a nearby town and just explore. It would balance off your long days of volunteering in the hot sun with some excitement from exploring unfamiliar places. If possible wwoof with a friend, pay for a rental and always have the car at your convenience. You guys may want to hit the road for a quick road trip or just for quick runs to the near by supermarket for snacks. The farmers may not always be at your disposable to take you into town for they are often pretty busy so make sure you figure out nearby ways of transportation.

Journal. The best thing I did was journaling every single day throughout my wwoofing experience. It was my outlet for positive or negative thoughts. Being on a farm you start realizing you mind begins to wander into places you might not have pondered upon before. The open space and long days of nothing but sounds of the surrounding nature can generate amazing thoughts for journaling. Write in a journal everyday and once you return home you would realize how great of an idea it was. Your thoughts can even become poetic in a way because open space on a farm allows you to channel into that.

Lastly, wwoofing would allow you to grow concerned and attached to agriculture, but what places the cherry on top is the fact that wwoofing would also allow you to learn about yourself. Depending on the length of your stay you would realize that as the weeks breeze by you begin to discover things about yourself you possibly didn’t know before. You might face some inner emotions you have been neglecting or you might be enlightened in a way that has allowed you to find balance, but I have to admit you will be definitely learning something new about yourself. I don’t know what it is about the experience but it just does that to you.

So that is all. Just a few tips and ideas for a first time wwoofer on Wwoofing. I hope someone out there may find this helpful and please guy’s wwoof away!

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A Day Trip To The Shinn Estate Vineyards

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The Peconic Bay just a mile away carried its air onto the vineyard, wrapping its way through dirt, soil, and grape vines. I looked at my Ann Taylor loafers to only realize they were covered in dirt. It was a rather perfect day at the Shinn Estate. The air was mild, the sun was bright, and a group of Japanese Bantam chickens were clucking away in their cages. It was an almost perfect day at the vineyard because the grapes weren’t ripe or visible this time of year. I pulled up into the pebbled road and immediately the twenty acres of grape vines were in sight. A welcome sign directed me into a gray wood barn, which was the Shinn Estate tasting room.

In 1988, Barbara Shinn and David Page planted twenty acres of grape vines on Oregon Road, Mattituck. With biodynamic care they watched the grape vines prosper into New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Food & Wine Magazine recognized wines. However, things didn’t come to such a peachy start. When beginning this project Barbara and David realized the estate lacked life and a balanced ecosystem. Barbara and David then wanted to understand and accommodate the land to be in harmony with nature, which for hundreds of years has always been the traditional and most effective way of making wine. The couple then became interested in the philosophies and practices of bio-dynamics in agriculture mentioned by the anthropologist Rudolf Steiner. These influences have allowed Shinn Estate Vineyards to cultivate a unique organic soil made up of a compost blend integrated with fish, seaweed, whey compost, compost tea, sea minerals, and peanut meal. The chicken bedding from the Japanese Bantam chickens also contributes to their compost blend. It has become essential for Barbara and David to recycle nutrients. The same nutrients have become a source to the strength and fertility of the grape vines, as well as the vibrant taste the grapes produce because of this unique soil.

The vineyard was constructed with a vertical trellis system, which is a very effective and common way of systemizing a vineyard. This system allows the proper distribution of sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water coverage for the vines. Rows and rows of buds from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Pinot Blanc were beginning to open. I received a moment of bliss walking through the vines. There was a stillness to it all, a deceiving stillness from the forces of nature that were slowly cultivating the growth of these grapes. There are over 45 species of grasses, broad leaf species of plants, and wildflowers growing miscellaneously within the vineyard such as clover, dandelions, asters, vetch, and goldenrod. All of these aspects in their ecosystem contribute greatly to the natural yeast cultivation on the grapes. Shinn Estate Vineyards only uses the natural yeast that attaches itself on the grapes skin. When reading their wine list ingredients are stated as “grapes and love” because nothing is added or altered in their wines which is why it’s so important to have a balance with the vineyard’s surrounding attributes since the magic all happens on its own.

Patrick Caserta, Winemaker at the Shinn Estate Vineyard started his journey into wine through an eye-opening trip he took when he was in culinary school to a Hudson Valley vineyard. After that trip Patrick immersed himself into the wine world ever since. Walking with him through the estate you notice the gratitude he has for curious visitors and their questions on the wine making process. You notice proudness in him that births from the philosophies and practices of the vineyard. He walked me through the fermenting process at Shinn Estate Vineyards. Whites and reds are fermented in stainless steel vessels with the exception of certain vintages that are fermented in French oak barrels. The year 2007 was when the vineyard produced the best grapes. “Clarity” and “Grace” were produced on that year. Clarity, a $100 wine consisting of a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot aged in the French oak barrels for 18 months. Grace, a $75 wine with a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. Patrick and a small team of workers handpicked and harvested the grapes in September and pruned them right around Christmas. Everything holds a touch of craftsmanship at the estate. It starts with the hand picked grapes up to the finished product and packaging.

If interested in this biodynamic vineyard, visit on a weekend for a vineyard walk and tasting with Barbara at 1:30 pm, or a winery and barrel cellar tour with David for $20 at 2:30 pm. The estate is a two-hour drive from the city but well worth it. You get the chance to step away from the New York City rumble into this small town in Long Island distinctive with its own charming qualities of roads lining with wineries. If unable to visit the vineyard the wines are scattered all over the city. They’re distributed to ABC Kitchen, Bareburger, Bar Boulud, Blue Ribbon, and more. Shinn Estate Vineyards has demonstrated to me yet again why a movement of biodynamic wine cultivation is occurring. Wine is best when the grapes used to make the wine grow as their natural selves. Nothing is forced upon them or the wine creating what a harmony with nature has the power of doing—beautiful, bold, elegant wines.Vineyard-1Vineyard-2 copyVineyard-7 copyVineyard-8 copyVineyard-5Vineyard-10Vineyard-9

Passage da la Fleur

Genuine, cultured, and humorous are the best words to describe wine shop owner Philip Essome. His passion and concern for the wine industry are vividly shown within a few minutes of conversation. He has stubbornly decided to only sell wines he would have in his personal collection. “I sell what I would drink,” he stated. Not many wine shop owners in New York City can say the same. At his shop, Passage de la Fleur in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, you can only find organic wines also known as biodynamic wines made from natural yeast, fermentation, and grapes grown without pesticides. As a lot of us may be unfamiliar with, the wine industry is now becoming as industrialized as any other agricultural field. Wine makers are now cultivating wines using gimmicks, additives, pesticides, and herbicides to produce and enhance their levels of production at a cheaper cost.

Entering the petite shop you notice the soft French music permeating the room. Sitting on wooden shelves, sparkling wines and ciders are inches away from your first step. Shelves to the left are equipped with red wines ranging from DOC, DOCG, IGP, and Table Wine appellations from all over the world. With a quick turn to your right white wines are intently gazing at you ranging from sweet to dry to semi-dry for any particular taste. Most wines, if not all, are dressed in a hand written note hinting the location and farmer the wine is coming from as well as the aromas and food pairings the wine will beautifully compliment. Overall, most wines in the shop come from the lands of South West France. The South West of France is actually one of the least recognized regions of France. It’s tucked away between the Pyrenees Mountains and Spain. However, although this area lacks recognition it is the fifth largest wine region of France. This region creates clean fresh Sauvignon Blanc’s, fruity Cabernet Sauvignon’s and reds that are artisanally made from the sweet ripe grapes of the Loire Valley. Fifty percent of the organic natural wines at Passage de la Fleur are from France, possibly because Mr. Essome is himself a Frenchman whose childhood memories are rooted in the territories of Burgundy, France.

We may assume that quality comes with quantity, which is not particularly the case at Passage de la Fleur. Organic white wines start at $11.99 for a Prosecco from Veneto, Italy and red wines start at $12.99 for a Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valleys. Passage de la Fleur is definitely a wine shop worth asking questions in. The regions aren’t easily identifiable or familiar because Essome’s organic wines come from very small farmers that are hardly recognized in the wine industry. However Mr. Essome is more than pleased to explain every individual wine with charisma and explicit detailing.

Every Saturday from 4-7pm, Passage de la Fleur has its doors open to free wine tastings for the public. Mr. Essome randomly picks a couple of organic wines and chats with curious locals and encourages all to drop by. If you are yourself a wine lover, natural wines are definitely something worth trying, or at least worth a curious tasting. I ended up buying a grape apple cider from the Aaron Burr Cidery in Wurtsboro, N.Y. because I myself have never tried a sparkling cider before. Mr. Essome highly recommended it and said it was a cider that has many qualities of champagne with its smoothness and lightness. Passage de la Fleur’s charm and concept has made me a bit biased, however wine is joy, wine is companionship, wine is love and we should all enjoy it as we please.

Passage De la Fleur

573 Vanderbilt Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11238

http://www.passagedelafleur.com

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