We discover the most interesting things when we aren’t looking for them

When I think about highlights from 2014, I remember my trip to Buenos Aires.  I’m reminded of how the beauty of traveling is in discovering the unknown and most importantly, the unplanned.  Sure, we did the usual touristy stuff expected of any visitor to BA.  We cruised through the famous colorful Boca neighborhood, took tango lessons, and ate way too much steak, but best of all, the memorable parts of our trip were discovering little surprises along our way that weren’t on our itinerary.

MALBA Museum

MALBA Museum

This picture of this cool bench with the ‘runaway’ wood is from the MALBA – Museo de Arte Latino-Americano right in the heart of Buenos Aires.  We actually stumbled upon this museum after a long jetlagged first day in the city and almost skipped it.  It turned out to be the best museum with the innovative architecture and modern art that piqued our curiosity.

Statues at a roundabout

Statues at a roundabout

The next day, we were on the hunt for a good cheap eatery and discovered two statues at a roundabout.  I thought they were interesting – an elegantly poised female statuette with a stern-looking rigid statue in the background.  We loved how we would turn the corner and find art in the form of statues, paintings, architecture wherever we went.

 

A bicycle in a courtyard

A bicycle in a courtyard

On one particular afternoon, we turned into a courtyard and found this non-working bicycle with a pebbled arrow next to it.  This piece of art blended nicely in the background and we almost missed it.

This turned out to be an amazing soup!

This turned out to be an amazing soup!

Finally, when it comes to eating when traveling, it’s best to be spontaneous.  We arrived late in Tilcara, a small dusty town in the north close to the Andes Mountains.  As soon as we sat down to eat in a cozy restaurant, we saw a guy next to us eating what we thought looked like potato soup.  “I’ll have what he’s having,” we told the waitress.  It turned out to be a hearty TRIPE dish – not what we expected!  It was delicious and my husband Eduardo ate every last bit of it.

If you ever want to treat yourself…take a cooking class in Maine!

imageI treated myself this month and took a cooking course all the way up in Camden, Maine for a few days.  Initially, I was nervous because I wasn’t sure if everyone in class was going to be uber amazing with their cooking skills, but as it turned out, everyone in class was very humble, friendly and open to learning.  Hands down, this was the BEST cooking course I had ever taken.

Reason #1:  We got to pick our own vegetables from their garden to make our food.  Not only was Salt Water Farm cooking school right on the water with a distracting gorgeous view, a beautiful expansive garden surrounded the building.  Yes, get on your hands and knees and start picking the kale, lettuce and herbs – we have to make a garden salad!

Pick our veggies and herbs from their abundant garden

We picked our veggies and herbs from their abundant garden

Our finished product:  a garden salad from the garden (literally)

Our finished product: a garden salad from the garden (literally)

Reason #2:  The cooking class was more than just cooking techniques and knifing skills.  We also discussed the importance of good organic eating and how best to buy the right products that are the healthiest for us and the environment.  (mental note:  remove Kraft macaroni and cheese from my cupboard – pronto)

We made a goat cheese kale frittata that was so delicious and easy to make

We made a goat cheese kale frittata that was so delicious and easy to make

Reason #3:  The instructor Annmarie was so patient as us “type A” New-Yawkers and Bostonians in the room peppered her with questions all at once.  She was so patient and she always answered with such great detail.  I learned a lot!  Including how to make the crust on this delicious blueberry pie.
imageSeriously, it was the best blueberry pie I’ve ever had.  When we all had sat down to eat later, I was tempted to get a second piece but I didn’t want to look like a pig!

imageSo overall, the class was great and I learned a lot about seafood and cooking procedures.  Did you know that you can bake a fish in the oven for just 6 minutes and then it continues to cook for a few more minutes after you take it out of the oven?  all this time I’ve been over-cooking my fish and smelling up the apartment.

The best part about the course was that I never felt it was too complicated or difficult to replicate at home.  Super easy and I can’t wait to try the recipes at home.

We made this delicious seafood stew with lobster, fish, clams and squid.  Super easy!

We made this delicious seafood stew with lobster, fish, clams and squid. Super easy!

One last note…I almost didn’t make it to this course.  Why?  I was faced with taking a small 6-seater plane from Boston to Rockland and I freaked out.  I was so afraid!  Alas, good weather and a patient pilot who let me sit behind him on the plane, plus an elderly woman who held my hand saved the day and I arrived safely to take my cooking class.  Yeah!

Smallest plane I've ever been on!

Smallest plane I’ve ever been on!

 

Eating a Japadog in Vancouver and other food highlights

These mussels are to die for - so fresh and delicious.

These mussels are to die for – so fresh and delicious.

One of my favorite pastimes when I visit Vancouver is EATING at all my favorite restaurants.  I tick off the food on my “to eat” checklist during my limited days in Vancouver.  Plus I pair the eating with meeting family & friends, and voila!  I couldn’t be happier.

1.  Best Mussels Ever – Blue Canoe (Steveston, BC)

When my sister Sharon and I first tried these itty-bitty pieces of heaven last year, I demanded that we come back again.  The mussels in cream sauce melted in my mouth.  We were told that their seafood including their mussels are caught fresh every morning and with the restaurant right on the Steveston dock, you can’t get fresher than that.  The fries were also fabulous.

2.  Best Value for Breakfast – “The Boss” or Dai Ban (Metrotown or Chinatown)

My mom and I have been going to “The Boss” for years, just for breakfast. Where else can you get two fried eggs, a small piece of steak, a breakfast bun, a small bowl of noodle soup & a tea for $6.50? This Hong Kong style cafe reminds me of NYC diners with the multi-page menus serving all kinds of international food 24 hours a day.  To top it off, the food tastes excellent and it’s mine and my mom’s favorite breakfast place when I visit.

I remembered years ago when my hubby Eduardo first went to Vancouver to “meet the parents”.  He must’ve passed with flying colors because my mom pulled me aside after the first day and said “Let’s take Eduardo to ‘The Boss’ restaurant.”  The rest is history.

The famous Japadog food truck in Vancouver!

The famous Japadog food truck in Vancouver!

3.  Best Exotic Hotdog – the Japadog Food Truck!

Admittedly, when I heard that Vancouver now has a Japadog food truck, I found it odd.  So off we went to check it out in Kitsilano, where the brightly colored truck sat on the curb.  I perused the menu.  Shrimp tempura nestled between 2 buns? (My niece Jadyn tried it – not too bad!)  Yaki soba in lieu of the hot dog?  I finally picked the one I did want called “Okonomi” with teriyaki sauce and bonito fish flakes that decorated the juicy sausage.  My sister Sharon tried the Terimayo with teriyaki sauce, seaweed and mayonnaise on top.  Yum!

My nieces and I in front of the Japadog food truck in Kitsilano

My nieces and I in front of the Japadog food truck in Kitsilano

The list goes on and on…chances are you’ll get a fab meal at most places in Vancouver.  Richmond is famous for their Chinese cuisine and it’s also very affordable. Sushi restaurants galore – Ebisu in Richmond and Vancouver is a crowd-pleaser.  I also dined at a tiny local sushi place in Dunbar with my friend Jenny and the fish was so fresh and tasty that I didn’t want to leave.  East is East has the best chai tea and my sister Sharon and I loved their lunch  thali specials.  Ahhhh….Vancouver never disappoints!

 

 

Prosciutto Heaven in Rome

Proscuitteria Platter

Meat and Cheese Sample Platter

Despite all the pasta-eating and espresso-drinking last week, my favorite eating spot in Rome was La Prosciutteria.  Yes, you heard it correctly:  an affordable quaint place that specializes in just prosciutto and other fine sliced meat.  I tell you, the Italians have perfected the art of cured meat because no matter where we tried it, prosciutto and salami just melted in our mouth.  The cold cuts also served as a nice light mid-afternoon snack.  And to think that I grew up eating Oscar Meyer crap as a kid and not knowing any different.

After a long day of seeing the ruins and zigzagging our way through the cobble-stoned roads, we turned down the street from the Trevi Fountain and discovered La Prosciutteria.  Prosciuteria

At first, I felt overwhelmed when ordering because every imaginable prosciutto or sliced meat took up the entire counter or hung on the hooks above.  What to order?  We hesitated until the kind lady shooed us away and said “Sit down.  I’ll prepare you a sample platter.”  Wow, bring it on!  Prosciutto, ham, cheese and mushroom pate on bread covered our wooden block.  We devoured it in a matter of minutes.

When we looked up from our delightful snack, my eyes re-focused and took in this unique place: everything was recycled and nothing was wasted.  The tables, counter and shelves were all made out of old wooden crates.  Lamps, formerly as jumbo tomato cans, hung from above.  Even the ceiling was pieced together by recycled wooden doors.

So if you’re ever in Rome, check out this carnivore-delight:  La Prosciutteria and get the cheese & meat sample.  For just 5 Euros a person, you are stuffed.  Great value!

Me & Eduardo at Proscuitteria

www.laprosciutteria.com   Via Della Panetteria 34 | Fontana Di Trevi, 00187 Rome, Italy