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Food & Drink

    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    Two Days in Bologna Italy

    Enjoy a Brief Visit to this Amazing City

    Location: Bologna Italy

    Two days isn’t really enough. But that is what we had so we made it work. We actually had a little more than two days, but we arrived in Bologna after a 32 hour travel day that started in Koh Chang Thailand. So by the time we got to our hotel, we were exhausted. But the next morning we hit the ground running, to see and do as much as we could with our remaining time – Two Days in Bologna Italy.

    Beautiful Bologna

    Three or Four Would Be Better

    I wished we had three or four days, mostly so we could just wander. This beautiful and ancient city was a treasure of antiquities dating back thousands of years. In addition it’s a fabulous foodie city. And don’t forget about the shopping. In and around the ancient history, it has a hip and young vibe, and although we were there in the winter, it was alive with visitors and locals out enjoying the city, it’s food and it’s rustic beauty.

    Lots of Italian Caffe gave us energy for Two Days in Bologna Italy

    A Brief History (thank you Wikipedia)

    Originally Etruscan, the city has been an important urban center for centuries, first under the Etruscans (who called it Felsina), then under the Celts as Bona, later under the Romans (Bonōnia), then again in the Middle Ages, as a free municipality and later signoria, when it was among the largest European cities by population. Famous for its towers, churches and lengthy porticoes, Bologna has a well-preserved historical center, thanks to a careful restoration and conservation policy which began at the end of the 1970s.

    Every turn something old and beautiful

    Where We Stayed

    I loved our little Bed and Breakfast in the Santo Stefano Piazza. A perfect location to walk to all the historic sites and restaurants. The piazza itself is home to a lovely church, several restaurants and weekly vintage market. Our Bed and Breakfast called Casa Isolani was on the top attic floor of an ancient Palazzo, still owned by the original family. A new addition of an elevator takes you up three floors, but then you need to walk up two additional flights. Breakfast is included but down the street at a very popular Pasticceria Santo Stefano where every morning we enjoyed fabulous Italian coffee, juice and brioche.

    Santo Stefano Basilica
    View of Bologna from our room
    Ancient Palazzo staircase in our hotel
    Ancient beams in our room

    How to See the City in Two Days

    After breakfast we spent our first day exploring on foot using GPS My City – one of our favorite apps for getting around a new place. GPS My City/Bologna is an easy to follow guide to 13 of the most significant sites within Bologna’s historic center. We spent several hours enjoying the sites using GPS My City. We missed a couple, but here are our favorites we did on day one;

    GPS My City Bologna

    Piazza Maggiore – Bologna’s main square, a gathering place for centuries, is home to multiple landmarks. Don’t miss the astonishing Basilica of San Petronio, the Notary Palace, the Clock Tower, the Accursio Palace/Salaborsa Library, and the Bianchi Palace. Music and festivals happen here throughout the year and the piazza is home to many shops and restaurants. It is the place to see and be seen.

    Neptune Fountain – a major landmark of the Piazza Maggiore is the Neptune Fountain. The bronze statue of Neptune was completed in 1566 to commemorate the election of Pope Pius IV. Most local walking tours meet and start at the foot of the Neptune Fountain.

    Basilica of San Petronio
    Neptune Fountain

    Churches

    Basilica of San Petronio – This church which dominates the Piazza Maggiore was begun in 1390 but the exterior was never completed. But be sure to go inside – the soaring vaulted ceilings are amazing.

    Saint Peter Cathedral – a church has stood on this site since 1028. The current church was built in 1184 with additions and changes made to the Baroque church multiple times through the centuries.

    Basillica of San Petronio
    Cathedral of Saint Peter

    The Towers

    Asinelle and Garisendo Towers – Via Rizzoli (Rizzoli Street) is a major thoroughfare that links Piazzo Maggiore to the Two Towers; Asinelle and Garisendo. These ancient leaning structures are named after the families who built them. In the photo below, there is an artists rendition of what Bologna may have looked like in ancient times when an estimated 180 towers existed. Both for defensive purposes but also for rich families to show off – each trying to build their tower taller than their neighbor. Only a handful of towers remain, with the Asinelle and it’s shorter neighbor the Garisendo the most famous.

    The Asinelle Tower is 97 meters and is the tallest leaning tower in Italy with a 1.3 degree slope. The Garisendo Tower is currently 48 meters. Originally 60 meters, it was lowered in the 14th century when it’s slope became dangerous.

    Unfortunately neither tower are open to the public. Asinelle was closed recently and the ground around the towers is currently being stabilized in hopes of saving both towers. It is unknown if the public will be able to access the towers (Asinelle has 496 wooden steps to the top) in the future.

    Artist depiction of medieval Bologna towers
    The towers today undergoing structural work

    On day one we also did a little shopping, had a manicure and got my hair cut! It was a busy day.

    Delicious Bologna Specialties

    Mortadella

    Mortadella Bologna is one of this regions most well known specialties. And if you, like me, grew up on American style Boloney sandwiches you need to be re-educated. Mortadella Bologna is a delicious, soft and sweet ground pork style cured meat. The name derives from the ancient use of a mortar and pestle to grind the ingredients. This is not American bologna. It’s ubiquitous around the city and easy to find good quality delicious mortadella sandwiches, charcuterie, pizza and more. A must when in Bologna.

    Amazing mortadella
    Open wide, so delicious

    Cheese

    Parmagiano Reggiano – Italian Parmigiano Reggiano can only be produced from the milk of cows that feed in a strictly defined area between the cities of Parma, Reggio, Modena, Bologna, and Mantova. The first record of Parmigiano-Reggiano making is from 1254. Throughout Bologna you will find delicious parmigiana. We stopped for wine and cheese at Simoni, a famous producer and distributor in Bologna. I really wanted to take an entire wheel home with me.

    Bolognese

    Bolognese – well you can’t visit Bologna without eating Bolognese. One of my favorite things to eat when I am in Italy, but I rarely order it in the USA. There is just something about the way the Italians make this rich and delicious meat sauce, served at La Trattoria Del Tempo Buono over homemade tagliatelle

    Wine and Parmigiana at Simoni
    Bolognese at La Trattoria

    Day Two

    Despite some rain in the morning, we set out on day two to climb to the Sanctuary of San Luca . The climb is the amazing part of this destination, although the cathedral at the top is also beautiful. However, from our hotel in Santo Stefano Piazzo we walked the four miles to San Luca with 95% of the walk being undercover in Bologna’s famous porticoes. Bologna’s Tourist Website says;

    Wikipedia

    The Sanctuary of San Luca, located on Colle della Guardia, has been the symbol of Bologna as well as a place of religious worship for centuries. It is connected to the city centre by a road that, starting from Porta Saragozza, unwinds for four kilometers with a portico that boasts over 600 archways and is the longest in the world. Together with the other city porticoes, it was included in UNESCO World Heritage Site list in 2021.

    Sanctuary San Luca (Canva)

    The portico started being built in 1674 and, during Ascension week, a procession has been walking along it carrying the Byzantine Madonna with Child to the Cathedral since 1433. The Sanctuary church was, however, built later in the 18th century to replace a previous 15th-century construction. 

    The sanctuary offers marvelous views over the surrounding landscape. In addition, the panoramic terrace opened in 2017 at a height of 42 metres above Colle della Guardia (300 m asl), enables visitors to admire a unique 180° view of Bologna from the hills to the centre stretching out as far as Casalecchio di Reno.”

    Portico
    The View

    Portico Climb

    It was a fascinating way to see this ancient part of the city, all under cover so perfect no matter what the weather. It’s a workout too. We were doing the climb on a Saturday, and lots of locals use this climb for their weekend run, hike and even cycle. The view from the top was bellisima!

    Sanctuary San Luca

    Returning back down to the city we visited the Mercato di Mezzo, a lovely market with gorgeous fresh fruit, vegetables, cheese, fish, meat and fresh pasta. We worked up an appetite for our next excursion, a food tour.

    Mercato produce
    Cheese!

    Food Tour

    We spent the evening with Tours and the City a local company providing walking food tours in Bologna and elsewhere in Italy. Our guide was great and she helped us learn more about the wonderful foods of this region of Italy. We tried new-to-us things like Tigelle and Lambrusco and had lots mortadella, prosciutto, parmigiana, pasta and gelato too. I definitely recommend doing a food tour to get a wide understanding of the delicious and varied foods of this region.

    Tigelle
    Tortellini
    Prosciutto
    Lambrusco

    Final Night

    Yep – we did all of that in two days. It really was too brief, but if you only have Two Days in Bologna Italy, you can enjoy it. I highly recommend the food tour, and the GPS My City tour. Don’t miss the porticoes and San Luca, and eat everything you can!

    Portico in Santo Stefano Piazza

    Two Days in Bologna Italy

    I have traveled a lot in Italy over the past forty plus years, but had never made it to Bologna. In fact only recently has Bologna gotten on my radar. It’s the lesser known city with most tourists hitting Florence, Rome, Venice and Milan. I’ve been to all of those and I have to say Bologna has just as much to offer with incredible history and delicious food and an ancient beauty all it’s own. It’s time to get Bologna on your travel radar. Next time I will definitely stay longer.

    Thank you for reading my post Two Days in Bologna Italy. See last week’s post Sometimes We Enjoy a Travel Perk or Two here. Be sure to keep following for more about our Italy adventures – coming up next week our visit to San Marino.

    This week’s book review After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell

    Asia & Oceania Travel  --  Food & Drink

    Cooking Class in Hong Kong with Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio

    Location: Hong Kong

    Y’all know I love to eat. And I love to cook as much as I love to eat. Traveling around the world gives me such great opportunities to learn and eat the best of all the countries and cultures we explore. It’s rare that I don’t love the food in a country we are visiting, and our visit last month to Hong Kong China was one of the best. So let me tell you about our Cooking Class in Hong Kong with Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio.

    See my post My Favorite Cooking Classes Around the World here

    Dumplings

    Cantonese Cuisine

    What is Cantonese cuisine? Focused on fresh ingredients but also relying on many dried ingredients for flavor, Cantonese cuisine is well known in the USA because of so many immigrants. Pork, chicken and beef are common but so is offal, chicken feet, duck tongue, snails and other seafood.

    Rice with Sausage was one of the best things we ate while in Hong Kong

    There are so many delicious dishes in the Cantonese cuisine from fried rice, beef with noodles, greens in oyster sauce, and so much more. While visiting Hong Kong we really enjoyed rice with Chinese Sausage, Beef with noodles, Rice Noodles, Lo Mein, Wonton Soup, Spare Ribs, Congee and Fried Chicken to name a few.

    Pots n’ Pans

    I found Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio through Viator. I’m sure glad I did. This beautiful cooking studio was founded in 2013 and our instructor (owner) Bill spoke perfect English and guided us through a private cooking class. Classes often include a market tour, and you can book private or group tours with Bill. I highly recommend this experience if you are considering visiting Hong Kong. We enjoyed it very much. Be sure to come hungry!

    Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio Hong Kong

    Cooking Class in Hong Kong with Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio

    We arrived at the studio in the Kwun Tong area of Kowloon easily via subway. Bill was very flexible for our arrival time since we were the only ones in this particular class. Bill put together a wonderful course and menu for us that included; Pork Dumplings, Stir Fry French Beans with minced pork, Fried Rice with fermented veg and Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs.

    Owner Bill was a great instructor

    We started by getting the ribs going, because they would take the longest. We browned the ribs then added ingredients for the ribs to slowly cook in a broth of sugar, ginger, vinegar, Xiaoxing wine, and soy sauce. After more than an hour, the ribs were absolutely delicious, fall apart tender and one of the best things I have ever eaten. I will definitely make these at home.

    Pork Ribs start…
    …to finish

    While the meat was slowly braising on the stove top we made dumplings filled with minced pork, ginger and green onions. I’ve made dumplings before. They take some practice, but we did pretty good. We then browned the dumplings on the stove top before adding a mix of water, corn starch cooking wine, oil and soy sauce. These little pillows of goodness were served with a dipping sauce of soy, sugar and chili oil. OMG. Yummy.

    Forming the dumplings takes practice
    Maybe not perfect but taste divine

    We stir fried the rest of the minced pork mixture while parboiling the beautiful French green beans. We tossed all that together with some chicken stock, soy sauce, cooking wine and sugar, let it reduce then serve.

    French Green Beans start…
    …to finish. Yummy.

    We quickly stir fried the pre-cooked rice, mixing in a delicious ingredient I have never seen before – a fermented greens and olive paste from a jar. It added such a delicious flavor and texture to the fried rice. At the last minute we tossed in some toasted pine nuts.

    Bill was so easy to work with. Here we stir fry the rice with fermented vegetables and olives

    So Much Food

    We sat down to enjoy this amazing feast and we ate until we thought we would explode. And then, we took home a big doggy bag which we enjoyed again the next day back in our Airbnb for dinner. I know I can make all of these dishes back home, or even on the road as we continue our travels. Simple and fresh ingredients, with a touch of Cantonese love. Perfect.

    Arne can’t eat another bite!

    Come to Hong Kong

    We loved our week in Hong Kong and expect we will come again. Whether you are here for a week or just a few days, spending a few hours with Bill at Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio is a must. We would do it again!

    Thank you for reading my post Cooking Class in Hong Kong with Pots n’ Pans Cooking Studio. You can try these simple recipes at home yourself…or visit Hong Kong…you won’t be sorry.

    Read last week’s post Visiting Hong Kong for the First Time here.

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    Food & Drink  --  Inspire  --  North America Travel

    Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Boehm’s Candies

    I have had the opportunity to taste and enjoy locally made chocolate in multiple countries around the world. I’ve taken chocolate making classes, learned about cocoa and brought home chocolate as gifts. But despite all that, there is one chocolate that remains my favorite – hands down the best chocolate in the world. And it’s right here in the Pacific Northwest. Let me tell you about Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Boehm’s Candies.

    Issaquah

    Boehm’s in Issaquah

    The lovely town of Issaquah in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains was my home back in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Back then Issaquah was still a tiny little town, where people knew each other and shopped at locally owned stores. Today Issaquah has grown massively, but still keeps a thriving old town area and several successful unique and historic businesses. One of those is Boehm’s Candies.

    Julius Boehm

    Chalet built in 1956

    Austrian born Julius Boehm escaped Hitler’s tyranny and fled to Switzerland in 1940 and on to the United States in 1941. In 1942 he opened his first candy kitchen in Ravenna with the help of two friends and inspiration from his pastry-making grandmother. In 1956 he moved the operation to Issaquah which reminded him of the Alps and built the authentic Swiss Chalet that still is home to Boehm’s Candies today. Julius was a generous, engaged and much loved member of the community until his death in 1981. Thankfully longtime protege Bernard Garbusjuk took over the helm of the operation. With his long family history of Austrian Chocolate making Bernard kept the traditions and Boehm’s flourished. Today Bernard’s children are continuing the quality chocolate making business.

    Hand Dipped

    Hand Dipping

    Today most candy making operations are done with machines and it is rare to find fine chocolates that are hand dipped. In Boehm’s candy kitchen you will find the last two hand dippers at Boehm’s – Judy and Amy have been hand dipping chocolates for a combined 53 years. It is one of the things that make Boehm’s so special. Most people might not recognized how unique this is when they pop a delicious Boehm’s truffle into their mouth. But it is truly a dying art…and one to be savored.

    Machines Work Too

    Nougat rolled and waiting

    Some Boehm’s candies, however, are made by small batch machines. One rolling machine is more than 100 years old and is used nearly every day to roll out the confections. I asked what happens if they need a part for this 100 year old apparatus and I was told it never breaks down. Well they don’t make ’em like they used to!

    Delicious

    Boxing up a special order

    And they really don’t make ’em like they used to when it comes to today’s mass produced chocolate. Boehm’s is not that…rather it is a hands on, high caliber, steadfast operation, that is dedicated to traditional recipes, quality ingredients, old world charm and community. Much of Boehm’s staff have been with the company for multiple decades…unheard of in this day and age.

    If you have not visited Boehm’s Chalet in Issaquah you really must check out this Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Boehm’s Candies. Tours are available by reservation and the shop is open six days a week.

    The boxing room

    You can also visit the beautiful Poulsbo location for the same great product, made fresh in Issaquah and delivered to Poulsbo once a week.

    And of course you can order online…but I recommend a personal visit and tour…because you can’t get a sample, breath that delicious aroma, or stroll the beautiful grounds at the Chalet by ordering online. It’s definitely a treat to visit in person one of my all time favorite Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Boehm’s Candies.

    Hand Dipping a dying art

    Make it an outing today!

    Directions to Boehm’s Candies Chalet in Issaquah

    Directions to Boehm’s Chocolates of Poulsbo

    Thanks for reading this week’s Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Boehm’s Candies. See last week’s Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest – Maple Pass

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    Hand Dipped Boehm’s Chocolates
    Food & Drink  --  Inspire

    My Favorite Coffee Around the World

    Coffee Drinkers of the World!

    Location: Around the World

    This is one of our favorite blog posts from 2020. Enjoy it again or for the very first time.

    Lucky am I that I have tasted coffee all over the world, in fact, in 110 countries. Wow that is a lot of countries and a lot of coffee. I’ve been able to narrow down my favorite coffee around the world. I do love coffee and although there has been many countries where the coffee was downright lousy or non-existent, luckily there have been many countries where it was delicious and abundant.

    Enjoying Cyprus coffee

    Cyprus

    We are currently hunkered down on the island of Cyprus, where coffee rules. Cypriot coffee is much like the coffee of Turkey or Greece, and is usually made in a Cezva, a metal cooker with a long handle and a pouring lip. The coffee in Cyprus is arabica coffee and is ground so fine it is almost like a powder. Traditionally cooked in sand over an open fire, many traditional houses will still make the coffee in a machine that uses sand very hot, then place the Cezva into the sand and bring the coffee to boil twice.

    I had never seen coffee made in this manner and it was something fun and new to see.

    Brewing over the hot sand

    Cyprus is another of a long list of countries who know how to make good coffee, even though they don’t grow their own beans. Many countries with the best coffee don’t grow beans. It’s all in the way it’s prepared.

    So I thought today I would share with you all my favorite coffee around the world, in addition to Cyprus. Some of the worlds best and most delicious. Whatever you call it; java, joe, mud, cuppa, brew, cafe, octane, rocket fuel or juice – here is my favorite coffee around the world.

    Coffee in France
    Espresso in France 2007

    France

    I visited France in 2007 and despite the Starbucks phenom in the USA, France was the place I had my first and most memorable cup of real good espresso. And I didn’t have just one. I drank so many cups of espresso during my ten day visit to Paris and northern France. I learned how much I love a deep, dark rich cup and I have loved it ever since.

    Italian coffee
    My husband enjoying coffee in Italy

    Italy

    Most people think of espresso as Italian, and certainly they are credited with the invention of the espresso machine. I loved this amazing coffee here as well, and was a bit confused by the social etiquette surrounding your morning coffee. Most baristas were kind and assisted this silly American.

    Ethiopian coffee
    Ethiopian woman preparing the coffee

    Ethiopia

    My 2008 trip to Ethiopia remains one of the highlights of my travel life, and learning the complicated process the Ethiopia Coffee ceremony encompasses is one of the most interesting things I have ever seen. Ethiopians strongly claim their country as the birthplace of coffee, and they take the ceremony of coffee very seriously. You can’t be in a hurry for your morning cuppa here…but it is very much worth the wait.

    Zanzibar Coffee

    Zanzibar

    The beautiful island country of Zanzibar (actually a self-governing island of Tanzania) has many coffee plantations as well as beautiful and interesting spice plantations. On a tour of one of these plantations we learned a lot about the coffee culture of Zanzibar and enjoyed drinking the rich dark brew at Zanzibar Coffee next to our hotel.

    Moroccan Coffee
    Coffee at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca

    Morocco

    There are so many things I love about Morocco, including the food, and the coffee is high up on that list of favorite things. We drank it in all parts of the country and it was rich and delicious no matter where we were. Moroccans could be found drinking it morning and night, but for me I had to stick to the morning, or I would have been awake all night long.

    Greek Coffee
    Coffee in Greece

    Greece

    Another country that really knows how to do coffee is Greece. Like other European countries coffee often comes with a “biscuit” for dipping, and a cup of beautiful dark coffee in the afternoon was my favorite mid-day treat.

    Breakfast in Qatar

    Qatar

    This photo does not do justice to the coffee we had in Qatar. We transited through Qatar and spent only one night, and enjoyed on the morning of our departure what I can say is hands down the best breakfast I have ever eaten…including a pot of delicious brewed dark coffee.

    Vietnam Coffee
    Almost always served in a glass cup in Vietnam

    Vietnam

    We spent a month in Vietnam and really grew to love the coffee there. Often served with sweet milk, but you could order it without, the local coffee was almost always served in a clear glass cup without a handle.

    Guatemalan Coffee
    Coffee in Guatemala

    Guatemala

    When we returned home after our month in Guatemala we brought with us six pounds of coffee…now one of my favorite coffee around the world. The production of coffee is big in many Central American countries, but of all the countries we visited we liked Guatemalan coffee the best.

    Vietnam Coffee
    A special latte made to look like me in Vietnam

    So there you have it, my favorite coffee around the world. I can’t wait to continue my coffee culture research when we can start traveling again and continue our ’round the world travel. Coffee makes me happy!

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    Check out My Favorite Cooking Classes Around the World here.

    See last week’s post Yah Sure You Betcha – It’s Time to Rediscovering Ballard Washington

    Next week we begin a new series – Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest. Be sure and check back!

    Food & Drink  --  North America Travel  --  South & Central America Travel

    Eating My Way Through Mexico City

    Location: Mexico City Mexico

    A repost today from 2021. Next week we will have an all new post about amazing Mexico City. Watch for it!

    A little more than two years ago we were in an Airbnb on the island of Langkawi, Malaysia. It’s unusual for us to watch television, but this Airbnb had a great variety of international programs, and I watched a series about Mexico City street food. Oh my god. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I needed to go experience Mexico City street food. And that is how I came to be eating my way through Mexico City.

    I Apologize Mexico

    First, an apology to Mexico. As we have traveled all over the world these past five years on the Grand Adventure, we never added Mexico to our itinerary. As Americans, Mexico seems so easy to get to…and I had visited a couple times. So we kept skipping it. I’m sorry Mexico…I was wrong. The touristy places I had visited (Mazatlan, Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco and Zihuatinejo) did not show me the real Mexico. Until Mexico City.

    Grapefruit and Tequila

    The PanDamit gave us the opportunity to reconsider Mexico given the easy access from the USA. So I began a correspondence with a Mexico City food tour company called Eat Like a Local Mexico. Eat Like a Local Mexico offers multiple food tours, but does not usually work with clients looking for a multi-day eating tour. But owner Rocio was amazing and over a period of several months we corresponded and created four days of eating my way through Mexico City during our six day visit to Mexico City.

    Red Tree House Bed & Breakfast

    We landed at Benito Juarez International Airport on a Monday night in November. We took a cab to the Mexico City neighborhood of Roma Sur and the bed and breakfast that had been one of a few recommendations from Eat Like a Local. The Red Tree House Bed and Breakfast turned out to be one of the best inns I have ever stayed in. Again, my apologies Mexico…it was so much better than I was expecting. The service, staff, accommodations, location and breakfast were all five star.

    Breakfast at The Red Tree House
    The Red Tree House

    Eat Like A Local Mexico 101

    On our first full day we met Rocio and guide Astrid from Eat Like a Local Mexico at a lovely little coffee shop a block from our hotel. Our tour, which was supposed to be a group tour, ended up being a private tour because the other group had canceled at the last minute. So off we went with Astrid, a tiny, energetic local who intricately knows the traditional Mexico City food scene.

    Brisket Tacos
    Amazing Corn

    We spent the next six hours with Astrid showing us local street food as well as visiting two of the most famous markets, the Merced Mercado and the Jamaica Mercado. Such a colorful wonderland. We ate so much I can’t even tell you! But see the video below for more.

    Habanera

    That night we made our way without a guide to the Frida Kahlo Museum. I highly recommend this when in Mexico City. The museum is in her home, the same home she was born and died in. I learned so much about her remarkable life. Don’t miss it.

    Frida Kahlo

    Eat Like a Local Night Street Food

    Next day, we took a “free” historic walking tour starting in the historic center of Mexico City. We always try to take a free walking tour wherever we are. Such a great way to learn local history, learn about culture and politics and all from a local. Our tour was with Estacion Mexico.

    Tongue Tacos
    Pork Sandwich

    After a quick rest back at the hotel we met up with Astrid again at another coffee shop within walking distance of our hotel to start a Night Food Tour as I continued eating my way through Mexico City. We were joined by another American couple from our home state of Washington. Small world. Using Uber, the metrobus (clean and efficient and cheap) and walking, we crossed the city with Astrid to visit the hidden joints only the locals know about. It was incredible. We ate street tacos, mole,and flautas, drank pulque, and much much more.

    Gringas Quesidilla
    Pulque Agave Sap

    Eat Like a Hipster Local

    Day three we slept in a bit then Rocio picked us up at our hotel for a private tour she designed just for us. The food this day was unforgettable as we focused on more of the nouveau foods coming out of Mexico City. We had chocolate, cheese and craft beer. We tasted mezcal and had the freshest and most delicious hipster tacos. I am in love.

    Hipster Ahi Taco
    Hipster Chinese Taco
    Cactus Ceviche
    Mezcal

    Casa Jacaranda Cooking School

    Our final day of our foodie tour was spent with Casa Jacaranda Cooking School. Starting at 10am and going all the way to 6pm we explored the Medellin Mercado, then at the Casa Jacaranda kitchen we cooked mole, fresh tamales, corn tortillas, salsa and more. This was such a marvelous experience all around – I would not hesitate to do this cooking school again.

    The best tamale I have ever had
    Slow cooked Mole

    Tasty Tuesday YouTube Video

    Check out our Tasty Tuesday YouTube video here about eating my way through Mexico City.

    We Will Be Back

    There are several other excellent things to do in Mexico City, other than eating, so next time we will stay longer. And there will definitely be a next time. I fell in love with this clean and beautiful city, so much more than I expected. Eating my way through Mexico City opened my eyes to a culture and cuisine I had been missing.

    Muchos Gracias Mexico City. What a delight!

    See last week’s post Eight Fun Things to do in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua

    Next week a brand new post all about amazing Mexico City!

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    Food & Drink  --  South & Central America Travel

    Nicaragua Cooking Class

    Learning New & Delicious Foods

    If you are even an occasional follower of this blog or my social sites you know I love food! And even more than eating, I love to learn about local foods while I am traveling. Some of our all-time most rewarding experiences in our travels have been engaging with locals, learning to cook regional food. During our recent visit to San Juan del Sur we thoroughly enjoyed a Nicaragua Cooking Class. Let’s talk about it.

    What is Nicaraguan Cuisine

    Fresh and local ingredients

    Although it has some similarities to Mexican cuisine, we found the delicious foods of Nicaragua more similar to Guatemala. One of my all time favorite cooking classes was in Antiqua Guatemala. In that class we used a lot of the same ingredients that we see here in Nicaragua; beans, rice, corn, onions, chicken, plantains, yucca and pico de gallo. And Nicaraguan coffee is also much like Guatemalan coffee…one of my favorites.

    With Chef July

    San Juan del Sur

    We spent a month in San Juan del Sur, a Pacific Coast beach town about an hour’s drive from Granada. On arrival I did some research and found a local tour operator called Pacific Adventuras that offered several tours in the San Juan del Sur area, including a Nicaragua cooking class. So of course we signed up right away!

    Rancho Tere, Escamequito

    We were picked up in San Juan del Sur by Chef July, who owns Rancho Tere Restaurant with her family in the small town of Escamequita about 20 minutes from San Juan del Sur. July speaks very little English, so we also had Cesar with us as an interpreter. He is actually studying at the university in Managua every Sunday to improve his English. We had a wonderful time practicing English and Spanish through the day.

    Happy Hubs with Nicaragua Cooking Class

    When we signed up for the Nicaruagua cooking class we requested to learn about vigoron, one of Nicaragua’s most loved dishes. It consists of a cabbage salad, boiled yucca, and chicharron, all wrapped in a banana leaf. This dish is often eaten without utensils, and it is frequently served to visiting family and guests, as it is generally easily and quickly prepared. Wikipedia. So Chef July was eager to share this popular dish with us, and she also chose to share with us how to make tostone.

    Vigoron

    Tostone is a dish we had eaten several times since arriving in Nicaragua and we loved it. The word tostone refers to the twice fried plantains that serve as a vessel for toppings such as cheese, meat and pico de gallo.

    Vigoron

    Nicaraguan food is made from simple, local, fresh and easily accessible ingredients. Honestly isn’t that the way all good food should be made? Chef July introduced us to yucca. We actually have eaten yucca before, but never worked with it in a recipe. It is a staple food in many Central American countries as it is cheap and easily accessible. It has a consistency very much like potato.

    Yucca tastes much like potato

    For the vigoron we placed the boiled yucca in a bowl (often served on a banana leaf) then topped it with a cabbage salad very finely grated and mixed with lemon juice. Next topped with delicious homemade pico de gallo made from fresh tomato, green pepper, and a new ingredient to me, called culantro. Culantro is similar to cilantro, but a much bigger leaf. It’s always fun to learn about something new. The last ingredient for vigoron is the chicharron, a popular snack food, which we call in the United States pork rinds.

    We were introduced to Culantro

    The entire dish took about 20 minutes to make and it was very filling and delicious. And also pretty.

    Tostone

    Another very common ingredient in Central American and Caribbean cuisine is plantain. Did you know there are more than 1000 varieties of bananas? The plantain is a firmer and less sweet variety used mostly for cooking. If you read our blog post about Granada, we ate a delicious hamburger in Granada that used a plantain tostone bun. So yummy.

    The burger with tostone bun I ate in Granada

    To make the twice cooked tostone you first cook the plantain chunks in deep oil for about three minutes. Next using a towel so you won’t burn yourself you smash the chunks into disks with your hands, then fry them again in the oil. This is the tostone. We then fried the delicious local queso (that has a high melting point) and placed each piece on top of the tostone disks, topped with pico de gallo. So, so delicious. You can also top a tostone with meat, beans, avocado…lots of yummy things.

    Forming the tostone

    This dish was easy and delicious. Don’t try this with regular bananas though, you need the firmer plantains. It is possible to find plantains in the USA, sometimes at supermarkets but also at Latino markets.

    Plantain is twice cooked to make the tostone

    Fat and Happy

    Assembling the vigoron

    We really enjoyed our cooking class at Rancho Tere. In fact we are planning to go again and learn some more delicious local foods. Because spending time with locals, learning their foods and customs, is the best part of our Grand Adventure and My Fab Fifties Life. We loved our Nicaragua Cooking Class. Muy Bien.

    Such a delicious meal

    See last weeks post Granada Nicaragua Colonial Charm and Much More

    See this week’s top performing post Twelve Things to do on Roatan for Non-Divers

    In a couple of weeks I will have more to share about our month in San Juan del Sur Nicaragua. Watch for it!

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    Food & Drink  --  Island Life

    Maui Best Restaurants

    Updated For 2022/2023

    Location: Maui Hawaii USA

    Maui Best Restaurants – updated with new information for 2022.

    I’ve been to Maui more times than I can count and it is one of my favorite places in the world. But like everything else affected by the PanDamit, Maui has lost some restaurants (including one of my faves) while others struggle to keep their doors open. And yet still, this island is home to some amazing dining from take-out to romantic and every cuisine you can want. I have not eaten at EVERY Maui restaurant, but I feel qualified to recommend quite a few. So here they are – Maui Best Restaurants 2022 by My Fab Fifties Life.

    In No Particular Order

    The Sea House – Napili – Beautiful view ocean side at the iconic Napili Kai Resort. Fresh fish and always delicious. One of my top restaurants on the island. Reservations a must.

    A ‘a Roots – Napili – Vegan tiny restaurant in Napili Plaza, farm to table, locally sourced and so delicious.

    The Gazebo – Napili – a bit over hyped, but still delicious breakfast with huge servings. Be prepared to wait in line at this tiny spot.

    The Sea House
    A ‘a Roots
    Gazebo Fried Rice

    Star Noodle – Lahaina – One of my top favorite restaurant in Maui. Always perfect, outdoor ocean side dining. Creative menu and excellent service. Reservations recommended.

    Mala Ocean Tavern – Lahaina – Great seafood, clever cocktails, ocean side dining. Reservations recommended.

    Mama’s Fish House
    Mala Ocean Tavern
    Star Noodle

    The Fish Market – Kaanapali – purchase fresh fish and poke here to take home or order up fresh prepared fish tacos, mahi mahi and so much more. Delicious and worth the wait. Take out.

    Monkey Pod Kitchen – Kaanapali and Wailea – by the owners of Merriman’s (see below) a more casual restaurant for salads, burgers, fish and a great Mai Tai.

    Pint & Cork – Wailea – not your usual Maui vibe, this gastropub is a great place if you want a burger and a beer. Great service and reasonable prices.

    Moose McGillicuddy’s – Kihei. Sports Bar upstairs with great burgers, fish and chips, salads and more. Also downstairs (same kitchen) is Fred’s Mexican open for breakfast too.

    The Fish Market
    Monkey Pod
    Pint & Cork

    Some Casual Options

    Paia Fish Market – Paia, Kihei, Lahaina – choose your fish and how you want it prepared. Always fresh but expect a wait.

    Sugar Beach Bake Shop – Kihei – come for the malasadas. Hands down the best on the island. Other yummy stuff too.

    Cafe O’Lei – Kihei and other locations – a wide variety of family and budget friendly fish, burgers salads and more.

    Kihei Cafe – One of Kihei’s most popular breakfast locations, expect a wait but not too long, they get people in and out. Try the banana pancakes, loco moco or eggs bene.

    Sale Pepe – Lahaina – A great Italian option right in Lahaina. No view but the food is excellent and the service is great. Try the lasagna.

    Paia Fish Market
    Down the Hatch
    Sugar Beach Bake Shop

    Coconut’s Fish Cafe – Kihei – Fish tacos, salads and more at a reasonable family friendly price. Choose your fish and your preparation preference. Always fresh.

    Down the Hatch – Lahaina – Order at the counter and they will bring your food to your table. Large seating area so usually not a long wait. Nice bar options too.

    Papa ‘aina – Lahaina – Top Chef Lee Anne Wong works wonders and Papa’aina often creates special dinner events too. In the historic Pioneer Inn across from the Banyan Tree in Lahaina.

    Alchemy – Lahaina – I loved the sandwiches we had at this hidden gem above Lahaina Old Town. In more of an industrial area…you gotta search it out. Believe me it’s worth it.

    Coconut’s
    Papa A’ina
    Sale Pepe

    Something For Everyone

    Three’s Bar and Grill – Kihei – Casual and clever menu with both indoor and outdoor seating and a great Happy Hour menu. Try the brussel sprouts. I’m not kidding, they are amazing.

    Maui Brewing – Kihei and Kahana- Pizza, fish tacos, burgers and a delicious kale salad…and of course beer.

    Monsoon Indian – Kihei – my hairdresser told me about this hidden gem, located in side Menehune Shores in North Kihei. I had never heard of it. It was awesome. Very delicious and authentic Indian food with a fabulous view, perfect for sunset.

    Roasted Chiles Mexican – Kihei – Only Mexican restaurant I can recommend on Maui…delicious and authentic, locally owned and family run. If you need a taco fix while in Kihei this is the place.

    Honu Seafood and Pizza – Lahaina – another excellent pizza option but also lots of fish choices and fabulous view. The Mushroom Pizza was excellent and so was the Banana Coconut Cream Pie.

    Maui Brewing
    Honu Seafood and Pizza
    Three’s Bar & Grill

    Miso Phat – Kihei and Kaanapali – Delicious sushi and a great variety. Easy to order on line, pick up and enjoy at the beach.

    Kula Lodge – Kula – recently purchased by long time Maui restaurateur Simon Vojdani and owners of the 5 Palms Restaurant formerly in Kihei. The 5 Palms is now be part of the beautiful property at the Kula Lodge. We enjoyed the Happy Hour…but dinner is also recommended… you can’t beat the view here!

    Ohana Seafood Bar and Grill – Kihei – We went for the sushi but the day we went the Sushi Chef must have been off…bummer. But the menu has many other options from burgers to poke, tacos to calamari. The calamari was delicious..

    Manioli Pizza – Wailea – This place has a small menu but a lovely view. Several pizza options and just a couple pasta options but all very good. I really liked my chicken piccata. Budget friendly and family friendly too.

    Some the BEST on the Island

    Morimoto – Wailea – the most beautifully presented sushi I have ever had. And the ambiance is amazing at the stunning Andaz Resort in Wailea. For a special occasion or any day, just go. Great to watch the sunset too. We always come back for this one.

    Ka’ana Kitchen – Wailea – We had an outstanding meal with a view at Ka’ana. Whatever you do don’t miss the watermelon salad. Everything else is good too. Also located at the Andaz.

    Mama’s Fish House

    Mama’s Fish House – Paia – Maui’s finest restaurant in food, ambiance and service. Incomparable. Reservations hard to get but give it a try.

    Fleetwoods On Front Street – Lahaina – One of Old Lahaina’s best restaurants, if you want the roof top be sure to make a reservation well in advance, especially for sunset. A bit pricey, so if you want to save a little make a reservation for their awesome happy with great half price drinks and half price on selected appetizers and entrees.

    Hali’imaile General Store – Upcountry -One of the islands best restaurants located in a historic building in upcountry, the menu is fresh but not pretentious…just delicious and local.

    Merriman’s – Kapalua One of the best meals I have had in years, the impeccable Merrimans is where we celebrated our wedding anniversary. Amazing Prix Fixe menu for $120 per person was worth every penny. Fantastic and special place when in Maui.

    Morimoto
    Kula Lodge
    Miso Phat

    Sam Sato – Wailuku – few tourists come here, but locals know about this amazing noodle shop in Wailuku. I love the Dry Noodles and the Chow Fun. Great kimchee too.

    The Pour House – Kapalua – no view but the ambiance is lovely and the food is divine. If you want a break from fish and Hawaiian food make a reservation at this phenomenal Italian bistro. Be sure to try the handmade fresh burrata.

    Pita Paradise Wailea – A hidden gem in Wailea. This name though…it sounds like a fast food place. It is not. A lovely menu of Mediterranean dishes with daily specials. I loved my local Mong Chong grilled fish with fresh vegetables in an aioli sauce. My husband had delectable lamb gnocchi. Definitely come here. Make a reservation during peak season.

    Saigon Cafe Wailuku – This hidden gem has been going strong since 1995…highly unusual in this day and age. But that says something about the food. We hadn’t been here in years, but made our way back up this last visit and I am so glad we did. Authentic and delicious SE Asia cuisine.

    The Pour House
    Sam Satos
    Star Noodle

    Take Out and Food Trucks Are Big Biz

    There are many food trucks on the island, but I haven’t visited them all. But if you are interested in take out options check the YouTube video we did in 2020 Tasty Tuesday Maui Take Out Food.

    Feel free to share in the comments any other Maui restaurants you love. And I’ll take your recommendations and visit those restaurants when I return to Maui in the future. I still have several I need to visit so let me know your favorites!! Mahalo! Mele Kalikimaka!

    See last week’s post Maui New Discoveries

    See our tips on visiting Napili Maui here

    See this week’s top performing pin Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

    We love it when you pin and share our posts. Mahalo!