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    Europe Travel  --  Food & Drink

    Tasting Sicily – Surprising and Delicious

    Unique Culture & Cuisine

    Location: Sicily, Italy

    Sorprendente! What a surprise Sicily was. I was lucky enough to spend three weeks in Sicily, the island just off the toe of Italy’s boot, during the month of February 2024. It was an interesting time of year to visit – very few tourists and many restaurants closed for the winter. But, as we always do, we found lots to do and spent time Tasting Sicily – Surprising and Delicious.

    Olives – A Staple Food Everyday

    This beautiful island is really something special. I could easily spend several months here and still not get enough of it. You probably know I love to talk about, write about and EAT local cuisines. So today let me explore with you the cuisine and culture of Sicily in the first of a two part series on Sicily. I think I can tempt your taste buds and entice you to visit this delicious island, the largest in the Mediterranean. Here we go!

    Culturally Diverse

    I loved this place, its people and its food. Every local we had the chance to talk with referred to themselves as Sicilian, not Italian. There is a very strong sense of cultural identity here, and the people embrace their unique history. You see it in the agriculture, architecture, art, history and most definitely in the food.

    This beautiful platter of traditional Sicilian foods we enjoyed in Palermo


    From the day we arrived we felt the difference between Sicily and Italy. Sicily felt more like Malta to us than like Italy. It felt a bit like Morocco. It also felt like Cyprus and Greece. Memories of Tunisia came to mind as well as Spain. The language is Italian, but the dialect is different. The people look a little Arabic. It’s a melting pot of thousands of years of the island changing hands.

    Wikipedia says;

    The history of Sicily has been influenced by numerous ethnic groups. It has seen Sicily controlled by powers, including Phoenician and CarthaginianGreekRomanVandal and OstrogothByzantineArabNormanAragoneseSpanishAustriansBritish, but also experiencing important periods of independence, as under the indigenous SicaniansElymiansSicels, the greek-siceliotes.

    We came to Sicily expecting Roman history and Italian food but found so very much more. And thanks to this incredibly diverse cultural history, Sicily is singular in its identity. Although part of Italy today, it remains, Sicily.

    Cefalu port

    Embracing Locally Grown

    Every gastronomic experience we enjoyed was touted as seasonally produced, and locally sourced. Sicily produces an astonishing array of foodstuff. Local cooks and restaurants alike choose the island-grown always…and often just do without if it can’t be sourced from Sicily. Seasonal favorites like cherries or sardines figure heavily in dishes produced at particular times of the year. The locally produced list is long, and I can’t even begin to mention all the ingredients that are grown and originate on the island. But here are just some of the most delicious island produced foods we reaped;

    From the Fields

    Citrus – everywhere we looked, including in our own front yard of our Airbnb, there was citrus weighing down the branches of every tree. Winter is harvest time and the oranges and lemons are colorful, juicy and abundant.

    Lemons in the grove next to our Airbnb in Western Sicily

    Pistachio – first introduced by the Arabs, today Pistachios are considered like “gold” to several local economies, especially the city of Bronte in the province of Catania where much of this lovely nut is cultivated.

    Pistachio is part of both savory and sweet dishes throughout the island

    Artichoke – Also introduced to the island by the Arabs, we enjoyed artichokes in several dishes, which were everywhere freshly harvested in February.

    Artichokes were in season during our late winter visit

    Eggplant – another popular winter vegetable finds it’s way into so many delicious dishes. It’s one of my favorite vegetables, under-utilized back home in the USA but definitely loved in Sicily.

    Delicious Grilled Eggplant with Zuchinni and Peppers

    Capers – the small island of Salina, one of Sicily’s tiny islands, is where most of the delicious capers come from. A perfect briny compliment to so many dishes.

    Wild Fennel – I was intrigued on our hikes and walks the abundance wild fennel growing fast and furious in February. This delicious vegetable shows up in many Sicilian dishes and as a garnish too.

    Wild Fennel

    Almonds – available year around, but the spring pink blooms are a harbinger of the late summer nut.

    Wheat – the Romans brought wheat to the island, and in most homes locally-produced flour similar to semolina is used to make fresh pasta and bread. The bread here is truly amazing. Though dried pasta is available in the grocery store like in the USA, home cooks still make the pasta on Sunday. The Trapani area near where we were staying is famous for the egg less Busiati pasta, a curly long pasta made fresh with local flour, oil and water.

    Fresh ground wheat made into fine flour was what we used to make the busiati

    Couscous – surprising to us, we found couscous a favorite dish available in many restaurants and in grocery stores. The Arabs brought this dish to the island, along with a mix of raisins, pine nuts and spices that have become part of the Sicilian diet.

    Couscous with Fish is a Sicilian Favorite

    From the Sea

    Squid and Octopus – stuffed squid and several octopus dishes enticed us during our visit. There are so many seafood dishes available in restaurants as well as fish mongers sharing the daily catch, you can never go wrong with fresh seafood from the waters that surround Sicily.

    Octopus with Potato is a local favorite

    Tuna – I’ve eaten a lot of fresh tuna in my life but two memorable restaurant dishes with fresh caught tuna in early March were unbelievable.

    Simply prepared fresh tuna was one of the best I have ever eaten at a Cefalu restaurant

    Sardines – early spring is the peak of the sardines, and we ate them multiple times including in the famous Sicilian dish pasta con le sarde.

    Pasta con le Sarde might be Sicily’s most famous dish

    Salt – for centuries the west coast of Sicily has been home to salt harvesting. Similar to many places around the world we have visited, delicious salt from the sea is a staple for Sicily and also an export

    Salt Flats near Marsala

    Say Cheese

    Cheese – there are many locally produced cheeses, my favorite from the island was the abundant and creamy ricotta. But there is more than one ricotta produced on the island, as well as several hard cheeses. You can’t go wrong with any of them. Learn more about Sicilian Cheese here.

    Cannolo made with fresh Sicilian Ricotta. This one was orange flavored.

    And the Best of All…

    Olive Oil – Sicily is dotted with miles and miles of olive trees…many older than most humans. First introduced to the island by the Greeks, families produce their own years-worth supply of olive oil each fall, and larger productions of the ubiquitous liquid goes to market. You can’t cook or eat Sicilian without this golden ingredient.

    Wine – did I save the best for last? Wine of course is part of every meal and the grape varieties were crisp and delicious. The Romans brought the grapes to the island, and today vineyards produce about 160 million gallons of wine each year. Some popular new-to-me varietals included Nero de Avola, Grillo and Cattarratto.

    Grillo was one of our favorite Sicilian variatals

    Tasting Sicily – Surprising and Delicious

    One of the best things we did during our three weeks was enjoy a wonderful cooking class with Liliana at the historic farm known as Baglio Florio. Liliana’s organic farm ingredients from Adamobio helped guide us through the amazing local dishes that take their flavors from the island. During our class all the ingredients we used and ate were locally grown and produced – including the amazing wine. If you are coming to Sicily, cooking with Liliana is an absolute must. In addition to cooking classes you can take wine tours with lunch or have events at the beautiful historic farm. Check out her website and her Instagram page.

    Cooking class at historic Baglio Florio


    One dish that will remind any Sicilian of their childhood is caponata. Served cold or room temperature it is an absolute favorite. Both a summer and winter dish, we ate caponata as part of an aperitivo before we even knew what a local specialty it was. Liliana introduced us to it in our cooking class. Caponata is usually made with eggplant (aubergine) but the recipe can be very flexible to available ingredients. In fact since Liliana only uses ingredients from her farm, on this day we replaced the eggplant with apples. This dish is simple and easily made in advance for perfect entertaining. And absolutely delicious. Try this recipe.

    Caponata, usually made with eggplant, is a favorite for Sicilians

    Stuffed Sun dried Tomatoes

    This delicious appetizer also showed up on aperitivo trays. Sun dried tomatoes are a favorite snack plain as well. Usually dried in the summer and stored, the tomatoes can be soaked in water for a few hours to rehydrate and used multiple ways for a powerful flavor punch. Here we made a filling of bread crumbs, garlic, orange rind, mint, water. The filling was placed between two similarly sized halves of tomato then very quickly fried in olive oil. Served at room temperature, I absolutely loved this.

    Busiate Trapani (Almond Pesto)

    Our visit to Sicily was spent entirely in the western region where this regional dish is a favorite. Trapani is a port town as well as a region, and almonds are a favored local nut. This dish can also be made with pistachios, another Sicilian favorite. Busiate was a new to me pasta, the shape important to the dish. We made the pasta by hand, using a wooden skewer to roll each piece into it’s distinctive shape. The shape holds the pesto sauce perfectly. I will definitely make this locally significant dish again. Try this recipe.

    Handmade Busiate Pasta
    Almond Pesto was delicious and easy too


    Sicilian’s love the ricotta and this dessert uses the best of local ingredients. This delicious dessert is a favorite of mine because it is not too sweet. The lovely dough can be prepared easily and the filling is made from the delicious local ricotta, a hint of sugar and usually tiny chocolate chips. We fried these in a mixture of vegetable oil and olive oil. Served at room temperature they were the perfect complement to our meal with Liliana. Try this recipe.

    Ricotta stuffed Casatelle

    So much fun spending these hours at Baglio Florio and we loved all of these delicious and authentic dishes. Liliana kindly invited us to return for dinner or a wine tour but unfortunately we could not make that happen in the days before we left. You must visit Liliana and eat with her when in Sicily. You can’t possibly feel more a part of the local culture than this.

    Thank you Liliana

    Simple and Loved

    Just a couple more dishes I want to mention because these simple peasant foods have continued to be part of the daily staple of Sicilians for generations. You will find these as take and go items just about everywhere you go. Fresh, filling and inexpensive, Sicilians love these daily and delicious lunch fare.

    Pane Cunzato

    This amazing sandwich is a go to for Sicilians. The ingredients usually are cheese, tomato and anchovy but the most important ingredient is the incredible bread. It is made fresh daily and consumed in great quantities. Try this recipe.

    Pane Cunzato


    Another great food of Sicily is Arancini. Available all over Italy and Sicily, I have eaten arancini in many places around the world, but in Sicily I had some of the best. Made Traditionally with tomato and mozzarella, there are many other flavors as well. Often in Sicily the arancini is shaped like a pointy hat, and is a take and go meal. Learn more here.



    Wow this dish knocked my socks off. A traditional food of Palermo, we had a delicious version from a bakery in Scopello. A cross between pizza and bruschetta, it is, once again, all about the bread. Makes a perfect light lunch or snack. You must try it when in Sicily. Learn more here.

    Sfincione on the right

    Consider Sicily

    Have you considered visiting Sicily? If not you should. There are many, many reasons to visit but the food, culture and people are hands down the best reasons. You will fall in love with all three. As a visitor you will be embraced by the locals who share their love for their island and it’s unique history through food. Go book a ticket today. Sicily is waiting to feed you.

    So delicious

    Next week I’ll share with you some of the special feelings I have about this beautiful island. I can’t sing its praises enough. Come back for more next week. Meanwhile…I’m going to go have a glass of Sicilian wine. Molto bene.

    See last week’s post Adora la Puglia – I love Puglia, Italy’s “Segreta”.

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    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


    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 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


    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 – 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;


    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.”

    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

    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.


    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


    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.


    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!


    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

    We love it when you pin, comment and share our posts. Thank you. Be sure to come back next Friday for another Hidden Gems of the Pacific Northwest.

    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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


    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.


    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

    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.


    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.


    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.


    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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