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Earl Grey was always the tea party tea of choice in my house growing up and it continues to be a favorite. That is part of the reason why I was so excited to discover fresh bergamot at the farmers market here in Xania (one of the bigger cities in Crete). Suddenly everything was about bergamot. I added slices to my plain black tea to make fresh earl grey tea. There is a recipe for chamomile lemon shortbread that I was obsessed with two christmases ago, so I adapted that and used bergamot zest instead of lemon (and skipped the chamomile).  Then I stewed some with sugar and took to adding that to plain black tea so it was sweet and flavor all at once.  The next day I adapted the shortbread to be more greek-winter friendly and used olive oil instead of butter. This evening we went to a friends house for dinner and I used that same olive oil shortbread for the crust of a lemon-ricotta tart and put some of the candied bergamot on top for decoration. It has a really nice taste, it is a bit bitter but the flavor is lovely. I really can't stop putting it into everything...

January 19, 2010   |   2 comments
Tags: Food, Mediterranean, Travel, Travel
Blog entry

I am back from a week in London, and ready for action! I have spent the past 8 days in England, enjoying the parks and squares, and eating some local grub. One of the highlights from my trip was an interview with Fergus Henderson of St. John's restaurant near Smithfield market. I dined there with two friends one night in the bar area and loved everything.

One of the things that Fergus had mentioned to me was that the English have whole-heartedly embraced the Mediterranean diet, as if it were their own. It is funny, because it is very noticeable when you are there. Almost every other restaurant serves panini, pizza, pasta, all with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. What St. John's serves is another type of British food, dishes that use every part of the animal. Out of respect, or "politeness" to the animal, as he would say.

There were other highlights here and there, like falling in love with oat biscuits, which are a superior cracker to eat with cheese. "Brambles", or gin with muddled berries and soda water. And "Cider with Black", hard cider mixed with some black currant syrup. I was happy to eat some English food for a while and see where they are with food, but I am more than happy to be back shopping with the farmers I am familiar with and paying in dollars.

May 2, 2009   |   1 comments
Tags: Travel
Blog entry

The other day my dad asked me if I wanted to try the best coffee in San Francisco. He had heard tell it was just around the corner from where we were. Of course I said yes... Usually when I hear "best of" type statements I tend to be dubious, but the Bluebottle Coffee Company just might be.

It is in a small alley in Hayes Valley and it is essentially a garage. There is no seating, but there is a tiny little table that you can stand around as you drink a delicious cappuccino out of a sturdy ceramic mug. I also had saffron almond biscotti to dunk. To find out more, go to: http://www.bluebottlecoffee.net/

And if you go, and can hang around, please make sure you ask for a ceramic cup... some people got their coffee in paper cups and then stood around drinking them, and then throwing the paper cups away before leaving. It was hard for me to see that and not judge.

That is all.

April 24, 2008   |   0 comments
Tags: Food, Travel
Blog entry

When we were filming the Spring Sprout Safari episode I became slightly mesmerized by the sunbutter-blending process...

You can see what I saw:

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid1507785476

April 18, 2008   |   0 comments
Tags: Travel
Blog entry

I can't say for certain because I still haven't been (why oh why oh why???), but I just read this short article about the Mongolian government trying to insure that all vegetables eaten in Mongolia are grown in Mongolia. A lesson from the land that's calling me.

April 4, 2008   |   0 comments
Tags: Travel
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We are proud to announce that our whole grain of the Winter season is buckwheat. Monday evening, Emma and I took off on our long journey to the town of Penn Yan in upstate New York in order to visit the Birkett Mills, producers of Buckwheat and Wheat products. Tuesday morning we filmed an interview with Cliff Orr, V.P. of Marketing and Sales for the Birkett Mills, followed by a tour of the Mills by Plant Supervisor Andrew Schuck. He told us lots of interesting information about the history and nutrition of buckwheat, which will soon be in a video clip for all of you viewers out there.

The Birkett Mills is largest manufacturer of buckwheat products in the world, and is the oldest continuously operated mill in the United States. Buckwheat originated in Tibet, and made its way to Europe via Russia, where it has become a staple food in Jewish culture. It was the Dutch who brought buckwheat over to the United States and planted it in Pennsylvania (Penn Yan = Pennsylvania Yankees). Buckwheat counts in our list of Whole Grains, although it is not a grain at all, but actually a fruit (related to rhubarb). Buckwheat made Dr. Perricone's list of Superfoods for Oprah.com because of its nutritious profile.

Why is buckwheat so healthy? Since buckwheat is actually a plant, it is gluten free, and therefore safe for people with Celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Buckwheat also has a higher amino acid profile than wheat, corn, rice, and oats, making it more powerful when combined with legumes to make a complete protein. Buckwheat stays longer in the digestive tract, which makes you feel full longer, providing you with sustained energy and cushioning against sugar cravings. Recent studies have shown that a carbohydrate found in buckwheat actually lowers blood glucose levels. Cliff was telling us that his uncle, who has adult onset diabetes, started eating 3-4 oz. of buckwheat a day and now does not take his insulin medication. Of course, we all need to do our homework before making any drastic changes, but it shows how nutrition can help shape up many medical problems that our nation is facing today, namely diabetes. Buckwheat is also effective in lowering (bad) cholesterol levels, therefore it is heart healthy as well.

I also wanted to add that Emma is from Pennsylvania and her last name is Burkett, and the Pennsylvanians are the ones that took the buckwheat up north and started the Birkett Mills. Does anyone else think that Emma might have a stronger connection to buckwheat than previously thought?

January 16, 2008   |   0 comments
Tags: Events, Travel
Blog entry

People are always talking about the "French Paradox". No one understands how French people can eat so much butter, cheese, and meat, while still managing to stay thin and fabulous. Well here I am in Tuscany, Italy, and I am finding the Tuscan paradox even more complex. Cured pork products, including lard, are a specialty here, in addition to the Italian staples of pasta, pizza, and wine. However, no one seems to be fat. How is this so? I find myself not only eating three times the amount of food that I usually eat at home, but also eating things that I never would have found appetizing. Prosciutto, pastas, speck, lard, etc. the list goes on of Tuscan specialties that go against my education in eating right. However, I am not gaining weight, or at least not enough that I can notice a difference. Granted I am running and continuing my normal exercise routine, I am shocked at how differently the food here affects my body. I attribute this to the fact that food products are made here naturally and with few additives or preservatives, making them healthier and less likely to translate into added pounds. Another reason I give is that there is not as much sugar in the foods here. I can say that in Tuscany, desserts are very simple, and are not overly sweetened the way they are in the United States. Cakes have enough sugar in them to fall into the dessert category, but they are never overly sweet. I feel that after a while, I have become accustomed to the milder taste of less sugar. Next entry I will ponder carbophobia.

December 13, 2007   |   0 comments
Tags: Travel
Blog entry

I am just back from Italy, where I spent ten days on the Tuscan Riviera. Summertime in Italy is not the time to be site- seeing in any historical cities, rather it is the time to explore all of Italy’s magnificent beaches by day and boardwalks by night. I say it is just as interesting to explore modern Italian culture by doing what Italians do, and escaping to the sea. I was in the seaside town of Viareggio, which has been a popular resort on the Tuscan Riviera for decades. Not only does Viareggio have an exciting boardwalk lined with Art Deco style hotels, shops, restaurants, and bars, but there are also many other towns along the coast or further inland with things to see and do.

All of these towns and sites gave me the perfect opportunity to enjoy the Italian aperitivo. From around 6:30-8:30 pm when the beach clubs start to close, and the people are returning home from a long day under the hot sun, many bars and clubs offer aperitivo, the quintessential pre-dinner drink and snack. There are many ranges of what an apertivo can look like, so I will describe a few of them to you. The first one we had was at a bar on the boardwalk in Viareggio called Fanatiko. Although most of the drinks were about 8 Euros, the ambience seemed relaxed and nice enough to tryout. I ordered a bellini, which is a glass of Prosecco (a type of sparkling white wine) mixed with fresh peach juice. My boyfriend ordered a martini. I was happy to see that my drink was made with real peaches, which in New York is a rare luxury. The waiter brought us a free bottle of San Pellegrino and our plate of aperitivi. There were little cut up pieces of foccacia with different toppings, mini sausages, mortadella with pecorino, a chunk of Parmesan cheese, and a skewer of mozzarella and tomato. They also brought out a bowl of chips and a bowl of peanuts. I thought that it was a great mixture of little things, something for everyone, and the free bottle of Prosecco made the 8 Euros worthwhile.

Another favorite aperitivo was in the small village of Pietra Santa, an old town that has reinvented itself with art galleries, boutique hotels, and really nice restaurants. My boyfriend and I sat at a table in the main piazza, and looked out onto the modern statues that have livened up the square. We both ordered a simple glass of Prosecco, which came with a bowl of chips and a bowl of pistachios. Although I was not as much of a fan of the food, because I prefer the little plates of mixed surprises, the view made it worthwhile. Sometimes, the food is not the main attraction, but rather the location and the company you are with. An aperitivo in Pietra Santa was worth every sip.

Later on in the week, we made a short excursion to south Tuscany, to the region of Maremma. We drove inland and visited many little towns up on the hilltops, which look out over the wineries and olive groves that dot the landscape. My favorite aperitivo on our excursion was in one such town called Castagneto di Carducci. We ordered a rosé Prosecco, and a rosé wine of the region. Although the drinks were somewhat disappointing, they were 3.50 €, and came with fresh vegetables, olives, local olive oil, and a small plate of meat and cheese slices. My boyfriend and I were surprised at how inexpensive the aperitivi were in south Tuscany as compared to the northern seaside resorts.

We had many more aperitivi during the ten days I was in Italy. Although I could rate (according to my own taste) which little plate of snacks I liked more, or which drink was better, I would say that in the end it does not matter. The whole idea of sitting in the early evening with a glass of something refreshing, and enjoying pleasant conversation with friends and loved ones makes the event something to be imitated no matter where you are. Next time you want to get together with your friends, prepare some small bites, and unwind with a nice glass of wine.

August 8, 2007   |   2 comments
Tags: Food, Lifestyle, Travel
Blog entry

As I write this entry, I am sitting at my desk in my old host family’s apartment in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Since I have last been here my host mother has given birth to two baby boys, and the family has moved to a new neighborhood. There is a new president, and new problems for the country to face. However, the flavors from the kitchen remain familiar and make me feel at home.

Sitting down to write this piece is like torture, because this time I am only here for four days, and it is not enough time to devour all of my favorite foods here on the island. A fruit that just came to my memory is Níspero, and I write it with a capital N, because it is must be one of the fruits found in paradise. Its juice is a libation. And just yesterday I discovered a new fruit, limoncillo, which I had never eaten before, and I consider myself a fruit connoisseur. I thought that the little round green balls were limes, but my host mother kept telling me to crack it open with my teeth. When I did, there was a pop! The skin split open, and inside lay a fruit that looked exactly like a lychee. Cuidado con la semilla! Be careful with the seed! I quickly realized that the fruit consisted of a thin cover around a hard- as- a- rock large seed. What other fruits have I not yet discovered?

The food here is so simple, but it is fresh, and rich in nutrients. In the morning one eats boiled guineo, a starchy banana, or a yautía coco, which is known as taro in English. It might sound bland, but these vegetables have so much natural flavor, that there is no need to douse them with sauces or seasonings. The fruits are pure and sweet, leaving barely any desire for the dulces de coco (coconut sweets) or empanadas de guayaba (empanadas with guayaba). Well, maybe that is not entirely true! The various types of beans are cooked for hours with leaves of cilantro, onion, and tomato, giving them a tasty and satisfying flavor. I watched a woman fry the salt for the rice in the oil before pouring in the rest of the ingredients to give it more flavor. Para darle más sabor. A Dominican meal would not be complete without well- cooked rice. The national dish, mangú, which is a plate of boiled plantains, mashed with their cooking water, butter, and served with cheese and pickled onions, is one of the most gratifying comfort foods that exists. Granted, some of these flavors require acquiring a taste for them. However, they have always represented to me how the rest of the world eats. Simple foods cooked with love and years and years of experience.

July 10, 2007   |   0 comments
Tags: Food, Travel