Jetlagged in Firenze

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Ciao tutti! After months of anticipation, we’ve finally made it to Italy. Our first stop was Florence, a bustling city in the heart of Tuscany. Hours after arriving we took the recommendation of our hostess Chiara (and our enthusiastic neighbor on our flight from Paris) and headed to Cibreo Trattoria. Chef Fabio Picchi has several restaurants under the same name, but the trattoria is known for serving simpler (and more affordable) food than the ristorante. The 45 minute wait was rough in our jet-lagged state but proved to be well worth it once the food hit our table.

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For our “Primi Piatti” we had porcini soup and a flawlessly executed parmesan polenta – the soup was rich and earthy and the polenta offered a simple trio of flavors of corn, butter and parmesan.

For our main course we ordered parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parmesan) and polpette di pollo, vitello e ricotta (chicken, veal and ricotta meatballs). While eggplant parmesan is as common as spaghetti in the states, we’ve found it a bit difficult to find veggies on restaurant menus and wanted something lighter than veal tripe or a stuffed chicken neck with the head still attached. As with everything we ate, it was delicious.

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Since we’re usually early risers (ha ha) we decided to take advantage of the early morning light and go for a sunrise run.

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These beauties came from a bakery near San Lorenzo. The pistachio cream filled croissant was delicious but definitely not something you can do everyday. We’re not sure how the Italians do it, but we’ll enjoy them while we’re here.

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The Mercato Centrale is a great place to buy fresh seafood, meat, cheese and locally made products. Recently, they renovated the upstairs to create a place for locals to hang out, watch a soccer game and grab a quick bite. It’s reminiscent of the Ferry Building in San Francisco and has some of the best pizza we’ve had so far on our trip.

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For our last full day in Florence, we opted to get out of the city and take a tour of the Chianti region. What started out as a really rainy, “what were we thinking?” ride in the car, turned into our favorite part of our trip so far. Our group was small (just us and one other couple) and our guide Simon was super friendly and knowledgeable. After a tour of a small, family-run vineyard (in Italy, family-run means it’s been in the same family for 200 years), we visited several small hill-top villages where you can literally walk the entire circumference in under 10 minutes.

For lunch we ate at Cantinetta Sassolini, where we learned that if you didn’t finish your plate, you’d get a talking-to from the chef. Though we were still full from a snack at the winery, it wasn’t hard to gobble down the succulent Chicken Diavolo. After lunch, the rain opened up to dramatic vistas of the Chianti countryside and a visit to a castle that was featured in the movie “Much Ado About Nothing.” If you’re ever in Florence and looking to experience rural Tuscany, be sure to check out “A Slow Day in Tuscany.”

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Tutto va bene for this photogenic fella…

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Oh and by the way…siamo fidanzato! 🙂

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Thai Coolers: Chicken Satay and Fresh Spring Rolls

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Summers in Seattle historically start after July 4th. You can’t bank on really hot weather until August and if you’re lucky, the warm days stretch into September. Starting mid-May this year, Seattle has had an EPIC summer of clear days and 90˚ scorchers, with no signs of letting up. While most Seattleites will be cursing the heat and begging for the rain, we both thrive in weather where we can get outside and enjoy the great Northwest scenery. (Okay, so it’s not so fun when it’s still 80˚ in your apartment at 9:00 at night, but we’ll take it!)

So far this summer, we have been to McClellan Butte, Bandera Mountain, Lake Melakwa, and Annette Lake. And that’s not counting the daily walks, runs, and occasional tennis that keep us busy. We’ve learned that if you’re going to hike in the mid-day sun (because let’s face it, we can never get out of the house before 11am!), then you better bring enough sunscreen and a ton of water. Better yet, end your hike at an alpine lake and really cool off.

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After a recent take-out order gone awry where our Thai restaurant forgot the spring rolls, we decided to make our own. Though preparation can be time-consuming, homemade spring rolls are fresh, herbaceous, and the perfect food to cool down with on hot days. Since we were going all veggie in our rolls, Elliott also whipped up a quick chicken satay recipe for the side. Here’s what we came up with!

Fresh Herb Spring Rolls:
1 package rice paper wraps
Green lettuce, torn into large pieces
1/2 carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 English cucumber, peeled and cut into matchsticks
Handful of cilantro
Fresh mint

Fresh Mango & Bell Pepper Spring Rolls:
1 package rice paper wraps
Green lettuce, torn into large pieces
1/2 carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 red bell pepper, thin slices
1/2 mango, sliced or diced
Handful of cilantro

Once you’ve prepped all of the ingredients, soak a rice paper wrap in a dish of warm water. On a wooden cutting board, lay the softened wrap flat and add a green leaf piece to the bottom half. Depending on which wrap you’re making, add all of the other ingredients and roll it up like a small burrito. Set on a plate and cover with a wet hand towel. Though we have made our peanut sauce from scratch in the past, we like the peanut sauce by ThaiFusions.

Chicken Satay
1 chicken breast, sliced in half and then into strips
1 small shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 inch piece of lemongrass, minced
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
2 tbsp. soy sauce
3 tbsp. fish sauce
3 tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 lime, juiced
Thai chili to taste

Marinate the chicken for 30 minutes or more. Meanwhile, soak wooden skewers in water so they don’t burn on the grill. When it’s time to grill, cook the chicken until golden on each side and serve with the peanut sauce. Enjoy!

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The view atop Bandera Mountain.

A Week in San Francisco: Food Nerds in Paradise

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When Elliott learned he had to be in San Francisco on business two weeks in a row, it seemed like the perfect excuse to tag along and make our requisite 9:45 reservation at Rich Table (we don’t have photos this time, but the hamachi appetizer was amazing!).

We started our week in a charming airbnb in the Castro and since it was a beautiful day, we trekked up through Haight-Ashbury to Golden Gate Park. San Francisco is a very walkable city which explains the surprisingly patient drivers at crosswalks and bakeries at every corner. On our first day in town, we happened to walk into Bi-Rite, an unassuming market that is a foodie’s treasure chest. We chatted with a friendly cheese gal and walked away with a small disk of Zingerman’s — some of the best goat cheese we’ve ever tried. Combined with salami, cara cara oranges, meyer lemon yogurt, and a frangipani croissant from Tartine Bakery, we could see this neighborhood was very dangerous for our waistlines, hills or not. Continue reading

Superbowl Special: Brady’s Deflated Pigskins

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The Seahawks are back in the Superbowl so we couldn’t resist another football themed appetizer. A local chef already capitalized on the Skittle frenzy with this rainbow flavored sausage, so we had to get creative. What better inspiration than Deflategate? With bacon laces and a hidden layer of pickled jalapeños, these pigskins are the perfect fuel for those hungry fans. Continue reading

Tongue Twisting Treat: Autumn Apple Appetizer

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I recently sent Elliott to Costco for toilet paper and he came back with a car load of supplies, including a chunk of cheese the size of a small baby. Granted it was Beecher’s Flagship, but still! Then my dad stopped by with a bag of apples fresh from his orchard. It was time to get to work, so we came up with this simple cheesy-apple treat that’s much easier to make than it is to say. It’s like an open-faced croissant that can be thrown together in a few minutes but is still sophisticated enough for holiday dinner parties. So what if it cancels out your workout in just a single bite? 😉 Continue reading

Bell’s Beach Mussels with Chorizo and Thyme

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs much as we love living in Seattle, it’s sometime nice (and necessary) to get out of the city and away from the constant assault of sirens, leaf blowers, and NOISE. We knew our time for warm, sunny days was slipping away, so we headed up to Whidbey Island for a relaxing weekend with some friends visiting from France. Elliott’s family has a great little cabin on Bell’s Beach where you can watch the tide come in and with little effort, wade out to as many mussels as you can eat.  After two mornings of waking up to complete silence, a lazy kayaking adventure,  and the feeling of warm sand between our toes, we were at last rejuvenated to return to our life of city living. Here’s a great recipe if you’re ever in need of a little escape from the city (or if you’ve just got a hankering for bivalves)! 🙂 Continue reading