Captivated by Capri

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Many years ago, Carinn visited Capri with a few girlfriends during a torrential downpour. They managed to make it to a pizzeria for dinner but were otherwise trapped in their hotel for the weekend. Carinn couldn’t remember much about the island but knew that she had to give it another chance. In her memory, Capri was a speck of an island with a couple of restaurants and some fancy hotels next to the port.

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In reality, the island has two totally separate towns, several ports and an intricate system of roads and narrow pathways that link everything together. In our two days on the island, we managed to cover the majority of the island by foot, boat and occasionally by bus. We also had some of the best weather of our entire trip and spent most of our time soaking in the spectacular views from various vantage points. In fact, most of the restaurants are perched right in the side of the steep hillside, with their dining rooms looking out on expansive vistas. We had fantastic seafood everywhere we ate, but a couple of our favorites were La Panorama and Ristorante Verginiello. The hand-made tube-shaped pasta with tomatoes and white-fish (we never were able to surmise what kind of fish it was, other than “it swims deep” and was “si, delicioso!”) pictured below was the manifestation of everything Elliott had been dreaming about Italian food before our trip – simple, fresh and incredibly tasty.

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If you go, we strongly recommend that you explore the ‘roads’ surrounding the main town of Capri – Via Del Pizzolungo and Via Tiberius were two of the most romantic paths we’ve ever walked, and besides a few narrow delivery trucks, they are essentially car-free.

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When we asked our friendly hotel concierge about walking to Anacapri, she encouraged us to take a bus to the top and walk down the 750 steps that connect the two towns, because going up would be far too strenuous; she obviously hadn’t met Elliott before. The challenge thus presented, we set out after breakfast in our running gear and climbed the well-maintained staircase and even opted out of the chairlift to the very top of Monte Solare, peaking at 589 meters (~1800 feet) above the sea. At the top, we got three “mamma mias!” from some Italian locals when they learned we had walked “a piedi” from the Marina.

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In the afternoon, we headed back to the port for a private boat tour around the island with an entertaining local named Paolo. As we lounged in the open-water gondola, we explored the various grottos, churches, ruins and sculptures, much of which are only accessible by boat. We did drive by the famous “Grotto Azzurro,” however it was closed due to a swell hitting that side of the island.

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When Elliott asked if it was okay to swim in “The Fisherman’s Grotto,” Paolo flashed a mischievous grin and said “This is Italy, you can swim anywhere!” We jumped into the stereotypically blue mediterranean water and had a lovely swim through the cave to our own private beach.

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Later on, Elliott mentioned that he had gone salmon fishing the week before our trip with Carinn’s brother. Paolo’s eyes lit up with excitement and he exclaimed “You want catch fish?” He reached into a hidden compartment beneath the deck and pulled out a weathered 3/4” piece of plywood with fishing line wrapped around it and tossed a 50 year-old lure into the sea behind the boat. Though the 3’ swells made Carinn a bit nervous, Paolo managed to help us reel in two tunas, catch a call on his cellphone (because it was his girlfriend after all) and steer the boat with his knees as if it were a glassy still day on the sea.

All in all, our trip to Capri was one of our highlights so far!

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! 🙂

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

Flo’s French Crepes…Oui Oui!

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When one of my best friends, Marketa, told me that she only wanted to eat Asian food while on vacation in Seattle from France, she wasn’t kidding. She has been here for over a month and can’t get enough Thai food, Sushi, Ramen and Pho. We really don’t know how good we have it around here when it comes to high quality international food!

Meanwhile, Elliott and I saw the perfect opportunity to extract some authentic French cooking out of them while they were in town. We hatched our plan on a road trip to Manzanita, Oregon; What better setting than a romantic cabin by the ocean, conveniently equipped with a kitchen? When Marketa’s boyfriend Flo offered to make crêpes for dinner, we couldn’t help but say “Oui, oui!”  With just a flick of the wrist (and Marketa’s help with the béchamel), Flo made the crêpes look effortless. All it took was a few bites and we were instantly transported to Paris! Continue reading

Warm Kale Salad with Pine Nuts, Feta, and Red Pepper

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Our younger selves would never believe this but we actually crave kale. In fact, Elliott is so obsessed, he eats it for breakfast every morning (way to get the veggies in early!). That said, we tend to reach our limits when it comes to traditional, cold kale salads (we have to give our jaws a break from all the chewing now and then). Sauteéd kale is a good way to get your kale fix but without the jaw workout. Here’s what Elliott came up with one day when he was procrastinating on his homework. Continue reading

Going Greek: Orzo with Feta, Kalamata Olives, and Bell Peppers

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This is a great salad when you’re craving something healthy and flavorful. The orzo can easily be switched out for quinoa and the feta omitted altogether. Since the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest diets around and veggies are best when eaten raw, this salad is a dietary god. When in doubt, go Greek! Continue reading

Homemade Falafel with Tahini and Tzatziki

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Every so often we get burned out on our standard rotation of pasta, salmon, chicken, and salads and get inspired to look for something new. Carinn was in the mood for something Mediterranean which reminded Elliott of his college days on the Ave. ordering falafel sandwiches from Aladdin’s at 2 a.m. These things were on a totally different planet than the dried-out, bland patties that were served at the cafeteria. Each falafel had a hot, crispy exterior and a steamy, aromatic center, all stuffed inside a fresh pita with tomatoes, lettuce, onions, and the garliciest tzatziki this side of the Euphrates. After an hour of research on the internet and YouTube, we set off to recreate this somewhat hazy, but scrumptious memory. Continue reading

Eetza Pizza Party!

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Last night we got the rare treat to hang out with our friend Lorn, who was in town from Bend. Since we just got a new pizza stone for Valentine’s Day and we used to sling pizzas together back in our days at PCC, we decided that there was no better time to break it in. In typical Elliott fashion, within 24 hours he had researched how to make an authentic Napoli pizza and even went on a special trip to an imported food distributor for the real deal Tipo “00” flour. I came home to six rising dough balls and yes, we ate all six. Continue reading

The Mignon Salad

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For Valentine’s Day this year, we had a delicious filet mignon dinner with a wine reduction and didn’t think it could get any better. Then the next day we tossed our leftovers into a salad and fell in love all over again. We wondered why more restaurants don’t offer a salad with this cut of meat. Paired with Amish blue cheese and super greens, the filet just melts in your mouth and you’ll be wishing you saved more!

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Humpday Soup with Broccoli, Kale, and Cheddar

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Last night we opened the fridge and realized that things had gotten out of hand. The vegetable crisper was packed to capacity so we decided to improvise a hearty soup with potatoes, broccoli, and kale for a midwinter humpday. It’s a flexible recipe, depending on what you have on hand, but here is what we threw together.

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