All Trains Lead to Rome

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Molti planes, trains, and automobiles later, we at last arrived at our final stop on our Italian tour, the grand city of Rome. It was Elliott’s first visit and Carinn’s third, but it is always breathtaking nonetheless. From the Forum and Colosseum to the Sistine Chapel and Pantheon, this city is filled with one ancient marvel after another.

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Michelangelo’s “Selfie”

Coming from a city that was built over the last 200 years, we were overwhelmed with the seamless juxtaposition between 3000 years of history and the modern world of Segway tours, selfie sticks, and wi-fi (though our connection at our Airbnb was still stuck in the dark ages).

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We loved the location of our Airbnb right in the center of Trastevere. The winding streets and endless selection of restaurants made for a tough decision each night. If it had wi-fi or cacio e pepe (a delicious local spaghetti made with pecorino cheese and black pepper), we were in. Though we didn’t have one bad meal during our stay in Trastevere, our favorite was Antica Pesa, an upscale restaurant with an impressive roster of celebrity visitors. Their wine “list” was a book the size of the Oxford English Dictionary and their menu featured items like cod foam and steak tartare with black truffle tapioca balls. If you’re lucky enough to dine alone like the American woman at the table next to us, you may even get a few sit-down visits from the owner who will indulge in several glasses of wine and makes effortless conversation look like an art form.

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Considering the meager amount of pasta and pizza we usually allow ourselves at home, this trip was quite the indulgence. Despite our daily orders of insalata mista, we were craving our standard dose of broccoli, kale, and other dark, leafy greens. With a kitchen of our own and a surprisingly affordable farmer’s market in Campo di Fiori, we set out to recreate one of our favorite salads.

The K+4P=D Salad

1 head of lacinato or dinosaur kale, torn into pieces
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 pear, cubed
3-4 thin slices pancetta, fried until crispy
Fresh pecorino cheese, shaved

Dressing:
4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. mustard powder
A pinch of Calabrian chili flake
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste

Dress the kale at least 30 minutes before serving and gently massage into the leaves. When ready to serve, toss in the remaining ingredients and add in any additional olive oil, vinegar and salt as needed (the kale will soak up a surprising amount of the dressing).

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Besides a delicious (and perhaps the best) gelato during our stay in Positano , we didn’t really dig into this frozen treat until we arrived in Rome. Enter Fior di Luna, a small ‘artiginale’ gelateria located conveniently a few blocks away from our Airbnb. Elliott had read some favorable reviews online so we decided to give it a try. We kid you not, we “tried” this place three times. From the creamy “Fred” pictured above to a pear sorbetto that was almost better than the real thing, this spot delivered, and delivered and delivered.

Elliott hard at work on the blog.

Elliott hard at work on the blog.

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Carinn hard at work with her book.

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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! 🙂

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

World Cup Marsala with Chicken, Asparagus, and Spinach

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In Elliott’s opinion, the four weeks of the World Cup have got to be the least productive work days across the whole world. With literally billions tuning in to follow the drama, the games have had a ton of highs, lows, and surprises, including the rare feat of getting Carinn to sit through an entire match. Even though the Azurri are out of the tournament, we’ll use any excuse to cook Italian. Here’s a quick recipe with tons of flavor that won’t take you away from the TV for long. Go USA!!! Continue reading

Spring Decadence Pasta with Morels, Asparagus, and Pancetta

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While at the store recently, I heard Elliott squeal with delight and found him drooling over an enormous basket of fresh morel mushrooms. They have long been his favorite fungus and since they have such a short season, when we see them, we know it’s time to cast aside all diets and eat like royalty. This recipe is an ode to Elliott’s time at the Palace Kitchen where every spring, morels would be served in a rich cream sauce over Martha’s fresh pasta. Here, the asparagus, pancetta, and white wine are the perfect complements to the sweet, savory flavor of the morels. 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

Naked Picatta with Zucchini Goat-Boats

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This meal is a good example of something that I thought could never get better with the current changes to my diet. Boy, was I wrong. By swapping out the flour with some Emerill’s seasoning, we discovered how truly delicious a spicy picatta sauce can be. I ran into the same thing with these zucchini boats. Nowadays the cheese department is overflowing with alternatives to cow’s milk. When I saw a goat’s milk ricotta, I immediately recalled this tasty number. Whether I go back to cow’s milk or not, these boats have been forever goatified! In some ways I’m really starting to like this diet because it’s forcing us to get out of culinary ruts and truly stretch ourselves. We can’t wait to see where else it takes us! Continue reading

Colorful Corned Beef Hash

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Back in March, Carinn and I came into a stash of left-over corned beef after my parents made an enormous feast for St. Patrick’s day. I went hog wild making reuben sandwiches for a few days, and one weekend we put together this quick and tasty recipe. We threw in a couple of locally grown heirloom purple potatoes that PCC happened to have in stock to add some color, but they’re not necessary. This meal proved to be great Saturday morning fuel for our weekend run! Continue reading