The Kitchen Bistro on Pearl Street in Boulder, CO

posted in: Boulder, Colorado, USA | 0

At the west end of Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, Colorado, is The Kitchen, a bistro that serves fresh, locally-sourced fare as well as craft beer and organic wines. The service is great, the food is perfect and the beverages fantastic!

Blue Cheese Sablés Butter Cookies

posted in: Recipes | 0

A tangy variation on the plain sablés, or French butter cookies. Adding blue cheese enhances the melt-in-your-mouth quality of these delicate little cookies. They are great for wine-tasting, and you can keep some dough in the freezer ready to bake for last-minute guests. Recipe included.

White Asparagus, or Spargel, Germany’s Favorite Spring Vegetable

posted in: Europe | 1

Because we had such a mild winter and an early spring this year, white asparagus, or Spargel, appeared in late March at the markets and supermarkets here in Bavaria.

It normally appears about mid-April and is enjoyed with as-close-as-Germans-get-to-wild-abandon until late June. It is not unusual for a German to have Spargel three or four times a week during Spargel season. The season is over on Johannistag, the Catholic Feast of St. John, on 24 June. During that time Spargel is in every outdoor market and supermarket and on every restaurant menu. Restaurants and pubs usually offer a special “Spargel Menu” during this time. read more

Santa Giulia Wine Estate, Montalcino, Italy

posted in: Europe, Italy, Tuscany | 3
In my last post, I promised you accounts of my Tuscan vacation in December.  One of the daytrips we took included a visit to what has to be our entire group’s favorite destination of that week, Santa Giulia, near Montalcino.One of our tour guides referred to the family that owns this small wine estate as “The Holy Family” and it is easy to see why. Firstly, the family consists of the parents and one son. Secondly, they produce just heavenly wine, food and experiences!We were met early that morning by yet another handsome tour guide, Andrea Caroni. Andrea is the twin, and younger brother by five minutes, of our driver from the previous day, Marco. They run a chauffeur and tour guide service which I highly recommend. They drove us to all of our daytrips save one that week and also roundtrip from the Florence airport. They speak perfect English and couldn’t be nicer or more knowledgeable, so give them a call if you need Tuscan driving service. Tell ’em I sent ya!Andrea drove us to the area just southeast of Siena known as the Montalcino wine-producing region. This area is famous worldwide for its Brunello di Montalcino red wine. Sign me up!If I haven’t impressed upon you that the Tuscan countryside is just simply breathtaking, then take note now. I can’t describe just how pleasurable it is to just soak it all in while standing on a Tuscan hillside. These sweeping vistas consist of huge rolling hills and deep valleys, all drenched in the most golden of sunlight.As Andrea drove us southward, the landscape slowly morphed into even more beautiful views, if that’s even possible. The hills became more gentle yet with valleys still as deep. And every earth tone known to man is represented, many times in close juxtaposition. This area is known as the Clay Hills and have been designated a UNESCO preserved area because of a couple thousand years of human agriculture that has helped shape the hills and valleys.Interesting is, several years ago before I ever went to Tuscany I painted a mural on the dining room wall in my Florida house. I always referred to that room as my “Wine Room” and to the room itself as my “Tuscan verandah.” Much to my surprise, the real Clay Hills look exactly like my mural, from the angle of the slopes to the colors! I was speechless. We arrived at Santa Giulia and were met by Gianluca (Like ‘Jean Luc-a’) Terzuoli, the son and winemaker. He gave us a quick tour of the wine cellar, which was by far the smallest we saw that week.Gianluca led us into a tiny concrete room crowded with big wooden wine barrels and talked about his vocation and their plans to expand. He then gave us an overview of the official Italian wine designations of IGT, DOC and DOCG, which, to be honest, we’d heard at least four times that week before Gianluca explained it.Basically, winemakers in Italy must follow strict rules to be able to designate their wines with one of those abbreviations. It’s the Italian equivalent to the French Appelation designations. Winemakers must submit their wine and proof of the wine making methods to an official committee. DOCG is awarded to wines that have been made following a strict set of rules about type and percentage of grapes used, aging time, and so on. DOC is slightly less restrictive, and IGT is less restrictive still.For example, Fattoria di Corsignano, the wine estate where we stayed, is located in the Chianti region. For their Chianti Classico wine to earn a DOCG designation, they must submit it to the Chianti Classico Consortium. Some of the rules are that the wine must be made from at least 80% local Sangiovese grapes and a maximumn 20% other specific local red grapes. If the Consortium passes them, they get to call their wine DOCG and get to use the black rooster logo. No other winemaker gets to do that. The Consoritium issues only a specific number of paper bottle seals to each estate, depending on how many they applied for. The seals bear the black rooster and a serial number; one seal is affixed to each bottle produced. If an estate misplaces their seals, it’s an act of congress to get replacements, apparently.By the way, I have a personal theory that the black rooster logo was chosen so that English speakers can refer to it as the ‘black cock.’ But I digress…In case you’re interested, here’s a link to the Brunello di Montalcino Consortium website.Anyway, as Gianluca continued his spiel, I did a few photos: This next one is a photo of a glass airlock atop the wine barrels. We saw a lot of them on our rounds that week. We were told that Leonardo da Vinci designed these airlocks. I couldn’t verify that with a short internet search, but it is oft-quoted. The airlocks are cool either way! Next, Gianluca led us into the farmhouse. It was inviting and warm on this chill day! His mother, whose name I believe was Mirabelle though I can’t be sure, was bustling around in the kitchen preparing one of the most delicious meals of the week for us: We explored the lovely, cozy room and Cyndie and I found cookbooks about Tuscan bread to buy on the sideboard. We warmed ourselves by the fire and chatted with Gianluca for a while. Presently, Mama called us to the table. Insistently, because, after all, it was ready!I can’t tell you how delicious this food was – better than any else we had that week. And let me tell you, we had GREAT food that week! Andrea told us that, in addition to Gianluca being the winemaker, his father raised pigs and made capicola, salami, proscuito and lombo, my new favorite pork cold cut. We sampled all of it. Wow.

Mama served us pecorino from the local area, which is a delicious sheep’s cheese. All you Americans eating pecorino romano, forget it. This is way different!

Mama hooked us up some fresh bruschetta:

The best part of this fantastic meal was the homemade pasta with meat ragù:

For dessert – as if anyone had any room at all for dessert! – was what she called Crema Chantilly, a lemon cream dream between layers of puff pastry sprinkled with cocoa: 

Of course, throughout the meal we were served a different estate wine with each course. The star of any winery in this area is the Brunello DOCG, which was truly exceptional here. However, my absolute favorite of these wines, and of the whole week’s wines, was their Rosso (means ‘red’ in Italian), which is their IGT. Oh my but it was delicious! My only regret is not buying a case of that ruby red jewel, it was so fruity and wonderful!I learned that Brunello means ‘brown’ in Italian and was the name of the local grape variety around Montalcino. However, it was later scientifically proven that the Brunello grape was the same as the Sangiovese grape grown in other regions. This is a prime example of how the terroir, or climate, soil, air quality, etc., changes the taste of a grape and therefore a wine. The Italian powers that be decreed that the Brunello grape be called Sangiovese like the rest of the vines elsewhere. However, the wine’s name stayed the same. read more

Italy, December 2013

posted in: Europe | 8

Happy new year! Wow, 2013 was a fast, fantastic, eventful year. I have much to reflect upon and be happy about. And, I’m looking forward to 2014. I hope you are, too.

You’ve noticed, surely, that the name and the look of this blog has changed dramatically! I’m very excited about the changes. I named it after my first book, A Travel for Taste – Collected Czech Family Recipes. It’s still available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions, by the way.I am currently working on the next book in the same series, this time featuring German family recipes. Of course, I’ll keep you posted about when that one is available.The updated blog name and appearance is part of my 2014 effort to focus more on the writing, photography and other work I want to do, as opposed to what I have to do. Help me out by subscribing to this blog (link is at right) and forwarding the link to people you know who might appreciate my stories and photos. I appreciate all of your attention!Because ole ’13 was so busy for me, I haven’t posted much in the last few months. But I DO have lots to post about for I was up to the travels again. I know I promised you Munich Christmas markets as my next post, but that was before I realized I was not going to be able to post anything before Christmas. So I’ll save that for when it’s more timely.Now, I’ll take you with me on part of my December trip to Tuscany, which did not disappoint. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know I was in Tuscany last May for a fantastic dream vacation with my husband and our friends Carmela and Ivan. We loved it so much we went there again with another couple, Cyndie and Bram, in December, just a week before Christmas. If dream vacations can be improved upon, this was it.That one week seemed like so much more time, with daytrips, shopping trips, cooking classes and an ongoing stream of fabulous wines and eats. We stayed at Fattoria di Corsignano, the agriturismo where we stayed in May. As with all agriturismi (Did you see what I did there? Used the Italian plural, I did!), it’s a working estate that produces its own wine and olive oil in addition to offering sleeping and eating accommodations to the likes of us. The owners, Elena and Mario, really outdid themselves in providing us an amazing, memorable stay.The one photo I took that pretty much sums up the entire trip has to be this one:

Unless, of course, it’s this one: We had booked a 5-night package and everything was taken care of, from rides to/from the Florence airport to meals to cooking classes to chauffeured daytrips and everything in between.We boarded a plane in Munich,

… flew across the Alps,

… and were met at the airport by Marco. I love it when handsome men are looking for me!

Marco drove us to Corsignano, near Siena, where we were met by the staff and where, I might add, we were the only guests. It was the week before Christmas and I highly recommend this time of year for something like this because it is not crowded. We did have to make sure the people and events were available before booking because of the holiday season, however, so do your homework in advance if you go.What followed is one of the most enjoyable, memorable weeks of my life. I can’t wait to tell you more about our adventures and experiences in future posts!I’m convinced I am destined to live in Tuscany. The golden light is phenomenal and everywhere you look is truly a picture-postcard. It’s nearly impossible to take a bad picture. To demonstrate how stunning and changing the Tuscan countryside is, take a look at this series of shots from our bedroom window several mornings in a row at approximately the same time:Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of the new blog design. Next time I’ll introduce you to a small wine estate near Montalcino that produces extraordinary rosso and brunello. Stay tuned!Photo for No Apparent Reason:

Heckenwirtschaft, Latest Chapter

posted in: Europe | 3

Best laid plans of mice and men and all that. I hope some of you noticed I did not post a blog last week. Well, I had carved out a couple of hours last Sunday afternoon and was all set to deliver the most amusing, edifying post ever, when my long-time German friends called and asked if I wanted to join them in a trip to the local wine room, or Heckenwirtschaft. Well, uh, YEAH.

So I ditched you in favor of consuming some local German wine. Sorry, but I’m sure you would have done the same in my shoes. In fact, my blog post this week is an account of that.But first, check out my latest acceptances to my stock photo inventory on Alamy.com. I continue to have my submissions approved, which does wonders for my ego. Now, I want to start selling some of the images, so if you or someone you know is interested, please consider my wares. Thanks.Back to the wine. A Heckenwirtschaft is very European and I’ve explained it in detail in a freelance article and in a couple of previous blog posts. They serve the local wine there along with typical German food such as dark bread, cheese, salami and cold cuts. But the wine is the focus. The selection at this one was Schwarzriesling, a red wine that is otherwise known as pinot noir; Bacchus, a very fruity white wine and, while not my favorite wine, my favorite name for a grape; plus the usual suspects of Riesling and Sylvaner.Heckenwirtschaft literally translates from German as “hedge business.” They are only allowed to open a few weeks in the spring and fall each year. I had been to the one we visited last week a couple of times before. It is run by Christine Rippstein and I consider her an old friend of mine. I’ve given her photos and some quilling and she’s give me wine. It works out very well for me! Here’s a shot of her place: To signal they are open, owners traditionally hang a broom or a bough or two of – what else – branches from the hedge on the building. They are sometimes part of a vineyard or just associated with the local winemaker in some way.

The wine was good, as usual, and Christine was there, working her butt off, along with her mother and daughter, to get the clientele their wine, cheese and bratwurst. Here’s a shot of Christine standing beside my German “mom,” Hilde: read more

How to Make Flan in a Foreign Country

posted in: Recipes | 4

You may remember from last week’s blog that I recently started posting some of my photos for sale on a stock photo site called Alamy. I uploaded a few more this week, so if you’re in the market or know someone who needs photos for brochures, websites, books or other publications, check out my Alamy page. I’ll be adding something most weeks, so check back often. Thanks!

This week I want to tell you about a recent adventure making flan from my friend Carmela’s mother’s recipe. Flan is a delicious custard dessert of Spanish origins. In this case, the recipe comes direct from Mexico. Here are Carmela’s notes from a phone call with her mother: read more