Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Familiar faces

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and for me that will always be a pizza or gelato shop. Finally being back and living in Florence again and working for Bus2alps living my dream life comes with a lot of perks, and one of the best is being close enough with the people behind my favorite food in Florence to be greeted by name when I order my daily panino/pizza/gelato. 

Pino after wine tasting...true love
There are a lot of things I love about this city, but one of the best has to be getting to see all of my favorite people I met while abroad last time again. By which I mean pizzaiolos, panini men, and gelato makers, because duh I spend all my time here eating. I'm never happier than when walking into Gusta Pizza and being greeted with a friendly "Amore mio!" or Pino's Panini and hearing "Ciao bella!" with a wink from Pino. Today I went back to Vestri for the first time, a gelato shop that's been closed for holiday since I've been back, and gorged myself on cioccolato gianduia a sale and crema con scricchiolio mandorla (chocolate hazelnut with salt and vanilla with almond crunch). When I paid, the man gave me a questioning look and asked if I had been there years before...I'm never happier about my gelato-a-day habit than when it makes enough of an impression on the people who work there that they still remember me years later. Obviously, I'll be back at Vestri on the daily again. 

Gusta Pizza on my last day in Florence two years ago
Living in another country can feel alienating and isolating from time to time, but something about Florence has always felt more like home than anything else. I feel like the city loves me back, which is not a vibe I really got from LA, that fiesty giant of a place. And on days when I think I might miss home, there's no better pick-me-up than eating some delicious food and being greeted with a friendly smile while doing so. 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tuesdays are tough days

Tuesday is almost over and that is something I am happy about. Today may have been the longest Tuesday ever, except for last Tuesday, which was also quite long since it masqueraded as Monday after a 3 day weekend. Does anyone else feel like Tuesdays might just be worse than Mondays?

In any case, I opted to try to turn this Tuesday around with some pinot, Bananagrams with the roommates, and a little ingredient-improvisation to create some cheesecake marbled brownies:

I used this recipe, but substituted 9 tablespoons of cocoa (I have no idea what normal-person measurement that equates to, but I googled unsweetened chocolate substitute and it said 3 tablespoons cocoa and 1 tablespoon butter for every ounce) and 3 extra tablespoons of Earth Balance (I also didn't have butter since my vegan roommates are slowly swaying my food choices). They were still pretty unbelievable, because it turns out, chocolate is pretty much chocolate--unless you are an actual chef or real food blogger and have money to splurge on fancy things like high quality ingredients. If you are more like me, Albertson's brand cocoa powder will do just fine. 

Moral of the story: brownies with cheesecake swirled in and melty chocolate chips on top can actually fix pretty much anything. 

In other news, I ventured out to my home territory of the Inland Empire (exactly as glamorous as it sounds) for an outdoor Mumford & Sons concert this weekend with some of my favorite people and it was pretty great. 

Kenda and Jessica, two of my favorite ladies on the planet, plus photobomb guy in the background, who I guess also seems pretty cool

 The whole concert, I was complaining wondering aloud about why they weren't turning on the twinkly lights. Turns out they later synchronized the lights to the music, almost as if a professional somewhere planned it rather than listening to my insistence that things would be so much better if only the strings of lights were glowing. 

Jess, Kenda and I all brought our older siblings for a full-blown family fest!

Even though the night ended with a solid two and a half hours stuck trying to exit the parking lot, the concert itself was pretty fabulous, and made me wish I had more outdoor concerts planned for the summer! If anyone would like to take me to Outside Lands or a similar event, I am now accepting invitations.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cappellini with cherry tomatoes

Made with love!

There is not a lot I love more than really good pasta. I have pretty high standards when it comes to what qualifies as really good pasta since my pickiness has led me to reeeeally focus in on the foods that I do love. And I got pretty snobby about my pasta while living in Italy since I ate it at least once a day (jk I still do that).

Contradictorily, this doesn't stop me from chowing down on some standard spaghetti with Ragu, but I do irrationally resent it a little bit. So my solution, when I choose to take the extra few minutes, is to make a simple olive oil, garlic, basil, and cherry tomato sauce over cappellini. Adding some parmesan doesn't hurt, either (does it ever?), and using fresh tomatoes actually makes a big difference vs. canned sauce, try as I might to deny it. I base it loosely off this recipe since it makes me feel fancy (it doesn't take much). But I substitute normal basil and garlic for lemon basil and garlic chives because I'm not totally convinced those are real things (which I guess negates the fanciness). It's pretty easy to eyeball, though, and is perfect with some white wine for a summer dinner.

This is not pasta. But it is a lovely Insta stolen from Kenda that illustrates what dinners in our backyard are like (beer is a staple, obviously). 

Alternatively, I never grow tired of a simple pasta (preferably orecchiette) with butter, parmesan, black pepper, and red chili flakes. What's your go-to for a quick and tasty dinner?

Monday, April 1, 2013


My dream of sleeping in a lighthouse began last Spring Break (back when I still had Spring Break...I miss you, college), and although I ended up in a yurt instead of a lighthouse--totally worth it--I haven't given up on the idea. My sweet parents are letting my brother and me join them for a week when they go to Ireland this summer, and we've finally started making our first attempts at planning. By which I mean my mom has been flipping through Rick Steves' guide to Ireland while I google things like "castles where I can sleep in Ireland" and "can I stay overnight in a lighthouse on the Dingle Peninsula". So we still have a couple details to work out, but it's going well so far.

Disappointingly, the only lighthouse where you can actually stay in Ireland is 100% booked for July (apparently this is a more popular thing than I realized?) but there are a few lighthouse keeper houses available, which sounds almost as cool.

How fun would it be to stay right on the edge of a dramatic Irish cliff, surrounded by greenery?

Would you want to stay in (or near) a lighthouse? Imagine how fun it would be to explore the seaside by day and cozy up by a fire at night, listening to the waves crash on the cliffs just outside! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Parmesan potatoes

If I haven't made it clear yet, cheese and potatoes are two of my favorite things in life. I've been meaning to make one of the many recipes that combine the two that you'll find on my Pinterest (look for anything that's not Nutella-based on my recipes board and it's probably potatoes), but never got around to it between all the pasta that consumes most of my meals. 

Anyway. Last night I really stepped up my game. Not only did I make these parmesan roasted potatoes to have along with my veggie burger, but I ran (ok, power walked) to the store to buy the potatoes first. Let's put it in perspective by considering that I counted Monday night as productive because I made cookies and caught up on The Office. 

The point is, these are amazing. And crazy easy. I'm not a food photographer (/not a photographer at all), but if they look this good in iPhone pictures with dismal lighting, imagine how good they are in real life. Biggest tip I can offer: don't imagine that there's no such thing as too much cheese (I know, I know, it feels wrong even to type it) because the excess parmesan won't stick to the potatoes and you'll just get a messy pan. Also, I substituted rosemary for paprika, and it was deeeeelish.

Happy Wednesday, friends!

Friday, February 8, 2013

San Diego

Hi, buddy!
In addition to traveling out of state and country as much as possible, I've been trying to acclimate to and explore the Southern California area I actually live in a bit as well. By which I mean I go to San Diego like every other weekend and pretend that I really live there.

Between Christmas and New Years, a few of my best friends from high school gathered in SD together at Fiona's apartment downtown. This was my first introduction to Gaslamp post being at first drink. Is that appropriate to say? 

We feel seriously about San Diaaago. 

On my next trip in early January, I met up with my parents for the weekend, who were there for the math meetings (it's a real thing). Since their hotel was conveniently about a block from aforementioned Fiona's, we also met up and, along with Gaslamp bars take two, checked out the farmers market in Little Italy after some morning yoga at Lululemon (it's free!!?). As a longtime lover of all things Italian and free cheese and bread samples (which we took every opportunity to shamelessly devour before skulking away), I was similarly smitten. 

Then my mom and I headed over to the San Diego Zoo, the real highlight of the weekend (/my life)! 

I made some new friends, including this friendly fellow. 

And these nuzzling zebra lovers!

That night, after dinner at Neighborhood in downtown SD, I went out in Pacific Beach for the first time with Fiona.

The next morning dawned bright and early (by which I mean my mom faced the challenge of getting me out of bed around 8 am for the zoo part 2 after I had stumbled back to the hotel a few hours earlier. Oops.). On our second zoo trip, we started by taking the airway tram (I have no idea what it's really called) for some gorgeous views of the city and zoo below us. I'm a huge sucker for any form of faux-flying, so I was all over it. 

Hangin out with my favorite lady and animal! (Mom, and elephant. If you were unclear.)

 Aaaand most recently, I spent the last weekend beer tasting around San Diego breweries (Stone, Ballast Point, and Green Flash) with a big group of friends, including Kaley, one of my closest friends from SLO. This is at the first brewery (Stone), which was set in a beautiful garden. 

 We also got a tour of how the beer's made at Ballast Point with the whole group, which required some super snazzy safety goggles. I can't say I wasn't into them. 

Suffice to say, after hanging out in Little Italy, at the zoo, multiple breweries, delicious restaurants, and a variety of nightlife, I'm even more into San Diego than ever before. 

Stay tuned for updates on my actual city of residence with some fab roommates, including my best friend from, well, forever, Kenda (check out her amazing blog here!).

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Back in time

I'm all for black and white photography, but I came across these amazing color photographs of Paris in the early 20th century today, and I had to share. There's seldom a time I wouldn't love to be jetting off to Paris, but these last few days have felt especially worthy of running away to the land of baguettes and crepes. Not that I don't totally value the city of lights for more than its food.

Anyway, these photos are as close to Paris as I'm getting in the foreseeable future (and as close to the 1900s as I'm getting til I can get my hands on that DeLorean), so have a glance through and fuel your own wanderlust (and time-travel wishes?). Just a few are included below, but you can see them all here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Small town, USA

Hi, friends!

A few months ago, as fall was still stubbornly evading us in LA, I was lucky enough to head back east to celebrate my grandparents' 65th anniversary (65. YEARS.) in the cutest little farm town in America.

My mother, from whom I inherited my wanderlust, moved to California from the tiny town of Wango, Maryland (where the rest of her family still lives), when she was in her early 20s. Because of this, I've been lucky enough to travel back east at least once a year for most of my life. The atmosphere in this part of the states is totally different from California. For instance, anytime you pass someone driving on the back roads, they wave to you, either because they know you, they assume they know your family, or they're just friendly. I appreciate that.

This particular trip was especially farm-y as it involved a trip to my first-ever corn maze.

My beautiful Aunt Susan 

The Adkins Farm also involved a hay jump, which is literally jumping off a bale of hay onto more hay. Totally recommend it. 

And some other attractions, like this delightful slide. 

There was also a little store with all kinds of fall gourds and assorted farm-fresh merchandise.

Along with corn maze adventures, my mom, three aunts, and I all went wine tasting on another farm. 

I've never thought of wine in general as particularly suited to the eastern shore, but when was the last time this girl turned down a wine tasting? (Never, is the answer.)

Most of the time, though, was just spent at my grandparents' farm, soaking in time with family I don't get to see often. This is the picture-perfect back road my Aunt Joan's house is on. 

We flew in and out of DC, so we also spent a little time there--I love the colorful storefronts. 

And, finally, we dropped in on Lincoln to pay our respects. I'm a sucker for memorials. 

California friends, have you traveled back east? Which coast do you prefer? Would you like to live in a small town, or are you more suited to city life? I'm still trying to figure that out!