The Butcher of Panzano

If you’re going to Tuscany, you must find him.  He was the reason we drove out of our way for the shortest overnight stay of our trip. (Remember what I said about chefs recently?) To say the visit was worth it is an understatement.

But first… Where are we going? Panzano in Chianti. To go to a butcher shop? Trust me. But, seriously, where are we going?

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Bella Toscana

We travelled from Rome through Tuscany to Modena, then on to the Veneto, Venice, and back to Rome. When we planned the trip, we had no idea that it would be the last time we’d see Italy before a world health pandemic closed borders and sent us all home for an extended time out...

Tuscany gets a lot of attention. Most of it is well deserved. Often, it starts to sound all the same. I’m going to switch it up a bit. Of course, there were cypress trees, fertile vistas, and good wine. But, I’ll share some things I didn’t think about when I thought about Tuscany. And I’m guessing maybe you haven’t either.

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La Dolce Vita in Modena

Chefs are extremists. 

When an ingredient, technique, or another chef’s work speaks to us, we become obsessive. I visited Modena with another chef, and we were on a pilgrimage. Modena is the home of Chef Massimo Bottura. We planned a trip from California to Italy based on the availability of dinner reservations. Our obsession: Bottura’s three-Michelin-starred Osteria Francescana. More specifically, one dish: Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano (above). Of course, there was much more. But it all started there. 

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Opera|02: Not That Kind of Opera

No divas, only deliciousness. You’ll find Opera|02 di Ca’ Montanari a short drive outside the city of Modena. This is the Emilia-Romagna region. What some consider to be the gastronomic heart of Italy. Home to Parmigiano Reggiano, real balsamic vinegar, prosciutto, and Chef Massimo Bottura (more about him soon!). It’s also the home of Pavarotti, Maserati, and Ferrari – you get the idea. The best of the best.  

Over the next several posts I will continue to share the best parts of a three-week grand tour taken in February 2020. Just before Italy and the world took an extended time out. As it turns out, that was, indeed, a once in a lifetime journey. This is the second of a multi-part series. If you missed it, Orvieto was part one

I hope you’ll be inspired to wander along with me. And don’t forget to share your own stories of personal grand tours in the comments below!

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Orvieto: Street Art, Food, and Wine

Io resto a casa – the Italian battle cry of Spring 2020. But, before Italy (and the world) took an extended time out in March 2020, I was able to spend a few weeks there. A friend and I drove from Rome to Tuscany and Umbria, on to Emilia-Romagna, and into the Veneto (and Venice, sans car) before returning to Rome.

As it turns out, that was, indeed, a once in a lifetime journey. I’ll share some of my favorite stories in a series here on Wander Eat and Tell. Orvieto is part one.

I hope you’ll be inspired to wander along with me. And don’t forget to share your own stories of personal grand tours in the comments!

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Honoring The Past

In April of 2009 food blogs were still the new big thing and many (including this one) more resembled basic diaries with photos than the stylized food-zines many have become.

Wander, Eat, and Tell began when I was a teaching assistant to the man who was often credited with being the father of food blogging, the late Steven Shaw. Steven co-founded the eGullet Society, a chat room for all things food and drink – the more obscure the better. My life is richer and more delicious for having called him my friend and colleague.

Steven encouraged us all to write and post every day, no matter what. A sentence with a photo was plenty. It was more important to post something real and true than to suffer over drafts and edits and footnotes. This was mind-blowing for someone who had just finished a Master’s degree in Gastronomy. It was liberating, and inspiring, and scary, and very difficult.

All posts previous to this are the unedited originals from 2009-2012, though many were removed. These posts do not represent my best writing. The photos are usually poor (and sometimes sideways or upside-down). But, they’ll give you a glimpse into a delicious history, if you care to take a look.

Now, as I return to the business of blogging with Wander, Eat, and Tell, I’ll build on that past – in honor of Steven, and in honor of my own history and evolution. Eleven years, more than 18 countries, and millions of sips and bites later, I am excited to continue to Wander, Eat, and Tell.

I hope you’ll enjoy the journey with me.

In loving memory of Steven Shaw, “Beloved Teacher”

Heaven by the Sea

As long as there is Kaua’i, Don Ho’s words will ring true. After nearly ten years, I finally returned to Hawaii’s garden island and spent over a week basking in the sun (and moon) over Hanalei. This was a very low key trip. Traveling with two friends and a five month old guaranteed good company and quiet evenings sipping tropical cocktails in our condo enjoying cool breezes and the moon lingering over the ocean, then early mornings scooping fragrant lilikoi (passion fruit) from its shell while enjoying the glow of sunrise reflecting on the jagged mountains across the bay.

I’m very sad for all the suffering caused in NYC (aka Home) by Hurricane Sandy, but I am also deeply grateful for the delicious, tranquil moments spent in Heaven by the Sea.

View for our terrace

Cranberry-Almond Tart

For those of you who, like me, put some things off until the very last minute… or for those looking for a great use for leftover cranberry sauce, here’s a recipe for my favorite fall dessert.

Photo of cranberries by Jill Matsuyama on Flickr -

Cranberry-Almond Tart

 Serves 6-8

 1 – 9 inch Pie Crust:

 1 1/2 cups All-purpose flour

1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 ounces (1 stick) butter, cold, cut in cubes

1 egg mixed with 1/2 tablespoon water

Iced water, if needed

 Egg wash (one egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)

 Combine all the dry ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Add the cold butter cubes and pulse until sandy in texture (do not run at full speed). Add the egg and water mixture; pulse until moist clumps form. If the mixture is still dry, add very small amounts of iced water, pulsing between additions, until most of the flour is absorbed.

 Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Form a disk; wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Can be made in advance.

 Roll the dough on a lightly floured surface to a diameter approximately 2 inches larger than your tart (or pie) pan; approximately 1/4 inch thick. Press into pan, careful not to tear; trim excess dough. Flute edges if desired. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes.

 Preheat oven to 350. Prick bottom of tart shell, line with parchment paper, fill with dry beans or pie weights. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove weights and parchment, egg wash the bottom of the shell and return to oven for 10 more minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool. (Reserve remaining egg wash)

 Topping:

 1 bag of fresh cranberries, picked over and cleaned

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup red jam or jelly (any berry)

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon of liquid (orange juice, port wine, or water)

4 sheets of Gelatin, softened in cold water (or 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin bloomed in ¼ cup cold water)

 Combine all ingredients except the gelatin in a heavy-bottom sauce pan; cook over medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes until thick and syrupy. Remove from heat, stir in softened/bloomed gelatin until dissolved, then cool. Should be a jam-like consistency when finished.

 Filling:

 4 ounces (1 stick) butter, softened

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 eggs

1 cup finely ground almonds

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

  Heat oven to 350. Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the vanilla. Add the eggs, one at a time. Fold in the ground almonds, flour and salt with a sturdy whisk.

 Pour into tart shell (may be more than you’ll need). Bake in center of oven for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown and set (like firm Jell-O when tapped). Remove from oven, egg wash the top and return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes.  Remove from oven, cool for 15 minutes.

 Less than 1 hour before serving, spread cranberry topping evenly over the top – not too thick, you may have more than you need.

 Can be served warm or cool. Store covered in the refrigerator.