Sunday, August 28, 2016

Old world glamour and pretty interiors at Bar Schmitz in Cologne

Bar Schmitz Eis in Cologne Köln

Before moving to San Francisco in the late 90s I lived in Cologne, in a classic apartment with tall ceilings overlooking Friesenplatz - and right across the street from "XX", pronounced Dos Equis {as the beer}, a tiny bar with the faded ambience of a opulent fin-de-siècle bordello - and in those days a favorite hangout of the local art crowd. 

Dos Equis closed years ago, but the gastronomic team behind this tiny bar is busier than ever. A few streets over, Dirk Mecky and his wife Trixi have taken over three adjacent storefronts - Metzgerei Schmitz, a former butcher shop turned deli, Salon Schmitz, a grand café with Danish and German design classics from the 50s and 60s, Coco Schmitz, a glam subterranean club with a 70s discotheque vibe - and Bar Schmitz, a gorgeous old world brasserie, restaurant, glacier and cocktail bar decked out in glorious Belgian Art Nouveau details.

Bar Schmitz Eis in Cologne Köln

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Everyday family life in a centuries-old villa { Tenuta di Valgiano }

Tenuta di Valgiano wine oilve oil tasting tour in Valgiano Lucca Toscana Tuscany

Traveling in Italy, I often wondered what it might be like living in one of the centuries-old villas that dot the Italian countryside. This summer, while scouting the Colline Lucchesi region for Viola's Italy, I finally got a sneak peek into everyday villa life - when I met Laura di Collobiano, who with her two kids and dogs lives in an incredible 15th century villa perched high in the Lucca hills.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Pizza, cocktails and music in an enchanted olive grove


Finally a long overdue update on this blog, while still playing catch up with so many rolls of {digital} film after this year's #anItalianroadtrip ...

After exploring the Colline Lucchesi, scouting culinary destinations and hidden foodways for Viola's Italy, we returned to the Maremma, Tuscany's wild and beautiful coastal region, to revisit favorite haunts and catch up with friends old and new.

One of those friends is Katja Meier, author of the incredible MapItOut travel sites and overall woman-in-the-know on all things culinary, cultural and literary in the Maremma and beyond. Katja and Sergio had invited to a summer celebration in their olive grove, a magical evening of wood fired pizza, cocktails and music under the olive trees - all served with endless view of the surrounding Tuscan hills and Monte Amiata in the distance.

Sesti wine rosato Castello di Argiano

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A summer lunch with friends in the Florentine hills

Florentine cookbook by Emiko Davies

The impromptu invitation to a summer lunch in the Florentine hills arrived a day before, in the form of a private cooking class hosted by cookbook author and blogger Emiko Davies at the magical Villa Medicea di Lilliano, a historical hunting lodge of the Medici family turned wine estate high in the hills overlooking Florence.

The occasion was the launch of Emiko's beautiful first cookbook Florentine: The True Cuisine of Florence and she had invited food bloggers of the region to come together to cook some of the book's recipes in the villa's wonderfully rustic cucina - so together with Valeria Necchio {Life Love Food}, Irene Berni {Val di Rose}, Ilaria Gori {Tuscany Buzz}, Denya Pandolfi {Grazie A Te}and Nardia Plumridge {Lost In Florence} we explored the estate, its gardens and wine caves before joining forces in the beautiful kitchen to whip up a perfect summer menu ...

Florentine by Emiko DaviesVilla Medicea di Lilliano in FlorenceVilla Medicea di Lilliano Firenze Florence

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A lazy day under the cherry trees and impromptu market lunch in the Lucca hills


This year's Italy adventure started off with one of those experiences that make me love traveling with Airbnb: we had arrived in Florence two days prior, hopped into our tiny rental car and escaped the tourists throngs for the nature and quiet of the Colline Luchesi, the fertile green hills surrounding Lucca. After spending the first two nights at a charming olive farm {another Airbnb find}, we moved just one town over to this rustic farm house with endless views ...


Sunday, May 1, 2016

A sunny birthday lunch for young and old {& Diego turns 4}


It's crazy how time flies by these days. I still remember Diego as a baby and have shared many meals with Diego and his parents, so it's not surprise he has made various appearances on this blog - from a spontaneous springtime dinner to a holiday brunch with family and friends to a sunny Epiphany Day picnic with Galette des Rois to a summer summer aperitivo in Diego's garden ...
and with the snap of fingers Diego just turned 4 last weekend! 

And a sunny Sunday in the city and a cheerful lunch with friends young and old, followed by not just one, but three fabulous birthday cakes - all prepared by the talented Philippine, Diego's mom ...


Friday, April 15, 2016

A backyard house concert & potluck dinner on a warm San Francisco night ...

Nate Baker house concert

Last Friday was one of those rare San Francisco days that start off with a pink sunrise, turn sunny  and windless - and actually stay balmy into the evening, making it the perfect night for a backyard house concert and potluck dinner hosted by San Francisco artist and product designer Windy Chien. 

I first met multi talented Windy at last winter's Remodelista Market, where her beautiful hand carved corner spoons {see below} and hand knotted hex lighting had caught my eye - and as it turns out, we have some dear friends in common!

Windy Chien corner spoon

Follow along on Instagram ...

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all photos © dinners with friends

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