Saturday, July 15, 2017

Carbonara days of summer

Last month has been unusually hot along the Mediterranean, with a hot Scirocco wind blowing from Africa meaning lazy days spent in the shade of our casetta patio, reading, relaxing and embracing a long "pranzo" {Italian for lunch}, a leisurely long meal stretched out over those hottest hours of the day, playing with local ingredients and re-interpreting favorite Italian dishes ...

One of my all time favorites, even if not a local Maremmana recipe, will always be Spaghetti alla Carbonara ~ and after spotting appropriate substitutes for the original Roman ingredients at our little alimentari, this Carbonara {with a Tuscan twist} has become a favorite staple of our summer lunches ....

Monday, July 3, 2017

A rustic kitchen and favorite table under the fig tree

Summer has arrived again, and as in the past couple of years we have escaped San Francisco's summer gloom and returned to Vetulonia, an Etruscan founded hilltop town nestled into the rolling hills of Tuscany's Maremma region – returning once again to Il Baciarino, our "home away from home", a small agriturismo with five rustic cottages nestled into a quiet oak and olive grove and owned by our dear friends Clelia and Andrea.

The first days have been a much needed timeout, resetting our clocks to life with the cycle of nature, long afternoons spent in the shade of "our" fig tree, embracing the Italian siesta concept, reading, relaxing and cooking simple meals in our rustic outdoor kitchen with endless views.

dinners with friends Il Baciarino dishesonly

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A long Sunday lunch {& Infiorata} in Lubriano

We are back in Italy and what a treat to start off with a drive into the Tuscia region to join Alice Kiandra Adams {proprietress of Latteria Studio and author of the always inspiring RusticaRetro blog} along with family, neighbors and friends for a long Sunday lunch in Lubriano , sitting down under the vine-covered pergola of her enchanting garden with views of the surrounding valley and neighboring Civita di Bagnoreggio.

And it turned out it was not just any Sunday, coinciding with Lubriano's Infiorata, an annual festival held on the Sunday of the Ascension, turning the small towns narrow streets into colorful canvases of intricate flower carpets ~ a rather temporary spectacle of flower petals, leaves and seeds set up by the town inhabitants overnight and swept away after a ceremonious procession leading over the flower carpet to the main church in the morning.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Mediterranean inspired flavors in the desert

dinners with friends octopus cucina di andrea

A couple of weeks ago we decided to take a road trip, driving from San Francisco to the California desert on a quest to see the desert in bloom. We followed the back roads from the Central Valley towards the high desert, detouring to see the California poppies along Antelope Valley, and spending a couple of days at a favorite desert hideaway to catch up with our friend Nancy. 

With mild desert temperatures and in anticipation of the next Italy trip we cooked up some Mediterranean inspired menues, from octopus salad and cannellini tuna crostini to cured salumi and grilled lamb chops, the perfect flavors for some breezy spring days in the desert ...

Friday, March 24, 2017

A sunny escape from the office & tacos at TACOS CALA

Yesterday brought a rare glimpse of sunshine to a week of dreary downpours, so spotting the Achilles Heel pop up on Instagram was the perfect excuse for an impromptu escape from the office, heading down to the secret taco stand that is TACOS CALA, tucked into the back alley behind CALA.

As it turned out, we were too late to savor Lee Desrosiers' specials {grilled on the sidewalk on a portable Francis Mallmann parrilla traveling in a fancy leather traveling case}, but plates of Mexico City style tacos de guisado {lengua en salsa verde, carnitas & pollo en pipian} with agua fresca {lemon ginger mint} still made for the perfect fix while taking in CALA's cool interiors ...

TACOS CALA in San Francisco

Saturday, February 25, 2017

When life gives you oranges ... help supporting the Big Sur Bakery

It has been a crazy winter in California. After five years gripped in a near existential drought, this has been the wettest winter on record, with near biblical storms causing destructive landslides, flooding and irreparable devastation to the state's infrastructure.

One region hit especially hard is Big Sur, the wild coastline between Monterey and Santa Barbara and one of our favorite destinations for an escape from the city ~ e.g. this fall Big Sur road trip and a memorable Big Sur Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. After a summer of ravaging wildfires, evacuations and longtime road closures, Big Sur once again finds itself cut off from the outside world: with a canyon bridge damaged beyond repair by a recent landslide, Highway One was closed indefinitely last week, cutting off access to this remote coastline and to Big Sur Bakery, one of my favorite Big Sur destinations.

With another rain storm approaching this weekend, Big Sur has been on my mind as I find myself browsing the Big Sur Bakery Cookbook, a favorite in this kitchen. And with a basket of sunny citrus on the kitchen counter, I thought I would share an all-time favorite recipe from the archives along with some Big Sur photos ...

Monday, January 9, 2017

A rainy day in Antwerp { & stay at Boulevard Leopold }

guest room details Boulevard Leopold bed & breakfast in Antwerp Antwerpen Belgium

After spending the past holidays at home, this winter we felt a sudden rather sentimental urge to hop across the pond for Christmas in the "old world" among family and friends.

And with the affordable last-minute airfares flying into Amsterdam, we decided to get on the plane a couple of days early for a pre-holiday detour ~ revisiting Amsterdam and Antwerp along the way.

After a chilly first day in Amsterdam and rainy day arrival in Antwerp, checking into Boulevard Leopold more than made up for gloomy skies, jet lag and tired eyes ...

Boulevard Leopold in Antwerp Antwerpen Belgium

Follow along on Instagram ...


all photos © dinners with friends

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