5 Best Mexico City Street Foods

tacos al pastor

Mexico City. A sprawling metropolis in the high plateaus of south-central Mexico, built upon an ancient lake and bursting with world-class museums, architecture, shopping, entertainment and cuisine. Mexican food and culture is inextricably intertwined, and traditional methods transform native ingredients like corn, chile peppers, beans, avocados, tomatoes, guavas, cactus, cacao and vanilla into flavor-packed creations. And there is no easier access point to sample the variety of dishes Mexico City has to offer than its ubiquitous street food vendors. The choices are seemingly endless, but below are five must-try Mexico City street foods.

tacos al pastor 1. Tacos Primarily mid-morning or late night snacks, tacos are the quintessential Mexican street food. Fresh masa is pressed into thin tortilla rounds and toasted for rich corn flavor. Fillings run the gamut, from myrid cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and chicken, to roasted poblano chiles and onions, to diced potato and chorizo. Spicy salsas and chopped veggies like cilantro, onions and radishes add freshness. Be on the lookout for the famous tacos al pastor — easy to spot by the towering stack of chile and pineapple-marinated pork cooked near an open flame on a rotating vertical spit — as well as slow-roasted lamb barbacoa tacos.

tlacoyo2. Tlacoyos You can’t miss the group of ladies huddled around a giant flattop grill flipping oval-shaped, indigo masa cakes stuffed with requesón cheese and beans. Once nice and toasty, the tlacoyos are typically topped with fresh salsa, nopales, sour cream, chopped onion, grated cheese and cilantro. Tlacoyos are best enjoyed hot off the grill.

esquites3. Esquites The smoky aroma of roasted corn lures passersby. The browned kernals are cut from the cob and tossed with pungent epazote, zesty lime juice, spicy chile powder, cool mayonnaise and salty Cotija cheese, and served in cups for easy portability. The perfect blend of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami.

jicama with chile and lime

4. Prepared Fruit Mexico is blessed with a bounty of exotic fruit year-round. Fruit stands are found throughout the city, and vendors will dice up a sampling of the season’s best, like guava, papaya, passion fruit, soursop, mango and pineapple. For a refreshing snack, try crunchy jicama sticks tossed in fresh lime juice and sprinkled with chile salt.

aguas frescas

5. Aguas Frescas No street food meal is complete without aguas frescas (“fresh waters”), colorful beverages made with a variety of fruits, flowers and seeds. Most vendors will let you sample their offerings before making your final selection. Popular choices include agua de flor de Jamaica (hibiscus flower), limón con chia (lime with chia seeds), guanabana (soursop), tamarind and horchata, a creamy blend of rice milk, cinnamon and vanilla.

¡Buen provecho!

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Top 10 Things to do in Ubud, Bali

 

Ubud, Bali 2014© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Magical Ubud.  The cultural center of Bali, rich with artists, non-conformists, health enthusiasts, yogis, spiritual seekers, wanderers, eccentrics, mystics, gurus and everything in between. There’s no denying that since Elizabeth Gilbert penned “that book” (as the locals refer to her bestselling memoir, Eat, Pray, Love), the streets have become a bit more chaotic. But don’t let the increased attention dissuade you from visiting.  The bewitching power of Ubud is very much alive.  Those “in the know” will set aside as much time as possible to slow down and take in everything this captivating destination has to offer (check out the Top Three Cooking Experiences in Ubud).  And, as the ever-expanding expat community suggests, you might end up staying much longer than you ever intended. Will you find love in Ubud like Ms. Gilbert? Perhaps not in the form of Javier Bardem, but you are certain to find love all around you in the warmth of the Balinese people and in the palpable spiritual energy.  Culinary explorers will be spellbound by the abundance of fresh produce and exotic spices.  From spicy chili sambal to rich coffee, fresh tropical juices, and spice-laden spa treatments, Ubud offers sensory experiences not to be missed.

Puri Sunia Resort, Ubud, Bali

Puri Sunia Resort is an ideal base from which to explore Ubud. Located in a tranquil village about ten minutes outside the hubbub of the city, Puri Sunia is a special slice of Balinese paradise. Nestled among the rice paddies and towering coconut trees, this stylish boutique property offers superb service, beautifully manicured grounds and spacious guest rooms. Start the day with a classic yoga session in the open air pavilion perched among the tree tops, followed by a complimentary breakfast. The chef goes all out with a 3-course offering. Don’t miss the dadar gulung – thin, crepe-like pancakes scented with tropical pandan leaf and filled with sweet grated coconut – and the nasi goreng (fried rice) topped with a delicate ribbon of egg and served with spicy chili sambal and savory prawn crackers. A courtesy shuttle runs to Ubud on the hour, but the more adventurous can grab a seat on the back of a zippy motorbike for a few rupiah. Spend a day (or three) at the exquisite spa, which offers indulgent multi-hour treatments that incorporate local Indonesian herbs and spices. Take advantage of fun activities like morning trekking through the rice fields and nearby Abangan Village; a market tour and cooking class with the hotel chef; and daily afternoon high tea. Personal touches like homemade gingerbread cookies at Christmas make Puri Sunia one of those rare finds that leaves you misty-eyed when the staff hugs you goodbye.

Seniman Coffee Studio, Ubud, Bali

Coffee shops are ubiquitous in Ubud, but for an exceptional java experience head over to Seniman Coffee Studio, tucked away on Jalan Sriwedari just off the main road. Seniman specializes in high-quality house-roasted coffee, prepped by knowledgeable baristas using funky devices like Taiwanese siphons. But the brilliant coffee is only part of the fun. Take a seat at the communal table in one of the comfy “bar rockers” (an ingenious design that outfits a standard plastic chair with a reclaimed teak wood base, transforming it into a gently swaying seat) and strike up a conversation with a fellow journeyer – never in short supply in Ubud.

AlthoughPineapple & Guava Jam, Kou Cuisine, Ubud, Bali Monkey Forrest Road and Jalan Dewi Sita have a fair share of shops peddling standard tourist tchotchkes, there are some unique locally-owned boutiques worth checking out. Yogis, hippies and bohemians will love the beautifully crafted gold and silver jewelry in designs inspired by nature and ancient symbols at Yin Jewelry for the Soul. Kou Cuisine specializes in handmade soaps, jams and sea salt. The soaps, made from a base of pure coconut oil, are infused with flowers and herbs like sweet orange, frangipani and vanilla bean. The 20g squares are wrapped like fancy candies and make great gifts. Toko Paras is a treasure trove of enticing bath and body potions in gorgeous glass vessels. Try the Organic Lulur body scrub – a fragrant blend of frangipani flowers, sandalwood, pandan leaves and turmeric – and the Organic Chocolate body scrub – a confection-like mix of honey, coconut cream, chocolate and cinnamon. Stop into Juice Ja Cafe for a fresh pressed juice (pineapple, turmeric and ginger is a favorite) and browse the section of local products like raw cashews and cacao beans, and cold pressed coconut oil infused with vanilla bean pods.

Karsa Kafe, Ubud, Bali 2014© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Feeling refreshed, grab your walking shoes and head West (away from Ubud Palace on Jalan Raya Ubud) for a 15-minute walk to the Ibah hotel where you can access the Campuhan Ridge. This walk offers stunning views from atop the ridge, which is flanked by two sacred rivers, and winds around peaceful villages, organic farms and tiny art galleries. If you buy a painting or a piece of art here, you will likely make a friend for life. Continue to the top of the ridge to Karsa Kafe, a family-run outdoor eatery with sweeping rice field views that is the definition of “off-the-beaten” path. This is the kind of place adventuresome travelers dream of. Snag a seat under one of the stilted overwater pavilions and enjoy a freshly opened young coconut and Balinese dishes like nasi campur and charcoal roasted sate.

Karsa Spa, Ubud, Bali 2014© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

After lunch, indulge in a luxurious spa service at nearby Karsa Spa, one of the best spa experiences in Ubud. The gifted therapists are highly professional, and the outdoor treatment rooms are spectacular. Try the “Spicy Balinese Boreh,” which includes a massage with fragrant Ayurvedic oils; a piquant body scrub of cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander; a hydrating mask of fresh tamarind and Borneo honey; and a warm spice bath. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself booking your next appointment before you leave.

Bali Buda, Ubud, Bali While there is no shortage of healthy dinner options in Ubud, Bali Buda is credited with spearheading the organic food movement in Bali. A member of Slow Food International, and supporter of sustainability and Fair Trade practices, Bali Buda serves uber-healthy farm-fresh fare in a treehouse-like hideout. A gado-gado salad of steamed organic veggies and spicy peanut sauce, fresh lemon ginger soda, and homemade coconut ice cream is the ideal end to a day exploring Ubud. Om shanti shanti shanti.

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Top 3 Boutique Hotels in Sonoma for Foodies

 

v-748-lrg-08

There are a number of small hotels, inns and B&Bs to chose from when planning a visit to Sonoma, home of some of the finest wine producers in the world (check out the Top 10 Sonoma County Wineries to Visit). With perks like cookies and milk at turndown, evening port by the fire, and an exclusive wine bar stocked with local gems, these top selections promise to deliver an unforgettable experience in this premier wine and food destination.

Farmhouse Inn

Farmhouse Inn Forestville. Take a family-owned B&B in the heart of the Russian River Valley and pair it with impeccable service (6 concierges for 18 guest rooms) and a world-class restaurant, and you have one of the most special places in Sonoma. The Farmhouse Inn isn’t merely an experience; it’s a wine country lifestyle. The super luxe Barn rooms are regularly used for Pottery Barn photo shoots. Visit the “Sonoma Bath Bar” near reception and stock up on complimentary seasonal scrubs, salts, milk bath and handmade olive oil bar soaps to enjoy in your grand soaking tub (don’t miss the Sumbody Wholesum Bath Milk, a sweet and creamy mix of coconut milk, buttermilk, goat milk, cream and yogurt, that smells like warm sugar cookies). The 3-course farm-to-table breakfast, featuring treats like warm Blackberry Scones, perfectly-cooked eggs from the family’s nearby ranch, mascarpone stuffed French toast, and artisanal coffee from local roaster Taylor Maid Farms, will be one of the highlights of your visit. Check out one of the “Farmhouse Expeditions,” like local food foraging, peach basil jam making, or morning egg collecting. Share wine tasting stories with other guests around the outdoor fire pit while making s’mores with housemade marshmallows. Few things are as sweet as enjoying a honey and ginger massage or luxuriating in your steam shower before descending a flight of stairs to a Michelin starred restaurant. Feast on salt roasted pear and parmesan cappelletti with shaved Burgundy truffles. Then retire to your room for warm cookies and milk in front of the wood burning fireplace. The sweet surprise you receive in the mail around the holidays every December will have you booking your next trip.

Gaige House

Gaige House Glenn Ellen. Nestled near Calabaza Creek in the tiny town of Glen Ellen, Gaige House blends country charm with modern Asian elements. The serene “Zen Suites” – which feature enclosed atriums and massive granite soaking tubs – will transport you to the Japanese countryside. The main house hosts guests every morning for a hearty farmstyle breakfast of favorites like fluffy blueberry pancakes and warm artichoke quiche. A daily wine and cheese reception and the sugary scent of fresh-baked cookies will lure you back to the main house every afternoon. After some nearby wine tasting, stop by the fig cafe (sister restaurant of the girl and the fig in the Sonoma town square) for the roasted squash pizza with bacon and sage. An indulgent hot stone massage in your suite, followed by a glass of port near the fire in the club room is a perfect end to the day. Be sure to take home a copy of The Kitchen at Four Sisters Inns cookbook and invite your friends over for a wine country brunch featuring French Bread Custard.

Kenwood Inn and SpaKenwood Inn and Spa Kenwood.  An ivy-covered Mediterranean style villa, Kenwood Inn and Spa is a little slice of Tuscany in Sonoma’s Valley of the Moon. This adult-only retreat features lavish rooms with fireplaces, featherbeds and top-quality Italian linens, as well as an award-winning spa offering vinotherapy treatments. The signature breakfast showcases products from Sonoma’s best farmers and ranchers, accented by produce and herbs grown in the on-site garden. Chocolate lovers can stop by the nearby chocolate tasting room at family-run Wine Country Chocolates to sample rich truffles and purchase other treats like chocolate dipped figs. Don’t miss Kenwood Inn’s private wine bar (which received an Award of Unique Distinction from Wine Enthusiast) where you can try rare local wines and nibble on house-marinated olives, Marcona almonds and wood-fired pizza Marghertia. Pamper yourself with the “Sweet Surrender” in-room service, and let your cares melt away in a hot bath amid flickering candles, the calming scent of lavender, and a glass of crisp Prosecco.

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Taste of Sonoma: Gaige House French Bread Custard

French Bread Custard

Featured in the Top 3 Boutique Hotels in Sonoma for Foodies and adapted from The Kitchen at Four Sisters Inns cookbook, this French Bread Custard is the perfect dish to serve at your next brunch.

  • 1 loaf sweet French bread – cut into 1″ slices
  • 2 ounces butter, melted
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush both sides of the bread with melted butter. Arrange the bread in a 9″ x 13″ baking dish. Beat the eggs and yolks together, then add the remaining ingredients. Pour over the bread. Place the baking dish in a large pan and pour enough very hot water into the pan to come about halfway up the side of the baking dish. Bake until light brown and puffy, about 45-50 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with warm maple syrup and fresh berries.

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Taste of Sonoma: Farmhouse Inn Scones

Blackberry Scones

This recipe for the Farmhouse Inn’s famous scones, featured in the Top 3 Boutique Hotels in Sonoma for Foodies, can be easily modified to incorporate seasonal ingredients like dried or fresh fruit, nuts, chocolate and spices; just mix in when you add the cream.  You can also dress them up by brushing them with cream and sprinkling them with sugar before baking, or drizzling them with a simple glaze of powdered sugar mixed with cream, citrus or spices after baking.   Makes 12.

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 sticks chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cups heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine all dry ingredients into an electric mixer or food processor. Pulse until just combined. Add in butter, mixing or pulsing on low until resembling a fine meal. Add the cream in the same method. (The trick to these scones is to never over mix them. You want the dough very crumbly). Turn out onto parchment paper or lightly floured surface. Gently form into a round disk approximately 1 1/2 inch thick. Cut disk into half and then cut each half into 6 wedges for a total of 12 scones. Bake scones on parchment lined baking sheet in center of oven for 12-16 minutes until the bottoms of the scones are golden brown.  Serve warm with fresh butter, lemon curd and piping hot organic single origin coffee from Taylor Maid Farms.

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Top 10 Sonoma County Wineries

Sonoma

(Last updated on March 21, 2017) With over 400 wineries, Sonoma County is one of California’s most prolific wine-producing regions. Top-notch Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – which thrive in the cool oceanic microclimate – along with farm-to-table dining, pristine hiking and cycling, and rustic charm, draw visitors from all over the world. Discover why Wine Enthusiast named Sonoma one of the 10 Best Wine Travel Destinations.

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1. Arista Healdsburg.  Family-owned Arista focuses on soft, elegant Russian River Valley Pinot Noir that reflects the unique terroir of the regions from which the fruit is sourced. Pros have been watching Arista’s wines since the arrival of talented winemaker Matt Courtney (formerly of Helen Turley’s Marcassin Vineyard) in 2013. In addition to Pinot Noir, enjoy samples of Zinfandel, Chardonnay and Gewurtztraminer at the intimate tasting room surrounded by a scenic Japanese garden.

2. Dutton Goldfield Sebastopol.  Pinot Noir and aromatic Chardonnay are the mainstays of Dutton Goldfield. Stop by the tasting bar and enjoy the wine and cheese flight – a tasting of limited production wines paired with local artisan cheeses – or the “Beast and Pinot” flight – a tasting of a range of Pinot Noir paired with charcuterie.

Gary Farrell

3. Gary Farrell Healdsburg.  Gary Farrell crafts superb Russian River Valley Pinot Noir with lush fruit and complexity. Although Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are at the core of the winemaking program, Gary Farrell also produces limited quantities of Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Zinfandel. Enjoy sweeping views of the Russian River Valley from the tasting bar, or book a more in-depth tasting of six wines on the outdoor terrace in warmer months or fireside in the colder season.

4. Hartford Forestville.  Hartford crafts classic, single-vineyard Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and robust old vine Zinfandel (which pairs beautifully with dark chocolate). A Pinot Noir lover’s paradise, Hartford offers upwards of ten different selections in a given year. Enjoy a tasting while taking in spectacular views of the vineyards from the patio.

5. Kistler Sebastopol.  Kistler’s world class, single-vineyard Chardonnay rivals the finest producers in Burgundy. The Pinot Noir is similarly magnificent. Both are available for purchase exclusively to their mailing list members. Those wanting to try before they invest can make a reservation for a special visit to Kistler’s Trenton Roadhouse for a taste.

Paul Hobbs

6. Paul Hobbs Sebastopol.  Paul Hobbs crafts small production, vineyard designate Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Cabernet using minimally-invasive winemaking techniques. The result is a pure and authentic expression of the varietal. Set aside two hours around lunch time for the “Small Bites Experience” at Lindsay House. You will be treated to spot-on pairings like Cabernet with wood oven roasted lamb, and Chardonnay with pan-seared halibut. Don’t miss selections of Malbec from Paul’s Argentina collection.

Porter Creek

7. Porter Creek Healdsburg.  A stop by the charming roadside tasting room of Porter Creek, a father and son operation, is a must-do. They produce organic, hillside, vineyard designate Burgundian and Rhone varietals – Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Noir, Carignane, Syrah and Zinfandel. The vineyards are sustainably farmed (they even use vehicles fueled by organic vegetable oil), with an emphasis on biodynamic practices.

8. Rochioli Healdsburg.  The Rochioli family has been growing grapes in the same vineyard for 80 years. Indeed, they were pioneers in planting Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley in the late 60s, selling off most of the fruit (including to venerable producers like Williams Selyem) until producing their own wine in the mid-80s. Rochioli offers silky Pinot Noir and crisp old vine Sauvignon Blanc, among other varietals. Stop by the tasting room to sample a range of Estate wines.

9. Sojourn Sonoma.  Sojourn – founded in 2001 – is a relative newcomer, producing critically acclaimed artisan Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet. Schedule a tasting at the charming downtown Sonoma tasting salon near the historic town square. You will appreciate Sojourn’s commitment to high-quality wine in a pretension-free, friendly atmosphere.

Williams Selyem

10. Williams Selyem Healdsburg.  From its beginnings in 1979 in a garage in Forestville, Williams Selyem has achieved renown as the producer of some of the most highly-coveted Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley. They also produce lovely Chardonnay, Zinfandel and late harvest selections. Tastings of these micro-quantity wines are reserved for list members, but you can sign up here.

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Best Food and Wine Experiences in Napa Valley

Strawberry Shortcake, Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California 2014 © Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Strawberry Shortcake, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen 2014 © Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

One of the world’s best wine and food destinations, Napa Valley is nirvana for those whose greatest pleasure is the perfect pairing amid breathtaking natural beauty.  The first glimpse of the vineyards as you enter the valley on Highway 29 instantly lifts your mood in anticipation of the spectacular culinary delights that await.  Whether a romantic escape, a girls’ weekend or a cycling getaway, Napa Valley offers sensory experiences that make it effortless to unplug from the world and connect with those around you.

Undoubtedly, Napa Valley vintners produce some of the best wine in the world.  The food scene is equally revered, and includes two of the nine U.S. restaurants with a highly-coveted 3-star rating in the 2015 Michelin Guide – Chef Christopher Kostow’s Meadowood, and Chef Thomas Keller’s foodie mecca, The French Laundry.

Then there are the hidden gems of Napa Valley: off-the-beaten path tasting rooms and immersive farm-to-table experiences.  These are the magical experiences that die-hard foodies live for.

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Oakville Grocery, Oakville, Napa Valley, California A morning stop at Oakville Grocery is a delicious way to kick off your Napa Valley adventure.  Although hardly a secret (the store was founded in 1881, and is the oldest continually operating grocery store in California),  Oakville Grocery is a quaint country store supplying the tastiest treasures from Napa and Sonoma farmers and artisans.  Grab an espresso and one of the scrumptious breakfast sandwiches – perhaps the organic scrambled egg with apple wood ham, roasted peppers and pepper jack cheese on a buttery croissant – and enjoy peaceful vineyard views from one of the outdoor benches before you set out for the day.

A tasting at the O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery located high in the hills above St. Helena is a can’t-miss event.  The stunning views of the valley alone would be worth the trek; add the world-class cabernet and your mind will be blown.  O’Shaughnessy’s two offerings – Howell Mountain and Mount Veeder – consistently earn rave reviews from the venerable Robert Parker, who awarded 97 points to the 2012 Mount Veeder.  Relish the powerful, complex flavors of dark cherry, cocoa and spice as you savor every drop.

With your palate awakened, head down the mountain for lunch at local favorite Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen.  In warmer months, the tables on the charming brick patio underneath the 100-year-old fig tree are the perfect spot to enjoy incredibly fresh summer salads, crisp sauvignon blanc and sinful strawberry shortcake with fresh cream.  Or cozy up inside at the lively bar and trade stories with locals and visitors over wood oven pork shoulder and a glass of earthy pinot noir.

St. Helena Olive Oil Co., St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

After lunch, stop by St. Helena Olive Oil Company around the corner on Main Street, and be sure to try Katz and Company’s exquisite raspberry honey.  About a mile up the road is The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.  You will find all things culinary at their Spice Islands Marketplace, including a tasting bar where you can sample chocolate, cheese, charcuterie, olive oil and wine.

Pairing wine and food is an art, with thousands of books written on the subject.  When done expertly, the experience is otherworldly.  Seriously.

Austin Gallion, Director of Hospitality and Executive Chef at Vineyard 29, is a pairing pro.  He is the mastermind behind Vineyard 29’s innovative hospitality programs.  Forget the ubiquitous dry breadstick, and reserve your spot for a flight of Vineyard 29’s superb cabernets, cab francs and zinfandel’s perfectly matched with bite-sized “tastes” like duck confit with cherry compote. Guests with good timing might be able to snag Vineyard 29’s coveted sauvignon blanc, which delights with bright citrus, minerality and warm caramel.

Olive Oil and Syrup, Round Pond Estate, Rutherford, Napa Valley, California

Those looking for the full farm-to-fork experience have two first-rate opportunities. Round Pond Estate, located in the acclaimed Rutherford region of Napa Valley, is a family-owned and operated estate comprised of vineyards, gardens and orchards. In addition to excellent wine, the family produces delicious artisanal olive oils, red wine vinegars and citrus fruit syrups. The “Garden to Table Brunch” includes a tour of the biodynamic garden, cooking demonstration (with wine), estate wine tasting and seated brunch on the stunning terrace with sweeping views of Napa Valley. Those looking to get their hands dirty can book a spot for the annual “A Day in the Life” experience, where you will harvest grapes, assist the winemakers, and enjoy all the gourmet food and wine the estate offers.

Grassfed Meatballs with Spiced Tomato Jam, Farmstead, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California

Advocates of sustainable, organic farming will be rapt with Long Meadow Ranch, which produces acclaimed wines, olive oil, grassfed beef, eggs, honey and heirloom fruits and vegetables. Options to see and experience everything LMR has to offer abound, and include extensive tours, kitchen workshops, and multi-course meals hosted by Chef Tim Mosblech. For those with limited time, book a table at LMR’s restaurant, Farmstead, and devour down-home goodies like wood grilled artichokes, meatballs with tomato marmalade, grassfed lamb, and “brick cooked” chicken with salsa verde.

Ma(i)sonry

Ready for more wine tasting? Set aside a couple of hours to lounge in the outdoor sculpture garden at Ma(i)sonry in downtown Yountville. The art collection is intriguing, but the main attraction is tasting hard-to-find wines from over 20 boutique producers like Juslyn, Lail, Pahlmeyer, and Renteria. Don’t miss Blackbird Vineyards’ incredible Pomerol-inspired wines; a glass of the Arriviste rosé is the picture-perfect ending to a day of indulgence.

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Top 5 Food and Wine Experiences in Florence, Italy

Pizza Margherita, Pizzeria Caffé Italiano, Florence, Italy 2013© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Pizza Margherita, Pizzeria Caffé Italiano, Florence, Italy 2013© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

A fashion capital, UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Florence offers an abundance of history, culture, art and architecture. But for the hungry traveler, discovering the family-run trattorias and wine shops that dot the city’s twisting sidestreets is an equally alluring draw.

One of the first things that springs to the food-obsessed explorer’s mind when visiting Italy is where to find the best pizza. Purists on the hunt for the perfect pizza Marghertia will be in paradise at Pizzeria del Caffé Italiano. There you will find the quintessential bubbly, fire-tinged crust topped with melted mozzarella, tangy tomato sauce, fresh basil, a swirl of extra virgin olive oil and crunchy sea salt. Mangia bene!

Tuscany

Conti gourmet shop, Florence Central Market

After your obligatory pizza fix, one of the most entertaining ways to delve into the Florentine food scene (particularly for solo travelers), is to book a tour with Florence for Foodies. Nat and Sam — two uproarious guides with a passion for food and wine — lead small groups on whirlwind tours of the city’s most delicious attractions. You will start the morning with a lively discussion of Italian coffee culture while sipping macchiatos and devouring Italian pastries. The sinful feast continues at Florence’s Central Market, with a tasting of cheeses, glazes, balsamic vinegars and more at the historic Conti gourmet shop. After a bit of wine and local gossip, be sure to pick up a bag, or three, of the Sicilian “Pachino” sun-dried cherry tomatoes (fantastic gifts), and a jar of the Crema di Pistacchio. A riotous visit to a local wine shop, followed by a generous sampling of gelato, sorbetto and semi-freddi at one of the best gelaterias in town rounds out the afternoon.

Porcini and Arugula Salad, L'Antico Noè, Florence, Italy 2013© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Porcini and Arugula Salad, L’Antico Noè

For dinner, seekers of local dining experiences will fall madly in love with l’Antico Noè, a traditional Tuscan trattoria housed in a former butcher’s shop and nestled underneath the Arco di San Pierino. Stacks of wooden crates overflowing with the freshest produce greet you as you enter the restaurant. When in season, try the shaved porcini mushroom salad with wild arugula, salty pecorino cheese and a drizzle of olive oil. Indulge in the Florentine steak (bistecca alla Fiorentina) or homemade pasta, capped off with Authentic Tuscan Biscotti (cantuccini) dipped in vin santo.

Take a reprieve from your Florentine food fest and drop by Antica Cuoieria to admire the handcrafted leather and suede shoes in a myriad of brightly-colored hues. Florence is renowned for its leather goods, and the offerings here are of the finest quality. Spend an hour or two exploring the nearby boutiques on Via del Corso, which are exceptional.

All'Antico Vinaio, Florence, Italy

All’Antico Vinaio

With your appetite restored, head over to All’antico Vinaio, for what will possibly be one of the best sandwiches you will consume in your lifetime. Take the edge off the long line with a glass of Brunello from the self-serve wine bar. Once inside, select your preferred oven-fresh bread, and for 5 euros, a spirited young man will pile it high with your choice of Italian meats, cheeses and accoutrement like truffles, artichoke spread and roasted eggplant. Your mouthwatering creation is expertly wrapped in butcher paper for easy eating. Grab a seat and another glass of wine and watch the world go by.

Zeno and Edoardo Fioravanti, and Manuele Giovanelli, Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina, Florence, Italy

Zeno and Edoardo Fioravanti, and Manuele Giovanelli, Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina

Top off a day of sightseeing with a glass of Prosecco at one of Florence’s most lively wine bars, Enoteca Pitti Gola e Cantina. Owners Edoardo, Zeno and Manuele will regale you with their extensive knowledge of Italian varietals, and pour you curated selections of Chianti Classico, Brunello, and Barolo from local producers. An accompanying plate of farm fresh cheese and antipasti is the flawless finish to your Florentine food adventure.

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Taste of Italy: Authentic Tuscan Biscotti (Cantuccini)

Homemade Tuscan Biscotti, Florence, Italy 2013© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Homemade Tuscan Biscotti, Florence, Italy 2013© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Featured in Five Must-Try Food and Wine Experiences in Florence (And a Shopping Detour), biscotti — also known as cantuccini — are a traditional after-dinner dessert hailing from the Tuscan city of Prato.  Serve these twice-baked treats with vin santo (an Italian dessert wine) for dunking.

  • 3 cups of cake flower
  • 1 cup sugar + extra for sprinkling
  • 1 cup of whole almonds
  • 3 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
  • 1 egg, beaten, for brushing
  • 2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of finely grated orange zest
  • 2 teaspoons vin santo

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place almonds on a cookie sheet and toast in oven for 3-4 minutes. Remove.  In a large bowl, mix the 3 whole eggs, 2 yolks, vin santo, 1 cup of sugar, orange zest and sea salt.  Add flour and baking powder gradually.  Kneed dough on a lightly floured surface and work in almonds.  Divide the dough into three parts and form each into a log (approx. 12″ x 1.5″). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.   Place logs well apart from each other, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake in the center of the oven for 25 minutes or until golden and slightly firm.  Cool for about 30 minutes on the baking sheet.  While still warm, transfer the logs to a cutting board and cut crosswise into 1/3-inch slices with a serrated knife.  Arrange on two parchment paper or baking mat-lined baking sheets, cut side down, and return to oven to bake for 25 minutes, turning once.  Cool and serve with vin santo.

Taste of Adventure

Taste of England: Honey Roasted Parsnips

Honey Roasted Parsnips 2014© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Honey Roasted Parsnips 2014© Credit: Krystal M. Hauserman @MsTravelicious

Fall is peak season for these sweet cream-colored beauties. An essential part of a traditional English Christmas dinner, these earthy, honeyed gems become everyday fare with this simple recipe. When roasted, parsnips develop a deep, rich nutty flavor. Look for medium parsnips with beige skin at your local farmers market. Serve with roasted pork loin and a glass of pinot noir.

  • 5-6 medium parsnips, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2 inch strips
  • 1.5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 6 grinds of fresh black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a roasting pan with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. In a large bowl toss the parsnips and the rest of the ingredients until well combined. Transfer the parsnips to the roasting pan and spread into a single layer. Roast for 35 minutes. Remove from oven and toss to ensure even browning. Return to oven and continue roasting until golden brown (about 10-15 minutes), being careful not to overcook. Season with sea salt to taste before serving.

Taste of Adventure