Author - Rocky Casale

Epitourean’s Friday Five: Santa Fe, New Mexico

It’s once again time for a look at the top five things we love about a city on our radar. This week we travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico, home to great eats, stunning natural beauty and world class art.

1. At the top of our list are the luxurious Fort Marcy Condo Suites. Spacious and well-appointed, with an authentic southwest vibe, our Santa Fe travelers will rest their heads here in comfort and style.

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2. San Miguel Chapel, which is the oldest church in the United States. Not only can you visit the chapel to take in the history and learn more about the Tlaxcalan Indians who constructed it, San Miguel Chapel also provides Mass in Latin and English.

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3.  The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which is the only museum in the US dedicated solely to a female artist, houses over 3,000 pieces of mixed media art. Visitors can enjoy O’Keeffe’s cityscapes from New York along with gorgeous New Mexican landscapes, and other brilliant pieces of work focused on the natural world.

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4.  History buffs will enjoy the Santa Fe Palace of Governors, part of a the larger New Mexico History Museum, where one can learn all about Santa Fe, New Mexico and the greater southwest area.

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5.  Taking in all that culture will make you thirsty! Popular and centrally located in downtown Santa Fe, Coyote Cafe & Rooftop Cantina is the perfect place to cap off a day of exploration. Hit the rooftop bar for refreshing drinks and inventive takes on Southwest cuisine.

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Have we whetted your appetite for a trip to Santa Fe? Click here to learn more and book our Southwestern Foodie Fiesta culinary getaway, 50% off for a limited time!

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Postcard From: Yucatán, Mexico

Read all about Mary’s culinary journey through Yucatán, Mexico:

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“Today is sadly my last day at the amazing Hacienda Petac in Mexico’s breathtaking Yucatan. It has been such an extraordinary experience! We helped to prepare delicious meals. Of course all of the produce and ingredients were so fresh and amazing, and we teamed up with the hotel chefs and staff to cook up a storm. Everything is so colorful and pretty. We’ve also been visiting many of Mexico’s stunning sights. One of the highlights was Merida’s market, which was lively and bustling and we also saw some of of the area’s Mayan archeological ruins. Rope hammocks are strung everywhere at the Hacienda Petac, which we took advantage of when we went to simply chill out and nap. We are also making good use of the hotel’s open air spa, which looks out over lush green gardens and is such a beautiful experience to be a part of while you’re having a massage. Tonight we bid farewell with the music of the Trova Trio on the hotel’s terrace under the stars. We’ve gotten to know that, here in paradise, romance is everywhere and we will certainly return.” 

-Mary from Colombus, Ohio

Jealous of Mary? Check out this 2 for 1 deal on our Culinary Adventure through the Heart of the Yucatán!

Postcard From Italy

Those who travel with us at Edible Destinations tend to leave with great memories and thoughts about their journey. We love getting feedback from our intrepid voyagers. Here, Susan from South Carolina, sent us a postcard of her recent visit to Carunchio, Italy.

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“We are simply having a blast. The cooking adventure is everything we thought it might be and more than we imagined. This is a journey that I we will repeat and bring friends along to experience. The ancient villages here are stunning. You have no idea what it’s like, unless you visit, to stay in a palatial hotel on top of a green mountain. The views are spectacular and I am so happy that I brought my fancy camera to capture all of this beauty. To top it off, the cooking classes are so fun! I am a vegetarian, but everything that we’ve made so far is simple, delicious and entertaining. Obviously, the food is to die for in Italy, and the wine is so incredible. I am in heaven. We’ve taken trips to the countryside and visited artisans that press gorgeous olive oils. What haven’t we done? We saw fresh cheese being made and visited a bell foundry. Who get’s to see things like this? We are so thankful that we booked this tour and are more than a little bit sad to leave this beautiful place.” 

-Susan

Would you like to share your Edible Adventures with us? Visit us on Facebook and tell us about your journey, or post your pictures on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook tagged with #MyEdibleDestination for a chance to win a $500 Gift Card!

The Dish: Chef Alan Pyles Talks About Virginia’s Culinary Delights

Our Chef partner, Alan Pyles, fills us in on eating and living it up in the state of Virginia. 

Q: Chef Alan, what would you consider Virginian cuisine? Is there such a thing?

A: Since Virginia is essentially in the central east coast of the United States, you can find just about anything. We like to focus on southern cuisine. Spice friendly meats and seafood. The influences that we notice in Virginia’s cuisine come from New Orleans, Charleston and Maryland (thank you Old Bay!)

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Q: We were curious what your favorite local ingredients are, especially those one would find on your daily menus?

A: Our focus is about sourcing the best proteins that we can find as a way to anchor any dish that we create. We look for local, seasonal produce to always complement our dishes. But that said, the core of our menu hasn’t changed much over the years because we’ve developed a following of customers who come in because they love and expect our classics. That said, we do run specials and this is always an opportunity for us to create new plates with whatever is local and seasonal.

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Q: What do you love most about Virginia?

A: This may sound like a cliche, but I really love that we have four seasons. Each season is awesome in my opinion, and one always allows me to appreciate the next. We’re a state known for our colorful foliage but also for the starkness of our winters, which I find beautiful. Then obviously I adore the fresh growth of spring and we have the hottest summers; perfect for frequent rafting and canoeing on the many rivers in our beautiful state.

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Q: We know you have a great passion for cooking and you just mentioned some outdoor activities in the summer months. What are some of the favorite outdoor sports that you like to do with family and friends or even alone?

A: Well, as I mentioned before, I simply love being outside in central Virginia. We are less than 10 minutes from the world renowned Skyline Drive, which provides travelers with some of the east coast’s most spectacular views. Also, I love our local historical sights like Monticello and Montpelier. Local vineyards are some of our best attractions too. Wine tasting is after all a part of my job, and I owe it to my guests to stay informed.

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Want to taste what Chef Alan is cooking at the Lafayette Inn? Check out our Chef for a Day package, an exclusive weekend of food and drink like nothing you’ve ever experienced.

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Hungry? Click here for one of Chef’s special recipes and give it a go!

A Recipe for Scallop Success

We asked Chef Alan to give us a taste of what he teaches during our Chef for a Day experience. One thing his students learn is that it’s not always best to slave away. Delicious, exciting meals can be made using smart shortcuts so that you actually have the energy to enjoy your meal when it’s ready. Read on for Chef’s tasty and time-saving risotto recipe…

Quick & Easy Scallop Risotto

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Cooking time, including prep: 15 Minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup onions, finely chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • A dash of garlic powder
  • A pinch of oregano
  • 1 bag of ready risotto
  • 1 pound parmesan cheese, shredded or grated
  • 5 colossal scallops
  • Salt & pepper to taste

1. Place a heavy non-stick skillet on the burner at medium high heat.

2. In a separate skillet, fry one cup of finely chopped onions and two cups of chopped mushrooms until tender. Add two cups of heavy cream, or just enough to cover the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and some granulated garlic. Add one pinch of oregano.

3. Now here’s the shortcut. Add to the sauce a bag of ready risotto (Uncle Ben’s works well). Stir in well over a medium heat until the sauce thickens. Add a generous amount of Parmesan cheese. Cover with a lead and remove from the heat.

4. In the first heated skillet, 4 to 5 colossal scallops. Avoid turning them until they are brown around the sides. At that point, nudge them until they release from the skillet, flip them, and brown for another 30 seconds.

5. Serve the risotto onto plats or shallow bowls and assemble the scallops on top. Garnish with a little finely chopped parsley.

Ready to learn more of Chef Alan’s secrets? Come to Virginia wine country for our Chef for a Day Culinary Getaway. Your taste buds will thank you!

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Epitourean’s Friday Five: Andalucia, Spain

It is Epitourean’s great pleasure to continue our Friday Five, a selection of the places, recipes and delicious local delights that are on our radar at the moment. This week’s Friday Five is all about Andalucia, Spain, which we believe is one of the premier culinary destinations in Europe, and where we offer some fabulous culinary packages to travelers who wish to explore this amazing foodie destination.

No trip to Spain is complete without a stopover in the romantic and architecturally stunning Spanish city of Seville. Be prepared to bear the arid heat of the city, the passions of its locals, and the amazing range of fabulous and savory tapas.

Hotel Hacienda la Herriza is our kind of place. Not only is it a beautiful eden, it is a place where you can splash around in the hotel’s gorgeous pool, or sip sherry in the evening while the sunset washes everything in mango light. It is a refuge from the chaos of daily life, and ideally located near many of the top attractions in Andalucia.

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Jerez de la Frontera Sherry Bodega is a once in a lifetime experience. Even if you’re not partial to this Spanish fortified wine, a visit to one of the most important sherry producers in Spain will offer you the opportunity to understand sherry drinking culture, its importance in Spain, and more than likely turn you into a sherry sipping convert.

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Granada is an autonomous city in the Andalucian region, and one of the most beautiful cities in all of Spain. Its churches, its small alleyways, its tapas, beer, sherry and most generally, the people, make a visit here one that no traveler will ever soon forget.

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So much depends on (good) Spanish Tortillas. Their very simplicity: eggs, potatoes, olive oil and onions, have always awarded these snacks high honors as Spain’s most iconic tapas. Essentially fancy omelettes made with Spanish love and ingredients, they will pour a little joy into your day.

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Wanderlust: A Culinary Tour of Abruzzo

The second thing travellers realize about Italy’s stunning Abruzzo region are its clutch of fabulous pastas, wines and cheeses. The region is one of Epitourean.com‘s favourites, and where we offer fabulous culinary excursions. For beginners to Abruzzo, we’ve curated a few of our favourite local specialities to eat and drink.

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Maccheroni alla Chitarra

Abruzzo Recipe: Maccheroni alla Chitarra

Pasta ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups semolina flour, plus extra as needed
  • 2 large eggs

Sauce ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 24 basil leaves, thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh chili pepper, minced, or 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 1/2 pound fresh grape or cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cooking and serving:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (optional)

This recipe is straight forward and classic. Start by making your sauce. Bring your sauce ingredients to a simmer and turn down the heat when the vegetables and tomatoes are soft.

Prepare your pasta.

After cutting your pasta to your liking, add it to boiling and salted water. Boil until the pasta is al dente. Reserve some of the pasta water and add it to the sauce. Return the sauce to a mid-low heat and add the pasta. Stir for a further five minutes. Serve with freshly grated pecorino cheese.

 

Abruzzo Wines

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Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

This small region of Italy packs a big punch when it comes to making top notch wines. Here are some of our favorites:

Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo: We can’t go without mentioning the region’s important reds. This one is deliciously intense and dry, fruity and deep burgundy in color.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo: The region’s most popular and important red wine. The grapes carry notes of plum, the finish is dry and velvety, and the wine pairs so well with cheeses and meats.

Trebbiano d’Abruzzo: This is a more dry and delicate tipple, also well paired with cheeses, and made from Bombino Bianco grapes.

Abruzzo Cheeses

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Scamorza Cheeses

Scamorza is a similar to mozzarella, a type of cow’s milk curd cheese that is buttery in flavour and best eaten as soon as it’s made and very tasty when grilled.

One of the best sheep’s milk ricottas made in the region is called Cacioricotta Abruzzo.  It has wonderful flavour notes of coffee and lemon zest. You would usually eat this cheese on special holidays.

Another amazing local cheese is Caciotta d’Abruzzo, a cow’s or sheep’s milk cheese that on occasion is made with chile peppers.

Pecorino d’Abruzzo is a typical sheep’s milk cheese that can be quite overwhelmingly pungent if it’s aged beyond two or three years. It is best when served with a dry and fruity red wine.

 

 

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Epitourean’s Friday Five: Yucatán Peninsula

Epitourean’s weekly Friday Five turns its attention on all things Yucatán, a vibrant culinary region on Mexico’s beautiful Caribbean coast. Our first pick is the Hacienda Petec, a stunning Spanish colonial compound where we are thrilled to bring our travelers. The Hacienda, which is close to the the Yucatán capital of Mérida, is engulfed in lush, tropical trees and flowers, and offers amazing cooking classes and spa treatments.

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Mérida

Mérida‘s immense historical center is a veritable melting pot of Spanish, Mexican and regional Caribbean influences. This is evident in its varied architectural styles, and of course, its fabulous cuisine. The main produce market in the city is the place to discover the large variety of Yucatecan cuisine, also influenced by Middle Eastern, European and Caribbean culinary cultures to names a few.

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Rio Secreto

Epitourean loves the Rio Secreto for its amazing natural beauty, and because its an easy and fun day adventure to do with groups or solo. One of the world’s environmental wonders, you could spend the entire day here plashing around in the warm, blue water and taking in the cave’s awesome stalactites and stalagmites.

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Costamaya Beach

Xcalak is considered one of the last sections of beachfront Yucatán that is unspoiled by aggressive development. The white sand beaches are quiet, and the seas are as clear and blue and clean as anywhere in the Caribbean. Xcalak is also a popular spot for adventure sports, like snorkelling , scuba diving and fly fishing.

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Chichén Itzá

Over 1.2 million travellers from all over the world come to Mexico to visit the magnificent Mayan pyramids and ruins of Chichén Itzá. It’s one of the Yucatán region’s treasures, and best seen in the early morning or closer to closing time at sunset when the heat and sunshine are more bearable.

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Intrigued? Experience these wonders with someone you love using our TWO for ONE Yucatán promotion.

 

Yucatán Essentials

One of the greatest pleasures of travel is discovering new and delicious things to eat. Epitourean loves Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula for this simple reason, and we’ve drummed up a list of some of the essential dishes and drinks to try while here.

Pollo Pibil is a Yucatán staple of marinated chicken wrapped in a banana leaves and baked. The tangy marinade called achiote isn’t spicy, and is typically prepared with sour orange juice, cumin, garlic, peppercorns and salt. There is a pork version of this recipe too called conchinita pibil, which is equally delicious.

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Panuchos and Salbutes

Panuchos and Salbutes are essentially cooked tortillas topped with shredded chicken, onions and lettuce. The only difference between the two are that Panuchos are made with tortillas filled with refried beans. These are the best bar snacks and appetizers.

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Lime Soup

Aside from being inherently delicious, Lime Soup is said by locals to be the ultimate cure for hangovers and colds. This simple dish is prepared with very few ingredients: shredded chicken, broth, strips of fried tortillas, and lots and lots of lime juice.

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Papadzules

Papadzules are simply tortillas stuffed with chopped hard boiled eggs and then smothered in a pumpkin seed sauce. It’s not the lightest dish you can order in the Yucatán, but it is possibly one of the most comforting.

Frijol con Puerco is a typical Monday lunch of big chunks of pork cooked slowly with black beans and served with rice. Sometimes you see this dish garnished with thin radish slices, cilantro, or avocado, but this varies depending on the restaurant.

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Michelada

A michelada is a classic Yucatán drink, and widely consumed across most of Mexico. It’s really just a dressed up beer, seasoned with lime, salt, pepper, Maggi seasoning, Tabasco sauce, and Worchestershire sauce. It’s a great drink for those who like salt, and another fail proof cure for hangovers in Mexico.

To celebrate Mexico’s rich and beautiful Yucatán, Epitourean is offering a week long promotion on some of the amazing culinary experiences the we offer throughout the region.