Category - Our Travels

These are posts about our own travel experiences.

Iceland In Between … Meals That Is!

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ROAD TRIP ICELAND

Many travelers to Iceland end up spending a good amount of time traveling overland either in a rental car or tour bus. It’s a vast country with wide open vistas where buildings, homes and villages are few and far between. For someone accustomed to city living, it might feel as if there is nothing to eat in such a seemingly rural and sparsely populated country, but actually there are a number of fun stops along the way for in between snacks.

A very small portion of Iceland is arable – mostly the southern lowland areas where mountains and glaciers give way to lush pastures, and it is common to see sheep, Icelandic horses and dairy cows grazing. One of Iceland’s best treats is anything made with the rich milk and cream of the Icelandic grass-fed cow. It is in Iceland that you will find some of the best butter, cheese, ice cream and their famous yogurt, Skyr. So, let’s think cheese as we begin our snacking!

GRAB A PICNIC

If you are a planning a day or a week on the road in Iceland your first stop should be either at a Bonus or Kronan Supermarket. Here you can explore national foods and stock up on picnic items like spelt bread or crackers from the bakery, cookies, fresh greens from one of Iceland’s vegetable producing greenhouses and some of their fabulous cheese. You would also be wise to grab a bottle or two of the very creative fruit and veggie blends offered by Floridana. These juices are not raw or fresh pressed, but while traveling they are certainly convenient, delicious and refreshing.

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BREAKFAST TO GO

If you start your day in Reykjavik and head out for a tour of the Golden Circle, make sure to stop at the family run Molsfellsbaer Bakery for coffee and the Icelandic lemon poppyseed roll, or one of their spelt bread rolls formed by hands carrying on bread-baking traditions hundreds of years old. Of course, if you have a newborn in tow, they are famous for cakes referred to as “Cristening Pillows.” 

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ICE CREAM ANYONE?

Once you have some snack provisions, head out on the Golden Circle traveling Hwy 36 where you will find the sites of Thingvellir National Park and Oxararfoss Falls. After hiking around these amazing natural wonders, you will find yourself heading towards Geysir and Gullfoss Falls, but you will want to stop first at Efstidalur Ice cream Farm.

At Efstidalur you can either take in a full lunch or watch the Icelandic cows through observation windows in the barn while enjoying a rich and delicious ice cream cone. These cows give a milk that is much higher in fat – 3.9% compared to 3.25% – likely because Icelandic bovine have been isolated for over 1100 years, they are grass-fed, and their winter diets are supplemented with fish meal giving a unique richness to the ice cream. Don’t miss it!

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VISIT THE TOMATO GREENHOUSE

Make sure that when you arrive at Geysir and Gallfoss you move around a lot – walk, hike, do some jumping jacks or burpies, because the next snack stop is just down the road (Hwy 35) at Fridheimar Farm. Here you can get up close and personal with one of Iceland’s famous geothermal greenhouses. This one grows a large percentage of Iceland’s tomato crop which they serve up in all-you-can-eat tomato soup with bread. It’s fascinating to watch thick tomato vines climb to the roof while you dine in the warm light of a beautiful glass building. If you are looking for gifts to take home, Fridheimar Farm has a “Little Tomato Shop” where they sell a variety of tomato jams, jellies and sauces.

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The best secret of Iceland is that some of its tastiest snacks and meals come from the N1 gas stations! You can find a variety of sandwiches, pizza and an order of large fries that will put the idea of “Supersize Me” to shame. These giant square boats of fries could feed a family of ten, so don’t make the mistake of ordering two for your group of four or you’ll be donating one box to the backpackers at the table next to you!

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If you’re tired of traveling and need a full rest stop, there are a few little towns where you can snack on a pizza and Icelandic beer. Two worth mentioning are Halldorskafi Restaurant in Vik and for a more casual stop after touring the Lake Myvatn area, Daddi’s Pizza. Both offer a variety of pizzas with creative toppings, but if you continue to crave more of that delicious Icelandic cheese, go for simple. Halldorskafi offers their Icelandic cheese pizza with three different varieties of cheese served with a little currant jelly on top, and Daddi’s names its cheese pizza after the neighboring volcano, Krafla, and covers it with lava-like cheese chunks including parmesan, blue, cream cheese and a spicy pepperjack. Served alongside an Icelandic Microbrew from Einstock or Borg Brugghus, you will be a very happy snacker!

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Iceland may well become the next great “Road Trip” destination with food and snacks that will make even the most discerning traveler happy!

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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!

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.

Epitourean’s Friday Five: New York City

Introducing Epitourean’s Friday Five where we pick our favorite spots in any city on our radar. Today we wrap up our week of celebrating the great American metropolis of New York City. Here are some of the places we love to visit.

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New York’s new High Line Park on the disused tracks of the city’s old West Side Line is one of Manhattan’s most important urban regeneration projects in the last 20 years. We love it for several reasons: it’s free! and offers visitors a heightened perspective of the city between downtown Gansevoort Street and 34th street by the Javits Convention Center. The nearly 1.5 mile elevated promenade is covered in beautiful gardens and trees, and wide spaces where people can lounge in the sun, listen to live music and grab a bite to eat.

Open on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Union Square Farmer’s Market is a joy to visit. Farmers from all over New York state bring their seasonal, organic produce and stack them in big beautiful heaps. It’s here where many New York chefs come to do their restaurant shopping, and the market also hosts producers of products like baked goods, ciders and cheeses.

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The Strand is a totem to New York’s few surviving old school book stores. Its claim to fame is that it holds over 18-miles of books packed into the three floors. Epitourean travellers will find everything from rare and collectable reads to a fabulous range of cookbooks and food writing.

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We suggest The Kimberly Hotel because we love the rooms, the location and it’s part of our Big Apple Package. We love that it is conveniently nearby trains that quickly bring travellers uptown to museums or downtown to restaurants. The hotel’s rooftop lounge is one of our favorite spots to chill out after a long day and relax with a view.

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The Whitney Museum of American Art recently opened near Chelsea Markets, the High Line Park and all of the downtown bars, restaurants and shopping that we encourage travellers to explore. Designed by Italian Architect Renzo Piano, the museum holds one of the largest US collections of American Art, and offers great views of the Hudson River and Manhattan.

Our Big Apple Package is an excellent introduction to this and more of the NYC’s endless delights.

Discovering Historic Chelsea Market

Travellers to New York City typically carve out time to check out one of the world’s greatest food halls, Chelsea Market. Over six million visitors throng the market each year to shop for fresh produce and seafood, or nosh on everything from soups and BBQ to Thai noodles and sushi. The place is always teaming with people fuelling up on coffee and bagels in the mornings, and hoards of local office workers stream in throughout the day to pick up lunches and dinners. Chelsea Market is also home to broadcasting companies like the Food Network and Oxygen Network, who film from their studios here.

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What most people love about Chelsea Market is that it is now part of New York’s architectural heritage. Once the headquarters of NABISCO, the building is said to be the birth place of Oreo cookies, among other iconic American baked goods. The old brick industrial building that Chelsea Market occupies is part of the Gansevoort Market Historic District, once an important district for heavy industry and manufacturing in the city. Many of the industrial buildings in the neighborhood are gone or repurposed into high end shopping boutiques , bars and restaurants. Chelsea Market enjoys prime Manhattan real estate, sharing the neighbourhood with the High Line Park and cultural attractions like the new Whitney Museum of American Art. 

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Epitourean.com loves to celebrate New York City’s food culture and checkered history. As part of our latest promotion, A Big Bite of the Big Apple, we are thrilled to offer a Chelsea Market and Meatpacking District Foodie Tour showcasing some of New York’s best sights, shopping and tastes.

 

Postcard from Istria

Notes from Istria from an Epitourean traveller and what he and his travel companion found along their journey. We had so many extraordinary experiences during our trip to Istria.  Our favourite was biking on the Parenzana Trail. The former train tracks are now a great hiking and biking trail that snake through Istria’s interior woodlands. We had a birds eye view of the region’s hill towns and countryside. We chose a downhill path that led us to local honey producer’s, Medea. The owners treated us to a 45-minute honey tasting before we crossed the street to have one of the best truffle-themed meals of our lives at Zigante.

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For us the point of this trip was to learn about and taste as many local specialities as we could. Out of these, our wine tasting at Kzlovic Wine Estate was phenomenal, and in such a beautiful location. We also learned a lot about local olive oils when we visited Vodnjan Chiavalon Olive Oil Estate. Epitourean brought us to see about a dozen other outstanding Istrian food, wine and beer producers. I think we caught the best of what Istria has to offer.

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Of course we wanted to see some of the region’s stunning villages, coastal towns and port cities. We stopped into Porec for the day, where the urban landscape is a wonderful mash up of Roman, Baroque, modern and and contemporary architecture. Rovinj was nothing less than dreamy and walkable, and a gorgeous seafront town. The hill top enclave of Groznjan, with its art galleries and incredible vistas of surrounding green hills, was one of the most charming places we’ve every visited. We will be back for certain.

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Has this postcard piqued your Istrian interest? Click here to book your journey to the Truffle Epicenter.

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