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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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Insider Tips to an Amazing Edible Adventure

Planning an edible adventure? We asked some of our most seasoned travelers for insider tips about how to best live in the moment and then bring that moment home…

1. Pack lightly! You can always buy cheap flips flops and shampoo when you get there. Leave room to bring home culinary souvenirs.

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2. Alert your travel companions of your daily activity plans. If you want to go biking on the Parenzana Trail in Croatia, or plop down in the blue caves in the Rio Secreto in the Yucatán, let them know beforehand so they can join… or at least know where you are.

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3. Pack snacks–if you’re hiking or exploring a new village, load up on local treats for the trip. That way, you can maximize your time without having to stop every two hours and pay for overpriced coffees and nibbles.

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4. Keep a diary. No doubt, your friends will forever ask you what you did and where you ate. Write it down. If not for yourself, for the sake of paying it forward to future travelers.

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5. Take pictures! So obvious, we know, but your family and friends on Facebook want to know about your big life. Side note, your diary will come in handy a year from now when you finally get to the business of making a photo book of your trip and can’t make heads or tales of your photos…stockvault-gold-hill1153106. Write. A letter or postcard from a journey is an unexpected and precious gift in today’s society. Spice up your friends’ and family’s junk mail piles with a thoughtful, handwritten post from your adventure. Bonus: it also engages you deeper with your travel experience.

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7. Eat everything! Be adventurous. As we’ve discovered in all our years providing culinary travel, food is a truly special way to experience a culture. You’ve come all this way… open your mind and your mouth to all the tastes and treasures your destination holds.puglia-market8. Forget what you learned as a kid and talk to strangers. One of the dreamiest aspects of travel is meeting people with experience and perspective completely different from yours. This kind of social adventure strengthens character and makes for a very rich and new travel experience.

2013-02-20 15.19.109. Do your homework. No one expects you to take a foreign language class in preparation for your trip but brushing up on some common phrases and customs will go a long way. Engage locals by asking thoughtful questions or testing your pronunciation… we guarantee the gesture will be appreciated.2013-12-28 13.38.3910. Just go! Are you reading this blog because you’re dreaming of a trip but don’t feel the time is right? Like most things in life, there will never be a perfect time to travel and waiting for the right time to present itself can become a futile effort. Travel, especially an Edible Destinations adventure, is educational, energizing and, above all, fun, which is something we all deserve.

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Click here to explore all the culinary adventures we offer and begin planning your Edible Destination!

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.

Postcard from Florence

The Good Life: Florence

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Epitourean’s intrepid traveler, Robert Everson, shares his experience in Italy’s renaissance capital, Florence. In Florence, we stayed at the SoprArno Suites. It’s a beautiful, upscale bed and breakfast in a charming neighborhood, and an easy walk to anywhere you want to go. The rooms are gorgeous and the staff is so friendly. Our tour guides Claire, Silvia, and Todd were all so knowledgeable, and they shared their amazing personal insights of beautiful Florence. We took Epitourean’s “Gourmet Walking Tour of Florence” where we had spectacular culinary experiences. It was a day of fun and learning, and the food, wine, cheese, and olive oil were all spectacular! What a perfect way to see the city! Our guide, Claire, brought us to the most amazing places where we had the best food and wine. We also toured the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell’ Accademia where we saw breathtaking art, including Michelangelo’s David. We had four hours to tour the museums, which was the perfect amount of time. Our tour guide, Silvia, was a wealth of information. She pointed out the museums’ highlights, and was able to move us right up to the front of each line. We wouldn’t have done it any other way! We also went to Chianti for a day trip to tour the Vecchie Terre di Montefili vineyard. Our guide, Todd, was amazingly knowledgeable about the Tuscan region and was an expert in Italian wines. The winery is gorgeous, and we had the entire place to ourselves for a private tour and tasting.  We learned so much about Italian wines. Since our visit here, we’ve become huge fans, and now ship Italian wines to our home in the US! Leaving Florence, we took the train to Naples. It was a beautiful and relaxing train ride. Drivers from the Positano Car Service, whom are complete lifesavers, greeted us at Naples train station. They took us around Positano, which is absolutely dreamy, and having a driver was much easier than having to navigate the region’s windy and dangerous roads! 

Postcard from Positano

Wanderlust: One Traveller’s Highlights of Beautiful Positano

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One of Epitourean’s intrepid travellers, Robert Everson, shared with us some of his favourite things about his recent culinary tour of Positano, Italy:  Positano is truly a dream and a completely different type of vacation than Florence. It is so laid back and easy going, and was a perfect end to our trip. Well done Edible Destinations team! One piece of advice: make sure to buy some local ceramics and ship them home. We stayed at the Hotel Poseidon, which is funky and quirky. It reminded me of the hotel from the film, Mamma Mia! The hotel’s staff were all outstanding, especially Annalisa in the bar and Marco at the front desk. The best part of the hotel was the view. Definitely reserve one of the rooms with a balcony overlooking the sea. We spent an entire day on the patio with a bottle of wine and didn’t move. It’s just so breathtaking. One of my favourite moments was a cooking class with Donna Rosa! Not the Donna Rosa in town where the hotel is, but the restaurant at the top of the town. It’s about a 15 – 20 minute drive from the hotel. We spent hours with Mamma, Papa, and Erika their daughter, learning to make several dishes and different types of pasta. This was everything we could have ever imagined an Italian cooking class to be, and a highlight of our entire honeymoon! We can’t wait to share our new cooking skills with friends and family! We also spent a day in Pompei. Definitely use a guide for your visit. It was absolutely amazing. I recommend to fit Pompeii into your itinerary when you travel from Naples to Positano since you drive right by it. Our favorite restaurant while we were there was Mediterraneo. It is only a five minute walk from the hotel. We ate there twice! Great fresh pasta and seafood. We also enjoyed Max Enoteca down in the city. It was a bit pricey, but worth it. We were so sad to leave, but have such amazing memories. A huge thank you to Edible Destinations for making our dreams come true and creating a magical experience for us. Well done! 

Oil Tasting in Istria

Moveable Feast: Istria’s Overlooked Olive Oil Artisans Part I

Some of the Europe’s best olive oil producers work along meridians with extremely favourable conditions. These typically include blistering heat and proximity to the sea. But even so, not all countries create the same olive. The richness of farmland differs from country to country, as do the intensity and dedication to fruitful farming practices. But in Istria, one of Croatia’s most beloved Adriatic destinations for food and travel, this part of the world is blessed with some of the best terrain for creating olive oils that are more akin to delicate wines. Istrian oils in particular have spicy or grassy notes, they are meant to savour, and they are typically produced in small batches. Small batch production, a hallmark of Istrian olive oil farmers, allows them to capture intense and completely unique flavours that shine bright in their olive oils.

One of those producers is Babić, a long standing producer of extra virgin olive oils in north-western Istria. Many farmers here still use old stone mill methods for extracting oils from their harvest. While this traditional way of processing is beautiful to witness, it tends to diminish the oils intense flavours as this antiquated extraction method takes longer, and some of the refined tasting characteristics in the oils are lost to oxidation. The Babić family uses state-of-the art facilities, cold press techniques and centrifuge processing to extract the highest quality oils on the market today. Excursions to Babić’s family production happen year round, and in addition to fascinating tutorials on olive oil tasting, the family accompanies these excursions with tastings of homemade cheeses, herb infused breads and local wines. Epitourean is proud to work with family run olive oil producers, and to offer our clients a range of these experiences in the culinary excursions that we operate throughout Istria. Visit our website for a more in depth view of the many artisans we share with our clients.  www.epitourean.com

 

 

 

Discovering Italy’s Ancient Fishing Village Termoli

Italy’s Adriatic Coast is flecked with stunning seaside villages like historic Termoli in the unspoilt Molise region. Thankfully many of the coastal towns here are overlooked for more popular destinations like the Amalfi Coast. But places like Termoli are unique; beautiful as they are, they are still not over run with tourists, cruise liners and the general comings and goings of tourists marching across Italy year round. Once a sleepy fishing village, Termoli has over the years become a finely kept secret by Italians, who come here for the area’s clean beaches and to explore the old town’s fortifications. The old town of Termoli is especially fascinating; in recent years many of the cathedrals and 12th and 13th century stone buildings have been restored. It’s Romanesque architecture is simply incredible; like its gorgeous Termoli Cathedral the town’s imposing and tiered castle.

But architecture isn’t Termoli’s sole strength. The town has a rollicking port life where fishing and food are at the core of local living. One of the area’s most distinguishing features are its trabucchi, which are elaborate wooden fishing structures that jut out into the sea and lend this coastal Italian region its further magical and dreamy characteristics. Culinary traditions are seafood based, and the local restaurants and cooking schools are blessed with a daily glut of fresh clams and shrimp, and other bounties from the Adriatic. Epitourean is privileged to have forged excellent relationships with the town’s fishmongers, hoteliers and generally speaking, many locals, that have opened doors for our clients to experience this endlessly surprising culture from its culinary riches to its ancient monuments. We take clients to the local fish market and to a local trabucco where they see and participate first hand in the day to day activities of this astounding region of Italy.

Epitourean’s Edible Destinations

Welcome to Epitourean’s new blog! As we grow and have more exciting offerings for our travellers, we wanted to create a space where we can share news about some of our latest culinary destinations. We also want our friends and clients to hear about updates on where we travel and whats in store. Epitourean receives such positive feedback from people we have sent to places like the Almalfi Coast or to the south of France, and we want to share the stories of their memorable experiences, as well as relate travel and food news that we are following.  In the simplest terms, we are creating a useful public platform that celebrates the art of food and travel.

Those who are new to Epitourean’s Edible Destinations; we are a niche travel company offering lovers of food and travel with outstanding cooking vacations, gourmet tours and culinary getaways. A lot of our return clients like the fact that we have flexible packages, such as mini 2-4 days getaways, longer excursions up to 10 days, and even tours that we tailor for solo travellers to amazing gastronomically rich sites all over the world. Thanks for tuning in and please follow us on twitter @Epitourean and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/EdibleDestinations for our latest news and travel deals.  -www.epitourean.com