All Food

Turkish Eggplant Kabobs

Turkish Eggplant Kabobs

Now starring...drumroll, please. The lovely eggplant: cloaked in a deepest jewel-tone purple, satiny, with unblemished skin, sleek in figure adorned by an evergreen crown cap. She is royalty and commands a striking presence in my garden. I’d almost rather leave this...

Figs – Kisses from the Summer Sun

Figs – Kisses from the Summer Sun

My fig tree not only bestows me with gorgeous summer fruit but presents a nature show all year long. In the fall and winter, it loses its leaves to reveal bare-naked limbs. Small green buds evolve into broad, finger-like leaves while nubs form on its skinny branches...

Summer Daze

Summer Daze

Despite the pandemic daze I often find myself in, being cooped up has reignited a flame in my cooking life, using seasonal ingredients in imaginative ways. My over-grown garden of veggies nudged my palate to explore new tastes and combinations that permeated further...

Dreaming of Gelato

Dreaming of Gelato

Let me introduce my writing friend, colleague, and guest blogger, Jolie Tunnell. Jolie is witty, sassy, and knows how to tell a story. Her blog at JolieTunnell.com shares humerous tales of her five children, husband, and new kitten and is always a fun read. She’s got...

Taming “Shelter in Place” with Bird Watching and Bread-Making

Taming “Shelter in Place” with Bird Watching and Bread-Making

  Amidst all this self-isolation, I've discovered new ways to keep from going crazy, which has happened a few times. The unexpected evolution of these new hobbies are spin-offs of my gardening and cooking passions. They are bird watching and bread-making, one using...

In Love With Chocolate

In Love With Chocolate

  To me, chocolate represents everything good in life. It has helped me through my darkest hours, given me clarity when I am indecisive, and won hearts when it counts. That is why I cannot imagine Valentine's Day without chocolate. Whether you are wooing a mate...

Sparky

Sparky

The Sparkle in my Life March 2009 to October 2019 My dearest Sparky, Even though you have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, I feel your warm spirit and vibrant energy beside me. Oh, the adventures we had! From the oceans to the desert and the mountains. Joy was our...

Gramma’s Orange Spice Bars

Gramma’s Orange Spice Bars

My Gramma has done it again: delivered a recipe with oranges that sounded so incredibly good that I made it immediately and now cannot stop snacking. I came across it during my annual January purge. This year, my studio, which is jammed with multiple writing...

Homegrown Potatoes

Homegrown Potatoes

I’d never thought of growing potatoes until I visited my family in Denver last year and my green-thumb sister-in-law, Mirna, showed me how. Her homegrown potatoes were finished for the season in October and I helped her dig them up before the first frost. The yield...

Food Photography, Santa Fe & A Cake

Food Photography, Santa Fe & A Cake

On a plane en route to Albuquerque, final destination Santa Fe, I devoured a book by one of my food writer gurus, Ruth Reichl. Her latest book, Save me the Plums, was just released and is a memoir of her life as editor-in-chief of Gourmet Magazine, my favorite food...

My 5 Favorite Memories of The Beach House

My 5 Favorite Memories of The Beach House

Our family beach house of 57 years is now a memory. I spent much of my childhood here, in the tiny 1929 blue cottage with brick-red shutters along the shores of Mission Beach. Her living room was covered in a driftwood-type paneling, a fish net hung in a corner,...

On Stage Now – The Super Bloom of the Desert!

On Stage Now – The Super Bloom of the Desert!

  The desert displays many faces. It can be bone dry and desolate, or raging in color and life, like it is this spring. It’s called a Super Bloom and only happens when an abundance of rainfall gifts its precious resource to the parched land. It's wildflower time!...

The Douro River Valley – A Love Story

The Douro River Valley – A Love Story

There’s a place, deep in a river valley in northern Portugal, that is rich in natural resources and tended to by humble, dedicated people. It is called the Douro River Valley and is romantic, intoxicating and magnetic. Its fertility, along with a temperate climate,...

A Tease of Portugal

A Tease of Portugal

A new place has touched my heart and her name is Portugal. An old European soul, she remains unspoiled with raw beauty and a depth of cultural influence. I wasn’t surprised as I’d heard so many wonderful things about this country that I had to experience it for...

Classic Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Classic Pineapple Upside Down Cake

Home Ec class, circa 1970. Our teacher, Mrs. Talbot, handed out mimeographed recipes for Pineapple Upside Down Cake. Exotic! We donned our aprons, made in the sewing class she taught, and organized the ingredients. Our class was the giggly kind but, today, the giggles...

Gifting With Phyllo Dough

Gifting With Phyllo Dough

The cooler fall days encourage a shift in my cooking. After a binge on vegetable soups in all stages, my taste buds are hungry for something I can sink my teeth into. Enter phyllo dough. Most people know it as the thin layers of dough between ground nuts and honey in...

Almondines—Reviving One of My Classics

Almondines—Reviving One of My Classics

While cleaning out an upper cupboard in my closet last week, I discovered a forgotten box. A treasure full of old recipes I had created when I taught cooking classes, as well as letters and postcards I’d sent my parents from La Varenne in Paris, France. It was like...

Bonding Over Pomegranates

Bonding Over Pomegranates

This story is dedicated to my forever pomegranate best friend, Jenny. The one fruit I have always been smitten with is the pomegranate. Not because of its highly sought after nutritional benefits or how it has become a “cool” fruit, but for other deeper reasons....

10 Things I Love About New Jersey

10 Things I Love About New Jersey

I’ve been resisting writing about my latest vacation escape. Not because it wasn’t memorable - quite the opposite. But, I just can’t get it out of my mind so needed to share. I went to New Jersey. When I told my friends I was going to The Garden State, they quickly...

Caponata, Adele’s Way

Caponata, Adele’s Way

Roberto’s mom, Adele, was my cooking mentor the two weeks I spent in Sicily. I watched as she prepared, mostly by memory, Pan di Spagna, quiche al formaggio, gnocchi, Insalata Russa (delectable potato, shrimp and carrot salad), risotto, frittata, brioche and caponata....

Sicily, Seafood and Sunsets

Sicily, Seafood and Sunsets

“I’m taking you to the best seafood restaurant on the island of Sicily, maybe the entire world!” Roberto proclaimed. Roberto’s insistence that EVERYTHING in Sicily is the best is irritating at times. How can the  food be better than the meals I'd eaten in southern...

The Power of Agrigento

The Power of Agrigento

Have you ever been to a place that brought forth such a surge of emotion that it vibrated into the deepest part of your soul? A place so powerful, so ancient, that its energies pulsate, like a heartbeat, and still feels alive, even now, over 2500 years later? This is...

A New Twist on Paella – Squid Ink!

A New Twist on Paella – Squid Ink!

I’m interrupting my travelogue of Sicily to tell you about yet another fantastic paella party I hosted on Saturday. This was our 4th annual party and my mom and I decided to take it to the next level. “I saw this interesting Garcima Paella Burner at Pata Negra,” my...

A Pistachio Inspired Pranzo

A Pistachio Inspired Pranzo

A Pistachio Inspired Pranzo A review of Il Fiorentino, Bronte, Sicily Another lovely blue-skied day in Sicily. Today’s adventure and culinary find takes us from the aquamarine sea to a mountain top and then half-way down the other side. All this to reach our lunch...

Scrumptious Sicilian Pastries

Scrumptious Sicilian Pastries

Sicilian Pistachio Cake As a former pastry chef, I am constantly on the quest for beautifully crafted and tasty pastries and of course, gelato. What I saw and tasted in Sicily really wowed me and delivered an unexpected surprise. Very similar to beautiful French...

Granita – Sicily’s Sweet Secret

Granita – Sicily’s Sweet Secret

I’ve tasted some pretty incredible things on my world-wide travels but did not expect for Sicily to offer foods that almost made me speechless. Seriously! Fine pastries in France, fresh seafood in Australia and robust goulash in Budapest all stand out as epic food...

Sparky’s Southwest Adventures Told in His Own Words

Sparky’s Southwest Adventures Told in His Own Words

Oh no! Suitcases! I sigh. Long stress yawn. I hate suitcases so much, my anxiety kicks in big time. It means you are going away. Pouting is my favorite way to instill guilt and boy, does it work! Wait! Are you packing my leash and my bowl? Does this mean - really? Oh...

La Festa

La Festa

  This event happened in October of 2015 in Lucca, Italy. It changed my life and I wanted to acknowledge all my friends in Lucca who have opened my heart and showed me that anything is possible. The story is longer than usual so sit back with a coffee or glass of...

Volare!

Volare!

Place: Pulignano a Mare, Puglia, Italy The True Italy The pistachio gelato I had just consumed made me sleepy and I headed back to our beautiful white-washed hotel overlooking the ocean. As I turned the corner, a group of young men waving Italian flags gathered in...

Rhubarb Pie Deconstructed

Rhubarb Pie Deconstructed

When the rhubarb arrives in my small local grocer, late spring, it’s like a mid-year Christmas present. I don’t know where I got this fondness for rhubarb but it does seem to be a fetish of mine. Years ago, I remember having dinner in a rural cafe in Hamilton,...

The New Look!

The New Look!

Spoon & Suitcase Welcome to my new blog site! I have a new name, Spoon & Suitcase, that reflects my passions  for eating, cooking and travel. I really like it and hope you do too! I've categorized my recipes, stories and travel information to make it much...

Holiday Pears

Holiday Pears

Pears have this seductive quality about them. They flaunt their curvy hips and hold their stem high, like wearing a tiny crown. Their taste and texture, soft, sweet and flowery, almost melts in your mouth. Rustic, yet delicate describe the Bosc variety, my favorite...

A Passion for Persimmons

A Passion for Persimmons

She lured me in with her perfect “t” shaped limbs, reaching out like angel wings. “Take me home.” she whispered. Not planning to add another fruit tree to my already demanding garden, this one was like an abandoned puppy. You know, the one that finds you. I’d always...

My Canadian Autumn

My Canadian Autumn

New Brunswick, Canada: A land where time stands still. Sculpted by nature, the unspoiled landscape is rough around the edges, like an unpolished stone and not in any hurry to progress. Inland, its rolling hills hopscotch between forests of coniferous trees - balsam...

Roberto Encore!

Roberto Encore!

I love my friend Roberto, my Italian brother. We get together several times a year to share our two common interests - music and food. A Graham Nash song causes us to  stop everything we’re doing and break out in a sing-along. How does a born and bred Italian,...

Perks! Caveats! Secrets! Collective Travel Tips for Going Solo

Perks! Caveats! Secrets! Collective Travel Tips for Going Solo

Many of the most meaningful and fun experiences in my life have happened while traveling alone. I met people who are now life-long friends; took part in a Vendemmia (family grape picking and crushing celebration) in Italy; was treated to an “insider’s” tour of Rome by...

My Tips for Hosting an Incredible Paella Party in 5 Simple Steps

My Tips for Hosting an Incredible Paella Party in 5 Simple Steps

Step 1 For me, the most important thing is starting with a great guest list. I choose family and compatible friends who have met before. This creates an intimate, comfortable atmosphere for all, and you, the host/hostess, need not worry about guests feeling left out...

Koreatown Part II

Koreatown Part II

Lunch at Sun Dong Nan set the tempo for the rest of our exploration of Koreatown. Across the street from our lunch spot is the landmark Chapman Market, a beautiful Spanish and Moorish style building dating to 1929. In its heyday, it was the city’s first drive in mall,...

Koreatown Part I

Koreatown Part I

“I Love LA!” I sang, Randy Newman style, as I drove up the I-5 toward a city you either love or hate. To me, Los Angeles is a polar opposite of San Diego, offering everything from the glitz of Hollywood, and the Getty Villa, (my favorite LA hangout), world-class...

Peachy Keen

Peachy Keen

I’ve always had a thing for peaches. I think it’s because my mom said when she was pregnant with me, she craved them. This love must have been passed along in utero because I too, delight in the season of stone fruit. Every summer at the beach, we would excavate the...

Santa Fe Style!

Santa Fe Style!

Last week I wrote about the New Mexico I experienced in my 20’s. What hasn’t changed is the way the food is prepared, firmly rooted in its use of locally grown ingredients, really before it was “cool” to eat “local.” Take chile peppers for example. Chiles require...

Santa Fe – The Past Comes Full Circle

Santa Fe – The Past Comes Full Circle

For me, travel is like a recipe. You take a bite, it consumes your senses. You make a memory out of a few ingredients along with the people who join you on this trip. Soon it’s in your “favorites” file. Some places have a profound effect on us, like that incredibly...

I Write Because…

I Write Because…

I believe we all are writers. The only thing separating us are the filters we choose to use to describe an experience. Our filters may be color-driven, emotionally driven, memory-driven or personal belief-driven. It’s all these variations that make one moment in time...

The Music Of Food

The Music Of Food

Music and cooking both have a beat, a pulse, a flow of notes and a sequence of ingredients. Listening to music while cooking brings out the best in my recipes and in me. My spirit is light as I dance around the kitchen swaying to the tunes, singing along and feeling...

“Take Another Little Piece of My Heart”

“Take Another Little Piece of My Heart”

My heartstrings are tugging like a hug you don’t want to release. This feeling waxes and wanes but mostly waxes. It’s a longing to be in another place, another reality far different from what I’m used to. A chance to reinvent oneself, live in the moment and not be...

Poof!

Poof!

When was the last time you made a soufflé? That long? Let’s fix that! Soufflés are one of those basic recipes that every chef is expected to master. It’s based on technique. Once you understand the basic bechamel sauce and how to properly whip egg whites, the world is...

Rhubarb Marries Meringue

Rhubarb Marries Meringue

Lately I’ve been feeling disenchanted with the world. About the only thing I find enchanting is my lovely, colorful garden. This is just a phase I’m going through. We all have them. To console myself, instead of watching evening tv, I crawled into bed with food....

A Kitchen’s Best Friend

A Kitchen’s Best Friend

The other day as I was whipping up a lemon chiffon cake in my Kitchen Aid, I felt this rush of love and adoration for this appliance that has been the stronghold of my various kitchens for over 37 years. I know it sounds crazy to be in love with a kitchen appliance...

Honestly Good Food

Honestly Good Food

Last month I received a copy of “Dog Obsessed,” written by Lucy Postins, founder of the dog food empire, The Honest Kitchen. Full of pet health information and funny stories all of us dog-crazed people can relate to, I could hardly put it down. Inserted into each...

Sunday Breakfast Brioche

Sunday Breakfast Brioche

Brioche. It sounds so intimidating. A rich, buttery, egg bread with so many possibilities for creativity. I was feeling ready for a challenge and scoured my cookbook collection comparing recipes and looking for ease of preparation. Finally I settled on one from my...

Orange Blossom Special

Orange Blossom Special

The life in my backyard is so breathtakingly alive right now. I am especially drawn to my two 60-year-old orange trees who greet me everyday with bursts of intensely perfumed orange blossoms that permeate my backyard. So heady is this fragrance, I find myself making...

It’s Showtime!

It’s Showtime!

This week only! Buds everywhere! My garden has stated that dormancy and hibernation are over and it’s time to create. Create leaves and buds that will burst forth into fruit and flowers. It’s such a delicate time of year. The crossover, so to speak, of stillness and...

Romancing Romanesco

Romancing Romanesco

Romanesco. It sounds sexy, alluring, Italian. Like a tall, dark and handsome Roman God. But, in reality, it is nothing like the vision the name conjures up. Our eyes met in the produce department of a specialty food store last year. Its tall and pointy bright green...

My Visits with Julia

My Visits with Julia

Before Julia Child was an icon of French cooking, she was my escape. Somehow food was programmed into my DNA and I hadn’t realized it yet. As a teenager, all I knew was that this large, middle-aged woman had captured my attention with her tv shows and I hung onto her...

A Valentine’s Memory & Mousse

A Valentine’s Memory & Mousse

I think my favorite thing about Valentine’s Day is the spirit of kindness and love that seem to carry on throughout the month. Yes, it’s commercial but love is everlasting, right? As a child, it was my favorite holiday.  We would fold red, pink and white construction...

For the Vodak Girls

For the Vodak Girls

Introducing the Vodak Girls: Carrie, Mary, Carolyn, Aunt Barb, Cousins Fran, Jane & Nancy It's all about a cake! I collect cookbooks. Hundreds of them line shelves in my kitchen, studio and even bedroom. I have signed books by Julia Child, James Beard, Jacques...

Sassy Succulents

Sassy Succulents

This spring nature called and begged for attention. My yard and garden had been severely neglected over the winter months and the weeds were suffocating everything they touched. The task seemed so overwhelming that I kept procrastinating. The roses appeared the...

Beets – A Fresh Idea

Beets – A Fresh Idea

I don’t know what happened but my beet crop was disastrous this year. The “golden” beets I planted in the fall evolved into knotty, dingy beige, woody and inedible roots. Thank goodness my neighbor, Sandy, who is an amazing gardener, gifted me with three beautiful...

The Egg

The Egg

Inspiration struck and I had a hit. It was a simple idea. Create an egg dish for Mother’s Day that would say “I love you” and taste great too. Here’s what I came up with. Shallots and mushrooms chopped fine and sauteed in olive oil with a pinch of salt until very...

Play Ball!

Play Ball!

A few weeks ago, the desert called to me, or was it Spring Training? Baseball has this effect on me. It makes me happy. Just say the word “baseball” and I will break out in a smile. What is it I love so much? It’s the crack of the bat hitting the ball, sending it at...

Sweet Flashback

Sweet Flashback

The other day I was inspecting my just budding grape vines and noticed the accumulation of weeds that had taken over the surrounding soil. As I began the process of gently releasing each weed’s grip, the smell of the earth and the weeds combined sent me into a vivid...

Food Fraud Exposed Editorial

Food Fraud Exposed Editorial

60 minutes recently aired an exposé on the Mafia’s control over food production in Italy, called “Agromafia.” It is scary. Chlorophyll and sunflower oil or canola oil mixed together to form olive oil; detergent added to cheese to whiten it; cheap wine touted as...

Renewing My Passion

Renewing My Passion

The hustle of the holidays always seems to pull time away from my passion, which is writing. Writing about food, travel, people and nature inspires me, fuels my spirit and encourages me to delve deeper into my heart to share these experiences with you. I have spent...

Colorado Breakfast

Colorado Breakfast

My sister-in-law Mirna continues to fuel my inspiration when it comes to food. Over Thanksgiving, she whipped out a warm fruit and berry oatmeal breakfast that I fell in love with. It’s so easy, is gluten-free and has little or no sugar depending on the topping you...

The Fortress of Montecarlo

The Fortress of Montecarlo

Every little village in Italy has something unique and special to offer it seems. Montecarlo, situated high on a hill near Lucca, is no exception. My dear friend Angela is fond of this artsy piece of antiquity and was eager to share its gifts with me. [gallery...

Breakfast in Florence

Breakfast in Florence

Hidden in the quaint neighborhood of Santa Croce sits Ditta Artigianale, a gem of a cafe that serves up creative and beautiful food in the tiniest of kitchens. We stumbled upon this cozy and comfortable eatery by mistake, no one recommended it, it just showed up. The...

A Time Not Forgotten

A Time Not Forgotten

My mantra for the day was, “I am timeless and ageless.” This phrase kept repeating itself as I wandered through the National Archaeological Museum of Chiusi in Italy. The three of us had the museum to ourselves, the only people exploring this treasure of ancient...

Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello, where have you been my entire life? I’ve finally found you tucked away in the rolling hills of Tuscany in an exclusive neighborhood of vineyards reserved only for the Sangiovese clan. Under the shadow of Montalcino lies acres of grapes destined to become one...

Late Summer Watermelon Salad

Late Summer Watermelon Salad

Labor Day’s Swan Song of summer demands a final salute to the ambrosial fruits the season delivered. This recipe is so simple it’s embarrassing but I make it over and over and continue to receive rave reviews. Peach Balsamic Vinegar is its secret ingredient, drawing...

Experience Risotto with Wild Bolete Mushrooms

Experience Risotto with Wild Bolete Mushrooms

Mushroom risotto. The flavor is so sublime, why complicate it with too many other ingredients? The essence that is the mushroom carries the flavor with the assistance of shallots, dry white wine and parsley. Watch carefully. Do not overcook. Do not overstir. It’s a...

Foraging for Mushrooms

Foraging for Mushrooms

For years I’ve dreamed of hunting for mushrooms. These almost illusive, sought-after fungi were surely only for the expert spotter - until today. I’m spending time with my brother, sister-in-law and nephew in their mountain home in Colorado. Hiking the quiet,...

Mountain Magic

Mountain Magic

“I believe fairies live here.” I nodded in agreement with this comment made by a passing fellow hiker, smarting a huge grin. The beauty and tranquility of the Colorado mountains always manages to take my breath away and this day was no exception. A visit to my...

Roberto Cooks Sicilian

Roberto Cooks Sicilian

My friend Roberto, musician, teacher and lover of food, especially Italian, came to visit last weekend. He brought us the best gift. He cooked for us! Did I mention Roberto is Sicilian? His recipes are not what you would find in any restaurant and probably rarely what...

Preserving Garden Tomatoes

Preserving Garden Tomatoes

Tomato sauce recipes are ubiquitous. Ask your friends and they will all have their own versions which most cling to like a plum pit. If you grow your own tomatoes like I do, you want to do something really special with your precious harvest. This year I am growing...

Picnic Palette

Picnic Palette

Color is the theme of this vibrant and hearty side dish that delivers both bold flavors and textures. Reminiscent of something Italian, it is the picture-perfect picnic dish. Using a mandoline or vegetable slicer will make quick work of prepping the veggies. Be sure...

Take Flight

Take Flight

How can you not help falling in love with birds? Every morning as I write, I gaze into a wonderland of constant fluttering and tune into their radio station. Finches share the seed feeder with mourning doves, pigeons and even crows. If a hummingbird isn’t drinking...

Olive Oil Granola

Olive Oil Granola

Olive oil? In granola? Certo! (Certainly!) This idea offered to me by my sister-in-law Mirna, was worth exploring. I’ve made plenty of granola in the past and recently started craving it with my morning yogurt and fruit. A quick label read at the local healthy grocery...

My Garden’s Fairy Godmother

My Garden’s Fairy Godmother

Sometimes neglect yields great surprises. My garden is my sanctuary and I feel very disconnected when I am not able to spend time weeding and cultivating. These times when I feel so overwhelmed by life, my friend Mother Nature steps in as if to say, “I’ve taken care...

My Life as a Leaf

My Life as a Leaf

Several mornings a week, Sparky and I hike the trails overlooking the ocean near my home. Scrub brush and a few old shedding eucalyptus trees line the pathway. Each day I choose a fallen brown parchment leaf that speaks to me and represents how I feel and determines...

Lemoniscious

Lemoniscious

My aunt Barb is a baker. Not just a home baker; she owned a bakery and can recite a recipe for a cake without blinking an eye. That is why, when she came for a visit, my task was to make for her a birthday cake that was so extraordinary she would be speechless. I...

Your Heart’s Desire

Your Heart’s Desire

What is your heart’s desire? When I ask myself this question, the first thing that comes to mind is, “love, always love.” Rather than one specific “love,” I desire this love be spread out over my family, Sparky, my friends and my garden. Of course we all have secret...

The Gift

The Gift

I have just received the greatest gift - The gift of time. This opportunity in time came in the form of sharing my house with my mom for nearly five months while her kitchen was being remodeled. I write about time, talk about time, obsess over time, and wish for more...

Gardening By The Moon

Gardening By The Moon

What does our moon and my garden have in common? A lot it seems due to a recent enlightenment. One of my goals this year is to improve my gardening skills. I’ve been a hit or miss gardener the last couple of years. What I mean is that I plant seeds and seedlings in...

Le Croquembouche

Le Croquembouche

The Winter Solstice called to me to celebrate its commencement and what better way to honor this day than with a party for dear friends who have enriched my life. These gatherings always lighten my spirit and give me an excuse to create good food with maybe one show...

The Rain Storm

The Rain Storm

I wrote this in late September in Lucca, Italy while listening to an intense thunderstorm. As much as I wanted to include a photo of rain, I could not find one in my photo library, hence this interesting cat. It's funny how we always want it to be sunny for our...

Dinner at 8, Lucchese Style

Dinner at 8, Lucchese Style

Once upon a time you meet people who forever change your life. Mattia and Michelle did just that. What originated as friends of friends, blossomed into a friendship and an Italian experience I will never forget and for which I will always be grateful. Both seriously...

Immersed in Olive Oil

Immersed in Olive Oil

It's been a busy month and I am happy to announce that my new enterprise, The Virtuous Olive is up and running. The shop is stocked with fruity oils, natural and flavored. My goal is to bring a taste of the true Italy to your table. These photos are from La Fenice,...

La Vendemmia

La Vendemmia

Every day in Lucca gets better and better. Mattia's family invited me to partake in La Vendemmia, an annual event, in late September and early October, to harvest grapes for wine. I feel privileged, and lucky, to share in this day long celebration of family, food and...

La Vendemmia

La Vendemmia

Every day in Lucca gets better and better. Mattia's family invited me to partake in La Vendemmia, an annual event, in late September and early October, to harvest grapes for wine. I feel privileged, and lucky, to share in this day long celebration of family, food and...

Cooking with Chef Leo

Cooking with Chef Leo

My visit to Galantino in Puglia, Italy, was a composition of olive oil familiarization, in-depth visits to Puglia's cheese makers, ceramists, bread artisans and olive groves and, the fun part, cooking lessons with Galantino's head chef Leo. I joined a group from...

A Bit of Bisceglie

A Bit of Bisceglie

Nestled into the heart of Puglia lies the seaside town of Bisceglie in southeastern Italy. I am here on an olive oil discovery, to slip into a slower pace and to delve for clues about what makes this such an alluring part of the country. The people have a warmth and...

The Virtuous Olive

The Virtuous Olive

Olive oil is my passion. Food is my passion and travel is my passion. I have decided to combine all these loves into my new business, The Virtuous Olive, and it is here that I am first announcing its launch. After last year's visit to Puglia, Italy and to a local...

It’s a Mystery

It’s a Mystery

This is a story about passion. My dad’s and his books. The library that housed his collection vibrated with intrigue, drama, murder, beautiful women and titles like “Dead as a Dummy,” “Stiffs Don’t Vote,” “No Tears for the Dead,” “’The Case of the Terrified Typist,”...

Thai Discovery in Vegas

Thai Discovery in Vegas

My college nutrition teacher, Mrs. Henrietta Becker’s favorite quote was, “People eat with their eyes.” We all do. Color and their associated flavors can manipulate true tastes. When reviewing the photos for this story, I realized that, yes, many of the dishes are not...

Party Paella

Party Paella

Lately I’ve been having fantasies – of Spain. Spanish tapas, Spanish olive oil, Spanish wine, the people, the music, the romance of it all. My feet have only touched the airport in Madrid and now they dream of dancing the flamenco in Sevilla. This sudden enchantment...

Summer’s Arrival

Summer’s Arrival

Every summer has a story. ♥ What is it that is so romantic about summer? Is it the long hours of sunlight, its warm breezes persuading us to linger a little longer to drink in the day? Is it the fond memory and sentimentality stirred up of childhood vacations and days...

A Drink of Nature

A Drink of Nature

“The gin kept my heart alive but bemazed my brain”― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita “We’re having adult drinks tonight,” stated my sister-in-law, Mirna. My curiosity was aroused. Mirna, offering me a cocktail? I knew this must be something special. She is a creative genius...

Life Happens

Life Happens

Something got in the way of this week’s story. I slipped back into the time tunnel, which seems to be happening a lot lately. It all started with a few trips down memory land, an escaping dog, a movie and a car wash. My mom, after several months of deliberation,...

Time Travels

Time Travels

Years back… What was I thinking? I was aboard a plane heading for France with no knowledge of the French language and no place to stay. I musta had guts! What I did have was the dream to become a chef, a caterer, anything food related and I figured going to culinary...

Spring Green Freshness

Spring Green Freshness

“I am the broth of love. Make soup to me.” ― Jarod Kintz, Love quotes for the ages. As I contemplate this story, a wasp hovers in front of my eyes and harmonies of chickadees fill the airwaves in stereo. My garden once again kidnaps my weekend. The whispering warm...

My 2nd Anniversary of Blogging!

My 2nd Anniversary of Blogging!

As I enter my third year of writing and sharing, I thought some of you might want to know how I got to this place. Two years ago, in this world of divorce, I became a statistic. While contemplating my new life and where it might take me, I made time for myself, to...

Garden Reformation

Garden Reformation

The Ops Twins (see April 2013 "The Beet Goes On"story), goddesses of agriculture, united again to trim, weed and dismember parts of my garden in need of refreshing. This year my niece Maya joined in to help celebrate Mother’s Day and to lend a hand. I selfishly hang...

A Spontaneous Dinner Party

A Spontaneous Dinner Party

Sometimes you just need to get out of the norm. Last night I planned a dinner party but did not plan the menu, hence a spontaneous dinner! I prefer to cook “with” friends rather than “for” friends. Cooking together is such a personal experience. You get to spend...

Lucchese Style Cooking

Lucchese Style Cooking

Are you interested in learning some authentic Italian recipes from a bona fide cooking school in Lucca, Italy?  If so, read on. Davino, my host from La Mimosa, had arranged for me to attend a cooking class at the International Academy of Italian Cuisine in Lucca, just...

Simplicity

Simplicity

Simplicity. This word kept coming to mind all week. It is defined as: Easy to understand or do Freedom from complexity, intricacy Sincerity, naturalness Why this word? With the intensity of spring’s vibrancy and a nudging to accelerate my goals, mirroring my garden’s...

Once Upon an Easter

Once Upon an Easter

This time of year, my thoughts return to my childhood and fond memories of Easter. Sentimentalist that I am, I still have my first Easter basket left by the Easter Bunny. Well-made, it has stood the test of time, the pink weaving now faded. I retrieve it from the...

Fava Frenzy

Fava Frenzy

"I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antæus. But why should I raise them? Only Heaven knows." Henry David Thoreau Hearty Fava beans. Grown for over 6,000 years, its peasant...

Pomeriggio di Pasta (An Afternoon of Pasta)

Pomeriggio di Pasta (An Afternoon of Pasta)

A tavola non si invecchia At the table with good friends and family you do not become old. This last weekend, I enjoyed one of the finest stress-free parties I’ve ever thrown. What’s my secret? Read on for clues! Recent trips to Italy have inspired me to excavate my...

Spring Awakening

Spring Awakening

And Spring arose on the garden fair,  Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere:  And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast rose from the dreams of its wintery rest.     Percy Bysshe Shelley March 20, 2014 at 9:57am PST, the sun will cross the celestial equator...

Leprechauns and Blarney

Leprechauns and Blarney

Did you know that leprechauns are fairies? I love St. Patrick’s Day. Not for the beer drinking necessarily but for the sheer fun of it. It’s a day to believe in faeries, shamrocks, 4-leaf clovers, and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Dress in green, give a...

Garden Rx

Garden Rx

Last evening I returned home from a stormy (for San Diego standards) day to discover my precious fava beans completely toppled over from the heavy winds. My first reaction was “is there a trauma doctor in the house?!” I have been babying these beans, planting them...

The Romance of Italian Food

The Romance of Italian Food

Rome is romance. Besides the uplit temples at night, beautiful singing accents, soft and sweeping landscapes and smiles of a beautiful people, food may be the ultimate romance. The Italians equate food with love and show it in so many ways. Rome’s reputation as a...

The Eternal City

The Eternal City

Enchanting and romantic Roma. Ahhh bella Roma. This city of eternity has so many stories to tell. There are levels and layers of religion, architecture, emperors, sculpture, temples and more. What century do you want to discover? It’s all here, although perhaps parts...

Love is in the Air

Love is in the Air

Love has many different meanings and interpretations. We all agree that love is warm, happy, giving and, in an ideal world, unconditional. Love is found everywhere, from the kiss of a dog, to a Coeur a la crème. I found love in the trees in Vienna. It was cold,...

Nicola Cooks Tuscan

Nicola Cooks Tuscan

My friend Nicola is a cook, gardener, artist, historian and proud  Lucchese – a person born in Lucca. Angela, of La Mimosa, introduced us while gathered around her rustic wooden kitchen table, a fire blazing in the open-hearth to warm us during a fall rainstorm. She...

Artful Traveling

Artful Traveling

As the years retreat, like soldiers who have lost or won a battle, I march forward down life’s path with a renewed sense of passion. My passion almost always lies in the discoveries that travel brings. This past year brought forth many new heart-opening journeys that...

Magical Christmas Markets

Magical Christmas Markets

This story was ready to hit the press on Christmas Eve but because of wifi issues onboard our river cruise, the photos could not be uploaded.  It's Christmas Eve in Passau, Germany. My mom and I are breaking tradition to enjoy a European holiday via a river cruise...

Artisans and Angels

Artisans and Angels

Pietrasanta, a charming artist colony, is a stone's throw from Lucca. La Mimosa's Angela, who is an artist, thought it might be an illuminating place to spend a leisurely day. She was right. The first of many sculptures I was about to experience. How lovely to be...

Lucca Revealed Part I

Lucca Revealed Part I

I love traveling to cities with ancient walls. In France, I was enamored with the bastides and cathars. Perhaps that is why I am charmed by Lucca's fortress and her medieval city walls. There are four Portas or doors leading into the city. Along the outside up high, a...

A Colli Festa

A Colli Festa

Last week Angela and I ventured into the hills to find a "festa of the hills" or a celebration of life in medieval times. Once outside of Lucca, we began climbing up narrow winding roads, up to the clouds it seemed. The vistas took my breath away. Now this is the...

The Olive Harvest

The Olive Harvest

One thing I really wanted to do on this vacation was to learn more about olive oil and what better way to do that then to learn the process from the ground up. Andreas is a dear friend of Angela and Davino's and his olives were ready- now. So we jumped in the car and...

The Country Life

The Country Life

Sometimes the most relaxing vacations are the ones where you sleep in, don't have an agenda, let time organize itself and be spontaneous. This is the second trip of this kind I have created and it suits me. These are scenes from my daily surroundings. Gino the donkey...

Cucina Italia

Cucina Italia

This morning Angela is cooking rabbit - coniglio- for lunch. I hear Bob Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven' s Door" before I even enter and find Angela and her friend Nicola at the large wooden kitchen table, each with a glass of homemade wine in hand. At first my eyes...

La Mimosa

La Mimosa

Buon Giorno from Lucca! This is the first in a series of my life on La Mimosa, an agritourisimo in the hills just outside of Lucca, Tuscany, Italy. This beautiful home is situated at the end of a long and narrow road, surrounded by olive and chestnut trees, wild herbs...

Autumn Earth

Autumn Earth

Fall is a season of contrasts. Besides the obvious color change of leaves, there is a distinct softness in the air, a kind of fuzzy morning haze, with warm afternoons, cool evenings and if you're lucky and the skies are clear, a chance of a green flash over the ocean...

Garden of Life

Garden of Life

Every person has their own garden. A garden of wishes they hope to grow into fruition. When we are young, we plant many seeds of all the things we hope to accomplish in life. As we age and have watched those seeds become living dreams, some happy and healthy, some are...

Black Madonna Sighting

Black Madonna Sighting

The quaint village of Monopoli, Italy nestles into the Adriatic, just south of Pulignano a Mare. Our tour guide, Daniela, thought there might be a Black Madonna, my sought-after Goddess, in the local church. Our bus parked at the picturesque harbor which is surrounded...

Memories

Memories

Memories My inspired blogging came to a halt in early July when my dear father passed away suddenly. I have been transitioning and re-balancing my life and am just now ready to continue with my stories. My dad always loved reading them and they usually would prompt a...

Olives – Fruit of the Gods

Olives – Fruit of the Gods

Olive oil is so – Italian! Its warmth and/or sassiness can jazz up almost any dish, imparting different nuances for whatever food you want to enhance. The Italians are proud of their olive heritage and like to joke that butter is “forbidden” in Pulia. Instead of...

Eating Crudo

Eating Crudo

One afternoon in Pulia, our tour host Mick, asked if anyone would like to join him for a “Crudo” dinner. Crudo, in Italian means raw. We all had puzzled looks on our faces. As he explained what it was and how it was prepared, my hand shot up as a participant. When in...

La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita

Pulignano a Mare. The name rolls off my tongue like a song. This sweet little town, perched on the Adriatic Sea in southern Italy, is a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, and flavors. There is a reason this place is called The Italian Pearl. " My mom and I are on...

The Beet Goes On

The Beet Goes On

I’d love to step into Op’s shoes, or whatever goddesses wear on their feet. While perusing websites relating to my upcoming trip to Italy, I came upon a dictionary of goddesses. This one caught my attention. Ops, rumored to be married to Saturn, is “an agricultural...

Transitions

Transitions

The transition to spring nudges me to do things that I have had on a procrastination list – cleaning out closets, purging my computer of used emails, exercising regularly and last but not least, preparing my raised beds for summer veggies. Why are we such creatures of...

Harvesting Goodness

Harvesting Goodness

My daily catch! Most of you know the three things I love most (besides my dogs!). They are gardening, travel, food and cooking. I’ve decided to pull these passions together to change the flavor of my blog slightly. Because it is creating such joy in my life, I will...

Pucker Up! Lucious Lemons Rock

Pucker Up! Lucious Lemons Rock

When I think of lemons, this folk tune often sings in my head, "Lemon tree very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet, but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat."* The author, of this song, Jose Carlos Burle, must never have tasted a Meyer lemon or he...

Leaves of Green

Leaves of Green

Living in southern California has its perks and one of them is being able to grow vegetables and fruits year round. My summer garden produced less than an abundance of tomatoes, probably due to the unusual heat, and the zucchini took over. I much prefer my winter...

Bonne année!

Bonne année!

Happy New Year! Let's celebrate Le Réveillon (a huge feast and party) with Le Galette des Rois (King's Cake) The new year brings hope of new beginnings and closure to old endings. I started January 1st by watching the sunrise at Shelter Island and then viewing a...

Autumn, Apples and Almonds

Autumn, Apples and Almonds

Mirna, my sister-in-law or ma belle soeur, as we fondly regard ourselves, never ceases to amaze me with her culinary creativity. While visiting Denver a few weeks ago, as I do every autumn, Mirna shared with me a recipe she devised that is gluten-free, full of apples...

Plum Crazy

Plum Crazy

Late summer is my favorite time of year. The skies are clean, the breezes warm and the markets are bursting with late harvest veggies and fruits. So many home and garden projects have taken me away from my writing time. In exhaustion, I  find myself sneaking in an...

The Secrets of France

The Secrets of France

This story isn’t about food – at least not directly. It’s about experiencing a country and culture, and the origins of its food at an eye level view with nature as my classroom. Europeans love to hike. It goes right along with their lifestyle of walking or riding a ...

Herbs de Provence 101

Herbs de Provence 101

I love Herbs de Provence. I use it regularly and cannot get enough of it. Every time I visit France, I purchase the herbs at the open air Saturday market from local vendors. Packaged so sweetly in a small paper bag and hand labeled, I try to make it last for a year...

Blueberry Hill

Blueberry Hill

As a pastry chef, fruit desserts were my specialty as well as my favorite pastries to create. If fruit was in season, it showed up in abundance in my pastry case from Strawberry Napoleons to a Blueberry Bourbon Cream Cake, a tall tower of thin cakes spread and layered...

Ruby Beauties

Ruby Beauties

Hi my faithful readers, Do you sometimes get that overwhelmed feeling? That's where I am today. I so want to share with you everything that is swirling around in my head. But where do I find the time? Since returning from France with a million ideas to post, I find...

Cassis – a seaside treasure

Cassis – a seaside treasure

When I think of seaside villages I’d like to visit, quaint comes to mind. My vision includes somewhere petite, void of tourists, with charming cafes brimming with fresh local specialties, small fishing boats lining the wharf, an unpretentious air, and clean, clear...

Hunting for Chanterelles

Hunting for Chanterelles

I first heard about Jacques through my mom. She and my niece Maya spent two weeks at a grandparent – granddaughter Elderhostel in Villeneuve, France five years ago. My mom forms life-long relationships everywhere she goes and she and Jacques, the French teacher,...

Shopping with Gaby

Shopping with Gaby

Do you remember days when you set out on a mission to do something but you end up somewhere completely out of your range? Well, that happened to us. My friend, Bonnie, had fallen the previous week, while visiting our beloved Cathars and injured her hand. Our hostess...

Cathar Country

Cathar Country

I first learned of Cathars from my friend Jacques, who wrote to me that his hiking group was planning a tour of these great monuments. Curious, I looked up what a Cathar was and where they were located. As it turns out, they are scattered throughout the Languedoc...

The Art of Food

The Art of Food

One of my favorite things to do in France is to visit the local markets, each one with their own personality. Just north of here lies Vaison la Romaine, home of one of France’s oldest—dating back to 1483—and largest markets with over 450 vendors. This true reflection...

Green, Red & Ancient

Green, Red & Ancient

    Bonnie and I are now staying in a tiny town in Provence near Avignon called Noves. Our little apartment is actually part of an old mill on a 12 acre estate called Le Moulin de la Roque. This gem of a villa is tucked into a wooded area lush with tall...

Merci

Bon Soir Mon Amies, I am having difficulty adding photos to my blog. I have tried three times to the tune of over eight hours of effort and still no photos. WordPress has my heard my frustration and I hope the problem will be solved soon. I have so much more of my...

Wine and company

Wine and company

Bonjour! Did you know that the Languedoc is France's largest grape producing region and it has been since Roman times? In fact, the vineyards flooded the landscape on just about every drive we took. According to Angela Murrills, author of Hot Sun Cool Shadow in which...

The Cooking Lesson

The Cooking Lesson

Bonjour! It is a gorgeous sunny day and the birds are chirping out melodies of joy. Today I am excited to share my cooking lesson with you. As you know, we four women ate at Le Sixieme Sens earlier in the week and were charmed by the "cave" experience and the owner,...

Local Eats

Local Eats

There is so much to drink in here in the land of all things which heighten the senses. Look up and history is staring you in the face. A distant castle, a gargoyle, an ancient door. Look across the countryside and all is bright green and lush dotted with poppies. A...

Trebes & Le Canal du Midi

Trebes & Le Canal du Midi

Bon Soir Mes Amies, It is very late and yesterday my camera broke, yes, really broke, so I did my best with the iphone which really does take very good photos but not so good at close up and a bit more difficult in bright lights. This morning I found a Monde (world)...

Trebes & Le Canal du Midi

Trebes & Le Canal du Midi

Bon Soir Mes Amies, It is very late and yesterday my camera broke, yes, really broke, so I did my best with the iphone which really does take very good photos but not so good at close up and a bit more difficult in bright lights. This morning I found a Monde (world)...

Dinner in a Cave

Dinner in a Cave

Bonjour mes amies! To celebrate my friend, Liz's birthday, we dined in a tiny restaurant with a downstairs cave or wine cellar. So intimate, uplit to create a warm glow, Le Sixieme Sens was about to become one of my most memorable meals ever. The combination of rustic...

Dinner in a Cave

Dinner in a Cave

Bonjour mes amies! To celebrate my friend, Liz's birthday, we dined in a tiny restaurant with a downstairs cave or wine cellar. So intimate, uplit to create a warm glow, Le Sixieme Sens was about to become one of my most memorable meals ever. The combination of rustic...

Bonjour!

Bonjour!

The seemingly endless jet lag and lack of wifi until today have stalled this blog - but not for long! I am still figuring out how to add the correct accent marks to the French words so please forgive their absence for now. We arrived in Toulouse Friday night, then...

Bonjour!

Bonjour!

The seemingly endless jet lag and lack of wifi until today have stalled this blog—but not for long! I am still figuring out how to add the correct accent marks to the French words so please forgive their absence for now. We arrived in Toulouse Friday night, then...

Journeys

Journeys

As I begin this blog, I am reminded of many of my life's journeys that have led me to this present moment in time. My dream is to write about food, share recipes, and get to the heart and soul of the impact food has on our lives. Food drives memories, and cooking is a...

Journeys

Journeys

As I begin this blog, I am reminded of many of my life's journeys that have led me to this present moment in time. My dream is to write about food, share recipes, and get to the heart and soul of the impact food has on our lives. Food drives memories, and cooking is a...

About Mary Knight

I have always been passionate about food and its origin, all things France and Julia Child. Travel tugs at my heart, luring me to new places where I can feast my eyes and senses, taste local …

Read more »

Categories

Archives