Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Off the Beaten Path: Gargano

“Life is a paradise for those who love many things with a passion.”  Leo Buscaglia

You ask me where would I like to go?  I'll always choose somewhere, anywhere, near the sea.  I was born a few miles from the ocean, and I'm still under its spell.  So when it was time to choose a summer-time destination I chose the Gargano National Park.  If Italy is a boot, the Gargano National Park is the spur.  Located in the region of Apuglia (Puglia in Italian), the Gargano is a round penninsula surrounded by the Adriatic sea. And why would you want to go there?  Because it's summer time, because it's beautiful and because simply staring at that amazingly clean water is enough to recharge your batteries back to 100%.

The Gargano natural reserve is a protected park that houses the Umbra Forest.  It's winding roads go on for miles surrounded by olive groves,  and beech trees (side note: if you get car sick, like me, get ready for it!), but what it is most famous for is its wonderful beaches.  It certainly looks like paradise on earth.

One of the most picturesque towns in the area is Vieste, known as the pearl of the Gargano.  If you are interested in other than sunbathing, take a ride to visit it.  Its narrow streets and amazing ocean views make it a perfect break from the beach.  I had a very nice meal at Ristorante La Tavernetta (Via Celestino V, 5, Vieste).  Even though you're near the ocean and will want to try some fish or seafood, don't forget to try the region's famous "orecchiette" (little ears) a round shaped pasta with lots of texture. (Read this too: 10 Things  You Need to Know Before Eating in Italy)

If shopping is more your thing and you're looking for souvenirs, pick up their little sculptures made out of a lava rock that weight practically nothing.  

Whether you visit Gargano for its natural beauty, its beaches or its wonderful cuisine, you will be seeing a spot of this world that certainly resembles paradise.

Hope you are having a nice summer!

Arrivederci for now,

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

NYC, The Melting Pot

“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities”  Stephen R. Covey

Last week I was in New York City, the city that never sleeps.  One of the things I love most about New York is the feeling that the entire world lives there.  You see people of different cultures and hear many languages being spoken.  A true melting pot of cultures  and flavors.

In a crazy cement jungle like Manhattan, any green space is precious.  If you are visiting NYC don't miss strolling through the High Line.  The High Line is an urban park built on and around the elevated tracks of an abandoned train line.  The High Line is now an oasis in the city.  There are several free events happening in the park, so check out their website (here) to see what's on the calendar during your visit.  Simply walking the High Line is a relaxing experience that will offer you a break from the hustling and bustling of the city.  As you exit the High Line on 16th street, you'll find yourself steps from the Chelsea Market, another gem in the meat packing district and a must stop for food lovers like me. 

The one thing I really cherish about Manhattan is that you find countless world cuisines in one city.  And because my time in Italy has deprived me of ethnic food, I decided to lunch on some empanadas from the food market of the High Line.  I love empanadas! They are savory Latin American snacks that have different versions, depending where you try them.   You find fried and baked empanadas, filled with meat, chicken, vegetarian,  ham and cheese... You can fill them with whatever pleases your palate.  And if you were waiting for the perfect recipe, here I'm sharing my Brazilian friend's empanada recipe.  The flaky dough with your filling of choice, make them perfect for breakfast, a snack or even lunch.

1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup of water

Mix oil, melted butter and water.  Add all purpose flour to the liquid mixture until it all combines into a ball of dough.  Knead the dough and let it rest in the refrigerator for one hour.  After the resting time, knead the dough a little more and roll it into a rectangle.  Cut circles according to the size of empanadas you want.  Put the filling in one half of the circle, fold and pinch both sides together with a fork.  Bake on a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F, until golden brown.

Enjoy the empanadas, adios amigos!