Archive for ‘Food Stories’

Mussolini — yes, Mussolini — to thank for Lazio’s beautiful beaches

I’m pretty sure no one has ever written thank you to Mussolini, at least not in the last 70 years or so. Yes, he is a big reason Marina and I don’t have to board a plane or boat to relax on some of the best beaches in Europe. Papardo’ Beach is 85 miles south of Rome in an underrated part of the Lazio region that is sprinkled with cute towns and beaches that get more gorgeous with every kilometer you drive. Foreigners don’t come here much. Italians do. They know the convenience and pleasure of this area known as Agro Pontino, particularly now during Rome’s driest summer in the last 60 years. Where else in Europe can you get a tan and swim in a crystal-blue sea then eat a seafood feast for two with a bottle of local white wine for under 70 euros? Italians also appreciate this area for another reason.
They know in the 1930s this whole area was a swamp.
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Iceland’s Hakarl (fermented shark meat) isn’t as hard to eat as it is to pronounce

The greatest of the gross, the lowest of the lousy, is a food so vile its legend — not to mention its aroma — has reached every corner of the globe. It’s called hakarl. If you know Iceland, you know hakarl. You just didn’t know the name, nor can you pronounce. In Icelandic’s inane pronunciation guide, you say it HOW-kaht. That’s Icelandic for — wrap your mind around this — rotted shark. While talking to Icelanders around the country, they’ve all tried it. It’s an Icelandic holiday tradition, kind of like American fruitcake but much worse — if that’s possible.
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Iceland: From Great Depression to Hottest Destination on Earth — but bring your credit card

In the last few years, Iceland’s light has shined all over the world. Temperatures in May might be in the low 40s but no country is hotter than Iceland. Since 2010, its tourist numbers have shot up like the geysers that pepper its countryside. In 1990, Iceland had 90,000 visitors. It has doubled in the last six years to where officials expect 2.2 million in 2017.

I was one of them.
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Procida: Beauty and love in the Bay of Naples

The island of Procida doesn’t get much play outside Europe. The way it’s overshadowed by Capri 10 miles to the south, Capri might as well be Australia. But Procida (pronounced PRO-chee-duh) holds its own with Italians who see Capri as I do: an Italian theme park with better wine. Procida doesn’t have Capri’s vistas — and Capri’s do meet the hype — but it does have an Italian soul. It’s why I took my girlfriend, the lovely and talented Marina Pascucci, to Procida for our two-year anniversary.
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In Bruges: Medieval fairy tales do come true in one of the sparkling pearls of Northern Europe

After all, who can not love Bruges? Let’s see, you combine the best beer in the world with the best chocolate in the world, put them in the middle of a town that looks like a backdrop for medieval fairy tales and you have Bruges. If you don’t like chocolate or beer or scenery right out of an oil painting, you’re obviously an alien from another planet who can’t read Roman letters and aren’t reading this anyway. So, dear reader, this is a love letter to one of my new favorite cities in the world. After 100 countries, dozens of capitals and hundreds of cities, towns, villages and truck stops, Bruges climbed near the top of the rankings.
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Bangkok: After 30-year absence, tastes remain the same in Sodom & Gomorrah East

Welcome to the land that morality forget. Bangkok is where visions are blurred, not only through the haze of too many Singha beers but the vast tolerance of a Buddhist culture and tourist industry run amok. It’s where a he is a she and a she can do things I didn’t learn on the streets of Eugene, Ore. When I started traveling in 1978, Bangkok became my gateway to the extremes of Asia travel. It guided me through an education that hardened me on my way to visit 100 countries.
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Cooking Thanksgiving in Rome turns out to be a real turkey

Our Thanksgiving meal, our first venture into full-scale American hospitality, was just short of an apocalypse. I used the word “short” because I heard no documented reports of botulism. We learned that life as an ex-pat isn’t always like “Under a Tuscan Sun.” Frances Mayes never mentioned anything about cleaning up day-old chicory off a floor.
First, putting on a Thanksgiving affair in Rome is an ordeal nothing short of packing for relocation to Mercury.
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My five favorite restaurants in Rome

Cutting down to five required some ground rules. I ruled out pizzerias. I wrote about those in May. I also included nothing that’s listed in Lonely Planet. I trust Lonely Planet’s restaurant recommendations but I’ve walked on every path in Rome. The best restaurants are on the paths less beaten, even by LP. Making it easier is including a disclaimer that these may not be the five best in Rome. They may not even be my five favorite if I went back to all of them with a more critical eye. I have a whole new list by Jan. 1. The depth of restaurants in Rome is that good.
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A weekend in Spain: Confessions of a Marriott whore

We settled on Denia, a town in Spain I’d never heard of which, if you’re seeking a path less beaten, is always a good sign. A map showed it’s on Spain’s famed Costa Bianca, on the point of a peninsula just across the Gulf of Valencia from hip Ibiza. On its website, the Marriott’s swimming pool looked like something out of a Las Vegas architect’s sexual fantasy. We were sold. I bought two more nights for a Wednesday through Saturday stay. It was the perfect extended weekend in a sexy part of the world.
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Nice another in a long list of great weekend getaways from Rome

EasyJet is the greatest boon to European travel since the sidewalk crepe stand.
Which is why celebrating birthdays in Europe is so special. In March I spent my birthday in Sicily. This past weekend I took my girlfriend to Nice for her birthday. I’d pat myself on the back and say I’m not a cheap boyfriend but, in fact, the round trip tickets for two of us was all of 138 euros. That’s 69 each. Sixty-nine euros on a U.S. airline sometimes won’t even pay for your stored luggage.
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