We’ve come to Greece every August and we’ve gone about 10 times in each our lives. A major draw is the food. In our latest trip, I took extensive notes of what has been ranked as the world’s No. 2 cuisine behind Italy. I also interviewed two renowned chefs for an inside look at what gives me the cravings from md-winter on.
Mediterranean diet: It’s why Italians are healthier than Americans and why I’m glad I left the United States
I received a clean bill of health from my annual checkup Wednesday, and I firmly believe a big reason is I moved to Italy nine years ago. Its Mediterranean diet has so many more benefits than the American diet. From its all-natural ingredients to the emphasis of wine over beer, Italians enjoy the sixth-longest life expectancy in the world. The U.S. is 47th.
Anyone see “Eat, Pray, Love”? It’s the movie where Julia Roberts plays a lost divorcee who travels to Italy, India and Bali to “find herself.” My favorite scenes were shot in Rome, particularly when she’s ordering lunch. The dishes being cooked appear on screen as she orders them. I ate at that Ristorante Santa Lucia Saturday night and talked to the owners about the “chaos” during filming.
The Pudding Shop: Istanbul’s famed hippie hangout still has place in the heart of “Midnight Express” writer Billy Hayes
The Pudding Shop is an Istanbul institution that played a role in “Midnight Express,” the international bestseller and Oscar-nominated movie. It is where Billy Hayes met the cab driver who took him to his first hashish deal. The Pudding Shop was the nerve center for backpackers following the Hippy Trail that blossomed at the time. Today it’s a tourist trap but it still has a soft spot in Billy Hayes’ heart. I visited the Pudding Shop last month and talked to Hayes last week.
Everyone knows kabobs. Every town has a kabob shop. Turkey is the birthplace of kabobs and I had my fill during a four-day stay over my birthday two weeks ago. But there is more to Turkish cuisine than long roasted meat rolls. Turkey has the best baklava I’ve ever had (Psst! Greece! Add more syrup!) and an appropriately named snack called Turkish Delight.
Andy Luotto has been a little bit of everything since he left his home in Brooklyn to be with his father in Italy at 14. Actor. Author. Singer. Comedian. Scuba diver. But more than anything he is a chef. He has owned four restaurants and was an executive chef at a five-star restaurant in Venice. He sat down with me for an interview before he did a cooking demonstration at Rome’s Osteria Il Matto.
Rome’s ethnic restaurants: As Italians travel more, they are growing in popularity and here are my seven favorites
There once was a time when Italians would rather eat frozen pizza than ethnic food. That is changing. Italians are traveling more. More immigrants are coming to Italy. The combination is a growth of ethnic restaurants. Rome doesn’t have the variety of London or New York but I’m enjoying what we have. Here I pick seven of my favorite ethnic restaurants from Eritrean to Vietnamese.
Every February when the Catholic celebration of Carnevale arrives, every pastry shop in Italy is filled with a sweet fried dough called Chiacchiere. Called frappe in Rome’s Lazio region and different names everywhere else, it comes out either baked or fried in long, flat strips or bent in different shapes. They’re served plain or with powdered sugar or dark chocolate. I’m not Catholic but this is one tradition I wholeheartedly endorse.
After living in Rome for nine years, I know my way around the city’s restaurant scene. When visitors ask me where to eat, I’m always stumped. There are too many choices. But occasionally I try. Like now. This is my fourth edition of my Five Favorite Restaurants in Rome list. Four are new from last year and there’s a new No. 1. I’ve been to all five many times, particularly in the last year, and highly recommend all of them.
New Nordic Cuisine: It put Copenhagen on world gastro map but at what cost? Too much for this travel writer
Copenhagen has 15 restaurants that have earned 24 Michelin stars. Noma has been voted the world’s best restaurant five times. Emphasizing natural, local products from land and sea, New Nordic Cuisine has become the world rage. But in three days eating our way across the Danish capital this month we found it wanting. Like, we wanted more to eat. And the prices were outrageous.
Global warming and Italian wine: €2 billion loss and lower production of up to 30 percent has winemakers nervous
Global warming has cut wine production in my beloved Le Langhe zone by 30 percent as wine makers are harvesting their grapes earlier every year. I went to Le Langhe two weeks ago and the wine makers I interviewed are nervous. Global warming hasn’t affected the taste yet but they worry about the future. They’re taking drastic measures to preserve water and their wine industry.
What wine would you drink before you die? I ask the wine experts in Le Langhe and it’s not always expensive Barolo
At every wine tasting, I ask the local wine experts; Pretend you’ll be executed tomorrow morning. What wine in the world do you drink tonight? I asked this at all the wineries and wine shops I visited in Le Langhe last week. You’ll be surprised by the answers.