An Non-Traditional Thanksgiving in New York City (includes Pasta!)

My sister Ally has been living in New York City since graduating high school. Occasionally, to get a break from the boring suburb I lived in, I would hop on a bus for the four-hour ride from Boston to NYC, to visit her on the weekends. I loved these quick weekend getaways.  New York City was exciting to me as a teenager, the anything goes fashion, people everywhere, things constantly going on – it made me feel like anything was possible.  It also holds a very special place in my heart because I was born there, specifically in Manhattan.

Ally and I spent these weekends shopping at vintage stores around the city, then heading back to watch Law and Order in her beautiful flat in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Ending our day by ordering some late night Chinese take out, delivered straight to her door, in record time, and always delicious. Unlike London,  New York really is a 24/7  city, meaning you have access to food and shopping at all hours, every day of the week. For a girl like me, who likes to eat when I’m hungry – even if it happens to be at midnight – it’s heaven

Overall,  NYC has some of the best food I have ever tasted – in all my travels. The multi-cultural aspect combined with just the massive population, has produced not only so many restaurants, but so many different kinds of restaurants. Authentic food from all parts of the world, plus the local things like pizza and bagels that for some reason ( some say it’s the water ) are just the best !

One year, my sister and I were both angry with our parents around Thanksgiving. The holidays can be a very stressful, especially with divorced parents and trying to decide who you should spend the time with. We came up with an idea. This particular Thanksgiving, we weren’t going to take the traditional route. Instead, we would spend the holiday together, just the two of us, in New York.  Ally booked us into her favorite restaurant Il’Buco, a super popular and impossible-to-get- a-reservation place, in the NoHo section of the city. Luckily, Ally works in the hospitality business and personally knew the owners of the place (which meant a good deal for us !).  Only one catch, the restaurant had no turkey and normal Thanksgiving meals on the menu, it was Italian food ! I, of course, needed no convincing.

Upon arriving we were warmly greeted by the manager, a friend of Ally’s, which was a really nice touch. Il’Bucco has a rustic, warm , candle-lit, cozy vibe, and the manager sat us at a lovely table. Looking through the menu, my eyes immediately fixed on something interesting. I asked my sister, “What is squid ink pasta?” She answered, “It’s absolutely delicious, you should try it!” I thought why not! I love trying new things – as long as it involves pasta.

When the dish arrived I was shocked. The spaghetti was black! I assumed the pasta would just as usual with a with squid mixed in. Nope – the spaghetti was actually infused with squid ink, hence the black colour. Although hesitant at first , after the first bite I was in love. It wasn’t too fishy tasting and light butter and garlic sauce completed the dish along with the cooked prawns. IMG_6020

I learned that night to never judge a book by its cover, or in this case – spaghetti by its colour! Overall it turned out to be  a very successful and memorable Thanksgiving together. Although not traditional in the least, definitely memorable. If you’re wondering whether to give squid ink pasta a try, I say go for it! You wont regret it.

Also give the restaurant a try at https://ilbuco.com/ located on 47 Bond St, New York, NY 10012, USA.

 

The Art of Pasta

Recently, while browsing through Instagram, I came across a very cool profile  @saltyseatttle that drew me in. It’s the brainchild of Linda Miller Nicholson, a Seattle based mom whose five-year-old son was an extremely picky eater. Her frustration with trying to find healthy foods he liked, plus just get him to eat in general, inspired her to start her business Salty Seattle – which makes pasta into gorgeous, colourful, funny, sometimes-political, sometimes-funny, delicious works of art.

Linda, also known as the Pasta Ninja, (which I love!) already knew about making pasta from courses in the United States and Italy, but her creations takes pasta making to a whole new level.  She’s been featured in magazines , on tv and currently has over 200,000 Instagram followers even though it’s  a relatively new company.

The pasta and the colours she uses are from all natural, fresh ingredients. Things like beets, turmeric, chard and carrots are used to create the colours for her master pasta pieces.

“I like to convey messages and challenge people to think outside the box with my work, so I’ve dipped my toe in politically motivated pasta, tackled racial and social justice issues, and generally hope to convey unity, hope, tolerance and joy through pasta. I realize that sounds like a tall order, but we all have tiny ways we can make a difference, and this is mine” – Linda Miller Nicholson

Her pasta is the most vivid and beautiful I have ever seen! It can really brighten up anyones day. Have a look for yourself curtesy of her Instagram…

 

In addition to travel, cooking and music, art has been a hobby of mine for years now. Linda’s creations have really inspired me to incorporate my art into the food I love the most- Pasta! Not only can you make it taste good, but you can make it look incredible as well. It’s also proof that you can take something , or a few things, you’re passionate about and turn it into a business that inspires people and makes them smile.

The Pasta Ninja says it best…”Even though some of my early dreams didn’t work out exactly how I expected them to, I kept those passions alive and continued to practice at them. Now that I’ve finally found a way to bring them all together and I’m doing exactly what I love most in life, I can say I’m who I want to be when I grow up. It’s a feeling like no other, knowing that your work is also your passion, and I hope as many people as possible get to experience it if even for a short time in their lives.” -Linda Miller Nicholson

If you want to check out more of  Linda’s creations check her out on Instagram at @saltyseatttle

For more information about her company, how she started and what she offers visit https://saltyseattle.com/ 

Plus, here’s a quick video of Linda creating some of her master pasta pieces

 

Quotes from: https://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/pasta-art-almost-amazing-eat

My Personal Soundtrack to Traveling and Tasting

You know how a movie is so much better with an amazing soundtrack.  In fact, there have been times when I didn’t really like the movie but loved the soundtrack. The point is, I’m a believer that everything is just better set to the right music. My constant travel companion during my world-wide adventures finding a good bowl of pasta, has been music. Songs to get me excited for my trip, songs to get me through the airport and the long plane rides, songs to play on my mini-speaker when I get to the youth hostel or hotel, and of course my favorite song to cook pasta by.

Today I’m sharing sharing my personal faves to help get you excited for an upcoming trips, carry you through possible long travel times,  or just to blast while you’re pursuing whatever it is you’re passionate about.

 

https://open.spotify.com/playlist/15Iy1MEUknbVDfXY4MTzwd

Pad Thai in Thailand

I traveled to Thailand when I was 14 years old with a teen travel organisation called Rustic Pathways. There, in the city of Chang Mai,  we had the privilege to stay on an elephant conservation camp and take care of Asian elephants. Every morning we would wake up at 6am, put on our mahout suits (a special elephant riding suit created so that the elephant hairs don’t irritate human skin), and hike up a mountain to our elephants.My elephants name was Big Mama because she was the mother of most other elephants. I would then ride Big Mama down the mountain with others in the group on their individual elephants. We then approached a lake where we would give them baths and wash them clean of dirt. 10702218_998781000147299_422490167951103547_n

whenever I dropped my flip flop, Big Mama would use her long trunk to pick it up from the ground and give it back to me. The trick amazed me every time, the elephant were truly more obedient and smart then most household pets. After bathing the elephants we would feed them long grass for lunch.

During the day, our group leader would take us on trips to different markets and temples. IMG_5059

this temple was called the dragon temple. You must remove your shoes before entering as a sign of respect to the gods. You most also never point your bare feet in the direction of the shrine, because it is considered extremely disrespectful.

One day we went on a trip to a local mall. The difference between the mall in my home town and a traditional Thai mall, was drastic. There were all types of different foods in the food court, but the fresh pad Thai caught my eye. I have a special Thai place I always ordered from in my home town of Newton Massachusetts called coconut cafe. I wondered if the real pad Thai straight out of Thailand tasted anything like the one that I was used to back home. I ordered prawn Pad Thai and sat down with my friends to try it. The flavour was unreal. Although the prawns were very strong, it didn’t take away from the actual pad Thai. For foodcourt food I thought it was phenomenal.

After returning to Newton and ordering from my usual place, Coconut cafe, it was incredible how flavourless the pad Thai tasted in comparison to the real authentic thing. It took me a few weeks to get used to the American style Pad Thai again.

If you want some really good American Thai food near Boston check out: http://www.coconut-cafe.com/

And if you’re 14-18 years old and looking for a program you will never forget check out:

https://rusticpathways.com/

 

Greek Island Pasta

“When I’m traveling, I won’t miss an opportunity to try great pasta.” – Meghan Markle

My favorite Greek island to visit is Corfu, hands down.  The northern most island of the  summer I had the privilege to travel there with my best friend Pauline. We stayed at a youth hostel, The Pink Palace, where many college students go for toga parties, the breaking of plates, table dancing (Greek traditions), and booze cruises – all for as little as 20 euros a night. I am fortunate to stay for free because, in his 20s my father worked at “the Palace.” He continues to have a good, life-long friendship with the owner George. IMG_8314

Over the years, when I have visited with my Dad, he has shown me all the secret restaurants and places to get the best food. I took Pauline into Corfu Town – the main village – for souvlaki at a special place my family always goes to while visiting. They serve pork souvlaki for 2 euros a stick… very cheap in my opinion.

Pauline and I also explored the beach a lot. Imagine clusters of tourists lounging on beach chairs by the beautiful  Ionean Sea, all  under umbrellas to shield them from the hot Greek sun. Pauline and I were focused on two things that day: eating well and getting a nice tan (something you can’t get back in London).

After lying out on the beach for a few hours in the early morning, it was starting to approach lunch time. Both our stomachs were grumbling and ready to eat. Instead of a souvlaki craving, I had realised that I haven’t had my fix of Pasta in a few days. Pasta was an easy meal to find in Greece, most touristy places had it, however most touristy places don’t have that good of food. Pauline and I walked down the beach where many restaurants were lined up next to each other. We finally agreed on one called Elena’s Taverna. We were able to agree on this place because it sold a wide selection of different meats and fish, but most importantly, it had pasta on the menu. We both also admired the colour scheme of the restaurant, Blue and white, two very greek colours. The outside patio was very inviting, and although there was a small wasp problem, the waiter took care of it with some heavily scented candles, which ended up adding to the beautiful atmosphere.

I scanned the menu and the seafood spaghetti really stood out to me. This way I could combine fish, (something particularly good in Greece) and pasta, my favorite food. When the meal arrived I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation. The spaghetti was served in a gorgeous shell, something I have never seen before. My first fork full was a mix of delicious, fresh muscles in a light tomato sauce. It was the perfect combination of salty and savoury. By the time I was finished with the dish the shell was empty with only a coating of tomato sauce staining it.

IMG_2607.jpg

After that lunch I realised that pasta can taste good just about anywhere in the world, even the places you least expect. The trick is to incorporate the native food into your pasta!

If you want to give this place a try next time you go traveling in Corfu you can find it at:

http://elenasapartments.com/restaurant/

 

DIY Pasta at Home -You’ll be Hooked!

Yes I’ve mentioned it in previous posts. Yes it’s legendary in my family. Yes it’s super delicious. And today I’m sharing the secret step-by-step guide to making the infamous Pop Pop’s Meat Sauce with all of you ( Shhhhhh don’t tell my grandfather.)

First, here’s a little background. It’s really a bolognese sauce, which Italians claim is not really an authentic Italian thing, but more an American – or European countries outside of Italy – creation. In Italy, a meat-based sauce cooked for hours and hours on low heat, until the meat is so soft it melts in your mouth – and also flavors the sauce, is called ragu. There’s a debate over whether it actually originated in Bologna, but Bologna is happy to claim it.

Pop Pop’s Meat Sauce, for sure, originated in the kitchen of my great-great grandmother in Calabria, Italy located on the southern tip of the boot if you’re looking at a map. In the early 1900s, she taught her daughter, my great-grandmother how to make it, who taught my grandfather how to make it, who then taught me in the early 2,000s. Although each of us has put our own unique spin on it, the recipe has basically survived a span of 100 years, and created a special bond between us all. It’s simple, uses readily available ingredients, and anyone can master it – even students and novice cooks. Once you try it you’ll be hooked . From my great-great grandmother kitchen and my kitchen to yours, here’s the 2018 version:

Hope you enjoyed me embarrassing myself! Try it one night or afternoon, I promise you’ll love it and maybe pass it on to one of your loved ones, or maybe even your grandchildren someday.

 

 

Friends, Family and Farfalle

“When I feel like the day is great? Pasta. When I feel like I want the day to be great? Pasta. It’s just awesome.”- Jennifer Hyman

It would be impossible to discuss my love of travel and pasta without giving a special shout out to the friends and family who have inspired both. From my Italian friends, ( I met during a high school exchange program) who taught me the best brand of pasta to buy while in London – and the right way to cook it, to my grandfather who shared the family recipe passed down to him by my Italian great-grandmother, to my friend Gianna’s mom who taught me the correct way to bread a chicken for chicken maleness.

All of these people have played a major role in my love/addiction to pasta. They inspire me every day to try new things without the use of recipes and to discover my own ways of cooking pasta. Through their help and assistance, I have been able to use their guidance to make my own creations. One day I hope to be able to perfect a pasta that can be eaten for breakfast, similar to carbonara.

 

Screen Shot 2018-11-26 at 11.30.54

Found – a Yummy Ziti Dish in Boston

I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, a town just outside of Boston . As a junior in high school, I started working in a local, much-loved pizzeria called Sweet Tomatoes. It had a simple menu of pizza, sandwiches and salads, that were all delicious. Unfortunately for me – no PASTA! It just wasn’t something they wanted to get into. This forced me to look for other places for a great bowl of pasta, near me.

One day, my best friend Emily and I were window shopping on Newbury Street (a well-known street in Boston lined with stores, boutiques, cafes and restaurants). Once we had checked out all the inventory at Zara, H&M, and other stores, we were hungry.

Continuing our walk, we noticed a restaurant with big windows and lots of people (busy usually means good food.) It was called Joe’s American Bar & Grill. We wandered inside grabbing a seat at one of the many round tables, and quickly started scanning the menu.

Not surprisingly judging by the name, there were a lot of American-style foods,  such as burgers, wings and nachos featured, but my eyes immediately went to the one and only pasta dish on the menu – Chicken Broccoli Ziti.  Of course I ordered it, minus the roasted red peppers it originally comes with.

When the dish arrived, the first thing I noticed was the scent of garlic- this might actually be good pasta, I thought.  The chicken was cooked to perfection, a golden brown on the outside and super tender, not dry on the inside.  The broccoli was just the right texture soft and juicy. The sauce was white, buttery/garlicky and yummy.  The mix of the three combined with an awesome sauce, worked incredibly well together. Plus, the server was happy to douse it with as much or as little fresh grated parmesan cheese as I wanted.

joe-s-american-bar-grill-1

Compared to other chicken broccoli ziti dishes I have tried, in various restaurants around Boston, this by far the best. Although Joe’s is not your classic Italian restaurant, they sure know how to perfect this pasta dish! I’ve had it a few times and it’s always good. For sure, my go-to-pasta place on Newbury Street.

Boston has an entire neighbourhood of amazing Italian restaurants called the North End. It’s Boston’s “Little Italy”. But if you happen to be in the Back Bay area where Newbury Street, Boston Common and The Public Garden are located, head to Joe’s American Bar and Grill, 181 Newbury Street, Boston MA, for the Chicken Broccoli Ziti. It’s Grace approved.

More details and the full menu here:

https://www.joesamerican.com/

Photo credits to

https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g41948-d467534-i106020185-Joe_s_American_Bar_Grill-Woburn_Massachusetts.html

Wandering and Working in Morocco

During my high school years, Rustic Pathways, a travel company that specializes, in group trips for students, was literally my ticket to adventure. I was drawn to their trips because, in addition to offering far away, off the beaten path destinations, they include community service in the area you are visiting. In my opinion, the best way to truly experience a new place is to immerse yourself in the locals, and even better if you are helping their community in some way. Also the pasta!  If you can find it .

My first trip with them was to Thailand, which I have written about in another post. The following summer, I went on another trip with them called the Moroccan Wanderer – destination – you guessed it – Morocco!

11887917_1213490438676353_2489514047365132178_n

Upon arrival, we settled in and immediately jumped into community service. Each day we would hike down a hill to a remote village to assist in building a school for the local children to attend.

11898552_1213490532009677_1900555271445670604_n

As a group, we all had individual tasks, but worked together toward our goal. One person would mix cement while the others would pass the bucket down an assembly line leading to the final person. Their job was to pat the cement down for the foundation of the building. Everyone worked  really hard, but we also had lots of laughs – as in “Can you believe we’re doing this in Morocco ? Mind blowing to say the least.

Here is a perfect example of what I meant by immersing yourself in the culture. I learned that since we were working during Ramadan, one of the highest observances in the Muslim religion, most of the villagers that were helping out, were fasting and not able to eat or drink anything all day, under the hot Moroccan sun. I honestly don’t know how they do it.

By far, the most rewarding part of my trip to Morocco was seeing the little children’s eyes peering out from behind the rubbish dunes, curiously watching us work. Knowing that one day they would attend the school we were helping to build, and get an education was just an amazing feeling.

Our next adventure took us to the Sahara Desert.  Here, we all road camel back across the desert to our camp. As cool as it sounds, I also learned camels are not the most comfortable means of transportation…ouch!11752460_1202832863075444_3773083364031924045_n11063772_1202832946408769_8410189233961151252_n11061202_1202833189742078_7096115821633548270_nArriving at our camp, we were all amazed by how beautiful it was. Remote is an understatement. It was the only thing for miles!11822600_1202833236408740_2465040226480897107_n

Spending the night in the Saha​ra was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Since there is no man made light in the desert, the whole galaxy is visible. The detail of the milky way was breathe-taking. Laying in the warm sand dunes, watching the night sky felt other-worldly and was beyond relaxing. Except for the fear that a scorpion might wander by.

Next on our itinerary, hiking a mountain where we had the privilege of meeting a real nomadic family , who lived in caves within the mountains. The man had three wives and many children. They had only one donkey to ride up and down the mountain to get food and water. This was one of the most memorable experiences I had in Morocco and a great reminder of how lucky I am to have what I have.

11813444_1202833283075402_7093335338404208307_n

Our host served us the most incredible mint mint tea I have ever tasted.  Having to share cups made it even more special. 11813272_1202833299742067_5513809937484824138_n

While there wasn’t a pasta noodle in sight, overall my experience in Morocco left me with so many life-long memories and a better understanding of a culture I  really knew little about. Isn’t that what travel is all about ?

To check out all of the amazing trips and community service opportunities offered by Rustic Pathways, visit: https://rusticpathways.com/

Details about the specific trip I took can be found here : https://rusticpathways.com/students/programs/moroccan-wanderer-2

 

Roaming for Ramen in Bali

“Pasta isn’t just for Italian food anymore. Now there are tasty pasta recipes found in Asian cuisine, and it’s emerging as a newfound love for vegans.”- Marcus Samuelsson

In January of last year, my mom, sister and I did a girls trip to Bali to celebrate my Mom’s 50th Birthday. Bali is such a magical place, it was well worth the 22 hour flight from New York. Our first stop was Ubud, known for it’s monkey forest and as the arts and culture center of Bali. In Ubud, we stayed in our own private villa where we had fresh pressed juice and traditional Balinese meals, private yoga classes and massages daily. The villa, called Naya-Ubud, was located in the center of the most beautiful rice fields I had ever seen…

During our stay, we were lucky enough to try all different types of dishes native to Indonesia. My absolute favorite fare – the street food ! One night we traveled by taxi to the outskirts of town and a real Balinese night market for locals. The smells and smoke rising from skillets and grills were amazing.

Our next stop was Seminyak, the hip more urban city in Bali. It was here, I tasted what I thought to be the most authentic Balinese food. The fried rice was the best I have ever had in my life. At a pop-up street market, a man cooked it right in front of me on a large skillet. Served in a simple basket with paper – I dug in!

While the rice was super tasty, my familiar craving for pasta kicked in pretty quickly. Although traditional style pasta dishes were near to impossible to find in Bali, I found the Asian equivalent: Ramen! Ramen is a very popular noodle dish in Asia. It is basically Udon noodles cooked in a broth of your choice. Some ramen dishes come with seafood, vegetables, chicken, beef or whatever your heart desires.

IMG_1606.jpg

Alchemy, in Ubud,  is a little cafe known to serve healthy vegan foods and array of pressed juices. I, of course was all about the noodles, and gave their vegetable ramen a try. YUMMM – I absolutely adored it! The rich broth mixed with the udon noodles made my stomach warm and happy.  They even threw in some onion and herbs like oregano to add to the flavour. I savoured every last drop and not a single noodle was wasted.

Although it’s not my typical pasta dish, it is just a variation of noodles prepared in a culturally different way. I am always excited to try new things when I am doing the two things I love doing the most, traveling and eating!

If you want to check out more about the amazing villa my family and I stayed check it out at http://www.nayaubud.com/accommodation

and if you want some amazing vegan ramen while spending your vacation is Bali check out https://alchemy-vegan-restaurant.business.site/

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started