My 30th Birthday Part 1: Bologna, Italy

Italy is hands down my favorite country in Europe. The landscape is so vast with hundreds of miles of rocky coastline, rolling hills and vineyards, tall mountains that broach the sea, and turquoise blue waters that lap the shores of pebbled islands. You have glorious Rome, with it’s dirty streets and brilliant pizza, Florence with endless artistic gems, Milan with elegant cathedrals and a knack for fashion. Everywhere you look there are glistening fountains, gelaterias, and elegantly-tall domed basilicas. If you escape to the countryside, you will find some of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world. And let’s not overlook the abundant olive and lemon trees – all hail the home of pesto! There’s Lake Como with it’s mermaid-worthy blue hues. There’s ancient villages such as Cinque Terra and Positano, carved into the cliffsides along the sea. And there are wonders of ancient architecture and engineering such as the ruins of Pompei and the Colosseum. There always seems to be a surplus of sunshine in Italy, which is perhaps why this country produces some of the sweetest tomatoes in the world. I did not truly believe tomatoes were a fruit until I tried them warm and sun-kissed off of the vine in Italy. And I guess that leads me to the food. If you don’t like pizza, pasta, warm oven-baked bread, or gelato, we can’t be friends. But you’ll still manage to find something to eat in Italy – the freshest mozzarella, seafood caught that day, tiramisu, panna cotta, and a schmorgesborg of soft cured meats, such as prosciutto (ideally wrapped around cool melon) are just a few of the country’s specialties. If your mouth is not watering and your heart is not lusting after an idyllic Italian vacation, I have failed you as a writer! For me, Italy is on par with England, France, Belgium, or Spain. It’s a country I’ve been to before but will never tire of, and try to visit at least once a year. This year, I totally lucked out. Amie and I went to Cinque Terre right around my 29th birthday, Kai and I went to Trieste in the summer, and then I spent my 30th birthday (finally getting to the point of this post!) in Italy as well. When I hit three decades, I wanted to be in my favorite country with my favorite people. And so I selected the best of the bunch from Amsterdam and the US, booked a giant villa, mapped out an itinerary, and flew into Bologna to celebrate thirty years Italian style with all of my favorites. Continue reading

Cheesy Breakfast Boats

Whenever we have a catered lunch at work, we order from the delicious Uliveto. I’ve literally had clients say, “Hey, can we have the meeting at your office so you can order that AMAZING Italian?!” The food from Uliveto is hearty, drenched in olive oil, and seasoned with fresh herbs. They have one dish – a sweet potato and ricotta pie – that is comparative mouth-crack. A crispy, flaky crust engulfs a cheesy mixture of broccoli, sweet potatoes and onions, all swimming in a soft blend of Italian cheeses. I would eat this addictive concoction for breakfast, lunch and dinner, day in and day out if I had the chance, however, I have NO idea how to re-create this delicacy at home. Next weekend I’ll probably march on down to Uliveto to pick the chef’s master mind, but in the meantime, I’m left craving soft broccoli with an abundance of cheese crammed into small, green florets. And thus breakfast boats were born – an easy, quick creation of mine that eliminates the need for a homemade dough or crust, but still captures all the delightful magic of vegetables smothered in cheese.IMG_9234This recipe takes about 10 minutes to construct, and a a mere 15 minutes in the oven. So in less than 20 minutes, you can have a delicious, cheesy bread boat meal, without hours of labouring over a hot stove. To get started, you’ll need a few key ingredients. Continue reading

Little Collins, Amsterdam

Little Collins is my favorite brunch spot in Amsterdam. Instead of sporting your typical pancakes and bacon, their menu features a delicious range, from traditional to trendy, with items such as thick, homemade sausages and mouth-watering sweet and sour pork belly. Their meals are hearty, filling, and quite honestly, served by some of the nicest wait staff in Amsterdam.IMG_7024 Little Collins is located a block from my flat in de Pijp, so I end up sipping mimosas on their terrace in the sun at least once a month (twice if we’re being honest). I’ve never blogged about Little Collins before, because they’re such a ‘usual’ on my brunch-list. In my mind, they’re a delicious and reliable Sunday spot – not a new and newsworthy experience to share. But my blasé perception of Little Collins is incorrect, as they truly do serve some of the best brunch food in Amsterdam. Continue reading

The Best Nachos in Amsterdam

A few months ago, I got a major craving for nachos. Unfortunately, Mexico is quite a ways away from Holland, so there are very few Tex-Mex or authentic Navajo joints sprawling about the city. Luckily, I’m a member of the Sid Lee Supper Club, and therefore have several culinarily inquisitive friends. Together, we decided to embark on an epic Mexican adventure – a quest to uncover the best nachos in Amsterdam. We famed our escapades the Nach’yo Average Pub Crawl, and mapped out several local Mexican haunts to visit around the city. Armed with score cards and sombreros, we kicked off our escapades on a sunny day, in search of crispy chips, melted cheese, and cool, creative toppings.IMG_6865

We planned to visit six spots around the city that served nachos – de Biertuin, Agabi Santa Maria, Cafe Harlem, Los Pilones, Waterkant, and Cannibale Royal. Some we’d been to before, some we’d heard good things about, and others we’d found on TripAdvisor.  Continue reading