Making Tortellini and Tagliatella in Bologna, Italy

Two of my favorite things to do when I travel are to meet cool new people and to cook! This trip to Italy back in 2012 checked off all the boxes.

Italaian cooking class in ItalyOne of the highlights of my trip to the Emilia Romagna region of Italy was the chance to work with Chef Federica at Podere San Giuliano Agriturismo and finally overcome my fear of making pasta from scratch.

Not incidentally, I was also very happy to sample her 50 Special Pignoletto which she named for those days when she was a teenager and she and friends would jump on their Vespa 50 Specials and ride into the hills of Bologna where they would drink…what else? Pignoletto!

Italaian cooking class in ItalyI woke up early while the rest of the Blogville residents slept off all the wine from the night before and caught a bus out to Podere San Giuliano where Chef Federica met me, we then had coffee, and she walked us through the process of making a classical Bolognese Tortellini and Tagliatella for which Bologna is especially well known.

This is the dish that takes the name Bolognese and oddly, the people of bologna don’t actually eat spaghetti – instead they eat this delicious rolled and cut pasta which should be 8 mm when cut, cooked and served on the table. There is actually a golden sample of the perfect dimensions which is held in the Palazzo della Mercanzia in Bologna!

Italaian cooking class in ItalyFor the Ragoul (the sauce) we needed chopped the following:
1 carrot, an onion, and some celery stalks

We then melted bacon fat, seared the vegetables and added minced meat and allowed it to cook and brown before pouring approximately 1/2 cup of white wine (because the red changes the color of the ragoul) and fresh tomato sauce which was grown and processed on Podere San Giuliano. After that, we left the kitchen so the sauce could simmer for the next two hours while we made the pasta.

Much to my surprise, the pasta was made using only approximately 2 cups of flour and two eggs. Pile the flour in the center, create a bowl in the center, add the eggs and begin mixing with the fork.

After a ball of dough is made, that is when you begin rolling it out. A nice trick Chef Federica showed us is to let one edge of the dough hang over the edge as you roll the other edge, thus allowing gravity to assist you.

Tagliatella is said to have been made to celebrate the beauty of Lucretia Borgia who was married to the duke in nearby Ferrara. Watch the video to see me combing her hair!

We rolled and rolled and rolled and rolled – and then we folded the pasta over on itself a number of times and cut it into the 8 mm strips – that’s when we took this video.

Italaian cooking class in ItalyWe allowed the pasta to sit for approximately an hour before cooking it and to my surprise, the cooking took only 1-2 minutes. This is fresh pasta and so it doesn’t need to re-hydrate like dried pasta.

After that, we removed it from the vat – Chef Federica says that you need to boil pasta in large volumes of water to get it to taste the best. By the way, my mother’s method of cooking until the pasta sticks on the wall is considered brutal – you actually don’t want it to be that sticky so stop a few minutes earlier, Mom.

Finally we settled on the patio for a beautiful lunch in a perfect setting.

Balsamic Vinegar and Parmigiano Reggiano of Modena, Italy

Modena, Italy is the city that Italians think about when they think about food. For me, that was enough to make me book a foodie tour while I was there. Sure, there are plenty of beautiful buildings, famous artwork, historical stories – but I was in Modena for three things –

Italian Cheese MasterParmagiano-Reggiano Cheese (this isn’t the Parmesian that comes in a green can, Americans!)

Traditional Modena Balsamic Vinegar

Lambrusco – the famous sparkling red wine of Modena (yes, sparkling red!)

I arranged my tour through Emilia Delizia – out of all the tour companies available, I liked these guys for the way they set up their tours, for the personalized nature of the tours, and also because we had nice interaction via email. All of those things added up to my booking with them and meeting my guide, Gabriele, at 8 am in Modena.

The day began with Gabriele offering a nice overview of the food of Emilia Romagna, the history of the region, and a short drive to a small dairy outside of Modena where Parmigiano-Reggiano is produced. The cuisine of the Emilia-Romagna region is both robust and refined consisting of smoked meats, cheeses, wines, vinegars, and pastas such as tagliatella and  tortellini. I had taken a pasta cooking course back in May, so this tour was going to be focused on the wine, vinegar, and of course, the cheese.

Emilia-Romagna really hit the gastronomic big time back in the 1800’s when food writer Pellegrino Artusi when he detailed the region in his book The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well which spoke about the various regions of this and other parts of Italy.  Artusi was a native of the region and described the food as not just being healthy and delicious but also good for the soul!

At the dairy, the cheese master kindly let me view the whole process, ask what may have been silly questions, and take plenty of photos. You may remember the images of huge wheels of cheese falling during the recent earthquakes in Northern Italy – that was the prince of all cheeses, Parmegiano-Reggiano aka Parmesan Cheese.  This cheese is considered such a perfect food that it is sent to outerspace to provide the calcium for astronauts and thus avoid the loss of bone density which comes from extended periods in weightless environments.

Parmesan ParmegianoI’ve always been a big cheese lover, but seeing the process, made my appreciation grow. It begins with the grains grown on the dairy which are fed to the cows that live at the dairy. This is a truly regional product. The making of it goes back to the year 1200 and has remained much the same since that time.  The only place that this cheese can be made and certified is in the small region south of Mantua and bordered between Parma and Bologna. The cows, the grain, and the cheese master all need to be from this region.

The milk has to be fresh from the cow (within two hours of milking) in order to be used. The milk is placed in vats and overnight the cream separates. It takes more than 4 gallons of milk to make 2 pounds of Parmigiano-Reggiano and it is all artisanally made. The milk is then heated in copper cauldrons where it begins to do the work of curdling. Next, the milk curd is broken up into small chunks using a giant whisk, then it is cooked and allowed to cool. The curds drop to the bottom and using a pair of sticks and a large spatula – the cheese ball is lifted out and cut into two masses, dropped into molds and pressed to remove excess moisture for several days.

Next the cheese is soaked in a salt bath for about 20 days before being removed and allowed to age for 1 to 3 years. Only at this point is an expert certifier brought to inspect the cheeses – if they pass, they get the fire brand – this is the ‘Parmigiano-Reggiano Consorzio Tutela’ oval mark you will find on the finest cheeses. Those that don’t make the cut, are marked with horizontal bands which indicate they are of an inferior quality (though still delicious).  We tried a 12, 24, and 36 month cheese – of them all, I preferred the 24 months as the flavor was strong with hints of nuts and sweetness but not overpowering as the 36 month was.  The 36 month is special and should be reserved for specialty cooking – although with a drop of sweet balsamic on top, a single piece comes close to cheese divinity.

Balsamic VinegarOur next stop was a family home where traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena has been made for several generations.  I should point out that the Balsamic Vinegars that most American’s have tried are very different from these.  While most vinegars are made from wine, traditional balsamic is made from unfermented grape juice. Again, this is a product that must be completely regional – the grapes are usually grown by the family who makes the Balsamic.

The process begins with the grapes which are crushed and then added to a battery of hard-wood barrels which impart varioius flavors to the vinegar as it ages – how long? The minimum is twelve years! There are two certifications 12 and 25 years. The process takes place in the attic of the house.

We were met at the gate by Carlotta, the daughter of Giorgio and the newest in generations of Balsamic producers. As we stepped in the house, the overwhelming sweet smell of the Balsamic met us as Carlotta led us to the attic where battery after battery sat slowly concentrating. The barrels range from large to small and over the course of years the vinegar reduces from the open tops – each year a bit of the previous years grape juice is added until after 12 to 25 years – voila! A barrel of a few gallons is ready to be consumed or sold. Seriously, 25 years to make a handful of bottles.

Carlotta walked us through the entire process and showed us the batch her father began when she was born. She is 26 now and so the Balsamic Vinegar ‘Carlotta’ has recently come available. The amazing thing is that the woods of the barrels import a strong taste to the Balsamic so that a Balsamic that was kept in only sweet woods like cherry or ash offers these flavors. Similarly, the Balsamic that sat in Juniper tasted strongly of the berries and aroma of the juniper trees.

Modena Balsamic VinegarThe Balsamic ‘Carlotta’ was sweet and delicious and she confided in us that she likes it best dribbled onto vanilla ice cream! We were able to taste a variety of 12 and 25 year old Balsamics while we were there and then we had the chance to buy a 100 ml bottle. You can imagine how much a 25 year old vinegar that yields only a handful of bottles will cost – the minimum for a 12 year was 45 Euro and this went up to 180 Euro for the Balsamic that won the 2011 best Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena award – which means, it is the best in the world.  To be honest, my wife would have killed me for spending that much on a tiny bottle of anything – so I had to pass, but those on the tour with me were quite happy to buy multiple bottles. I was tempted but could see my wife’s wooden cooking spoon coming at me, so regretfully said no.

By this point, we were all ready to drink a little wine so we then drove out some long country roads to an organic agrotourismo on the outskirts of Modena where we wandered the vineyards, learned the process of the making this famous sparkling red wine.

We enjoyed a farmer style lunch with a local dairy man, a couple of farmers, and the owner of the vineyards. Lunch was a delicious homemade pasta, several types of cheese, smoked meats from the region, and of course Lambrusco. This wasn’t my first time drinking it, and to be honest, I was looking forward to it .

Lambresco Italian Farm VineyardLambrusco is a bubbly red wine that is served young. In fact, in the 1970’s and 1980’s the wine was considered to be the wine of the young – unfortunately, this led to a loss of reputation of what is a very nice wine as it was relegated to the land of those who think of it as inferior.   While there is a lot of Lambrusco di Modena that will please your palette and provide even the most haughty of connoisseurs with enjoyment – this particular vintage wasn’t it as evidenced by the fact that of three bottles opened for nine men, none of them got finished. Or maybe we were all a bunch of teetotalers…

That being said, however, the lunch was wonderful, the vintners were gracious in showing us how the Lambrusco was made, and as an ending to a wonderful food tour it was almost perfect- because what foodie doesnt’ love strolling through Italian vineyards or drinking homemade grappa with the farmer who grew and fermented it?

 

Making Money While Traveling – A Few Ideas

I wrote this back in October of 2010 – but it’s still true today. In fact, in 2019 – it’s even easier. They call us digital nomads now! Funny how the world changes – when I started this blog – there was no such thing and few of us doing it – today – the world is crowded with digital nomadism. To update this a little – I hit a really good stretch with Vagobond for a while – selling links – then Google changed the pagerank algo and it dropped to nearly nothing. Same goes for adwords – it was good and then it became not so good. 

Earning money while you are traveling the world isn’t as hard as you might think it is. Of course, making a lot of money…that’s quite a bit harder! I can’t say that I’ve mastered the art of making a lot of money whether I am on the road or stationary, but I have learned that no matter how bad the economy is, no matter how depressed a place I might live in, no matter where I am- I can find a way to make a few bucks. Definitely enough to get to somewhere else, take care of my wife and me, and hopefully to have some fun along the way.

Lots of travelers today are having good luck with affiliate marketing and blogging. I’ve been pretty successful at blogging in terms of people liking my writing and coming again and again to my blog, but I can’t say I’ve really had much luck with making money at it (but thanks for the anonymous donations Mom!). Same goes for affiliate marketing. As you might guess, this post has some affiliate links in it (not any more). It won’t cost you anything to use them if the programs look interesting to you, and it will throw a little extra my way if you sign up for them. There it is – full disclosure! (Of course if I were sneaky, I would probably be rich but honesty is a profit killer.)

Of, course, one way that I make money is by teaching language. As a Native English speaker, the world is clamoring at my door to offer me money for teaching others to speak English. I happen to be a very good teacher, so that helps. To get my teaching credential, I went through an online TEFL course. That and being a native gets you through the door and into most countries.

You might want to get more than just the certificate though and start learning how to teach too!
The sad part is how many teachers I meet who don’t know how to teach at all or who are just plain terrible teachers. It just goes to show, that even if you aren’t a good teacher, you can make money in foreign countries as a teacher. You just need to get your TEFL certificate.

Of course, I think the best way to make money while I am on the road is by writing. It’s amazing how many people don’t think they can write, but in fact, if you can talk, you can write! It’s as easy as that (presuming you know things like letters and spelling). You don’t have to have a dictionary vocabulary. You just need to be able to say things in a conversational tone. That’s the tone that works the best on the internet.

There are millions of outlets for writers if you take the time to look.It might be exactly what you are looking for to make some money while you are on the road.

What do you do to make money while you are traveling?

Exploring Costa Teguise in Rock Star Style

party in Caosta TeguiseHere is another destination from my bucket list in the Canary Islands. I’m not sure how long this place would be fun, but I’d certainly like to check it out. It might be some time before I’m able to venture forth from Honolulu, but there’s no problem with being stuck in Hawaii. Happy Summer!

Costa Teguise is an intentional tourist coastal town in the Municipality of Teguise on the island of Lanzarote  in the Canary Islands of Spain. It is a completely planned tourist city which offers four natural beaches Playa de los Charcos, Playa de las Cucharas, Playa del Jablillo and Playa Bastián.

Costa Teguise is found on the far east side of Lanzarote  Island. Those who delight in water sports or just enjoy beaches and sunshine return to frequently the Costa Teguise for scuba diving, surfing,  windsurfing, sailing, fishing, diving and much much more. In addition, it is said to be a great place for golf, horseback riding and just lounging around. Costa Teguise gets an average of 300 days of sunshine each year. No wonder it was picked for a planned tourist destination.

Crystal clear glowing blue  waters  rich with life provide the right environment with  500 distinct kind of species of fish within itss exclusive aquatic surroundings.  Costa Teguise holidays are pure super styling. In terms of accommodation, Costa Teguise has many five star resorts to choose from. A few of the beach front resorts offer entertainment, tours, and beach activities in house so that you don’t need to go anywhere else.

Resorts in Costa TeguiaseOf course, it’s nice to get out and check out the nearby villages on  Teguise too. On Saturday mornings, the village has a massive open air  market with stalls and everything from souvenirs to hand made loaves of bread. Folk singers and dancers in native costume are also to be found.

The big attraction to Costa Teguise though is the nightlife. Hundreds of bars, clubs, restaurants, live music and pubs are filled with holiday goers and for pretty reasonable amounts of money, you can live like a superstar. Costa Teguise holidays are the stuff dreams are made of – if your dream is to live it up in style.

While it is known that the Phoenecians were there, followed by the Romans and the Arabs then settled the island, the French explored it, and the Spanish conquered it – most of the archeological evidence has disappeared under lava in the eruptions of 1730-1736 so, if you are looking for a cultural holiday – this isn’t the spot.  This is a party scuba dive, wind surf place. In terms of handicrafts and the local economy- the island thrived for a while by producing cochineal, an expensive, crimson dye taken from the carapace of a scale insect that lives on cactus. Cochineal is used for dying fabric, decorating china, in cosmetics, and as a food colouring. You can take a cochineal dying workshop if you must do something cultural while you are there.

Hotel Bar in Costa TeguiseWhat to do and where to go? Near Costa Teguise, four amazing beaches wait for you. Playa las Cucharas is the biggest and most beautiful; however, it is also very crowded, especially in the summer season. Tourists come from all over Europe to enjoy the sun here. The other three beaches Playa Bastian, Playa Jablillo and Playa Los Charcos are better if you don’t enjoy crowds or want to get away from the hustle you find at Playa las Cucharas, but these beaches are famous for their hot white sand and turquoise water.

Tired of the beach? Have fun in a water park or shoot a round of golf. The only water park in Lanzarote is near Costa Teguise. The kids will love it. There are many fun attractions for older people too. If you don’t want to waste your energy in the water park, you can play some golf. Costa Teguise Golf course is just a few miles away from the water park; the view from the greens are gorgeous. A visit the Castle of Santa Barbara will take your breath away. The streets and houses will delight you as well: their style and structure is unique in Spain.

The island has been a World Biosphere Reserve (UNESCO) since 1993 and there is some interesting flora and fauna to be found.  Here is the bottom line – beer is cheaper than coke and wine is cheaper than orange juice – accommodations are resort style and the best thing to do here is to spend your days enjoying the sun and water and your nights partying like a rock star.

3 Adventurous Reasons Majorca Isn’t Just for Retirees

I hate to admit that my travel has been seriously curtailed these past couple of years by a couple of things. First, living in the USA has caused some serious changes in our lives. Unless you are in the top 10% of wealth, living in the USA is expensive and requires one or both parts of a couple to work fairly constantly – the time constraints of that alone make travel difficult and then add in the monetary constraints – especially living in Honolulu, Hawaii – one of the least affordable places in the USA.  So, time and money and then the constraint of having a school age child. Essentially, we are both needed for school drop-offs and pick-ups, swim lessons, etc during all but the peak holiday travel periods – which in the USA means that our family only has the opportunity to travel during the periods when travel companies raise their rates by as much as 50% for airlines, cars, hotels and more. The point is – living in the USA generally makes travel unaffordable for families. Living in Hawaii with a family (because you have to fly to get anywhere from Hawaii and we don’t have budget airlines like RyanAir in the USA) makes travel not quite impossible, but for people with our income level  – close to impossible. Still, I’m not complaining – we love it here and I still enjoy putting together future trips. With that in mind, I bring you Majorca (also spelled Mallorca sometimes)

If you are like a lot of people, when you hear Majorca, you think of British retirees basking in the gorgeous sunlight and enjoying warmth and fresh air while they enjoy the retired life. The truth is Majorca has a lot going for it if you are looking for adventure too. These three adventures are just a small selection of truly awesome Majorca adventures that are not for those with heart conditions or severe vericose veins (though they might be doable even if you do have those things)

Majorca Adventure #1: Canyoning

Tramuntana mountain RangeCanyoning involves walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling and/or swimming through a canyon. The limestone in Majorca’s Tramuntana mountain range boasts many canyons that have been carved out over millions of years by water. These narrow gorges, with beautifully sculpted walls and waterfalls provide a striking setting for this all-action activity. This is one activity that your grandparents are not going to be seen doing during their Majorca holidays.

The sport is practised throughout the year in Mallorca with the best weather from October to April when the rainfall is at its heaviest. I don’t know why it’s better with heavy rain, but for some reason, that’s the season to do it. Could have to do with the lush greenery and scenic waterfalls – or maybe the mud makes it more treacherous.

The top places to go canyoning on Majorca are Torrente Coanegre, Torrente Na Mora, and Torrente Sa Fosca

Majorca Adventure #2: Sea Kayaking

Majorca Sea KayakingSure, you might be thinking of calm seas and easy paddling, but the truth is there is some incredibly challenging blue water around Majorca. Whether you choose guided or self guided, the place to start is Playa d’en Repic Beach in Puerto Soller. Paddling north along the coastline, in the direction of Cala Tuent, you will find caves, blowholes and rocky inlets, and if you are lucky you may come across a dolphin or two.
A nice destination is s’Illeta, a small island, about 4 kilometres from Playa d’en Repic which is home to a large colony of cormorant and has an exceptionally large cave – the Vell Mari – which is more than 500 metres deep. Are you brave enough to paddle in?

Majorca Adventure #3: Cliff Jumping
Majorca Cliff JumpingIt Cala San Vincente, close to Pollensa, you can find some amazing cliffs overlooking the sea. You can jump in – if you dare. The cliffs can be up to 15 meters high and it’s an amazingly terrifying experience! Make sure if you decide to jump that you wear sensible shoes, you know the depth of the water and you aim for the right spot. In fact, an organized cliff jumping trip with a group, where you will be guided by an expert is probably a good idea. The cliffs are very sharp so it’s important that the currents are not too strong, but this sport can take place all year round thanks to the warm temperatures in Majorca.

10 Hilarious Reasons Not to Travel

Reasons not to travel
“You are not here!”

There are plenty of reasonable reasons not to travel, but in my years of writing about travel and working in hospitality, I’ve also come across some people who have reasons that I’ve found to be absolutely hilarious. Here are ten of them.

My Feet Hurt
While I was managing a hotel in Istanbul, it was not uncommon for people to have to cancel their reservations for one reason or another. We never asked them why, but they frequently told us. The best excuse I remember was a woman who wrote that she wouldn’t be coming to Istanbul because her feet hurt so she’d cancelled her flight.

I’m Afraid My House Will Get Stolen
While living on the island of Kauai, I met a woman who was in her 90’s that had never been more than five miles from where she was born. I asked her if she wanted to see the world and her answer was “I’d love to but I’m afraid someone would steal my house.”

Don't travel

I Don’t Like to See New Things
It might sound hilarious to us, but the truth is there are people out there who don’t want to leave their comfort zone. Travel means new things, new ways of thinking, and new experiences. I’ve met these people.

I’m Afraid My Ex Will Find Out
I was chatting with an old high school pal on social media. Life had been a little rough on him and he was paying alimony and child support. When I suggested he travel, he said he’d love to but he was afraid his ex would find out.

I Don’t Want to Waste Money
Personally I can’t think of a better way to waste money than on travel, but there are plenty of people out there who think of travel as the same thing as throwing money out the window.

I Am Scared of Foreigners
This is a bit sad, but a lot of people in our terror-conscious world are scared of foreigners. Never mind that most of our ancestors were foreigners at some point or other. When I was washing dishes in Florence, Oregon a group of French people came in the restaurant. One of the cooks asked me if he should call the police. I assured him the group of old people were probably not dangerous, although they did leave quite a mess without leaving a tip.

Crunky

I Don’t Want to Miss the Next Episode of…
There are people so addicted to television that they put their lives on hold in order to catch the next episode of American Idol, Desperate Housewives, or other shows. Imagine if they learned about Arab Idol or China’s Got Talent.

I’d Rather Work
Really? What are you working for? My suggestion is that you make your life your work.

My Town or City Has Everything
I’ve met people who love their own city/provence/country so much that they decide to not go anywhere else. How can you be so sure your place has it all if you haven’t seen anywhere else? I don’t want to spoil it for you, but so far, I haven’t found anywhere with EVERYTHING. Not even close.

I Have a Fear of Being Eaten by Sharks
This isn’t a joke. My friend’s wife is so terrified of sharks that she won’t get in a pool or board a plane that flies over water. Somehow she got it in her head that a plane could crash in the ocean and that would lead to sharks. Sharks aren’t what you need to worry about if the plane crashes.

What’s your most hilarious reason not to travel?

Iwahai: Save Memories with Voice and Place

Introducing Iwahai.  Sign up for the free email tutorial here. Iwahai lets you put voice recordings on a map. It’s easy, it’s revolutionary, and it’s free. Designed by travelers for travelers…and everyone else.

Iwahai Time MachineIwahai Time MachineIwahai Time MachineIwahai Voice Recording on a MapIwahai Time Machine

 

 

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