Milan Food Guide

After our lovely couple of days in Zermatt taking in all the mountain air our hearts could hold we headed on to Milan. We were only Milan for a quick minute, but it served our purpose as being a cheaper place to stay for our visit to Lake Como which was a ‘can’t miss’ for both of us. Even though we weren’t there long, I couldn’t let it go unmentioned because we had one really outstanding meal there.

Kiwi+Peach: Milan Food Guide

The joint was called La Bottega del Vino and its right near Park Sempione. It is actually a wine bar that has about 3 or 4 mains offered along with a bunch of appetizer type goodies. This was our first meal in Italy and therefore  we were out of the land of menus in Deutsch and in the land of menus in Italian. Y’all, I know zilch, zero, nada Italiano. So, after a brief moment of being completely overwhelmed with the fact that this was going to be our lives for the next two weeks, I got over it and randomly pointed to something. That something was seared scallops in a lemon pea sauce with bits of candied lemon peel. Thank the Lord I didn’t know what I was getting or I probably wouldn’t have ordered it. {I love, love, love scallops but the Kiwi is allergic, so I tend to steer clear so that he will still kiss me. Oh, the things I do for love.} The Kiwi also went with the randomly pointing method for ordering and his was a winner too! Strips of grilled beef over grilled veggies served on a piece of slate. So folks, the moral of the story is when in doubt, be adventurous. You can always swap with someone else at your table.

Kiwi+Peach: Milan Food Guide   Kiwi+Peach: Milan Food Guide

other Milan + Lake Como tips

Milan is a great base for a visit to Lake Como if you want somewhere cheaper to stay. There is a local train from Milan to Como that takes an hour and costs 10 euro round trip. It leaves every hour from Garibaldi {right near La Bottega del VIno}.

The fast ferry boat is fast, but the view is crap. We took the fast boat out to Bellagio where we spent the day exploring, but then we took the slow boat back so that we could take in the scenery, take some pictures, and work on our sun tans {read: burns}.

Climb the roof of the Duomo! It was seriously one of the most beautiful rooftops I’ve ever been on, and I’ve been on a few. However, ladies {well really everyone}, if you want to go inside the Duomo afterwards make sure your knees and shoulders are covered or you have something with you to cover them or you’ll be turned away like I was.

Creole Shrimp and Basil Goat Cheese Grits from Tupelo Honey Café

Thank y’all so, so much for your overwhelming support and kind words yesterday about our kitchen! Obviously a lot of cooking gets done in that kitchen, but like I said on the write up, my absolute favorite thing to cook is shrimp and grits.

On our last trip back to the States, I actually bought two 5 pound bags of grits. The Kiwi thought I was being absurd {which I kind of was}, but I was bound and determined to get back to Germany with enough grits to get me through. Unfortunately, we were over the weight limit on the bag so one of my bags of grits had to go. {It went back home with my mom. Don’t worry, no grits were harmed in the making of this error in judgement.} We have made do with just the one bag, but we do have to ration them. Its always a treat when we break out the grits.

Grits are inherently southern. Go north of the Mason-Dixon or west of the Mississippi and chances are most folks haven’t heard of them. It’s always hilarious to watch non-southerners in the breakfast line at southern hotels. They always scoop them up and let them drop with the most bewildered expression on their faces. Grits, much like polenta, is a ground corn product. It cooks up into a thick porridge-like consistency and {when paired with enough butter, cream, and cheese} are incredibly tasty. To learn more than you ever wanted to know about grits, check out the wiki.

I hesitate to say this because it may come across as bragging, but I’m something of a shrimp and grits connoisseur. By that I mean, if shrimp and grits are on the menu that’s what I’m ordering. As you can imagine, I’ve tried a lot of shrimp and grits. Every restaurant has their own take on the southern staple. Most are good, a few disgusting, but the following are truly, truly outstanding.

Grits A YaYa from Great Southern Café in Seaside, FL

Shellfish {shrimp, scallops, and lobster} over Grits from Magnolias in Charleston, SC

Shrimp {with andouille sausage} and {Vidalia onion} Grits from NONA {originally Harry Bissett’s} in Athens, GA

Shrimp and Grits from Alligator Soul in Savannah, Georgia

and my all time favorite…

Brian’s Shrimp Grits from Tupelo Honey Café in Asheville, North Carolina

Kiwi+Peach: Creole Shrimp and Basil Goat Cheese Grits from Tupelo Honey Café

Creole Shrimp and Basil Goat Cheese Grits

{adapted for two from the Tupelo Honey Cafe cookbook}

The Spice
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

The Shrimp
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small clove of garlic
150 grams of shrimp, shelled
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, sliced
2 Tbsp of a dry white wine
1 1/2 Tbsp butter

The Grits
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup quick cooking grits {If they’re good enough for Tupelo Honey, they’re good enough for me.}
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp soy cream
3 ounces of goat cheese
about 15 fresh basil leaves

Number one key to success in making this is preparation. The actual cooking time is so fast that you really won’t have time to prep ingredients while the others are cooking {my usual m/o}. That said…

Boil your jug and start heating up a medium pot and a large pan on medium high heat.

While they are getting hot, mix up the spice and set it to the side. Shell the shrimp, peel the garlic, thinly slice the roasted red pepper, and measure your butter. Most importantly, open your bottle of wine. You do not have time for wrestling with a cork once the shrimp is on. {Ain’t nobody got time for that!} As far as wine goes, I use a Gewürztraminer because that’s what the cookbook recommends you pair the dish with, and I’m not going to buy two different bottles of wine for one dish. It works well.

To prep for the grits, cut the rind off the goat cheese and crumble it; pick your basil leaves, wash them, and slice them; and measure your pat of butter.

Kiwi+Peach: Creole Shrimp and Basil Goat Cheese Grits from Tupelo Honey Café

The next few steps are an exercise in orchestration. Ready to multi-task?

By now the pot and pan should be nice and hot. Go ahead and add the olive oil to the pan to get it hot too.

Measure your {boiled} water from the jug and add it to the pot along with the salt.

Back at the pan, add your minced garlic and shrimp and give it a stir. Let it cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Over in the pot, the water should be boiling now, so add your grits and butter. Stir constantly to avoid clumps as the grits absorb the water and the butter melts. Add the cream and reduce the heat to low.

Back at the pan, add the spice and stir well. Then add the red peppers and give it another stir. Let this cook for a couple minutes so the peppers can heat up and then add the wine.

Over in the pot, turn the heat off. Add your crumbled cheese and basil and stir until all the cheese is melted.

Back at the pan, remove the pan from the heat and add the butter. Stir until the butter melts completely.

Plate it up and enjoy!

Linking with Belinda and Bonnie for Travel Tuesday.

{This post contains an Amazon affiliate link. That means that if you head over to Amazon from the link and choose to buy the book, a tiny bit of the money you spent on the book will come back to me for the referral.} 

 •• Update ••

Apparently I should have consulted the Kiwi before I hit publish yesterday because he had a lot to add! Before he moved to Germany, he was living in North Carolina, and he has tried his fair share of shrimp and grits as well. Here are his recommendations.

Shrimp {with bacon and mushrooms} and {smoked cheddar} Grits from NOLA in New Orleans, LA

Carolina’s Shrimp and Grits from Carolina’s in Charleston, SC

He would also like to add that Gewürztraminer is a great wine to pair with spicy dishes in general {in fact, Gewürz means ‘spice’ in German}, which is what makes it the ideal choice for the Creole Shrimp and Grits.

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TheKitchn Small Cool Kitchen 2013: Lauren's Tiny Yet Airy Kitchen

Zermatt Food Guide

Just a bit of housekeeping before we get to the good stuff today. You probably noticed things look a little different around here today. I needed to make a new social media button and then got a little carried away. It happens.

Why’d I need to make a new button? Because I’m now on Bloglovin’! I resisted the RSS feed for a long, long time. I love visiting the actual blog and getting to see the beautiful design that bloggers put tons of effort and resources into. I feel like I get a sense of the blogger’s personality and style, and in my head, its like we are sitting in their living room chatting. {and I want you to feel the same way here!} My favorite thing about Bloglovin’ is that it looks the same as when I’m on the actual blog, only I can hit next and be taken to another fabulous blog with a guaranteed new post. I’m sure this is old hat to some of y’all, but its rocking my world today. So, if you don’t have a new RSS feed yet, give it a try and be sure to follow us!

We’ve been back from Italy for two weeks now and I am still thinking about all of the amazingly delicious food we ate. Its going to take a while to take y’all through each city, especially Rome. Oh my goodness. Rome. I thought I’d start at the beginning {a very good place to start, you know?} and work my way through the trip because the obsessive compulsive part of my brain won’t let me do it any other way. That said, we didn’t actually start our trip in Italy. We started with a trip to the Matterhorn.

Kiwi+Peach: Zermatt Food Guide

Zermatt is the tiny little village at the base of the Matterhorn that is full of cute little Swiss chalets and smells like mountain air and melted cheese. Leading up to the trip, all I heard about was that we had to try raclette and that Restaurant DuPont was the place to have it. My plate came with a heaping pile of melted smelly cheese, a tiny boiled potato, a tiny sweet onion, and a tiny gherkin. As raclette goes, I’m sure it was a fine example, but it wan’t my cup of tea. Never in my life did I think I’d say this, but too. much. cheese. On the other hand, the Kiwi’s rösti {shredded potatoes with various toppings, basically classy hash browns} was delicious.

After checking lots of menus, we decided to go the non-traditional route for dinner the next night. As expected, apart from fondue, most of the traditional foods were the same as in Germany. We love that stuff, but we get it a lot. One of the Kiwi’s friends had recommended a place called the Brown Cow Pub. Specifically he had recommended the Stinky Burger. This my friends is the stinky burger. This huge burger was topped with gorgonzola, garlic, and caramelized onions.

Kiwi+Peach: Zermatt Food Guide {The Stinky Burger}

It was strong, but oh man was it good. I strongly recommend that you convince your significant other to order it too {or at least take a couple bites} so that your breath will be equally as bad. That’s love.

{other Zermatt tips}

If you’re interested in the museum, make sure to check the open hours. We didn’t and missed out. =(

Go hiking! We knew we wanted to go to the top of the Kleines Matterhorn, so we took the cable car up. On the way back down, though, we got off at Schwarzsee {still pretty high up} and hiked down from there on the Matterhorn trail. It was just stunning. The beginning of the trail skirts around the base of the Matterhorn so there are great views of the mountain and the valley as well.

Linked with Travel Tuesday

We’re Back

We could not have asked for a better vacation! The weather was beautiful. The food and wine were amazing. {We even managed to find some Italian craft beer!} I think we can confidently check Italy off the list and put this trip in the ‘W’ column.

Tomorrow I’ll get back to our regularly scheduled programming, but since I have a mountain of laundry to do, groceries to buy, and a dinner party to throw together before we go to a concert tonight, today I thought I’d share just a bit of eye candy to feed your wanderlust.

Kiwi+Peach: swiss alps {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: swiss alps {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: lake como {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: milan {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: cinque terre {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: cinque terre {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: pisa {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: florence {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: florence {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: rome {wanderlust}

Kiwi+Peach: pompeii {wanderlust}

Venice Food Guide

The Kiwi and I are getting so pumped about our Tour of Italy. {We leave in 4 days!} I cannot stop thinking about all the delicious, delicious food we are going to be eating. I’m just a little excited. Can you tell?

Since I have Italy and traditional Italian food on the brain today, I thought I’d share a few of my tips for where to eat in Venice. The Kiwi and I have both been to Venice pretty recently {him for the 2011 Biennale, me in April with my mom}, so we are not including it on the Tour. However, I do think that Venice is a must-see town if you’re in the area. Unfortunately, apart from the squid ink risotto, Venice is not necessarily known for great food, but I’m going to fill you in on a secret. Venetians love their cicchetti and they do it very, very well. This might as well be called “A Cicchetti Guide to Venice,” because every place on my list in a cicchetti bar.

Cicchetti bars were traditionally where folks stopped on the way home from work for a glass of wine and a bit of socializing. Here’s the rub though, folks didn’t want to be drinking all this wine on an empty stomach because they might end up in the canal before the dinner bell even rang. So cicchetti are small bites that you can have with your wine, but that won’t spoil the dinner that is waiting for you at home. Or you can do what we did–order several and make it your meal. {We saw Venetians doing this too. It’s kosher.} The best part about this is that they are generally pretty cheap and you get to try lots of different things!

So here is how it works. You walk into the bar and give the folks behind the counter your best ‘Salve!’ Most cicchetti bars are family run and the person you see behind the counter has probably been there since 5am. Smiles are nice. There will be a glass case full of cicchetti. Have a look at what they have to offer and get to pointing. “Uno {point}, due {point},” you get the gist. They will hand you your food and wine, and then you can find a spot to eat standing up with all of the other locals. I’m not going to lie, this is not for the faint of heart. You probably won’t have a clue what you are eating and it might not look like something you want to put in your mouth, but do it anyway. I never had a bad cicchetti. Not once.

Enoteca Al Volto
Calle Cavalli, San Marco

This was our first cicchetti experience and the owners were so incredibly sweet helping us figure out what to do/order. There is a restaurant part as well, but I can’t vouch for it as we just had cicchetti. The food was delicious {try the marinated artichokes, or the crostini with a big hunk of blue cheese drizzled with balsamic} and the atmosphere cozy. The whole ceiling is covered in wine bottle labels. A great first experience.

opposite the Fish Market, San Polo

Right opposite the fish market, the offerings change daily based on the catch of the day. It is pretty much a one man show. The owner gets the fish from the market fresh each morning. Then he cooks up some incredibly tasty bites and when it’s gone it’s gone. I think it’s safe to say that the bites here are a bit more of a modern take on traditional cicchetti recipes. I am not a I know little and less about wine pairings and usually defer to the Kiwi on that front. That said, I can remember that white wines go well with fish. This place has some great local whites that were just perfect with our little bites of brioche with smoked swordfish, mascarpone, and cherry tomatoes and a lemon marinated anchovy couscous that tasted like no anchovy dish I’ve ever had before {meaning that it was good and not crap}.

Cantina do Mori
just off Calle Arco, San Polo

This is said to be the oldest cicchetti bar in Venice. It used to be where people would go to refill their bottles of wine from these huge ‘kegs.’ {That’s not what they are really called. I can’t for the life of me remember their proper name, so I’m going with keg.} Anyway, it is now a bar that offers some heavier cicchetti. There were lots of sliced meats on crostini and fried veggies. Along with these bites they have some great wines that are still served from the ‘kegs.’

Another anecdote… In each square in Venice there is a old well. Each well is different. Way back when, if folks needed water they’d go to the well and fill their copper pots with water to take home. The walls and ceiling at Cantina do Mori are completely covered with those old copper pots.

also just off Calle Arco, San Polo

This is family run cicchetti bar is part of the slow food movement. I found it really interesting because they cook and prepare your food right in front of you when you order. The cook in me really enjoyed seeing how all of these spreads and bites are made. It takes a bit more time, but it’s definitely worth the stop. This is a lunch place and closes at 2.30, so get there early.

{Other Venice Advice}

I am not usually a big fan of organized tours. {My exception is bike tours, but we can talk about that another day.} However, I wholeheartedly recommend the Cicchetti Tour. Our guide, Cecelia, was a local whose knowledge of food culture and slow food blew me away. Plus it’s nice to be told what you’re eating one in a while, yea? Cantina do Mori and ProntoPesce were on our tour, but, as we were there the week after Easter, we apparently were not going to the usual places because they were closed for the holiday. So they may or may not be on yours.

If you’ve had enough of cicchetti bars and want to actually sit down to eat your food, Lauren over at Aspiring Kennedy has some great restaurant recommendations too.

Stay in one of the residential areas {the Dosoduro, the Cannaregio, or the Castello neighborhoods}. We stayed in an apartment in the Dosoduro and it was great! Nothing is really that far of a walk in Venice, but if it is, hop on a vaporetto.

Put down your map, get off the main route, and get lost. You see so much more that way!

Linked with Travel Tuesday

Berlin Food Guide

How the Kiwi and I had lived in Germany for over a year and a half and not been to Berlin is beyond me. Every time it came up we would look at each other say “We have to go!”. So earlier this month, we took advantage of one of Bavaria’s many holidays and went. It was amazing. While I expected the art in Berlin to be much more progressive, I had no idea that the food and beer culture would be too. Munich is a very traditional city and we love that about it. However, sometimes its nice to get a craft beer or try a modern take on German cuisine as opposed to the strictly traditional.

photo credit:  the kiwi

We took the overnight train from Munich and arrived at the crack of 8.30am. We needed some breakfast. After dropping our bags at the hostel, we made our way to a cafe I’d read about on Foodie in Berlin called Aunt Benny. While it was a bit of a hike from our hostel {it looked so close on the map, I swear}, it was so worth it. We split a slice of ginger carrot cake and and a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice and had a big seedy, toasted bagel each. I had the sun dried tomato cream cheese with mine and the Kiwi had cheddar and olive with his. It was incredibly filling and you couldn’t beat the atmosphere. I kind of wanted to move in.

Kiwi+Peach: Berlin Food Guide, Bagel at Aunt Benny Kiwi+Peach: Berlin Food Guide, Ginger Carrot Cake at Aunt Benny

We also learned our first lesson in Berlin…the place is huge. When in doubt, take public transit. Your feet will thank you later.

That night we hit up Street Food Thursday at Markthalle IX. The huge market hall was full of vendors selling street food from all over the world and hipsters eating said food. Every single thing we had was delicious. We tried all kinds of goodies like spicy korean sushi, mac and cheese with smoked brisket and beer pickles, a shaved smoke pork sandwich, and a pretzel covered in bacon.

Kiwi+Peach: Berlin Food Guide, Mac and Cheese with Smoked Brisket and Beer Pickles at Street Food Thursday Kiwi+Peach: Berlin Food Guide, The Kiwi's Picks at Street Food Thursday

We also tried some of the Heidenpeters beer that is brewed right in the basement of the Markthalle. While Bavarian beer is some of the best beer in the world, its very limited in its varieties. You have a helles {a pilsner}, a weissbier {a wheat beer} and a dunkles {a dark beer}. There is no craft beer culture. There are no IPAs. At least that I have found {and believe me, I’ve looked}. Needless to say, we were excited to try some different varieties. I tried the unfiltered blonde and the Kiwi tried a Belgian style dark beer full of caramelized malty goodness. Needless to say, both were delicious.

Friday night we had reservations at Renger-Patzch for a fancy dinner. The menu is fresh and seasonal and it changes weekly.  Despite how it sounds, our starter of blood sausage and lentils was my favorite part of the whole meal. And not because the rest of the meal was bad either.  Quite the opposite.  I had the lamb while the Kiwi had venison with slightly dehydrated plums wrapped in bacon. Plums wrapped in bacon, I said.

On Fridays and Saturdays Markthalle IX is home to a great market {hence the name} where you can get fresh produce, meat, and flowers, but it is also the permanent home of Big Stuff Smoked BBQ. On Saturday they are only open until 4, so we headed that way for a late lunch. Thankfully they still had some food by the time we got there. I had the pulled pork sandwich and the Kiwi had the pork belly sandwich. Oh. My. Stars. It was like I was back in the South y’all. It was moist and tender and smokey and perfect.

While at Street Food Thursday, we saw a flyer for the Lange Nacht der Kulinarik {Long Night of Cuisine} that Saturday night. What perfect timing? A bunch of different restaurants, cafes, bars, and specialty food shops in the neighborhood where we were staying had special samples to offer. While this is not a weekly event, I’m including the places we visited, loved, and would have gone back for a proper meal had we had time just in case you might want to check them out.

Our first stop was Brauhaus Südstern where they had brewed up two lovely IPAs and a rye ale. We got to try these three beauties and the braumeister told us all about their brewing process. He also talked a bit about the growing craft beer culture in Berlin which I found really interesting {Unfortunately, it was all in German, but I got the impression that they would have translated the presentation had it been necessary or someone had asked}.

We needed some food at this point, so we made our way to Wahrhaft Nahrhaft where they had the grill set up out on the street and were grilling bratwursts and supposedly corn too {they were out by the time we got there}. The Kiwi maintains that was the best brat he has ever had and I agree. It was tasty and cheap.

Next we checked out Schwarzer Hahn and it is one that I really wanted to go back to for a real meal. The special was the most tender, melt in your mouth pork I’ve ever had with mustard cream cucumbers. I’d be curious to see if the rest of their menu is as mouth watering.

Our last stop was Cafe Sellberg where we got to try a ‘sampler’ of their three most popular cakes. If that was their sample size I’d like to see the normal size–they were huge! Neither of us were fans of the cheesecake or carrot cake which was disappointing, but they are on the list because of their out of this world brownie. It was the perfect balance of cake vs fudge and had just the perfect amount of crisp on the top and sides.

On our last night in Berlin, we wanted to fit in one last great meal before we got on our overnight train to go home. I read about Lokal, a modern German place, on Berlin Food Stories {I’m linking to their write up because Lokal doesn’t have a website} and really wanted to check it out. I’m so glad we did. We didn’t have reservations, but didn’t have any problems getting a seat as we were there when they opened for dinner at 6. I don’t think they were quite ready as they were still printing the menu for the day, but they welcomed us regardless and took our drink orders. The rustic, minimalist design was cozy and beautiful–I didn’t mind waiting for a menu {okay, maybe I whined a bit}. The drinks were good {spicy ginger beer}, the starter was good, the main was good; I was kind of sad to leave, Lokal and Berlin.

{Other Berlin Advice}

If you want a crash course in Berlin history do the free walking tour. While free in name, the guides do work for tips, so you tip them how ever much you think the tour was worth. Our guide, Sam, was a british expat historian working on his doctorate at Humboldt University.  Excellent, quality information and  a very entertaining way to spend an afternoon.

Do the Reichstag, if not for the history, for the views. Its free, but you do have to register. Registering in advance online is definitely the way to go so you don’t have to spend an hour waiting in line like we did.  However, if there aren’t any appointments online for the days you are going to be in Berlin, don’t worry.  Go to the the reservations booth {the one you have to stand in line for} as there will undoubtedly be availability. At least, that was our experience.

Linked with Travel Tuesdays