So Long Sweet Summer

It's October and summer is now officially over. It has been rainy and cold for the past three days and yesterday I went on a rainy hike through the pineta (pine tree forest along the sea) and was reflecting on what an amazing summer it has been. 


June we went to Portofino, the pearl of the Mediterranean, for a weekend. It is the most famous harbor in Italy known for it's elegance, yachts and for being a popular celebrity vacation spot. (Elizabeth Taylor to just name one!)

 One of my favorite things when we travel around Europe is the hotel breakfast in the morning, they are much nicer than any American hotel breakfast I have ever had. Tables dressed with white linens and a buffet of platters full of a selection of pastries, fruits, cheeses and cold cuts. Our hotel had a restaurant with a view looking over the seashore and I remember feeling so happy to be sipping my cappuccino in the morning while watching the sun rise over the water. 

We had a nice time together here exploring all the boutiques, art galleries, cafes and restaurants that line the tiny streets. We walked a lot along the riviera coast through the forested hills and had stunning views the entire time. It felt like we were the only ones in town because there were not many people as I had expected there to be knowing how famous Portofino is. Every corner you would turn was another picturesque view. 


About thirty minutes from where I live is an island called Elba and it is a common vacation spot here in Tuscany. On a clear day you can see it from the beaches here in my town. We decided to spend a weekend there with our friends so we rode to the port to take the ferry for a weekend of island fun. 

The great thing about being on an island is that there are so many beaches to choose from. We would start out at one beach and then after lunch decide to visit another. Pictured above is Spiaggia Di Zuccale. (spiaggia means 'beach' in Italian)

On our last day we decided to rent a boat and it was an absolute blast. It was a small enough boat that no special boat license was required and it was just the four of us all day. Something about being in the middle of the sea just puts you at ease. I definitely recommend it when coming to Elba Island. 

 Riding on the back of E's vespa and this was my view 90% of the time - hearts in my eyes! I finally convinced him to stop so I could take a snapshot.

A good place to grab a lunch or an appertivio is Tonnina, a darling little spot located in Porto Azzurro where they serve very good drinks in cute little mason jars. Here is their facebook page;

After a few Mosow Mules at Tonnina, we hiked up a cliff and walked down along the side of it while the pink sky fell into the sea until we reached Le Viste, a seafood restaurant we had gotten a recommendation about. Talk about a killer view! I had a delicious lobster stuffed ravioli and we passed white wine around the table and enjoyed each other's company for our last night on the island.


End of July we had planned a trip with another couple friend of ours to go to Formentera, an island in Spain. It was my first time hearing of this island and I didn't know much about it at all. I'm sure most people have heard of Ibiza, but Formentera is much smaller and less populated but very close by. In fact, we actually flew into Ibiza and then took a ferry to get to Formentera. 

We found an apartment in a villa to rent for four days and it was in the best location and a very relaxing atmosphere which is what we like best when going on vacation. Although the villa has many apartments for rent, it never became too noisy. The terrace is laid out with palm trees and foliage from the area, equipped with a pool and hot tub. There was a breakfast buffet every morning with fresh fruit, yogurt, pastries and even jams and marmalade made in house. Here is a link to their website;

Es Caló is the first beach we went to because it was the closest to the villa. I had to pinch myself the moment I saw it! The beach was hardly full of people at all and the water was so clear I could see all the way down to the sand. This island is known across Europe for it's pristine white beaches. 

On the last day our friends wanted to spend the day over in Ibiza so they took the ferry out earlier but we decided to stay on Formentera and spend the day together at the beach. The beaches here are breathtakingly beautiful but there is one thing I couldn't quite get used to and that was all the topless sunbathers! Formentera has been a popular destination for hippies since the 1960's and most of the beaches on the island nudity is allowed.  

Viva Toscana

Every season of the year there is different beauty to be appreciated but I especially love the summer months here in Tuscany because the town seems to come alive with the sunflowers blooming, the mediterranean sea reflecting the golden sun, the vineyards producing grapes and all types of colorful flowers popping up in places unexpected. Summer is the season for outdoor concerts, bbq picnics, beach days and lazy afternoons. 

I will never forget the moment I first stepped foot at Aia Vecchia, one of the properties E and his family own. I was mesmerized by the gorgeous nature surrounding me,
the huge golden colored Tuscan villa surrounded by olive and cypress trees and bushes of lavander plants. E took me to meet the horses first, Gianco and California, who have become so precious to me now, and are so important to all of us. Gianco is the brown horse and he is the oldest of the two, he actually came with the land when they bought it 30 years ago. California is the black horse, she is female and they are the best of friends. One thing I love doing is coming to visit them and bring them treats such as apple slices, strawberry pieces or carrots to munch on. Calling them by name and having them slowly walk towards the sound of your voice to greet you with their grace and beauty is something I truly cherish. I did not grow up around horses and rarely got to be around them, so being able to see these two on a regular basis is special to me in many ways. Gianco has lived a good and long 33 years of life but aged a lot this year and was having a tough time gaining weight and we knew his time left with us would be short. It is with a heavy heart that I say Gianco has recently passed away. It was a sad day for all of us as we morn the loss. He was such a sweet soul and I know he is happy and healthy now watching over us. Rest in peace sweet Gianco, you are forever in our hearts.

Summer is the season for tomatoes, oh glorious tomatoes. E's grandma grows rows and rows of them and I am so fortunate to be able to have fresh tomatoes any day of the week, all summer long. There is a popular dish here in Italy called 'Pasta al pomodoro' and it's so simple to make but incredibly delicious and has been my summer craving. One thing that is vital to true Italian food is the fresh and organic ingredients, it makes a huge difference. So for this dish I recommend finding the juiciest, freshest tomatoes you can find. I recommend using tomatoes that have a high juice content and are nice and mature. I usually use a mixture of San Marzano tomatoes and cherry tomatoes.

Pasta Al Pomodoro 

Serving size: 2 

2 San Marzano tomatoes and 6-7 cheery tomatoes 

1 large garlic clove (peeled)

1 small dried peperoncino 

5-6 leaves of fresh basil 

Spaghetti alla chitarra 

olive oil 


Boil a large pot of water, fill a little more than half way full. In a sauce pan on medium heat put olive oil, a whole garlic clove peeled and a small peperoncino. This is to infuse the oil with the flavors without being too overpowering. While that heats up nicely, slice your San Marzano tomatoes into little pieces and slice your cherry tomatoes in half. Once the oil is nice and hot, carefully add the tomatoes (I like to squeeze them right as I put them in, but be careful because oil will splatter) and cover with a lid for a bit to prevent splattering. Turn down the heat to medium low and let the tomatoes simmer a bit to extract the juices and start making a sauce. I take a fork and smash some of the tomatoes to help the process along. This will end up being a creamy tomato sauce with little pieces of tomato. There are many different ways you can make pasta al pomodoro, but this is my favorite way to do it. 

I remove the garlic clove and peperoncino and add most of the basil leaves and stir into the sauce. 
The water should be boiling by now, so at this point you would need to grab a large pinch of salt and put it in the pot directly before you put the pasta in. I use spaghetti chitarra which  means "guitar spaghetti" for it's distinctive square shape and it is traditionally pressed through a chitarra instrument which looks like the wires of a guitar. We enjoy a thicker spaghetti with this dish but you can use regular spaghetti or penne and it will work just as well. The cooking time for spaghetti chitarra is 11 minutes but it is important to take it out at 7-8 minutes and then cook for a few minutes in the sauce so that the pasta absorbs the sauce, adding pasta water if needed. This is an important step and makes all the difference. The Italian way to eat pasta is 'al dente' and it is truly the only way because who wants mushy pasta? It's all about taste-testing until you can understand that the consistency is firm to the bite. 

You will be able to see that the pasta has absorbed the tomato sauce and it will be ready to plate. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some fresh basil leaves on top and get ready to indulge. E likes to grate fresh Parmigiano Reggiano on top but I prefer without.

Buon Appetito!

Postcards From The Concrete Jungle

Last September we embarked on a two month journey in New York City. E would work in the mornings and sometimes had business meetings to attend, but for the most part we were there together enjoying all the big apple had to offer. This wasn't our first time in New York City for either of us, especially E because he goes often for the wine business, but it was our first time staying for such a long period. 
We booked a beautiful, modern apartment off of in Nolita. Small, of course, like most places in NYC unless you are a billionaire, but the size of the apartment didn't matter to us because we were out exploring the city each day. The area was perfect because it was North of Houston street - (fun fact; not pronounced like the city in Texas), East of SoHo, South of NoHo, West of the lower East side and North of Little Italy. The area was not over populated with tourists and far from Times Square, which was exactly what we wanted. We wanted to emerge ourselves into the true culture of Manhattan. 

After a few trial and error we finally got the subway down to a T. Oddly enough, I really enjoy the subway because you feel like you are real part of the city. All sorts of people ride the subway and I find beauty in that.  No one get's a fancier seat if you pay more, you are all the same in that moment, all connected in a strange way, just trying to get to your end destination.

Chelsea, Greenwich Village, West Village, Meatpacking district, SoHo and Tribeca are my favorite areas. One of the best things about being in the city is that you can walk everywhere and see different things each time, whether it is was walking twenty blocks to find the restaurant you looked up online or to walk two blocks to buy some flowers at the corner shop, there are always sights to see. It is truly the most exciting city in the world and it's impossible to be bored. The unintentional beauty of the city like the graffiti on the walls, the dapperly dressed couple drinking coffee outside at the local cafe or the pissed off taxi drivers honking at each other. I find a peacefulness in the midst of the chaos. You walk down the street and you feel like you are in film, an unexplainable feeling of belonging to the city. You know if something important happened, you would hear about it here first. The city is full of people minding their own business; no judgement, no loneliness, just living. That fast pace way of life that gives you a burst of energy and refuels your fire.

I'm a sucker for the MOMA, I love seeing the art I studied in books in real life and color. Spending hours strolling through an art museum is my kind of rainy day activity. 

Living in Italy I know first hand that the food is the best of the best, but we did find unforgettable places to eat in the city that we crave at home. One of those places is Ed's Lobster Bar. Located just a few blocks from our Nolita apartment lies a tiny place that served all kinds of New England seafood. Although, it's the glorious lobster that takes the cake in this place. Our very first visit I ordered the chilled Maine lobster and E chose the lobster roll. W-O-W. All I can say is that was not the last time we went there to chow down on New England cuisine. Don't be afraid to rub elbows with your neighbor because it is so worth is. Check out their website here;

"I go to Paris, I go to London, I go to Rome, and I always say, "There's no place like New York, it's the most exciting city in the world now. That's the way it is. That's it." Robert De Niro

Roaming the streets for hours is hitting a bird with two stones, not only do you get to see so much but you are also burning lots of calories. One of the greatest things is you can find anything you need within walking distance. Pictured below is a cute coffee shop called Iconic Coffee between Prince and Spring Street on Lafayette in SoHo that we stopped in to grab a nice warm latte. Another place I fell for was Dean & DeLuca, a gourmet food shop located in SoHo where they have the finest assortments of cheese and my favorite brands of loose leaf tea from Paris & London. 

I have cousins who work in Manhattan and they recommended a pizza place that was conveniently a few blocks away from our apartment called Prince St. Pizza. Owned by an Italian, a tiny little spot and always pretty busy. The walls are covered with pictures of different celebrities having their share of a slice of heaven. Having lived in Italy for almost three years now and having an Italian boyfriend, I have probably become a little bit of a pizza snob, but this NY style pizza passes our test with flying colors and we stopped by quite often to bring home slices for a relaxing night in.

I have a soft spot for markets and Chelsea Market has to be my number one. It was October and so the inside was all decked out in Halloween decor. Oh, how I miss this place. This is one of Martha Stewart's favorite spots in NYC and I have zero questions why. Oyster bar, meat shops, sushi, imported spice shops, italian products, Fat Witch Bakery where they make scrumptious brownies and so much more. Also check out Rana, (a famous Italian pasta brand) where we took E's family there when they came to visit us for five days and the pasta is great but the brunch is where it takes the blue ribbon with their eggs Benedict and pandoro french toast. Don't ask, just go. Walk that brunch off with a stroll through the High Line Park, a repurposed railway turned urban park.

Chelsea Market

 The High Line

The shops in SoHo are every fashion lover's dream come true and right up my alley. Big names like Chanel share streets with small stores with their cast-iron fronted buildings and clean cobblestone streets. Acne, Joie, A.P.C and Rag & Bone are just naming a few of my faves. E and I share a big love for SoHo and so did E's younger brother when his family came to visit us. 

If you ever thought it was impossible to live in Manhattan with a family think again because I found the spot where families go to escape the busy streets of the city; Battery Park, with it's huge grass fields and every game, playground or activity a child could ask for, (yeah, even mini golf). This is just one of the many reasons why NYC kicks every other city's ass. 

The last week we moved into another apartment across the bridge in Brooklyn. Williamsburg to be exact. Our friends from Italy were staying with us that week and one morning I left the apartment early and decided to run across the Williamsburg bridge and meet them in West Village once they were ready. I loved everything about that run, the view of Manhattan and slowly getting closer and closer to the noise of the taxis, listening to glimpses of other people's conversations as I ran past them. I would not mind doing that again.

Walking or biking across the Brooklyn bridge is a definite must when you go to NYC. Coming from Portland, I do love my bridges, so it was a fun thing to do and reminded me of my homeland. Beautiful views of the city so don't forget your camera. Thousands of movie scenes have taken place on this popular bridge and I can't help but think about the scene from Sex & The City when Miranda and Steve meet in the middle. Fans of the show, you know.

There is a huge transition from Manhattan to Brooklyn. Brooklyn has more of a grunge and hipster vibe which is totally cool because I'm from Portland, city of grunge and hipster. It is definitely an up and coming area with rent growing higher and higher. We stumbled upon many cute places to eat and to shop but the one worth mentioning most is Marlow & Sons and their mouth-watering breakfast sandwiches. 

A friend I grew up with lives in Brooklyn and he has one of the raddest jobs making chocolate at Mast Brothers in Williamsburg. He was kind enough to give us all a tour through the factory, taught us how they make the magic chocolate and taste test. Not your average chocolate with flavors like vanilla & smoke, sea salt, maple and more.  Needless to stay we packed our bags full with chocolate bars before heading back to Italia.

Here is a list of our top five restaurants in Manhattan to highly recommend;

1) Saxon & Parole

2) Tartinery 

3) Pearl & Ash 

4) The Musket Room 

5) Buvette 

Okay, I lied, I have one more place to add to the list and that is In Vino in the East Village.

We had an extraordinary time and will definitely return. New York City is not just a city, but it's the greatest city in the world, a nation of it's own, the center of the universe and I have been bit by the bug.

"I love New York, even though it isn't mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it." -Truman Capote