Weekly Photo Challenge: A Taste of Venice

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Afloat,” as well as Writing101’s Day 2 Challenge: “A Room with a View.”

You close your eyes to appreciate this perfect moment. You are comfortably seated next to your special someone on a luxuriously upholstered seat; a warm, gentle breeze is blowing, and it enhances this feeling you have of gliding on air.

The only discernible sound is the gentle lapping of water, until the dulcet tones of a piano accordion permeate the silence with a romantic Italian melody. Suddenly a rich baritone breaks into an operatic classic by Puccini (or perhaps it’s Rossini, you can never tell the difference) and your beloved leans in for a soft kiss.

You open your eyes and the sight of your singing guide in his striped shirt and straw hat makes you smile, and you look around, expecting to be surrounded by the fading pastel hues of historic grand palazzos and gently arched stone bridges…

But – hang on a minute…this can’t be right. Trees? Parkland? Che cosa?

COAFT Afloat

No, you aren’t among the heave of tourists travelling along the Grand Canal in Venice, nor are you even in Italy.  You are, in fact, enjoying a glorious late spring afternoon gondola ride on the Charles River in Boston, USA!

Who’d have thought?

PS while we’re on the subject of ‘Afloat’ (and still in Boston)…is this not the most adorable houseboat you have ever seen?!

COAFT Afloat 2

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The Art of Food

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Wall.”

I was completely smitten with the fruit ‘n’ veg artwork on the walls of this quaint little trattoria called Ai Balestrari near the Campo de Fiori in Rome, where I enjoyed a delicious Bruschetta.

COAFT Food Artwork in Rome

Gallery

Oh, range o’ ‘licious treats

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Orange you glad it’s photo challenge time?.”

If I have to break one rule here, it’s that ALL of these images have to do with food (it kind of goes with the territory of having a specifically-themed blog), but I have gone for a bit of variety in terms of where they were taken.

It’s amazing just how much food comes in all shades of orange (and how many random food-related shots I take at any given time)…!

Video

Poetry on Portobello

 

This is the story of a girl and her fellow

Who spent a sunny Saturday on Portobello

Among the many food stalls they perused

With tons of tempting treats to choose

They went for crepes with strawb’ries and Nutella

In response to Writing 201 (Poetry)’s Day 2 Challenge:

  • Form – limerick
  • Prompt – journey
  • Device – alliteration

More Portobello tempation…

Where to from here..?

Although I created this blog in April last year, I’ve only really been working on it in earnest for the last 6-7 weeks, thanks mostly to the talented and supportive team behind the Daily Post’s Blogging101 course, as well as the encouraging feedback I’ve received from the blogging community along the way. I’ve learned so much in a very short space of time, and I continue to be inspired by my fellow bloggers.

Ultimately I’m happy with my efforts so far, but at times I worry that Confessions is another one of my ‘phases’ and I’m going to eventually lose my blogging ‘mojo’ (hereby referred to as blog-jo) again – particularly after the daily incentives provided by the Blogging101 (and now Blogging201) course comes to an end. I can already see myself not spending as much time on my blog as I did in early January, and I know that once my university study recommences in a couple of weeks, together with my full-time job, time (and motivation) is going to be even harder to find.

While it may sound like I’m already admitting defeat, I’m hoping to try and combat the seemingly inevitable and keep my blog-jo going by considering the following (hopefully achievable) goals:

  1. Create an editorial calendar of Confessions for the next two months based on my extensive archive of food and/or travel photos. By nature I’m quite impulsive and ad-hoc with my writing – I’m not very good with detailed forward-planning (alas this doesn’t bode well for me when it comes to university assignments, either!) Believe it or not, most of my posts to this date have been a result of coming up with the story behind the image/s on the spot. But should I not have the time or energy to spontaneously come up with something new, I’ll at least have some ‘pre-prepared’ inspiration to fall back on. Think of it like preparing a week’s worth of meals on the weekend so you don’t have to cook so much during the week (nope…I don’t do that either). An editorial calendar will also allow me to ensure that there is plenty of variety in my posts.
  2. Post at least twice a week. Leading on from the first point, I know I will never be a daily blogger (I wish I had that motivation!), but I at least hope to keep posting on a regular basis. My ideal is to post something short and sweet in the middle of the week, and use the weekend to add more substantial posts and spend time exploring and engaging with my fellow bloggers.
  3. Listen to feedback, and create a ‘You Asked For It…‘ feature. You, yes YOU the fellow blogger/reader, are my biggest inspiration, that’s why I’m giving you a say in what my future posts will be. What’s the use of feedback and constructive criticism if you don’t do anything with it? I’ve put together a suggestion box to get an idea for the kind of Confessions you enjoy the most, and would like to see more of. Depending on the volume of feedback I get, I hope to build the results into a regular feature where the ‘winning’ suggestion (as voted by YOU) becomes the post. Of course this means the suggestion box will be updated on a regular basis as well!

What do you think? Am I being too defeatist at this relatively early stage of my blogging career? Have I set myself realistic-enough goals? I’d especially love to hear from those of you who have fought a downturn in your blog-jo – did you get past it, and if so, how? Are you still dealing with it?

Please do share your wisdom (and confessions) below!

“This (giant) pretzel is making me thirsty!”

I made a promise to myself that I would begin to take part in the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge as soon as I could immediately make a mental connection between the theme and one of my photos. When I saw that this week’s theme was ‘Scale’, I knew there was only one possibility.

Flashback to October 2008:

As part of our Top Deck European Odyssey tour, we had made a very quick morning stop in Salzburg’s beautiful Old Town soon after departing the quaint storybook-town of St. Johann in Austria’s Tyrol region.

We were dropped off near the Kapitelplatz and given a little over an hour to explore the area before we began the long drive to Prague. Given that it was barely 9am in the morning, not a lot was open apart from a little kiosk and a couple of food and market stalls that were slowly setting up in the main square.

While I made a beeline for the kiosk to get a Viennese hot chocolate (it was a tad chilly), my hungry Other-Half quickly caught a whiff of fresh bread and followed his nose directly to the source: a food stall selling pretzels in a wide range of delicious flavours. Not only were they freshly baked, but they were also bigger than a human head!

I couldn’t resist the urge to capture him in his element devouring the giant pretzel in front of the random ‘man on a giant golden sphere’ sculpture.*

COAFT Salzburg 01

Spot the tourist: giant pretzel in one hand, Red Bull in the other…

To this day he still salivates when reminiscing about that giant pretzel…

COAFT Salzburg 02* later identified as Stephan Balkenhol′s “Sphaera”, part of a Salzburg Foundation Art Project.

La lingua di cibo (take that, Rosetta!)

If you could wake up tomorrow and be fluent in any language you don’t currently speak, which would it be? Why? What’s the first thing you do with your new linguistic skills?

As soon as I found this Daily Prompt from almost a year ago, I knew there could only be one answer.

Since I was eight years old, learning basic conversational Italian from my Year 3 teacher Mrs Ciccone (no direct relation to Madonna, alas), I have been in love with Italy and anything and everything Italian. While the twice-weekly, hour-long lessons only lasted one (and a bit) school years, when I began working at an Italian cafe-restaurant ten years later, I was surprised to discover how much of it had stayed with me.

One of my favourite parts of the day working at the cafe was when my boss’ dear Italian father would come by to take care of any light maintenance or cleaning before we opened and patiently wait for me to make him an espresso. He was very shy (presumably on account of his speaking very little English), so he would initially only politely nod his thanks each time I made his coffee. Imagine my delight several months into the job when I handed him his daily espresso, and he looked me in the eye with a shy smile and said “thank you” in very careful English; I responded with a very nervous “prego” and he chuckled and said “bene…very good! – high praise, indeed! From that moment on we were great friends.

I picked up a bit more basic Italian during my time working there, thanks to the authentic Venetian menu, and (as cliché as it may sound) Dean Martin constantly playing in the background. By the time my dream opportunity to visit Italy came true another ten years later, I could greet strangers, ask how they were, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’…and find my way around a menu enough to not accidentally order tripe, or some other ghastly substance (for the record, if you’re not a fan, stay away from trippa).

My first visit to Italy was a bit of a ‘blink-and-miss-it’ trip as part of a Top Deck European Odyssey bus tour, but it was was the perfect introduction and no less a dream come true to find myself at the foot of La Torre di Pisa, gazing in awe at the Duomo in Firenze, tossing a coin in la Fontana di Trevi in bella Roma, or enjoying un giro in gondola in Venezia. 

In 2013 (less than five years later), we found ourselves – blissfully – back in Rome and Florence, only this time around we had a few days to spend in each, which gave us a lot more time to explore these great cities on our own terms. As wonderful (and delicious) as our first six days in Italy were, they were only a prelude to the magnificence of the final part of our trip – a three-day, four-night cooking class and villa stay in Tuscany.

Oh, the memories (i ricordi). I am determined to one day carry out my Frances Mayes-inspired dream of living Under the Tuscan Sun for at least six months (perhaps minus the seemingly-endless renovations part).

Therefore, in order to converse freely with my new neighbours (and possibly avoid being swizzed by dodgy tradesmen), I would love to become fluent in la bella lingua Italiana.  

*Note: I apologise in advance for any errors in my poor attempts at translation – they are completely unintentional, and your corrections are welcome! 🙂

Dear Chef Claudio: a letter of apology

Dear Chef Claudio

I trust this letter finds you well. I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere regret for the way I left things the last time we met; while I don’t want to make excuses, I would still like to offer an explanation and apologise for my appalling behaviour at the time.

After all the kindness you and Signora Piantini showed us, and the pearls of culinary wisdom you shared over the preceding four days, one would think I could have summoned the strength to look you in the eye so you could see the gratitude that came from the bottom of my heart, yet I was barely able to utter a simple word of thanks.

The truth is, all my words were trapped behind a giant lump that had been forming in the back of my throat since the night before. I was also afraid that if I caught your eye for even a split second, I would instantly turn into a blubbering mess. Instead, I simply shook your hand and gave you what I thought was a polite smile, but in retrospect probably looked more like something between a grimace and a snarl…and I have been berating myself about it ever since.

If I could turn back time and take away the over-emotional-not-good-with-goodbyes side of myself, I would give you a quick hug and then holding your hand, look into your eyes and say “Grazie mille” for the most incredibly inspiring, deliciously decadent and breathtakingly beautiful experience of my life.

Grazie for demonstrating the ultimate in Tuscan hospitality, and welcoming us to your home and restaurant amid the olive groves and vineyards of Figline Valdarno.

Grazie for trusting us amateurs in your beautiful professional cucina, and for sharing your recipes, genius cooking tips plus – above all – your infectious passion for simple, delicious food prepared with only the freshest ingredients. We will never fail at lasagne again!

Yours sincerely,

Lisa

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Fond memories of #Tuscany

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First confession – a brief history

Together with some encouragement from a few lovely friends, I decided to create Confessions of a Food Tourist as a dedicated outlet for exploring and sharing my passions…

A little bit about me

I love food. I love to travel. I love photography. I am by no means a professional or expertly skilled or trained in either of these fields, but they all make my heart sing. Another lifelong passion of mine is creative writing, although I tend to keep this one a bit more to myself. I enjoy each on their own, but if I have the opportunity to combine two or more at once, I am in my element.

For as long as I can remember, I have been very snap-happy. However, it’s not always about capturing the subject or landscape in front of me, but also the feelings I’m experiencing at that exact moment (mostly positive), and I relive these each time I look back at my photos.

In regards to food in particular, it wasn’t until I travelled interstate with a friend and colleague back in 2006 that I became aware of just how often I would (subconsciously) whip the camera out each time I had a lovely meal in front of me until she commented on it several days into the trip. A few weeks after returning home, I put together a slideshow of all my favourite images from our trip as a small gift, and she later called me in tears, saying “I know why you do it now, thank you for taking all those photos…even the food ones!”

At that point I became a self-confessed Food Tourist, and have enjoyed sharing my favourite food and travel experiences (which are generally among my happiest moments) with my loved ones ever since. This blog now allows me to do so without unnecessarily bombarding my Facebook friends’ news feeds with tedious posts!

What to expect

As well as lots of anecdotes and images from my favourite food experiences abroad (New York or London, anyone?), you may see more posts like this, thanks to my curious penchant for taking step-by-step photographs as I’m cooking, for the (so far) non-existent book of my all-time favourite recipes I’m compiling in my head.

Obviously I’m not here to change the world – I just hope to inspire, or simply provide an enjoyable escape from the everyday for fellow travel, food and/or photography enthusiasts.

Enjoy!

Highlights of 2014: New York Gourmet Walking Tour

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe the festive season is all but over (is it just me or did it zip by quicker than usual?) Once the eating, drinking and being merry have settled down a tad, I like to take the opportunity to reflect on the year that was.

Scouring through the thousands of photos I took over the last 12 months, I am yet again taken aback by how incredible 2014 was for me in so many ways…I only wish I had shared these experiences with you as they happened!

One of my wildest dreams came true for me in May last year, when I travelled to New York with my parents and sister. Almost 8 months later I’m still pinching myself. Wow. Just…wow. Talk about expectations exceeded – all the songs, movies, television shows and travel programs about and set in New York can’t prepare you enough for its sheer awesomeness! Rather than spend 1000 words gushing about it (it’s entirely possible to do so), I wanted to share one of the many Food Tourist highlights this trip offered.

On a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon while my dad and sister explored the Intrepid, mum and I spent a leisurely three hours traipsing through the West Village, enjoying New York Food Tours’ Ultimate New York Food & Culture Tour™, which I had booked before we left Australia.

Our friendly guide met us on Bleecker Street (possibly my favourite New York street so far), and we followed her on one of the tastiest journeys I’ve ever been on, with each step taking us to new heights in deliciousness.

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Stop 1: Faicco’s

One can only dream about having an Italian deli like this in your neighbourhood, with its tins, packets and jars of delicious produce and pasta piled high and wide; freshly made ready-to-heat gourmet meals; and a cold cabinet teeming with succulent meats, exotic sausages and dreamy, creamy cheeses.

TASTE SENSATION #1: Arancini balls

Stop 2: Murray’s Cheese Shop

Cheese? Yes please! We didn’t have to go too far for our next stop – in fact, we just walked next door! While our next tasty morsel was being prepared, we had an opportunity to explore this cheese-lover’s heaven, which is roughly the size of a small supermarket and filled with cheeses from all over the world, plus a selection of gourmet bread and other deli delights. I was just about to succumb to the temptation of buying a giant wheel of vintage cheddar and magnum of red wine, when we were called – our snack was ready (just in time, phew!)

TASTE SENSATION #2 – Gourmet Three-Cheese Grilled Cheese.

Stop 3: Joe’s Pizza

Just around the corner, it was time to enjoy a New York institution. It goes without saying that a trip to New York is not complete until you’ve had a true slice of NY pizza. I must admit, despite being in New York for almost a week by that point, I still hadn’t – this would be my first.

TASTE SENSATION #3: NY Pizza slice

Stop 4: Popbar

Once again, we only had to venture next door for our next treat. And what a sweet treat it was! Popbar offers a wide range of refreshing iced yoghurt, gelato or sorbet flavours on a stick, which can be dipped, half-dipped or covered with a number of yummy crumbly, crunchy and/or gooey toppings. As soon as I saw ‘coconut’, I was sold.

TASTE SENSATION #4: Coconut PopGelato half-dipped in chocolate and covered with coconut.

Stop 5: Washington Square Park

Believe it or not, this tour was not just about finding tasty treats around the West Village – our lovely guide also provided a lot of interesting and insightful information about the history and culture of the area. On our way to the next food-stop, we passed through the delightful Washington Square Park; due to the absolutely sparkling conditions – blue skies, temperatures in the mid to high 20s (about 80 degrees Fahrenheit) – the place was positively teeming with families, couples, students and street performers happily making the most of the spring sunshine.

It was wonderful to learn the story of ‘Larry The Pigeon Guy’ and watch him playing with his marionette alter ego that had been especially made for him by puppeteer/entertainer Ricky Syers (you can find an image of them on the Humans of New York Facebook page). And I finally learned the location of the iconic Arch that I’d seen a million times watching Friends!

Stop 6: Mamoun’s Falafel Restaurant

Macdougal Street is a melting pot of every kind of cuisine you can think of – I can’t wait to return to New York one day and sample everything it offers. Lucky for us, we had the opportunity to indulge in some Middle Eastern cuisine from a Macdougal Street mainstay.

TASTE SENSATION #5: Falafel balls

Stop 7: Molly’s Cupcakes

Back on Bleecker for our next stop. I just love the story behind Molly’s Cupcakes. This iconic bakery was established in honour of the founder’s third grade teacher who would bake delicious cupcakes each time a class member had a birthday. Not only does he continue her tradition of creating beautiful, decadent sweet treats, but donates part of the stores’ profits to schools in the local community. What a treat it was to sit down and indulge in one of their award-winning cupcakes!

TASTE SENSATION #6: Red velvet mini cupcakes.

Stop 8: Pasticceria Rocco

Yes, there’s more! After Molly’s I wasn’t sure if I could fit in another decadent treat, but as soon as you enter Rocco’s, you are drawn like a magnet to the glass counter where you are welcomed by rows and rows of indulgent Italian pastries, tortas and pies and all is forgotten. After enjoying one more dessert, together with a lovely coffee, we bid farewell to our guide. All that was left to do was decide which cake to take on the subway back to our hotel…

TASTE SENSATION #7: Pistachio cannoli

P.S. The New York Baked Cheesecake won…

(Did I mention that I LOVE New York?)

I’m determined to spend more time ‘confessing’ this year, so stay tuned for further highlights from this trip (and more)…!

My pick for LaChouett’s Pick the World (USA) event.