during my last semester at boston university, i was privileged to work as the communications graduate assistant, and my primary responsibility was the program blog. the position is now held by the incomparable emily contois, who asked me to share a few of my food experiences in hungary. the post has just been published today, and i invite you to check out the post, the blog, and the program – it’s such a fascinatingly diverse group of foodies, activists, and scientists, all hoping to influence and develop the world of gastronomy.
after months of living in europe, it’s surprisingly refreshing to be back in boston.
(my dog agrees.)
i admit, while i was so excited to be back home, the first few weeks have been weird. reverse culture shock is such a bizarre feeling – it’s so strange to be weirded out by everyone around you actually speaking your language, or to be completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of choices in the supermarket.
but now that we’ve been back for a month, i’m finding myself delighted to be back in boston, exploring the city with fresh eyes. boston isn’t a very big city, but by american standards, it’s an old one, and has a lot of character. and having lived here for almost ten years now, it feels like home in a way that even vermont, where i went to high school and parents live, doesn’t quite anymore. after all, massachusetts is the place where i attended undergrad, lived alone for the first time, got my masters degree, got married…in many ways, it’s where i’ve lived for my entire “adult” life. i doubt that steve and i will live here forever, or even for the next ten years, but boston will always have a soft spot in my heart.
don’t get me wrong, sometimes this city drives me bonkers. but when it’s this gorgeous in april and may, when the farmer’s markets are opening for the season, when all the college students go home and the city feels so much more peaceful – in many ways, this is when boston is at its best.
before i start carrying on about how much i love summer (but how my true love is really autumn), allow me to present this pizza that i’ve been obsessing over for the past week. like always, i’m trying to lose weight in time for wedding season, but endless salads and veggies start to get old. and i really love eating veggies, so you know i’m not messing around with this. but while assembling some of my favorite ingredients for a salad the other day, i couldn’t help but fantasize about these yummy things on top of a thin, crispy pizza crust. tangy goat cheese, peppery arugula, crunchy nuts, some sort of balsamic reduction for moisture…and fresh blueberries. maybe even some sauteed chicken for my ironman-training husband. surely this could work, even be potentially delicious. and after an hour of drooling on myself, i decided to go for it and let the recipe-testing commence.
and boy, am i glad i tried this out. because it is seriously yummy, a great way to use those blueberries that’ll start showing up in your csa boxes, and doesn’t include as much of the fat-and-calorie guilt as other pizzas can. i kept the arugula whole because i like the way it looks, but feel free to give this a rough chop for easier eating.
go ahead and use your favorite pizza dough for this – homemade, store-bought, or even those plain crusts ready for topping and baking (i won’t tell) – but i relied on my old standby, a simple dough from charles van over’s the best bread ever that was introduced to me in baking class last summer. it’s got a fantastic texture, great flavor, and takes mere moments to make. and i know this will be delicious on crispy flatbreads – i’m planning on trying this combination next.
(a little disclaimer – all of the following ingredient amounts are approximate. measuring pizza toppings always seems a little too anal-retentive for me…pizza is such a personal thing. it’s a delightful, homey dish, and everybody has their own preferences. use your own judgment and apply ingredients accordingly – you can’t mess this up. the photos show plainly that we like (love!) goat cheese in this house, so i used it liberally. do what you like and enjoy. in addition, everyone has a method for crust. i don’t have a peel or a very large baking stone, so i like to crank my oven up to 500 degrees, build my pizza on unbaked dough, and put the whole thing in the oven for a few minutes so that i have a thin, crispy crust. the following instructions will give you that result, but feel free to do what you like for your preferred crust.)
sweet & savory summer pizza
1 recipe of your favorite pizza dough
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp honey
2/3 cup arugula
1/3 cup toasted, chopped pecans
1/3 cup blueberries
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
on a large, floured cookie sheet, use your fingers to evenly spread room temperature pizza dough until it covers the sheet. use a flat spoon to lightly drizzle balsamic honey reduction onto dough. top with arugula, pecans, blueberries, and goat cheese. drizzle more of the reduction over the top. bake pizza for 12 minutes, or until dough is cooked through and crispy.
man, being a food blogger is tough. always seeking out and creating new recipes, cooking up food for your (always hungry) friends and family, taking hundreds of photos, writing all the time…it’s a tricky business. and then there are the food blogger events, where you have to meet up with all these other foodies and everybody eats and drinks together, and we all take photos of us eating and drinking…
i love being a food blogger. i wish this was my job. (actually, since i’m technically unemployed, this kind of is my job…so i really just wish i was getting paid for it.) being able to talk about, write about, and photograph food is one of my favorite things. and when a bunch of food-obsessed bloggers get together in one room to eat and talk about what we do? things can get a little crazy.
one such group of bloggers is a big one, boston brunchers, and i finally had the opportunity to join them this past sunday at common ground in allston. i was pretty excited at the restaurant choice, since i used to pass this spot all the time and always wanted to check it out. with big open windows, deep wood, a big bar, and lots of space, it’s a great place to kick back and relax with a big group of friends – which is just what we did.
since i’d mostly thought of common ground as a bar and grill, i was pleasantly surprised by their diverse and tasty brunch menu. since we had such a big group, we opted for the sunday morning brunch buffet, with options like corned beef hash, scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, granola, and fruit, all made in-house.
buffets can be tricky. it’s so easy for food to dry out or get overcooked, but common ground did a good job of keeping things fresh and delicious. the eggs were a bit dry for my taste, but the house-cured pork belly was incredible. i also loved the fresh chocolate chip muffins, light in texture but moist, and with a perfectly sweet and crumbly top. i’m not a banana fan, but other brunchers were raving about the bananas foster french toast, and the bloody marys, extra-spicy, were a big hit.
but the best thing about common ground? the service. some restaurants make big parties feel like a real inconvenience, but we felt right at home with our servers – super friendly, attentive (but not overly so), and a lot of fun. we were welcomed in with genuine smiles, introduced to the chef, given tastes of other dishes off the main brunch menu, and even given goody bags before heading out. and the thick, creamy milkshakes were to die for – the daily special was a peach ice cream blended with vodka, but they also brought us a chocolate shake, topped with a kiss. delicious.
a big thanks to boston brunches and common ground for a great meal and a wonderful morning! and don’t forget to check out the other reviews from boston food bloggers.
this post is part of a series on my last week living in europe, as i share photos and thoughts from a road trip through europe that i took with my husband. to catch up, check out my short video overviewing the trip, as well as previous posts from prague and paris.
after just one day in paris, we braved the rain to grab one last baguette, loaded up the rental car, and began our drive through the french countryside towards lyon, the “gastronomic capital of france,” and our next destination.
and i’m not going to lie, i was a bit disappointed to leave paris. i’d never been to france, and all of the sudden i was in this huge, beautiful, iconic city. with just one day, i was aching for more time to explore. i wanted a week in paris. a month. a year. i wanted to wander the streets and take hundreds of photos and eat cheese and drink wine and relax. i was a little bit cranky.
but it was time to go.
and i’m so, so, so glad that we did. because lyon is incredibly beautiful, surprisingly relaxing, and filled with amazing restaurants. after the bustling, non-stop crazy that is paris, it was lovely to be somewhere so serene, with locals strolling along the rivers, visiting the markets, and enjoying the beautiful sunsets.
and there’s nothing quite like purchasing olives and roast chicken at the market, sitting on a doorstep, and enjoying your snack while watching people walk by.
among the wonderful restaurants we visited and the many delicious meals we enjoyed, we were so happy to get the opportunity to eat at one of paul bocuse’s nord sud brasseries, l’ouest. great wines, incredible local cheeses, and some of the best fish i had in france.
leaving lyon might’ve been the most difficult of all the cities we visited – except possibly for venice, which i’ll cover soon and we only got to spend a few short hours in. being in lyon just felt so relaxing, so homey, so calm and gorgeous. i can easily imagine renting an apartment and spending a month shopping at the markets and cooking up everything i find.
and if you ever get a craving for a deliciously creamy, aromatic, super-addictive dessert, grab some speculoos biscuits and try to figure out how to make the spiced biscuit tiramisu we had that was probably one of the best, lightest, most incredible desserts i’ve ever tasted. and i don’t even like dessert.
when i figure out how to make this, i’ll let you know.
some pairings are undisputed classics. wine & cheese. french fries & ketchup. peanut butter & jelly (i actually prefer peanut butter & honey, but you get where i’m going.)
but i have to admit – when i was invited to join a handful of boston food bloggers to a beer & chocolate tasting, i was skeptical. coffee & chocolate? wine & chocolate? those i’ve done, and loved. but beer & chocolate?
this past wednesday, a devoted group of tasters braved the storm to visit equal exchange cafe, trying out four delicious pairings of harpoon beer and fair trade chocolate. if you’re a regular reader of this blog you know that i have no sweet tooth to speak of, so i was a bit worried that the chocolate would prove too rich and sweet for me and would take away from the enjoyment of harpoon beer, one of my favorite local offerings.
not to worry – the four pairings that we tried were delicious, bringing out unique flavors and enhancing both the beer and the chocolate. we took a classic tasting approach, methodically testing and talking through aromas, flavors, and mouthfeel of each chocolate and beer individually before tasting the pairing together. while the smoky and addictive combination of dark caramel chocolate with sea salt and harpoon dark seemed to be the most popular, my favorite pairing was definitely the orange dark chocolate and the limited edition harpoon rye ipa. the bitter chocolate’s flavor of orange peel & pith paired beautifully with the slightly sour, incredibly hoppy flavor of the beer, resulting in a smooth mouthful reminiscent of grapefruit and canceling out the harsher bitter notes.
still skeptical? you’re in luck – equal exchange and harpoon have teamed up to give away some fantastic prizes, all designed to help you find some great beer & chocolate pairings of your own. check out the contest on facebook and download your own free pairing guide. i don’t usually pimp contests on my blog, but this one is definitely worth your time.
and don’t forget to check out some of the awesome boston food bloggers that came out for the event:
jon from beantown eats
daisy from indulge inspire imbibe
jen from beantown baker
liz from eating places
emily from what emily cooks
what hasn’t already been said about paris? the food, the architecture, the sights, the crowds, the pastries, the snooty french citizens that seemed to hate us…paris is a lot to take in.
like probably every american girl in history, i’ve always wanted to go to paris. the city is huge, so alive, and always seems to be the ultimate romantic, beautiful, life-changing destination.
and don’t get me wrong – it is. paris is gorgeous. but it’s also… overwhelming. the city is absolutely huge, and as a two-night stop in an eight-day road trip, it’s hard to feel like we saw even a hint of what parisian life is like.
after a lovely morning in prague, we ducked into the car, struggled with our gps, and finally set off on our ten-hour drive through germany and the french countryside to arrive in paris. by the time we arrived at our hotel just outside the city, it was past midnight, and it was all i could do to crawl into bed and sip some wine from the minibar…
…but the next morning, we were finally, finally in paris. beautiful paris. crowded, bustling paris. cold, rainy, springtime paris.
i’m sure it didn’t help that we were there on easter sunday, and everywhere we went was absolutely crawling with tourists. with only one full day in the city before we had to head to our next destination, i resigned myself to joining them and went to see the notre dame cathedral, the louvre, the arc de triumph, the eiffel tower…all the typical sight-seeing spots. we rode in a motorbike, enjoyed croissants and espresso by the river, and stood on the edge of the huge crowd gawking at the mona lisa.
and if you’ve never braved the terrifying crowds to see this beautifully small painting, here’s a quick (shaky!) video to give you an idea of what we faced.
hardly the way to study this magnificent work of art…but i suppose we can say that we (sort of) saw it.
but there were some definite highlights. wandering french alleys, having some kind american stranger give us his used tickets to the louvre so that we could skip the line and get in for free (thanks again!), eating incredible cheeses and enjoying local wine with every meal…and being able to drive around in such a huge city was a lot of fun. all the guidebooks tell you not to, that americans can’t handle it, but my husband did a great job. we got to drive through some beautiful neighborhoods and see things like the moulin rouge that we probably wouldn’t have otherwise seen.
while paris was actually not my favorite french destination from our trip, it was a delight. and i hope to someday spend a bit more time in this magnificent city.
want more? check out my initial posts on our eight-day, eight-country road trip through europe, our first night in prague, and watch my short video with some of the highlights. next up later this week? lyon, the gastronomic capital of paris – and one of the most beautiful, relaxing places we visited in europe.
before i get into each day and city of our trip, i’d like to present road trip: europe – the movie. pieced together from video clips and photos from our journey, this quick film also includes little maps that help make our trip a bit clearer. i have much more experience with photography than shooting video, but i hope you enjoy this glimpse into our adventures, and i welcome your feedback – i recommend viewing in full screen mode.
our eight-day, eight-country european extravaganza began around 6pm on friday night, after packing up our rental car, grabbing bottled water and snacks, and driving out of budapest. while it was exciting to wake up in prague the next morning with a few hours to explore, it was a little bit disappointing to drive through slovakia in the dark, with no time to stop. i’m still counting it as one of our eight countries, but it’s the one we saw the least of – the highway was crowded with hundreds of massive 18-wheelers, making the beginning of our journey pretty confusing. we still don’t know why so many trucks were parked along the shoulder of the freeway, and it made for a few stressful driving situations.
however! we arrived safely in our hotel in prague, tired but excited about our coming adventures. none of the colorful buildings are terribly high, but our hotel room was on the top floor and the roof allowed access for beautiful views and some quick photographs. in spite of the rainy weather, we got a few hours of sleep, then wandered out through the streets to find breakfast and briefly enjoy the city.
prague is beautiful. it of course has a similar eastern european ambiance as budapest or vienna, yet still feels like a completely unique place. every few blocks we seemed to stumble into another city square, filled with market stalls and fresh produce, souvenirs and artists. huge churches and sculptures tower over the smaller buildings surrounding them, and the cobblestone streets and musicians make for a quaint, delightful experience.
with only a few hours to enjoy a beautiful breakfast and get a fleeting impression of the city, we tried to stop in as many small shops and markets as possible. i love chatting with local artists and food producers, hearing their stories and admiring their work. we saw some beautiful pieces and even got to try our beloved cinnamon bread, a treat that can also be found in budapest markets.
we were able to load up the car just before the rain started, and fought with our gps for a few minutes before driving back through the city and across germany, driving almost 10 hours and seeing some of the beautiful french countryside before arriving at our hotel outside of paris…
…which will have to get its own entry. suffice to say that the paris airport is huge and terrifying to american drivers who don’t speak french. and the sheraton is very difficult to get to, but lovely once you’re finally (finally!) inside…
a road trip around europe is nothing to sniff at. and somehow, it’s incredibly difficult to write about, which is why i’ve been putting this post off a bit. there’s a lot to say.
and where to even start? when steve and i were first considering how to best spend our last week in budapest, we spent a long time researching before finally deciding to just pack two small bags and a bicycle and drive around europe. after all, we’re americans – we love our road trips. but i hadn’t really thought about just how much ground we would cover, and the amazing number of beautiful places we would see. and i really hadn’t thought that i would be struggling with words to describe our journey.
covering this trip will take some time, so expect several posts in the coming weeks with thoughts and photos from each city, as well as an (amateur!) video with clips from the road. my husband and i had the experience of a lifetime, and i want to document this thing properly. after all, when am i ever going to cover 8 countries in 8 days again? (and if you consider that the day after we got back, we flew through heathrow to boston, you could really say we did 10 countries in 9 days. no wonder i’m tired.)
day one? prague. full post, coming soon – but until then…
our european adventure is almost over.
i have a lot of mixed feelings about leaving. on the one hand, this was the experience of a lifetime. what american-born foodie doesn’t dream of living in europe and traveling as much as (financially) possible? i’ve had so many incredible opportunities, made some awesome new friends, seen beautiful cities, and eaten delicious new cuisines. my world has expanded.
but it’s not an easy thing to leave all your friends and family behind for a few months. i’m not very good at keeping in touch with people, and i miss my friendships. i miss my dog like crazy. i miss being able to ask for things in english and not struggling to understand simple words and phrases. i miss my big, beautiful kitchen. i miss knowing where to shop when i need a new pair of flats or fresh herbs. and i miss having a purpose. being unemployed is fun for a little bit, since i’m here for my husband and there’s no guilt associated with it (yet!) – but things are coming to an end, and job searching is stressful and disheartening. i want to find something that sparks my creativity, that lets me feel useful and appreciated, and that involves food, travel, photography, and writing. surely my dream job is out there, waiting for me.
but until i return to america and pick up a six-pack of guinness (which i can’t find in budapest) and whip up some fish tacos (i miss mexican food like crazy), i’m determined to enjoy my last two weeks in europe. week one is in budapest, and week two will be spent road tripping to france with my husband. unless we get hopelessly lost, expect to see photos (and perhaps some video) from prague, paris, lyon, nice, and venice.
i can’t think of a better send-off…except perhaps for this yummy hungarian
potato stew called paprikás krumpli. i wanted to feature a vegetarian version of one of the most famous and ubiquitous hungarian dishes, goulash, but this dish features meat so prominently in both texture and flavor that replacing it seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. perhaps when i’m back in the states and can more easily read labels for things like spices, i’ll attempt to make my own version, but until then – enjoy this hearty, filling, and inexpensive dish, filled with classic hungarian flavors.
hungarian paprika potato stew (paprikás krumpli)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large white onion, diced
5 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 paprikas or bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
4 cups stock, vegetable or chicken
2 tsp hot paprika
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cream
in a large stockpot, heat olive oil and saute onion for about 5 minutes. add diced potatoes, pepper, tomatoes, stock, paprikas, celery seed, and parsley. add salt and pepper to taste. cover and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender, stirring as little as possible so that potatoes don’t break up. stir in cream and allow to simmer for another 10-15 minutes. serve with warm bread.
have you ever stepped off a plane in a brand new place, and immediately felt like you were home?
i’ve been lucky enough to experience this feeling twice in my life. once when i moved to san diego to work with an amazing theatre company in coronado…and once this weekend, in beautiful barcelona.
i know i’ve been gushing a lot recently about gorgeous cities. part of it is because i love to travel, and this is my first time in europe and i’m a little overexcited. another part is because it doesn’t quite seem real. i feel very blessed to have the opportunity to spend several months living in and traveling through europe.
but mostly, i carry on because these cities are breathtaking. and for me, barcelona is right at the top of the list of amazing places that i’ve visited.
sun-drenched, sandy beaches. bicycles, skateboards, and brightly-colored taxi cabs. sparkling sea water. spanish architecture covered in bright street art and graffiti. tapas and sangria. palm trees and gardens everywhere. huge outdoor sculptures. fresh seafood. wide streets and narrow alleyways. friendly, smiling people. 100-year-old construction projects. tiny bars and cafes. clear skies and warm sunshine. and these deliciously addictive little steak sliders called pepitos.
i know, i know. i just wrote multiple blog posts about how i don’t want to eat meat on a daily basis, and here i am carrying on about steak sliders. i’m sure you must all think i’m a dreadful hypocrite. i don’t have much of a defense – i absolutely love food, and it’s hard for me to rationalize limiting my eating choices when i’m in a new country for only a few days. but honestly, i only ate a few – and they were totally worth it. and i enjoyed them enough that it won’t be hard to avoid red meat for awhile, since nothing will compare to those little burgers.
spanish food is just too delicious to ignore. enjoying tapas is a wonderful way to eat – you get to try tiny bites of everything, and it forces you to eat at a more leisurely pace. you sip your sangria, chat with friends, share bits of everything, and laugh your way through delightfully relaxing meals. and trust me: nothing gets you ready for several days of sight-seeing like a pitcher of sangria.
we walked all over the city, making friends and finding beautiful hidden corners and side streets.
we visited a huge indoor market, with every fruit, vegetable, fish, meat, juice, honey, jam, candy, oil, and pastry you can possibly imagine.
we made friends in this tiny, ridiculous place that only served cava and burgers, who introduced us to leche de pantera, a deliciously strong cocktail with a ridiculous name.
and we spent almost an hour walking around and staring at gaudi’s basilica de la sagrada familia, a staggeringly huge cathedral that’s incredibly detailed and absolutely beautiful.
even the craziness of a 15,000-person marathon didn’t diminish the beauty of this city. watching my husband and friends finish the race was a blast, even if they did abandon us at the finish line. at least we had beer to keep us entertained. and really, when you’re sitting on the grass by a huge, gorgeous fountain in spain, it’s hard to stay mad for long.
and that seems to be the magic of the city. the people seem so contented, and when you get to wake up to gorgeous water, beautiful architecture, and delicious food every morning, it’s easy to understand why. i’ve enjoyed living in budapest, but i absolutely loved my brief time in barcelona.
and if i get my way, maybe one day i’ll live there too.