Archive for the ‘bizarre foods’ Category

Tuscan Treats

Like the night before Christmas, I wait anxiously with anticipation to book our next flight to Europe. I live in a world of daydream, I fantasize about our travels to far away and exotic places surrounding the globe. Travel is our life. It is our passion.

Thoughts of travel fill my head, and every night I dream we are once again in Tuscany driving through the narrow roads of the Chianti region, or navigating the Autostrada to the Dolomites of the Alps. I pull out my travel journal to satisfy my intense cravings for more….I am addicted.

Just when you think Tuscany could not be any more beautiful, you stumble upon the narrow swath of concentrated vineyards called Chianti and you fin d yourself in a land of visual and culinary magic. In unfurls for 30 miles from Florence to Siena along the postcard scenic Chiantigiana Road. All along the this road there are signs for Degustazione, inviting you to taste the super Tuscan reds or Chianti at generations old estates and wine producers. Now do you “see” why? 🙂

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feet & heads

Originally uploaded by The Rambling Rountrees

Last night I watched some of my favorite shows on the tube. Including Andrew Zimmern’s Bizarre Foods and Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. I am proud to say that I’d love to be a food journalist. My husband laughs, but I think I could do it and love it! the perils of travel and food. A love and sometimes hate relationship between the two. For us it is usually an acquired composition, such as harmony and lyrics in a song. Singapore, Thailand, South America, China, Japan, and Malaysia call to to me for comparison. Shall I quit my day job?

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Originally uploaded by The Rambling Rountrees

Now that 2008 has descended upon us, Don and I are beginning to make plans for worldwide travel once again. I know, I know, we don’t live a normal life, but what is “normal” anyway? It is all relative, after all we are happy and that is what truly matters to us. We forgo a lot of what other couple have together. Time to spend together. We chose to live this way for now. So we do splurge once a year for a wonderful vacation alone together. Our travels bring us closer and provide a time that only the two of us can share. We are very fortunate to have each found our soulmate who shares the same!

Travel has become an expression of who we are and what we like. We love to immerse ourselves in the local culture of where ever we end up. We have many enjoyable tales to tell when we return home from our adventures. Each year our list of “to do’s” only grows longer. This year’s travel does bring some slight anticipation for me, as I will be on my way to a healthier lifestyle and weight loss.

Food during travel can become an obsession to enjoy all of the culinary delights that we can sample before leaving our destination. I remember the first time we traveled to Italy and having to sample all the different flavors of gelato, because we would no longer be able to eat it once we returned home. Sort of like the “last supper syndrome”. Well it turns out that we have been back to Italy every summer since that trip. Each time we sample the gelato we laugh about the first trip to Italy. As my lifestyle begins to change in 2008 so will my thoughts about travel and eating. A small sampling will be the only requirements to keep my taste buds under control….hehehehe 🙂

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Kitchen Nightmares….

Pig Feet and esophagus’s

Well I must admit that I am a TV and food junkie. Last night after watching another episode of Gordon Ramsey’s “Kitchen Nightmares”, I am very afraid. I am afraid to think of what goes on in the kitchen of a restaurant. The filth and squalor that precludes the food, that one has ordered.

Then I got to thinking! WOW, I wonder what Chef Ramsey would do if he walked into some of favorite places to dine? What would he see? What would he find and witness? Argh! Once again I punish myself into watching these crazy TV shows. I wonder what really does happen in the life of a kitchen? We are at the mercy of the chef and his counterparts. The food that they serve….would they eat it themselves?

Last night’s episode of “Kitchen Nightmare’s” was an example of the absolutes..the absolute of laziness, filth, and lack of respect for the diner. Behind the doors to the nightmare kitchen, one wonders what one would find on an unexpected trip behind closed doors. Haven’t you?

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Pici in Pienza

During our Italian Adventure of June 2007 we stumbled upon another great opportunity to try the local food finds in Pienza Italy. Pienza is a small town located not far from Montepulciano in Umbria. Pienza is known for it’s local production of Pecorino Romano, the famous sheep’s milk cheese of the region. After a short journey from Florence we soo appeared in the local piazza of Pienza and scouted out a place to enjoy lunch on that Sunday. Soon after we were enjoying some of the best handmade Pici I have ever had. Pici is a traditional Italian pasta rolled by hand and best enjoyed with a ragu con bolognese and fresh grated pecorino, sprinkled on top. Thinking back to our vacation’s spent in Italy does leave me with culinary challenges back here in the US. Although I have not found a restaurant yet in this Country that serves handmade pici, I did find a recipe, courtesy of Mario Batali to try at home.

2 cups semolina flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 to 1 1/4 cups tepid water

Place both types of flour in a large mixing bowl and stir to mix well. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the water a little at a time, stirring with your hands until a dough is formed. You may need more or less water, depending on the humidity in your kitchen.Place the dough on a floured work surface and knead it like bread until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it stand for 10 minutes at room temperature.

Roll the dough into long dowels about 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick. Place the pasta strands between 2 hands and lightly roll back and forth to create a lightly spiraled, snake-like noodle. Place the pici on a sheet tray that has been dusted with semolina flour, cover the pasta with a clean dish towel, and set aside until ready to use. At this point, the pasta can be frozen for several months or used right away with a glass of vino!

Pienza cheese

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As a kid growing up in the 60’s & 70’s, we did not have a lot of luxuries. My dad worked at least 12-13 hours a day and my mom was a stay at home domestic goddess.  We lacked in the luxury department but we never went without food, clothing or love. Growing up in Maine during these times left us “unworldly”, but not unknowledgeable.  My maternal grandmother was the matriarch that lived within the confines of our home, which my parents had purchased from her after my grandfather passed away.  Indeed my grandmother was teacher to all.  She taught many worldly subjects related to life.

It was great to have grandmother around day in and day out. After all what more can a child want? I shared my bedroom with my gram as well as my deepest secrets and emotions.  We were like sisters and had so much in common.  I miss my granmother greatly, but that alone can not bring her back.  She passed way at the age of 96 in 1989.  Her and my grandfather worked hard to raise their children and had next to nothing in their day.  So I considered my self extremely lucky to have gram around as I was growing up.  I have many fond memories of her cooking and teaching me things about food. In fact, some may even classify as “bizarre foods today”.  She loved to cook oatmeal with brown sugar, shredded wheat (softened in water), molasses cookies, liver, pig’s feet, tripe, and other delicacies.  She also sent me to the store to buy her candy, which she would share with me.  Mainly Kit-Kat’s when they first appeared on the shelves in the store. She loved fried potatoes as well.  We had a woodstove in the kitchen and she used to like to take potatoes and slice them thinly and place them on the surface of the hot stove, cooking them until crisp, then coating them in melted butter before eating them.  The kitchen would have a smoky appearance after this culinary adventure, but then who cared?

She also kept a pint of cream on hand to have with fresh berries or on her oatmeal.  She cooked everything in lard, salt-pork and ate real butter. Drank plenty of tea and coffee, and sometimes had a pinch of brandy when she had a cold.  When we were sick, she would prepare us molasses and ginger to swallow…..yuck!  Or Castor Oil, for whatever else ailed us.  Imagine that!

My gram was from the old French/Irish school of thought.  Work hard and things will be ok.   She planted her own garden behind the house and harvested her own veggies. This day and age, this is almost unheard of.  She canned her food, made homemade jam, and baked her own bread.  A much simpler life…the way it used to be….the way it should be.  I miss her food, stories and her life.  I am grateful for all that she gave me.

Cabin in the woods

A simpler life…. 

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 What’s your definition of bizarre foods?

Well on our recent trip to Italy we witnessed some bizarre foods in action.  For instance, at the Mercato Centrale one could partake in a feast of tripe, cows faces, cow nerves, and cow esophaguses….oh yeah. I have photos to prove it.  Sounds gross huh?  Well cultures create foods. There is often a history behind what one enjoys for delicacies.  In Maine we have fiddleheads, to some folks these would considered disgusting, to us they are a spring treat.  In most countries in fact there is a typical dish that is native to the region that others don’t often eat.  In Italy it happens to be many.

Bizarre food today, by far had a different definition, than it has in the past.  Cultures before us, used food as a necessity, so they had use all pieces of an animal. In some countries today, that is still true.   On the Travel Channel’s show Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, one can only imagine what he will choke down with the next mouthful, but last night when I watched Samantha Brown, try to eat guinea pig and alpaca steaks, I cringed.  As a foodie, I enjoy watching these shows, but at the same time I am fascinated how one can sample these food items and not be totally disturbed. I guess my culinary desires are sometimes hindered by my conscience. heheheheh  🙂

nerves.jpg  Nerves in Italy.

windpipes.jpg  Windpipes in Florence!

tripe.jpg  Various forms of tripe.  The local  meat cutter told that a cow had three stomachs. Here they are!

I think I’m not quite ready try these delicacies just yet.  I know my husband isn’t!  Food is an integral part of any culture. No matter where one travels, an open mind is the key!  Try it and you might be surprised……did I mention pigs feet (trotters)?   😉

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Well in a little over 48 hours I will be on my way to paradise once again.  Where is paradise one might ask?  Well for me it is in Italy.  My paradise consists of travel, food, wine, and friends you meet along the way. I also enjoy the true to life experience and the culture.  The true “dolce vita”. I could sit all day at an outside cafe enjoying a cappuccino or sipping a great local vino, and watching the people of Italy.  The scenery, the smells, the landscapes, the architecture, the history and especially the FOOD.

This year for my BIG 45 th Birthday….although I refer to it as my 25th anniversary of  my 20th birthday, I plan to celebrate in Italy.  I would like to find a special cake that is as unique as me.  Something with chocolate involved. I’m been researching the bakeries in Florence to see what might be considered for a birthday cake.  Perhaps my dear husband will surprise me with a famous Florentine cake and a special meal.

Each year my taste buds have flourished while in Italy and I have been temped to try new and sometimes bizarre food items. This year will be no exception. I am thinking, now… I say just thinking, about trying a typical Florentine tripe sandwich…..but I don’t know yet. This is not for the faint of heart.  While strolling through the Florence’s famous Mercato Centrale…..one can be amazed by the sites and smells of the food.  Tripe carts and other goodies are often sampled while strolling the the food stalls.  Chicken heads, intestines, cow’s faces, pig trotters and other items can be seen within the confines of the market…..you decide!  Are you ready to try these delights?  Ciao!


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So June is soon upon us and it bring’s a new season for another culinary adventure “Hell’s Kitchen” with Chef Gordon Ramsey….dasterdly! He is a the culinary equivalent of American Idol’s Simon Cowell….oh gastly! I can’t wait to view this year’s opening night show. Monday June 4th is the season premier. We will be standing by……with our kitchen knives…..sharpened! Then we will will miss the next two episodes, as we will be experiencing our own culinary adventures in Italia. Only eight more days!

I’m not so sure I could make it on reality TV. Although I would like to appear on CBS’s “Big Brother”, “Amazing Race”, or Survivor…I think I could survive on an island in the South Pacific. I challenge them to bring Survivor to the extreme Northeast in the winter…hehehehe….not! I may fare better with the discipline and attitude adjustments of Chef Gordon Ramsey. Maybe in another life……I’ll just have to keep working away my meager life! 😉


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Living in the Northeast were are blessed with the opportunityt to enjoy fiddleheads in the spring. Fiddleheads are a green that grow near water and are only available for a few weeks in the spring.

Facts on Fiddleheads

Fiddleheads are the young coiled fern leaves (about an inch in diameter) of the ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris). Nearly all ferns have fiddleheads, but those of the ostrich fern are unlike any other.


Fiddleheads are a Maine delicacy that appears in the early spring during April and May. Harvest the tender little rolls of fern almost as soon as they appear within an inch or two of the ground. Carefully brush out and remove the brown scales. Wash and cook the “heads” in a small amount of lightly salted boiling water for ten minutes, or steam for 20 minutes. Serve at once with melted butter. The quicker they are eaten, the more delicate their flavor. They may be served, like asparagus, on toast. Cooked, chilled fiddleheads can be also served as a salad with an onion and vinegar dressing.

I like mine steamed til tender and eaten with salt, pepper, and of course butter! Yum…


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