Hvar, Hvar Away

Last weekend, wet, heavy snowflakes crashed hastily and horizontally against my icy window.  Today, sub-freezing temperatures force me into my heaviest winter coat, wool scarf fastened securely around my pale neck. For the past four months, my pre-war radiator has been heaving and gurgling like a life-long smoker, erratically and angrily spouting streams of hot air, mirroring my own heated frustration over this seemingly endless, brutally chilly winter season.

It is mid-March, right? Call it mismanaged expectations, but I usually associate St. Patrick’s day with outdoor festivities, the kind where beers taste refreshingly cold—and I don’t mean cold in the way that forces you to alternate hands for fear of losing a finger to frost bite.

Six months in New York has proved a wonderful adventure so far, but lately, I feel a pathological desire for warm weather. A guttural yearning for the skin-tingling sensation of sitting in the sun 10 minutes too long. I want to munch on fresh, tender summer greens. I want to greedily wipe sticky sweet juice from my mouth with the back of my sand-encrusted hand after eating a perfectly-ripe peach. I want off-the cuff, casual, indulgent, summer eating.

Last summer, before leaving London and embarking on my thesis, I had the tremendous luxury of traveling to Croatia with four of my dearest friends. The visit encompassed—and far exceeded—all the quintessential summer experiences I currently covet. Right now, that trip is just about all I can think about.



The island of Hvar is hugged by the Adriatic Sea, off the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. I would say that it’s a hidden gem, but that would be misleading, because sometime during the last decade, the secret got out, and the small island has adjusted to and welcomed a steady and growing influx of foreign visitors. IMG_1332

The clear blue water, the string of rocky islands, the warm light. Honestly, it was so breathtaking, I felt like I had been transported directly from London to another (and much more pleasant) planet. Yet, Croatia (and Hvar) is still recuperating from a brutal war, and it is clear that it is still getting its sea legs as a hot tourist hub. This gives the city an earnest and authentic feel—it’s not cloyingly commercial, and is still relatively affordable on a student budget. I had arrived.

Gone Swimming


You can tell a lot about a city by its market, so when I travel, I always make a point to seek out the local food offerings. In Hvar Town, it didn’t take long to find, and when I arrived, I knew I had reached the mothership.

Assortment of dried herbs at the Hvar market

The market was small, like the island, and was nestled next to the pjaca, or town square. In many ways, this market was far more modest than markets I had visited in the US and abroad. apricots

There were no small business owners hocking products or luring tourists. There were no “all organic,” “all local” signs to which I’ve become so accustomed. There didn’t need to be. This was a small town’s market, where local and organic food was the standard. Piles of fresh fruit—cherries, apricots, peaches, and raspberries—were stacked precariously high alongside home-jarred capers, honeys, and olive oils. Lush herbs like oregano and basil—with dirt still clinging to their roots—were intoxicatingly fragrant.

Honey, capers, and plump cherries at the Hvar town market

Home-jarred capers, honey, and olive oil


Father and SonThe periphery of the market was lined with small artisanal bakeries and shops, and I quickly found my home at Delicaie Mediterraneae. Shop 2Now, this was a meat shop, a cheese shop, aaaand a wine shop. Not a single product in the store was grown or produced outside Hvar. It became a morning ritual to pick up fresh fruit from the market, then stop here to stock up on goods for a picnic lunch.

Sliced Cured Pork, Picnic-Ready.

Picnic Lunch

The father-son owners would carefully shave thin slivers of salty and rich cured pork onto their scale, portion hunks of creamy goats cheese, and package olive and sardine antipasti into a tidy and picnic-ready package. As we waited, we sipped complimentary wine and chatted about life on the Island.

Le meilleur de _______


No picnic is complete without crusty white bread and a little dessert. Pekarna Klas provided that fix. This was not the type of bakery where seedy, whole-grain breads were on the menu. Rather, it was all about chewy, white-flour confections. The bread was a perfect partner for the cured meat and cheese, but what I looked forward to every morning was the slastice—the Croatian version of a cream-filled doughnut.

Slastice--perhaps the world's tastiest donut

The dough was dusted with crunchy sugar, and was so light that it practically melted on your tongue. With each bite, it was impossible to control the outpouring of sweet vanilla cream. Napkins were an absolute necessity, and there was nothing more summery than finishing off a meal with one of these heartmeltingly delicious bad boys.


Delicious Croatian wine ____

You don’t hear many people talking about Croatian wine, and that’s probably because it can be prohibitively expensive to purchase abroad. It’s a shame, because the terrain and climate in Croatia matches that of its famous wine-producing neighbor, Italy. What made our wine-drinking experience particularly memorable (and simultaneously hard to remember), was that every sip we tasted was produced right on the tiny island of Hvar. It doesn’t get more local than that. Our wine purveyor of choice was called Vina Caric, and not surprisingly, the wine bar in town was owned and operated the vineyard owner’s sons. These guys informally offered us a wine tasting, enthusiastically sharing every bottle alongside us.

Hanging at the Wine Bar

My favorite bottle, the “blue label” bottle IMG_2956is called Plovac Ploski, which derives from the name of the grape variety, Plavac (Mali). The fruit comes from Hvar’s famous Plaze on the island’s south face. This full-bodied and earthy red should be served with “pasticada,” or seafood dishes and stews, which are usually tomato-based and ubiquitous on Hvar menus. This wine is utterly unfussy, yet has tremendous personality and caliber.  Plus, there is something about drinking wine grown from the very ground upon which you stand.  There’s something even more to enjoying that wine alongside a family-style, seaside meal with close friends.  I always drink to that.


Americana in Roma

Long time, no blog! School has been all-consuming, but even though I haven’t been writing, I’ve been eating. I promise to fill you in. Food in London continues to surprise me, and I will write more on my culinary adventures here soon enough. But for now, Rome has my heart (and pen).

Salty, Cured Pork Hocks hang heavily at a small deli near the Pantheon

Being in Rome gave me the same feeling as lying on the beach in the late afternoon hours, skin still tingling from the early morning sun. Rome enveloped me, wrapped me in a warm towel. And it fed me. If I could chose only one cuisine to eat for the rest of my life, it would hands-down be Italian.

It isn’t just about the pasta (oh, the pasta), or about the unpretentious commitment to cooking seasonal, fresh food, or even about the breathtaking and historically rich settings in which all this delicious food is being consumed.There is a food philosophy and culinary culture that permeates all reaches of Italian life, and the soul of that ethos is what inspires me to cook. And to eat.

Fresh Spaghetti with Chicory and Pecorino at La Fraschetta di Mastro Giorgio in Testaccio.


Regional cuisine throughout Italy varies considerably (and I love it all), but here I’ll focus predominantly on the glory that Roman food brings to the table. As Anthony Bourdain so aptly put it: “In France, the chef is the star. In Italy, the food is.” Right on.

"Strangled Priest" pasta at the phenomenal Der Bruttone trattoria in Re di Roma

There are many new players on the Roman culinary scene reconceptualizing classic dishes, and I have no doubt their food is inventive and tremendously tasty. What compels me, however, about Italian food is how sumptuously delicious it is in all its natural glory.

On this trip, I sought inter-generational, family-run Trattorias. The kind where the Nonna-I-never-had leaves thumbprints in the pasta dough—where the meal comes with a jug of red wine and is served on wooden tables that splinter your elbows if you’re not careful.

Our meal at Der Pallaro encompassed all of these qualities. No menu, no fuss, minimal tourists, and nonna herself—apron clad and sharp as a tack—wobbling between tables to greet her most loyal customers while her son sliced fresh prosciutto and grated parmesan at the front of the house.

A Hearty First Course at Der Pallaro: Stewed Lentils, Pork Meatballs, Proscuitto, Salami, Fennel Salad, Olives, and Suppli

The only question the waiter asked at Der Pallaro: "Do you like Cheese?"
We got Pasta Two Ways:
1) Cheesy, pancetta-laden cream sauce
2) Full-bodied tomato and cheese sauce

The robust Trattoria tradition in Italy means that recipes aren’t written, they are taught with care, between family and friends. Therefore, food is absolutely integral to family life. I firmly believe that if people ate more family meals, we would be healthier, smarter, and more engaged human beings.


I can indulge in pasta talk for ages, but I can’t forget to mention the pizza. Rome is a major Italian metropolis, packed with hungry tourists looking for a quick bite. Pizza-by-the-slice outposts have sprung up on most street corners. As with all Italian food, the quality of the ingredients is what dictates the quality of the pizza. So, I simply wasn’t willing to eat a mediocre slice of pizza knowing the best of the best may be three doors down. 00100 Pizza is tucked away in a quiet corner of Testaccio and its pizza, trapazzini, and suppli selection blew the other shops out of the water.

A Trapizzini, I learned, is like a crusty bread version of pita, which can be stuffed with any assortment of tasty treats, like braised goat or stewed chicken. I chose the pillowy pork and beef meatball and was not disappointed.

The tomato sauce was just puckeringly fresh, and was scooped straight from a simmering pot—no doubt prepared hours prior, its sweetness and complexity of flavor developing over time. The initial crunch and subsequent tenderness of the freshly baked pizza and trapizzini crusts actually recalibrated my dough/crust standards .

00100 Pizza slice drizzled with Sweet and Tangy Balsamic Reduction. The balsamic was offered as a condiment in a plastic squirt bottle alongside the standard crushed red pepper and parmesan cheese. Brilliant.


Gelato at San Crispino, our overall favorite. The basic chocolate was out of this world.

I also love, love Italian sweets. Their egregious use of nuts (often pine nuts, pistachios, or almonds) lends their desserts a hearty and almost savory quality. (Note: Cannoli is my all-time favorite Italian dessert. It is Sicilian, not Roman, so was hard to find. Even cannoli uses almond and sometimes pistachio)
The highlight of my ventures into sweet Italian treats was gelato. More specifically, pistachio gelato. Gelato has a lower fat content than ice cream and is churned at a lower speed, so it has a denser consistency, almost like taffy (or clotted cream). Because it is less rich than ice cream, the fresh, nutty pistachio flavor brings a heartiness and mouthfeel that was positively delightful.

Out of all the pistachio gelato I consumed--and I won't admit how much--this was my favorite. Knibbly bits of pistachio lent amazing texture to the creamy, milky gelato.

Crunchy, Toasted Almond slices packed into a butter Cookie. Flawless.

This Pistachio Biscotti was crunchy, crumbly, and spot on.

I know it’s strange, but I just can’t end on dessert. Back to pasta! Pasta and its accompanying sauces can come in seemingly infinite combinations. I have no doubt there are purists out there who insist, for example, that bolognese be served only with spaghetti, but I contend that when pasta is as fresh as it was served in Rome, and the sauces as flavor-rich, it’s hard to go wrong.

Perfectly rich, creamy and decadent Carbonara at Dar Bruttone. Oh, and it was topped with shaved truffles.

From the near bitter chicory sauce (pictured earlier), which was so fresh it was almost palatte-cleansing, to the sultry, rib-sticking carbonara above, Romans have truly perfected their sauciness, and I salute them.
The ultimate dish that encompasses the pure simplicity yet awesomeness of Roman pasta is Cacio e Pepe. I have to thank my friend Christina, my wonderful travel companion, for bringing it into my life. It sounds simple enough: olive oil, cracked black pepper, pasta water, cheese. Yet, when not executed perfectly, it can be watery, gummy, and downright disappointing.
When it’s done right, I can’t get enough of the stuff, and have been determined to recreate it in my own kitchen. It’s cheap, hearty, and feels special–plus, even the pickiest eaters will gobble it up. After sampling a few recipes (yes, a few, over the course of only a week), and testing them on willing subjects, I came up with my own recipe mostly drawn from this Saveur recipe. Give it a try at home and let me know how it goes!
Cacio e Pepe

Homemade Cacio e Pepe using both regular and spinach Tagliatelle (it's what I had on hand and I think it adds some flare 🙂


Kosher salt, to taste
1 lb. pasta, preferably tagliatelle or spaghetti
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper, plus more
to taste
1 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano
3⁄4 cup finely grated Cacio de Roma
1 tbsp good quality Butter (I use the most spectacularly fresh and rich butter from my favorite London dairy outpost: Neal’s Dairy Yard)

Note: If you can’t find Cacio de Roma cheese, substitute Parmesano Reggiano instead. I promise it will taste good!


Bring a 6-qt. pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until al dente, 8–10 minutes; reserve 1 cup pasta water and drain pasta. When the pasta has about 3-4 minutes left to cook, heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add pepper; cook until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Ladle 3⁄4 cup pasta water into skillet; bring to a boil. Using tongs, transfer pasta to skillet; spread it evenly. Sprinkle 3⁄4 cup each Pecorino Romano and Cacio de Roma over pasta; toss vigorously to combine until sauce is creamy and clings to the pasta without clumping, about 2 minutes, adding some pasta water if necessary. Melt in the butter until the pasta has a glistening sheen.

Transfer to 4 plates and sprinkle with remaining Pecorino and more pepper. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

In Bruges

Three weeks ago I decided, for the first time since I arrived in London, to leave the UK.

Bruges: Nightscape

I love living in London, but what I was looking for was the romanticized old world-Europe–one where people still walk down their cobble stoned streets to the corner market and where locals actually attend the century-old churches as a weekly practice.

Really, I was looking for an excuse to get a flavor of life across the Chunnel, and in doing so, also enjoy myself a little foodcation. Begium was the destination of choice: a day in Brussels and two in Bruges. Here’s what I found and here’s what I ate:


I feel like I can speak on the topic of mussels with relative expertise. I’m absolutely crazy about these plump little mollusks and I’ve sampled some of what I feel is the best of what the world has to offer. From the intensely briny and flavorful mussels pulled from the cold Maine waters to the gorgeous and fat green-lipped mussels in New Zealand, I rarely meet a mussel I don’t like. So you can imagine I was excited to be in Brussels, the self-proclaimed capital of moules frites.

Moule in a Buttery, Garlicy, White Wine Sauce = Heaven

It was obvious from the thicket of restaurants boasting the best moules frites in town, that the tourist market is working their local speciality.

Classic Moules Frites at Chez Leon

Always one insistent on avoiding tourist traps, I went against my best judgment, took the advice of a food critic, and found myself sitting at Chez Leon–one of the oldest moules frites joints in Brussels, right on the edge of Grand Place (aka tourist central). Verdict? Tasty, tasty mussels. Smaller-bellied than the Maine variety but more robust than the green-lipped kiwi brand, these mussels really held their own against the garlic, butter, white wine sauce they came doused in. And there is without a doubt nothing better to sop the juices up with than freshly fried frites. All of this I naturally washed down with a local clean and citrusy Belgian beer. Let’s just say there’s a reason this place has been around since 1838.


Belgium can turn anyone into a chocolate lover. Do I love chocolate? No. Do I love chocolate in Belgium? Yes.

Real Deal Hot Chocolate at Le Cafe du Vaudeville in Brussels

In both Brussels and Bruges, I was astounded by the quantity and quality of chocolate shops. From haute cuisine pastry chefs fusing flavors like wasabi and goat cheese into their truffles to the corner artisanal chocolate maker serving up the classics, I simply couldn’t believe the depth of quality the chocolate had.

Chocolate Galore

My mussels in Brussels were sensational, but the culinary highlight of my brief Brussels encounter, was the hot chocolate I had at Le Cafe du Vaudeville. It was freezing when we arrived (compared to our balmy London standards) and after a brief walk around the Grand Place, what I really wanted was to cozy up with a cup of hot cocoa. What I got was the ultimate: piping hot whole milk with large chunks of semi-sweet chocolate chips that began to melt just as the glass was set in front of me. I wondered why the drink was served in a glass, but realized they were offering me a gift: to watch the glory of the chunky chocolate fall apart and, as I stirred them with my long silver spoon, meld beautifully into the steaming milk.


We’ve all heard of the Belgian Waffle, but I don’t think it actually occurred to me that this brunch time go-to actually traces back to Belgium. I’m pretty sure that the last time I ate what I perceived to be a true Belgian waffle was at the Cornell dining hall my freshman year, where you were given absolute liberty to operate the waffle maker. Swarms of students lined up to pile their golden waffles with aggressive quantities of whipped cream, strawberries, and butter.

I seriously Heart this Waffle, which came with freshly whipped Creme Fraiche and hot Fluer de Sel Caramel. Also from Le Cafe du Vaudeville.

Turns out I was right and I was wrong. Just like in the US, where you can order a hamburger made of Kobe beef that’s topped with truffles and foie gras or grab a greasy, cheesy patty from Shake Shack, the Belgian waffle scene offers diversity and range for its consumers and each is delicious in its own right. The picture above features what is actually the most delicious waffle I have ever had in my life. The dough was buttery and rich, but supremely light, and it was served with hand-whipped creme fraiche and caramel melted with fluer de sel. The red currants and fresh fruit cut perfectly through the richness, creating a glorious marriage of flavors in your mouth.

Street Waffles: the Belgium Street Food Staple

However, I hold a very special place in my heart for the street waffle. Every other street corner in both Brussels and Bruges featured a street waffle stand, serving up the inch-think waffles smothered in cream, fruit, and the sauce of your choice. Though the flavor simply could not compete with the caramel and creme fraiche, these were perfect for a treat on the go and super budget-friendly.

Craving waffles for your next weekend brunch? Check out my friend Emily’s delicious recipe for the perfect Sunday waffles at Navy Blue Kitchen.


I know that I’ve already discussed moules frites, but I just can’t complete this post without paying final homage to a Belgian star: the frites.

French fries, like mussels, waffles, and beer, are an integral part of Belgium food tourism. It was allegedly in Belgium where chefs came up with the technique of triple-frying their potatoes, so that they retained a crispy golden crust on the outside and fluffy potato goodness on the inside. Buy the frites anywhere and everywhere, but think beyond ketchup for you condiment. Traditionally, these frites come with a big glob of mayonnaise for dipping. It’s a decidely delicious and unique combination, but if you’re mayonnaise adverse, opt for one of the many other interesting choices, like curry ketchup or herbed mustard. You can’t go wrong.

Fresh and Hot Frites served from a Street Cart in Bruges

A Little Bit Country

London is a city with seemingly endless corners to explore–store openings, constant festivals and food markets, and of course new restaurants to try. I’ve lived in New York City, so I’m somewhat accustomed to the fast-paced, feel-like-I-can-never-keep up phenomenon that characterizes city life. For the most part, given my more adventurous tendencies, I’m invigorated by this steadfast vitality. Other times, I feel like I’m on an urban treadmill–awkwardly sweaty and just trying not to fall off.

Enter The Cotswolds.

The Burford Butcher

One of the best parts about living in a cosmopolitan epicenter is the rare opportunity to escape it for a weekend. The Cotswolds are what I would consider quintessential English countryside–quaint stone buildings set against a sprawling green backdrop. If you’ve seen the movie, The Holiday (classic film, I know), then you have an idea of what The Cotswolds look like, because that’s where it was shot.

Delightful Herb Garden behind The Queen's Head

Each town that makes up the Cotswolds maintains its own unique quality, yet I was amazed to see how, just hours outside of bustling and modern London, these villages have retained their old world feel. The architecture in many of these towns dates back to the 11th and 12th centuries–the type of history that, as an American, it’s often hard to wrap my noggin around. The depth of history also, of course, extends to the food…so let me get down to it.


Our first stop on The Cotswolds tour was Burford. After viewing the 13th century church, we made our way down the one-street town. It was there that we discovered Lardy Cake.

Lardy Cake: up close and personal

What is Lardy Cake you might ask? Lardy Cake, also known as lardy bread, is a sweet, sticky, cinnamon-bun-like creation that originated in Southwest England. Its main ingredients are: rendered lard (naturally), flour, sugar, spices, currants, and raisins. Lardy Cake is both buttery and sweet, with dynamic layers of flavor that mirror the layers of its snail shell form. I’m not such a sweet tooth, but man-oh-man was this delicious.

Indulging outside of Huffkins

The best place to get Lardy Cakes is at Huffkins, the preeminent bakery of The Cotswolds. Huffkins opened its doors in 1890, and by the judge of it, has perfected the art of making scrumptious Lardy Cakes ever since.


After eating our fair share of Lardy Cake, we rolled our way through Stow on the Wold and into Broadway (two other Cotswold towns). All the sightseeing made us stone thirsty, and there is nothing more appropriate as a thirst quencher than afternoon tea.

Fruit Scone, Fresh Strawberry Jam, Clotted Cream, Home-brewed Bergamot Tea at Tissanes

Cream Tea is the tradition of taking your afternoon tea with a scone, fresh strawberry jam, and clotted cream. There is evidence to suggest that this teatime tradition dates all the way back to the 11th century. There may be a lot of other things that the British didn’t get right, but this culinary combination is absolutely spot on.

Though you can get Cream Tea pretty much anywhere in The Cotswolds (or in England), the teashop, Tissanes, prepared an exceptional spread. The scone, as per tradition, was served warm alongside piping hot, home-brewed, bergamot tea. The strawberry jam, also homemade, was a punchy and fresh partner to the rich, full-bodied clotted cream. A friend described the cream’s texture as something like taffy–perhaps not so sticky, but with a mouthfeel that lingers for hours. Cream Tea is best enjoyed in the company of friends, just don’t forget to order your own personal scone, or you’ll regret it.

Clotted Cream = The Bee's Knees


One of the savory highlights of my Cotswolds trip was the homemade chicken and mushroom pot pie I ate at The Queen’s Head Pub in Stow on the Wold. I was hungry upon arrival, and was getting rather testy 30 minutes into the wait for my food. Alas, the wait was well worth it.

Home-baked Chicken and Mushroom Pot Pie at The Queen's Head

The pie was unreal: perfectly creamy without being too heavy, hearty chunks of roasted chicken tossed with nutty brown mushrooms. There was no doubt in my mind this was prepared to order with great tenderness and care. Sure, I could have done without the bland green peas and boiled carrots, but the mashed potatoes were to die for when used to sop up any extra pot pie juices!

Inspired by what felt like the most delicious taste of fall, I immediately went home to bake up my very own (healthier) pot pie concoction. I decided to make a vegetarian pot pie, but if you can’t live without the chicken, I recommend buying a rotisserie one, shredding the meat, then tossing it into the pot before baking. Also, feel free to add any additional veggies you may have in your fridge–anything goes (just season accordingly)! This pot pie recipe is perfect for portioning out and freezing, then reheating whenever you’re craving some serious comfort food.

Very Tasty Veggie Pot Pie
adapted from recipe by Aida Mollenkamp

My very own Veggie Pot Pie


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted Butter
  • 2 small heads Fennel, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1/2 medium yellow Onion, finely chopped
  • 2 medium Carrots, peeled and finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
  • 12 ounces white button Mushrooms, sliced (about 5 cups)
  • 1 small Sweet Potato, peeled and diced small (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large head of Broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces, including stems
  • 1/4 cup all purpose Flour
  • 1 cup low-sodium Chicken Broth (or mushroom broth, to keep it vegetarian)
  • 1 cup 1% or 2% Milk
  • 1 cup frozen baby Green Peas
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced Fresh Chives
  • 1/4 cup Fresh Parsley
  • 1 tablespoon White Vinegar
  • 1 large Egg Yolk
  • 7 ounces store-bought Puff Pastry, defrosted if frozen
  • Kosher Salt
  • Ground White Pepper (if you don’t have this on hand, you can use Black Pepper)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F and arrange a rack in the middle.

Melt butter over medium heat in a 3- to 4-quart Dutch oven or heavy bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add fennel, onions, and carrots, and cook until just soft and onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.

Add mushrooms and potato, season well with salt and freshly ground white pepper, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring rarely, until mushrooms have let off water and are shrunken, about 6 minutes. Add Broccoli. Season again and stir.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables, stir to coat, and cook until raw flavor is gone, about 1 to 2 minutes. Carefully add broth and milk, stirring constantly until mixture is smooth. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat, add peas, herbs, and vinegar, and stir to coat. Season well with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Turn filling into an 8 by 8-inch casserole dish.

Whisk egg together with 2 teaspoons water and a pinch of salt until evenly mixed. Set aside.

With kitchen shears, cut dough to fit over the baking dish. Place dough over filling and tuck into the edges of the dish. Brush dough with egg wash and cut slits in the top to vent. Place on a baking sheet and bake until crust is golden brown and mixture is bubbling, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let sit at least 5 minutes before serving.

London Calling

In just a week, London has proved itself to be one of the more exciting, beautiful, and well-balanced cities I’ve had the fortune to explore. The busy streets are urban and cosmopolitan, yet are magically punctuated with quirky, tree-filled parks. The city is remarkably diverse; on any given street corner, I hear upwards of three languages. Most importantly, it’s a city that is extraordinarily walkable. Daily, I step out my front door and quite literally lose myself among winding tree-lined backstreets–easily crossing from one distinct neighborhood into another of entirely divergent character.

One thread that does run through the city and its assorted neighborhoods, however, is the appreciation for markets. Particularly during lunch hours and weekends, markets are abounty. Blocks throughout the city open their sidewalks to peddlers, independent food vendors, and artisans. The energy is remarkable, the products are quality, and the food is dangerously delicious.


Welcome to Borough Market

Absolutely gorgeous bread with Roasted Tomatoes and Whole Green Olives

Borough Market is the premier food market in London. Packed with local meat vendors, artisan cheese makers, boutique olive oil specialists (to name a few), the market sprawls over a near square mile space in London Bridge (which as far as I can tell, is not falling down).

Extensive Olive Oil Selections at Borough Market

In addition to the extensive selection of take-home goods and produce, there are myriad food vendors serving up ready-to-eat local delicacies and exotic specialties, which patrons can carry to the adjacent park that surrounds a nearly 300-year-old church.





Cowboy Pie -- Cubed Beef and Veggies stewed in Ale

After seeing Sweeney Todd, I was pretty sure I would live a life fulfilled, even if that life never included eating a meat pie. Oh, the capacity of the human soul to embrace new things.

Pieministers in an award-winning meat pie shop based in Bristol, but they cater weekly to the ravenous customers swarming their stand at Borough Market. Upon recommendation, I chose the Cowboy Pie, filled with rich and tender cubed beef that had been stewed with veggies in a hearty, beer-based broth.

Cross-Sectional view of Pieminister's Cowboy Meat Pie

The flavors were powerfully evocative of autumn and made me want to curl up next to a roaring fire.

Next time, I may be more adventurous and sample the Thai Chook Pie or Matador Pie.


I couldn’t go my first week in London without trying Fish and Chips. I had a feeling that the fish served up at Borough Market might prove itself fresher, lighter and more memorable than the “Fried Fish and Chicken Galore” dive on my street corner (not to knock dives–more on that in future posts).

Crispy, Crusty and absolutely Scrumptious Fried Cod

Amidst the organized chaos of the vibrant market, I stumbled upon Fish!Kitchen. The prices were steep, but the whole-fried haddock and cod, which, even lightly fried, still retained their fish-shaped integrity, inspired me to stop. The gregarious man behind the counter enthusiastically recommended the fried cod.

He grabbed the largest piece, proceeded to expertly dunk it into a golden batter, then re-fry it. Yes, twice-fried milky cod is everything it’s made out to be. Despite the fry treatment, the meaty cod was packed with flavor and tasted even better when partnered with malt vinegar and a dab of ketchup.


Dried Red Chilies

The food at the market was overwhelmingly beautiful–as diverse in flavor as in color, shape, and texture. Here are a few more pictures that attempt to capture how special Borough Market is.

Hunk o' Parm

Diverse Selection of Dried Fruits and Nuts at Borough Market

The plump, the shriveled, the briny...Olives Galore!

Array of Homemade Sausages


While Borough Market may be the Big Man on Campus in London, I don’t want to underplay how fabulous some of the smaller street markets truly are. On one of my meandering walks, about my third day in, I came across a very special market right near my apartment.

Exmouth Market

Exmouth Market lives on a narrow cobble-stoned street. On weekdays, that street is nearly overrun by food stalls representing independent restaurants around London. Herds of young professionals line up to grab food from the veritable grab bag of ethnic cuisine: Thai, Mexican, Indian, Korean, Ghanaian… Then, they take their food to the nearby park, which on a sunny day is absolutely jam-packed with diners and sun-bathers alike, enjoying the delectable fruits of the market.


Spinach and Agushi--Ghanaian food stand in Exmouth Market

Of all the options, the only cuisine I had never tried was Ghanaian food. I have to admit that I’m still not quite sure what makes Ghanaian food what it is, but I can tell you that it’s delicious. Mostly rich, meaty stews, every option had me salivating.

Spinach and Agushi, Rice, and Lamb Meatballs

Ultimately, I selected spinach and agushi (also the name of the food stand), accompanied by red rice and a lamb meatball stew. Like so many young professionals before me, I grabbed my piping hot food and made my way to the park, where I plopped myself on a bench. Ravenous just from the smell of the sultry Ghanaian spices, I dove in and never looked back.

If Borough and Exmouth represent the brand of markets that await me in London, then I look forward to my next misstep down a unforeseen side street where a new great discovery awaits!

A Late Summer Night’s Meal

I love Labor Day weekend. Even though it’s always slightly heartbreaking to see Summer go, I consider Fall the most energized season, especially this year as I embark upon my big journey across the pond.

Mostly what I miss about summer is cooking on the grill. Over the weekend, I planned this meal with the intention of packing it up for a picnic down on the Mall. Unfortunately, weather was not on my side, but this meal tasted just as delicious eaten at home.

I like to think these recipes honor a summer full of colorful fresh flavors. Among the tastes I’ll miss most: perfectly ripened tomatoes, sweet buttery corn, fresh herbs from the garden, and the crusty char goodness you get from grill cooking. Alas, there is no reason that despite the change in season that these recipes can’t be enjoyed year round.

Grilled Chicken Gyros
with homemade Tzatziki and fresh Tomato-Cucumber Salad

Big Bite o' Grilled Chicken Gyro


  • 1 ½ cups 2% Greek Yogurt (3/4 pounds)
  • ¼ cup crumbled Feta cheese
  • 2 large seedless Cucumbers, divided
  • 2 Lemons, zested and juiced, divided
  • 4 Garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 3 vine-ripened or heirloom Tomatoes
  • 1 small Red Onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh Mint
  • ⅛ cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil plus 2 tbsps
  • 1 teaspoon Honey
  • 1 teaspoon dried Oregano, divided
  • ½ teaspoon dried Rosemary
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless Chicken Breast, butterflied
  • 4-6 large Pita Rounds, halved
  • Kosher Salt
  • Crushed Black Pepper
For the Chicken, combine the olive oil, honey, juice and zest of 1 lemon, 2 minced garlic cloves, ½ teaspoon oregano, and rosemary into a large Ziploc bag. Generously season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper, then toss into the bag. Mix well until the chicken is thoroughly coated with the marinade. Refrigerate anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours.

Once the tzatziki and salad are prepared (see below), remove the marinaded chicken from its bag and place on a medium hot grill. If you want grill marks, don’t touch for about 4 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Depending on thickness of chicken, the timing can vary, so slice open the thickest part of the fattest piece and make sure it’s cooked through and the juices run clear.

Remove the chicken from the grill and let rest for about 5 minutes. Then, thinly slice on an angle and set aside on a platter covered with tin foil.

Before turning off the grill, brush the pita bread with a bit of olive oil and flash grill until it’s warmed through on both sides.

Homemade Tzatziki

For the Tzatziki, combine 1 minced garlic clove, 1 roughly chopped cucumber, ½ teaspoon oregano, and juice of ½ a lemon in a food processor and lightly chop. Add the yogurt and pulse until the ingredients are well incorporated. Add kosher salt to taste. Garnish with freshly chopped mint or a mint sprig.

For the Tomato-Cucumber Salad, chop the remaining cucumber and tomatoes into equal-sized, bite-friendly pieces.

Tomato-Cucumber Salad aside Lemony Whole Wheat Cous Cous

Combine with the thinly sliced red onion, the remaining lemon and its zest, 1 clove minced garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil, a large pinch of salt and give it all a good toss. Add the feta cheese and the freshly chopped mint and gently mix.

This salad can be stuffed in the pita (as I like it), or can be served alongside the gyro.

Assembling the Gyros is easy. Create an assembly line that includes the warm pita bread, the sliced chicken, the tzatziki, and the salad. For those who don’t want to stuff the salad into the pita, you can also lay out a platter of whole mint leaves, extra cucumber slices, red onion and tomato.

Fixing Platter for the Gyros

Get creative with your gyro stuffings–if you happen to have garbanzo beans in your cabinet, those would make a delicious addition as would artichoke hearts or thinly sliced radishes!


Let’s talk dessert, which is something I’ll admit is neither my specialty nor my favorite part of a meal. I’m just not really a sweet tooth. Give me a bag of Cape Cod potato chips, on the other hand, and I could put it away in minutes. Still, there’s absolutely something about a summer meal that demands a tasty-sweet finale.

I found inspiration for this dish at Trader Joe’s, where they sell miniature peanut butter cups. Initially, I planned to just mix these precious little cups into a bowl of vanilla ice cream, but then it struck me. Why not use these cups in place of chocolate chips in my favorite cookie recipe, then sandwich those cookies around a luscious scoop of ‘scream? I always loved a Chipwich from the ice cream man, and this summertime treat is both nostalgic and really delicious. One bite manages to encompass those mixed end-of-summer emotions that always accompany my Labor Day weekend.
Peanut Butter Cup Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches
cookie recipe adapted from Bobby Flay’s chocolate chip cookie recipe

Peanut Butter Cup Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich


  • 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons All-Purpose Flour
  • ¾-1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • ¾  teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 2 sticks Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated Sugar
  • ⅓ cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • ⅓ cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 2 large Eggs
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup of Miniature Peanut Butter Cups–the diameter shouldn’t be more than a couple of centimeters (recommended: Trader Joe’s Super Mini Peanut Butter Cups). Of course, you can always substitute a cup of regular semi-sweet chocolate chips if you’re not into peanuts.
  • 1 quart Vanilla Ice Cream (recommended: Moorenko’s if you live in the DC area, otherwise Haagan Dazs is always quality)


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda in a large bowl.

Place the butter in the bowl and beat with a hand mixer, electric mixer, or arm muscle until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the sugars and continue mixing, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes longer. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the vanilla extract, beating until incorporated.

Add half of the flour and mix until just incorporated. Add the remaining flour, again mixing until just combined. Remove the bowl from the stand and fold in the chocolate peanut butter chunks.

Using a round tablespoon measurer, spoon the dough onto a baking sheet, leaving at least 2 inches between each cookie and bake on the middle rack until the cookies are lightly golden brown and still soft in the middle, about 9 ½ minutes. Let cookies rest for 2 minutes on the baking sheet before removing them to a baking rack with a wide metal spatula.

Let the cookies cool on the baking rack for a few minutes until they are solidified, but still a tad warm. Grab two cookies and with an ice scream scoop, simply take a scoopful of vanilla and place gently between the two cookies. Smoosh the cookies together until the ice cream oozes between the cookies.

Eat right away and enjoy!

My Maine Squeeze

Every summer since I was a wee baby, my family has traveled to Kittery Point, Maine. It’s a glorious reunion that brings together my mom’s two best friends from college and all of our families. It is absolutely one of my favorite weeks of the year. We lounge, we chat, we hang at the beach. And most importantly, we eat.

Fugasse from Beach Pea, an absolutely amazing bakery in Kittery, Maine.

There’s something about being at the beach that makes food taste exceptional. I also argue that food just tastes better when you’re eating it with the people you care about the most. Generally speaking, eating in Maine consists of standing around the kitchen island in sandy beach clothes and snacking. Snacking on cheese, bread, homemade chicken salad, fresh hunks of fruit. It’s heaven.

When we do venture out into nearby Portsmouth, NH or Kittery to eat, we pretty much stick to our favorite places, returning year after year with ritualistic determination.


Bob's Clam Hut

Bob’s Clam Hut is a gem of all gems. Planted right on Route 1, which in recent years has emerged as an outlet shopper’s haven, Bob’s continues to stand out in its classically New England, no-nonsense approach to serving up superb seafood. Bob’s opened back in 1956, and as its name suggests, is famous for its clams. Fried clams to be exact.

Fried Clam Basket at Bob's

First and foremost, the clams at Bob’s are super fresh. Plucked- that-morning-from-the-ocean fresh. Secondly, they are fried to perfection. That means you actually taste the clams! There is nothing more satisfying than biting through a delicate crispy exterior to reach the briny, flavorful, melt-in-your mouth texture of the clam belly. It’s certainly enough to get us coming back year after year.


For those of you like Jane and Michael Stern of Roadfood, a pair who are known for seeking out phenomenal local food stops, you may have heard of Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier.

Lobster at Chauncey Creek

Meaty and Lovely Lobster Claw

Chauncey Creek achieved modest fame from this well-deserved shout-out, but I still feel pretty great that our friends discovered this spectacular creek-side joint years ago and we’ve been dining there every year ever since.

Chauncey Creek Lobster Pier is special in so many ways. For starters: the setting. The restaurant sits right on Chauncey Creek and boasts one of the most serene and beautifully quintessential Maine views.

Though the food they serve up–fresh Maine lobsters, ocean-fresh Steamers, New England Clam Chowder, etc.–is, in my opinion, as good as you can get anywhere in the country, the ambiance and attitude are as casual and welcoming as can be. You won’t find white tablecloths here. Instead, the deck is lined with large wooden communal picnic tables, which are as worn and sea-streaked as the old-timer cooks who prepare the fantastic food.

Steamers at Chauncey Creek

Chauncey also allows for diners to bring their own salads and other side dishes to round out their seafood feast. You’ll see guests toting their own tablecloths and candle sticks. Guests are also encouraged to bring their own wine, which can be enjoyed without a corkage fee.

Though I’m a lobster girl, I can’t go to Chauncey without ordering the steamers–hot, meaty clams first rinsed in briny broth, then lightly dipped in melted butter. I don’t think there’s anything that could bring your mouth closer to the sea.

If you find yourself in southern Maine, Chauncey Creek is an absolutely perfect way to experience the glory of fresh seafood without the pretentiousness.


Jasper out on the Open Sea--he's loving life in Maine

Maybe its these outstanding food offerings or perhaps its the beauty and calm that Kittery Point exudes, but after years of summertime visits, my parents have decided to permanently relocate to Maine. I have to admit that after 26 years of enjoying my summertime food traditions, I’m looking forward to taking the plunge and having more time to explore what else the burgeoning food scene has to offer.

Annabelle's Natural Ice Cream in Portsmouth, NH

That doesn’t mean I won’t be returning to my favorite digs. Old habits die hard, especially when they are this tasty.