Chasing the sun in the Norte Region of Portugal

“Is your first time in Portugal?” I traveled to Portugal twice, both road trips because there is so much to see and explore. In 2007 a quick tour from Vila Nova de Milfontes to Aveiro. Last time in 2014 from Algarve up to Lisbon and – photo tour was published soon after on Food & Wine.
In between I met Nelson Carvalheiro, a really successful Portuguese travel blogger, in London during a photography class with Anthony Webb. We both liked each other work and we stayed in touch since then. Thanks to him I had the opportunity to go back to Portugal this winter: I was looking for some sun but I’ve found lot of food instead!



Day 1 – Matosinhos. If you like me have a passion for art and architecture this is the hometown of Alvaro Siza. A quick walk and then off for a wine tasting at Garage Wines, awarded as the best wine shop in Portugal. As soon as you meet Ivone, the owner, you understand why her garaffeira is so famous. With the best smile she could share with us she explained everything we needed to know about Portuguese wines for that area: from vinho verde to all the different variations of Porto. The good news is she ships abroad!
Right after that, dinner at Eslapanada Marisqueria A Antiga. A minute of silence for me. And sorry in advance to all the vegetarian people who follow this blog. But I come from an island and if you grew up surrounded by the sea, in summer you have sea urchins and bread for merenda because your dad just fished them. So you can understand my excitement when I saw on display fresh seafood straight from the shore. And yes, I tried for the first time percebesor dinosaur feet as Marcela used to call them! So. Good. We stayed at Casa do Godinho and it’s a shame we spent there just one night. I’ll go back, for sure!








Day 2 – The day started with a visit at Conservas Portugal Norte where Claudio led us into a tour to see how fresh fish is turned into cans and shipped worldwide, with a strong attention to quality.
A coffee at L’Kodac before the best lunch we could ask for by Chef Rui Paula at Casa do Cha, designed by Siza.

Day 3 – Póvoa de Varzim
Joseph Flores, from the Ethnography and History Museum was our guide for the day. His passion for his town and his job won us over! We started from the fish market. Meeting Maria Irene was the chance for me to start a new project on instagram I was thinking about in the last weeks #PhotoAudioON.
Off to the coast, a walk in the harbour and then up on the top of the lighthouse. Lunch and off for a visit at the Museum, before a canned fish tasting.

Day 4 – Espinho
A visit at the local museum and then off to Oporto Golf Club, the oldest in the entire Iberian Peninsula. After lunch Sandra Duarte, a local glass artisan welcomed us in her workshop with a good bottle of Porto wine as a perfect auntie would do – and with her smile and skin colors she reminds a lot of my auntie Mirella!
The truth is you cannot leave Portugal without trying Bolas de Berlim, fried donuts filled with custard or… nutella! I had both of them because I’m greedy. And another glass of Porto, please!

Unfortunately we had no time to visit the city of Porto this time and the sun was a bit shy. But I’m pretty sure I’ll go back soon because there is so much more to see, visit and taste!

A special thanks to Turismo do Porto e Norte, all the local Tourism Boards who helped us planning this trip and last but not least Jose Manuel from Madomis Tours.

If you want to know more about Portuguese food, Nelson published The Portuguese Travel Cookbook, perfect to read before planning your trip and right after when you miss some of their delicacies.

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lauraChasing the sun in the Norte Region of Portugal

Bologna, the best food town in Italy

No secrets I like Bologna as no other cities in Italy. It’s small enough to be liveable, people are often smiling and making jokes, food is probably the best one in Italy and their accent is so perfect also Dante Alighieri loved it so much.

Two year ago I published on Food and Wine a small guide with some of my favorite places in this little town in the heart of Emilia Romagna. This week I spent in Bologna, the best food town in Italy – probably! – a couple of days to refresh my memory and eat some good fresh pasta.

A couple of places I’d like to add to my guide
Osteria dell’Orsa – a nice little Osteria to eat some fresh food a good selection of cheeses and piadina
Trattoria Meloncello – the first Trattoria you meet at the end of the walk up to San Luca and then down under its 666 portici. Perfect on a sunny day to enjoy the view of Bologna form the top of one of the hills that surrounds the city.

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lauraBologna, the best food town in Italy

Can’t Help Falling in Love

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It took me a while to write this post after I left Hawai’i.
As soon as I arrived at the airport I started crying and thinking about the next time I’ll be back. Because you can’t fall in love with Hawai’i. At least I can’t.
Sicilians please forgive me if I say Hawai’i is a better version of our homeland: landscapes, the respect of the land, the people, their food and the reef are just some of the reasons I like this place so much and I truly consider it my favorite one on this earth.

To better discover a place you need to discover more about its culture and as far as I’m concerned food is what makes a place different from one other.
I’m lucky I had the opportunity to attend the Hawai’i Food and Wine Festival in Big Island and in Oahu this year.
The island famous for Waikiki and the North Shore was my last stop in America before flying to Japan.
There I discover more about the Lu’au, the traditional Hawaiian party with local entertainment and chefs from the Kamehameha School, and about the way they make poi from taro root. I wish you follow my stories on instagram because that night was spectacular!

On Friday that week, before cheering for Chef Luca Catalfamo from Casa Ramen at the clash of the ramen – trust me if I say everyone that day was really excited about this event! – I had a deeper understanding of their food culture during the show at the Convention Center in partnership with Hawaiian Airlines.
But, as you can imagine, what stole my heart was the Brunch competition on my last day on the island.
Six different chefs trying to make the perfect brunch! For the 3rd year in a row Sven Ullrich and Lee Anne Wong won the competition and I was pretty happy for them because their idea of brunch was just perfect to me: a chicken crepe with taro-coconut compote for him and a rum-honey kalo cake with fruit from Big Island for her. YES! Oh, I wish I had those for breakfast this morning! Everything paired with an iced michelada. Why not?!?
taro hawaii-food-and-wine-festival-1 hawaii-food-and-wine-festival-4 hawaii-food-and-wine-festival-3 hawaii-food-and-wine-festival-2I wish I can go back next year for the Festival, to discover more, to visit the islands and meet again all the nice people I shared meals and moments with!
During my stay in Oahu I stayed two nights at the Shoreline Waikiki – probably too busy and close to the most crowded area of Waikiki Beach for me. Plus, the noise from the room right next to the elevator didn’t help my sleep.
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What I really loved was, instead, my stay at the brand new Surfjack boutique hotel.
When people say home away from home, I think they are talking about this little spot in the less crowded area of Waikiki. And the food, oh the food there! I still think about those ‘ulu pancakes!
The day I arrived I had the opportunity of a fun and creative shooting with Chef Ed Kenney – I wish I have more time next year to go and try his world famous Town Restaurant – and Robert Bidigare the bartender of the Surfjack.
– Cheers to another good time, Hawai’i. Mahalo for being this way.

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lauraCan’t Help Falling in Love

Peter Miller Books is moving

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Ten years ago I was workingin the sales dept of a publishing house. I was lucky enough to work with foreign partners and not with the Italian market. Thanks to that job I had the opportunity to travel a lot – London, Frankfurt, Paris, Barcelona, Tokyo and New York – to meet some of my clients. Ornella and Carmelo, Italian expat based in London and Peter in Seattle are the only ones I still consider friends.

I was planning a trip to the Emerald city since then but flights were too expensive from Milan, so I waited for my last American journey to go and visit Peter and his family.
It’s a shame I stayed only 48 hours, but I finally enter to the Peter Miller Books. Just in time.

Yes, because the Suyama Building, where the shop is now located has been sold and Peter Miller Books is moving next year back to Pioneer Square, where the shop started more than 30 years ago.
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I arrived in Seattle on a rainy day and the first stop was Caffè Senso Unico where Mario, from Emilia Romagna, made me a very good cup of coffee. The sun came out!
Then off to the bookshop before exploring the city on my own. For aperitivo we met with the beautiful Colleen, Peter’s wife. And then we drove to the island where the live in for a nice homemade dinner.
Because Peter is a good chef, because Lunch at the Shop is one of the best books published in the last 2 years and because – to celebrate the anniversary of his first book – another one is coming next spring: Five ways to cook asparagus.

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The day after, we woke up early in the morning to catch the ferry. Then I walked north-east and had a second and late breakfast at Oddfellows Cafe+Bar.
Early in the afternoon I met Matthew Dillon, the Chef, at Upper Bar Ferdinand. I want to go back and try the London Plane as well as visiting him and his family to their Old Chaser Farm from where most of the food they cook comes from. Next time!

For dinner a very nice meal with the Millers at The Whale Wins by Renee Erikson, then back to the apartment inside the Pike Place Market for a good night sleep before heading to the airport.

I’m so glad and thankful I had the opportunity to visit Peter and Colleen and I wish I can go back again soon! – A presto, Seattle.

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lauraPeter Miller Books is moving

Blue Hawaii

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A piece of my heart will be there for ever, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Last month I took a break from Italy for a short trip around the world. The first stop was NYC for some meetings and good food.
Then Seattle to visit my friend Peter Miller – more about this soon, also because he is moving the bookshop! – and before going to Tokyo I stopped in Hawai’i – the main reason was the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival.
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As soon as I landed in Kona I was confused and, weirdly, in a very bad mood. I mean, I was in Hawai’i, the place where I wanted to be since the last time I left, but…
So, I walked to the beach and, to match my mood, of course it was raining. I spent the afternoon next to a fisherman, trying to fill my lungs with ocean breeze. It started to rain harder and harder so I walked back to the hostel. I was really tired but I didn’t know yet my travel was going to turn in one of the most incredible experience of my life.

That night I met Aylin, a young German woman, who took a 5 month stop from her job to travel the world. She was sunburnt and after a few minutes she said “Well, you have a car, I have a plan for tomorrow.” And then Joel, he is dreaming about travelling the world and he did pretty well in the last year from Alaska to Hawai’i, before going back to run his business in Florida, a gym with an ocean view. Not bad!
He was a bit slow processing my payment and something from nothing made me smile. He said I was slap-happy and made fun of my Sicilian accent.
Then I met Emelia, half Italian half Chinese, 100% British, 100% funny, crazy enough to swim at night with mantas. Together with Sonia, Australian-Italian who warned me about the not-so-good coffee we had in the morning, compared to Italian standards.
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The day after with Aylin and Janik, a 22 yo guy from Switzerland, we drove south. Beach first, volcano then. Beach means reef and snorkeling.
After the first swim an enthusiastic Aylin pointed her hand to a school of dolphins. I was so much impressed an old Hawaiian man looked at me and said “What are you doing here? Get your diving mask and go!” Together with Janik we ran back into the ocean and we swam right after the reef. We waited. And yes, they came and it was just amazing. I grew up imaging a career as a marine biologist and always dreamt about that moment: swimming with dolphins!
Thanks old Hawaiian man, you made one of the best day of my life.

The volcano at sunset was great. I always get moved in front of the power of nature.
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And the Festival, oh I still think about the Hot Lava Hotter Cuisine dinner. In particular dishes from Chef Tae-Hwan Ryu from Ryunique – Seoul, Chef Michelle Bernstein from Seagrape – Miami, and Chef Nancy Silverton from Mozza – LA.

I’m glad I shared the table with Gayle and Barbara from Ke Ola Magazine. Su much fun for my last night in Big Island!
– Till next time.

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lauraBlue Hawaii