Tag Archives: Wine

Barcelona, Spain


Tour of Spain stop 2 – Barcelona.  We took the high speed train (Renfe Ave) from Madrid to Barcelona, only about a three hour trip.  Lodging was found using Tournights which offers apartments for rent.  There is a huge amount of things to see, do and eat here.  Lodging is just about the last thing to be concerned with.

Immediately upon arriving in Barcelona you are immersed in architecture.  The Gothic style Cathedral of Barcelona is astounding in size and detail.  Numerous works of Antoni Gaudi such as Casa Batllo, Casa Amatller and La Pedrera draw the eye with their unique exterior facades.  The over-arching feature (literally, no building is allowed to eclipse it in height) is another Gaudi design, the Sagrada Familia.  This is one impressive church.  Amazingly, after over 130 years of construction it still isn’t finished.  The detail carved into each façade and the sheer size could elicit a religious experience.  I suppose that might be the point.

Also home to Barcelona is one of the most famous markets in the entire world – La Boqueria.  The colors, variety and action could inspire just about every amateur photographer.  Sadly I turned into just another tourist taking pictures of fish and meat, but for some reason you just have to do it.  Fresh seafood can be had in the corner of the market for lunch or dinner at Kiosko Universal.  Highly recommended.

We did two tours while in Barcelona.  A free walking tour and a bike tour to several wineries in the Penedes region.  These two tours were probably the two most enjoyable travel tours I’ve experienced so far.  First the walking tour.  The tour guide (Chris G.) was knowledgeable and engaging – even several years later I still recall many of the highlights of this tour which is rare for me, usually in one ear and out the other.  We also stuck around for a paella demonstration dinner.  Fresh ingredients from La Boqueria, cooked and into the belly.  Paella can’t and won’t be any better than that.

The bike tour was almost a requirement after all of the eating and drinking.  At least some exercise was needed to continue to eat and drink.  We chose a tour of Penedes run by Spanish Trails.  Albert was the friendliest and most excited tour guide of all time.  Biking was easy but fun through some beautiful country.  The wineries specialized in Rioja, Tempranillo and an even more unique dry sparkling wine called Cava.  We purchased several bottles which the tour loads up in a van for you so you don’t have to carry it while biking.  The highlight of this tour and perhaps our entire trip to Spain was the meal following the tour, hosted by Albert and his family.  Traditional simple Catalan dishes were served family style and more wine was served, including a dessert wine from the porron.  Each took a turn trying to pour wine like a fountain held high at arms length straight to the face.  Later in the trip we went to two of the top restaurants in the world, both amazing and unforgettable in their own right, but this was also a meal to be remembered.

Next post: Spanish Pyrenees – Ordesa

Sagrada Familia - Barcelona - Gaudi - Columns

The “Trees” of the Sagrada Familia
Olympus OMD EM-5, 7-14mm lens@7mm, f/4.0, 1/13s, ISO 200

Passion Facade - Sagrada Familia - Barcelona - Spain

Paella!
Olympus OMD EM-5, 7-14mmlens@7mm, f/4.0, 1/2000s, ISO 200

Barcelona - Cathedral - Gothic - Saint Eulalia

St. Eulalia Cathedral
Olympus OMD EM-5, 7-14mm lens@7m, f/4.0, 0.5s, ISO 250

Saint Eulalia - Barcelona - Cathedral - Night

Late Night Stroll
Olympus OMD EM-5, 7-14mm lens@7mm, f/4.0, 0.8s, ISO 200

Amatller - Batllo - Gaudi - Barcelona - Spain

Gaudi’s Amatller and Batllo
Olympus OMD EM-5, 14-42mm lens@27mm, f/6.3, 1/250s, ISO 200

La Boqueria - Seafood - Barcelona - Spain - Mercat

La Boqueria Seafood
Olympus OMD EM-5, 7-14mmlens@14mm, f/7.1, 1/30s, ISO 200

Grapes - Penedes - Wine - Spain

Penedes Grapes
Olympus OMD EM-5, 14-42mm lens@28mm, f/6.3, 1/200s, ISO 320

Paella - TravelBar - Barcelona

Paella!
Olympus OMD EM-5, 14-42mm lens@42mm, f/5.6, 1/200s, ISO 200

Food and Drink in Italy


Basically every meal we had in Italy was fantastic.  Tripadvisor and other review sites really make it quite simple to find quality.  Given that, there were of course some standouts.  Here are the top dining experiences we had across Rome, Naples, Florence, Venice and the Cinque Terre.  Admittedly not my best photography, but it is hard to care about taking photos when presented with food like this.

1.  Osteria Vini e Vecchi Sapori – Florence

No Pizza, no Bistecca, no ice.  This sign is posted right out front, this is not a pizza joint, not a Florentine steak house, and they do not have soft drinks.  There are about five tables and the place is run by a small family.  Reservations are required or you basically have no hope.  The location is also very convenient as it is right next to the Medici palace.  Simple, very reasonably priced and fantastic.

Vini e Vecchi Sapori, Osso Bucco

Osso Bucco

Vini e Vecchi Sapori, Zucchine Blossom Pasta

Zucchine Blossom Pasta

Vini e Vecchi Sapori, Cinghiale (Wild Boar) Pappardelle

Cinghiale (Wild Boar) Pappardelle

2.  Antica Ristorro di Cambi – Florence

Bistecca Florentine.  This steak alone pushed me from normally ordering steaks prepared Medium to now exclusively ordering Medium Rare.  This was conveniently located for us, there may be better Bistecca to be found, but cheap wine and a delicious steak is still a great experience.  House wine comes by the jug.

Antica Ristorro di Cambi, Steak, Bistecca Florentine

Bistecca Florentine

3. Pizzeria da Michele – Naples

Made famous in the novel and movie Eat, Pray, Love (at least according to my wife) this place is on the map.  Deservedly so.  Gigantic pizza but so good you can easily eat a whole one yourself.  Sauce, Mozzarella and a little basil is all any real pizza needs.

Pizzeria da Michele

Real Pizza

4. Il Gabriello – Rome

Pasta cooked to perfection.  More al dente than I’d ever had before.  I don’t think I’ve had pasta prepared this well since.

Il Gabriello, Spaghetti Pomodoro

Spaghetti Pomodoro

Il Gabriello, Cozze (Mussels)

Cozze (Mussels)

5. Ristorante Da Gigino – Sorrento

Wasn’t sure what to expect here, suspected it might be a bit of a tourist trap however the quality of the food was excellent.  Stopped here for lunch while strolling the streets of Sorrento.  The pasta was prepared perfectly and the seafood was fresh.  More simply prepared dishes executed perfectly.

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Caprese Salad

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Gamberi (prawns) e Vongole (clams)

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Cozze (Mussels) e Vongole (Clams)

6. Vulnetia – Vernazza

The Cinque Terre region is famous for Pesto and seafood, specifically anchovies.  While the two dishes pictured below can be found just about at any restaurant in the area, Vulnetia does them well.

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Gnocchi with Pesto

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Acciughe (anchovy) and Patata

Next post:  Madrid

Wine Tour of Tuscany’s Chianti Region


I’ve been blogging about cities and taking lots of shots of landscapes and architecture in Italy, but really my wife and I traveled here for food and wine.  We had our most enjoyable or second most enjoyable day in Italy (Hard to judge, the Cinque Terre was also amazing) after one full day centered on drinking and eating.  When you tour fantastic wineries and end up eating lunch at a world famous butcher shop, I guess that’s what you’d expect.  A perfect dinner awaited back in Florence as noted in my last post.

My wife and I booked a tour with Tuscan Wine Tours, hoping to try some full bodied dry red wines and wanting to see the famed Tuscan countryside.  We booked well in advance as this outfit is well reviewed in Tripadvisor and spots/available dates were filling up.  We were not disappointed.  If you have a day in Florence and like wine and meat, this tour is what you should do.  You can see the architecture of Florence in pictures on the internet but you can’t taste the wine.

After a 20-30 minute drive we arrived at the first winery.  The scenery was nice and your tour guide will prep you on Italian wine types and classifications.  Our guide spoke perfect English as did the hosts at the wineries.  Tuscan wines are centered around Chianti Classico but offer quite a few other varieties of primarily red full bodied wines.  The wineries also made their own olive oil which could change your whole mentality on the stuff if you’ve never had great olio.  We haven’t bought the supermarket brand ever since.  If you do some research though there are some affordable brands to be purchased just about anywhere.

Lunch was at a butcher shop in the small town of Panzano.  The shop is easy to spot due to the unconventional horizontal red and white stripes and painted blue and flowered cow out front.  Meat was on the menu and it was fantastic.  We were surprised long after we returned home to see a place that looked familiar to us on Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” during an episode he shot in Tuscany.  After comparing some pictures to the video we realized the amazing lunch we had on this tour was at the shop of famed butcher Dario Cecchini.

After lunch, another winery with excellent Chianti and olive oil.  We stopped in the town of Greve for gelato on the trip back to Florence where we were dropped off at the scenic Piazzale Michelangelo.  From here you can get a view of the entire city skyline.  The stress of sightseeing in the crowded cities can be well relieved by a tour into the country side, especially with some wine involved. – Mike Valore

Road to Villa CafaggioOlympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens@7mm, f/5.6, 1/1250s, ISO:200

Road to Villa Cafaggio
Olympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens@7mm, f/5.6, 1/1250s, ISO:200

Chianti Classico

Chianti Classico
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@14mm, f/4.0, 1/100s, ISO:320

Lunch at Antica Macelleria Cecchini

Lunch at Antica Macelleria Cecchini
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@14mm, f/3.5, 1/140s, ISO:320

Lots of Wine

Lots of Wine
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@14mm, f/4.5, 1/80s, ISO:320

Home-made Olive Oil and PastaOlympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens@7mm, f/5.6, 1/1250s, ISO:200

Home-made Olive Oil and Pasta
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@14mm, f/3.5, 1/150s, ISO:320

Greve Town SquareOlympus EPL-1, 7-14mm lens@7mm, f/5.6, 1/1250s, ISO:200

Greve Town Square
Olympus EPL-1, 14-42mm lens@14mm, f/5.6, 1/1250s, ISO:320

Next post: Venice