Drink Category

Peanut Butter & Squid

Ah, the classic peanut butter and dried squid snack. Where’s the Smucker’s grape jelly, you ask? Wonder Bread? BORING. What that classic combination really needs is a salty, briny, tough and stringy piece of jerky a la squid.

I can almost guarantee that in a Korean living room, bar, or “cafe,” where there is drinking of soju or beer (Hite or OB usually); then somewhere on that same table, there will be an unkempt scattering of fibers from strips of ojingo (dried squid) and peanuts (shelled or un-shelled) being eaten together. This is one of the most popular anju or snacks to eat while drinking for Koreans.

This combination is classic. There are even packaged snacks that deliver the strange combination in one cute little bite-size package.

I admit that peanut butter isn’t necessarily traditional. Typically, you’ll see whole peanuts being eaten with ojingo; some people like my Dad tear the ojingo into a thin strip, wrap it around a whole peanut, and then pop it all in their mouth at once. Others roast up the ojingo over a flame which softens it and intensifies the fishy flavor (don’t try this at home unless you’re an expert Korean person like my Mom. Seriously, it stinks up the whole house and the ojingo pieces usually catch on fire). And still others, especially children, like to take a strip and gnaw and suck on it until it literally looks like a wet ragged piece of cheesecloth at the end of an alien-like creature.

What’s nice about peanut butter is that you most likely have a half full jar in your fridge somewhere. It’s easy to dip into with a hard strip of ojingo. And what you lose in texture with peanut butter, you gain in indulgent sweetness.

Of course, don’t expect to be able to spread that peanut butter on much else, unless you like squid flavor on your sandwiches. And if you’re overzealous with your dipping, expect those skinny jeans to feel a little tighter.

Either way – whole or spoonable, dried or roasted – this combo is oddly wonderful.

Spring in NOLA: Beignets in Bed

Our last day in sunny New Orleans. An beautiful otherworldly destination full of passion, emotion, soul, and a unique history of which the food is just as much an adventure as the stories any local on the street could recant for you.

One of my most favorite memories of the entire trip was on this our last day.

It is the memory of being awoken by the sound of crispy pillows of fried sweet dough shaking around in a paper bag filled to bursting with powdered sugar, and the aroma of just-brewed hot chicory coffee awaiting me as I rise sleepily out of bed.

Jordan surprised me with breakfast in bed, or should I say “beignets in bed” this morning.

Yep, that’s my husband all right. I think I done got me keeper. 🙂

Thanks honey and thanks New Orleans for memories that I savor, relish, and will dream of returning to.

X O X O

An EDD-ter’s Tour of Italy – Cinque Terre hike and fresh catch of the day!

We set out bright and early the next morning to begin our hike from Monterosso al Mare to each of the four other fishing villages – Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore – along the gorgeous coastline overlooking the Ligurian Sea. The weather was perfect, sunny and sublime. The hike would last all day and cover about 8 miles of uphill, downhill, and everything in between. Needless to say it was difficult not stopping every 2 minutes to take what seemed to be postcard-quality shots no matter where we turned.

Starting in Monterosso meant hiking the second most challenging part of the trip first as the next part from Vernazza to Corniglia is considered the most physically challenging. Then it’s smooth sailing from Manarola to Riomaggiore where we’d take the train all the way back to Monterosso.

By the time we reached Vernazza, we had hiked about 3 miles along a skinny trail mostly uphill. It was invigorating but we definitely wanted to do some exploring in the village and maybe catch a bite before the next part of the hike.

And by “catch a bite” I meant only one thing – seafood!

We landed on a brightly painted Trattoria Sandro a little ways down a shop-lined street, right by the Vernazza train stop. What sold it for us was a chalkboard advertising a seafood risotto which was the “speciale per due,” as well as, the gaggle of local grandfolks setting a lively familial mood a few tables away from us. A little later in the meal, their grandkids would get a flood of kisses as they came home from school for lunch. Made the meal even more special.

The risotto arrived steaming hot with a perfect balance of fresh shellfish – mussels, shrimp, langostines – and creamy al dente rice. The sauce was garlicky and slightly sweet and was flavored with a strong seafood stock with just a touch of silky tomato sauce. Not only would we fill up on carbs and protein for the rest of our hike, the risotto was warm and comforting. We dug in and didn’t leave anything but shell behind.

I frankly could have hung out with the locals until dinner (something told me they’d still be there), but the trail was calling to us. So off we went!

We must have taken hundreds of pictures along the way and even had some of our fellow trail hikers take a few of us, but really the best thing to do is go to Cinque and see for yourself. You won’t regret it!

We arrived back in Monterosso dirty and needing hot showers, but Cinque’s beautiful craggy rocks against myriad shades of green from olive trees, mountain grasses, cacti, and cooling trees, as well as, the hidden fey waterfalls and endless sea of blue, captured our hearts and imprinted the stuff of dreams on our spirits.

After cleaning up, we were still drunk with pleasure as we set out for a very special dinner in Manarola.

Trattoria dal Billy has got to be one of the hardest restaurants to find in Cinque Terre especially when you’re trying to find it in the dark when the village streets are completely empty and you’re delirious from a whole day out in the sun hiking. Just when we had given up walking up the same hill and backtracking yet again, I spotted a hand painted sign on a wall barely readable in the dark – Trattoria dal Billy [insert arrow pointing down].

And boy did they mean down! The restaurant itself is built into the cliffs of Manarola. Entering the restaurant means doing a little steep “hiking” downwards, only this time in heels. After a little futzing about with a hustling bustling waiter, we were given a little table in their indoor dining room that seated about 12 people. The walls were adorned with family pictures of fisherman, local paintings, and silly ocean paraphenalia – netting and all. The waiters all had a no b.s. style that I instantly liked and as I spied the crawling lobster, crab and fresh fish of the day on a tray next to us, I knew we were in for some good eats!



Marinated white anchovies with sweet yellow peppers

We decided to start with a simple marinated white anchovy on crusty Italian bread with sweet roasted yellow peppers – a combination that’ll surprise you.

After our jovial waiter who looked as if he’d lived his entire life on a fisherman’s boat quickly explained the specials, we decided on the fresh crab clicking its claws in the tray. Without another word about how it’d be prepared, he moved on to the secondi. This was my chance to get the whole fish I’d had on my list of to-eats while here. He grabbed the tray and picked up each fish by the tail measuring its size with his eyes. “Ah, this one is good for you. Size is good. Very fresh.” We were delighted.

Whole crab with homemade fettucini

When the dish arrived, I thought “this it the way to eat crab!” Forget using lump crab meat in a sauce and tossing with pasta. Do as Billy does! Just crack up the crab and using its sweet meat and innards, create a sauce and coat generously over beet-dyed fettucini. For crab lovers like us who enjoy sucking the succulent meat directly out of its shell, this was a revelation. The crab pieces, all tangled up in the noodles like in a net, had so much flavor, I almost forgot about the whole fish up next…

Whole grilled branzino with fried potatoes
…well, almost. Really it’s just about fresh fish. There’s nothing like it. Salt, extra virgin olive oil, some fried potatoes. Forget about it!

Stuffed and tipsy from the ocean air and chianti, we successfully ate our way through dinner. How could anything else top this?

But wait…of course, our gregarious waiter decides to top off our incredible feast with some healthy doses of fiery grappa and limoncello. Cincin!

P.S. Later back in the States, I discovered that our joking waiter actually was the Billy. No wonder we got it so good. Ha!

Next up: A stop in Bologna, and then Venezia!

An EDD-ter’s Tour of Italy – Cooking Class in Tuscany

One of the absolute must-do things I had on my list was to take a cooking class in Tuscany. My agent was able to secure a private day at the Castello di Tornano. From the chef Manuel, we’d learn how to make traditional Tuscan dishes including fresh pasta, biscotti, and pork, and best of all, eat it all for lunch!

It was everything I imagined! Rejuvenating views of lush rolling hills and olive groves, citrus trees along a pebbly trail up to the castle, little kittens purring on the kitchen floor, and a charming chef who’s worked in his simple kitchen for over 20 years.

Getting there was an adventure!

Over 1000 years old, the castle has survived war, bloodshed, and political intrigue. It’s most famous and notorious owner was Warnellottus, lord of Tornano and Campi, who (long story short) shrewdly exploited the strategic position his castle and lands had between the warring city-states of Siena and Florence.

After a warm welcome by the chef, and a customary tsuts (as my mother-in-law would call it) of Prosecco which Chef Manuel insisted was a truly Tuscan tradition, abbiamo cucina (we began cooking)!

Cantuccini – Sweet almond biscuits with Vin Santo
While baking, the kitchen smelled of almonds, sugar and Vin Santo.



Pomodori al forno – Roasted tomatoes with garlic, capers, hipollito, breadcrumbs, parmesan

This simple appetizer was the perfect way to whet our appetites. We used a local wild Italian herb called hipollito (?) for the mixture on top. It looked like oregano but tasted like a cross between thyme and mint.

Ravioli ricotta e spinaci, salvia e burro salsa – Ricotta and spinach ravioli, sage and butter sauce
Making fresh pasta was the highlight of my lesson! Practice makes perfect. We must have made 3 or 4 dozen!

Costolette di maiale salsa Chianti – Pork cutlets with wild rosemary, juniper berries, Chianti Classico
This dish perfectly captured the essence of our Tuscan afternoon at Tornano.

I must say I was feeling mighty fine after our amazing lesson and lunch. We strolled around the castle grounds a bit and enjoyed the sun as the mist slowly drifted away.

Now all that was missing was a long nap.

Those sleepy kitties had the right idea…

Next up: Florence! P.S. recipes for all the above coming soon!