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Recent Blog Posts

Hot Toddy

Cold weather can mean getting toasty with a Hot Toddy, This bevvie warms two ways, with the hot liquid and the whiskey. Hot Toddy origin story No one knows for sure who or where the Hot Toddy was invented. But the name likely comes the Indian word “toddy.” And while the word toddy came from…

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Lychee Fruit

Unpeeled Lychee fruit (photo: Brent Petersen) Lychee originated in southern China 1,000 years ago, but I didn’t eat it regularly until we were living in Hawaii. The rind of the Lychee ranges in tones from pink to red. The first time I bought Lychee, I had no idea how to open the rind to get…

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Movies that will make you want to visit France

Anyone who’s been to France knows it is a beautiful and romantic country. Here are a few movies that make the country look its best. Amélie The 2001 film has become a classic. Mostly because of the enchanting lead actress Audrey Tautou. Paris at its most quirky and adorable. Funny Face Audrey Hepburn was only…

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Pizzolo in Sicily

Photo: Brent Petersen In Greek mythology, Kalliope is the goddess of music, song and dance. She is also the muse of epic poetry.So, why would a restaurant in Sicily be named after a Greek goddess? There are a couple of good reasons. First, Homer’s Odyssey is said to have been inspired by Kalliope and much…

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Music school in Lucca, Italy

Lucca, Italy (photo: Brent Petersen) Yet another entry in my long list of examples of why you should keep yourself open to saying “yes” to unexpected experiences.In Lucca, Italy we were walking around the town, searching for a place to eat, when we noticed a lot of college-age kids coming and going from a building….

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Living the dream

Photo: Brent Petersen No matter how much you like your job, there are going to be those days. You know, those days when your boss piles on too much work, no one seems to want to cooperate and then a customer yells at you for something that is obviously their fault.That’s when, inevitably, someone will…

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Flat White-the espresso drink of disputed origin

Not a latte and not a cappuccino, the flat white is a unique beverage all its own from, depending on who you believe, Australia or New Zealand. What is a Flat White? A Flat White is a coffee drink made with espresso. Layered on top of the espresso is a layer of foamy milk, The…

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Meli Kalima pineapple

When we lived in Hawaii, one of the most exciting things was discovering all the new foods. The delicious Meli Kalima pineapple (photo: Brent Petersen) One of these is the Meli Kalima pineapple (translates from Hawaiian to English as Honey Cream pineapple) which is native to Hawaii and  is only grown at one single farm….

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Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…in Italy

Chestnut vendor in Rome (photo: Brent Petersen) One of my favorite things about being in Italy in the fall and winter is the chestnut vendors. On almost every corner some guy (it’s usually a man) sets up a barrel, lights a fire and roasts chestnuts on a pan.I’m not a huge fan of the chestnuts…

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New Year’s Eve & red underwear

If you’re in Italy for New Year’s Eve, be sure to wear this specifically colored undergarment. New Year’s Eve When December rolls around, this market in Ortigia will also have red underwear for sale (photo: Brent Petersen) All over the world there are different customs on New Year’s Eve. In Spain, people eat 12 grapes…

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It’s time for a mug of smoldering wine

Every year around Christmas, Germans start enjoying Glühwein, a kind of mulled wine that dates back to Roman times. Glühwein origin story Spiced wine dates to at least the 2nd century CE, when the Romans heated wine and added herbs. In Germany, the first Glühwein tankard dates to the early 15th century, but mulled wine…

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The wasabi you’re eating is fake

Wasabi is on the table at every sushi restaurant in the U.S. The only problem is it’s not wasabi. What is wasabi? The wasabi plant is a rhizome. Rhizomes, like bamboo, spread by roots and nodes. This should make propagation of the plant easy. However, wasabi requires specific growing conditions. Low humidity is necessary for…

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Portugal’s delicious Azeitão cheese

Spain is an internationally known cheese making country. But, her neighbor on the Iberian Peninsula also makes some wonderful cheeses that should be tried and enjoyed. What is Azeitão? Azeitão cheese (image: Azeitão is a semi-soft cheese made with unpasteurized sheep’s milk. It has a strong herbal flavor; what I like to call “stinky…

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The Italian town that does the evening stroll on two wheels

Each evening, all over Italy, people come out for the “passeggiata,” or stroll. Everyone takes part; young, old, rich, poor, they all take time to promenade before dinner. But, in one town in Emilia-Romagna, the tradition is quite different. Passeggiata origin story Back in the day, when an Italian girl came of age, her family…

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When looking for a snack in Naples, head to the Friggitoria

In Italian, Friggitoria means fryer. And the name is apt. The local Friggitoria shop in Naples has a huge selection of fried snacks. The popularity of Friggitoria Rolling out the Crocchè (photo: Brent Petersen) You’ll find little fry shops (Friggitoria) all over Italy. But, they are especially popular in Naples. It seems there’s one on…

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Castle Hill Lighthouse-Newport, RI

Some of the most stunning views in all of New England are at this little lighthouse with a fascinating history. Castle Hill Lighthouse origin story Photo: Brent Petersen Narragansett Bay has been a busy shipping channel for hundreds of years. Newport, at the southern entrance of bay, was a notorious hub for buying and selling…

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Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and Chickpeas) recipe

A traditional recipe from Andalucía, Spain, Espinacas con Garbanzos is smoky, earthy, rich, and filling. Espinacas con Garbanzos origin story Spinach and chickpeas both arrived in Spain from the Moors who controlled the Iberian Peninsula starting in the 8th century. Flavored with lots of spices, this hearty stew is especially popular during Lent because it…

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My first taste of Rakija

Rakija is the most popular distilled spirit in The Balkans. But, on my first visit to Croatia, I’d never heard of it, let alone tried it. That is, until we wandered into a nondescript bar in Zagreb for a night that changed my life. What is Rakija? Rakija in an unlabeled bottle (photo: Brent Petersen)…

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How a Portuguese donut became popular in Hawaii

Malasadas have been popular in the Atlantic Ocean island chains of the Azores and Madeira. But, the sweet treat is also a favorite over 7,000 miles away in a Pacific archipelago. What is a malasada? Malasdas ( Malasadas are fried yeast balls. Once cooked, they are covered in granulated sugar. Similar to a beignet, malasadas…

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Ljubljana’s famous dragon

Slovenia’s capital is famous for its outdoor market, impressive Jože Plečnik architecture, riverside cafes, and a very ornery dragon. Ljubljana origin story Legend has it that Ljubljana was founded by Jason of Jason and the Argonauts fame. Jason, with the help of Medea, stole the golden fleece. And, they were on the run from Medea’s…

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Split Rock Lighthouse

Minnesota’s Split Rock Lighthouse is one of the most picturesque beacons in the world, guiding the ships that navigate the dangerous waters of Lake Superior. Split Rock Origin Story Split Rock Lighthouse (photo: Brent Petersen) Even though Lake Superior is “just” a lake, it has some of the most treacherous waters in the world. Ships…

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The gorgeous murals of Kaka’ako, Hawaii

What used to be a rather derelict neighborhood in Honolulu is now a hip area filled with craft breweries, coffee shops, a beautiful waterfront, and a huge collection of murals. Kaka’ako origin story Artists creating a mural in Kaka’ako (photo: Brent Petersen) Before European settlement, Native Hawaiians used the area of Kaka’ako for fishing and…

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How Trotsky came to live and die in Mexico City

The Russian revolutionary spent the last few years of his life in exile in Mexico City before meeting a bloody end. Exile from the Soviet Union Leon Trotsky was a Bolshevik leader and one of the most prominent people to mold the early Soviet Union. He was known for heading the Red Army during the…

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Vegan Buffalo Sauce recipe

Buffalo Sauce, that spicy orange-pink condiment, is used to add some flavorful heat to a lot more than just wings. But, did you know that the traditional sauce isn’t vegan? Here’s a recipe that is every bit as delicious, but has no animal products. Buffalo Wings origin story Buffalo wings were supposedly invented in the…

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Crisp Point Lighthouse

Lighthouses are some of my favorite places to visit. And, you’ll find them everywhere. They’re on cliffs like Split Rock in northern Minnesota, or on gorgeous beaches like Cape Hatteras, or even in a city like the Little Red Lighthouse underneath the George Washington Bridge. Crisp Point Lighthouse origin story Crisp Point is a Lake…

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How a church I never visited became a part of my book

When we visited Croatia in 2011, the last thing on my mind was sculpting a novel from the experience. But, on the flight home, an idea popped into my head that wouldn’t leave me, so I ended up writing Truffle Hunt which was finally published in 2015.Because I didn’t know I was going to write…

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My favorite cab driver in Madrid

I’ve had some crazy taxi experiences. There was the guy in Naples who drove on the sidewalk when traffic got jammed up. Or the guy in New Orleans who made us get out six blocks from our hotel because he said the streets were closed (they weren’t, he just didn’t want to navigate the maze…

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I blamed my girlfriend for a seismic event

It was Sunday morning and my girlfriend and I were eating breakfast on the couch. “Could you stop shaking the couch?” I asked. You see, my girlfriend has a bit of the Jimmy Legs where she twitches her leg. Most of the time it doesn’t bother me, but sometimes, she gets the Jimmy Legs so…

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Delicious meatless “meatballs”

Whether you’re vegetarian or just looking for a something different, these meatless eggplant balls are the perfect way to top your spaghetti. Tips • Asian eggplant (the long skinny ones) work best for this recipe. They have fewer seeds, which can be bitter, and are easier to cut into uniform pieces. If you can’t find…

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An Italian bread made from scraps of dough

One of my favorite things about Italy is the culture’s ingenious frugality. Have grape skins and stems left over from making wine? Distill it into grappa. Dug up some stones from building a cistern? Construct a trullo. And if you have scraps of dough left over from bread making, you bake them into la piscialetta….

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