Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tasting our way through the Rocky Coast of Maine

To celebrate our anniversary we took a plane to Portland Maine. We rented a Ford Escape and drove through the coastline of Maine. The Burch and Pine trees led us to the Acadia National Park to start our adventures or shall I say tasting our way through the rocky coast of Maine and back down to Portland! We met some wonderful local people and they made some recommendations where and what to eat to “wet our palates!”

Part I

I will take a “Seven Napkin Burger” please!

"I will take a 'Seven Napkin Burger' please!" We stopped by Owls Head General Store on 2 South Shore Drive in Owls Head. At the center of nearly every small village in Midcoast Maine, an independently-run general store has historically been the hub of activity for that community. They offer not just the grocery store food and home and school supplies, but also provide a central meeting place for the townspeople, fishermen, and tourists to stop and chat about the weather and a little bit about this and that. 

The Owls Head General Store is an inviting, warm,  and cozy place, where you can have a cup of coffee, tea, coco, read your iphone, meet people and sit at one of the tables, inside while you wait for your burger. The cute little shelves are stocked with homemade whoopie pies and glass cookie jars filled with old-fashioned penny candy. Also, there is a place to purchase souvenir t-shirts, post cards, and bumper stickers, the stock in trade of visitors from away who are drawn in by Summer day trips to the quaint little historic town of  lighthouses.
 So, what is a “Seven Napkin Burger?” The burger is about an 8 oz. beef burger with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup on a bun. The burger got its name because it takes 7 napkins to clean up your hands and face after devouring the most scrumptious beef patty known to mankind! 
Later I learned that the Food Network Magazine crowned the store’s “Seven Napkin Burger” the very best in Maine, as part of their “50 Burgers, 50 States” featured in the June/July 2009 issue. 
By the way, it was a “Five Napkin Burger” for my husband! I was impressed!  

What’s for dinner?

Friday, July 19, 2013

Villa Heaven - the Paradise on the Earth of Sardinia

From Naples we took a voyage over an emerald sea, past characteristic coves and beaches of snow-white sand to Sardinia. Sardinia is the second largest island in the Mediterranean.


Situated in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Sardinia is a mainly mountainous region, without high peaks, with a vast and charming, yet bittersweet, natural environment. The islands great surfaces are still preserved with their natural composition, luxuriant woods with even millenary trees, small desert areas and marshes inhabited by deer, wild horses and rapacious birds. 

We docked in Arbatax. Arbatax is a small harbor in the Ogliastra region. The centre of this small town rises at the bottom of Cape Bellavista – territory enriched with the green-colored Mediterranean scrub and famous for the characteristic red rocks and the masses of granite located close to the harbor. As most people filled their pales with shells, I picked up the granite. I was trying to piece together the granite for my kitchen counters! However, I was reminded to leave the granite on the beach and there was a weight limit flying back to the states. Bummer!

The most heavenly dessert I have ever tasted on planet earth were the Seadas, a traditional Sardinian fritter. They are like a ravioli filled with sharp pecorino cheese, a flaky crust on the outside and topped with local warm honey, making for an intriguing and intense flavor. My husband and I ordered one dish to taste, after one bite, I told my hubby to order his own dish!
We met with some dear friends  We had a picnic and they were roasting the wild boar. Outstanding! The boar did not need any seasonings or sauces. The flavor said it all! Bellissimo!


There are many scenic drives with breathtaking views out to the Sardinian islands. We will have to return to this Villa Heaven, the Paradise on the Earth to finish exploring Sardinia and to visit our local friends! Tanti auguri ai miei amici!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Driving in Naples and Visiting Avellino

Naples is the capital of the Campania region. The city is the third most populated municipality (city proper) of Italy, but the second metropolitan area, after Milan. It was founded between the 7th and 6th centuries BC by the Greeks and was named Neapolis, which means new city.

I asked my students what was their favorite American food. Most of them replied, “PIZZA!” By far pizza has become America's favorite food over the past 50 years.

It is believed that Italians invented the pizza, however the origins go back to the ancient times. Long ago the Babylonians, Israelites, Egyptians and other ancient Middle Eastern cultures were eating flat, un-leaven bread that had been cooked in mud ovens. The bread was much like a pita, which is still common in Greece and the Middle East today. Further it is known that ancient Mediterranean people such as the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians were eating the bread, topped seasoned with olive oil and native spices.
The lower class of the Naples, Italy is believed to have created pizza in a more familiar fashion. In the late 1800s an Italian baker named Raffaele Esposito, was believed to have created a dish for visiting royalty. According to the story, the Italian monarch King Umberto and his consort, Queen “Margherita” were touring the area. In order to impress them and to show his patriotic fervor Raffaele chose to top flat bread with food that would best represent the colors of Italy: red tomato, white mozzarella cheese and green basil.

We stopped at the Caffetieria Medina for a quick expresso.
The king and queen were so impressed that word quickly reached the masses. The end results were that the dish was well received to the extent that others began to copy it. 

Driving in Naples

Oh My!!! My husband and I were standing at a corner road waiting for our friends to pick us up to take us to their home in Avellino. What did we see? 
We saw scooters from 2-6 people, one even had their family dog! No helmets! Scooters completed “U” turns when they missed their turns or made left-hand turns from the right lanes. If moving cars stopped, the scooters weaved in and out of lanes and even used sidewalks when necessary. As a pedestrian, I made sure all moving vehicles had the right of way. Horns were used like musical instruments.
Beep! Beep! B-E-E-P!!!!!!!

Hold onto your hats and watch the “Driving Lesson” from Naples:


We finally made it back to Avellino. Avellino is a town and commune, capital of the province of Avellino in the Campania region of southern Italy. It is situated in a plain surrounded by mountains 42 km (26 mi) north-east of Naples and is an important hub on the road from Salerno to Benevento. 

There is nothing like the unique taste and texture of the largest fresh figs from Avellino. They are lusciously sweet with a texture that combines the chewiness of their flesh, the smoothness of their skin, and the crunchiness of their seeds.They just melt in your mouth!

Walking around Avellino.
 Our friend's cousin got married. We stayed an extra day in Avellino to experience this extraordinary and beautiful Italian wedding. Everyone in the town came to help celebrate this joyous event! And oh, did I mention the fresh caught seafood, home-made pasta and the wine? We celebrated from dawn to dusk.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

“The Flavor of Wine is like Delicate Poetry” ~Louis Pasteur

Describing a wine compares to writing a poem; not as easy as it would seem. Every wine tasting experience is unique because every one of us is an individual, with our own stock of aromas and flavors in memory and senses of taste and smell different to anyone else’s.

One of the most exciting adventures we had was touring Mastroberardino’s winery in Atripalda, a province of Avellino Italy. 
Mmm! Smelling the sweet nectar! Paradise!
Mastroberardino is one of the oldest winemaking firms in Italy, producing classic wines from Campania since the 1700's. The historic cellars in Atripalda, South Italy, still in use today, date back to the early 1800's, where precious artistic masterpieces are showed, representing a wondering synthesis between tradition and innovation (some details from these works are also reproduced on the wine labels). In 1878 the Cavaliere of Italian Crown Order, Angiolo Mastroberardino, registered the company into the Avellino Chamber of Commerce. Nowadays the company's top management is leaded by family members representing the tenth generation (represented by Piero Mastroberardino)
Enjoying the tour with Piero Mastroberardino.

With a production of roughly 2,400,000 bottles per year, the company operates over 350 hectares (725 acres), 150 of which under direct family ownership and the rest obtained under several long-term rent contract. Agricultural estates are located in several production areas preserving the territorial identity and assure at first the safeguard, the continuity and the development of native/typical viticulture.
They are located in several areas, in order to save the identity, safeguard and development of the local varieties and vineyards.

Historically, this has always been Mastroberardino's main mission, for the protection of traditional wine values of the area, caring at the same time for innovation and developing a modern interpretation of its own wines. This is the smart blend of ancient culture's style and character together with most innovative and high quality techniques.
~ Mastroberardino Winery

To read more about Mastroberardino and his wine click on the link:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Twist and Turns Through the Amalfi Coast

We spent our 25th anniversary visiting the south of Italy. One of our favorite places was the Amalfi Coast.  The dramatic mountain cliffs rise up against the emerald-blue sea sparkling in the sunlight below.  Pastel colored villages carved into the mountain-side shine vibrantly against the landscape, while scented lemon groves and a salty sea breeze fill the air!

The drive along this spectacular coastline is simply breathtaking.  It’s not, though, for the faint of heart!!!  With steep rock on one side and a dramatic drop to the Mediterranean on the other, the narrow road clings to the mountain and follows the twisting shoreline, resulting in winding roads and sharp curves.  Equipped with a sense of adventure and some solid advice, you can drive the coast and experience one of the most beautiful drives in the world.

If you like the twist and turns of a roller coaster, this drive is for you! Thrill-seekers hoping to go bigger, higher or faster on the Amalfi Coast roads may be disappointed as there are many obstacles that may slow you down (see the video below)!

But the drive was worth it. We stopped and got a Delizia (delight) al limone (lemon) dessert. Lemons have been the symbol of the Amalfi coast for long time, but just recently their taste was captured into little, creamy yellow cake, which fast enough became as famous as the Limoncello

Delizie al limone are composed of sponge cake, layered with lemon cream and covered with fresh whipped cream. A perfect way to finish an Italian dinner or just to gorge yourself during your Italian holiday. Bellissimo!

Delizie al limone  is one of the most delicious lemon desserts of mankind found on the Amalfi Coast! We are with Clemente, host son #2 from Capriglia!

Watch this video driving though the Amalfi Coast and pay attention to the driving lessons:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Hub City and a Little Family History

     We took a sunny drive to a quaint, quiet little town of Hagerstown. My mother-in –law wanted to share where she grew up, the ice-cream parlor where she hung out with her friends, the birth place of her parents, the Rest Haven Cemetery founded in 1927 by her grandfather, Aaron Moses Horst, 

the Brethren Mutual Fire Insurance, founded by her father Paul Horst and North Hagerstown High school where she graduated. My younger daughter just accepted a teaching position at North Hagerstown High School where her grandma and at least 4 generations graduated!

     Hagerstown was founded in 1762 by Jonathan Hager, a gunsmith, fur trader, farmer and politician. After settling he quickly increased his wealth and expanded his land holdings acquiring over 10,000 acres which he used to layout plans for the town. It was originally named Elizabethtowne, in honor of his wife, but was later changed to Hagerstown in his honor.

      Hagerstown was situated at the crossroads of the “Warrior Trading Path,” the Eastern Native American North / South Trading Route, which is modern day Route 11 and the First National Road, now Route 40. The town grew quickly and was a prized location for transportation of all kinds from covered wagon to nearby river navigation.

A Time of Change: The Introduction of the Railroad
      The 19th Century marked the arrival of the railroad to the area in 1834. This, perhaps more than any other factor, spurred the growth of Hagerstown into the city we know today. The nickname “Hub City” comes from the way all the railroad lines running into to Hagerstown resembled the spokes of a wagon wheel on the map. The Western Maryland, the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) and the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) all supplied these “spokes." Railroading grew as an industry and was the main driver of the local economy well into the 20th Century. Although passenger service has ceased, freight still rolls through Hagerstown everyday.

Hagerstown Today
      Today, in keeping with its rich history the “Hub City” sits at the crossroads of two major interstates I-70 and I-81. It serves as gateway to the Baltimore and the Washington, D.C. area as well as the “hub” of government, commerce and recreation for the tri-state area.

                   Enjoying a late lunch at the Rhubarb House.