Italian Cuisine: In The Heart Of Tuscany

Italian Cuisine: In The Heart Of Tuscany

When an American conjures up an idea of “Italian cuisine,” often what comes to mind is pasta, red sauce, and garlic bread. Pasta, no doubt, plays a large part in most traditional Italian regional cuisine, and few cultures know how to employ a tomato the way that Italians can. However, there are so many distinct styles and trademarks within the different regions of Italy that it is hard to lump together all Italian regional cuisine into one general type of cooking. In reality each region has a very distinct style and taste, and there is really no way to appreciate Italian regional cuisine without visiting restaurants and eateries all over the boot.

Tuscany is a region of Italy that takes up a small piece of the western coastline on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Since a large border of the Tuscan region is coastal, seafood plays a large role in the regional cuisine of Tuscany. A coveted destination for tourists, Tuscany is overflowing with cultural experiences, with roots stemming from the Renaissance. Florence, Pisa and the busy port of Livorno all lie within this modest region. Like it’s simple but beautiful landscape, Tuscan cooking keeps things simple. Tuscan bread, for example is a saltless crusted compliment to their judiciously spiced entrees.

While many people think of Italian cuisine as being very salty and filled with garlic, onion, and basil, Tuscan cuisine uses seasoning very sparingly to bring out the natural flavors of the vegetables, beans, and grains that make up their traditional regional cooking. Chefs of Tuscany are renowned for their rice dishes, and a fish or duck dish in Tuscany is often not complete without a risotto base. They also blend wine seamlessly into these dishes, evaporating the alcohol content and leaving the fruits to mingle with the grains and filled pastas that compliment the meat and fish entrees that bring the rich and famous from all over the world to Tuscany.

Along the coast, seafood plays an integral part of the cuisine. A trademark of the Tuscan coast is a soup called caccuccio. Caccuccio is a rich soup made from a tomato and fish base. The secret is to use many different types of fish, pureed bones and all directly into the base of the soup. This soup, served with a hearty Tuscan bread is filling enough to constitute an entire meal. While the coast of Tuscany is home to many a delicacy, it is the varied nature of the Tuscan landscape that provides such variety in the regional cuisine of Tuscany.

The cattle and boars that are particular to the region, for example, make for a taste that you cannot find anywhere else, in soups, grilled dishes, and hams. While Tuscany is responsible for only four percent of Italy’s overall olive oil production, Tuscan olive trees can live to be hundreds or even thousands of years old. So while each tree produces less of an oil yield than trees customarily found in other regions of Italy, the trees have a much more rich history. This simplicity grounded in a rich tradition is only appropriate for the Tuscan region.

Recipe: Catfish with Spicy Strawberry Sauce

Catfish with Spicy Strawberry Sauce


2 lb Catfish fillets
Black pepper
2 oz hot pepper sauce
1 1/2 cup strawberry preserve
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup seafood cocktail sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp horseradish
3/4 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup safflour oil
Fresh strawberries,
Parsley sprigs, optional


Place fillets in large shallow dish. Season fish with salt, black pepper and hot pepper sauce; cover and refrigerate 1 hour.
In small saucepan, combine preserves, vinegar, soy sauce, cocktail sauce, garlic and horseradish; simmer sauce over low heat stirring occasionally, while preparing catfish.
Blend cornmeal and flour in shallow bowl. Drain catfish and dredge in cornmeal mixture, coating on all sides.
Heat oil in heavy skillet over medium-high heat; when hot, add catfish and saute’ until browned on both sides. Drain well on paper towels; keep warm.
Spoon 1/4 cup sauce on each plate; top with catfish fillets. Garnish with sliced strawberries and parsley, if desired.

Eating Italian Food during your Italy vacation

Eating Italian Food during your Italy vacation

Italian food will be very important to you during and after your Italy vacation. Most people are usually surprised by the diversity of food in Italy especially if they expect to eat pizza, pasta and spaghetti during their Italy vacation. You may get your fill of these classics while you are in Italy but you will also want to make sure you get your fair share of local delicacies too. Make sure the food you eat is made from locally grown ingredients and make sure you pair the food with some great wine and you will be experiencing Italy at its best.

Italian food is classed into 3 regional types. Northern, Central and Southern. While visiting Northern Italy during your Italy vacation, you will find that the food here is less “Italian” than you would expect. For example they use less olive oil and more butter. They also eat more rice and corn polenta here than pasta and tomato sauce is not used very often. Northern Italian food also includes a lot of use of wild game found in the countryside. These include wild fowl, rabbit and quail. Northern Italy also has some coastal towns and some towns and villages near streams and rivers. So if you visit Northern Italy during your Italy vacation you may eat a lot of seafood and fish.

What we know as “Italian food” comes from Central Italy. Olive oil, cheeses and rich tomato sauces all hail from central Italy. The coastal areas here are also well known for seafood. Italian cooking was said to have been born in Tuscany which is a region in Central Italy so to be sure to visit this area during your Italy vacation. Some of the best olive oil comes from Southern Italy. But very little of it is exported so make sure you sample the olive oil here during your Italy vacation. Naples, a city in this area is well known for its pizza and southern Italy as a whole grows a lot of citrus fruits and has many vineyards. Some of the best wines in the world come from Southern Italy.

You may eat at several local restaurants during your vacation in Italy. However one of the best ways to sample some of the different food that Italy has to offer during your vacation in Italy is to take a cooking class or make your vacation a culinary one. Many of these classes and culinary vacations include going on a winery tour or wine tasting events. Cooking classes can range from a few hours to half a day and they range in price from about 0 to 0. Many of these are hosted by families in homes or small inns and bed and breakfasts. Some of these classes are taught by excellent chefs many of whom have written Italian recipe books and manage restaurants. They will teach you which food goes with which wine to make for a delicious meal. During your Italy vacation you can learn how to make your own homemade spaghetti and authentic tomato sauce.

Recipe: chinese vegetable sauce

Recipe: chinese vegetable sauce

Chinese Vegetable Sauce

Dear Recipe Goldmine Friends,

I have been working pretty long hours lately, but I still manage to find time to get in the kitchen and experiment, even though I do not sometimes eat until very late in the evening

I made this the other evening. It is very simple and tasty. This sauce would go well with eggplant (cylinder shaped), broccoli or any non-leafy vegetable. I made this recipe for eggplant which was steamed before mixing it with this sauce. Enjoy.

Regards, Cookin’ Dad

Sauce (no name)
3/4 cup low sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
2 teaspoons seasoned soy sauce for seafood
(I used Lee Kum Lee brand which should
be stocked in most oriental grocery stores)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (minced as finely as possible).

Mix ingredients together. Thicken sauce over fire with about 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with equal amount of water. After sauce starts to thicken, add already cooked vegetables to sauce. Mix well and serve with white rice.

Recipe: venus de milo gourmet lobster bisque

Recipe: venus de milo gourmet lobster bisque

Venus de Milo Gourmet Lobster Bisque

This recipe is a variation of our famous Lobster Bisque which is a weekend specialty of the house in our Ala Carte Dining Room and a popular item at our online store. Venus de Milo Lobster Bisque is by far the best in New England, and quite possibly the best in the country. The Venus de Milo Restaurant is acclaimed throughout New England for its fabulous award winning seafood dishes and especially for its Baked Stuffed Lobsters. Our Stuffed Lobsters have been praised by food critics, chefs and customers from all over America.

Bisque is a shellfish based cream soup. Bisque differs from chowder or a stew in that bisque is smooth and usually strained where-as chowder will contain diced vegetables as well as chunks of meat or seafood. Generally bisque is made from a highly concentrated stock and is very rich in flavor. All cream soups are ruined with boiling so take special care while handling this soup.

Preparation Time: Approx. 90 minutes

Servings: About a half gallon or 8 servings

2 pound live lobster cull
1/4 pound butter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup tomato puree
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cubes chicken bouillon
8 peppercorns
3 ribs of celery
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon Lea & Perrins
1 tablespoon A1 Steak Sauce
1 pint light cream

In a large stockpot, combine chopped onions, celery stalks, peppercorns, bouillon cubes, and salt with 1 gallon of cold water and bring the water to a boil. Add the live lobster to the boiling stock, reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove the lobster from the stock and place it on the side to cool. While the lobster is cooling continue to boil the stock so that it may reduce.

When the lobster has cooled sufficiently to allow handling, shell it over a mixing bowl or pie plate taking special care to catch all the juices. Place the lobster meat on the side for later use. Return all the reserved juices, shells and otherwise inedible parts of the lobster to the lobster stock and boil until the stock has reduced by half.

In a separate stockpot, melt the butter, then add the flour to the butter making a roux. Cook the roux over a medium heat for about 1 minute while continually whisking. Add the tomato puree and cook for an additional minute.

Strain the lobster stock through a fine sieve. Add the lobster stock 1/2 cup at a time while whisking smooth. When the soup reaches the consistency of a gravy, reduce the heat and add the lemon juice, salt, Lea & Perrins, A1 Sauce, sugar, and white pepper and simmer for about 10 minutes while stirring.

Slowly add the light cream while stirring and bring the soup back to temperature. Adjust the seasoning. Chop or slice the reserved lobster meat into desired size and add to soup. Serve at once.

Cheap Holidays In Algarve

Cheap Holidays In Algarve

Have you thought about cheap holidays in Algarve, but thought you could not go without taking the family? A cheap holiday to Algarve is just what the family needs. Algarve is a breathtaking area with cliffs and beautiful sights of the bluest waters you have ever seen. You never have to worry about the weather, because when the rest of the European countries are cloudy and cooler, Algarve is warm and sunny. The seafood dinners are found everywhere and the hospitality is just superb. You will not find any other place where you can have it all and enjoy every minute of your vacation.

Although the area is famous for its fishing villages just waiting for you to stop, you will enjoy the other attractions in the area as well. The Aquashow is spectacular to see and they have a wave pool for some family fun. You can visit the exhibits of birds and see some interesting show preformed by the birds. If you thing the wave pool was fun, wait until you visit the Slide and Splash. They have rides, slides and a children’s playground. The next stop might be the Aqualand water park. You have never experienced a water park like this before. It is a great time and the entire family will have fun on all the rides and water slides.

One day you might decide to visit the Zoomarine, which offers shows and a funfair for visitors. The marine animals put on shows, you might see the seals or the sea lions perform right in front of you. The safari rides around the mountains are something everyone will enjoy. You never know what you will see or where you will see it. The kids like a true adventure just as much as the adults do and you will find it here.

Take a boat trip with the family during the day and enjoy some evening fun of seafood, wine and some dancing and music traditional to the country. The restaurants put out great tasting foods and if you have a real adventurous side, you may even ride a donkey or take a donkey cart ride from you drop off point to the Algarvian Restaurant. Okay, riding a donkey might excite you, but a cart ride will relax you. After some peaceful nights in a glorious and elegant hotel, you will be ready to see the historical sites and maybe do some bird watching.

Cheap holidays in Algarve should always include some historical adventures. You can take tours to some of the site with a stop for lunch, then onto the rest of the journey and back to the hotel. If you are into birds of unusual species, bird watching in Algarve will delight you. Ria Formosa is one place everyone enjoys for hiking and bird watching. You will have a great adventure and some great times when you plan your cheap holidays to Algarve. The entire family will have something to amuse them and keep them busy for the entire vacation.

Brazilian Cuisine

Brazilian Cuisine

It began as most ‘ethnic food movements’ do – with small restaurants in the neighborhoods where immigrants settled, diners and lunchrooms and tea rooms opened by those who wanted to offer a taste of home to their fellow émigrés. Chinese, Italian, Middle Eastern, Thai – from family run bistros, the cuisine spread as those outside the cultures of the ‘neighborhood’ learned of the good food and the word spread. The latest ‘new cuisine’ that is spreading like wildfire is Brazilian – a delicious blending of three separate cultures that comes together in dishes and delicacies that aren’t found anywhere else in the world.

To understand the cuisine of Brazil, one must understand a little of its history. The base of Brazilian cuisine is in its native roots – the foods that sustained the native Brazilians – cassava, yams, fish and meat – but it bears the stamp of two other peoples as well: the Portuguese who came to conquer and stayed, and the African slaves that they brought with them to work the sugar plantations. Brazilian cuisine today is a seamless amalgam of the three influences that interweave in a unique and totally Brazilian style.

The staples of the Brazilian diet are root vegetables, seafood and meat. Manioc, derived from cassava root, is the ‘flour’ of the region, and is eaten in one form or another at nearly every meal. The bitter cassava root is poisonous in its raw state, but when prepared properly, the cassava root yields farinha and tapioca, bases for many dishes of the region. The Portuguese influence shows in the rich, sweet egg breads that are served at nearly every meal, and in the seafood dishes that blend ‘fruits de mer’ with coconut and other native fruits and vegetables. The national dish, bobo de camarao is one of these, a delicious mingling of fresh shrimp in a puree of dried shrimp, manioc (cassava) meal, coconut milk and nuts, flavored with a palm oil called dende.

It is the African influence that is most felt, though – as is to be expected of the people who worked in the kitchens. Pineapple and coconut milk, shredded coconut and palm hearts worked their way into everyday dishes, flavoring meat, shrimp, fish, vegetables and bread. Brazilian food, unlike the cuisines of many of the surrounding countries, favors the sweet rather than the hot, and more than any other South American cuisine, it carries the savor of tropical island breezes rather than the hot wind of the desert.

The most common ingredients in Brazilian cuisine are cassava, coconut, dende, black beans and rice. Bacalao – salt cod – features in many dishes derived from the Portuguese, but flavored with typical Brazilian insouciance with coconut cream and pistachio nuts it becomes an entirely different food. It is typical of the Brazilian attitude toward food – an expression of a warm and open people to whom feeding and sharing food is the basis of hospitality. Brazilian cuisine is like its people – all are welcome, all are welcomed and all make their mark – without ever overwhelming the contributions of the other.

Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco: A Short Tour

Fisherman’s Wharf San Francisco: A Short Tour

Nearly 16 million people visit San Francisco each year, and more of those people visit Fisherman’s Wharf than any other area of the city. Indeed, as many as 3,000 people per hour walk through the intersection of Jefferson and Powell during the peak season. What makes Fisherman’s Wharf so appealing? Read on to learn more about the Wharf’s main attractions.


Fisherman’s Wharf began in the 19th century as the home of the San Francisco fishing fleet. At one time there were as many as 500 fishing boats, which were coming and going all day long. The Italians and the Chinese were the main rivals in the fishing industry, but due to the high degree of discrimination against the Chinese, the Italians were able to dominate the business. The area between Taylor and Jones Street is now known as the Italian Harbor, and many of the restaurants, such as Scoma’s, Tarantino’s, Alioto’s, and others, are named after their Italian founders.

Pier 39

Pier 39 is the highlight of Fisherman’s Wharf. Pier 39 attractions include 110 shops, 13 restaurants, the Aquarium of the Bay, and the California sea lions. The sea lions are there throughout most of the year. They only leave during their mating season, which takes place over about three weeks from early to late July. Also, if you need to catch a taxi, the Wharf’s main taxi stand is in front of Pier 39’s main entrance.


At present, the Blue and Gold Fleet is the exclusive operator of Alcatraz ferries. All Alcatraz ferries leave from Pier 41. During the summer months, tickets are often sold out as much as a week in advance, so you should purchase your Alcatraz tickets before you arrive in San Francisco.

Boudin Bakery

The Boudin Bakery flagship restaurant is a huge two-story building which houses a demonstration bakery, a restaurant, and a small café. Throughout much of its history, Boudin was secretive about its bread making process. Now, you can watch the bakers at work through the 30-foot window in front of the bakery. Watch as they make bread sculptures of every kind of sea creature imaginable. If you would like to learn even more, Boudin provides guided tours until 5 PM every day. Bistro Boudin on the second floor has outdoor balcony seating, a big-screen TV, and a collection of historical pictures of San Francisco.

Seafood Restaurants

The restaurant industry began in Fisherman’s Wharf in 1916 when Castagnola’s became the first restaurant licensed by the city to sell seafood on the street. Many of the restaurants began as chowder stands serving the fishing fleet. Today, the largest concentration of seafood restaurants on the Wharf is at the end of Taylor Street, next to the Italian Harbor. The best-known Wharf restaurant, Scoma’s, is the busiest restaurant in the entire city. They have their own fishing boat, and they do their own preparation, so you can be sure the fish is fresh. Their specialty is blackened swordfish, which is seasonal. They don’t accept reservations, and it is not uncommon to wait 45 minutes for a table at dinner time during the peak season.

The Cannery

The Cannery was the first building built on Fisherman’s Wharf after the 1906 earthquake. Originally it was a peach canning plant for Del Monte, the largest peach canning plant in the world at that time. After falling into disrepair for many years, the Cannery was bought in 1963 by Leonard V. Martin, a San Francisco lawyer, who reinforced the exterior of the building and completely redesigned the interior to accommodate the shopping complex that is there today. There are no chain stores in the Cannery; each store is one of a kind. The building next to the Cannery, the Haslett Warehouse, originally served as the warehouse for the Cannery, and as living quarters for some of the Cannery workers. The building now houses the Argonaut Hotel.

Ghirardelli Square

The first building built on what is now Ghirardelli Square was the Woolen Mill, which housed the Pioneer Woolen Mill. After the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the owner of the woolen mill had to fire his Chinese workers, and he went out of business. Ghirardelli and his sons bought the building in 1892 and moved their chocolate factory to it. The other buildings of Ghirardelli Square were built over the next thirty years as the chocolate factory expanded. In the 1950’s the factory moved across the bay to San Leandro. The owners, wanting to preserve these historic buildings, converted the square into a shopping complex, the first shopping complex built on Fisherman’s Wharf, which was completed in 1964.

As you can see, there are many things to do at Fisherman’s Wharf. There is a great deal of history on the streets, and on your next trip to San Francisco, we recommend that you visit the Wharf and have a look.

Entertaining Monterey Wine Country Style Impress An Entire Dinner Party With One Easy Dish

Entertaining Monterey Wine Country Style Impress An Entire Dinner Party With One Easy Dish

Today’s busy schedules can make throwing even the smallest dinner gathering seem like an overwhelming task. Why go through all of the hassle?

David Mirassou, a sixth-generation family member of America’s oldest winemaking family, says entertaining is well worth the effort because there is nothing better than enjoying an evening of great food and wine with friends and family.

Mirassou’s secret is to focus on making one fabulous feast, such as a popular crowd-pleasing paella that not only feeds everyone, but also creates a festive atmosphere that encourages jovial conversation. To complement the paella, simply purchase a variety of olives and nuts to serve as appetizers, along with a fruit-forward wine, and guests will leave satisfied. Mirassou has adapted his family’s classic paella recipe to be even more fitting of his California heritage, complete with fresh seafood, artichoke hearts and Mirassou’s new Monterey County Riesling.

Mirassou Monterey Paella

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 45 to 50 minutes

1/2 pound linguica, Italian or Polish sausage, sliced 1/4-inch-thick on the diagonal

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

11/2 cups long-grain white rice

3 cups chicken stock

1 cup Mirassou Monterey County Riesling

1/4 teaspoon saffron (or 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric and 1/8 teaspoon paprika)

2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced

1 package (9 oz.) frozen artichoke hearts, thawed and cut in half

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and diced

8 mussels

8 hard-shell clams

16 medium prawns, peeled and deveined

1/2 cup fresh or frozen peas

Brown linguica or sausage in a large stainless steel pan or skillet for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently; remove from pan and set aside. Add oil to skillet; add onion and garlic; sauté for 5 minutes. Add rice and cook for 5 minutes more or until translucent; stir in the stock, wine, saffron and linguica or sausage. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer over low heat, loosely covered, for 15 minutes. Remove lid and season to taste with salt and pepper; top with tomatoes, artichoke hearts and bell pepper. Nestle the seafood into the surface of the rice; cover and cook over very low heat, loosely covered, for 10 minutes or until the mussels and clams have opened and the prawns are pink. Stir in peas and cook for 1 minute.

Note: Discard mussels and clams that do not open.

Serving recommendations: Paella is excellent for entertaining, and is best served family style right from the skillet. Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley and lemon wedges, and pair with the same wine used in cooking the paella. Serves 8.

A single-dish feast, such as paella, can be an excellent idea for people who don’t have much time for entertaining.

Sun, Sea, Sand, Jomtien Beach – Thailand

Sun, Sea, Sand, Jomtien Beach – Thailand

For the ultimate beach vacation there is no better location than that of “Jomtien Beach” in Thailand. Which is just a two hours ride in a taxi from Bangkok Airport.The Jomtien Beach is located about two kilometers from its busy counterpart resort of South Pattaya.

Jomtien Beach and the area along its beach road have now become more and more popular for swimming, water sports and activities because it has a long straight coastline and they’re being less boats anchored in its waters. There are very many good quality hotels, bungalows and guesthouses. A wide range of small and large condominiums is also available for short or long term rental and many good restaurants serving a wide variety of fresh seafood with a full range of Thai cuisine and International dishes.

Many tourists come to this area to just enjoy the scenery and the beach. Chairs are available to sit with a table to have food and drink served directly to you as you soak up the sun or simply lay back and listen to the waters lapping on the sand. Go swimming or enjoy water sports such as wind surfing, ride a water scooter, parasail or take a speed boat ride, even water skiing is possible.

The Jomtien Beach has good quality white sand and a very long coastline to enjoy. The beach is much more peaceful here than its counterpart of Pattaya further up the coast. The beaches are always kept in a pristine condition by the many vendors who are there to look after all your needs.

Along the early part of the straight beach road you will find many souvenir shops, international restaurants, food stalls. But at the far end of the beach road there are very good seafood restaurants and it is where you can find yourself at times the only person soaking up the sun.

You can also swim late into the night along a large part of the beach as the sands are floodlit which makes for a very safe environment to swim after the sun has gone down. May be you only want to simply find a quiet bar for any drink of your choosing. Many are available and the prices have to be seen to be believed.

Jomtien beach simply has it all without having to travel long distances. But if you fancy a more adventurous evening and want to enjoy a full range of nightlife activities Pattaya is just a few minutes down the coast. Transportation around the Pattaya and Jomtien area is simple. The open pick up cars (Baht buses as they are locally called) are running all the time. Just hail one down and climb aboard.

Jomtien is one place in the world where a good quality beach vacation is simplicity itself.
How do I know these things – I live there.

Author – Barry Hooper – can be contacted at –