Queer Ashland and Southern Oregon

Author: , November 4th, 2019

Central Point Sunset

In September, we drove up to Southern Oregon to visit some dear friends who live in Central Point – a little town just north of Medford. We spent a few days up there, and visited their town, a little bit of Medford, and the towns of Jacksonville and Ashland.

So we thought we’d share some of our favorite things about queer Ashland and Southern Oregon!

We’ll break it down below by food, shopping, and entertainment.

Eat It!

There are some great food choices here in the Ashland/Medford area. We only tried a few, but had a few stand-outs:

Lillie Belle Farms
Central Point
Best Chocolate

Lillie Belle Farms - Central Point

We liked this place as soon as we saw the purple building that hosues it. It’s filled with delectable chocolate offerings, including the chocolate covered mint oreos (I took home a small bag) and the hot pepper chocolate (take a bite and wait for it!). Everything we tried here was good, and they stack up favorably against chocolatiers in the big cities we’ve visited.

Lillie Belle Farms - Central Point

Rogue Creamery
Central Point
Cheese Curds!

Rogue Creamery - Central Point

Located right next to Lillie Belle is a fantastic creamery that sells one opf my favorite things in the whole world – cheese curds! These are the randomly-shaped pieces of cheese that are then pressed into bars or cheese, and they are fricking delicious! Pro-tip – pop one (or half a dozen) into your microwave for about seven seconts, then eat them quickly for a squeaky-melty treat. Best when eaten fresh.


Rogue Creamery - Central Point

Bella Union
Best All-Around Restaurant

Bella Union - Jacksonville

The stand-out restaurant of our trip – we went there twice. The food was fantastic – my bread pudding dessert the second visit was one of the best I’ve had in ages. I wanted to lick the plate (actually, I might have LOL). But the star here is the absolutely gorgeous courtyard at the back of this place. Don’t come to Bella Union and sit inside.

Bella Union - Jacksonville

Buttercloud Bakery and Cafe
Best Breakfast (tie)

Buttercloud Bakery & Cafe - Medford

Oh my god, the decadence. This is one of our friends Nick and Kolby’s favorite breakfast places, and it’s easy to see why. The biscuits are world-famous, and so full of butter you might have a heart attack just breathing the wonderful buttery air.

Buttercloud Bakery & Cafe - Medford

Morning Glory
Best Breakfast (tie)

Morning Glory Cafe

Another great breakfast option, this one on the south side of Ashland. It’s a bit out of town, but the food is great, and they have some of the biggest coffee cups we’ve ever seen.They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, made with fresh, organic ingredients. And those muffins… Hey Kolby!

Morning Glory Cafe

Morning Glory Cafe

Kaleidescope Pizza
Best Pizza

Kaleidoscope Pizza

If anyone asks you what the secret to a great pizza is, it’s the cheese. And this pizza place has the best cheese we’ve had since Pizzeria Aurora in Sorrento, Italy – tasty, stretch cheese that you just want to rub all over your body and… but I digress. No one should stop in Medford without a visit to this place, and the cheesy bread is absolutely divine, too, as Kolby (below) will attest to. Sorry I ate half the Hawaiian pizza…

Kaleidoscope Pizza

Ostras! Tapas & Bottleshop
Best Tapas

Ostras! Tapas & Bottleshop

We only ate at one place in Ashland, and it was good but not fantastic. The tapas were tasty, but expensive for the portions offered. Then again, it’s in the hard of Ashland, right across from the square. And it’s really cool inside…

Ostras! Tapas & Bottleshop - Ashland

Ostras! Tapas & Bottleshop - Ashland

Buy It!

We found a few great shopping opportunities in the area, and we’ll share them with you below:

Carefree Buffalo
Really cool knick-knacks

Carefree Buffalo

I love this store – so many cool little things, and such a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Carefree Buffalo

The Miners Bazaar
Eclectic Cafe

The Miners' Bazaar - Jacksonville

We stopped into this eclectic cafe for a quick drink and found a strange mix of museum, cafe and shop, perfect for Jacksonville’s quirky spirit. Plus it’s the perfect place to sit in a rocking chair on the porch and watch the passersby. And check out this awesome fashion panel. Who says high fashion is only in Milan, London, Paris and new York City?

The Miners' Bazaar - Jacksonville

Lithia Artisan’s Market
Great collection of local artists

Lithia Artisan's Market - Ashland

Along the edge of the Lithia Creek in downtown Ashland, there’s a great outdoor market on the weekends. We found all kinds of cool things here, from paintings to decorative outlet covers to animals made out of wool – the artist was creating a giraffe right before our eyes. It’s a fun outdoor market, and the perfect place to snag something cool to take back home. And while you’re there, check out the colorful mural that runs along part of the market.

Lithia Artisan's Market - Ashland Lithia Artisan's Market - Ashland

Lithia Artisan's Market - Ashland

Manzanita Home & Flowers
Really cool kitchen stuff and the sexiest bunnies I’ve ever seen

Manzanita Home & Flowers

This is an awesome home store on Main Street with two of the sexiest bunnies you’ll find in Ashland.. and some really clever kitchen ware, among other things. I haven;t seen that good a “come hither” look since Elsa in the Lion King.

Manzanita Home & Flowers

Manzanita Home & Flowers

Renaissance Rose
Great costume shop

Renaissance Rose

This is a simply awesome costume shop in the heart of Ashland that gets extra points for the pink fuzzy monster slippers, the steampunk helmet and goggles, and the rainbow stairs we found inside.

Renaissance Rose Renaissance Rose

Treehouse Secret World Vault
My new favorite bookstore…

Treehouse Secret World Vault

This cute little bookstore/toy store reminded me of the favorite bookstore of my youth – te Haunted Book Shop – in Tucson Arizona. Like that one, this little store is full of fascinating things for kids, from the toadstool stool to the little doorways that reward the curious who dare to open them. A really cool shop for the kid in all of us.


Treehouse Secret World Vault

Treehouse Secret World Vault

Treehouse Secret World Vault

Treehouse Secret World Vault

See It!

There’s also a lot to see… we just scratched the surface in the few days we were there.

Bum Around Jacksonville

Jacksonville is just east of Medford, nestled against the hills of the Rogue Valley. It’s a cute, quirky town that reminded us of Nevada City, California. There’s lots of antique shopping and a number of galleries.

Plus it’s full of history:




There’s even a ghost tour some evenings.

Walk up to Britt Gardens – it was once the home of one of the founding fathers of the city, and is now a beautiful outdoor concert venue. We were wandering around up there and ran into a family of deer. One of them as less than ten feet from me, and stood really still as if she hoped I wouldn’t see her.

Britt Gardens - Jacksonville

Britt Gardens - Jacksonville

Britt Gardens - Jacksonville

Britt Gardens - Jacksonville

Britt Gardens - Jacksonville

Picnic in Lithia Park

Ashland’s Lithia Park is a gorgeous creekside park with charming bridges and walkways and wide open grassy areas perfect for a picnic. So grab some cheese and crackers at the Rogue Creamery and some chocolates at Lillie Belle, and head down to the park in Ashland. We spent an hour laying on the grass, munching and talking about life and the universe. One of my favorite parts of the trip.

Lithia Park - Ashland

Lithia Park - Ashland

Lithia Park - Ashland

Lithia Park - Ashland

Lithia Park - Ashland

Lithia Park - Ashland

See a Shakespeare Play

Did you know that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival offers fifty percent discounts on same day play purchases? We saw a play – Alice in Wonderland – in the gorgeous outdoor Elizabethan Theatre. And while I can honestly say it was one of the worst plays I have seen in a long time, the experience itself was great.

Oregon Shakespeare Festival


There are so many things to do in the Ashland area, and we’ve only shared a few. We’ll be back again to find more the next time we visit Nick and Kolby. But we’ll leave you with this little gem from Jacksonville. Have fun exploring!

Jacksonville sign

The Perfect Italian Afternoon in San Francisco’s North Beach

Author: , October 28th, 2019

Acquolina - North Beach

We’ve been to North beach in San Francisco a number of times, but I always complain about how it’s only restaurants and coffee shops – no other real parts of Italian culture seem to be represented.

Well, that’s changed, and for the better. If you’re an Italianofile like Mark and I, there’s now an Italian bookstore in the heart of North beach, chock-full of Italian language books.

So we thought we’d share some tips for a perfect Italian afternoon in North Beach.

Start at Libreria Pino

In Italian, libreria means bookstore, while biblioteca means library. I know, confusing, right? This little bookstore on Greenwich Street, just a block east of Washington Square Park, is worth seeing. It’s only Italian language titles, making it perfect for both native speakers and those of us who are studying the Italian language.

Stop in about noon and browse the titles – there are so many to choose form, including a comprehensive children’s section at the back, and the owner, Joseph Carboni, is friendly and can help you zero in on the perfect book.

Libreria Pino - North Beach

Lunch at Acquolina

This cute little Italian restaurant faces Washington Square Park at Greenwich and Stockton, which most times is a big plus, but which was sadly more of a negative since there’s currently a big fence all around the park while it undergoes a renovation/rehabilitation. Still, it’s a cute little place.

The food here is fantastic – we had a salad with green apples and balsamic and a simple pepperoni pizza, and they were amazing, which makes sense, since acquolina means “mouth-watering.”

But the best part was our waiter, Marco, a recent transplant from Italy – I called him a twenty-five-year-old with a forty-five-year-old’s mustache (see the first photo above). He’s a cute, friendly guy who was more than willing to speak Italian with us, and he made the meal.

Pizza - Acquolina - North Beach

Pizza - Acquolina - North Beach

Dessert at Lush Gelato

Top off your perfect Italian Afternoon just a block down Stockton at Lush Gelato – I had a cinnamon chocolate scoop of gelato there that was devine. Eat there, or take your gelato trean – an afternoon snack in Italy is called a merenda – and stroll through North Beach on a passeggiata (casual stroll) like a real Italian.

Lush Gelato - North Beach

Find lodging in and around North beach here.

Queer Albuquerque

Author: , October 26th, 2019

queer Albuquerque

We’re just back from the GRL (GayRomLit) con in Albuquerque – part of my “other” life as a queer writer.

We explored downtown and Old Town, and thought we’d share some of our favorite things about each. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in the heart of the “new” downtown. Albuquerque is clean and quiet – at least in October. We were both surprised by the paucity of public art – there are very few murals or public statues and sculptures here.

But the city is pretty, and the mountains that surround it reminded me of my home town, Tucson, just a few hundred miles away to the southwest.

The restaurant scene is also a lot smaller than what we’re used to in our current home town, but we did find an awesome place to eat in the heart of Downtown – Brixens:

Brixens - queer Albuquerque

This is a cool, reasonably priced modern restaurant that combines a comfortable atmosphere with a mix of New Mexican and American cuisine, and some innovative touches as well. The menus are all touch screen tablets, which allows them to change the mix regularly. Each item has its own page, with an appetizing picture, price, details about the ingredients, and all kinds of options for picky diners. The swipe and click interface is easy to use, and I loved all the info at our fingertips.

Each table also includes an ice bin in the middle, covered by a board with a hole in it, to keep your beers cold.

We ate here three times over the five days we were in town – the burger was great, as was the flatbread – but the stand-out here was the desserts, especially the fry bread – it’s big enough to easily serve four, and I’m convinced that the one I had was responsible for half my six pound weight gain on this trip:

fry bread at Brixens - queer Albuquerque

Another restaurant just down the street intrigued us:

The Library - queer Albuquerque

We were in town for a book convention, after all – but it was a bit too much of a dark, hooters style bar for our tastes.

We spent most of our one non-conference day over in Old Town, the (touristy) heart of the city. I liked Old Town. Yes, there were about ten thousand shops selling the same things, most of it made overseas. But it has a certain charm, and we managed to find a few gems there.

Old Town surrounds a central square, and funny story – when we were there, a wedding was taking place in the gazebo in the heart of the square. We checked it out from afar, and saw that the bride and groom were in t-shirts – “Second Amendment Rights” t-shirts, to be exact. So yeah, there’s that. As I remarked to the hubby – “hey, at least they found each other. Once the wedding party was gone, Mark strode around the gazebo’s interior a few times to dispel the gun karma with a little fairy dust of his own:

gazebo - old town - queer Albuquerque

St. Felipe de Neri

On the north side of the square, a beautiful peach-colored church dominates the block. This is St. Felipe de Neri, named for an Italian saint Philipe di Neri. The church was built in another location, burned down, and when it was reconstructed in its current location, it was funded by Spain and King Felipe, named for the original saint. It’s a beautiful little church that has gone through three or four reconstructions, from Jesuit to Franciscan, once hosted a convent, and and which is still an active community church:

St. Felioe de Neri - queer Albuquerque

There’s also a lovely side courtyard/garden to wander through:

St. Felipe de Neri courtyard - queer albuquerque

And the inside is simple but beautiful:

St. Felipe de Neri interior - queer Albuquerque

Bonus, there’s a cute little gift shop attached to the church. We found a beautiful hand-made angel ornament there for a friend, and I bought a miniature replica of the church to take home as a memento of our time in queer Albuquerque.

La Choco

This is a cute store and candy shop on the eastern side of Old Town, perfect for a quick chocolate pick-me-up. But it also had some really cool merchandise, including balloon ornaments designed by the owner and made in Mexico. You can see some of them hanging from the ceiling in the second picture:

La Choco - Queer Albuquerque

La Choco - Queer Albuquerque

Genuine Southwest Arts and Gifts

This was our favorite shop in Old Town. The whole place is chock-full of art made by local artists, and while you could spend a whole lotta money here, you can also get some great things at reasonable prices (including the beautiful turquoise-colored earrings I found for my Mom – don’t tell her)! The shop is tucked away on the Eastern edge of Old Town, but it’s well worth the search. here are a few of the pics we took there of their beautiful gifts and art (including a few rainbow finds):

Genuine Southwest Art & Gifts - Queer Albuquerque

Genuine Southwest Art & Gifts - Queer Albuquerque

Genuine Southwest Art & Gifts - Queer Albuquerque

Genuine Southwest Art & Gifts - Queer Albuquerque

Church Street Cafe

When you wind down and want a nice place to eat, check out the Church Street Cafe. It’s about a block north of the square. The food was good, if not the best Mexican I’ve ever had, and the back courtyard was beautiful.

Church Street cafe - Queer New Mexico

The sopapillas after dinner were hot and delicious, especially with a little honey (though we wished they had honey bottles instead of packets).

I won’t mention the name of another restaurant – this one on the square – that was out of almost everything, and that served us a “salad” of green lettuce with no dressing that was basically cooked by a helping of poor quality dark meat chicken put on top too hot, and smothered with cheddar cheese.

All in all, we had a great time in Albuquerque, and hope you enjoy it too!

Here are a few ore pics of Old Town from our trip:

Queer Albuquerque

Queer Albuquerque

Queer Albuquerque

Queer Albuquerque

Queer Albuquerque

Queer Albuquerque



Gay Friendly Montreal Restaurants – The Nomadic Boys

Author: , October 12th, 2019

Gay Friendly Montreal Restaurants - The Nomadic Boys

Our chips-loving Frenchman Seby was dying to try the famous poutine when we visited Montreal. And he wasn’t disappointed. After a night out exploring the gay scene of Montreal, this gravy-cheese-curd-fries concoction is the perfect hangover food your body needs!

Over the past few centuries, Montreal has experienced many culinary influences as a result of the large waves of immigration, particularly from Europe and Asia. These have all merged together to form a pretty unique set of delicious bucket list items to try. These are our 10 favourite gay friendly restaurants in Montreal, which we tried, loved and think everyone should check out when they visit.

Le Saloon Bis

This is one of the best gay brunch spots in Montreal in our opinion, and the place for fresh faces to the city to try a Bloody Caesar cocktail.

The Bloody Caesar is Canada’s famous cocktail, similar to the Bloody Mary but infused with clam broth. It tastes a lot better than it sounds!

This Canadian cocktail was invented at the Westin Hotel in Calgary in 1969 and has since spread massively in popularity across the entire country. A typical Bloody Caesar contains vodka mixed with clam-infused tomato juice (Clamato), lime, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.

Full Story at The Nomadic Boys

Quebec Gay Travel Resources


Gay Taipei’s a Foodie Paradise – Mic.com

Author: , December 12th, 2018

gay taipei - crab - pixabay

If your idea of vacation planning is obsessively researching every restaurant, bar, coffee shop and food stand, gay Taipei, Taiwan, belongs on your bucket list. Taiwan’s sprawling capital city is home to 2.7 million residents and what feels like just as many must-visit spots for food and drink.

The island has a contentious history, with bouts of Dutch, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese presence or rule, and Taipei’s rich culinary landscape includes nods to its diverse colonial past as well as the traditions of the indigenous population: fresh Japanese seafood at DOZO Izakaya Bar, superstar soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung, fine-dining French exports like L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon, unbelievable street food like stinky tofu, innovative cocktails from the R&D Cocktail Lab, German beer halls like Buckskin Beerhouse, scenic tea houses atop Maokong mountain — and that barely scratches the surface.

There’s never been a better time to visit. In the first Michelin Guide Taipei, the city had 20 restaurants receive stars, with restaurants ranging from the three-star Le Palais, famous for its expertly executed Cantonese fare, to the one-star Taiwanese-meets-Nordic hit Mume.

Thirty-six joints made Michelin’s Bib Gourmand category, including 10 street food stalls scattered throughout the Taipei’s famous night markets, where tourists, locals and everyone in between sample piping-hot black pepper buns and pearl milk tea. You’ll also find plenty of excellent shops, hotels and tourist attractions — Taipei 101, once the world’s tallest building, is definitely worth braving the crowds for — to fill time between meals.

By Meredith Heil – Full Story at Mic.com

Lost in Translation in Hangzhou – Keep Calm and Wander

Author: , November 16th, 2018

Lost in Translation in Hangzhou

“Welcome to the back!” proclaimed an English sign at the front door of a small Chinese restaurant in Hangzhou, a city in China, known for its West Lake. It was here where Marco Polo once sailed, mesmerized by its stunning beauty and declared the place in ancient times as “the most beautiful place in the world.”

Six exhausted backpackers from four countries and I, who all met in a hostel, froze for a moment in silence, as if trying to decipher one of China’s ancient, decrepit signboard. We exchanged quick glances, hoping one had a clue to share. We were pretty sure we were standing at the entrance, not the back, of the restaurant. Almost in unison, we quickly realized what the sign meant was, “Welcome back.” It’s one of those rampant translations gone wrong in Chinglish, a blend of Chinese and English.

With hunger excruciatingly creeping into our stomachs, we gave up looking for another restaurant. We’d been walking all day and we were so hungry we could eat a barrel of dumplings sans chopsticks.

Two ladies behind the reception desk smiled when we came in. One disappeared quickly to call someone from the kitchen. When we were all seated, the other waitress came with a kettle of tea and a vacuum flask of hot water. She carefully poured the hot water and tea alternately with impeccable skill. When she was done, she said something in Chinese and our jaws dropped. We understood not a single word. She looked at each one of our tired faces, hoping a single one of us could make sense of what she just said. Meeting our uncomprehending looks, she smiled sheepishly and left embarrassed.

By Alain – Full Story at Keep Calm and Wander

China Gay Travel Resources


Eating Out: Austria – Passport Magazine

Author: , September 10th, 2018

Austria - Pixabay

I ask an American what is considered quintessential Austrian cuisine, and you’re likely to get a furrowed brow. At roughly 32,000 square miles (think South Carolina, but landlocked), the country shares borders and cultural influences with the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, and Slovakia. In its heyday, the Austrian Empire was one of the most powerful in Europe, ruled by the Habsburgs for nearly six centuries. The declared war against Serbia marked the beginning of World War I, and by 1918 the dynasty was history. Nazi invasion followed and an eventual restoration of autonomy with the help of the Allied Forces.

Sitting at the epicenter of Europe’s evershifting alliances has tested Austria’s resiliency, but it has also laid the groundwork for culinary inspiration drawn from historical trade routes and centuries-old farming and agriculture industries. I recently visited the land of Wiener schnitzel and pumpkinseed oil in search of Austria’s best bites, and to taste how the country is keeping pace with 21stcentury gastronomy trends, while still maintaining its authentic traditions.

Vienna is Europe’s unsung hero for stunning Gothic, baroque, and modern architecture. It also boasts the Ringstrasse, a three-mile circular road where you can find the Vienna State Opera, the Museum of Fine Arts, and other Insta-worthy landmarks. Commissioned by Emperor Franz Joseph in 1857, it is the symbol of the city’s penchant for the finer things in life and still serves as an anchor for Vienna’s bustling and sophisticated lifestyle.

I begin my edible excursion by checking into the Grand Ferdinand (Schubertring 10-12. Tel: +43-1-91880. www.grandferdinand.com), hotelier Florian Weitzer’s opulent reimagining of several adjacent 1950’s office buildings. Its showcase restaurant, Meissl & Schadn (www.meisslundschadn.at), pays homage to the legendary namesake hotel and restaurant that opened in Vienna in 1896 but didn’t survive the city’s World War II bombing. History is reborn with classic recipes served in a dramatic setting featuring wicker chairs, tiled pillars, low-hanging chandeliers, and crisp white linens.

But it’s the sound of veal cutlets pounded into plate-size portions in the salon kitchen that gives Meissl & Schaden its signature Viennese flair. Dipped in free-range eggs then coated in breadcrumbs, the Wiener schnitzel sizzles away (in your choice of clarified butter, lard, or neutral vegetable oil) until crispy. Finished with a hearty squeeze of lemon, it embodies the essence of classic Austrian cuisine.

By Matthew Wexler – Full Story at Passport Magazine

LOCATION Gay Travel Resources

Romantic, Gay Toronto – The Nomadic Boys

Author: , June 8th, 2018

Romantic, Gay Toronto - The Nomadic Boys

Toronto is an exciting city in Canada to visit. It has over 40 million visitors each year, and is home to 8,100 restaurants and bars. This is one of the most diverse places on our planet, with over 180 languages and dialects spoken.

Toronto is also a very fun place to come as a couple. We loved discovering the many touristic sites here, especially the CN Tower and the massive aquarium. Following our visit, we’ve put together our 5 favourite romantic things to do in Toronto to inspire your trip.

Romantic Dinner at the CN Tower

The CN Tower is one of the most iconic buildings in the city. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, and when adding in the height of its antenna on top, it’s the tallest freestanding structure in the western hemisphere, standing proud at 553m/1,815ft. It was built in the 1960s by the Canadian National Railway (CN) because they wanted a communications tower tall enough so that any radio or TV communications from it would not be obstructed by the many other high-rise buildings in the city.

As well as being able to visit the tower for the best views across the city, it also has a revolving restaurant to dine at. We had one of our favourite romantic meals here at the tower’s 360 The Restaurant. The food is delicious, with a mix of fresh sea food, steaks and other local classics. Definitely one for a special occasion.

Queer Granada: Best Restaurants – The Globetrotter Guys

Author: , May 17th, 2018

Queer Nicaragua - The Globetrotter Guys

We celebrated our first wedding anniversary this year in Granada. This was a great excuse to visit lots of incredible restaurants during the week and enjoy being wined and dined.

We are self-admitted food snobs. We rarely go to a restaurant unless we have scoured TripAdvisor first and it has highly rated feedback. Both of us love food, and if we are going to blow our travelling budget eating somewhere ‘fancy’, it better be worth it!

Luckily, Granada has a lot to offer, both in terms of budget and type of cuisine. If you visit Granada, be sure to visit the following restaurants that have made our list, you won’t be disappointed!

Ciudad Lounge

We ate here on our anniversary and had high expectations based on their TripAdvisor reviews. They took our expectations and went above and beyond!

Ciudad Lounge is run by a couple: Noemi, who runs front of house, and William, who is the chef. Located 5 minutes out of the centre of Granada, they class themselves as a ‘destination’ restaurant, somewhere people are recommended to visit, where you make the effort to go, rather than a restaurant you stumble across by chance. Here is a place where the focus is really on the ‘experience’ of dining, as well as the food and drink.

We did not quite understand what they meant by this until we tried it for ourselves, and we loved the concept.

Initially, you are taken to sit comfortably in the lounge area where you can enjoy some of the best cocktails we have had in a while, (see below what we tried). This is where you can also enjoy your appetisers, before being taken to your table in the main part of the restaurant just as your mains are ready. This felt seamless and we enjoyed breaking up the meal into different parts of the restaurant.

Full Story at The Globetrotter Guys

Nicaragua Gay Travel Resources


Food in Italy – Dolly Travels

Author: , March 23rd, 2018

Food in Italy

Good morning, all,

As you know, if Italy is not on my mind, food is. When I have the opportunity to enjoy both Italy and the food of Italy, I am in Nirvana. Fortunately, whenever I go to Italy, I have been able to find apartments with a kitchen, no matter how small, and I can cook sometimes. When I am not cooking, I am always on the lookout for restaurants that serve specialties of the area.

This was the beginning of one meal in Rome on my last visit. Notice the stove with its 2 burners, a small sink and countertop, but that was sufficient space for me to make our dinner of tortellini soup and Caprese salad. Notice that I was able to buy the soup vegetables in a package. I love that I can just pick up one package and have carrots, celery, onions and parsley without buying a lot of either vegetable.

Each area of Italy has its own food specialty, according to what grows well in the area, for Italians use foods that are locally grown and not difficult to find.

Risotto, for instance, is a dish that originated in the Lombardia area, for the weather up in that northern part of Italy is cooler, and rice is one of the principal foods grown in that region.

Further south of Lombardia is the Emilia-Romagna region, where Bologna is a major city. It was in that city that the Bolognese sauce was born, as beef and pork are both raised in this area. The traditional meats used in the Bolognese sauce are veal, pork and beef, simmered with garlic, tomatoes and herbs for hours. This sauce is used for lasagne and spaghetti. The trattorie of Bologna specialize in dishes prepared with this sauce.

Corn is another crop grown in this area of Emilia-Romagna, so polenta is another dish you will find on the menu of the area.

Up in the most eastern part of the country is Venice, situated on the Adriatic Sea; therefore, the specialties of Venice are seafood delicacies. My favorite dish from that area is baked sea bass, although many varieties of seafood are available, as one trip to the fish market near the Rialto bridge will tell you.

On the other side of the country, on the Ligurian Sea, is Genoa, home of pesto, and the Cinque Terre, the 5 villages along the rugged coast, where fishing is a major commerce.

Going south and more westward, is Florence, almost in the midway point between east and west, with no seacoast. The most famous dish of Florence is the Bistecca Alla Fiorentina, a porterhouse steak from the Chianina beef that are only raised in Tuscany. These animals are huge!! I went to a festival once that featured the bistecca. The butchers marched into the Piazza Republicca, led by a band and accompanied by lovely ladies in Renaissance costumes. The butchers brought in sides of that Chianina beef and laid them on a big work table and started slicing off steaks. These steaks are cut about 2 inches thick and each steak weighs about 1 kilo (2.2 pounds). The steaks are brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, then thrown onto a grill, they are cooked 5 to 6 minutes on one side, turned over and cooked 5 to 6 minutes on the other. Some chefs brush balsamic vinegar onto the steak after it is cooked, but I have not found if that is the normal way of doing things. It does no good to ask for your steak to be cooked medium or medium well; If you do not like your steak rare and bleeding, don’t order Bistecca alla fiorentina. The beef, though, is very tender and very tasty.

There are numerous farms as well as vineyards in the Tuscany region. Chianti is the most famous of the wines of that area, but farm crops, such as spinach also abound. If you see a dish on the menu that has the word “Florentine” or “Fiorentina” in its title, it probably has spinach in it. One of the dishes I had one of my tour groups make while we stayed in Florence, was Gnocchi alla Fiorentina….little pillows of potato and flour dough, with eggs and spinach incorporated into them. Those little fluffy pillows are cooked in simmering water, drained and served with almost any type of pasta sauce, but they really show off their tastiness with just some browned butter over them and Parmesan cheese.

As you travel further south in Italy, there are numerous hill towns. Wild game is plentiful in the hills and valleys of these areas, so foods made with the wild boar, cinghale, are prominent on the menu.

Rome claims to be the birthplace of pasta all carbonara, where freshly cooked pasta is tossed with egg, bacon and cheese. Pasta Arrabiata is another pasta dish that supposedly originated in Rome. Rome also promotes pasta l’amatriciana as theirs, although that dish actually came from the village of Amatrice, up in the hills east of Rome. That village was nearly destroyed by earthquakes a few years ago. Restaurants all over Italy held fund-raisers for that city by featuring pasta l’amatriciana on their menus, with proceeds from sale of that dish going to earthquake relief of the village.

One word of caution, though, when in Rome, do NOT try to order any pasta with Alfredo sauce. You will be met with cold stares, unfriendly words, for no one in Italy considers Alfredo sauce to be truly Italian. Yes, it was developed by a chef in Rome for a famous Hollywood couple, but it was his invention and not a traditional Italian sauce.

Further south of Rome is Naples, the birthplace of pizza. Traveling even further south we come to Sorrento, known for its lemons (limoncello) and seafood. I look forward to going to Sorrento, to the Ristorante Delfino on the Marina Grande, and enjoying spaghetti with clams, my favorite Italian dish anywhere, but especially when prepared at that ristorante.

No matter what you eat or in what area of Italy you are, there is always time and a place for gelato. And no matter how old you are, you must have a gelato.

So until next time, I hope you have enjoyed a little food tour of Italy.

Ciao for now,