fake-cation to florence!

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Happy 2021!

I hope you all had restful enjoyable holiday breaks and were able to come into the new year feeling like your phone after a long overnight software update and super-charging session! (Hm… I’m going to keep workshopping that new year greeting…)

We had about the loveliest fake vacation to Florence possible and I want to tell you all about it before I scamper off to filming GMF (season 8!):

  1. We basically just ate a bunch of mozzarella and prosciutto all week that we splurged on from the fancy section of the grocery store (by the bakery, not in the deli section) and it was delicious. We even acquired burrata which I’ve never seen in a grocery in Grand Forks. That was a TREAT! We had it all week long with loads of basil and the focaccia and Tuscan bread from Emiko’s book.

  2. For dinners, we cooked through Emiko’s book and made a great brick chicken, lots and lots of beans, homemade pappardelle, and one of the best homemade pizzas I’ve ever had in my life. It was so simple, just San Marzano tomatoes from the can, fresh mozzarella, and basil… but the thing I loved extra about it was dusting the dough with semolina flour for some good crunchiness.

  3. We celebrated Christmas outside with steamy bowls of ribollita and the weather was perfect. Not that I love talking about the weather but if we’re going to be forced to socially distance on a wintery holiday, we could at least get nice sitting-outside weather and we did!

  4. Our Florentine art exploration included making a “fresco” with Bernie, AKA we taped a big sheet of paper to the wall and drew all over it with crayons and rubber stamps. We made a mountain scene with ducks, so many ducks.

  5. We took a “day trip to ski* in the Italian Alps**” (*sled on a giant inflatable unicorn, **on a hill in town)

  6. We went “wine tasting* all over the hills of Tuscany**” (*swing set testing, **playgrounds of Grand Forks)

  7. Had not one but two blissful spa days, AKA I sat in a coconut tub with a face mask on and read Adam Rippon’s book for the entirety of Bernie’s nap time. Then used a lot of cuticle oil.

  8. Watched some great TV on the “airplane” (couch), including The Flight Attendant, Bobby and Giada in Italy, Bridgerton, Wonder Woman, Big, and Soul. Wow, Soul.

  9. Meditated! I got the Calm app and wow my brain is like “Thank U, self!!” 10/10 recommend.

Where should we fake go to next?? Should we time travel back to the 90s and only eat pizza rolls and dunkaroos all week? Ooh that sounds fun… Alright g2g, figure skating nationals is on!! Bye!!!

-yeh!

The Prized Uzbeki Dumplings I’d Bike Across the Country For

Every summer in New York, I bike to Beach 92nd Street in Far Rockaway and rush to lock up my bike in front of a large wood sign with bright primary letters spelling out “Uma’s.” Inside, under a bright tin ceiling, my eyes devour the Uzbeki specials on …

Every summer in New York, I bike to Beach 92nd Street in Far Rockaway and rush to lock up my bike in front of a large wood sign with bright primary letters spelling out “Uma’s.” Inside, under a bright tin ceiling, my eyes devour the Uzbeki specials on the board and follow each dish bustling out of the kitchen, my veggie-loving and meat-loving sides tug-of-warring over my order.

But the veggie-loving side of me wins every time. A round blue-rimmed plate clatters onto my table bearing the sweet, savory fruits of Uma’s labor: squash manti. These little purses of steamed dough from heaven, their edges gathered around sweet, tender cubes of squash, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with onions, are worth biking 20 treacherous miles over bumpy foot bridges and bike lane-less Brooklyn boulevards.

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15 New Year’s Food Traditions From Around the World

We have a very, er, specific New Year’s Eve food tradition in my household.

It’s an elaborate shrimp tree, and my mother and I spend hours constructing it each year. There’s the day-of, panicked search for the correctly shaped and perfectly sized foam…

We have a very, er, specific New Year's Eve food tradition in my household.

It's an elaborate shrimp tree, and my mother and I spend hours constructing it each year. There's the day-of, panicked search for the correctly shaped and perfectly sized foam cone, which somehow always gets tossed away during the year prior. There's the painstaking affixing of curly kale leaves to said foam cone (once procured), in the style of a full Christmas tree. There's the careful preparation of a perfectly seasoned cocktail sauce. And then, just before our New Year's Eve party starts, there's the pinning of each individual shrimp to the tree, using colorful toothpicks, to look like a wrap-around garland.

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This Is How We Celebrate Chuseok, Korean Thanksgiving

Happy Chuseok!

Photo by Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service

You might be able to readily identify what the third Thursday of November is, but w…

Happy Chuseok! Photo by Korea.net / Korean Culture and Information Service

You might be able to readily identify what the third Thursday of November is, but what about the 15th day of the eighth month of the lunar calendar?

To Koreans, this time is called Chuseok, also known as Hangawi. And as big as Thanksgiving is in the U.S., Chuseok is huge in Korea. It's one of the country's most significant holidays of the year, and could even be called Korean Thanksgiving.

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The Kimchi-Cheddar Croissant I Can’t Stop Dreaming About

It’s 9:45 on a Saturday morning. While the rest of Dublin is still asleep or comfy in their homes, a line twenty-strong hugs the plaster siding of the Fumbally Stables market, waiting until the doors open at 10. Behind me in line, two young girls who c…

It’s 9:45 on a Saturday morning. While the rest of Dublin is still asleep or comfy in their homes, a line twenty-strong hugs the plaster siding of the Fumbally Stables market, waiting until the doors open at 10. Behind me in line, two young girls who can't be older than ten poke each other, while an older girl with them talks on the phone. The heavy, salty air whispers of impending rain and I grimace at the clouds gathering overhead.

Finally, the doors to the market open and the line surges forward. While the weekly market features seasonal vegetables, a cult-favorite Irish sauce brand, and more, we all risk the rain for the pastries from Scéal Bakery.

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Brunching and Munching in Melbourne, Australia

What’s not to love about Melbourne, Australia? From the bustling CBD to the free public transportation to the amazing brunch scene, Melbourne is most definitely one of our favorite cities we’ve visited. Spending 6 days in one place sounds like a lot, but we had absolutely no problem filling our time (and our stomachs) in […]

What’s not to love about Melbourne, Australia? From the bustling CBD to the free public transportation to the amazing brunch scene, Melbourne is most definitely one of our favorite cities we’ve visited.

Spending 6 days in one place sounds like a lot, but we had absolutely no problem filling our time (and our stomachs) in Melbourne. Be sure to check out the end of this post for a full list of our recommendations!

A rainy street in Melbourne, Australia with tram

Since it’s not looking like we’re going to be going anywhere in the near future, I may as well spend my time writing about the last trip we were lucky enough to go on last September to Australia.

Living vicariously through my past self, if you will.

So much has happened since then, including the massive fires that swept through the entire country (that was in January. THIS YEAR January, even though it seems like it was 3 years ago at this point. Craziness).

Anyway, we stumbled across a fabulous airfare deal to Australia, $600 from Nashville. Since the typical fare is well over twice that, we really didn’t hesitate and booked a trip for two weeks in September, flying into Melbourne and out of Sydney. We figured since you’re on the plane for so dang long, and lose a few days just adjusting to jet lag, anything shorter would really be a waste.

Let me just say, typically after 14 days of travel we’ve had our fun and are ready to come home. Typically around 12 days is the perfect length trip for us.

And yet…

As the end of our trip loomed ever closer, we found ourselves thinking we could have easily stayed for another two weeks. Or longer even.

That goes to show just how much we loved Melbourne and Sydney, and Australia in general. We simply didn’t want to leave.

(more…)

My Time-Traveling Bowl of Spaghetti & Meat Sauce

It always starts the same. I slick the bottom of my biggest enameled cast iron pot with a glug of olive oil then, thwap! I plop in a brick of fatty ground beef or pork, reveling in the crackling applause as its edges start to caramelize. I sprinkle the…

It always starts the same. I slick the bottom of my biggest enameled cast iron pot with a glug of olive oil then, thwap! I plop in a brick of fatty ground beef or pork, reveling in the crackling applause as its edges start to caramelize. I sprinkle the browned meat with salt before scooping it out and tipping in a heap of diced onions, their familiar sizzle and aroma wrapping me in a warm embrace.

From there, the meat sauce I’ve cooked faithfully throughout my adulthood can take up a hundred tiny variations before I toss it with pasta and shove comforting heaps of it in my face. Most often, it involves plenty of chopped garlic, pureed tomatoes, a handful of torn herbs, and maybe a splash of last night’s red wine.

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The Unforgettable Pasta That Makes Me Long For Italy

In Our World, Before & After, we’re asking our favorite culture writers, cooks, and home/design experts to describe how life will be different after COVID-19—with essays on cooking and being at home, the new ways and foods we’ll eat, plus travel gu…

In Our World, Before & After, we're asking our favorite culture writers, cooks, and home/design experts to describe how life will be different after COVID-19—with essays on cooking and being at home, the new ways and foods we’ll eat, plus travel guides (both real and imagined).


If Italy were an over-the-knee boot, Riomaggiore would be where the top edge rests on the thigh. It’s the southernmost of the five villages forming Cinque Terre, or “five lands,” hugging the Italian Riviera.

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Padma Lakshmi’s Prized Family Recipe: Crispy Masala Dosas With Coconut Chutney

Padma Lakshmi poses a difficult question to her daughter, Krishna, in the third episode of her new Hulu docu-series, Taste the Nation: “Do you prefer American pancakes to dosas?” Dosa being the paper-thin, crispy-edged, savory South Indian crepes made …

Padma Lakshmi poses a difficult question to her daughter, Krishna, in the third episode of her new Hulu docu-series, Taste the Nation: “Do you prefer American pancakes to dosas?” Dosa being the paper-thin, crispy-edged, savory South Indian crepes made of ground lentils and rice flour that she grew up eating three of in one sitting, and American pancakes being the fluffy stacks topped with butter and syrup. After some deliberation, Krishna replies, “I like pancakes...but I think I prefer dosas to waffles.”

Lakshmi has dealt with the duality of her food identities as an Indian-American person since she moved to the States when she was four years old. The pitting of dosas—which are her most nostalgic, homey comfort food—against the diner staple isn’t something she does often. Instead, she makes room for both in her Sunday brunches at home with her daughter, and applies that mindset to the rest of her life too. She doesn’t have to choose to be Indian or American on any given day.

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Is This the Most Refreshing Drink in the World?

I’ll never forget my first taste of Rooh Afza, the “Summer Drink of the East,” a South Asian syrup that was a mainstay in our house growing up. It was as if something had turned on inside of me. I could only liken it to the first time ones tries cheese…

I’ll never forget my first taste of Rooh Afza, the "Summer Drink of the East,” a South Asian syrup that was a mainstay in our house growing up. It was as if something had turned on inside of me. I could only liken it to the first time ones tries cheese, or a first kiss. I never knew such a flavor could exist and that it could bring me such pleasure.

The two ingredients that give Rooh Afza its signature taste are rose water and kewra, which is also known as Screw Pine Essence. This name is a misnomer; I mistakenly believed for years in the existence of some type of floral pine tree, but kewra is actually the white flower of the pandanus plant. The leaves of this plant, called pandan, are a ubiquitous flavoring in many Southeast Asian desserts. The flower is a vital ingredient in many special-occasion dishes in South Asia, particularly those associated with Muslim communities.

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