Lessons from a Catalan kitchen

cooking in Barcelona

“We are chefs, not magicians!” Chef Alvaro told as we toured Barcelona’s Santa Caterina market, collecting ingredients for our cooking lesson. Basque-born and -trained, Catalonian by marriage, Alvaro Brun is a food enthusiast to the core. He is also an ambassador for the fundamentals of good cooking. Before we even tied on our aprons, we were reminded to choose fresh ingredients, choose the proper ingredients for the dish at hand, and above all choose ingredients sure to deliver authentic flavors. Continue reading

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Flying with Àngel: ballooning over Catalonia

Flying high with GlobusKonTikiAs our flight topped out at about 2150 meters (7055 feet), Àngel pointed toward the southeast and said “You can almost see the coastline.” It was hazy in the distance but nearer, within a 10-mile radius, the landscape was studded with villages. Roads wound through fields of terraced farm land, bright green on a May morning. I have always wanted to float on air currents like an eagle, and in Catalonia I had the chance to do just that. Continue reading

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Blanes, gateway to Catalonia’s “Wild Coast”

La Sardana Catalonia’s national danceThe scent of pine spirals toward me and sand crunches underfoot. An intermittent sun splashes light, then retreats, leaving shadows of palm trees across the path. Bees strum the rosy petals of a family-sized bush lounging fragrantly nearby. The way dips, then curves upward and becomes a staircase as the Mediterranean comes into view. The sea air is fresh and the breeze becomes a bluster as I near the promontory. The stunning Marimurtra Botanic Garden at Blanes has given me my southernmost opportunity for a true sense of Catalonia’s “Wild Coast”. Continue reading

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Prime time for food travel

PortugalCultural tourism is booming, and travelers are increasingly seeking out the culinary experiences so important to authentic cultural exploration. Last week, Tom and I traveled to Estoril, Portugal to learn more about food travel as a part of a destination’s branding and services, and what this might mean for us as a writer-photographer team forever “traveling on our stomachs.” Continue reading

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In search of Portuguese flavors

Alentejo

When Tom and I traveled in Portugal last year, we gloried in its varied landscapes, magnificent sunsets, and vibrant history. We visited cities bedecked with art, old and new–much of it depicting culinary traditions, from salt production to baked goods, as well as seafaring traditions. In our quest for authentic Portuguese flavors, we thrilled to regional food specialties and wines from north to south and back again. Continue reading

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Why is coffee in Portugal so good?

coffee

Any coffee lover who has traveled in Portugal knows that nothing makes Pastel de nata go down better than a good cup of coffee–uma bica in Lisbon or um cimbalino in Porto. But do you know why this is? Having enjoyed coffee around the country for several months, I set about finding out. Continue reading

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Basel’s Merian Gardens: now a “Garden of Switzerland”

Merian Gardens Nothing announces spring like daffodils popping up through scraggly grass. And once that happens, there’s no stopping the day-dreaming after the real thing, even if tree limbs are still bare. Day dreams being what they are, here’s a preview of one of my favorite places in Basel to pass a spring or summer afternoon: the parkland surrounding the Villa Merian in Brüglingen, slightly out of Basel’s city center. The hilly acreage is surrounded by industrial Dreispitz and the sports complex at St. Jacob, and easily accessible via public transport. Continue reading

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Igloo Festival in the Berner Oberland

iglooMarch in the Alps can be magnificent, and last weekend was one of the best, especially at 2,000 meters, above Adelboden in the Berner Oberland. When I was invited to bring my camera to Engstligenalp for Igloo Festival 2015, I happily said yes. It was a creative, colorful weekend in the mountains–and yes, this is an igloo! Continue reading

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Basel Fasnacht 2015 in 20 photos

Basel FasnachtBasel’s Fasnacht, as Carnival is known here–is a blur of sight and sound, color and music. It goes on non-stop in the city’s Old Town for exactly 72 hours in the week following Ash Wednesday. This year, Anita and I watched Morgenstreich from the vantage point of a friend’s apartment in the midst of the action. Continue reading

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A Basel Fasnacht primer

Basel FasnachtI love quirky cultural traditions, and Basel’s Carnival celebration is right up there when it comes to quirky. In our years in Switzerland, Tom and I have enjoyed the festivities all the more since we learned some of the back story. Called the “drey scheenschte Dääg”, or “three most beautiful days” of the year by Basel residents, just about everything about Fasnacht here involves uniquely local traditions. Continue reading

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