November 2008 Archives

Italy Wine Country: From Puglia with Olive Oil

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By Courtney Cochran

My boyfriend - who is from Puglia, in the heel of Italy's boot - signed one of his first emails to me "from Puglia with olive oil" (a bit of a comedian, this one). Until then, I'd only known vaguely of Puglia as a place of hearty red wines and wholesome country manners in Italy's sunny south.

But it turns out that - as hinted in Antonio's email - Puglia is also home to some 60 million olive trees that together produce a significant portion of Italy's annual olive oil output. As a result, olive oil is drizzled over just about everything that crosses the table in Puglia, including the hearty pastas that have already - before arriving at table - been prepared in oil. And while this might sound like overkill to those unaccustomed to such intensive intake of the stuff, I can assure you that it's quite delicious, and never seems like a bad idea when you're faced with yet another plate of fabulously fresh local fare.

Pictured here, Anto mid-drizzle.
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Italy Wine Country: Of Orecchiette and Octopus

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courtney_octopus.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

In Barbara Kingsolver's delightful "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" the author criticizes Americans' penchant for eating things trucked over thousands of miles in lieu of goods produced locally. The reason for our bad habits, which negatively impact our environment and send food dollars away from local communities? Kingsolver claims it's due to our lack of something she calls a "food culture" - a set of beliefs and customs unique to a country that compel its constituents to prefer foods that originate nearby. Italy, she asserts, is an excellent example of a country with a model food culture.

In Italy's sunny Puglia region - literally, the heel of the boot - seafood caught in the nearby Adriatic, pizza and rustic pasta dishes reign supreme.

By Courtney Cochran


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It's been raining A LOT here, but the food is amazing!


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courtney2 006.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

When pressed for time in Rome, it helps to have an Italian guide. Thanks to my travel companion's city smarts, we were able to see a lot on our last day - emphasis on lot.

For starters, we took in the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, followed by a viewing of the Campidoglio (Roman capitol) and lunch in the Jewish Ghetto, a fascinating part of the city in which modern apartments have literally been built on top of ancient ruins (talk about juxtaposition!).

courtney2 007.jpgAfter lunch we took in Largo di Torre Argentina, a fascinating excavation site of several Republican temples that doubles as a sanctuary for homeless cats (always a sucker for felines, this one), the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di Spagna and the adjacent Spanish Steps. (Phew!) It was a whirlwind, but a fascinating whirlwind - to say the least - and fittingly capped by a rooftop Champagne cocktail at the International Academy of Wine at the Spanish Steps.

Travel Deal of the Week - Adelaide Inn

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AdelaideInn.jpgVenture to Central Coast California for a San Luis Obispo/Paso Robles Wine Country escape. Adelaide Inn offers affordable vacation packages for couples and families. To celebrate the wineries of Paso Robles, each month the Inn partners with a local winery. Cozy guestrooms, fabulous wine tasting, all ranging from $112/couple to $132/couple.

Featured Wineries:
Winery package includes:
  • Executive King Room
  • Complimentary Bottle of Wine
  • Wine Tasting tickets for 2 or Discounts on Wine Purchases

CLICK HERE for more details and to book online.

Adelaide Inn
1215 Ysabel Avenue
Paso Robles, CA 93446

courtney2 003.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Apparently, getting a private tour of Vatican Palace is about as difficult as getting into a very, very, very exclusive nightclub. So when - thanks to a highly fortunate personal connection - we were granted one, we knew we were in for a treat. Upon entering ultra exclusive Vatican City, a private city state with its own post office, radio station and publishing house, we were ushered through the Vatican's private gardens and Papal Palace by a bishop himself. And while walking unheeded through the sacred halls where the Pope conducts business, eats, sleeps and entertains, I had the singular feeling that this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Highlights included standing on the balcony overlooking Piazza San Pietro from which the Pope addresses crowds of thousands, visiting a curious private room designed as an enclave for birds - with walls frescoed by Raphael in delicate flora and fauna, and touring the great halls where the Pope receives foreign dignitaries and other important people (there is actually a throne in the largest!).

Italy Wine Country: The best little bar in Rome

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courtney 014.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

While wandering through the twisting, cobbled streets of Rome's historic center one evening, we stumbled upon a tiny wine bar called Baronato Quattro Bellezze. With its dim lighting and barely-discernible sign out front, we could have easily passed right by without noticing it. But, being on vacation, we were in the habit of noticing things, and decided to head inside. There, four tables fit snugly inside the bar's main room, which is presided over by a fantastical 18th-Century carousel horse. Thick velvet drapes frame the horse on either side, and lend a decidedly theatrical vibe to the spot (something we discovered was no coincidence, since they sometimes stage small performances right there on the bar - one of which we had the pleasure of attending the next night!). Cozily tucked into a corner table, we sipped wildly popular spritz cocktails (wine, Aperol bitters and soda water) to a soundtrack of Frank Sinatra and other nostalgic tunes.

Italy Wine Country: Transmitting from Trastevere

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rome2.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Arrived at the outset of an incredible rainstorm, so took advantage of the weather to take a long nap. Jetlag assuaged, we set out to explore Rome by twilight, walking from the Colonnato del Bernini in front of the Vatican, past Castel Sant'Angelo, across the Tiber to Campo de Fiori and on to Piazza Navona, the great Baroque courtyard surrounded by tourist-filled restaurants and bars.

Naturally, we had several apperitvo along the way, something I'm getting quite accustomed to.

More soon on the best little bar in Rome, and a private tour of the Vatican.

As they say in Rome, "se vedemo!"

Italy Wine Country: Roman Holiday

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rome.jpgBy Courtney Cochran

Like most Americans, I've often used the phrase, "when in Rome, do as the Romans," with that all-knowing half-smile that implies that yes, I do in fact know what Romans do! Romans and me, we go waaay back.

Except, I've never been to Rome. Have never, in fact, spent more than 72 hours altogether in Italy, and couldn't tell you what life is like in Rome any more than I could tell you what life is like on the moon. Romans and me, it turns out, don't even go back even so far as a nanosecond.

Travel Deal of the Week - Hadsten House

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SOLVANG, CA - Hadsten House Inn & Spa is a luxury, boutique lodging destination in Santa Barbara Wine Country featuring uniquely appointed guest rooms with classic French furnishings, decorativhadstenHouse.jpge fireplaces, and lavish amenities.  Take relaxation to the next level and stay in one of their special spa suites or take a dip in the heated indoor pool and be pampered in the day spa.

Travelers rave about Hadsten House and the food! Book their One Night Dinner Package and experience what all the fuss is about.

ONE NIGHT DINNER PACKAGE
Enjoy a one night getaway in a Deluxe room, continental breakfast for two, complimentary glass of wine with cheese & fruit, and three course dinner for tow in the Hadsten House Dining Room. ($178/couple)

Hadsten House Inn & Spa
1450 Mission Drive
Solvang, CA 93463

Travel Deal of the Week!

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doubleTreeSpecial.jpgDoubletree Hotel Sonoma - Wine Tasting Package

It's not every day you'll find an all inclusive lodging package that takes care of all your wine tasting needs at the same time!  Doubletree Hotel Sonoma Wine Country does just that with their Wine Tasting Package which believe it or not is a mere $165/night. We had to rub our eyes to make sure we saw the price right too!

Doubletree Hotel caters to both the leisure and business traveler and boasts so many amenities, that there are too many to name! You'll just have to book a package and discover for yourself!

Wine Tasting Package
In addition to accommodations, you'll receive 5 tasting passes at a variety of local wineries, breakfast each morning in Bacchus Restaurant, and a box lunch to take on your wine tasting adventure. Did we mention it's only $165/night?!

CLICK HERE to book package.

Doubletree Hotel Sonoma Wine Country
One Doubletree Drive
Ronhert  Park, CA 94928
707.584.5466




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