Wednesday, June 26, 2013

VDP: Blackened Fish Tacos

I have a few remaining photos to share from the end of our trip, but in the mean time, I wanted to share the photos from the awesome Virtual Dinner Party we had with 6 guests a few weeks ago.  

A few days before our party, we gathered ingredients for blackened fish tacos.  The 6 guests came from 3 houses, so everyone had slightly different twists to their tacos.  I used a frozen white fish from Trader Joe's, defrosted and rubbed with a combo of blackening spices. 

Using this recipe as inspiration, we blackened then pan-seared the fish, caramelized red onions, mixed up a cilantro-lime crema to go on top, and put together some amazing tacos!  These are easy and will be making frequent appearances on our weekly menus in the future.

Blackening seasoning: cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper
Cilantro-lime crema: plain Greek yogurt, cilantro, salt, lime zest, squeeze of lime
Tortillas: corn tortillas are traditional, but I picked up some "truly handmade flour tortillas" from Trader Joe's, and they were delicious!  And one day, I will make tortillas from scratch.
Additional toppings: avocado, cheese, cilantro, salsa, corn salsa, beans, jalapenos, and a squeeze of lime.

An IPA or pale ale is a great match.

Thanks to my cohosts for a great dinner!

Monday, June 24, 2013

RC3: Rehearsal Dinner

After our pirate ship cruise around Santorini's caldera on Saturday, we snuck in a nap before it was time to get fancied up for the rehearsal dinner.

This is our view from our hotel room.  We did have time for a quick dip in the pool before a nap.

We arrived at the rehearsal dinner, hosted in a wine cave of the excellent Santorini winery, Vinsanto.  Two musicians were playing for us; the man on the right is playing an ancient instrument fashioned from a goat turned inside-out.

The rehearsal dinner began with cocktails outside...

...and we moved into the wine cave for an incredible Greek dinner.

After about 15 courses of amazing food, we moved back to our villas, where we launched lanterns into the night sky, sending good wishes to the soon-to-be-married couple.

A great day in Santorini...we were anxious for what was to come.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

RC3: Amalfi to Santorini

On the last morning on the Amalfi Coast, we left our cute Positano hotel early to begin a 7-stop trip to get to Santorini Island, where we were heading to celebrate our good friends' wedding.  We were sad to leave Positano and the gorgeous coast, but it was nice to know we still had a fun weekend ahead of us.

Positano to Sorrento to Naples to Rome to the Roman Airport to Athens, where we spent the night at an airport hotel, to Santorini the next morning.  Our flight left at 5:30am from Athens, so we got to watch the sun rise on our flight.

It was windy when we arrived in Santorini, and a little chilly.  But we overlooked this when we saw the breakfast the bride had ordered for us, in anticipation of our early morning start!

Greek omelets = our new favorite.

After a few hours to get situated and catnap, we met up with the rest of the wedding party for a boat cruise around Santorini's caldera.

We boarded the pirate ship and set sail for a swimming hole with hot springs.

Check out that water color. Bubbles rose up from the bottom, indicating the warm pockets of water caused by the hot springs.  The red clay sand was more slimy than usual was so weird!

The middle island in Santorini's caldera is a volcano.  Some parts still have no plant growth and look like fresh, black lava.  Other parts have some plant life, with sharp teeth-like points popping up:

We anchored down off the coast of Therasia, another island on the outer rim of the caldera.  The water was so deep blue and clear--we could see nearly to the very deep bottom.  The water temperature was perfectly refreshing (island air temperatures were in the low 80s while we were there.)  

We dried off and enjoyed a traditional Greek feast--spanakopita, tzatziki, baba ganoush, Greek salad, grape leaves, sausage, and local wine.

After lunch, we finished the sail around the island--Oia, the largest and most recognizable town, above and below.

Greek dancing commenced.

We ended the cruise in Thira, with just enough time for a quick nap before the rehearsal dinner festivities began.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to the most wonderful Dad out there!

I love you, Dad!

Friday, June 14, 2013


Happy Friday, everyone.

Wishing you a relaxing weekend.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

RC3: Amalfi Coast Hike

As I mentioned previously, our second day on the Amalfi Coast was one of my favorites of our trip.  Good views, good food, hiking, and ocean swims usually do it for me.

When we were planning the trip, one of the adventures I was most excited about was a hike along the Amalfi Coast called Sentiero Degli Dei, the Path of the Gods.  I emailed W a few maps and descriptions before our trip to get us especially excited for the trip, and he was game.

Breakfast on our hotel's rooftop balcony was awesome:

And then we caught a bus to a neighboring town of Praiano.  We altered our route a little to allow us time to explore Praiano and to add some challenging climbs to the hike.

We certainly got what we asked for in terms of hills.  Our one-mile to the main trail was essentially straight up:

That vertical mile+ probably took us an hour (at least?).   With a few water breaks, we cleared the tops of the wildflower trails, where the terrain then opened up with views of the entire coast, all the way to Capri.

The scenery was incredible.  Terraced vineyards, horses, ... more mountains we would soon climb.

2.25 miles in up, we hit the trail coming from Bomerano, where the true path begins (if you begin in Bomerano, the hike is a fairly easy trail without many hills).  At this elevation, we could see down to the sea and towards the eastern half of the Amalfi coastline.

 We could also see west to Positano--where we were aiming.

As you can see in the above photos, the sky got a bit darker not long after we joined up with the main trail.  We picked up our pace significantly, trying to beat the approaching dark clouds:

Raindrops started to fall, and we happened to be in the perfect place under some trees, so we took cover and broke into one of the paninis a shop-owner in Positano had made us earlier that morning.  The rain only lasted 5-10 minutes, and we jumped back onto the trail and made it to the town of Nocelle before rain hit again.

In Nocelle, I noticed a black cat off to the side of the trail dart for a dry hiding place, and further down the trail later we heard this odd high-pitched sound which we quickly realized was a kitten's frantic meowing.  I bent down to take some photos, and he ran towards me.

I timidly picked him up--he was the tiniest kitten I had ever seen, and I wasn't sure if he had ever had much human interaction.  I tried to comfort him a little (read: probably said something indecipherable in high-pitched baby talk) before letting him down, hoping he would find his mama.  I wish I could have rescued that little dude and brought him home with me.  I had to resist the urge over the following few days to hike back up that mountain to look for him.

Leaving Nocelle, we found a connecting trail to take us back to Positano.  The trail contained 45,034,567 stairs down the cliffs, and we went from very high up (above) to the upper town area (below) in no time.  My calves and hamstrings were sore for 3 days after that descent, despite all the running and hiking we had been doing lately!

The weather cleared up perfectly for us, and by the time we made it down to the beach, we were sweaty and very glad to be done.  We jumped in the ocean to cool off (suits and sandals in our day pack!) and finished up our packed lunch on the beach.

That swim was one of the most refreshing of my life!

Naps commenced. I woke up to this view from our balcony a bit later:

We capped off the evening at a nearby restaurant, Saraceno d'Oro, with homemade pasta and all kinds of fresh seafood.  The pasta frutti di mare was my favorite dish on the Amalfi Coast.

I think that should be our next VDP dish.  Who'd like to have a dinner party?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

RC3: Positano

After a few relaxing days in Sorrento, we took a bus to the Amalfi Coast, to the town of Positano.

The bus ride should probably qualify as one of the greatest adventures of the trip.  It was windy, fast, and included a really, really steep drop-off from the narrow roads we were on, down to the water.

Upon arrival in Positano, we walked downhill on the hairpin roads that overlooked the beach and town built up into the surrounding cliffs.

We dropped off our bags at the amazing hotel Montemare and admired these views from the hotel before hiking down to the beach.

Clouds rolled in and out while we snacked on our Italian favorites--baguette, scamorza, proscuitto, and Peroni (we struck out in finding Moretti anywhere else on the rest of the trip!)

The rainclouds finally won, so we strolled back to our covered patio with a bottle of wine and watched the rain.  After the sun set and the sky cleared a bit, we wandered out to dinner nearby.

 It was a gorgeous night.

Complete with fireworks!

We had an awesome meal that included grilled octopus, a whole roasted fish, spaghetti alle vongole, and tiramisu.  All the amazing food we ate on the trip inspired lots of creativity in the kitchen.

The next day in Positano was one of my favorites of the whole trip.  Details next time.