Drinking for a Cause

Originally posted on Departures.com

Starting next week, I’m heading down South to pour, drink, and bid for good causes at great philanthropic wine auctions: the Triangle Wine Experience in Raleigh,Heart’s Delight Wine Tasting & Auction in D.C., and The High Museum Atlanta Wine Auction, one that is particularly dear to my heart (pictured below, my mom Louise Bray, left, and Sara Steinfeld, 2001 Auction co-chairs at last year’s event in Atlanta).

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Cinghiale. 
{pron. cheen-ghee-Al-eh}

Cinghiale. Wild boars. Tuscany is known for them, and in the fall, it’s impossible not to see wild boar ragu across restaurant menus throughout the region. It’s a dish I love, rich with the earthy, gamey meat of the fresh pig.

ragu

What I do not love is seeing the cinghiale in the flesh. Up close. Particularly in the middle of hunting season. Continue reading

A Weekend in Florence

santa-maria-novella-exterior

After a few days on Etna, I flew north to see my mother in Florence, there with her garden club from Atlanta (it was a long day, with planes, trains, and automobiles in between after I missed the one direct flight from Catania to Florence that day). I arrived hot and sweaty at the Croce di Malta hotel right off the piazza Santa Maria Novella, showered, and hurried to meet mom and her friends at Buca Lapi on the nearby via del Trebbio.

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#inspirationtrip

A few months ago, I took an amazing two-week trip through Sicily with my mother. We traveled from Rome to Agrigento, through Enna and Piazza Armerina, up to Mt. Etna, down to Ragusa, Modica and Donnalucata, and over to Noto and Siracusa. Driving through the island, we were amazed by the sheer diversity of this Maine-sized plot of land in the middle of the Middle Sea – from red sandstone temples high on the hillside of Agrigento to the southwest, to the white limestone walls lining the countryside of dusty Ragusa’s farmlands, to the Baroque gems of Noto and Siracusa in the southeast, and finally to the black lavic stone of the Catania region, with Mt. Etna looming above us.

Temple of Concordia, Agrigento

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Stay: Relais Monaci delle Terre Nere, Sicily

It had been a long day in the car – my mother driving, me navigating, and my long-legged brother in the back seat trying not to get car sick – as we drove up from Agrigento in the southwest, through Enna and Piazza Armerina, home to the lovely and well-preserved Roman mosaics at the Villa Romana del Casale. With Mt. Etna’s peak long looming in the distance, we were happy to finally have arrive on the lower slopes of the volcano. Just past the tight, black stone-cobbled streets of Santa Venerina, we stumbled upon the road sign leading the way to our destination, the hotel Monaci delle Terre Nere. Monaci delle Terre Nere

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Eat: Glass Hostaria in Rome

Winding through the streets of Trastevere in Rome, you hardly expect a door to open into a minimalist, open space, but clean and modern is exactly what you get when you arrive at the end of Vicolo Dè Cinque and enter Glass Hostaria. The design of the space puts raw materials to beautiful use, from the crumpled screens on the ceiling to windows in the floor peering onto bottles artfully laid across stones.Bar at Glass Hostaria

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Cooking School Review: École de Cuisine, Alain Ducasse

ecole de cuisine alain ducasseScallops were never something I’d thought much about: I recognized their white, cylindrical forms and enjoyed their smooth, rich texture and caramelized bits at restaurants. But growing up nowhere near the sea, I had no idea what the shell of a scallop looked like or really how it ended up on my plate. So when I found myself signing up for a cooking class that focused on preparing scallops two ways, I didn’t really know what to expect. And since it took place at the école de cuisine Alain Ducasse in Paris, I prayed that my long-dormant French would come back to life well enough to follow the teacher’s instructions.

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Eat: Restaurant L’Ardoise in Paris

I arrived in Paris to join my grandmother for a few days while she was visiting the city. Completely unfamiliar with the 1er arrondisement, where we were staying instead of our usual Left Bank stomping grounds, we looked for places to eat that were not too far afield. Our hotel gave us a few recommendations, and my ears perked when I heard that the chef of a little bistro around the corner was formerly of the world-renowned Tour d’Argent. After meeting a friend for a brief apéro, we dropped by to see if they could squeeze us in. We were in luck; as it was toward the end of dinner service, they had a table that had just left, which they quickly cleared for us.

Restaurant L'Ardoise Continue reading