Posts tagged travel

7 Notes

Last Day in Taipei

We started our last day in Taipei with a super cheap and filling breakfast. We took the MRT to Muzha station and found a small eatery nearby. We each had our own “fan tuan” sticky rice and warm soy milk. We also shared some pan fried turnip cake. This meal cost us less than $2.00 US. image

After breakfast we met up with Lydia’s aunties to browse through Shen Keng Old Street (深坑老街). image

We shopped for peanut brittle. This place makes their brittle on site and one of the best peanut brittles I ever had. image

Next we stopped to taste some fried stinky tofu!image
You can also find grilled stinky tofu as well. I liked them both!image

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For dinner we headed out to Shilin Night Market; the largest night market in Taipei City. Not only is there a lot to eat, there is also a lot to shop and to play. imageSome favorite games include fishing for shrimps and for gold fishes. image

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I was particularly looking forward to some fried chicken. We searched for the famous Hot Star Large Fried Chicken stand. imageThey pound the chicken really thin. It comes out super hot and crispy. It’s bigger than my face!image

A lot of the food stands can be found outside along the streets, but there is a centralized food court located underground. We walked though and settled at a random stand for a stuffed sausage and grilled squid. Taiwanese sausage tends to be on the sweeter side. The white thing around the sausage is not bread, but actually sticky rice that was stuffed into a casing and then split open to wrap around the sausage. It was so good.image

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I’ve always been curious about their famous oyster omelettes (蚵仔煎) after watching so many Taiwanese food shows. Almost every stand had someone making them. imageWe picked a busy/packed stand to try. It must be good right? But I thought it was just okay. It was a little to slimy for my liking. image

And that concludes my trip! Thanks for reading. 

To reach Shilin Night Market take the MRT to Jiantian Station (劍潭站). Don’t be confused with the Shilin Station. Once you get off the train, follow the crowds. Shilin Night Market is right outside. 

6 Notes

Taipei Day 1: Living and Eating like a Local (sort of)

We flew out of Osaka and arrived in Taipei in the late afternoon. Looking to save some money, we decided to book an apartment in Taipei rather than spend $200 a night for a hotel. I found an apartment rental through www.vrbo.com and made several inquiries for apartments throughout Taipei city prior to the trip. We decided on an apartment located in the Daan District. It was nicely located within walking distance to some great food locations, about 7 minutes away from the MRT subway station, and it was pretty well priced at around US$82/day. The apartment was clean and just enough space for 3 people. We were living among the locals. image

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Lydia has family in Taipei and her cousin Meng met up with us at the apartment. Meng had a whole itinerary planned out for us. Our first stop was dinner at Din Tai Fung (鼎泰豐), the original store located on Xinyi Road in Daan. When in Taipei, Din Tai Fung is a mandatory stop. Everyone goes there for their famous paper thin yet juicy soup dumplings.image

Being the original restaurant, the Xinyi Road location usually is pretty crowded but we were seated pretty quickly. Over the few years, many other stores have opened around Taipei as well as overseas. They must get a lot of Japanese tourist because all waiters and waitresses speak fluent Japanese. For a second, I thought I was back in Japan. image

I particularly love their Shanghainese appetizers especially the drunken chicken and pickled spicy cucumbers. image

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We ordered a round of soup dumplings and some other vegetarian dumplings to share. image

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So good! I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Next we walked to a nearby night market and settled for some pan fried dumplings. Made on the street, fried on the street, and eat on the street. So good! imageimage

Next we went to look for shaved ice! I did not get to eat shaved ice the last time I came to Taipei so I was really looking forward to it. Meng took us to this famous local dessert spot. imageWe shared a strawberry shaved ice and a bowl of hot peanut tong yuan (sweet glutenous rice ball). It was so refreshing and good. I was in heaven!image

After shaved ice, we walked back into the night market. Taipei is filled with night markets where various vendors set up shop. Vendor range from clothing, jewelry,to all kinds of food. It’s especially busy during the weekends. I found a gua boa stand (steamed bun wrapped around fatty pork) I just had to have one! Lydia and I each got one to go and ate it while walking back to our apartment. I love Taipei!image

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More eating in Taipei to come!

Thank you Lydia for sharing some of your photos.

3 Notes

Japan Day Five: Last Night in Osaka “Kuidaore” (食い倒れ)- Eat till you Drop!

It was our last night in Osaka, and we followed the Osakan Kuidaore culture and ate till we dropped. We started with yakitori. We were back at Dotonbori and randomly picked this place on one of the side streets. imageWe were greeted with English menus and ordered a bunch of stuff. We were adventurous and started with spicy fish intestine pictured below. It was like chewing on salty rubber bands. image

Grilled Asparagus and Chicken in Ponzu sauceimage

Pickled Garlicky Cucumbers on the house. So delicious!image

Chicken Knuckles…or something like that…crunchy!image

Chicken Kidneys…my favorite!image

Crispy Chicken Skin…my other favorite!image

Chicken Liver…my all time love! And a Chicken Meatball with Egg Yokeimage

Finally we finished with Fatty Duck in Ponzu Sauce.image

Next we went looking for Okonomiyaki aka “Osaka soul food”. It’s described as a pancake or omelette of sorts topped with cabbage, noodles, ground pork, green onions, bonito flakes, mayo, seaweed and pickled ginger. They brought out the pancake pre-assembled and we heated it up some more on the griddle on our table. Not necessarily my favorite meal in Japan, but it’s so famous in Osaka, you have to try it. 

We wandered around Dotonbori a bit more before heading back to the hotel to pack up. 

Statues in front of Dotonbori Hotel…We’re being silly. We just had to do it!

Thank you Lydia for sharing some of your photos!

1 Notes

Day Five in Japan: Getting Lost in Nara, Sake Tasting, & Fresh Mochi

On our fifth and final full day in Japan, we took the train to Nara. On the way there, we stopped by a convenience store located inside the subway and picked up a few rice balls for breakfast. Cheap, filling, and delicious! I can eat these everyday. Some are filled with salmon, bonito flakes, and spicy fish roe. image

Nara is known for Nara Park, which is like New York’s Central Park. It’s filled with many walking trails, lakes, and their famous deer. They let the deer roam freely throughout the park and you can buy special biscuits to feed them. Though they were generally friendly, there were signs that told us to be careful of them biting, kicking, or ramming into you!

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Nara, once the capital of Japan houses many important buildings and temples many of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. If you’re into history and culture and want to get out of the hustle and bustle of the big city, Nara is a great place to spend a day. 

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After wandering around the park for a little bit, we walked into town to look for this 135 year old sake brewery called Harushika where Lydia did a sake tasting. 

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Then it was time for lunch. That’s when we got really lost. imageTruthfully, I can’t remember the name of the restaurant we were looking for. It ended up being closed the week we were there. There was no name on the door so we walked by it a million times. We ended up eating at a very cute family run restaurant next door instead. image

The menu was in complete Japanese, but with a little finger pointing to the dishes on the table, we got that the special was their hamburg set which is a big meatloaf with a fried shrimp, rice, and miso soup. I thought it was absolutely delicious!image

imageAfter lunch, we walked to look for this handmade mochi store called Nakatanidou 中谷堂. They make the mochi on site by having two men pound the dough with huge wooden mallots. The men usually wait until there is a crowd before the start the pounding and then they sell the mochi after it’s made. The pounding process helps soften the dough before it is filled with red bean. 1 pc for 130 yen. The rice flour dough is tinted green with yomogi (mugwort) and dusted with kinako (soy bean powder). It came out warm and delicious. image

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Nakatanidou 中谷堂

Address (English): 29 Hashimoto cho, Nara City, Nara Prefecture 〒 630-8217
Address (Japanese): 〒630-8217 奈良県奈良市橋本町29
http://www.nakatanidou.jp/company/
Take train to Kintesu-Nara Station 近鉄奈良駅

2 Notes

Business trip to Vancouver

Business trip to Vancouver

2 Notes

Japan Day Four Part III- Finding Veggies in Kyoto

By day four in Japan, I was craving for vegetables. I’ve been eating too much raw food than what I’ve been use to and felt like I needed some healthy veggies to cleanse my system. However, leafy green vegetables doesn’t seem to be too common in Japan. Lydia searched online and found a vegetarian restaurant called Mikoan in Kyoto which had great reviews. The only obstacle was that it’s hidden in a dark, dark alley. image

Prior to dinner, we first wandered around Nishiki Market, also known as the “Kitchen of Kyoto” where you can find many famous Kyoto foods and specialties. If you want your very own set of hand-crafted knives, you can get them here at Aritsugu. We arrived just prior to closing so it wasn’t crowded. 

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Baby octopus stuffed with quail egg on a stick anyone? image

One of the famous items sold at the market are pickled veggies. image

Walk towards the end of the market and you’ll see the beautiful Nishiki Tenmangu Shrine. It looks amazing all lit up at night. image

Finally, it was time to find some vegetarian dinner. If it wasn’t for this very specific direction that Lydia found on a blog, I don’t know if we would have ever found this place. 

Copied from www.vegguide.org

(Tricky but worth it.) From the intersection from Shijo-dori and Teramachi-dori, walk 1.5 blocks South. That intersection is the southern exit of the Teramachi covered arcade. You’ll walk past the East side of the Fujii Daimaru Dept. Store on a relatively small street. Pass a bookstore on your right, then the Funahashiya candy store with some games outside on the street. Look for an alley-like entrance-way on your right with a hand-made sign saying “Vegetarian Restaurant & Bar.” Go down the narrow alley between two buildings and straight ahead through the courtyard.

imageDo you see where that red cone is placed? That’s the entrance to Mikoan restaurant. It’s a good 20 feet walking in pitch black darkness (good thing for cellphone flashlights these days). You then come up to this residential looking front door. 

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You walk right into what seems like someone’s really cluttered living room. I was surprised. I wasn’t sure if this was a restaurant or not. The dining area is this long counter and the kitchen is behind it. It’s a solo operation here, just one lady doing the cooking. We sat at the very end of the counter near the piano and guitar and piles and piles of books and magazine. I really wanted to help clean and organize, but I guess it’s part of it’s charm? This place is totally not made for tourist. image

We each ordered the set dinner and the lady started cooking. All I could think of at that time was “if there’s a grease fire, we’re all doomed!!” Hahahaha! Anyway, it would have been nice to have more ventilation with all the frying she was doing. Our set meals arrived and the lady notified us that each plate on everyone’s set was different so we should all share. Brown rice was served with tofu, different kinds of seaweed salads, vegetarian spring rolls, cabbage, braised daikon with shitake mushrooms, miso soup, etc…Everything was tasty and very good and very affordable for the amount of food that we all got. Each set cost 1,000yen which is around US$10.50.image

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The food and value was worth the adventure of finding this place.

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Thanks Lydia for sharing your photos!

For more information on Nishiki Market: 

http://www.kyoto-nishiki.or.jp/english/

Mikoan Restaurant

570, Nakano-cho, Teramachi-dori 
Shijo-sagaru, Simogyo-ku 
KyotoJapan 600-8032

075-361-2200

1 Notes

Japan Day Three- Osaka & Shopping

We started our third day in Osaka with a ramen breakfast. It was the only thing we found open after wandering around Dotombori area in the early hours. This place is open 24 hours. The ramen had a very rich pork flavor and the pork belly was nicely marinated and grilled. Each person is also allowed to take 1 boiled egg and can add as much kimchi and fried garlic as they desired. imageimage

After breakfast we wandered the vast shopping districts of Osaka particularly Shinsaibashi (心斎橋) and Ebisubashi (戎橋筋商店街) in the the Namba district. It is literally miles and miles worth of covered shopping arcades filled with name brand shops, inexpensive discount shops, convenience/pharmacy stores, and discounted dollar stores. It’s a shoppers dream come true. 

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Osaka also has huge brand named department stores and we walked into Takashimaya, one of Japan’s largest department store chains. Familiar with how department stores throughout Asia are set up, the basement level is where the supermarkets and food courts are held. This had to be one of the biggest and absolutely best supermarkets I’ve ever walked into. image
The market is huge! It is split up into your regular grocery aisle selling the freshest fish, meat and produce, and array of Japanese dry goods, sauces, etc…

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The other section sells the freshly prepared foods, lunch boxes, sushi rolls, yakitori, desserts, snacks, etc. We sent so much time browsing and trying free samples. This is a foodie’s dream come true! image

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imageAfter much walking we finally stopped for late lunch at the famous king crab restaurant on Dotonbori, Kani Doraku (かに道楽). You can’t miss this. It has a huge crab hung on top of the store. imageThere were several set menu options and we picked the middle priced 7 course crab meal; which cost around 2,500-3,000 yen (US $25-30). 

First came the cooked crab with vinegar. The crab had a nice sweet flavor and the vinegar help enhance the sweetness.

imageSecond course was crab sashimi which totally threw me off. I did not like the gooey/slimy texture of raw crab. Thinking about it still gives me the shivers! imageTwo dishes came out at the same time for the third course which was steamed crab egg custard and the crab gratin. The egg custard was silky and smooth; so delicious! The crab gratin was rich and creamy and cheesy. I was afraid to eat so much cheese but the flavor was so rich I couldn’t stop from finishing the whole thing. imageThen came a simple crab tempura.imageFollowed by a piping hot bowl of steamed crab in rice, which you take out all the crab meat, mix it into the rice and then pour a clear broth to make a rice porridge. So good and so full!image

imageFinally, time for dessert. We were served a small dish of fruit but were were suppose to get ice cream. In the end we got both. It was a scoop of vanilla ice cream which the waitress then mixed warm macha and poured it over the cold ice cream. It was wonderfully refreshing and delicious! image

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We spent the rest of the day walking and shopping the miles worth of stores in Shinsaibashi. 

For dinner we decided on something simple and walked back to the Namba Walk underground arcade near our hotel for soba.

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Thank you Lydia for sharing some of your photos!

1 Notes

Japan Day Two- Osaka Dinner Time

When traveling and looking for restaurant and suggestions for dinner, Anthony Bourdain always comes up as a source for reference. And so, this is how we decided on dinner at Koyoshi Sushi (小好鮨) in Umeda District, Osaka.

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Doing some research before the trip, we found that this sushi restaurant seats around 8 people max and the owners Mr. & Mrs. Yano spoke no English. I knew ordering food would be tricky and so I downloaded a sushi guide onto my phone before the trip. It came out to be very helpful. At least we knew what we were eating and was able to tell Mr. Yano that “no we don’t want fugu” (a fish filled with poisonous stuff). 

It took us a while to find this tiny place since it was already dark and raining by the time we got back to Osaka. Directions on their Facebook page suggested: 

Between JR Umeda and Hankyu Umeda central train stations. Located in a small busy alley behind the Hotel New Hankyu. We are on a triangular corner near a convenience store, Daily Yamazaki. Koyoshi is just a little hard to find, but truly worth the effort.

Slide the doors open and bam, the seats and sushi counter was right there! It is small. I don’t know how else to explain it. We were warmly greeted by Mr. Yano and his wife. With my two years of high school Japanese, I was able to order us hot green tea and water. Then we just told him “Omakase” in Japanese which means “I’ll leave it to you”. Mr. Yano brought us fish after fish after fish. Each piece was huge! I’m not sure if sushi is usually served this size, because it certainly is not served this way anywhere I knew in New York.

I can’t remember the name of all the fish we ate. We were given a small dish of pickled ginger and nothing else. Each fish is already seasoned with a brush of soy sauce and dab of fresh wasabi. You really don’t need anything else with fresh fish. 

Abalone in the showcase!image

Sea bream sushi and some other fish…image

Sake or Salmon sushi. Huge piece! 

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This was the Otoro or Fatty Tuna! It was so fatty, it left a thin layer of oil on my lips. It was divine! 

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Next came creamy Uni or sea urchin. 

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Ebi or cooked shrimp

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This white piece was some kind of clam. 

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This was Anago. We didn’t know what it was so I looked it up on my sushi guide app. It was conger eel and it was so good! 

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Our last piece of fish. Can’t remember what it was. =)

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After our meal we asked Mr. Yano for a photograph or “Shashin” 

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Our meal cost us around 4,000 Yen each, which is roughly US$43.00 per person.  

Koyoshi Sushi Osaka (小好鮨)
   大阪府大阪市北区芝田1丁目3-12 
Hours: 6:00PM- 12:00AM
Thank you Lydia for providing some of the photos! 

 

2 Notes

Japan Day Two- Osaka & Kyoto

We woke up around 4AM Japan time…way too early for anything to be open. But none of us could sleep anymore and decided to start our day around 5AM. We found a 7-11 convient store around the corner; the only place open at that hour. Who knew that the best omusubi (riceball) I would eat in Japan would be from a 7-11. The seaweed was seasoned and crispy, the rice was soft. It was so good. 

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Rice ball and warm coffee in hand, we went to tackle the Japanese subway and rail system finding our way to Kyoto. We had to stop and ask some of the rail attendants for directions, communicating by pointing to the map and simple sign language. At one point the guy came chasing after us with English maps of Kyoto. It was so nice of him. It’s these little gestures and and ability to overcome language barriers with using various methods to communicate that makes me love traveling so so much. It’s thrilling and so rewarding. 

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Our first stop was to visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha, a shinto shrine for the god of rice. 

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This site is famous for the thousands of torii gates that line different hiking trails throughout the mountain. It was truly beautiful and exhausting hike to the top!

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We left Fushimi in search of our next destination; lunch at Honke Owariya 尾張屋, a 548 year old soba restaurant located just south of the Nijo Castle in Kyoto. It’s a humble little restaurant located on a quite street. (It took us a long time to find). With its unpretentious set-up and surroundings, you would never know that this place had served meals for some of the most important people in Japan like emperors, shoguns, monks, and even today the Imperial family. 

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We each ordered our own Hourai Soba (¥2100 or US$23), the house specialty which consisted of 5 layers of soba noodle and came with different toppings: tempura shrimp, seaweed, shredded egg, mushrooms, toasted sesame, fresh ground wasabi, grate daikon, and green onions. You can mix as much topping into your soba as you liked. It was so good! 

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We walked off lunch and toured the nearby Nijo Castle (¥600 entrance). Later we went to the Gion district to wander around. Gion is famous for geishas and its many tea houses. It’s truly a beautiful place to visit. 

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Next stop will be dinner back in Osaka at the famous little sushi shop where Anthony Bourdain ate. Next post…

 

Fushimi Inari Shrine directions: 

Take the train on the Keihan Main Line to Fushimi Inari station (伏見稲荷駅). The shrine can be reached from a short walk from the station. Just follow the crowd. 

Honke Owariya 尾張屋
322 Kurumaya-cho, Nijo Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto
Tel:+81752313446
Open: 1100-1830

Take train to Nijojo-Mae Station (営地下鉄 東西線 二条城前駅). It was rather hard to find as there isn’t any street signs anywhere. We asked various shop owners for directions using sign language and little Japanese that we knew. Eventually, we finally found it and it was such a rewarding experience. 

Gion, Kyoto directions:

Gion can be reached by bus from Kyoto Station in about 20 minutes for 220 yen. Take number 100 and 206 and get off at Gion bus stop. The closest train stations are Gion Shijo Station (祇園四条駅) on the Keihan Line and Kawaramachi Station (河原町駅) on the Hankyu Line.

Thank you Lydia for sharing some of your photos!

2 Notes

First stop for early dinner after landing was at Jose Enrique in San Juan, PR. We had such an amazing meal. We found this place through Yelp.com and what a great find it was. After eating here, we are ready planning a second visit. 

We started out with two amazing appetizers; one was the crab croquettes and the other was a smoked pork bits with pickled onions and flattened plantains. For entrees, our waitress placed in a wrong order, but she was nice to give us the ribs on the house. The ribs were so tasty it reminded me of Bonchon wings. 
Although we were quite stuffed, I couldn’t leave without trying the flan de cafe. This flan was dense and so rich with a stong coffee flavor. One of the best I ever had.

Jose Enrique, 176 Calle Duffaut, San Juan,Puerto Rico

First stop for early dinner after landing was at Jose Enrique in San Juan, PR. We had such an amazing meal. We found this place through Yelp.com and what a great find it was. After eating here, we are ready planning a second visit.

We started out with two amazing appetizers; one was the crab croquettes and the other was a smoked pork bits with pickled onions and flattened plantains. For entrees, our waitress placed in a wrong order, but she was nice to give us the ribs on the house. The ribs were so tasty it reminded me of Bonchon wings.
Although we were quite stuffed, I couldn’t leave without trying the flan de cafe. This flan was dense and so rich with a stong coffee flavor. One of the best I ever had.

Jose Enrique, 176 Calle Duffaut, San Juan,Puerto Rico

Notes

March 28th, Day 4 in Florence, Italy

I love the food in Florence. Not knowing where to eat in Florence on the first day, we decided on a recommendation from the guide book. We found Za Za Trattoria. It was a little on the touristy side; however, the food was excellent. I loved the Ribollita-Tuscan bread soup and my Rosemary Pork Chop with Tuscan Beans. The homemade custard tasted like heaven! 

3 Notes

March 26th, Day 2 in Rome, Italy

4 Notes

March 26th, Day 2 in Rome- Vatican City

1 Notes

March 25th, Day 1 in Rome, Italy 

Red-eyed into Rome and couldn’t function without a nap before starting the day with some sightseeing. We took in a couple sights like the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon before we actually found a place to sit down for a bite to eat. I had the pasta with meat sauce, but it was just so-so. The parma ham pizza was excellent though. Mmm, pizza and parma ham…mmm!

1 Notes

Off to Italy for a week! Pastas, pizzas, and gelato oh my! 

In the meantime, photo of Mario Batali’s Pane Frattau Pizza from Otto. 

Off to Italy for a week! Pastas, pizzas, and gelato oh my! 

In the meantime, photo of Mario Batali’s Pane Frattau Pizza from Otto.