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In a serendipitous turn of events, I got to end my summer with two weeks in Europe at the end of August. This included a short stint in Bilbao, Spain, for one of the Basque Country’s biggest annual fiestas: Aste Nagusia (literally, “The Principal Week”). I was there at the invitation of my friends Margaret and Javi, the power couple behind Travel Basque Country, an online resource for information and custom tours to the Basque region in Northern Spain.

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Art Deco fonts, South Beach Miami FLI was in Miami last month to photograph this year’s BlogHer Food and arrived ahead of the conference to get a feel for this city. Over two days, I spent an afternoon in Little Cuba with this Walking Tour as my guide. I found the neighborhood underwhelming overall, with little to offer in terms of street life. However there are delicious cafecitos and refreshing coconut juice to be had on Calle Ocho, and if you’re lucky, the friendly locals at Maximo Gomez Park may offer you a share of their Colada while they wait their turn at dominoes.

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  • Looks like you had a great time. Thanks for sharing the beautiful photos!ReplyCancel

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Table setting for a backyard soireeWe learnt, around this time a year ago, that our third offer on a house was accepted. If all went well, we would be homeowners in a matter of weeks. What began as a preliminary exploration into the possibility of home ownership had, after two unsuccessful bids, countless open houses and even more Negronis, become a very real and serious prospect. We were about to own OUR FIRST HOME. An actual spot of land on this massive earth. It all felt very GROWN UP and momentous, due in large part to how quickly everything came together. Between our first conversations with the mortgage broker and the day we got the keys, a mere ten weeks had passed – a blink of an eye when house-hunting in a highly competitive real estate market.

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  • It was a great party, fantastic pig, and a perfect way to celebrate your new home! So glad we’re neighbors. :)ReplyCancel

  • Looks amazing – I wish I was your neighbor too! :)

    I have heard some real culinary horror stories about first time whole-pig roasting, like underestimating lengthy amount of time it takes, as you mentioned. But also even worse things like not cooking evenly or all the way through.

    A pig roast is definitely on my culinary bucket list. Someday, someday.

    In your opinion, what was the most difficult part of the whole thing? Did anything else in particular catch you off guard?ReplyCancel

    • Danielle

      Yes there were parts of the pig that needed to be finished off in the oven, mostly the areas close to the bone/joints. I just realized that I never really addressed the question of actually roasting the pig, because my husband did that bit. He kept a grill of live coals on the side which fed the rotisserie throughout the 7+ hours of cooking.

      The most difficult part was prepping the pig – we didn’t realize how heavy the final stuffed and trussed pig would be and how challenging it would be to thread it onto the rotisserie rod. An alternative way of cooking this would be to butterfly the carcass and lay it flat over a bed of coals, flipping it over halfway.ReplyCancel

  • Hi Danielle, thanks for the reply!

    “Yes there were parts of the pig that needed to be finished off in the oven, mostly the areas close to the bone/joints.”

    That makes sense. Good to know.

    “He kept a grill of live coals on the side which fed the rotisserie throughout the 7+ hours of cooking.”

    Wow, very smart!ReplyCancel

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To the inexperienced palate, tea is a complicated business. Or not, depending on your preferences. Up until a few years ago, I was perfectly content with heapfuls of Mariage Freres’ Earl Grey Imperial for an afternoon brew. Sure, I’d drink any tea if you put it in front of me, but if I had to brew it myself? That stout black tin would be the one I’d reach for. I’m a simple girl with simple tastes, after all.

Things changed after I did a piece for Etsy about a two-generation, family-owned artisan tea shop in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Over a leisurely tasting of oolong, white and green teas, I discovered the delicate beauty that is Taiping Houkui, from China’s An Hui province, ranked as one of the top ten teas in China and a common choice for diplomatic gifts. Whereas my beloved Mariage Freres earl grey derives most of its character and aroma from bergamot oils, the fragrant nose of a cup of Taiping Houkui is entirely reflective of the quality of the leaf. Good leaf, good flavor. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

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  • I’m a huge tea fan aso I love this article. Great photos and good to know about Silk Road.ReplyCancel

  • Laurente Clavio

    Everyone should be extra carefull when looking for the silk road as the cops are watching it like a Hawk. I found a pretty good site with heaps of tips to hide yourself and ghuide with the url and everything http://silkroaddrugs.org/ReplyCancel

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In my previous post I mentioned my eye-opening experience with Community Grains’ Floriani Red Flint Corn Polenta and, well, here it is. Waxing poetic about any edible item has its risks, but this particular cornmeal, each kernel milled whole and never sifted, thereby retaining every ounce of flavor and nutrition, is worth every bit of the superfluous accolades I’m about to throw its way. You see, many years ago when I was in the pre-amateur home cook stage, I decided to tackle the mammoth task of making Marcella (bless her soul) Hazan’s osso bucco with polenta. It was really just an excuse to put my newly-purchased Staub cocotte to use, and, for a cooking vessel, it performed exceedingly well (of course). The polenta, on the other hand, didn’t fare so well at my inexperienced hands. M and our dinner guest gamely (and kindly) polished off every bit of it, but one spoonful was more than enough for me. I swore off the ingredient for many years until that fateful lunch at Oliveto, where I knew I had to sample something new from the Community Grains product line. One bite of this polenta, and the lunch turned momentous, of the eye-opening, palate singing, Facebook-update-raving variety, because I had just discovered that, contrary to expectations, polenta could actually be delicious, in all its rustic, creamy, earthy, nutty, heirloom-corn worthy glory. I even flirted with the idea of growing this corn varietal in our backyard, but why go to that trouble when you can order a bag (or two) of the stuff? Eat it simply, with a fried egg and some chili oil, or use it as a bed for a hearty winter stew. Regardless, it’s going to be <insert appropriate superlative here>.

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  • I never thought of doing persimmons and polenta as a combination – it sounds very interesting. I have a lot of both this week so looks like a weekday dinner is happening!ReplyCancel

  • I do adore polenta… and grits… and all of those rustic, hearty dishes. We don’t see persimmons much here in the Northeast, but I am going to keep my eyes out for them!ReplyCancel

  • Absolutely exquisite recipe. Happy Holidays to you and yours!ReplyCancel

  • It looks great! Can’t wait to try it Thanks for sharingReplyCancel

  • Carolyn Jung

    Beautiful rendition of polenta! The roasted persimmons are an inspired touch. Will have to try that combo next winter when they come back in season.ReplyCancel

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