10 amazinglicious days in Sicilia (feat. 36 fantabulous hours in Roma)

I don’t even know where to start‘ was in my mind when I sat down to write about our trip to Sicily, or Sicilia, and 9 months have passed since then. I’ve finally decided to finish thing post, and now I get to relive it! So, here we go.

My all-time favorite movie is Cinema Paradiso directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. While I absolutely love the music by Ennio Morricone, what most appeals to me in the movie is the small town where Toto and Alfredo share their friendship. Most scenes were filmed in Palazzo Adriano, a remote town located between Palermo and Agrigento. Visiting Sicilia and going to that little town was one of my biggest dreams and dreams do come true!

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As we were approaching Palazzo Adriano, my heart started to pound like crazy. Everything there was just as they were in the movie. No time seemed to have passed in this little town. We were guided into a little “museum” at THE square; as soon as the lady who led us there turned on the music from the movie, I LOST IT. I am guessing she’s seen quite a few people like me before, because she just had this smile on her face and said nothing. Just thinking about that day makes me tear up right now. 

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Alfredo’s bike was still there, pictures of famous scenes from the movie were hanging up on the wall. I honestly could have spent the whole day sitting at a corner at the square, sipping on espresso, talking to some old folks there and would have been completely happy. Then again, we had some food to eat!

Now, back to the point: FOOD. Aside from all things we loved about Sicilia, here’s what we ate, in the order it was devoured!

1. Palemo fish.pngTrattoria da Salvo (Corso Tukory 156, 90134, Palermo, Sicily, Italy) – Fish, fresh seafood, grilled and lightly seasoned. That’s it. And that’s all we needed.

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Antica Gelateria Lucchese (Piazza S. Domenico, 11, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy) – One gelato a day is a must and we religiously followed that rule! The most incredible flavor was pistachio, which tasted completely different from what I am used to tasting in 14,000 year old store bought crap in the States….!

3. Palermo market.pngMercato della Vucciria (Via Coltellieri, 90133 Palermo PA, Italy) – Markets are the best. Fresh ingredients, lots to munch, so many stories.

Palermo Food Tour (Foodies of Palermo through AirBnb) – I strongly recommend taking this food tour on your day 1 in Palermo. Our guide Salvo was extremely knowledgeable and witty. Not only did he give us delicious food, he also took us everywhere and told us so much about the city and the people. Things we ate: pani ca meusa (spleen sandwich, yes, you heard me correctly), gelato in brioche (it’s a thing, and it’s a beautiful thing), panelle (Sicilian fritters made with chickpea flour), arancini (deep-fried stuffed rice balls), sfincione (Sicilian pizza), Sicilian wine and OLIVES!

6. Palermo fish shop.png(Oh, did I mention that Italian guys are super hot?! I repeat, Italian men are HOT! I wanted to buy all the fish he had in his fish shop. Prego.)

11. cefalu.pngLocanda del Marinaio (Via Porpora, 5, 90015 Cefalù PA, Italy) – Every single pasta dish on this trip was cooked just perfectly. Cefalu is such a perfect daytrip destination if you are looking for something to do near Palermo. The romantic train ride from Palermo to Cefalu will take you to this shoreside town full of charm.

12. palazzo adriano.pngRistorante Pizzeria Del Viale (Via Venti Settembre 2, 90030 Palazzo Adriano, Sicily Italy) – This is the only restaurant in Palazzo Adriano and this IS the best restaurant. The cook/owner did not speak a word of English. She kept asking us questions with some hand gestures and we just said, “si, si”. We ended up with too much food; or is there such a thing as too much food if that food is absolutely delish…!

13. agrigento.pngOutdoor Cafeteria at the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples, Agrigento, Sicily, Italy) – This actually makes me kind of sad. Even cafeteria salads in Sicilia tasted amazing. It’s the ingredients. A fresh, well-grown tomato does not need any seasoning or sauce. I really enjoyed my meal at this cafeteria with the beautiful Greek ruins behind me. Why can’t we get this food quality/freshness at home?

14. turkish steps.pngLounge Beach Scala dei Turchi (Strada Provinciale 68, 182, 92010, Realmonte, Sicily, Italy) – Scala dei Turchi (aka Turkish Steps) is a gorgeous white rock cliff. A scene from the movie Malena (another great movie!) was also filmed here. While gazing at the natural beauty, a sip of aperol spritz is just perfect.

 

Antonio’s AirBnb Cottage (Canicatti, Sicily, Italy) – Antonio hosts guest from all over the world in his charming home located in this little town. With a very reasonable extra fee, he will cook for you and HE CAN COOK! This 10 course dinner consisted of a few local goat cheeses paired with pistachio cream and homemade jams, a pasta dish, an eggplant dish, a couple of seafood dishes, a couple of desserts including the cactus fruit and wine and booze! Homemade food at its finest! If you are headed west from Agrigento, his place is definitely worth a stop just for the food itself.

17. modica.pngBottega Sicula (Corso Umberto I, 128, 97015 Modica RG, Italy) – A quick sweet fix on our way to Siracusa from Ragusa. On this trip, we found a hidden sweet tooth side of my I-am-not-a-dessert-person hubby. Oh, did we crush this thing.

 

I Monasteri Golf Resort & Spa (Traversa Monasteri di Sotto, 3, 96100 Siracusa SR, Italy) – A hotel restaurant isn’t usually my first choice of a meal, but every single meal at this place was unbelievable! Also, the fox. The first night we walked out to the outdoor dining area, we saw an animal around tables. I was thinking, ‘no way that’s a fox,’ and asked the waiter. “What is that?” “It’s a fox.” What an oddly awesome experience! Magical things happen in Sicilia.

 

Caffe Sicilia (Corso Vittorio Emanuele 125 96017 Noto, Italy ) – Just before our trip to Sicilia, Netflix released their new episode of Chef’s Table introducing this pastry shop. I was watching the episode drooling, but also said to myself, “terrible timing.” I wanted to go there before it was filled with tourists from the TV craze. Well, it wasn’t that bad after all, and everything there was completely heavenly indeed. Canoli, cassata, and the almond granita……. Mmm……………………………. I could still feel the texture in my mouth…….

 

Caseificio Borderi (Via Emmanuele de Benedictis, 6, 96100 Siracusa SR, Italy) – If you are in Siracusa, you have to stand in line for an hour, starve yourself, let the sandwich maker tease you with a piece of meat or cheese right before you die of hunger and then stuff your face with a ginormous sandwich at this place. Andrea is such a character. He’s a talker. I really wished I could speak Italian while standing in line, because people giggled and laughed every time he said something – even the intimidating looking uomini did, too. The sandwich buns are almost invisible by the time they are loaded with layers of fresh ingredients. Deliciousness overload! A visit to Siracusa won’t be complete without eating a sandwich here.

21 taormina.pngOsteria Villa Zuccaro (Corso Umberto, I 38, 98039 Taormina ME, Italy) – We had not eaten any pizza until we got to Taormina. There’s so much more than pizza and pasta in Sicilia, but pizza is damn good! The crust was just exquisite.

La Capinera (Via Nazionale, 177, 98039 Taormina ME, Italy) – This Michelin star restaurant is a short taxi ride from the busy town center. It was a chilly night and we got to have the whole outdoor dining section by the water to ourselves for a while. Impeccable service, great food and excellent wine pairing. Chef Pietro D’Agostino came out to the table and explained about every single dish we had. We totally spoiled ourselves here. One of the best meals on this trip!

23 taormina.pngLido Il Delphino (Via Nazionale 140 | Fraz. Mazzarò, 98039, Taormina, Sicily, Italy) – There is no such thing as a bad meal in Sicilia. Italian people in general seem to take pride in their food (as they should). Without Yelping or anything, we walked into random restaurants we ran into and the food was always delicious. I read somewhere that Italian people don’t really care about the Michelin star status; ‘why should someone else tell us how good our already-great-food is’? I totally get it.

 

Aloha Mare (Via Lungo Mare 102, Bivio per Savoca, 98028 Santa Teresa di Riva, Sicily, Italy) – Leaving Savoca, where the famous wedding scene from the Godfather was filmed, we asked some local people where we could find good seafood. And this place hit the spot. Seafood in Sicilia is unquestionably the best. Again, it’s so fresh. They don’t overseason it, overcook it or smother it with heavy sauce. As a huge seafood lover, Sicilia was a utopia.

 

Quattrochchiacchiere (Via Monsignor Domenico Orlando, 13, 95126 Catania CT, Italy) – We did not get to do much in Catania, but we always manage to have a nice meal fit in our schedule. The staff at Airone Hotel gave a couple of recommendations for dinner for our last night in Sicilia. The salumi board had way too much meat and cheese for two of us, but every single bite was absolutely delightful. Then, our main course, mortadella and pistachio pizza, came out. I had never seen such a combination before, or I had never tasted anything that delicious before…! On this trip, I fell in love with mortadella. Mortadella is amazing; well-made one. Duh.

27 rome.pngAfter 10 amazinglicous days in Sicilia, we had 36 hours in Rome before our return. It wasn’t enough time to see everything Rome has to offer, so we decided to do a quick e-bike tour and watch a football (if you call it soccer, that’s fine too) game. Some luck we had, though. That one day happened to be the notorious Derby della Capitale (Roma Derby) day! After these beautiful looking slices of pizza, we went into the stadium for the our grand finale of our trip. Roma Derby itself is an experience you don’t want to miss!

This trip was definitely more than just eating good food, even though food was by far the best part of it. We might have been to a couple of dozens of restaurants but, the sad thing is, there are still so much more that we didn’t get to dine at. I would love to go back to Sicilia someday.

Should you want to know more about our trip, please feel free to reach out to me: Twitter or Instagram. Prego!

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Rose’s Luxury – Roof Garden Tasting Menu

When two friends have birthdays in July, what do we do? We have a fancy birthday celebration at Rose’s Luxury

I still remember the first time I ate there. It was totally worth the wait. This time, it was even better because we had a reservation!

This beautiful rooftop garden (that I would just pass by on my way to the restroom upstairs😂) welcomed us when we got there. One of the birthday girls, “C”, had to stay online and refresh their reservation page 15,000 times to get this. The competition is intense! Special thanks to C for your fast click skills!

We basically sat there for 4 hours and kept eating and drinking. That’s what I call a great life!😁 What was even better, I didn’t have to experience that anxiety/agony/suffering at Komi, where I was asked not to take any pictures of the food. Food was great but every time they brought out beautiful dishes, I gotta say, a little part of me died. No picture, no blog post. Oh well. 

So, here are the pictures from our lavish birthday party!

Rye Challah / with whipped honey-caraway butter and sea salt 

Pheasant “Mortadella” / with pistachio, Dijon & red onion 

Stuff Date / with cultured butter

Artichoke Leaf / with barigoule & smoked trout roe

Kung Pao Tofu / with broccoli, Virginia peanuts & pea shoots (Well, most of us were Asian. When they brought out the Chinese to-go paper containers, for a split second, some of us thought, ‘they are not serving this because we are…?’😂)

Carrots “Pastrami” / with smoked butter, rye & sauerkraut (This might have been my favorite dish this time!)

THE Lychee Salad / with pork sausage, habanero, red onions, coconut milk foam, toasted garlic slices, cilantro & peanuts (This dish has been on their menu forever and I like it every time I eat it!)

Farro Reginetti / with garlic & mustard greens (Some said that it was too salty, even though I liked pasta better than the other one😉)
Rogatoni Alla Vodka / with squid & genovese basil
Pickle-Brined Fried Chicken / with honey & benne seeds (Btw, pickle juice is a great marinade! Never throw away leftover pickle juice. I use it all the time!)
Smoked Brisket / with white bread, horseradish & slaw

Italian House Salad

BBQ Beans / with Carolina gold rice 

Toasted Cinnamon Ice Cream / with apple cider donut (The. Donut. Was. The. Bomb.)
Innkeeper’s Pie / with walnuts, chocolate ganache & milk ice cream (O. M. G. 😱)

Last, but not least, the breakfast goodie bag! On our way out, they gave each of us this bag with a cinnamon bun and bottled cold brew coffee! 

It was such a nice treat! We got to meet and hang out with some cool people while enjoying scrumptious food all evening! If you have some important celebration coming up, I definitely recommmend that you set a reminder on your phone and get online to make a reservation! 

Happy summer!😎 And happy birthday, Y and C!!💕

Retirement gift – delicious trip to Montreal! 

I still remember our trip to Montreal and Quebec City very vividly…! That was such a treat so my husband and I decided to plan a delicious trip there for our parents this time. We all deserve to spoil ourselves after retirement! 


The retirement gift package included: tourist guide and map (available here), a gift certificate to Schwartz’s Deli, a gift certificate to St-Viateur Bagel, and a hotel voucher to Omni Mont-Royal

Special thanks to the restaurants and the hotel for their great hospitality! Merci beaucoup!

Hope the folks enjoy Montreal as much as we did! To all those who worked hard all their lives and have retired, cheers! 

Nasime Japanese Restaurant – Old Town, Alexandria, VA

I won’t beat around the bush. One of the best Japanese restaurants I’ve ever been to in the States. Just go to Nasime and get fed, if you love good food, if you’d rather pay a little more for better quality food than go to an all-you-can-eat restaurant and eat lots of meh food, if you are somewhat into Japanese food, and if raw fish doesn’t scare you!

Make a reservation. The chef, Yuh Shimomura, prepares food from scratch and he will satisfy your palate with a five course menu, which changes on a daily basis. You don’t choose what to eat; you eat what’s given to you: omakase.

Today’s first course: fried Chilean seabass with clam sauce. The fish was cooked perfectly – nice and juicy. The clam sauce, which, by the way, I had never tasted anywhere before, added just the right amount of saltiness to this beautiful dish.
Today’s second course: otsukuri (sashimi). No frills; just fresh fish nicely cut and served. Boston mackerel was my favorite. Even if you are just used to eating raw fish on a thing of rice and this “just the fish” sashimi dish intimidates you, please give it a try. With just a little bit of soy sauce and wasabi, you can totally appreciate different flavors of different fish! Yum❤️

Today’s third course: pork tenderloin with soy ginger sauce and root vegetables. Pork, soy ginger and root vegetables – it sounds like a typical dish any Asian restaurant would have. That’s why it stood out more, IMO. Feel the difference!

Today’s fourth course: fresh bamboo shoot okowa. Okowa is a sticky rice dish mixed and cooked with other ingredients. Uni (sea urchin) and fish roe over rice may sound too exotic, I know. What the heck is sea urchin anyway, right? 😉 This combination of creaminess, stickiness, briny ocean taste with that fish eggs popping in your mouth…. Mmmmm…. The green garnish on top is called shiso, which has a very refreshing, distinct aroma.

The last course: sesame and kinako ice cream! Kinako is roasted soybean flour, which you may have seen sprinkled on top of mochi. Hubby and I both agree that it’s the best ice cream that we’ve ever had! Pure foodgasm..!! Ground black sesame seeds gave this ice cream the out-of-this-world taste and texture. Gosh, I wish I could’ve bought 10 gallons of it on the way out!

All in all, it was worth every penny. I can’t wait to go back and see what the chef has to offer next time!

Happy Valentine’s Day💕

Rose’s Luxury – the hype, expectations & satisfaction!

The phrase “the best restaurant in DC” usually triggers my sarcasm. Rose’s Luxury had been on my radar for a while but I wasn’t in a hurry. If it’s that good, it will stick around for years, right? 😉

Then, a friend of mine recently has decided to move to San Diego. The farewell meal of her choice was……..! Yes, Rose’s Luxury! So it happened tonight!

Rose’s Luxury: 717 8th Street SE, Washington, DC, 20003 | (202)580-8889

 The restaurant opens at 5pm. By the time she got there (at 4ish), the line was already this long. But don’t let that intimidate you! More than half of the people are there in line to reserve a spot for a later time. We got seated as soon as the door opened even though there were 50+ other people ahead of us!

  The whole staff and servers greeted us with big smiles. The moment we walked in, we felt at home. 

 Like many other restaurants in DC, the space is rather tight. However, every table has this little secret place for your drink menu (or whatever) you might wanna hold on to all night! It’s a nice touch. 

So, the food. 

  Potato brioche and butter with crispy onion bits and chives. I normally don’t fill up with dinner rolls. Man, this bread was from another world! It was nice and warm. We just killed this soft, delicious loaf in 2 seconds. I almost wanted to ask for another one to eat and another to go but I decided to behave myself….. THIS TIME. 

  Their signature dish: pork sausage, habanero, peanuts and lychee salad. We didn’t know what to expect when we ordered this dish. My friend is a pescaterian so she ordered the vegetarian version with veggie sausages. The saltiness from the sausages, the sweetness from lychee, the tangy flavor from the dressing, the spiciness from red onions, the aroma from the herbs plus peanuts and thin, toasted garlic! All those flavors were nicely put tougher without clashing with each other. Surprisingly, I actually LOVED the vegetarian version as well. It was milder. If you are not a big fan of strong herby tastes (of sausages), the vegetarian version will give you the ultimate satisfaction!

  Charred carrots with harrisa, housemade yogurt and pearl onions. The combination of the yogurt and the spicy red sauce went really well with charred veggies. Gosh, I love pearl onions! Btw, every time I say onions, I can’t stop hearing Mr. Raftery in my head haha. #NCAA #MarchMadness 😁🏀

  
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm…. Spaghetti with spring pistou, jalapeño and blue crab. Even if you are terrified with anything green, you should try this dish. Their pasta is supposed to be really well made. The noodles were cooked perfectly. The sauce was seasoned just right. There was a good amount of crab meat. We kept saying that we could eat this all day every day. We were only half joking. 

  AND when we thought we were done, this special dish (on the house!) came out for no reason. What a nice surprise! White rice with risotto-like texture topped with seasoned beans! Not sure how they made this rice so creamy without using any cream or milk! Or did they..?! 😛 I loved the perfect harmony of saltiness and sweetness!
  No meal ends without desserts! Warm chocolate mousse, toasted brioche and rose ice cream. Yes, pure foodgasm it was. 
  Then, a more classic choice. Rhubarb tart, strawberries and black pepper whipped cream. When we thought that we were done eating, we had a little taste of this tart. Like we hadn’t been eating, we started to stuff our faces again. I think, at one point, the two couples next to us kind of looked at us with judging eyes. Lol
I’ve read reviews about this place. Some aren’t nice. The wait is too long. The portions are small. It’s expensive. They don’t take reservations. And all of these are somewhat true. Some super duper famous restaurants have let me down for sure. However, to me, it was well worth it. The hype met my expectations today. 

The menu is simple. They give you familiar food choices; yet, they mix and match flavors that we are used to and give you a little surprise on your palate. 

  

I wouldn’t come here every day but it’s definitely a destination. I even asked them about private dining options! 

Farewell to my good friend, C!! Hope she finds all the good restaurants in San Diego by the time I visit her! Can’t wait!

Happy weekend!

The Pit is the $h!t!

I usually try to avoid franchises and look for a hole in the wall and underrated mom and pop restaurants in new places. When I asked people for the best BBQ in Raleigh, NC this weekend, they all gave me this name, “The Pit.” I was a little reluctant to go at first cuz that’s what EVERYONE recommended but, oh boy, didn’t that place just blow my mind.

The Pit
328 W Davie St, Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 890-4500

They give you complimentary biscuits and hush puppies to begin with. Each item on their menu looked amazing but they offer this three course family style all-you-can-eat option so we went for it. You get to choose two appetizers, two entrees, two sides and a dessert.

Here are things we got.

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Fried green tomatoes, cornbread, collard greens, fried okra, baby back ribs, pulled pork, sweet tea and banana pudding!

I gotta say that it was the best BBQ that I’ve had in the last decade! The meat was cooked perfect. I am usually not a “saucy” person but I was pretty much licking the baby back rib sauce off the serving plate at the end of the night.

I can’t help emphasizing how great the banana pudding was. OMG is my review. I’d never tasted any desserts that delicious in my whole life. One item you must try!

So, please spread the word! All of us deserve some amazing food! When in North Carolina, go dine at The Pit!

Valentine’s dinner at Farrah Olivia

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How was your Valentine’s Day? Mine was delicious!

Crystal City in Arlington has quite a few dinner options and I’ve been dying to check out this place called Farrah Olivia. It is run by Chef Morou. Farrah Olivia is actually in the restaurant called “Kora.” That’s right. A restaurant in a restaurant. That was where our v-day dinner took place.

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Bread is served with 4 types of spreads: apple chutney, ricotta cheese with radish, bok choy pesto and cheese with chili! (Bok choy pesto was my favorite.)

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Amuse. Raw oyster with chopped peppers and gelatin pepper bubbles! I saw how they made these on tv one day and today finally got to taste them! I wouldn’t mind just a raw oyster itself but it’s so fun with those peppery bubbles!

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Pan-seared scallops. The seaweed used for garnish had really good taste. I wasn’t too crazy about the candied lemons in the sauce but the scallops were perfectly cooked. (Often, it is so easy to overcook them. Who likes rubbery scallops?! :()

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Seared mahi in Japanese style broth over puréed cauliflower. Shiitake mushrooms were just delightful!

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Duck cooked rare. Ginger Brussels sprouts, flan, Ivorian mole! So many different flavors were nicely plated! 🙂

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Basically, when you walk into a restaurant, they take you to a small, private room. Thats Farrah Olivia. It could fit 10-15 tables. Overall, the food was good. However, I guess my expectations were too high. It is not an “upscale” restaurant by any means. The servers were a little too busy and distracted. They were rushed to get your orders in and clean your table. They stack up the dishes in front of you when you are done. Not that it’s wrong but, it being so private and “exclusive,” I was expecting more than just good food. 😉

What was your v-day dinner? I don’t think it really matters whether you went out to a nice restaurant or cooked pasta at home. As long as we have good company, it’s happy Valentine’s!