Cabarete, Domincan Republic
Six o’clock of an early May afternoon on the northern coast of the island. The wind cautiously starts to ruffle the palm trees of the small jungle surrounding Natura Cabana. At the same time, Nico, in-house executive chef, heads to the vegetable garden, looking for perfumed herbs and ripe vegetables for dinner and the last practitioners hurry down that same path, leading to the patio overlooking the beach, where the last afternoon yoga class is about to start. A few days are enough to understand that whatever rain may take you aback in this Caribbean land, it will be harmless and transient, sometimes merciful. Like the one that is going to fall tonight, just to make the shades of green even brighter, hibiscus and tropical almond trees even more scented and sky and ocean even more shimmering. Our cabana is the one where Franca spent her childhood together with her family. Of Chilean origins, she also has Ligurian ancestors on her father’s side, doe eyes, amber-coloured skin and an athlete’s healthy and fit body. She tells us that she arrived here from Chile when she was a child and that what started as an improvised but warm hospitality for friends coming there to visit slowly turned into a lodge based on the principles of ecology and Feng Shui. Natura Cabana is today a reassuring oasis of happiness. A handful of rustic cabins made of stone and wood in a forest of palm, banana and almond trees and mulberries, overlooking a small, secluded beach, North to Cabarete. A Caribbean version of our ideal is served for breakfast: we spread rust papaya jam on perfectly roasted slices of bread, enjoying sweet sips of tropical vitamins from homemade juices as we wait for our serving of soft and fragrant pancakes. Then we venture out headed to the plantation of organic cocoa and coffee on the central plateau and we come back just in time for the last yoga class and for another creative dinner of our Argentinian chef. Natura Cabana, Caribbean style, in the hippie, raw, pure version we were looking for.
Six o’clock of an early May afternoon on the northern coast of the island. The wind cautiously starts to ruffle the palm trees of the small jungle surrounding Natura Cabana. At the same time, Nico, in-house executive chef, heads to the vegetable garden, looking for perfumed herbs and ripe vegetables for dinner and the last practitioners hurry down that same path, leading to the patio overlooking the beach, where the last afternoon yoga class is about to start…
South Tyrol, Italy
There are many reasons why you should seat at an open-air table of Leadner Alm. Some of which are, definitely, the paths and meadows you have to cross to reach it, the XL glasses of delicious buttermilk and the most genuine homemade version of canederli. Hot food until 5pm.
South Tyrol, Italy
Maybe you will arrive at the San Luis hotel on a June afternoon. You will leave behind Merano and its noble gardens, the vivid grazing lands in Avelengo, the wood and stone huts and you will enter the shade of a larch and pine wood. You will get to the reception hall, enjoy a refreshment of local products specifically selected for you and, sipping your apple juice, you will plunge all at once in the atmosphere of this place…
We are Annalisa and Valentina – friends, colleagues and mothers, always looking for new culinary destinations. Between Madrid and New York, we met in Milan, where we tried to mix places, flavours and experiences. That is how Gourmeando was born, a project devoted to twin different countries in order to create culinary unions and fusions. We enjoy describing places through their traditions and typical features, and thanks to the chefs we met in every country and who became our special guides.
South Tyrol, Italy
We do not know Merano, not as much as we wish we did. However, we do know Linda (what a beautiful name!), who opens the door of Monocle pop-up shop for us while her son Marco is turning off the lights. Linda does not know us, but she hands us the book we were looking for, saying ‘This is for you’ and, when we ask ‘Where can we have lunch?’, suggests without hesitations Restaurant Meteo. ‘Ask for Agata and tell her I sent you there’. For the first time we promptly approve of a restaurant even before trying it. It will not be easy to find it, but its nostalgic and learned style – of which we would like to steal a piece every time – will make up for this difficulty, along with the fulfilling and intelligent culinary innovation that always pleases our palates and hearts.
San Francisco, USA
It may be the most expensive dinner of a lifetime, but the seasoned reserve caviar – with smoked salt of the house – will be served in an ancient French-crystal sugar bowl, the pickles of the best trout sashimi in a miniature jewel case, the farm herbs infusion (the family farm is one hour north of San Francisco) in the shape of a tiny bouquet of wild flowers in a porcelain and pure gold tea cup, and the violet asparagus bare and simply browned on a live flame. The man sitting at the closest table is a regular who comes here alone, wearing a 70s crimson suit perfect for a unique and extremely elegant rendezvous. Ask to be seated as close as possible to the long shiny steel tables of the open kitchen where the Executive Chef leads his team of industrious bees in a precise dance. Three Michelin stars and no dress code… Come as you are.
Come rain or shine. Whatever the weather in San Francisco, the Saturday morning farmers’ market in the historical Ferry Building along the Embarcadero will be joyfully crowded. When it rains, the Happy Girl Kitchen’s stall and its founders, self-assured thirty-year-olds, will make any single glass-pot shine, whether it contains Meyer lemon marmalade, fruit syrup, or freshly picked pickles. ‘Your mission in the next few days is to find us in Pacific Grove,’ they tell me. I will go there on purpose a couple of days later, driving south from San Francisco, towards the Big Sur. I will find a bright café, the Arcade Fire filling the air lightly, Cayley – the sweet baker with a denim apron, a peaked cap and round glasses, and the best freshly picked and fresh smelling meal in the Monterey Bay.
After you spend a few days wandering outdoors in the Bay Area, an open fire will not be a discovery anymore, but Camino’s is highly imaginative. A lively wood hearth, as big as the mouth of Pinocchio’s whale, and a large counter where Chef Russell Moore’s kitchen team prepare the orders of an extraordinary brunch: two perfectly fried eggs, the best herbs sausages of the house, brandy-coloured potatoes cooked in duck fat, thick doughnuts with roasted apricots, and a homemade jam of vegetables. A copy of ‘This is Camino’ will go straight into your bookshelf. Allison is the woman in a simply perfect duo, and Oakland a joyful-tale place to which you will think immediately you have not devoted enough time.
San Francisco, USA
Those who have been to Japan know how a typical restaurant, its Chef and the steam of its kitchen, along with the quiet cheerfulness inside, can camouflage themselves perfectly and disappear behind a street number. 82, 14th Street looks like a deserted address, but when you cross the small court made of bamboo canes, coloured windblown paper-carps and rows of lit lightbulbs you are in a perfect Japanese izakaya, with hundred-year-old cedar wood alcoves and yakitori sizzling on coal. More than every single piece of pottery, more than the small portions of ‘food of the house’, more than the delicate and skilful service, the atmosphere and the right music will be the cult things about this Mission District jewel in San Francisco.
San Francisco, USA
We always ask to seat at the marble counter, in front of the embers and of the Italian pizza oven, and in front of the youngest chef, who attends to leavened products and spreads shiny melted butter on a long strip of homemade focaccia that lies on the long wooden chopping board. We have the focaccia with the soft ricotta of the house, which is cooked in the oven in a large fig leaf inside a cast-iron pot and served with silky honey. One of the highlights of the Italian country cuisine of Chef Michael Tusk (two Michelin stars for Quince, the elegant next-door restaurant) is the handmade tortellone – filled with ricotta and creamy yolk – with melted butter, abundant Parmesan and pepper. Salted fireworks for two Italians who, in the U.S.A., book a table in an Italian restaurant only in California.
San Francisco, USA
First, you need to complete your morning pilgrimage to every single coffee temple in San Francisco. There, young good-looking tattooed employees grind and roast coffee beans every day, then sort trolleys of blends of the house to the best restaurants in town, where people talk about the aromatic shades of lilac, peach, or winter melon of any single-origin from Ethiopia, Colombia and Brazil, and drink tall hot mugs at breakfast while reading the (digital) morning newspaper. Then, you will go back daily to Four Barrel, on Valencia Street, because the staff are honest and sexy. You are only a few blocks away from Tartine Bakery, but by now your ritual consists of the drip coffee of the Slow Bar and of the sweet ginger and caramel bun you like to tear with your hands…
For those who love, as much as we do, the rural side of the islands, the bucolic dinners in the shadow of an olive tree, the wise evolutions of the Mediterranean cuisine and the variegated flavours of the Middle East. For those who are sanely obsessed by maquis, unusual salads and perfectly made bread, just like us, La Paloma will become the first choice for every dinner on the island.
Porto Recanati, Italy
If an authentic and poetic way of showing love of one’s own origins exists, we can learn it from Chiara. Chiara restored her family’s house in the centre of Porto Recanati, where she was born and where she grew up, and made of it a ‘meraviglia’ bed and breakfast facing the sea. An inattentive person may mistake I Cucali for one of the holiday houses on the seafront, its wicket door always open and some chairs outside to chitchat with the neighbours…
To us, avoiding the boredom of a long wait in Madrid airport on a mid-spring day means catching a taxi and reaching the city centre. Getting lost in the sunny streets around the Grand Via, receiving the gift of a dazzling truce by the clouds, and sitting at one of Celso Y Manolo’s tables. Ordering beers and sharing tapas, and grasping the sublime energy of the regulars sitting in the chairs and stools near us. Tasty curls of Jamón Ibérico, a salad with Chardonnay and honey vinaigrette, Bocadillos de Caramares, and the best Croquetas de Bacalao ever. We feel a sheer and immediate empathy for the city, for this perfect little restaurant, for the Madrilenians and their way of life.
The fellow guests at Avocado are all regulars, and so are we, since during our short stay in Athens we went back daily to a small quiet table in Nikis Street, at any time of the day. There is a yoga and Pilates studio on the other side of the street – and we were tempted to schedule a lesson in our agenda, while the vegetarian minimarket is right next door. In a tiny alley of Syntagma neighbourhood in Athens, literally the chaotic centre of the capital, develops a universal idea of love and nourishment we never grow tired of, especially on a journey abroad. Rice, cereals, vegetables, burgers, soups, salads, and extracts, have the most optimistic and easy-going names in the world – Gratitude, The Herb Garden, Beautiful Day, Life’s a Rainbow, Hug a Tree – and form a vegetarian menu that will make some snort and many others smile widely (like us).