food

another book: a cup of culture

Looking for a last-minute Christmas present? I highly recommend the book A Cup of Culture, now available on Amazon (both paperback and Kindle versions) — and not just because I wrote part of it! The book is a wonderful collection of essays written by expats about life in a different culture. What ties everything together is food: each essay has some food component, and recipes are included. What’s not to love?

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Some friends and family members of mine have already received their own copies of A Cup of Culture, and they’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have (that or they’re all really good liars…). It is a fun read about life overseas — and sometimes in some pretty strange places — and the different culinary experiences people have there. Unlike the last book to which I contributed, this one really will appeal to a wide range of readers.

If you read it, let me know what you think!

the 15 of 2015: best pizza in the world

We’re pretty much all about food and wine in this house, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of my top things from 2015 was finding and eating the best pizza ever. I’ve eaten a lot of pizza and this was seriously the best I’ve ever had.

Where did I have such good pizza? Unsurprisingly, I had it in Italy. I know, I know… but I’ve had a lot of pizza in Italy and, for the most part, prefer Nomad Pizza in Hopewell, NJ or DC’s 2 Amy’s. But the pizza to which this post refers was found in the adorable town of Gorizia, Italy, on the border with Slovenia.

My brother came for his spring break and in addition to showing him around Belgrade, we took a trip to Istria (of course!), hitting both the Croatian and Slovenian parts, and Italy. It was a fabulous trip, despite some cold and occasionally rainy weather, and we spent a lot of it tasting wine.

When we got to Gorizia, I let Grant look into where we should eat. After perusing TripAdvisor reviews and checking out pictures of pizza, he picked  a restaurant called Al Cavallino. We went into town to check things out and ultimately got help from a friendly Italian guy (aren’t they all?), who pointed us in the right direction and told us it would probably be too far to walk from where we were.

 

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The restaurant itself was nothing special, although it was crowded with people who were clearly regulars. Our waiter spoke English and knew many of his customers’ orders without having to ask. He also showed no surprise whatsoever to find us back in his care two nights in a row!

In typical Italian fashion, the coperto (a “cover charge” that is in place at most restaurants, since tips aren’t expected) decreased the second night we were there.

Long story short, it was the best. Pizza. Ever. If you find yourself in Gorizia, make sure you stop by!

cook and book

In early September, we took a little day trip to Maastricht, in the Netherlands. Partly because we wanted to visit a new place and partly because I specifically wanted to visit the cool bookstore there that I had read about in an article on beautiful bookstores around the world. Our trip was great and someday I will get around to writing about it, but this post is all about another cool bookstore. When my friend Chrystin saw that I had gone to the Boekhandel Dominicanen bookstore, she sent me a great article on other great bookstores around the world — including one in Buenos Aires (where she is) and one in Brussels (where I am)!

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So of course I made it my mission to get to Cook and Book, the bookstore in Brussels. Cook and Book takes the cafe-and-bookstore combo and goes a step further, with actual restaurants in the bookstore. Yes, I said “restaurants” plural: there’s Bloc A and Bloc B of Cook and Book, which each have their own entrances, themes, and restaurants. In each of these two areas, inside is broken down into different sections, as one might find in any bookstore. The difference is that the sections are physically separated and the decor is thematic: the travel section has an Airstream in it and Campbell’s soup cans hanging from the ceiling, for example.

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There’s also a fabulous English language book section (in Bloc B), complete with dark wooden bookshelves and red leather seats. Although the majority of the books are in French (with the obvious exception of the English-language section and the perhaps not-as-obvious partial exception of the travel books, of which a number are in English), I had a wonderful time wandering around, checking out both the books and the decor. There are some great little gifts and a lot of cards in English if you are in Brussels and happen to need a card or two.

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Although I only had a hot chocolate and my friend had a salad, the restaurant sections definitely began to fill up as lunchtime rolled around. I’ve read that reservations are necessary for dinner. We were there just before the lunch crowd and noticed that salads seemed very popular, as did breakfast (there’s even a Sunday brunch in Bloc B!). So while I can’t speak to the quality of the food, the hot chocolate was excellent, and it does appear to be a pretty popular place. It is definitely worth checking out for the bookstore part alone (in my opinion. and that is the opinion of someone who reads a lot so keep that in mind…). Also they have multicolored poodle doodles as the background to part of their website — seriously, how could anyone/I not love that?

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Cook and Book is conveniently located at Avenue Paul Hymans 251, which is right at the Roodebeek metro, across the street from the W Shopping Centre. Also, the hours are great: Bloc A is open 8 am until midnight daily; Bloc B is open 10 am until 8 pm, and until 10:30 pm on Fridays (the restaurants have shorter hours).

What cool bookstores have you been to? Where else do I need to go?