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Food & Drink

Roasting Red Peppers in San SebastianI’m not very big on vacation, and yet I love to travel. What seems to be a paradox is actually quite logical in my mind: staying in a hotel, running around trying to see as many monuments and museums as possible… it causes me more stress than anything else. The kind of travel I like involves really getting to know a place, taking it easy and living in my destination.

My first trip to San Sebastian was a two-day pause on a whirlwind backpacking trip, but I was immediately captivated by the Basque architecture, thriving nightlife and, of course, the tapas or pintxos culture, and I knew I would have to return. When I decided to truly visit and get to know San Sebastian, I took two months out of my time in Paris, enrolled in a language school, got a freelance writing job, bought a surfboard, and stayed in an apartment in the Amara neighborhood: I didn’t want to be a tourist; I wanted to be a donostiarra.

One of the major reasons I love exploring new places in this way has to do with the people: I love getting to know the locals, sitting at my local bar and chatting with the regulars. I developed my own haunts in Amara and San Sebastian, enjoyed glasses of txacoli wine, followed my surf instructors on their regular night out in the old town… but no matter how much I tried, I found that integrating isn’t always easy in the somewhat self-segregated and exclusive Basque region.

An area that defines itself as other: neither French nor Spanish, neither fully a metropolis nor fully a beach paradise, San Sebastian is a contradiction of itself. The people look at everyone as an outsider, and to be allowed into the group is nearly impossible: gastronomic societies, groups of surf buddies, giant families of cousins and siblings hanging out in bars and restaurants until late in the evening are not immediately welcoming to tourists and travelers from abroad.

I was lucky, then, during my travels and wanderings on the wide avenues of San Sebastian and the exploration of its surf beach in Gros, to meet Jon Warren, an English transport to San Sebastian who founded San Sebastian Food, a company which allows you to delve into the heart of San Sebastian culture by getting to know its food. When I met Jon, he was just getting started, and he was happy to lead me to his favorite hidden pintxos bars, to introduce me to chef friends he knew, and to take me on tours of the Rioja wine country to the south.

Today, he’s created a real business out of it: he has spent the time and effort getting to know the people and options in the area, setting up an office and culinary center in the middle of the old town, the perfect place to stop by, meet people and see where you should be going. Via pintxos bars, cooking classes, and more, San Sebastian Food takes tourism to a deeper level, and the people you meet along the way – chefs, bartenders and fellow pintxos lovers, not to mention Jon himself – make all the difference.

When I was in San Sebastian, Jon and I became friends, and knowing my love for food, he invited me on a day trip to Tolosa, where we sampled dozens of specialties like alubias, a variety of black bean, sheepsmilk cheese, and foreign fruits I had never seen before. But the most memorable were the red peppers.

Pepper Cart in San Sebastian Market

Peppers are a huge part of Basque and Spanish cuisine, but I had never seen anything quite like the pepper-roasting machine set up in the middle of the Tolosa market: kilos of piquillo peppers were thrown into a rotating roaster, popping out at the other side charred and black, to be wrapped up in plastic bags and taken home to jar. I watched as local women filled carts with several kilos of peppers, surely to bring home and prepare with the help of daughters and cousins. Maybe I was slightly jealous; maybe I just wanted to be part of it. Either way, I purchased some and brought them home, and, riffing off of one of my favorite pintxos from my local bar, I made pimientos del piquillo rellenos de bacalao.

Recipe: Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Bacalao

Pimientos del piquillo rellenos de bacalao

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds roasted piquillo peppers, the skins removed
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, 1 minced, 1 whole
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 250 g. salt cod, rehydrated
  • 1 T. heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. If your peppers were fresh, carefully remove the stem and seeds without ripping the pepper, so that it retains its cone form. Peppers can also be purchased already seeded in glass jars at the supermarket. Reserve 10 of the best-shaped peppers, and dice the rest.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan and add the onion and a hefty pinch of salt. Sauté until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about a minute.
  3. Add the diced red peppers. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally. Add water by the half-cupful until the peppers have fallen apart and formed a chunky sauce, about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. At this point, you can purée some or all of the sauce using an immersion blender, or leave it chunky.
  4. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, heat the cream, salt cod, potatoes and other clove of garlic (whole) in a saucepan. Add 1 cup of water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cod has broken down and has a creamy texture. Use the back of a wooden spoon to break down the cod completely. When the clove of garlic has completely broken down and been incorporated into the mixture, it’s ready (about 30 minutes). Season with black pepper.
  5. Using a spoon, stuff the cod mixture into the reserved peppers, and carefully place into the sauce. Cook, covered, until just heated through, and serve with bread.

Emily Monaco is native New Yorker, living and writing in Paris since 2007. She loves discovering new places and, of course, their local cuisines! Read about her adventures in food and travel at tomatokumato.com or follow her on Twitter at @emiglia

Wellfleet Oysters on the Half ShellRenowned for its quaint New England seaside charm, the icy Atlantic that rarely breaks 60 degrees, the spectacular sunsets at First Encounter Beach in Eastham and the rolling dunes of Provincetown, Cape Cod’s beauty and allure can also be found on a platter of Wellfleet Oysters.

Though I cringe every time I wade into the Atlantic, those bracing Cape Cod waters produce some of the freshest seafood in the Northeast, from palm-sized quahogs to chubby clams to those world famous oysters.

It’s the Wellfleet Oyster, the crassostrea virginica, that’s the Cape’s crown jewel, a bivalve gem whose salty liquor and creamy flavors make it one of the Cape’s most recognizable harvests. With their long bodies and hard shells, Wellfleet Oysters taste the best because they bed down in tidal flats from the time they are just tiny seeds until they mature. Fast moving tides, with their cold, salty cleansing waves, bring the growing seedlings unique nutrients, adding to their legendary clean taste.

Most Cape restaurants offer oysters on the half shell, deep-fried or baked. However, to appreciate their true exquisite flavor, try them raw with a classic mignonette, a vinegary, slightly sweet sauce that accentuates the oyster’s salinity. Don’t use a fork, but cradle the knobby shell in your hand and gently tip it back into your mouth. It’s Cape Cod in a shell.

Wellfleet Oysters are available throughout the Cape, from Sandwich to Provincetown, but I seem to enjoy them best when I’m actually in Wellfleet, a rural, but delightfully artsy village with its share of great seafood restaurants and markets.

Both the Pearl Restaurant and Mac’s Seafood are located in the harbor, a small but bustling pier where you can find and enjoy those Wellfleet Oysters while watching fishing and leisure boats head out to sea. Mac’s is strictly take-out, with a small eating area right on the beach, while Pearl offers a rooftop dining area with fantastic views of the harbor.

In the center of Wellfleet, there’s Mac’s Shack. Not your typical seafood shanty, Mac’s Shack has a larger, more upscale menu with a wonderful raw bar. They don’t take reservations – it’s first come, first served – and the wait can be long if you arrive during peak dinner hours.

If you prefer to knock back oysters in the comfort of your vacation rental, head over to the Catch of the Day, a small fish market and restaurant that has not only oysters, but plenty of native seafood. Opening oysters can be a bit tricky at first, so ask the folks behind the counter for a demonstration. Make sure to buy an oyster knife and wear a heavy glove.

Once you master the art of opening up a Wellfleet Oyster, you’ll be able to set up your own raw bar in your own home, wherever you travel.

Karen Ellery Jones is a Cape Cod travel writer. She has lived on the Cape for over 20 years with her husband, two teens and three cats. You can read more of her writing on Cape Cod for Couples.

Fresh Almond Croissants

You would think it would be easy to find a good croissant in Paris. Or a good baguette. But the discrepancies in quality from one Parisian bakery to another can be quite shocking. Below are some tips for ordering outside of the box, and a few dependable recommendations in the event that your local Parisian bakery does not dish up the croissant of your dreams.

Not many Americans know the joys of the amazing pain aux amandes, sometimes known as an almond croissant. Almond croissants are actually an ingenious way for a bakery to sell its leftovers. The almond croissant is a day-old croissant, split and filled with almond cream, topped with almonds and baked again. Trust me, however, this is no poor man’s pastry. The almond croissant is sugary, buttery, crispy and beautiful. Depending on the bakery, the same method is sometimes used on old pain au chocolat, making an almond-chocolate croissant. Decadence.

One of the best all-around bakeries in central Paris is the Boulangerie Victor 1920, right near the Centre Georges-Pompidou (33 rue Rambuteau, 4th arrondissement). The breakfast viennoisserie are excellent. Pick the sinfully rich croissant au beurre over the regular croissant. (You are on vacation – bring on the butter!) Victor 1920 is also a great place to stop by for a quick take-away lunch on a sunny day. Instead of the usual sandwiches of tuna salad or ham and cheese that you find at most Parisian bakeries, Victor 1920 offers combinations like tandoori chicken, three kinds of goat cheese or salade niçoise all on expertly-executed baguette or country bread. For about 7 euro you can pick up a sandwich, a drink and a stellar dessert: the raspberry-pistachio tart is one of the most unforgettable pastries I’ve ever had.

Aside from the independent bakeries of Paris, which can be hit or miss, quite a few chains have opened up. Some are actually quite good. Eric Kayser is an award-winning French chain that first sprang up in Paris in 1996 and now has locations throughout Paris, in Lyon and internationally as far away as Japan (but not in the U.S. as of yet). With a consistent standard of quality, Eric Kayser is a great option if your closest independent boulangerie is just not that great.

Paul is the super-chain of French bakeries, but is great to know as locations can be found virtually anywhere in Paris (in the métro, at the Gare du Nord, at airports…) You can even find Paul in Florida! You can order a take-away coffee at Paul, which in France is not easy to find outside of Starbucks, and their pastries are in general quite decent. The superstar at Paul, however, is their pain aux lardons—bacon bread! The mini-size bacon bread costs around 60 euro cents and is two bites of smoky heaven. Pain aux lardons is a great savory breakfast option in a country that loves its sweets. Bon appétit!

Mary-Elizabeth O’Neill is a New York based event designer who has lived in Paris and London. She travels frequently, loves writing about her adventures and appreciates your comments! You can find Mary-Elizabeth on Twitter as @m_oneill_nyc.

Moe's BBQ, Alabma

If setting the clocks forward for Spring doesn’t get you looking forward to long summer days and warm summer evenings, then you probably already live in a tropical climate. For the rest of us, warmer weather and more sunlight spells the beginning of grilling and chilling season. This week, we started to get the first whiffs of what’s cooking for 2011.

Hilton Head visitors will be excited to hear about the annual Hilton Head Wine and Food Festival, which was held from March 8-12. The festival kicked off the season, showcasing great chefs of the South and fine wines from around the world.

Don’t worry about going hungry if you missed the Hilton Head Festival. . . Just head south. Alabama has a whole series of BBQ cook-offs, tastings, and festivals that’s just getting underway. This weekend is the BBQ and Blues festival in Foley, and you can find a culinary and cultural gathering almost every weekend through the summer. To plan your feast, check out the schedule here.

Travelers and homeowners with an interest in London vacation rentals will want to check out the London Vacation Rental Market Report, released last week by New York Habitat. The report shows that “renewed growth in the worldwide travel market brought more customers to London in 2010.”

An article in Colorado’s Summit Daily reported that Western ski towns are “moving forward with plans to hunt down illegal vacation rental owners.” Wherever your vacation rental is located, all rental owners should pay attention to local regulations and be sure to pay any taxes on your properties.

Happy Travel Tuesday! Have a great week and enjoy the daylight!

Whether you’re hosting a holiday feast for twenty or enjoying a candle-lit dinner for two, eating well is always a key concern on vacation. Wouldn’t it be nice to go away for a week and not have to spend any time planning, shopping, or cooking? You could always eat out, but why not put your rental home’s amenities to good use by enjoying chef-prepared in-home dining without having to chop a vegetable or wash a pot yourself?

Once the exclusive luxury of the wealthy elite, personal chefs and home-catering services are now more accessible than ever. For the same cost as a restaurant meal, a professional chef will work with you to tailor a menu to your taste, do all of the shopping, and come to your kitchen to prepare a five-star meal for you to enjoy in your own dining room. Sound impossible? With companies like Simplicity Chef in Boston, it couldn’t be easier. Simplicity Chef’s Joe Letteri will create a four-course meal in your home starting at only $85 per person. Most in-home chefs cater their menus and ingredients to your preferences and budget, so don’t be afraid to set limits and hire a cook on your own terms.

If you love eating at home on vacation, but don’t want to have a cook in your house everyday, then you can also explore the option of hiring a chef to prepare multiple meals in advance. Services such as In-Home Dining by Marie design menus, do the shopping, and create a week’s worth of meals that you can store in your kitchen. To keep things free and easy, they even provide detailed instructions for heating everything on your own.


While The Fall Season is synonymous with apple picking, changing leaves, and the kids heading back to school, it seems that as the weather changes, so do our taste buds. With the crisp chill of fall comes a need for warmer recipes. Here at FlipKey, we decided to compile a few recipes for our favorite fall feasts, so that whether you’re watching the colors change on the Cape or basking in the heat of Hawaii, you can enjoy a taste of fall.

Butternut Squash Soup
1 butternut squash
2 cloves garlic
1 Cinnamon stick
¼ cup carrots
¼ celery
Bacon (optional)
6 cups chicken stock
½ cup half and half
Nutmeg

Dice squash, carrot, celery, garlic, cinnamon stick and bacon. Fry in a large pot with butter for about 8 minutes. Add chicken stock and let simmer for about 10 minutes. Throw away the cinnamon stick.

Let the soup cool down before putting it in a blender. Puree until smooth. Heat soup back up to a simmer, stirring in the half and half.

To serve sprinkle with nutmeg, salt, pepper and cheddar cheese if preferable.

Beef Stew
2 pounds cubed beef
Olive Oil
1 chopped onion
4 sliced carrots
8 cups beef stock
7 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
6 cloves minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Saute beef with olive oil until meat is brown on all sides. Add and sauté garlic. Add beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, onion, carrots, potatoes, thyme and cloves. If using a crock pot cook on low for 10 to 12 hours (5 to 6 on high) or let simmer on stove about 40 minutes to an hour, stirring periodically every 10 minutes or so.

Remove bay leaves before serving.

Hot Apple Cider
2 quarts apple cider
½ cup lemon juice
2 whole cloves
½ cup brown sugar
1 orange, sliced
A Pinch of nutmeg
1 cup rum (optional)

Add apple cider to a pot on medium heat. Add remaining ingredients (except for nutmeg). Let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often.

To serve, pour mixture through strainer (to remove herbs). Garnish with nutmeg.

Caramel Apples
6 cold apples
1 cup cream
½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup honey
14 ounce package individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped

Remove stem from apples, and replace with craft stick. Cover a baking sheet with parchment. Prepare a bowl of cool water to place pan in later.

Heat cream and salt briefly, stir in honey and caramel and bring to a boil. Bring to a simmer, stirring with a spoon for about 15 minutes. Place pan in bowl of cool water to stop caramel from cooking (caution: do not get any water into the mixture!) Dunk apples into caramel mixture and place on parchment paper. Let cool in fridge and enjoy ?

Ahh, Germany… home of the strudel, Ludwig van Beethovan, the Volkswagen, Claudia Schiffer and, of course, beer. In fact, beer is such a signature of German life that it is the basis for the internationally acclaimed Oktoberfest, an annual celebration of the leaves changing color, delicious German food, brotherly love and (you guessed it) beer. This year’s 176th Oktoberfest will happen from September 19th to October 4th in Munich.

But don’t let the fast approaching date fool you. Last minute vacations can sometimes be a great opportunity to spice things up while, surprisingly, offering some of the best deals to be had. While hotels tend to be fully booked or more expensive as minutes tick away, vacation rentals are a great option for travelers. Besides being economical, vacation rentals are a great way to break free from the oh-so typical hotel routine.

Where else can you celebrate your love of German beverages in this vibrant tradition with thousands of fellow beerthusiasts and live in total comfort? Plus, with a vacation rental, your beer storage isn’t limited to the tiny confines of a mini fridge. You’ll have a real fridge in which to store your favorite brews. So grab your best lederhosen and favorite beer stein and check out Oktoberfest.

One of the major advantages of renting a vacation property is the ability to cook during your stay.  Here at FlipKey, we recognize that there is nothing quite like eating out doors on a beautiful day at your vacation getaway.  Whether grilling on the porch, picnicking at the beach, or simply gathering together in the backyard for a meal, there is nothing quite like a summer vacation feast combined with warm summer air to put your mind and stomach at ease.   With summer feasts in mind, we would like to introduce a new series of regular blog posts highlighting the many possibilities to create superb vacation rental dining experiences.

BBQ

For our first post, we’d like to share with you three special recipes to help you achieve the ultimate beach rental barbecue, leaving your guests and yourself wowed and so full that your only option will be to sleep off the meal.  We proudly present the FlipKey summer barbeque Triptych:  Cobb Salad, Beef Ribs, and fruity Sangria.   Happy dining.  Happy travels.

Cobb Salad
Serves 8 appetizer sized portions

  • 3 hardboiled eggs (shells peeled) and chopped
  • 6 Slices of Bacon
  • 1 head of Romaine Lettuce
  • ½ bunch of watercress lettuce (hard stems removed)
  • 4 cups chopped grilled chicken breast (boneless and skinless)
  • 2 avocados, peel and seeds removed, diced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives
  • ½ cup Roquefort cheese, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2/3 cup olive oil

1. Cut the hard-cooked eggs into 1/2-inch dice. Set aside.

2. Fry bacon for about 10 minutes.  Stop frying when bacon is crisp. Move bacon onto paper towels to dab off excess fat. Once bacon cools, crumble it and set it aside in a separate bowl.

3. Rinse lettuce and spin dry.  Chop and break up lettuce into small, bite-size pieces. Toss Romaine and Watercress together in a large bowl.

4. In a large salad platter, lay out tossed lettuce as a bed, filling the bottom of the platter.  Neatly arrange grilled chicken, tomatoes, avocado, Roquefort cheese, eggs, and bacon in a pattern on top of the lettuce bed in rows.

5. In a separate bowl combine mustard, salt, pepper, vinegar, sugar,  and oil, stir until all ingredients have blended. Serve dressing separately or over the salad. Your choice.

Barbeque Ribs
Serves 8 portions

  • 4 pounds pork baby back ribs
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 jar of your favorite marinade

1. Remove excess fat and clean ribs.

2. Preheat grill for medium heat while mixing the following ingredients in a small bowl: 1 jar of marinade, ketchup, brown sugar, and orange juice.

3. Once grill has reached medium heat, Grill ribs for 1 hour.

4. After I hour of grilling, coat ribs on all sides with sauce.

5. Allow ribs to grill for another 15 to 25 minutes with sauce. Remove ribs from grill and Enjoy!

FlipKey’s Beach Rental Sangria
Serves 8 portions

  • 1 Large Orange (sliced)
  • 1 Large Orange (juiced)
  • 1 Lemon (sliced)
  • 1 peach (sliced)
  • 1 bottle of dry red wine (Merlot or Shiraz)
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 2 cups club soda
  • 1/3 cup of brandy

1. Slice 1 of the oranges as well as the lemon.  Gently squeeze fruit slices over pitcher to extract juice from fruit. (Note: Be careful to keep fruit slices in tact.) Keep sliced fruit on the side to be added later.

2.Add sugar to the fruit juice in the pitcher.  Juice the second orange in a separate bowl.  Remove seeds from juice and discard remaining orange.  This orange is only meant to be used for juice.  Pour the juice of this orange into pitcher.  Stir together orange juice, lemon juice, and sugar, ensuring sugar completely dissolves.

3. Pour wine and brandy into pitcher.  Slice peach.  Add peach slices, orange slices, and lemon slices.  Stir.

4.Chill mixture for at least 2 and ½ hours, but preferably overnight.  Just before serving, pour in chilled club soda and stir.