After my first visit south of the Mason-Dixon line some 40 years ago, I joked that now I understood the reason that the South lost the Civil War. They were obviously too full from all their amazing foods to be able to fight at full effectiveness. Despite the fact that I was born a Yankee, I lived in Virginia for a couple of years and I’ve traveled through the southern states often. From the Carolinas to Texas, I find the people to be among the warmest, most welcoming and polite I’ve ever encountered.
“Get Your Kicks on Route 66” is a popular refrain from the 1946 song that was made famous by Nat King Cole and subsequently was recorded by dozens of other artists including Chuck Berry, Asleep at the Wheel, and Michael Martin Murphy. While vestiges of the old highway that wound “from Chicago to L.A.” still remain (notably in the California desert and various parts of New Mexico and Oklahoma), much of it has been replaced by Interstate 40. But don’t despair, you can get your kicks on any number of highways that crisscross the U.S. You just have to take that long dreamed about road trip!
Tuscany is undoubtedly one of the most popular and well-loved regions of Italy, but it also has a reputation for being expensive and a bit pretentious. However, if you have a car and want a fantastic taste of Tuscan cuisine at an unbelievably reasonable price, with friendly and attentive service, I have just the place for you. Set your GPS for the rather obscure town of Chiusi and a restaurant called Tuscany Divine.
For anyone who has traveled to Italy and craves the same quality of food and attentive service that one so often finds there, don’t worry: you can experience some of the best Italian food west of Italy in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood at a restaurant called, E` Tutto Qua, which translates to “It’s All Here”. Owner Enzo Pellico has brought his recipes (and several of his family members) from Italy and anyone who visits his warm, energetic restaurant will feel transported to Rome for the evening. I first visited E` Tutto Qua about 6 or 7 years ago, and it immediately became, and has remained one of my top two or three restaurants in San Francisco.
I’d put off a visit to Hawaii for many years, thinking that all it had to offer was the crowded beaches of Waikiki or corny lounge singers performing “Tiny Bubbles”. I could not have been more wrong, and I’ll always be grateful for the day when I finally discovered the Hawaiian Islands and for the fact that I’ve been able to return to them many times since.
Every visit to Italy that I make requires careful planning to be sure I’m able to dine at all of my tried and true favorite restaurants. Still, I always enjoy finding a new place to add to my list and on a recent trip to Tuscany I had one of the best dining experiences ever at a restaurant called Pane, Vino & Zucchero, which means Bread, Wine and Sugar. That sounded like a winning combination to me, and I am so glad I discovered this place!
Almost halfway between the famous Italian cities of Pisa and Genoa on Italy’s western coast you will find the Cinque Terre or “the Five Lands,” a collection of five small villages, some almost 1,000 years old, separated from one another and from the rest of Italy by a series of steep and rugged mountains. The only ways to get there or to go from one town to the next are to hike over the mountains, take a local train, or drive over dizzyingly curvy roads. The area is not that easy to get to, but once you’re there and have left the confines of the train or your rental car, you’ll be glad you made the journey.