I often crave fresh, seasonal veggies as well as astoundingly delicious international eats and have a tendency to not feel so great until I get my fix. I also incessantly yearn to travel to places on the other side of the world, like Europe, in part because I covet their fine dining and superb wines.
Because it has been a few months since I’ve had my dose of European culinary delights in Europe, I have found myself in the kitchen cooking up chic new twists to these culinary experiences I dearly miss.
Keep in mind, when you eat like a European, you have to drink like one too. With each dish, I find myself browsing our wine cellar to find the ideal wine to go with the latest creation. Such a tough life…
This week I made a simple, lip-smacking Lemony Miso Pesto Pasta paired with an Austrian Grüner Veltliner.
This Lemony Miso Pesto Pasta is tart, delicious, and totally worth a trip to the locals farmer’s market for as may fresh ingredients as possible. If you can find fresh, handmade pasta your taste buds will experience double the pleasure.
- Bunches of basil
- Bit of baby spinach
- Oooo so delicious olive oil
- Mega spoonful or two of white miso paste
- Lots of lemon zest
- Enough lemon juice to satisfy your love for tartness
- Toasty pine nuts
- Sauté or steam seasonal veggies (ideas: asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, onions, bell pepper)
Your favorite type of pasta, but I used fettuccine.
As the pasta cooks, place all the sauce ingredients in a Cuisinart and chop until it reaches your preferred consistency. Sauté or steam the veggies. Combine everything and top with Parmesan and arugula as desired.
While the obvious wine pairing with an Italian dish would be, of course, an Italian wine, I prefer to mix the countries and flavors a bit more. While a Pinot Grigio or Prosecco would be a nice choice, I wanted to take this opportunity to pair one of my favorite Italian home cooked dishes of all-time with one of my favorite white wines of all-time, an Austrian Grüner Veltliner. I know this grape is capable of both holding its own and complimenting such a zesty dish.
I chose a 2008 Grüner Veltliner Haarlocke Hajszan from Vienna (yes, the city limits of a European capital… how many wines can boast these type of credentials!) because I wanted to compliment both the lemon in the sauce as well as the arugula topping. Grüner Veltliner wines, in general, have a tendency to be lemony, peppery, and full of minerality. This particular wine tasted slightly of stone fruit (apricots) and had pleasing levels of acidity that matched quite well with the creamy, lemony basil sauce. The peppery finish, synonymous with Grüner Veltliner, goes hand-in-hand with freshly picked arugula.
In reality, it doesn’t matter which Grüner Veltliner label/vineyard you enjoy with this dish, but I highly recommend you give this grape variety a taste. If you love funky, fun, dry, different, and unoaked white wines… you can’t go wrong with Grüner Veltliner.
It’s also a great wine to sip while you cook.
* Disclaimer: Wine provided as sample from a PR agency; Photos taken on a Sony Cyber-shot WX9 courtesy of Sony Electronics.
These last couple of days I had an opportunity to play with the new Sony Cyber-shot WX9 digital camera which will be available in the next couple of weeks.
Let me first tell you that I’ve gone through many different brands when it comes to point-and-shoot digital cameras and I was extremely pleased to get my hands on this impressive Sony product.
As a travel and wine blogger, I’m constantly sharing pictures of my travels around the world as well as my favorite bottles of wine. Because of this, I need a camera that is easy to carry while helping me capture professional-looking photos in different environments.
So, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, landscapes or a close-up of food or wine, and even the occasional video, it’s important for me to have a camera I can rely on anytime and anywhere. And because I prefer to travel light, a bulky DSLR with various lenses is not an option.
While I recommend you check the specifics of this camera on the Sony site, I will tell you a bit about what I think about the Cyber-shot WX9 in regards to traveling.
The size & feel
I love the slim, minimalist, and elegant look of this well-built camera. Thankfully, it’s so small and light it can fit in your pocket. As travelers, you know that’s a big deal when you’re on the road and have to be mindful of weight and space.
However, don’t be fooled by the size, this 16.2 megapixel camera is powerful and has a huge amount of very useful and extremely cool functions.
The 3.0” LCD screen is a beauty and the menu options are so easy to navigate you’ll easily figure out how the camera works without much need for an instruction manual.
I use extreme close-ups very frequently to capture the rich texture of food or to shoot the crisp image of a wine label.
Capturing these close-ups with the Sony Cyber-shot WX9 Gourmet setting turned out to be easier than expected. The pictures were sharp even in low light and without a tripod.
Anti Motion Blur / High Sensitivity
Speaking of low light, another very useful travel setting on this camera is the Anti Motion Blur which reduces blur when shooting in a low light setting.
Also try experimenting with the High Sensitivity feature to shoot without flash in low-light reducing blur. Both could be useful options for historical landmarks or museums when flash isn’t allowed, yet you want to capture that Mona Lisa smile.
Or, maybe you’re off to England to watch Prince William marry Kate Middleton and don’t want to miss her wave as the carriage quickly passes? That’s easy with the Sony Cyber-shot WX9. Use the Burst Setting which takes continuous photos (about 10, I think) and shows up on your camera view finder much like a flipbook. Later, you can pick the prize winning Princess Kate wave and discard the rest.
Have you ever set the camera timer only to find yourself mid-jump in a photo because the timer beat you to your position? The Cyber-shot WX9 has face recognition for one or two people to ensure this will never happen again.
After you set the timer, it won’t start counting the seconds until after it recognizes your face. No more take after take after take… a traveler’s dream!
I have always found panoramic pictures more of a pain than they are worth, which probably explains why I don’t have very many in my photo albums. However, for the first time ever, I am thoroughly enjoying the Panoramic feature on this Sony camera. With a simple push of a button Cyber-shot WX9 helps the user take a beautiful, easy panoramic shot in one easy swoop (see photo below).
It also takes vertical panoramic shots making this the camera I want to have handy when I’m standing in front of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
Another setting I love for traveling is the Background Defocus. This allows you to specifically track and focus on an object while anything in the background is slightly off-focus. This is another useful setting for museums, zoos, specific objects, people, specific features on buildings, and so much more.
For the ladies and gentlemen who have less-than-perfect skin like me… it’s important to mention the Sony Cyber-shot WX9 has a Soft Skin setting. Yes, even on those rough, makeup-free days in 90 degree heat with 100 percent humidity in Thailand, you can look like an Easy, Breezy, Beautiful Cover Girl. I won’t blind you with the non-Soft-Skin-makeup-free-close-ups from the test shots, but believe me when I say the Soft Skin feature fixed about 80 percent of the flaws on my face. It’s cover-up without the cover-up.
Another fantastic Sony Cyber-shot WX9 feature is the Full HD video capabilities on AVCHD format. While the video itself looks fine, the sound leaves a lot to be desired, specifically if you’re in a crowded place. I also wish the camera came with a more robust image stabilizer for video. However, most people carrying around a point-and-shoot camera such as the WX9 aren’t looking for superb sound quality; they simply want something quick and easy. In that case, it serves its purpose (see video sample below).
Last but not least, a big THANK YOU to Sony for finally getting rid of the Memory Stick Pro Duo capturing format and for welcoming the more universal SDHC card to record video and capture images! We’ve been waiting…
In conclusion, the Sony Cyber-shot WX9 is a fresh, easy-to-use digital camera packed with lots of great features for traveling. The camera retails for $220 making it worth every penny for all the amazing features, quality photos, and memories that will last a lifetime.
* Disclaimer: This was part of a media event hosted by Sony Electronics and the camera has been provided courtesy of the company. #sonyfoodie
On February 22, 2011 a devastating earthquake hit Christchurch, New Zealand. While it’ll take time to rebuild, it’s important to know New Zealand’s tourism industry, and in fact a huge portion of Christchurch, is operating at full-capacity. We support New Zealand and that’s why we have joined the campaign #blog4nz, with dozens of other bloggers around the world.
There are an inordinate amount of reasons why you should visit New Zealand (great wine?!). But for now, here are 7 crazy, outrageous things to do in New Zealand:
Bungy Jump in Queenstown
In 1888, crazy man AJ Hackett opened the first commercial bungy jump from the Kawarau Bridge. Today, thanks in part to Mr. Hackett, New Zealand is known as a thrill-seeking paradise.
Adreneline Junkies Tourists who want to bungy jump from the Kawarau Bridge willingly pay NZ $150 for the privilege.
If you’re into this kind of thing: Do not pass go, do not collect $200… head directly to Queenstown!
Black Water Cave Tubing Adventure
If so, this Waitomo subterranean adventure is for you.
Your heart-pumping jump down a waterfall will be well-rewarded when you reach the glow worm cave. Safety equipment, footwear, tubes, wetsuits, and helmets are provided.
Just be ready for an adventure unlike anything you have ever experienced. Book in advance, especially during high season.
Biking Marlborough Wine Country
Perhaps this isn’t that crazy or outrageous like skydiving, but it’s a fun and different way to discover New Zealand’s wine country at your own pace. Not to mention, it gives you bragging rights back at home about your Kiwi adventure.
Rent a bike, grab a map, and cycle the back-roads to your favorite wineries. You don’t even have to pack a picnic lunch as delicious restaurants dot the countryside. We highly recommend Wairau River Wines Restaurant.
Bikes can be rented from the Olde Mill House Bed, Breakfast, & Cycle Hire. Or, consider staying at this homey, centrally-located B&B because bike rental is free when you stay the night.
Tramp a Great Walk
If you’re into the outdoors and being one-with-nature, you can’t leave New Zealand without tramping (hiking) one of New Zealand’s Great Walks through some of the best scenery in the country.
The Routeburn Track takes you 32 kilometers through Fiordland National Park on the South Island. The walk takes several days and you carry all of your own supplies while sleeping in designed huts or camping areas. Even if you’re not the outdoor-type, this is your opportunity to do something crazy and outrageous in New Zealand!
The Shotover Jet is a crazy, unforgettable experience. Hop on a jet boat and explore canyons at insane speeds over shallow waters with 360 degree mind-numbing spins (and no, the boat doesn’t slow down). You’ll quickly realize why they call this the “World’s Most Exciting Jet Boat Ride.”
Turns out, the adreneline rush you get from this exilerating ride is actually good for you… it’s like a natural high. If you find yourself in Queenstown, give this a shot.
Fly-In, Fly-Out Glacier Helihike
Combine the thrill of a helicopter ride with the feeling of being left alone in a remote area of the wilderness and that’s what you’ll get when you sign up for the Fly-In, Fly-Out Glacier Helihike.
Landing by helicopter on a glacier gives you a rare opportunity to explore remote ice caves and enjoy spectacular views. You won’t get this kind of access by hiking with the rest of the tourists.
Or, take your Helihike adventure to the next level and spend the night on Fox Glacier. Relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the spectacular view as your guide cooks dinner. Spend the next day exploring the glacier according to your fitness level.
Several locations throughout New Zealand’s North and South Islands offer skydiving. The question is whether or not you’re prepared to join the ‘3 Mile High Club.’
While you can skydive just about anywhere in the world, few places offer the breathtaking, panoramic views like New Zealand.
Most people would jump at the chance to go skydiving in New Zealand. What about you?
What sort of crazy, outrageous things have you done in New Zealand?
#blog4nz Photo Credits:
Bungy Jump: http://www.queenstownadventure.com/; Water Tubing: http://www.waitomo.com/; Biking Wine Country: Ricardo Villarreal; Key Summit, Routeburn Track: Ricardo Villarreal; Shotover Jet: http://www.youdogo.com; Glacier Helihike: FoxGuides.co.nz; Skydiving: travelblog.org
At TravelPlusWine we always try to emphasize traveling to great touristic destinations around the world that offer great opportunities to taste fantastic wine.
So why are we writing today about Munich, the beer capital of the world? Well, simply because Munich is such an amazing international destination that you shouldn’t miss despite the fact that beer is the de facto beverage.
The third largest city in Germany and the capital city of Bavaria is also a regular in the rankings of the world’s most livable cities. This means Munich is a city that offers great international connectivity (we flew there non-stop from LAX), openness & diversity, impressive architecture, and safety, among other things.
Due to the fact that Munich’s urban planning and public transportation are world-class, visiting the city is not only fun, but super easy. And if you prefer to walk I have good news, many sites are very close in proximity.
You should start exploring Munich at Marienplatz, the heart of the city and a popular meeting point. This is an amazing spot to admire the beautiful architecture that surrounds the Main Square.
Right in the center you will find a Marian column with a golden figure of the Virgin Mary at the top (see photo).
This monument was built in 1638 at the end of the Swedish occupation and it is also the reason behind the square’s name Marienplatz.
At the heart of the square you can also see both the New Town Hall and the Old Town Hall, but don’t feel bad if you can’t tell which is which at a first glance (both buildings look very old).
However, the New Town Hall is the one that houses the famous Glockenspiel, a colorful and complex carillon on the clock tower that chimes as life-size figures dance and re-enact two Bavarian stories from the 16th century.
Crowds gather at 11am and 12pm to witness this unique show making it one of the most popular attractions in Munich. Don’t forget the show starts on time (it’s a clock after all), so don’t be late!
Other landmark buildings at a short walking distance are St. Peter’s Church (the oldest in the city), the Frauenkirche (the Cathedral of Our Blessed Lady) with its iconic twin towers, and the National Theatre Munich, home of the Bavarian State Opera (see photo).
Also located close to Marienplatz is the “Victuals Market” (open market). Here you will find numerous stands offering fruits & vegetables, cheeses, toys, honey, sea food products, and more, so take your time to wonder around.
Old Town hosts many shops, restaurants, parks, cafés, and beer gardens.
And speaking of beer, you should definitely find time to visit Hofbräuhaus, arguably the most famous beer hall on the planet.
Built in 1598, Hofbräuhaus serves two types of beer in liter mugs (the only available size) and their menu features typical Bavarian cuisine like sausages, brewer goulash, sauerkraut, and pork knuckles. Thankfully, there are some vegetarian options as well.
But be warned that Hofbräuhaus is a very popular attraction and can get really crowded, so be patient and grab whatever seats you can find.
As you wait for your beer (or wine) and food, enjoy the live band playing Bavarian Oom-pah polka-style music. Ein prosit!
Munich also hosts the world famous Oktoberfest, the largest beer festival in the world with more than 5 million people in attendance every year. That’s a lot of beer!
Other great sites to visit in Munich are the English Garden (the largest park in the city), the Pinakothek der Moderne (the museum of modern art), the Deutches Museum of Science and Technology, and the Olympic Stadium (site of the 1972 Olympics Games).
- Can you please turn off the light?
- No, I need to finish!
- Please, I can’t sleep.
- Well, wear eyeshades…
- I forgot to pack them.
I was frustrated because I had a deadline and needed the lamp to see what was in my notebook as I worked on my laptop. Ricardo was annoyed because he was the one driving the next day and there was no question he needed to sleep. In a small hotel room late at night with no other place to go, we had reached an impasse.
Then it dawned on me. Moments before leaving home, I had stuffed a USB LED light into my laptop bag. Bingo. The light is so small and portable; I didn’t realize I had been carrying it around the entire week.
The Black Box Network Services LED light easily plugged into my laptop’s USB port and was adjusted to focus on the notebook sitting inches away from my computer. Although it’s not designed to take the place of a full-size desk lamp, I was impressed with the amount of light such a tiny lamp provides. Ricardo was able to sleep and I was able to successfully meet the deadline.
The LED light is part of a larger unit, the Black Box Network Services Gadget Kit, which also includes a USB 2.0 Optical Mouse, my second favorite item. Smaller than the size of my palm, this “Minnie Mouse” gives me easy scrolling ability and a right-click for my MacBook Pro.
Because I personally don’t need to travel with a Retractable Cable unless overseas or the Power Cord (double check to ensure compatibility), I ditch the black zippered storage case in favor of laptop bag compartments. This Standard Black Box Gadget Kit is available for $26.95, but items can also be purchased individually. I’d say these products are worth checking out if you take your work on the road.
Disclaimer: This kit was sent to TravelPlusWine for review, although the opinions expressed are uniquely our own.