Our Top 50 Restaurants, or so

Plus some of our Favourite Recipes

As Jubilados (Spanish for retirees) and foodies part of our global experience is to discover the best restaurants in places we visit

Zucchini. Zoo-keen-knee. What a disconnect between its name, free-spirited and lyrical, and the vegetable, ubiquitous and obese, tasteless and dull. (I cringe at the uppityness of calling it courgette, or the spongy connotation of marrow.)

Repulsive, as Lorna Crozier describes in “The Sex Lives of Vegetables:”

The zucchini strokes the slim waists
of the pea vines, peeks under
the skirts of the yellow beans…
a voyeur…
In secret shadows it spreads…

Except (isn’t there always an exception?) for zucchini blossoms.

Soft petals of bright orange-yellow, thin and delicate with striations of white and green, playful, like the hat on a harlequin clown. And as much fun to cook.

Zucchini blossoms have a thin texture like a gauzy velvet and a flavour that’s nuanced, faintly sweet. Like a young summer romance.

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On my birthday the year we were in the Asturias in Spain, we had lunch at El Corral (the Barnyard) del Indianu on the main street of a non-descript town (Arriondas) that’s the gateway to the Picos de Europa, the geographical barrier that isolated Asturias which was a kingdom nation on its own for centuries. As almost nothing is written in English about El Corral or the chef/owner José Antonio Campoviej, we had to rely on Google translation. We invite you, as per the translation of one review of El Corral, to “Get moving, and enjoy like a dwarf eating.”

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“I have to have this book,” I told Ruth Ann. “You know how much I love all things lemon. And Sicily.”

This spring Magellan and I were in Sidney on Vancouver Island, which Ruth Ann says is the independent bookstore capital of Canada. From our day of investigating the town with Ruth Ann and Bruce, I see why.

Though I was hoping Ruth Ann would encourage me to buy The Land Where Lemons Grow, we both knew that it should return to its prominent shelf in Tanner’s Books. That a Sunday Times bestseller, BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week and Guild of Food Writers Food Book of the Year would certainly be available at the VPL. That $22 could be better spent elsewhere.

Two days later, this book of “tangy trivia, pithy charm and invigorating zest” was ready for pickup at the library. And oh my, has it sharpened my taste for the fruit it celebrates. (But caused me to part with far more than $22!)

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I was struggling with what to write for our first blog of 2022.

Travel plans? Something philosophical? New Year’s resolutions?

Aha! Thanks to Magellan I had a jumpstart on a longstanding New Year’s resolution—and a blog idea.

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Do you know piccalilli? No, I don’t mean Piccadilly, the train station in London. Although I first became acquainted with piccalilli in an English pub in 1982 with Magellan, his parents and Lynn. Smitten, I searched for piccalilli back home, disappointment jarring me for decades. It was hard to find and no matter the brand or price, tasted either alarmingly sweet, teeth-on-edge sour, synthetically adulterated or was a lurid yellow. Then I read Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for piccalilli online in The Guardian. While “pickle,” as it applies to me, is more “to get into a difficult situation” than “to preserve vegetables,” making Hugh’s recipe has become a favourite autumn tradition—and on the rare occasion, an early start on a Christmas gift for foodie friends.

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Cynara cardunculus, carduus, kaktos, carchofas, arḍī shawkī, al-kharshūfa, ḥarshafa, alcarchofa, carciofo, articiocco, artichaud, hartichoak—Arabic, Hebrew, Greek, Italian: so many ancient names for artichokes, going back to the eighth century BC when people ate them wild, their prickly buds and tender hearts considered (still) a luxury and vaguely aphrodisiac. Looking at our many photos of artichokes in Sicily, where kaktos were first cultivated by the Greeks according to some, it’s clear we’re enraptured by this armoured vegetable with its Fibonacci pattern.

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