Posts Tagged ‘europe’


As previously stated, I’m of Romanian decent. Last week I was given the chance to really learn from some first generation Romanians about my cultural and culinary heritage. It was pretty awesome, to say the least. When hanging out with my new found friends I sampled a few different, home-distilled brandies (which are akin to moonshine) called tuica. I got to sample an assortment from both Romania and from the States that were made from plums, pears and apples. Also, I was given the opportunity to try homemade mici, also known as mititei.

Mici is kind of like kabob, in a way, and is like a handmade, caseless sausage containing beef, pork and lamb with an array of herbs and spices. Its absolutely delicious, easy to make and filling. After returning home, I promptly tried my hand at it. This is what I did.

Let me state now that I apologize for the cell phone pictures for this recipe (and, basically, for the whole blog), they make the food look less than appetizing but I promise this is a great dish. Okay, back to the recipe. First, I picked up some ground pork, lamb and beef. You can, by all means, pick up meat from the butcher and grind it yourself in a food processor or meat grinder for even fresher ingredients, but for time’s sake I went with ground.

In a bowl, combine a good amount, about a third of a pound of each meat, and some paprika, dried parsley, cumin, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper and, I’m not completely sure why, a small amount of baking soda. Mash the mixture together with freshly washed hands until everything is good and mixed and then form into long, sausage-like shapes, a little more than the width of your thumb.

Heat up your griddle pan, grill pan, grill or, like me, a saute pan (with a little olive oil) to medium heat. Place the mici on the cooking surface and cook fully through. Mici definitely tastes the best when grilled, however my current living situation makes grilling a daunting task, so for posterity’s sake I used a pan.

Once the mici is fully cooked, plate and serve with some fresh bread and brown mustard. I’ve added a few slices of tomato with balsamic and olive oil for a vegetable. This is definitely worth making.


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As an American in his mid-twenties, I grew up in a time when soccer, especially youth soccer, was just as viable of a choice as playing baseball or football. Barring the usual comments of “soccer isn’t as physical as football” and “its a wuss’ sport”, it really was no different in the eyes of, say, someone like my father, who didn’t really get the sport, and, even though he’s a 2nd generation Romanian immigrant, frequently called it an immigrant’s game. Soccer has slowly become a popular sport to play and, now, a sport to watch here in the US.

While soccer will probably never reach the status of the NFL, MLB or the NBA it still has a place in our country. It really shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone that soccer has increased in popularity since the early nineties, when the MLS was founded and the US hosted the World Cup. As the world slowly shrinks thanks to the Internet, more accessible cable television, etc. it makes it much easier to learn about different cultures and their sports. As a teenager, playing soccer in high school, had I had more access to international games from Fox Soccer Channel, ESPN and online portals such as Ustream and ESPN3 I feel like not only would it have made me a better player, but I would have had more of interest in it as a culture, not just as a sport.

Compared to the NASL from the seventies, and the MISL in the eighties and nineties, the MLS seems like the best chance soccer has had in America so far. This may be because of the people in charge, who aren’t looking for a quick phenomenon like the Cosmos, but building a tradition, a culture, like the rest of the world. As the US Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati has put it:

The MLS is not trying to be baseball. It’s not trying to be the NFL. These are both sports with major history behind them. My favourite catchphrase when people ask me how long it will take for soccer and the MLS to prosper is simple, tradition takes time. We don’t expect a single event and the viewing figures to change the landscape of our game overnight, but the sport has been on a pretty upward trend for a while now. The difference between 1994 when the US hosted the World Cup and now is that we have a sixteen team league, ten soccer specific stadiums, soccer on TV and players who the public know about.”

With the arrival of David Beckham in LA in 2007, even though his time there has been short (I can’t really blame him), and now Thierry Henry in New York, Soccer should have an even better chance of gaining national attention and, hopefully, creating a sustaining culture in the decades to come. Also, with these aging players coming from Europe to extend their careers and get a little more playing time, perhaps the MLS can find its niche in the global Soccer arena as a place for players, like Henry or Beckham to, to do so. If that is the case, maybe we’ll see Van Bommel, Juninho or Del Piero stateside at some point?

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As an American from Romanian descent, and having a Romanian last name, I get a bit frustrated with the way my great grandparents’ home country is represented in the media. Especially after I watch the Romanian episode of No Reservations, where one of my heros, Anthony Bourdain, traipses through the country with Russian stereotype Zamir and depicts the place as a backwards, down-trodden Dracula theme park with no culinary history.

Can I blame Anthony Bourdain and the crew of No Reservations for making a show like this? The answer is an unwavering “No”. After reading his subsequent blog entry about the episode, one can take away that they weren’t trying to make a show like this and they weren’t trying to paint Romania in a bad light, that’s just what happened, much like the episode in Sicily. However, I can say that the way the show was edited made it seem that, much like every other representation of Romania in the English speaking media, Bourdain and Co. didn’t want to, or try to, show any of Romania’s good points, of which it has quite a few. In my opinion, it was just another biased joke at an entire nations expense.

Either way, this isn’t an essay dedicated to bashing one of my literary, travel and culinary idols. I’m merely stating that Romania gets an unfair depiction in contemporary media. To quote John Peterson, from the Romanian Times:

“My feeling was (and still is) that Romania is a great “undiscovered” place to go, that it has lots to see and wonderful out-of-door venues.”

“What impressed me most was that Romania ‘fits together’. It is a culture and has a sense of place, with great landscape as a setting.”

“It is not a plastic tourist attraction, but a living, breathing neighborhood that is fascinating to engage, see and enjoy.”

In terms of culinary heritage, while nowhere near some of its neighboring nations, Romania has made some contributions. Being on the most eastern borders of the Roman Empire, many different cultures passed through the area now know as Romania and all left something different behind. One site that has showcased, perhaps better than I could, is The Culinary Anthropologist. Check it out here.

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Cinque Terre.

Although this region of Italy is becoming more and more “touristy” everyday, this place is a requisite to any travel itinerary to Italy or Southern France. I had a friend recently ask me for advice on where to go should he travel to Italy (he’s planning a trip to Europe now). Here’s a bit of what I had to say about the area in Northern Italy.

…next would be Cinque Terre, this is the place I talk about all the time. Its five villages on the side of a mountain connected by one long trail overlooking the sea. It is impossible not to love it here. I suggest staying in Monte Rosso, the first town. Its also the biggest and has a really great hotel/hostel in the back end of the city, nice and secluded with a perfect view of EVERYTHING. (Seriously, olive groves, the beach, small (real) vineyards, the town’s awesome architecture… everything.) From here you can hike to the next town, Vernazza, which has some decent places to eat and has some great photo opportunities down the back alleys and such. Worth the 1.5 hour hike. Also, let me mention here that it takes about an hour or two to hike between the towns and it is 110% worth it, it takes about 8 hours total, but you can catch a train back from the last (5th) town to Monte Rosso in about 25 minutes. The views alone are ridiculous and its a bit of an adventure, to say the least. When you get back from the hike, I suggest eating at Ciak. From what I’ve read its become a bit tourist-y, but when I was there it was awesome. Fresh seafood and pasta and the chef/owner, an old Sailor, still comes out to talk to his customers and explain the dishes, etc. A little knowledge of Italian wouldn’t hurt here. Liguria/cinque Terre is also where pesto was invented and they have this pasta called Trofie that was, literally, created to make pesto even better. You have to try it.

So, bare in mind that this was intended for a private email correspondence with a friend, so I recognize fully that I gush like a tourist, but, come on! How can you not? If you’ve been there, you know what I’m talking about. Also, its pronounced chinquay terray, not cinqueh terreh.
*I fully advocate smoking when traveling through most parts of Europe, whether you’re a regular smoker or not. Trust me on this one.

I first discovered Cinque Terre from a calendar I had when I was little. I would stare at the same photo of Vernazza for hours imagining what it would be like to visit, to walk the small alleys, to sit at the restaurants drinking table wine and talking to friends. It was quite realization of a dream when I finally approached Vernazza, from the trail leading from Monte Rosso, walking high above the town and getting the same view I had studied for years. It is well worth its own trip, exclusive from a visit to Rome or Florence.

Cinque Terre is completely accessible by train, which is how I like to travel anywhere I go (besides the Americas). I believe I took a train from Rome to Milan and then to Monte Rosso (don’t quote me, its been almost 6 years). Once off the train you are almost immediately exposed to the Tyrrhenian Sea. You can inquire about a hostel here, but I suggest checking the Internet beforehand and making a list of a few places to inquire for a room. Vernazza has quite a few apartments to rent, called Affitti Camere, and are decently priced, especially considering their location.

The five villages of Cinque Terre, Monte Rosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore, all have something to offer and are all worth checking out, I just happened to stick to the first three for the bulk of my visit to the area. Words really can’t do it justice.

Photos by me, circa ’05… I could almost grow a full beard back then…

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Man this video has it all. An italian apartment, good music, narrative and a hot chick. Italy is awesome.

This video is actually better, and more accessible, for traditional and simple Pasta with olive oil and garlic. Just saying…

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