My new favorite beach…

“This is my second favorite beach in the world,” proclaimed my friend Suzanne with a contented sigh. I didn’t ask her what her most favorite was. Mainly because I’d already decided that Spiaggia di Laurito was at the top of my list.

We found ourselves at this little paradise after a friend and Positano local asked me about our beach plans. When I said we planned to Fornillo, Positano’s small beach and my preferred spot, she scoffed. “No. You have to try Laurito.” Suzanne and I looked at each other, shrugged and agreed, why not? After convincing the shuttle boat to take us a half hour earlier than the next scheduled voyage, we were on our way for the 15 minute scenic trip to Laurito and Da Adolfo, the most favored beach side restaurant. We were greeted immediately from stepping off the boat and settled into sun lounges. (A happy fact: The daily rental for sun lounges is cheaper at Da Adolfo than Spiaggia Grande or Fornillo!)

Da Adolfo looks like a jammy little beach hut but in fact serves some of the best food in the area. Locals know that if they spend a day off at Da Adolfo they are in for a three-hour lunch extravagana. In addition to the obvious grilled whole fish, Salvatore serves up chef specials daily like eggplant parmigiana. Not what you would expect for a hot day in the sun, but surprisingly rich and satisfying.

On my second visit to Da Adolfo with my friend Antonio, I let him take the lead (as any wise woman would do) in ordering.  The result? Mozzarella on grilled lemon leaves, seafood salad, carpaccio, grilled whole fish – “The cheek is the tastiest part” – and white wine with sliced peaches. You can usually tell if I’ve had a particularly spectacular meal when there are nearly no photos to show for it – I was too busy wallowing in foodie bliss with morsels in each hand to be bothered taking pictures that would surely not do it justice.

With Laurito and Da Adolfo, you must have time for an all-day leisurely affair. The boats leave every half hour or so from Positano’s marina and there’s a hiatus between about 1 and 4pm for lunch. (Not a bad life for the boat skippers, I must say.) As the sun begins to disappear in this little cove, the last boats return to Positano around 6pm.

There is another restaurant/hotel on Laurito but no one seems to trouble themselves there – Da Adolfo steals the show. And rightly so.

Da Adolfo
Via Laurito, 40
Positano, Italy 

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

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Close to Home: Borough Market

“Hey, where did you get that?” said my friend Alan to a guy munching on a chocolate chip cookie the size of a dinner plate. He gestured, Alan looked at me and we both agreed that we needed that cookie.

Borough Market is one of my favorite spots in London and I love to take visiting friends as well as wander through myself on a Saturday. It makes a great stop if you’re strolling the South Bank like I was when I first visited the market. It is nearly always crazy busy but I’ve found that if you brave it on a rainy day, it can actually be quite peaceful. Just keep in mind that the market is closed on Sundays. (Made that mistake only once!)

I think it’s actually a great tactic with Borough Market to do a lap first, assess what other patrons are partaking in, and then choose.  Although, I say this and usually my first stop is the Boston Sausage stand which I love both for its name and for its fare in equal measure. My favorite is the Boston sausage with caramelized onions and Stilton. I’ve been known to devour it so quickly I don’t stop for a photo, but luckily when I took Emily she captured a great picture in the slide show below.

On my most recent visit this past weekend, my first course was the aforementioned sausage, crispy skin with juicy insides, smothered with cheese and onions and leaving a powdery flour cloud with each bite, as delicious as ever. Next was fresh tortelloni filled with wild boar dressed simply in olive oil and parmesan from La Tua Pasta. And finally, the ginormous cookie. In between we quenched our thirst with prosecco from Borough Wines.

The market is primarily both fresh and prepared food; you don’t come here for souvenirs unless they’re edible.  Speaking of which, Borough Wines has some lovely house wine you can fill yourself for £5 in their £2.50 reusable bottles. The pesto or Italian green olives from Borough Olives would make a great gift for anyone. But don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone if you keep it all for yourself. 😉

Borough Market
8 Southwark Street
London SE1 1TL
UK
www.boroughmarket.org.uk

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

“I could house another meat and cheese board” and other Cinque Terre culinary adventures…

Walking along a popular shopping street in Monterosso, a beautiful creation caught my eye: A platter of antipasto including cured meat, cheese and vegetables served to a couple sitting outside what appeared to be a tiny charcuteria. I knew immediately that I wanted whatever that was. We commandeered the table next to our fellow guests while I popped inside and ordered “una otra” and pointed to the platter, and “due bicchiere di vino rosso.”

A sign on the outside of the shop, Da eraldo, advertised “tigelle,” a pita-like flat bread the size of your palm, a basket of which were served with the platter. We used them like pita, ripping them in half, opening them up like a pocket and filling them with the paper-thin charcuterie and cheese. This fortuitous little find turned out to be one of our most memorable dining experiences in Cinque Terre. I can also attest to the fact that we ate every scrap of the antipasto, which was evident by the engraved outline of Italy on the top of the wood cutting board after we munched it clean.

The five towns of the Cinque Terre have no shortage of amazing eateries and my previous posts give a snapshot of my favorites. Here I’ve compiled a summary, separated by town and encompassing a wide variety of choices from takeaway focaccia to fine dining. Two I haven’t mentioned up until this point:

  • Bar Centrale in Riomaggiore is a great spot for coffee or a drink but their breakfast is also fantastic. The pesto omelette is delicious and even better when you order a breakfast dessert of strawberries in lemon and sugar.
  • Il Pirun is an enoteca in charming Corniglia. We didn’t eat there but it’s also a great wine bar eponymous for the unique wine carafe with a long anteater snout-like pour.
  • Gelateria Cinque Terre is home to the incredible “Loveria” gelato, I’ve deemed “what peanut butter wishes it tasted like”. Pistachio crème combined with chocolate and vanilla. Don’t order any other flavors, this is all you need.

Cinque Terre – Dining in Review

Riomaggiore:

Manarola:

Corniglia:

Vernazza:

Monterosso:

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2014.

Prague 30th Birthday Trip

Yup, I’m 30. 🙂

The great part is that I got to spend my birthday in Prague with my cousin and two amazing friends from high school.  Not a bad way to start a new decade!

We stayed at the incredible Mamaison Hotel Pachtuv Palace (booked on www.jetsetter.com, thank you!) with views of the river and within very easy walking distance of the Charles Bridge and Old Town Prague.  While it was absolutely freezing while we were there, I couldn’t have enjoyed myself more.  The city has some of the most beautiful architecture I’ve ever seen.  I was sure to go out every day at around 4pm when the light was perfect just before dusk and made the buildings come to life.

Luckily for us, we fended off the freezing temperatures (think 13 degrees F, -8 degrees C) with apple strudel, dumplings, mulled wine, and pear juice with brandy, not to mention the toasty suite accommodations at Pachtuv Palace.

I had an incredible birthday dinner at Bellevue restaurant, rated the number one restaurant in Prague by Trip Advisor, complete with a sparkling dessert of ice cream covered in truffles.

I can’t wait to visit again but would prefer it to be at least above the freezing mark. 🙂

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2012.

Giving Thanks

I cooked my very first Thanksgiving dinner this year.  For eight people, the most I’ve ever cooked for.  In London.  It was actually quite comical to cook dinner on a holiday for a bunch of Brits who really had no idea what Thanksgiving is.  🙂  It was not comical for me running all over town trying to find all of the ingredients I needed.  The turkey in particular was a challenge, and I decided to forgo the traditional bird and instead got a fantastic turkey breast roast from my local butcher.  That was a great move, really, because the meat was high quality and I literally just needed to put it in the oven for two hours.  It came out perfectly.  In addition to the turkey, I made a camembert en croute (no brie wheels in London, I’m afraid) and set it out with some olives and marcona almonds for the guests to munch on until dinner.  We welcomed everyone with a glass of rose cava, then sat down to dinner.  Aside from the turkey, we had sausage and apple stuffing, roasted garlic mashed potatoes, roasted brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar, asparagus with honey, parmesan and hazelnuts, cranberry sauce with orange, and of course, pumpkin pie.

Everyone was looking forward to the pumpkin pie as most had never had it before.  Apparently pumpkin is a mostly savory ingredient in England, who knew?  We sipped wine and limoncello late into the night and it was a truly wonderful time.  I’m so thankful for this new life I’ve created and new friends to be able to share the holidays with.

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2011.

Lovely Day for a Guinness

Right in the midst of my passport renewal, I had to make a quick work trip to Dublin.  After picking up my passport at the US Embassy, I was on my way!  Since it was my first trip to Dublin, I decided to go in on Sunday on my own to explore and have some Guinness.

Flying into Ireland was truly amazing – it’s just as green as I always imagined.  I landed on a surprisingly temperate November day in Dublin, dropped my bag off at my hotel just off Grafton Street, and walked to the Guinness Storehouse at St. James’s Gate.  It took me about 30 minutes to walk the whole way from central Dublin, and as I got closer the neighborhood wasn’t as nice, but it was a beautiful day and a great way to work up my thirst.  You can buy your ticket online and the admission is good for any day and time of the year.  The tour itself really isn’t a tour but a self-guided walk through the Guinness museum, giving you a history and a briefing of how it’s made.  You end at the Gravity bar where you can enjoy your free pint and look out over the city.  The views were incredible and the Guinness really is much tastier in Dublin than anywhere else.

After having a lovely two pints and picking up some souvenirs, including Guinness chocolate – yes, chocolate! – I walked back to Grafton Street, popped into some shops and then consulted the concierge for a restaurant for dinner.  He recommended The Rustic Stone with chef Dylan McGrath, known for having a Michellin star at his other restaurant, Mint, and being a celebrity on the Ireland food scene.  The menu at Rustic Stone is comprised of (mostly) healthy but tasty dishes.  I started with some (okay, not so healthy) truffle chips with parmesan, along with an incredible fresh salad of tomatoes, zucchini, avocado, cilantro and dill.  I then had the truffle tagliatelle for my entrée and a yummy strawberry and lime Knickerbocker Glory for dessert.  A truly lovely meal and a great day in Dublin.

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2011.

Positano Perfection

It’s just as wonderful as the last time I was there. 🙂  I am struggling with anything else to write in this post because that’s pretty much it. 🙂

But, as that does not make good blog reading, I’ll say that I did try a new place in Positano, the bar at Le Sirenuse hotel.  It’s probably the most famous hotel in Positano, where the fancy and monied stay, and features prominently in the movie that introduced me to this heavenly little town, “Only You.”  The drinks are definitely spendy, but worth it when you factor in that you also get served dishes of beautiful plump green olives and warm, salted marcona almonds while taking in the most spectacular views.  I went back two nights in a row. 🙂

I also visited my favorite restaurants, Le Tre Sorelle and Mediterraneo, as well as the little Latteria up the hill near my hotel that makes the most amazing and huge panino with tomato, mozzarella and prosciutto for about 4 Euro. My favorite shop is Profumi di Positano, up the hill from Le Sirenuse, which makes lovely fragrances and lotions.  I stocked up with plenty for me and gifts for my friends.

I think it’s essential while I live in Europe to visit Positano at least once a year, though I’m already thinking about when I can visit again in the Spring. 🙂

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2011.

Bikes in Amsterdam and Mussels in Brussels

At the beginning of September, I went on my first European travels since arriving in London.  While it was a work trip to Amsterdam and Brussels and while I didn’t tack on personal time, it was still a great introduction to the small getaways that are now so accessible to me.

Amsterdam is a bit of a jaunt on the train from London, a total of about 5 hours and connecting through Brussels.  I’d often heard it compared with Venice in terms of the vast network of canals and I only hope to compare the two myself once I finally make it the latter. 🙂   It’s an incredibly beautiful city and very friendly to pedestrians in that I’ve never seen less car traffic in a big city in my life.  Everyone in Amsterdam rides bicycles and the racks and racks of them outside of the central station were impressive indeed.  It was however, one of the more disappointing meals I’ve had – an unfortunate recommendation from a trusted guidebook and proof that guidebooks are not the be all and end all to traveling well.  While the food was good, the service was absolutely appalling.  They got my order wrong and I had to ask three times to have a beer served. I did have a lovely satisfying dessert by sampling the mini stroopwafels pictured below from a local shop –  cookie sandwiches with a gooey caramel center.  Yum.

Upon arriving in rainy Brussels, I had to partake of course in mussels and framboise, the city’s specialities. 🙂  A friend told me that the central plaza doesn’t have much to see and he was right, but it was a lovely night and great for mussels in a warm and cozy brasserie.  On the second night in Brussels, we went to a restaurant in a trendy bar district recommended by a colleague.  The restaurant was formerly an ironmongery and so charming on the inside.  The service left much to be desired, and they were out (gasp!) of mussels, but the food was very good.

I was also able to take home some lovely Neuhaus chocolates thanks to a kind taxi driver who stopped for us on the way to the train station. 🙂  After one last Belgian beer on the train back to London, I was back home after an exhausting four days. 🙂

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© Jennifer Konopasek and GoodTravelerKarma, 2011.

East Coast Farewell Tour

This time tomorrow I’ll be at JFK awaiting my one-way flight to London.  It’s going to be an incredible move for me and I’m so blessed to have this opportunity!

You would think I would have spent my last week in the US actually enjoying NYC but instead I decided to make life a little crazier and embark on what I’m calling the East Coast Farewell Tour.  In between packing, trips to Goodwill, selling furniture on Craigslist and attempting not to become an emotional hot mess, I squeezed in a last trip to DC and one to Boston.  It was only fitting that both trips revolved around seeing New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys (NKOTBSB), groups whose music that defined my childhood and teen years.  It also gave me an opportunity to say a proper goodbye to my best friends and some of my favorite places.  So thank you to Emily, Eric, Good Stuff Eatery, Dolcezza, The Italian Store, The Queen Vic and Granville Moore’s for the great DC sendoff.  Look for the D.C. recommendations to get built out when I have more time!

Another huge thanks to Anne for letting me drag her to NKOTBSB at Fenway.  It was practically monsoon, but we got our pictures with the Green Monster so what’s better than that?!?!  Plus it was an incredible hometown show with appearances by Mayor Menino (who I used to work for back in the day!), Mark Wahlberg and Naughty by Nature.  I’ll take it.  And Fenway, oh Fenway, how I love thee.  The Bean was my home away from home for so many years and it still has my heart.  And thanks to The Breakfast Club for some yummy breakfast eats – recommendation coming soon!

In between all of that mayhem, I also managed to have an NYC going away party at one my favorite places, the Blue Owl.  Thanks to everyone that came out on a sweltering and stormy day.  I’m blessed to know you all. 🙂

And now, I’m counting the minutes until I need to take the cable box and modem back to Time Warner.  So for now, I’ll just say thank you everyone for an incredible celebration of sendoffs. I’m lucky to have you all in my life!  Especially you, Jordan Knight. 😉

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Merci, Le Bernadin

“If you want to do this again before you leave, I could definitely do that.”  That was the comment from my dining companion Mark at the end of our meal at Le Bernadin on Monday, May 16, 2011.  Mark discouraged me from taking pictures of every course or acting like an ass to meet Eric Ripert, so I have a limited slide show below.  My pictures wouldn’t do it justice anyway.

While I didn’t meet Eric Ripert (he’s one sexy man, is he not?), my experience at Le Bernadin was unparalleled.   It’s clearly a Michelin 3-star rated establishment and very elegant inside, yet our waiter was charming and funny and put us at ease cracking jokes at my expense. 

We started with a small oyster as an amuse bouche.  Now, I’m not an oyster fan, but whatever they did to it was amazing.  It was soft, not chewy and doused in a light sauce with herbs.  If anything can convert me to like oysters, it was that one.

The four course prix fixe was a great introduction to Ripert’s cuisine.  I started with my first appetizer with impossibly thin tuna tartare over an equally thin slice of foie gras and a tiny crisp bread, dressed with cirtusey olive oil and chives.  Melt in your mouth and incredibly light. 

Next was the barely touched “crab cake”.  Warm dressed crab and a little corn with slivers of mango as garnish. 

For a main course I had the crispy black bass with hoisin jus and mini pork buns.  I would have never picked that out as a main as the asian flavor palate isn’t my first choice, but it came highly recommended by the waiter and was absolutely delicious.

For dessert, I went with the hazelnut selections, my favorite.  It was a lovely chocolate hazelnut mousse, a tiny melon ball sized taste of gelato, and bruleed bananas, garnished with chocolate hazelnut sauce and toasted hazelnuts.

Every course was perfectly portioned, light and left me feeling satisfied, not overly full.  You can tell how much effort and care goes into each course.  The prix fixe was a great price considering amount of food, the quality and the restaurant’s reputation and fame.  I can’t say enough good things about it.  Le Bernadin was one of the best meals of my life.  And if Mark, or anyone, wants to go back before I leave for London, just let me know. 🙂

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