36 Hours in Lawrence, KS

For 36 hours last week we found ourselves in Lawrence, Kansas. Now, I know what you're thinking...Kansas? What could possible be there? Well, let me be the first to tell you this surprising news: Lawrence, Kansas is awesome. The town is fantastic. The restaurants and food are out of this world (think local, sustainable, farm-to-table). The people are so, so friendly.

I'll talk more about why we were visiting later, but in the meantime I just needed to fill you in on this fun, hipster-friendly town that I'm a little embarrassed wasn't even close to on my radar until very recently. First, lets talk about where we ate...

Merchants Pub and Plate

Kansas Kansas Kansas

Located at 746 Mass Street, Merchants Pub and Plate place has amazing pub fare. To call it pub food seem a bit unfair -- it's much more creative, adventurous and downright tasty than what you'll find in a normal pub. Most, if not all, of the menu is sourced from nearby vendors and farms. The beer list is insane with something around 30+ on tap (Rob was in heaven). We split the Chipotle Chicken Sandwich and the Sloppy Joe. Both outrageously good. Plus, we showed up at 3pm after a long trip into town and had the place to ourselves. Lord, I love being back in America where I can get a meal any time of the day. FYI: I really meant to take pictures of the food, but we ate it embarrassingly fast.


Kansas Kansas Kansas

For anyone out there that thinks you can't get delicious, "fancy" food in small town America, please think again and visit 715 on Mass Street. I simply couldn't ignore everything that I was reading about this place online and insisted that we do a date night. We were not disappointed. From the cheese plate to the drinks to the main dishes, everything was exceptional. All of the dishes were so thoughtful and the flavors so simple, yet tasty. The decor was also wonderful.

Where I got my coffee: Z's Divine


Lawrence reminded me so much of Louisville with it's plethora of locally-owned coffee shops. There were so many to choose from (and I really wanted to try about 10 of the ones that I skipped), but I found myself go back to Z's Divine three times during our stay. It was just so good and I like my coffee reliably tasty. They have a ton of outdoor seating and I imagine how it must be fun in the summer to sip an iced coffee and people watch!

Can you tell that I loved Lawrence? I guess that I expected Kansas to feel somehow foreign or crazy different -- and maybe other parts of Kansas would -- but Lawrence was so neat and fun and reminded me so much of the vibe of the Highlands neighborhood in Louisville. So, in a sense it felt a bit like home.

FYI: Lawrence is only a 40 minute drive from Kansas City, so if you find yourself on a layover or randomly in the city, I recommend making the drive to check out this fun town.


Where to Eat in Bologna: Lunch at Tamburini


During our 4-hour trip to Bologna we ate lunch at Tamburini, located smack in the center of the city. A friend and the New York Times 36 Hours in... column both recommended this place so we figured it was worth a try. The verdict? Delicious.

There are lots of ways to get and eat your food at Tamburini: you can get pre-made main and sides dishes to go, grab a tray and sample what's available from the specials of the day, and/or also grab fresh pastas and meats ready to be cooked in that night's dinner. Like I said, lots of options! I loved that you could order half portions of the day's specialties because between four of us we really got to taste just about everything they had on offer.

My one word of caution is actually in regard to the large array of options. If you look at the Trip Advisor reviews you'll see tourists (mostly American) complaining about how they got handed menus, seated and "tricked" into higher priced food, particularly around dinner time. My suggestion would be to stick to the lunch hour and know that grabbing and tray and sampling the menu del giorno is probably the best option.

All in all, highly recommend this yummy spot in Bologna!

An afternoon in Bologna, Italy


Earlier this week we took a quick trip to Bologna with my parents. They've now visited Florence enough times that branching out and seeing new cities is a must!

We were on a time crunch -- trying to leave and get back during the hours Livia is at asilo nido -- so we only had about four full hours in the city, but it was great time. We had an amazing lunch that I'll write about next week, but the city itself is also worth talking about.

For me, Bologna feels so different than cities like Florence, Venice or even Rome to some extent. Sure, there is a lot of historical stuff to see, but it feels very much like a modern, lived-in city. Bustling, a little gritty, full. No tourists really, which was a nice change of pace.

We popped into Eataly for a quick cafe and to browse. The Bologna outpost is a fraction of the size of the Rome or NYC, but still had some neat items. My absolute favorite thing was all of the cookbooks available in both English and Italian. If you are in need of cookbooks for very particular regional types of cooking, it was an awesome resource.

10 Things To Do While Visiting the Amalfi Coast

10 Things To Do While Visiting the Amalfi Coast
10 Things To Do While Visiting the Amalfi Coast

This past weekend, my friends and I went on truly one of the most incredible and beautiful trips to the Amalfi Coast. In our three days there, we covered Capri, Anacapri, Positiano and Pompeii. I loved just about everything I did, but if I had to only pick 10 things to do and/or see and/or eat while visiting the Amalfi Coast, these would be them:

  1. Take a boat tour around the island of Capri.
  2. Try the freshly squeezed, freshly made orange-lemon slushy. For those of you really looking to “relax”, make sure to ask for the “special”, with a little splash of booze.
  3. Do a sampling of the different limoncellos from the original town it was invented in.
  4. Design and customize your own pair of beautiful leather sandals - they will make them right in front you!
  5. Take the chairlift to the top of Mt. Solaro. The 13-minute ride up to the top is truly one of the peaceful experiences I’ve had. Don’t forget your camera - you wont want to miss that photo-op!
  6. Take a “topless taxi” back down to the bottom of Capri!
  7. Take a boat tour from Positano.
  8. For those adrenaline seekers-go cliff jumping and swimming through incredible caves.
  9. Visit Vini e Panini for the best panini you will have while you are in Italy. I ordered a Panini on Foccia bread with turkey, salami, goat cheese, pesto, balsamic vinegar, goat cheese, tomato and rocket. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
  10. Take a guided tour through the ruins of Pompeii. I emphasize guided because my friends and I thought we would try and save a few bucks and figure it out on our own…Let’s just say that didn’t work out to well. It’s worth the extra 9 Euros.


Visiting Florence, Italy: Florence Food Tour

Florence Food Tour

I (Rob) recently had the opportunity to take a gastronomic tour of Florence, directed by Florence Tasting. Having lived here for two years my knowledge of the city, restaurants and markets of Florence is solid, but not expert. Thus, I went on the tour as a sort of Sophomore with a chip on my shoulder, not willing to be impressed easily, but hoping for something memorable. Predictibly, I was put in my gastronomic seat right away.

Here's what happened on our Florence food tour...

Florence Food Tour: First Stop, Coffee

Our first stop was Chiaroscuro, a coffee shop that is well-loved by locals and local expats alike. My first thought was that at the very least I would get a good espresso. However I was very pleased to get a lesson in espresso from the caffe owner, Massimo. Massimo is dedicated to serving good coffee and his dedication shone through in the morning's coffee lesson. The lesson began with tastings of two types of roasted beans Arabica and Robusta. Having tasted the different flavors of the beans we tasted them each as espresso. Massimo told us that each cafe blends Arabica and Robusta in different proportions, which accounts for the differences in flavor from location to location. After the espresso and the discussion on blends, we had a cappuccino to see how milk changes the coffee's flavor. Looking back on it, I enjoyed all of the flavors, but what I really came away with is a much better understanding of the different kinds of coffee grounds that are available in stores here and the U.S.

By the way, if you're counting, that's three shots of espresso in about an hour. Add this to the one I had at home and by the time we left Chiaroscuro I was very enthaustic about our next stop.

Florence Food Tour: Next up...truffles.

Next on our tour was a stop at Procacci, the famous truffle sellers here in Florence. Procacci is probably best described as an institution. It's been around since 1885, it's on via Tornabuoni and it's possibly the only place around that sells almost nothing but truffles. That said, I'm sure it comes as no surprise that truffle sandwiches were on the menu that day. Truthfully, I'm not a truffle lover. Plenty of my friends are, but I've never developed the taste. So it was with great pleasure that I handed over my truffle sandwich to Tommaso, of previous fame. Tommaso tells me it was fantastic. A Florentine's endorsement is enough for me to say it was great.

Florence Food Tour: Wine and Cheese

After the truffles we sampled more typical Tuscan fare at La Divina Enoteca. Here, I had my eyes opened. The first tasting was a white wine paired with a slice of pecorino cheese topped by grappa & pear jam. I like all of these things - save the white wine - separately, but would I like them together? The answer is yes, a lot. I never choose white wine but this white, from I Veroni, was great and I plan to have Kate recreate the cheese & jam combo for dinner one night. The other pairings were great - reds with Tuscan meats - and while I would usually remember them I left the enoteca thinking that I should re-consider my position on white wine and cheese pairings. Or, more accurately, form an opinion on white wine and cheese pairings.

Florence Food Tour: To Market, To Market

The next stop was, I'm sure, a group favorite: the central market. Any good Florence food tour needs to feature a stop at one of the city's food markets, and the central market didn't disappoint. Our guide had us sample bread, cheese, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and vin santo. All of the food was fantastic and by the end of the central market portion of the tour I had finally eaten enough to overcome all of the caffeine from earlier.

Florence Food Tour: Gelato Time!

The last stop on the tour was Le Parigine, a great gelateria not far from the Duomo. Everything they serve is made fresh that day and is fantastic. Typically, I couldn't decide on one flavor, so I combined coffee and cream, because I hadn't had enough coffee flavor in my day yet.

I would recommend the tour without hesitation. I think it is a great way for anyone who wants to experience Italian/Tuscan culture both through food and by meeting the owners of the stores we visited. Our guide took us on an easy walk through famous and less-often-traveled areas of the city. While we were out I couldn't help but notice that the tourists on our Florence food tour were experiencing Italy in a way they probably wouldn't have without Florence Tasting. It's a nice way to get out of museums and into the city life. I highly recommend it!

To learn more about Florence Tasting, visit: www.florencetasting.com