So begins the travel ritual once again. There is nothing like that endless list of pre-flight chores. The clock is ticking - the minutes seem to be flying by, and something will undoubtedly be left behind. There is never enough time in the day. Desserts are in the oven. Check. The bags are on the sidewalk. Check. I think, or rather I hope, I packed my passport... The oven timer has sounded off. Chocolatey aroma fills the air. It’s time to hit the road.
My never ending quest continues; to find fresh culinary inspiration to bring back home to the Hudson Valley. For this tour I set off to the city of Caminha, in the Northwestern corner of Portugal. I am eager to sample all this region of Portugal has to offer. Food, culture, and of course plenty of Portuguese wine. My flight touches down first in Madrid after a cramped seven hour journey across the atlantic, then a quick hour later arrives at the airport in Vigo, Spain. Glad to set foot on solid ground once again, I grab my bags, and make my way to the exit. There awaits my brother-in-law Russ, a Hudson Valley transplant, who has graciously offered to serve as our guide on this trip. We say our hellos, load up the car, and hit the road. We cruise through the mountains and valleys of spain, and cross over the Minho River into the beautiful country of Portugal.
This beauty is hard to capture; crossing over sandbars of the Minho estuary. It is the mouth of the river, where the river's current meets the ocean’s tide. It is low tide, and the view of the Atlantic from the Minho is unlike any other. We are surrounded. Water to one side, mountains to the other, and there ahead is our destination. We were suddenly transported to a medieval town, I was enchanted, or delirious with hunger and in dire need of a coffee.
Town of Caminha
With a history dating back to the 5th century, the town of Caminha exists in a duality between modern and old. The cobblestone streets leading past ornate churches, and elaborate stone buildings; decorated with detailed hand painted ceramic tile that the Portuguese are so well known for. All roads leading to one central point-the beautiful town square, overlooked by a clock tower originally part of a castle. The walls of the castle fortress have long since been knocked down, but the circle of the wall is still visible in the arrangement of the buildings surrounding the square. Modern and traditional cafes, galleries, antique, and shops of all kinds fill the square. It is the Heart of the town and a destination for locals and tourists alike.
Travel down the cobblestone streets of Caminha toward the riverfront. Any day of the week there are endless beauties to behold or shops and cafes to indulge in. Wednesdays when you turn that last corner toward the river, a new path is laid before you. To me there is nothing like this. Tent after tent, one after the other the feda market has arrived. Who doesn’t love an open market? It offers whatever you may need. First comes the live chickens and rabbits, produce and flowers. We pass through the loud chatter of the animals, and arrive at the fragrant scent of fresh cut flowers of all sorts. Next come stands with fresh baked breads, cheese, olives, cured meats, vibrant spices, and handmade terracotta pottery, all from local artisans or traveling gypsies. Where to begin? A sample of this cheese, a little chorizo or presunto, oh and how about a slice of Pao Broa. I’m in my element. I collect my share of spices, and am overwhelmed with ideas on what I can create with these things I am seeing and experiencing. Countless possibilities … plates with piri piri (African bird eye chili), linguica, or fresh bacalhau - I am lost in my mind and ready to get into a kitchen. I am lucky to be from the Hudson Valley, with all our amazing farms provide, they will easily facilitate the translation of my experience to the plate. I snap out of it and realize, I have to take a raincheck - There is more to be seen.
Food vendors give way to traditional terracotta ceramics, hand hammered copper stills,(I wanted one of these but for some reason my fiancé thought it could be a bad idea…..not sure why) and many other things. Followed by the gypsy section of the market. Women in scarves shout at me repeatedly and gesture for me to come shop with them, I suddenly feel self conscious. They seem to study my every move as we walk by. Cloths hang from the tops of the tents. Stands became cars or trucks with half of their products on the floor. Wearing shirts become optional, and I believe I am approaching a give a shoe take a shoe table- though I could be wrong. It feels like a whole separate market. We weave our way through the crowd and head back toward the welcoming cobblestone street. Thankfully, we have made our way out with our wallets intact, and at least most of us left without hexes. (Russ might want to throw some salt over his shoulder…).
This year on Cinco De Mayo (May 5, 2016) Dish Bistro & Wine Bar will be offering a special menu and Tromba Tequila Tasting. A selection of tequila blanco, resposado and anejo created by Marco Cedano, Mexico’s preeminent master distiller will be paired with a hand crafted cocktail and Mexicali inspired small bites.
In addition to the special tasting chef Peter has created a menu based off of his most recent trip to Mexicali, Mexico ...check out his trip online.
Tickets are $30 per person, and once purchased a reservation can be made online.
It is 4 am and the journey to Mexicali, starting without coffee might I add, has begun. My goal is to seek out fresh inspirations and expressions of flavor from abroad and bring them back home to the Hudson Valley. From JFK to San Deigo it is a little over a five hour flight, followed by a two and a half hour car ride across a small dessert. Soon enough, I found myself crossing the US southern border into Mexicali, Mexico. Joined by my friend Marc, from LA, we were anxiously looking forward to two days of exploring the capital of the Mexican California Baja.
Mexicali, Mexico is an emerging area. With a population educated in, agriculture, and industry, on the surface every-day-life here doesn't seem so different from back home in the USA. Though you may not be able to drink the water or have all your creature comforts readily available, there is un-rushed rhythm to the days. As I have found in many cultures, food and drink seem to be at the center of every past time here. With an abundant supply of street vendors, restaurants, and cold beer it feels only right to get to work and discover the flavors of Mexicali.
Whenever I travel, I find the best way to experience a place or culture is through its street food. Mexicali, Mexico has a fantastic food street scene... tacos, ceviche, menudo..... just to name a few. Families, travelers, and of course late night crowds flock to vendors for that pick me up or meal. The expression of a culture through street food is an experience I recommend!
Growing up Mom made (and still makes) soda bread throughout the year, not just on St. Patrick's Day. For her though, the bread she made on St. Patrick's was a little more special connected her and us to our Irish heritage.
In Ireland, soda bread is not the same as the breads appearing on the shelves in grocery stores for a brief period. It's a staple there and rather different in flavor and texture from what we are used to here. That of course is due to basic day to day ingredients that are used in the home.
Brown soda bread (using all or part whole wheat/germ) is always on the table, and with a little bit of grass fed butter it's hard to beat. One of my favorite comfort foods is brown bread, a good stout, and a tasty fish chowder..... to bad I'm land locked!
Ireland is one of my favorite places in the world, but in the County Kerry is Dingle on the Dingle peninsula and it is truly amazing. A rugged but beautiful landscape giving way to an area rich in history and tradition.
The people who live here have special relationship with the rest of Ireland. A people who love, music, poetry, food.... with a little bit of a history of rebellion.
Check out chef Peter on WHUD, 100.7 discussing participating in Dish's third restaurant week. Recorded at the 2016 Spring Kick Off at X20 in Yonkers, NY.
Kashiwa, in Chiba prefecture, Japan. A modern city with an ancient past, a commercial hub and a community to many Tokyo commuters. This city, like most in Japan can surprise the adventuress foodie. Arriving at Kashiwa Station, I could have easily mistaken myself for being in New York. A Starbucks to the left, shops, an aggressively urban exterior with a row of restaurants all with intricately designed wax displays highlighting their dishes.
What do you want on a chilly night when you're craving a bone warming meal? With so many choices there’s just one that fits that bill and that’s oden.
This recipe is from my great Aunt Connie Milano and goes back in my family a few generations, possibly more.
These cookies should be light, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. We only make them for Christmas and they are fantastic with a cup of tea or espresso.
As a kid, I liked these cookies when they were still hot and soft… the honey and the citrus really stand out. I hope you enjoy them as much as my family has.
December 13, 2015 - Italian Holiday Wine Dinner
On Sunday, December 13th, 2015 guests will have a unique experience and taste of Italian seasonal & holiday cuisine. With a six course menu created by chef Peter & wine pairings by expert Brian Mitchell, you won't want to miss this event. Regionally diverse cuisine of Italy in the Hudson Valley.
Buy Your Tickets Online
Time: 5:15 Reception with cocktails & hors d' eourves
5:45pm Dinner Seating
$95 per ticket
This year at Hudson Valley Restaurant Week's Kick Off Event by The Valley Table at the CIA in Poughkeepsie, NY chef Peter Milano had the privileg of meeting and being interviewed by Chris Rodriguez from 107.1 and Kacey from 100.7 radio stations.
This year we have a fantastic locally inspired menu this year at Dish Bistro & Wine Bar for Hudson Valley Restaurant Week. Remember, our menu changes weekly ... even for HVRW.
Love eggs? From breakfast to desserts, eggs can be the star of the show or the supporting act. We know about the versatility of chicken eggs, but what about duck eggs?
There are a few differences:
Bio..what now? Biodynamic wines seem to be becoming popular these days, but what exactly does that mean?
The taste of wine depends on the grape, soil quality, location, wine maker's skill, etc.. The term biodynamic referes to a vinyards approach to growing grapes looking at the land producing the grape almost as mini-ecosystem. The health of the soil, micro-organisms, the other plants growing in the area, the stars & moon cycles even come into consideration.
This more holistic approach to organic growing , according to wine makers, produces a wine with a more distinguished profile, really highlighting where they are grown. Biodyanmic wine makers do not use additives during the fermentation process such as yeast.
An Irish Coffee at Dish Bistro & Wine Bar:
Here's chef Peter's notes on this blend of Irish Whiskey:
Nose: vanilla,caramel, malt & white chocolate.
Palate: hints of char , smoke
Finish: soft, and light spice lingers briefly
Overall: Sweet and easy to drink
Menu & Pairing
R Four Graces Pinot Gris
Dungeness Crab Crostini & Sprout Creek Cheese Board
C1 King's Ridge Riesling
Wild Smoked Salmon Terrine
dill cream, ciabatta crostini, lemon arugula salad with roasted beets, pickled red onion
C2 Solena Estate Grand Cuvee Pinot noir
Roasted Saddle of Lamb
stuffed with pignoli, spinach, dried Apricot, Sprout Creek Toussaint,
truffle potato dauphine, huckleberry sauce
C3 Brooks Temperance Hill Pinot Noir
Pan Seared Trout
morel sauce, asparagus, creamy polenta
D Foris Muscat
Dark Chocolate Oregon Hazelnut Mousse
Belgian dark chocolate
Pot pies make a great warming winter dinner. I serve them at the restaurant typically during the fall and winter, but using a variety of ingredients you can make a stellar pie anytime of the year. The standard is chicken, but all vegetable pies, beef short ribs, even fish can add a pleasant twist on an "American" classic.
This dish is one of those foods that you remember eating as a kid ... Mom's pies were good (not all of them though.....hope she isn't reading) and she usually made some extra, freezing them for a few weeks and baking them until hot and bubbling.
Soup. I'm not really sure how you feel about it but I could have soup everyday, for any meal. There are just so many options, from chicken to fish, even super rich and flavor vegan soups. (I wanted to write souper but thought it was a little corny...)
Here are some of my tips for making your next great soup:
1. Knowing your ingredients and their flavors is very important because it really doesn't take a lot of them to make a real flavorful soup. Regardless of a hot or cold soup be sure that the ingredients compliment one another and aren't too overpowering. This is important especially if you aren't using a quality broth ... make your own, their always better. (If I don't have one handy I am just as happy to use water and build up my flavors.)
When you think of Italian food, Japan doesn't initially rush to the front of the line in my mind. But, in true Japanese fashion not only can you find very traditionally prepared Italian dishes, you will find dishes influenced by fresh local ingredients. At its core, isn't that what cooking Italian is? A cuisine driven by fresh simplicity paired with great drink and company.
In Noda City, Japan, there is a restaurant that portrays this example perfectly and that's Comesta. Owned by Mr. Watanabe, with a sister restaurant in Tokyo, Comesta, under head chef Ota offers guests a taste of Italian flavors built on the local.
Here, chef Ota uses moromi (a mash from the fermentation of soy sauce) in his bolognese. Moromi is a sweet, salty umami bomb and adds a new dimension to sauces...really whatever its on. A slice of pizza with moromi bolognese, mozzarella, and leek...sounds alright to me!
I love living in this part of the United States, not just because of our locations natural beauty but being close New York City there are so many opportunities to experience new foods and cultures (don't forget drinks of course). You don't have to go far either, just pack a fork...maybe a napkin and hit the road.
Let me share my fun "foodie" experience from this past weeked ... yeah, when I'm not in the kitchen...I'm still thinking about cooking. Sunday's are usually set aside for me to see what type of gastronomical adventure I can get myself into. This Sunday I had the privilege of being accompanied by my Japanese teacher, friend, and cook-book author, Sharon Nakazato to Nippon Daido. Daido is a Japanese grocery store on Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains, NY.
Peter A Milano
Eat, Drink, and Explore from chef Peter's blog about his food experiences, recipes, and travel.