Green & Tranquil Malta: Tasting Maltese Food & Wine in the Countryside

Close to where Malta’s Victoria Lines fortifications taper off, there’s a little piece of Mediterranean paradise –  a plot of land where olive and pomegranate trees, along with chickens, goldfish, frogs, and bees mingle. The spot, called the Tan-Nixxiegħa Olive Grove, began its transformation from overgrown and forgotten, to tended and tranquil, just over a decade ago, thanks to two farmers named Charley and Raymond.

The duo, who are part of the Merill Ecotours Rural Network, converted the green-space, allowing the parcel’s flora and fauna to thrive. Today, thanks to Charley and Raymond’s hard work, you can hear the clucking of chickens, the whisper of the trees’ branches as they dance in the air and the babbling of a tiny fishpond.

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Pastoral Piedmont: An Agriturismo & Epicurean Experience in Italy

When you think of Italy, no doubt home-cooked, steaming pasta; verdant agricultural landscapes, and gourmet food products such as Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and traditional balsamic vinegar come to mind. A lesser-known concept is that of the agriturismo, a compound noun which marries the Italian words for ‘agriculture’ and ‘tourism’. As the name implies, an agriturismo is a place where visitors can find lodging, meals, even hands-on experience on a working farm. Some agriturismi are elegant and resort-like, while others are more informal places where guests can get their hands dirty and learn the art of viticulture, olive harvesting, or virtually any aspect of small scale food production. The concept that unites the most formal and simple establishments is that an agriturismo will likely serve food that is either grown on the property, or sourced locally. In addition, income from tourists will help supplement profits earned from traditional farming pursuits.

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A Lesson in Making Yogurt in Kalofer, Bulgaria

 

One of our favorite aspects of Bulgaria’s tasty cuisine is its yogurt, which is appreciated worldwide due to its health benefits and creamy texture. In Kalofer, a village nestled in the mountains of central Bulgaria, our wonderful hosts, Tony and Stefan, taught us how to make yogurt (Кисело мляко, or kiselo mlyako). The couple’s infant son, Iliya, also lent enthusiasm, in this sleepy town where it’s not uncommon to see sheep, goats, and cows freely grazing among the half-timbered brick barns and wildflowers.

It’s believed that the people of the Balkans have been making yogurt for more than three millennia. Lactobacillus Bulgaricus, the bacteria responsible for making Bulgaria’s prized yogurt, is appreciated as far away as Japan and China. Bulgarian yogurt dominates about 60% of the Japanese market and many believe that the yogurt is rich in probiotics (good bacteria) which aid in digestion.

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Fresh Delights: A Cooking Class in Split, Croatia

Jakša Bedalov’s earliest winemaking memory was when he was just five years old. Tasked with cleaning his family’s fermentation room near the coastal Croatian city of Split, Jakša remembers his father pushing him so that he could squeeze into the small space. It was a challenging feat since he was a broad-shouldered child.

“It was like being in the womb all over again,” he jokingly recalled during our recent cooking class in Kaštel Kambelovac, just minutes from Split.

The experience of being squished into a contorted position must not have been too traumatic, since today, winemaking is one of Jakša’s great loves. Another passion is creating traditional Croatian cuisine. More specifically, dishes from Jakša’s native Dalmatia. Dalmatia is a region of Croatia extending along the eastern side of the Adriatic Sea.

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Cooking with Class in Santorini: Discovering the Greek Island’s Unique Gastronomy

 

As we bid farewell to our charismatic Greek cooking class Sous-Chef, Daniel, he shared parting culinary wisdom with a twinkle in his eye:

“Use your imagination and everything is possible. And remember – you needn’t measure – you must feel the taste.”

We’d come to the elegant, highly-acclaimed Selene restaurant on sun-drenched Santorini, Greece. We would spend the day learning about the island, its Cycladic neighbors, and their unique produce, cheese and wine. We would then try our hands at some of Selene’s trademark recipes and as a reward, savor what we’d prepared. As we strolled out into the Santorini sunlight after our cooking class and lunch, utterly relaxed, with creatively-stimulated minds and taste buds, we reflected on what an exemplary day it had been.

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