The Secrets Behind Real Balsamic

Eating in Italy often reveals everything we are doing wrong with food. We muddle dishes with too many ingredients. We use subpar ingredients. We lack patience. We want picture-perfect produce year-round and don’t pay enough attention to the seasons. We are wasteful. After every trip to Italy, I come back not only with a full…

Hunting for White Truffles by Moonlight

A man with a wicker basket lined with blue checkered cloth walked towards me. It was early November, the height of truffle season in the northern Italian region of Piemonte, and this truffle hunter was delivering a haul to a local restaurant where I’d just had lunch. I could have let him walk right by,…

Cafayate: Wine Country in Argentina

After trotting along a gravel road and cantering through sand dunes, the horses started to climb. Maneuvering across small streams, they moved from the flat valley up towards the snow-capped Andes Mountains. This morning horseback ride was my introduction to Cafayate, high-altitude wine country in the northwest corner of Argentina where vineyards range from 5,400…

On Ireland: What to Read

Around St. Patrick’s Day, there is so much terrible writing about Ireland. My small act of defiance is to share some of my favorite writing about Ireland, stories that are transportive and evoke not just the place and the sights but the people and the feel that make the country so special. Why Western Ireland…

Get in the Car and Go

When you turn the key in the ignition in Ireland, you don’t need to know where you’re going. Point the car north or south or west and you’ll arrive at a country pub on a windy road. At a forest full of ancient trees. At a lighthouse treacherously perched at the edge of the sea. This year…

Best of 2016

Travel, is often, a pain. In 2016, I had my phone stolen in a market in Oaxaca. A serious hit of motion sickness had me vomiting off the back of a boat during a rough crossing between Clare Island and mainland Ireland. I got dangerously close to a rattle snake in Montana. And yet —…

Drinking Mezcal at the Source

I almost missed my flight to Oaxaca. That’s the danger of a long layover — too much time to kill. Once I’m settled into a multi-hour layover, once I’ve found the restaurant or bar where pilots and flight attendants and locals are eating, once I’ve paid my bill, and settled in at my gate with…

A Trail of Lighthouses in Ireland

In Ireland, you walk for many reasons. You walk to the store for milk when the carton is empty and the kettle is boiled. You walk to the pub, where friends that know your order are waiting. And sometimes, when you’re standing in the harbor of an island off the coast of County Mayo, you…

When to Order the Chicken

Chicken gets a bad rap. In restaurants, it is often the neglected dish. People who order it can be seen as being unadventurous or boring. When served boneless and skinless, it’s often associated with diet food. But me, I love chicken. There are few dinners more comforting than a roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy….

The Porchetta Queen

“When you went to Frascati, you had the porchetta, right?” my husband asked me one night when we were planning our honeymoon in Italy. I thought back to a day spent in Frascati, a quiet and charming town a short train ride away from Rome. I remembered arriving a little too late for lunch and…

Slowing Down in the Galapagos

People travel to the Galapagos for the nature, but they should also travel to these remote islands almost 600 miles off the coast of mainland Ecuador for the solitude. I loved seeing baby sea lions blowing bubbles under water and squat penguins waddling into their cave-like homes on rocky island coastlines, but one of my…

That One Perfect Summer

For weather, circumstance, or both, there is usually one summer that firmly stands out in memory. For many of my Irish friends, that summer is 1995, when Ireland enjoyed an unusual run in warm, sunny days and summer afternoons were filled with swimming, ice cream, and tending to sunburns. For me — among memories of…

Mastering the Layover – 4 Hours in Mexico City

You can’t always fly direct. When a layover is a necessity, I would pick a hefty three or four hour layover over a tight 45-minute connection any day. Especially if the airport is somewhere outside the U.S., where people watching has the potential to be more interesting than the book in my bag. On a…

Driving in Italy

Driving around Italy is full of humorous moments. A nun walking out into the middle of thick traffic with her arm sharply extended, palm out, to stop traffic. The supposedly two lane coastal roads the width of a bus that become especially interesting to traverse, when a bus is coming the opposite direction. The tiny…

An Irish Guide to Dating

To all the Irish I’ve known, thank you. Over a decade, your friendships provided countless dating tips—in the form of your actions, that is—that might help people find (and hold on to) love. This guide is by no means comprehensive, but aims to untangle some of the nuance of the much-praised Irish charm. First, the…

The Pulse of Portland

Back in September, I spent three days and three nights immersed in the local tango scene in Portland, Oregon (reporting for my recent New York Times story: In Portland, A Warm Embrace of Tango). By day, I interviewed dancers and teachers, observed practice sessions, and took my first one-on-one tango lesson. By night, I attended…

My New York

I have called three neighborhoods in New York home over the last five years: Soho, Tribeca, and west Harlem. In Soho, I had an octogenarian neighbor who liked to sit on the stoop on warm days and talk about the Italian roots of the neighborhood. In Tribeca, I found small places among flashy restaurants that…

Best of 2015

In 2015, I feasted on seafood in Puglia and learned to make cheese in the Basque Country. I lured friends and family to Dublin for my wedding, but also for Irish oysters, music, and craic. I followed a dog on a truffle hunt in Piemonte, got my hands dirty during a cooking class in San…

On the Pleasures of the Off Season

Every December, I get in a car in Dublin. We drive north or west or south, out of the city, into the Irish countryside. We hop on the motorway in the days before Christmas, when most locals are busy wrapping up shopping or preparing holiday meals. When we arrive in Connemara or Antrim or Wexford, we…

Snapshot of a Saturday on the Basque Coast

Saturday in the Basque Country began like this: I stepped into the shower, turned on the water, and looked out the window. Just beyond the glass, a cow was grazing. He had one eye on his breakfast and one eye on me washing my hair. After my own breakfast, I headed out for a drive…

Solo in Tokyo

It’s Saturday morning. You pick up the newspaper and open the travel section. As a travel writer, this weekend ritual can be research, but once in a while, there’s also regret. Regret that you did not pitch the story that is now in front of you, often written beautifully. Regret that you did not take…

The Honey Harvest in Portland

When we drizzle honey on our oatmeal (or our Greek yogurt and granola, or in our salad dressings) — we think we’re making a smart, healthy decision. How many of us have raced through a grocery store, grabbing a honey bear, believing the label when it says “honey” that the contents inside are actually honey?…

Noi Vastesi: Part II

Every man that turned the corner, I studied for Smargiassi traits. A certain height, a certain shape of the face, a curve of the spine or a walk. As each pedestrian approached, I prepared to say hello, scanning their face for a trace of recognition, but they all passed without a word. Standing on the…

Noi Vastesi, part I.

I grew up hearing about it, but never knew where it was. Vasto. The village in Italy my great-grandparents, Domenico and Philomena Smargiassi, left in the early 1920s to sail to the States. I didn’t look it up on a map until high school, and only recently did I type the name into a Google…

Cucina Tipica Romana

The first place I set foot in Italy, was Rome. I remember smelling freshly pulled espresso when my plane touched down in Ciampino Airport after dark. At lunch, wine was often cheaper than bottled water. A whole pizza could be devoured for 5 euros. I walked and took photographs, connected dots on maps to visit…

An Irish Wedding

The number one question I was asked when planning my wedding was: what makes a wedding Irish? For our May wedding in Dublin, Ireland we wanted to combine traditions for a part Italian-American, part Irish wedding. There would be oysters accompanied by baby glasses of Guinness. There would be an a cappella group bursting into…

The New Face of an Old Friend

On a recent Sunday, I began the day by wading into the tropical waters off the coast of South Beach in Miami. It was a stunner of a morning, a perfect 75 degrees, the water a just-warm-enough temperature. This stretch of sand is as appealing as ever, with its signature colorful lifeguard stands and ladies…

On the Sunny Side of the Street

In the past year, I learned about the pleasures of winter. It started with a January trip to Amsterdam, arriving in the pre-dawn hours to find the city still and covered in 6 inches of pristine snow. I wore an absurd amount of layers exploring on foot, but for the first time, I found the…

Best of 2014

In 2014, I slurped ramen in Tokyo and tasted wine in Sonoma. I moved uptown to Harlem, sipped whiskey in Northern Ireland, and hiked through the Sacred Valley in Peru. Distilling a year’s worth of traveling and eating into a single blog post is nearly impossible — so I’m not even going to try. The…

In the Footsteps of Giants

In Ireland, everyone has their favorite nook of the island. Families are often nostalgic for a certain corner, packing up the car and heading off for long weekends in Cork or Galway or Clare or Donegal, settling into their happy place for a bank holiday weekend. For my soon-to-be family, that happy place is craggy…

Seen in Tokyo

  I landed in Tokyo 24-hours before a typhoon hit. After sleeping off the jet lag, I donned my raincoat and headed out into the rain — I couldn’t wait to explore the city streets, and plus, rain is the perfect weather for soup. Almost every day of my trip I ate a big bowl…

Sharing the Strand with Seamus

My feet were always wet in Dublin. If the leather of my shoes was soaked through on the walk to work in the morning, they would remain wet all day. If I sat at the desk by the window, with a heater near the baseboard, they would be warm and wet. Otherwise, they would be…

Pairings That Pop

When I got engaged last year, I was suddenly faced with a fridge full of champagne. Generous friends and family unknowingly prompted a series of experiments at my apartment — what goes with champagne? We started out with traditional pairings of cheese, maybe a few oysters. Yet the more I talked to winemakers, bartenders, and…

Hot Out of the Irish Oven

“Some breads, like the baguette, are immediately seductive. But brown bread is different. It isn’t fussy or needy. It doesn’t require an artist’s touch (actually, the less you handle the dough, the better) and, for some, can take time to love.” This line is from a draft of a story that just came out in…

A Walk in the Woods

After a few days of Sonoma’s temptations — wine, farm fresh food and more wine — it is time for a walk. On a recent sunny Monday after a gluttonous weekend, I was ready to see a different side of Sonoma County. Far from my full e-mail inbox, I stepped into the silent forest of…

Morning in the Market

I don’t know if it was the altitude or the extra oxygen being pumped into the hotel room, but in Cusco, I was an early riser. My first few days in this city in Peru weren’t spent in Cusco at all — each morning I embarked on an excursion to feed alpacas, explore Incan ruins,…

Hands Like Shovels

I’m not always the most prolific Tweeter, but in honor of St. Patrick’s Day this year — when there is so much bad content being published about Ireland — I suddenly had a flurry of things to say in 140 characters. These were some of my favorites: The Irish don’t eat corned beef, and they…

A Glimpse of Greece

When we write, there are stories that don’t make it into the final draft. They may not support the argument of what we are working on, but we are unwilling to completely let them go. This glimpse of life about the island of Ithaka is an example of one such story that didn’t find a…

Breakfast in Ireland

“My next door neighbor smokes the salmon,” the owner of a seafront B&B in County Wexford, Ireland said. “And the eggs are from the hens out back. Laid yesterday.” She placed a basket of hot toast and thick slices of brown bread on the table alongside our breakfast. With a satisfied nod, she scurried back into…

Best American Travel Writing 2013

On Monday I was on the phone with a colleague of mine who had received an early copy of the Best American Travel Writing 2013, edited by Elizabeth Gilbert, out this week. She turned to the back of the book, listing Notable Travel Writing of 2012, and told me the good news: a story of…