Category Archives: Food

The Freshest Day is Friday

In Tuoro Sul Trasimeno, Italy (the small town in Umbria where my family has a house) because it is market day! On Market day the streets of the town are lined with vendors selling everything from Porchetta (a delicious italian pork treat served sandwich style, made only on special days) to shoes or bed spreads.

But I come to market day for the in between.. the fresh produce picked by the local farmers and handed right to you and the beautiful meats handmade and cut to order.

I love the way these little guys grow!

Can't forget about what I like to call "stinky fish." Anchovies cured in salt. All the men in my family love these horribly smelling things, I'm guessing it's a test to their manhood.

My mom and I walked to the market and were going to “buy just a few things,” but of course that never happens when fresh produce looks this good so we bought “just a few more” and ended up with a fresh feast!

Our table full of produce!

Caprese salad with fresh tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil from our garden, olive oil from our olive trees, and basalmic glaze.

I was missing a little asian taste so I made my favorite dish- chicken bun with vermicelli noodles, salad, cucumbers, peanuts, grilled chicken, and a sauce made with fish broth, sugar, soy sauce, and hot peppers. And of course a big glass of green tea!

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Three Excuses to Visit a McDonald’s Overseas

There is nothing worse than a traveler that goes to new places and searches endlessly for the comforts of home. When you visit a place, take it all in! The food, the scents, the sights, the customs, the CULTURE.

However, with the great Americanization of the world, it is apparent that McDonald’s is spreading faster than the black plague did, and I have found the only three excuses to visit one when abroad.

1. ICE
Ice is a rarity in many places overseas (especially all over Europe), and after a while of drinks with no ice, it is common to crave some frozen water with our soda. McDonald’s, of course, is ever-flowing with these frozen morsels. So if you need your ice fix, it is OK to visit McDonald’s for a cold one.

2. PRIME REAL ESTATE
I have seen a few McDonald’s overseas that have prime real estate. In Hong Kong I visited one that was on top of a hill and had a wrap around balcony that offered the best view of the city. Who would have thought! (No I still didn’t eat, just enjoyed an iced beverage).
When you fly into Rome, and then arrive at the train station in the city, you will quickly run into Piazza della Republica. A beautiful square with a fountain in the middle, ancient ruins on one side, and a giant old hotel that wraps around half of it. It is a perfect people watching spot, and busy roundabout for traffic of all kinds. And what is conveniently located at the base of the hotel? A Mcdonald’s. But no ordinary McDonald’s, here you can sit out in their covered tables right on the Piazza, and enjoy a freshly pressed espresso in a ceramic cup paired with a delicious croissant for 1 Euro.

Perfect for people watching!

 

I got hungry! But impressive for McDonald's right?

3. A CULTURAL LESSON
And lastly, McDonald’s across the world offers a cultural lesson. Yes, I will admit that. While we have burgers and fries because that is the “American Diet,” each McDonald’s around the world offers the common foods of that country (yes, they do also still offer the common burger and fries).

McDonald's Japan

 

McDonalds Middle East

 

McDonalds China

Well there you have it. The 3 excuses to visit a McDonald’s overseas.

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Buddha, buddha!

Got back on the boat in the morning and began heading down the Mekong further towards our destination of Luang Probang. It was an incredibly overcast and misty morning, which are usually perfect for curling up and watching a movie, but I was blown away by how beautiful the mist was over the unique terrain along the Mekong. I could make a whole photo book out of the shots I took just that morning, but I’ll just share a few for now!

Morning Mist on the Mekong River.

Lao Mountains are breathtaking.

 

Traditional boat.

We stopped at another lodge for the night called Kamu Lodge. I thought I was staying in the jungle the night before, but this was REALLY the jungle. Each room was a tent set on a tile landing. Everything was run by solar panels, so no sun no electricity. The lodge was integrated into a neighboring village, “The Kamu People,” which is completely self sustainable. They grow and raise or hunt all the food they eat and sell, they pump running water from the mountain, and they use solar energy. I was so impressed by the quality of life and kinship I found in this village and lodge, I would love to be a part of a community like the Kamu people.

Kamu Lodge Tent.

Is it a bathroom? Shower? Sink? All in one?!

When we arrived our guide at the lodge name Khamla took us on a little tour. I got the chance to shoot the traditional bow and arrow, pan for gold (a source of income for the village), plow the rice field and plant rive, swim in their natural swimming pool (part of the Mekong), fish for river fish, and walk around and learn about the village.

We had a wonderful dinner in the lodge dining area, which was a platform in the middle of the rice fields. I have become immune to large bugs whizzing by at every moment, and actually captured 5 inch long fat beetles that wondered into my dinner.

After the sun went down we went back to our tents and since you can’t turn on a light to read or your bed will turn into the hottest bug bar in town, we went to sleep. Between the calming heat and the harmonic song of millions of insects, I fell into the deepest sleep I have had in a long time.

In the morning we had another eventful breakfast in the rice field when a cow from a neighboring village invaded the rice patties and was running ramped while 10 men chased him. All was well though and we went on our way to Luang Probang.

We made a pit stop at the Pak Ou Caves. Two story caves that are in a mountain side on the Mekong river. There are over 400 Buddha statues in the lower cave alone. The upper cave is 204 steps above the lower cave (yep, we counted). Both are something I have definitely never seen before.

Pak Ou Caves

 

400 Buddhas in the cave.

 

Pak Ou Cave

 

Pak Ou Cave

 

Me in the Pak Ou Cave.

Pak Ou Cave Buddhas

 

Entrance to the Upper cave of the Pak Ou Caves.

 

Old carving on the door to the Upper Cave.

Luang Probang is the 3rd largest city in Laos and used to be the capital. Because of its beautiful valley and river setting, the quality of life, and the culture, the whole town has been named a world heritage site. I took one look around and saw exactly what they were talking about. What a town! In a town of 60,000 people there are 65 temples (all gorgeous) and about 1,500 monks (disciples of Buddha).

We went to a few temples that seemed more for the local people than to impress tourists (a relief) and then to a lookout that was quite a climb where we could see the whole city.

Collection of Buddhas in local temple.

 

Collection of Buddhas in local temple.

 

Monk dormitories.

 

Memaid Carvings!

 

Buddha Army?

At night we went to the night market where there were many local crafts, but what was most interesting was an alley of the market where food was being sold. There was stand after stand of amazing looking food where you pay $1 for a plate or $1.50 for a big plate and fill it up! There were tons of backpackers eating around these stands, but also lots of local people.

In the morning we were out the door at 5:30 to go watch the monks get fed by the local buddhists, an ancient tradition since monks are not allowed to cook for themselves. They walked through the streets of the town with a metal bowl and each person gave a pinch of sticky rice to each monk.

Monks collecting food.

 

Monks collecting food.

 

Local giving food to monks.

 

Locals giving food to monks.

We then went to see a local food market that was already quite lively for 6 a.m. This market wasn’t for the faint stomached. They were selling everything from grub to bats, and from ant larvae to buffalo tail. And no, this wasn’t for show. These ingredients are found in traditional Lao dishes.

Mound of snails.

 

An assortment of ant larvae, red insects, and grub.

Huge Mushrooms.

 

River catfish. They grow to be up to 600 lbs!

 

More River Fish.

 

: (

 

Yes those are bats next to the grub.

 

Bats at the local food market.

 

Bullfrogs.

 

All parts of the Buffalo, tail included.

After the market we went to a place where students wanting to learn english gather. Anyone can stop in who speaks english and can have conversations with the students, read with them, or help them with their homework. it was a really neat way to learn a bit about the life of a young Lao person, but also a great way to give to them.

We had an amazing lunch by the river. I had coconut soup with chicken and noodles, sweet and sour tofu, sticky rice, and vegetable spring rolls. You might say: “Wow Marina, you really pig out!” But I say it is the best $6.50 I have ever spent on a culinary experience. And no, I didn’t finish it all, but I could have!

In the afternoon we split up and were on a quest for sun dresses (since we mistakenly only packed pants and hot dresses, luckily I did sneak in a pair of shorts) when we came across a spa. $5 for an hour long massage, mango smoothie included?? Yes please!

Our quest for a dress was a fail, but the day was wonderful.

Tomorrow we get on another plane and head to Cambodia. Second to last leg of our Asian adventure.

(Don’t want to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth from the market photos, so here are a few from a village we visited!)

Hmong Children

 

Translucent Butterfly!

 

That face!

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Floating Market Day!

I only got about three hours of sleep last night… I’ll thank my childlike excitement about going to the floating market for that!

Imagine hundreds of little souvenir shops, food vendors, and grocery stores lined up along a canal and placed into canoe-like boats. This is the floating market. We drove for about an hour and a half outside of Bangkok to reach the small town where the floating market is located.

We arrived at a small boat landing where we had ice cream for breakfast, a treat from our guide because it “is too hot out to not have ice cream.” We boarded our boat and were on our way through a series of canals surrounded by coconut plantations and dilapidated houses.

Canal to floating market.

The market was originally for locals to buy groceries and trade goods, but since it was discovered as a place for tourists to visit it has turned into a bit of a souvenir nightmare. But most of the souvenir shops are along the side of the canal, and the boats are mostly filled with the traditional goods.

Souvenir man!

Soup boat.

Women trading.

Monk shopping.

Up front and center! Me on floating market boat.

Market after it died down a bit.

I did give in and buy one of these beautiful monk paintings from this guy. He was painting them right there. I also bought a crazy four-eyed laughing man painting which he made in college and was very reluctant to give up, but after I told him that I would be hanging it in my house for all my friends to see, he was pleased to pass it on to me.

After we got off of our boat, I went over and befriended this gem of a lady.

Priceless!

She even let me sit on her boat (which is not easy to balance, let me tell you!).

I wanted to grab some soup in the market, but you would think I were wanting to play Russian Roulette the way my dad reacted. This is the first very exotic place that he has traveled to, and is terrified of the local water and sanitation, which is probably good thinking but I like to take my chances and absorb everything I can.. especially the food! But I let him win this time, and really it was a win win because look at this lunch! Curry pineapple rice with tofu.. served in a pineapple! Yumm.

Pineapple rice with tofu!

After lunch, we headed back to our hotel.. which is absolutely beautiful!

The Peninsula, Bangkok.

We ended the day with a traditional Thai massage, which is like yoga for a lazy person. You stay clothed and the bend and stretch you every which way. It feel wonderful! And is such a steal.. they come to your hotel and give you a Thai massage for an hour and a half for $20.. and that’s the tourist price! I couldn’t bring myself to even attempt to bargain when It is already 1/4 of the cost of a massage at home.

So now I’m heading to bed, and waking up at 5, jumping on another plane, bidding adieu to Bangkok, and moving onto Chang Rai, a city in northern Thailand which is supposed to be beautiful. And in the afternoon I get to play with elephants! Probably going to be restless with excitement all night again.. Oh well!

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A day in Bangkok…

Felt like three! If we would have planned any more to do today, we wouldn’t have had time to blink.

We began early with another amazing breakfast.. photo as promised:

Breakfast

If you know me, you know that I LOVE food, but am not a breakfast food fan.. well looks like Asians aren’t either! Ah what a treat!

After breakfast we headed to see the Golden Buddha, the world’s largest solid gold statue which weighs 5.5 tons and is about 10 feet tall.

Golden Buddha.

 

Parents and me infront of the Golden Buddha.

Then we went for a stroll through Chinatown. But let me tell you.. I have been to Chinatown in a few cities in America, but this was a completely different experience. No fake purses or watches being sold here! It was a place truly for locals to buy their groceries and everyday household items.. which to us are really not so everyday.

Chinatown in Bangkok

Vendor in Chinatown

Beautiful dried fruit!

Crabs in Chinatown

Fish Kissy!

Rice cake chef.

I also learned something new while I was in Chinatown today. It is Chinese tradition for when someone dies to bring paper representations of material goods they used while alive to their funeral and burn them. There was shop after shop of paper models of planes, watches, phones, crock pots, coffee makers, cars, shoes, clothes, anything you could imagine.

Chinese Funeral.

Chinese Funeral.

After Chinatown we went to visit the Emerald Buddha at the Grand Palace by Tuk Tuk. The compound that the palace is on is unbelievable. The colors, plants, layout, and intricate detail on every inch of every building is like nothing I have seen before. But of course.. I accidentally packed an extra tank top in my purse instead of a coverup so I got to wear a super stylish Hawaiian button-up shirt. Luckily I wasn’t the only one walking around with the island vibe.

Looking stylish at the Grand Palace.






Emerald Buddha

Buddha

Grand Palace

After we finished exploring this astonishing palace, we moved on to a possibly even more breathtaking sight.. the “Reclining Buddha.” 154 feet long and 50 feet high. It is housed in a small building so hard to get a good photo of the whole thing but i was about as big as three of his toes.

Reclining buddha.

Then we took a longtail boat for a ride through a few of bangkok’s 500 canals which are lined but slightly decrepit but incredibly interesting houses.

Longtail boat ride.

Me on the longtail boat.

House on a canal in Bangkok.

Bangkok canal convenience store.

We ended the day with a punch.. or two.. or three..and some kicking..

At a Thai Kickboxing match. These guys were brutal! And the best thing about it was the crowd going crazy after each round placing bets with each other. They were yelling and throwing up hand signals all over, looked like a Thai version of wall street.

Getting thrown!

Crowd going wild.

Sitting Ringside!

My mom and I with the winner. He won 40,000 baht (=$1,333.00)

Photo overload? Never….! Just wait until tomorrow, we are visiting the floating market. Something I have wanted to see for years!

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Doha & Bangkok

Doha, Qatar Airport.

Doha, Qatar Airport.

My mom and I flew into Doha, Qatar (Dubai’s sister city) in the middle of the night. As we stepped off the plane we were hit with an intense heat wave, it felt like we walked into the driest and hottest sauna there is. I figured it must just be the engine heat but I was incredibly wrong. It was 104 degrees out… AT NIGHT. Wow! I cannot imagine what it must feel like during the day. We had to quickly remember etiquette in the middle east, so I put away my usual eye contact and smile that I pass around to everyone since it is not ladylike to look a man in the eyes and definitely not to smile at them. So we decided to just sit and have some coffee. And because I love food.. let me just give some recognition to Qatar Airways for their amazing service and food.. When is the last time you saw something like this served on a 5 hour flight?

Amazing lunch on Qatar Airways.

And yes the wine was included, and no there was no limit on number of drinks.

We arrived in Bangkok at 7 a.m., incredibly tired but eager to see the town. So we decided an energizing massage would help us out. Well, we both fell asleep in the massage and my mom woke herself up because she snored too loud and I must have had a bad dream and yelled which scared both my masseuse and myself. But it did the trick! We hit the town and because we only had a few days we took some beautiful fabric that my mom bought in ghana to a tailor, along with some photos of clothes too expensive to buy, but easy to replicate.

Fabric from Ghana we are making clothes with.

My dad arrived in the middle of the night and flew into my room like a tornado. He immediately started telling me a story (he is a renowned story teller whose stories take 10x longer to tell than needed). His everlasting energy then got us up and going at 7 am. We ate an amazing breakfast at the hotel (will definitely post pictures tomorrow), and then went off to the “Mo Chit” stop on the train to go to the Chatuchak weekend market. An endless maze of vendors that stretches for miles.

Chatuchak Weekend Market

There was a lot of junk but also some really beautiful and bizarre things. I bought a necklace that will definitely turn some heads.

Beetle Necklace.

There was also an entire food section of the market. I now believe that Thai food is by far the most aromatically pleasing and tasting food! Have you ever seen prawns this fresh and beautiful?

Fresh Prawns

Prawns

I will leave you with a couple of my favorite characters I came across today…

Little old lady just people watching.

Little old lady just people watching.

Tuk Tuk driver with his lunch to go.

I found him!

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Italia!

Well here I am, a recent graduate from Ringling College of Art and Design. So let the adventures begin!

It didn’t take me long after I wore the square hat with that funny tassel to get on a plane and jump the big pond over to Italy, the land of literally.. Ciò Che Amo.

I came over with my mom and instead of being normal and going out for a bite to eat after 24 hours of traveling, we headed straight to the market and made a feast fit for 10. Of course I was a bit out of it and didn’t take a photo for proof of this feast, but lunch today is a sample of what is expected of a meal in Italy.


Made with fresh basil, tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, balsamic glaze, and pepper on top of a thin flatbread which we toasted in a pan for a few minutes. An amazingly healthy and delicious lunch! And no you don’t have to be in Italy to make or eat this!

Of course I would never forget about graphic design. Check out my NEW portfolio site!

And while I wait for the rain to go away and for the fox to return my shoe (yes a fox stole my shoe while I was outside yesterday), I’ll be working on a website for my dad’s new company “Nautilus Homes.”

This Summer is going to be full of good food, adventures, and design so keep your eyes peeled for updates!

Can’t Get Enough of Cali.

Just got back from an amazing trip out to California with my brother for his 28th birthday.

Finished finals at 10:30 pm on Thursday, went home, packed, and was at the airport at 5 am.

Flew into Los Angeles and went straight to visit my old co-workers at DreamWorks for some good ol’ Family Feud time. So fun! especially when there are horrid Christmas sweaters involved.

Decking out my Christmas Sweater for Family Feud at DreamWorks.

No words could describe Ricky's Getup.

The Consumer Product's Creative Family "The Griswalds"

After loosing family feud, we kept our heads up and went out for a genuine Mariachi Battle in East LA

Then headed out to Unique LA, an independent design and gift show for handcrafted and vintage items.
http://uniquela.com/
I was a bit overwhelmed but came across the perfect item, something that has great meaning to my life as a designer.

Giant Plastic ⌘Z Wall Hanging

There was so much more sightseeing and great eating on this trip, but I will leave you with one of the best meals I had while driving up the coast to San Francisco. It was at a tiny place that looked like someone’s cottage home called “The Black Cat Bistro.”

If you are ever in Cambria near Hearst Castle, you must have a meal here! The prices are reasonable and the food is mouthwatering.
We started with the Winter Squash Ravioli – vanilla cream, sage brown butter, spiced pecans ($8)

Winter Squash Ravioli - Black Cat Bistro

And then I got one of my favorite dishes.. tuna!
Rare Seared Yellowfin Ahi – Butter braised jasmine rice, ginger wasabi sauce, Vietnamese slaw, peanuts, roasted shiitakes, crispy shallots ($23)

Rare-Seared Yellowfin Ahi at The Black Cat Bistro

Besides the beautiful presentation, I knew I was in for a good main course when I went to cut my tuna with a fork and it glided through like butter. The rest of the dinner went just as smooth. All the way down to the water, which I thought had to be some type of special water, turns out mountain tap water is just amazing!

More of California to come soon!

California Adventure

An overview of a recent adventure would be my Summer in Los Angeles. I’m starting with this because it encompassed all that this blog is about – great food, lots of traveling, and graphic design everyday.

I ventured out to California for an internship at DreamWorks Animation SKG to work in their Consumer Products Creative Department. It happened so quickly that I only had a few days to pack, find a place, and get myself out there. But I did it, and had a blast.

I’ll be sharing some work I did at DreamWorks later on in here. For now I want to tell you about my adventures. I explored Los Angeles’ natural side to no end- who knew there was so much surrounding the city!

The biggest feat was summating Mount Baldy- the 3rd largest peak in SoCal(10,064 ft.). I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, I came with a half a sandwich and a bottle of water. Luckily people donated some food once I got to the top, and I found a stream along the way to fill my bottle.

I also have to tell you about the most amazing fried chicken and waffles I have ever indulged in. And yes I enjoyed them both at the same time on the same plate at “Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles.” Talk about melt in your mouth wonderful! If you ever make it to LA there are a few of these around, don’t miss it!

Ciò Che Amo

“Ciò Che Amo” – Italian for “What I Love”

And that’s what I’ll be showing you on here.

I’m Marina, a passionate Graphic Designer with an equal love for food and travel. The way I design is the way I live my life, I look for the deeper meaning or beauty in everything and soak it up. Whether it is culture, scenery, personalities, a brand or a business I strive to learn more and to represent it through photos, description, and design.

Enjoy. And if you need help finding your own visual language, well, let’s talk.