Tag Archive: Food Trip



Italy. What better way to go on a food trip than visiting Italy’s gastronomic capital? Turned out Bologna also happens to be a good homebase for day trips to neighbouring cities and towns, each of which boasts of its own delicacy, art, history and culture. There were only 5 nights to spend in Italy but it was enough to do the day trips and meet up with the rest for scrumptious dinners. Here’s how we enjoyed our Bologna getaway – just click on the highlighted links.

Homebased in Bologna

Balsamico Di Modena

Prosciutto Di Parma

Ravenna of My Dreams

San Marino, World’s Oldest Republic

Ferrara, Not Ferrari

It was a wonderful time with these foodies and travel buddies. Some others headed for Florence and Rome, then back for the night in Bologna where dinners were planned out. So much laughter across the table too. And we sure had some very memorable meals.

And for food trips in and around Bologna, check this out:

Food Coma in Bologna

Ciao!


Left our Bologna hotel before 8am to catch our train to Modena. The half-hour journey was uneventful and we got off the Modena Station and walked towards the Centro Istorico. We did not join any tours as we’ve decided to wing it on our own. We couldn’t get over the cheap train fare of €3.85 as we journeyed to the city of Luciano Pavarotti and balsamico. We walked leisurely and deliberately, stopping at every interesting shop and historic building. And those were many stops … and tastings of Modena’s balsamico!

Palazzo Ducale was our first “tourist” stop. This former residence of the Este dukes of Modena from 1452 to 1849 now houses a portion of the Italian Military Academy. Next we went on our way to the Duomo e Torre Ghirlandina. The church was dedicated to the Assumption of Virgin Mary and its former bishop Saint Geminianus. Declared a World Heritage Site, there were a lot of restoration/construction work inside the Duomo but the interiors won’t fail to impress you.

Nearby is the Mercato Albinelli. We lingered where we found all sorts of cheeses including the local “squacquerone”, a soft, creamy, spreadable cottage cheese from the area of Emilia Romagnia. Outside the mercato, we claimed a table to have our cafe espresso and cappuccino. It was cold but we “managed”, all the while checking the goings-on in the nearby flea market and the parked choo-choo train bearing small children.

Lunch was in Trattoria Aldina which is just a stone’s throw from the Mercato Albinelli. The place was packed with many locals eager to partake of the trattoria’s home-cooked favorites. We ordered the lasagne, tortellini in brodo, roast beef and meatballs with peas. Likewise, we ordered the house specialty egg dish served with truffle. (Yey!) Leaving room for dessert, we had no regrets. A word of unsolicited advice: go ahead and have your dolce. The zuppa inglese, in our book, was quite outstanding!

Trattoria Aldina’s Dolce


Called La Rossa, La Dotta and La Grassa. The Red One. The Learned one. The Fat one. Aptly so. It is the home of Mortadella, Tagliatelle al Ragu, Tortellini, Lambrusco, Tortelloni, Parmegianno Reggiano, Prosciutto (from nearby Parma), Balsamico (from nearby Modena) as well as home to fast cars (think Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ducati and Maserati). Fast engines aside, Bologna’s rich history is only overshadowed by its being hailed as the gastronomical capital of Italy. I mean, eating here has been exalted nearly to a religious experience!

We had to train ourselves into joining walking tours and visiting Bologna’s major attractions lest we get stuck in its trattorias and mercatos. Eating and wining brings out the best in us — topics hop from this to that, laughter comes easy and over time (and many trips together), we’ve shared many private jokes. Our happy bunch sure knows how to munch. And while we’ve explored Bologna’s old town, canales, towers, piazzas and churches, somehow the day’s highlight always ends with food. Even our shopping has largely been food shopping. After all, how can you resist all these quezos and ham?

Piazza Maggiore is right smack in the Center and the square layout reminds us of the many piazzas in and around Europe where the city hall, major churches and rows upon rows of shops and trattorias compete for attention. Except for this tight security crew right in front of the church. The Basilica of San Petronio in the piazza is dedicated to the city’s patron saint, Saint Petronius who was the city’s bishop in the 5th century. It also happens to be the world’s 10th largest and the world’s largest brick church. It could have topped the list if the construction wasn’t stopped in time by a jealous Pope who feared this “half-complete” brick and marble church would compete with the one in Vatican. For good measure, all the surrounding land was bought and actual buildings erected adjacent to the Church to preclude any extension and expansion.

But why the tight security? An Islamic terrorist group reportedly planned to blow up the church because of an offensive Dante’s Inferno- inspired mural depicting Mohammad being tormented by the devils in hell. The artwork was rendered by Giovanni of Modena. Interesting. And jibes well with Bologna’s independent and rebellious character. How about this statue of the Pope in the same piazza but deliberately marked as that of St Petronius? Another iconic symbol of Bologna are its two towers along the ancient Via Emilia. It is said that both towers are leaning, like the one in Pisa. Asinelli Tower is the taller one; the shorter, more-leaning torre is called Garisenda. The towers were named after 2 families — obviously filthy rich — who competed on who’s building the taller torre as a show of power. Oh these horrible humans! Really, it’s easier to write and talk about food over these iconic landmarks.

An illustration of what food to find and eat in this area.

Our best meal in Trattoria da Pietro


We’re a band of baby boomers, Generation X and millennials who just can’t stay put. But we all share the same penchant for food and serendipitous adventures. Having just recently returned from Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava, our beer-drinking group of 6 grew to a band of 15 pax. Quite an assortment, if you ask me. We’ve had a few trips tucked under our belt and I must say, we had so much fun. And this happy bunch is going again! I ditched earlier plans to go to Slovenia and Croatia to join the Happy Bunch for a holiday in Bologna and Vienna. Switching from the city of dragons (Ljubljana) and towns along the Adriatic, it’d be a week instead of food porn in this part of Italy where trufa, prosciutto, tortellini, mortadella, balsamico, tagliatelle, parmeggiano, Lambrusco reign supreme!

And this was only last July!

Touchdown, Bologna!

While some of us are visiting first-timers, Bologna as homebase offers many possibilities. Florence, Lucca and Pisa are just a half hour away by train and so is Modena, and a bit farther down, Parma. Then there’s Venice, Verona and Padua or Padova. The boys would likely not miss the chance to check out the museums — NOT of artworks, but those lovely machines going by the names of Lamborghini,Ducati and Ferrari. Different folks, different strokes. That’s what I love about this group. We’d split up to chase our own dreams, and reunite in a heartbeat. Like when we all agreed to visit one day the little republic of San Marino together and hopefully do a side trip to Ravenna. But most importantly, we agree on the food and vino. That’s important — and that’s how we ended up in Ristorante Victoria for our first meal and in Mercato delle Erbe for cocktails cum dinner after our walking tour.

Prosciutto, Mortadella, Burrata

Tagliatelle al Ragu

We had mussels cooked in wine and also with tomato sauce. Both really good!

Almost devoured before we remembered to snap a photo of Tortellini al Panna

It’s only Day 1. And we plan to do a more leisurely tour of Bologna after a good rest. For sure, we’d be back in Piazza Maggiore and visit the basilica and cathedral. There’s enough time as we’d be holed up in the same hotel for the next 5 nights. Bologna is not as cold as Vienna but single digit temps outdoors walking around the piazzas need some serious consideration. After all, it’s truly beginning to look like Christmas everywhere. The Christmas trees are up, so with the Christmas lights that make the place look so festive and magical. Much time to enjoy the illuminations since sunsets are early. Like 5pm!

On our way back home, we’d catch our homeward flight out of Vienna. Staying a few nights in this capital makes me giddy with anticipation. Why? There’s the many Christmas Markets of Vienna! Too many to count. It’s the Christmas Market of my dreams! A genuine Christmas Winter with temps hovering at low single digits or negatives. Gluhwein or mulled wine, raclette, bratwurst, apple strudels, Sacher torte and all those flaky baked delights. All savoured in negative temps. I’m excited, if you haven’t caught the drift. White Christmas feels? Let’s do this!

The Christmas Market of my dreams!


We’re on a road trip towards the South Coast. First off is Kangaroo Valley which I’ve visited some years back. (Go check the link) The Hampden Bridge is one of its attractions here, being one of only a few suspension bridges around Australia. I remember a lunch in this landmark pub and hotel called the Friendly Inn with 2 grandchildren who have since grown up. What 5 years can do!

We drove towards Lake Conjola which is really one of my favourite destinations whenever I’m in Sydney. Our family would always spend family time here but we only managed 3 of us on this trip as everyone else was busy. The resident kangaroos were too lazy to welcome us, unlike the last time I was here when we found around 30 of them Roos!

The lakeside house bears many happy memories and our stay here adds another. Revisiting the house, the lake, the nearby beach, the boardwalk, or simply walking aimlessly are favourite pastimes here. If one is into fishing, paddle boating, kayaking or swimming, there’s much to do. As for me, I’m quite happy dropping in in this heritage bakery in Milton and taking out some pies to eat in the cottage while having coffee and reading a book.

From Lake Conjola, we had the chance to drop in on nearby beaches and lakes to feed some birds and sea creatures. Upon leaving, we made our way back to Sydney with stops in Berry for a relaxing Oriental lunch at LEAF. Wish the rest of the family was with us but there would be other times, for sure.

Feel free to click on the highlighted links for more photos and details on Lake Conjola and The Heritage Bakery in Milton. Watch this site for blogs on feeding adventures with stingrays, pelicans, Lorikeets and seagulls.


We made good time. Who wouldn’t if you’re up by 6am? Took the 333 bus to Bondi where a dip in the waters was planned no matter how cold it gets. Taking the bus directly to North Bondi beats the crowd waiting for the connecting bus at the train station in Bondi Junction. It helps too that we were way too early at 6:30am. Going early was a good decision as we nearly had the entire beach to ourselves but for a few joggers, swimmers and a couple of surfers. The sun was up but the wind factor gave the chills but some of us cannot be held back from taking a brave dip in Bondi Beach.

Our trip to Bondi was timed with the annual art event “Sculptures by the Sea” where 100 artworks were on display along the coastal walk from Bondi to Tamarama. Amazing artworks but for the strong winds that compelled us to sit it out at the spot overlooking the Pacific. “Fatso” sat right where the wind went wild pushing us down to our knees. I honestly wanted to crawl away from Fatso while holding down my hat.

From Bondi, we took the 380 bus to Watson’s Bay. Feasted on Doyle’s seafood combo, fish and chips. I was so looking forward to this lunch as Doyle’s never disappoints. Except that we’ve had a similar lunch in Manly Fish Cafe the day before and had a truly remarkable lunch. Stiff competition I’d say. But I’m not complaining having both on 2 consecutive days 😊 What likely tilted the scorecard in favor of Manly Fish and Chips was the mussels cooked in fresh cream a la Moules Frites and the sweet potato fries. Next time I visit Manly, I’d likely go back to this place. On the other hand, Doyle’s Resto offers a perfect view of Watson’s Bay. Lunch here by the wharf guarantees watching several ferries loading and unloading passengers along with views of yachts bobbing up and down. For good measure, the many seagulls and pelicans lend more charm to this area.

We were happy to board the ferry from Watson’s Bay bound for Pyrmont Bay to reach Darling Harbour. It’s nearly an hour’s ride passing Rose Bay, Luna Park, Circular Quay, Barangaroo and finally Pyrmont Bay. On this ferry ride, it is easier to take shots of the Sydney Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Luna Park and the approach to Darling Harbour. Not as many tourists as one finds on ferry rides to Manly Beach. Doing these 3 sites — Bondi, Watson’s Bay and Darling Harbour– via bus and ferry is a breeze, never mind that one has to make an early start.

I have always liked Darling Harbour. I do like it better at night though. Cocklebay Wharf Area is my favourite spot where many bistros and bars sit side by side gelaterias like Lindt’s. We made our mandatory stop here for some frozen delights. Six different ice cream flavours in ceramic cups passed clockwise amongst us. We couldn’t agree which flavour is best though. From Cocklebay Wharf, we took the escalators to get on street level and found ourselves walking towards Town Hall and Queen Victoria Building (QVB). Day almost over, we were a bit tired but felt we’ve spent the day very well and covered much from 6:30am to 5pm.


Last Tuesday October 16 was World Food Day. It’s also the anniversary of the founding day of the Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945. Sydney’s Noodles Market is held around this time when Hyde Park transforms itself into an Oriental food event — not necessarily limited to noodles but any Asian dish oozing with aromatic spices from the East. It’s been raining in Sydney for a week but we picked Tuesday to go to the city on a cloudy but rain-free day.

The little boy with us had so much energy in him, and that was even before his teriyaki noodle dish and creamy allo-allo mixed fruit dessert. Some parts of the park were muddy from the previous day’s rain. Luckily, Citi has a fenced-in area complete with more comfortable chairs, tables and even faux grass-carpeting. Swell! I flashed my card and claimed a table for us. We got drinks from within the reserved space but bought our food from the stalls outside.

Good thing we were early. The crowd started to build up after 5:30pm. The office crowd spilling out of the surrounding buildings and creating queues at the more popular food stalls. It’s like a hawker market but with pricier tags, and overhyped food choices. We couldn’t resist trying out the Pinoy offerings like the lechon (roasted pork @$18 and it was not even crunchy), the desserts like the allo-allo aka halo-halo which is really nothing like the popular local dessert. One dessert is even named “Thrilla in Manila” and I swear we don’t even have that kind of stuff back home.

Even the pork barbeque doesn’t remind me of home. The marinade is more Western than Asian, for sure. Oh well. The event organisers do this annually and from the looks of it, it draws a regular crowd. Next time, maybe I’d try the ramen.

Nonetheless we had a good time especially when a Lion Dance (not Dragon?) cheered up the place. The little boy perked up like crazy and we all felt the excitement! The kid jumped up and down and followed the “lion” across the park. The senior grandma struggled to follow …..

Dining In Budapest


Goulash is their national dish. Langos is the national dessert? Maybe. But really, Budapest has so much more. I love soup but one can only take so much goulash. So we tried others. And we weren’t disappointed at all.

Warning: Too many food photos. 🙄

It’s my first time to try lecsó, a Hungarian vegetable soup. I call it soup but it’s really more like a stew of peppers, tomatoes, onions, and ground sweet and hot paprika. I couldn’t believe it’s a vegetable soup or stew so I searched the Internet for its ingredients. Turns out the onions and peppers are sautéed in lard and maybe even bacon fat! But, we maybe in luck. The tomatoes are best during the summer season in this corner of the world and our tastebuds confirmed it. Like goulash, lecsó gets a generous sprinkling of paprika. Unlike goulash, lecsó has no potatoes nor beef cubes. Between the 2, I’m now a fan of lecsó .

But it’s not the only soup we enjoyed. The restaurant in Hotel Zenit Budapest (Divin Porcello Ham Bar) where we stayed serves very good cabbage soup and ham, sausage and cheese platter. Plus they have a superb wine list! The first meal upon arrival here in Budapest got us all excited for dinner that same day. This time, we tried the oldest restaurant in Pest called Százéves which literally translates to “a hundred years”. Complete with classical music from these 4 Hungarian gentlemen.

We particularly liked our fish dish here. Grilled zander? Have not come across this fish, but the English menu describes it as pike-perch of the Eurasian variety. It is a fresh-water fish with a very delicate taste. Simply grilled, and plated with alfalfa sprout toppings on a bed of lettuce and grilled onions with shrimps, we all enjoyed this dish.

We ordered our 1st stuffed cabbage here. The first of 2, but we haven’t been lucky. The first “Koloszvar” stuffed cabbage was salty, the next one (in another restaurant) tasted bland. We likewise tried the Hungarian Goulash here. A sure favourite!

Our last dinner in Budapest wasn’t Hungarian. My friend found this Italian restaurant in Pest near the Danube which earned pretty good reviews. We had bruschetta, caprese salad, beef tartare, 3 kinds of pasta, pulpo and we had HUNGARIAN wine from Tokaj, Hungary. To finish this fine meal, we succumbed to the recommended lemon sorbet with prosecco and Absolut Vodka! First time I’ve tried this and I promise it won’t be the last. 🍸

We ate very well in Budapest. And that’s only on the Pest side just around/near our lovely hotel by the Danube River. I bet there’s also many interesting bistros in the quieter side of Buda. We likewise enjoyed Hungarian wine. If at all, the only disappointment was the lunch we had at the Great Market Hall. The second floor is lined with many food stalls where one claims a table after ordering “cafeteria style” from any of the stalls. I enjoyed my beer but every dish we had was bleh. Took no pictures. Sorry. Nonetheless, I’d still suggest a visit to the Great Market Hall if only for the beer and some sausages. You’d find it at the end of the pedestrian shopping street called Váci Utca, so it’s not really out of the way. Besides, it’s the biggest indoor market housed in a magnificent building and offers many souvenir items and Hungarian delicacies.

Jó Etvágyát! 🍽👌 (Errrr, I only meant “Bon Apetit” in Hungarian)


Flanking the Danube River are Buda on the West and Pest on the East Bank. The “tale of 2 cities” merging into one has been subject of many discourses and inevitably comparisons are drawn. Our hotel is on the Pest side. This is where the Parliament is, best viewed from across the Danube in Castle Hill. A very handsome building which is only 3rd largest in the world.

Pest is flat, but bigger. Where Buda is more formal, even reserved, Pest is more vibrant. Nightlife is certainly livelier on the east bank of the Danube. It may not be “quiet and less crowded” as its hilly half, but this is where the action is. The coffee and bar scene here is tops and while relatively “new” and “young”, its bolder character gave way to many prominent edifices like the Parliament, Heroes Square, the “ruin bars”, the iconic St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and the many bronze statues scattered all around. But in my mind, nothing beats the eclectic bronze shoes lined at the edge of the Danube. The story goes that Hungarian Jews were told to take off their shoes, put whatever jewellery they have inside the shoes, and stand by the river edge. Then they were summarily executed and their bodies fell into the river as they took the shots from Budapest’s Arrow Cross Militia who shared the same Nazi ideology during World War II. The bronze shoes are poignant reminders of this dark period in Hungarian history.

The Central Market Hall is another iconic landmark in Pest. The market has a 2nd floor catering to tourists wishing to buy souvenirs and feast on Hungarian cuisine. There are many souvenir and handicraft for sale here, as well as food stalls where one can try Goulash, lecso, Hungarian smoked sausages, stuffed cabbage, meatballs, langos and many more. We’ve tried it here and it was forgettable if it weren’t our worst lunch. Well, it was a food court after all. But Pest is really teeming with nice shopping places, coffee bars and fine-dining restaurants. One only needs to do a little research. Thankfully, one of my friends made sure we ate very well here. 🍽

Michael Jackson fans would love it here. There is an MJ Memorial Tree in a tiny square corner just right across Kempinski Hotel where the late pop idol used to stay. The tree has assumed a Shrine of sorts with MJ photos plastered around the trunk. And Hungarian fans still gather here on MJ’s birthday, performing MJ’s popular dance moves. Nearby is the Hungarian Eye, much like the London Eye. It’s colossal but I feel it’s an eyesore amidst the many beautiful and historic buildings in the area.

Budapest has a number of popular thermal pools or baths, clearly something they must have picked up from the Romans and Turks. It was tempting to check out Széchenyi or Gellért if only to watch old men play chess while half-submerged in hot thermal waters. We passed on this one and chose to instead hear mass at St. Stephen’s , enjoy a good dinner then take an evening Danube cruise to see the Hungarian landmarks all lit up. We enjoyed both Buda and Pest. But when I do make a next visit, I’d likely try a hotel in Buda if only to feel its more sober night life.

Buda of Budapest


It used to be Buda, Pest and Old Buda. Buda and Pest separated by the River Danube, with the Old Town resting on the left bank which is Buda. Earliest settlers were Celts until the Romans occupied the present-Day Budapest in the first century B.C., annexing it as part of the Roman Empire. Then there was Attila, and the Huns ruled from the 5th century till the Magyar tribes arrived in the 9th century. By all accounts, the settlers and rulers lingered for centuries to affect Budapest’s way of life in many, many ways – art, culture, cuisine, architecture, language.

By the 10th century, the Hungarian Kingdom was established and the first king was St. Stephen who converted Hungary into Christianity. Soon, the French and Germans migrated here and then, the Mongolian invasion happened in the 12th century, thus destroying both cities. Through the centuries until Buda, Pest and Old Buda (Obuda) were joined in 1873, the city saw its transformation from Medieval Hungary to Renaissance Budapest to Turkish Budapest. And then the Hapsburgs came. Pest was soon to become the cultural and economic center of Hungary. But let’s talk about Buda first, and deal with Pest in my next blog. 😊

Buda Castle sits on Castle Hill with a perfect view of the Pest side. You can appreciate a night view of Buda riding a boat which glides slowly along the Blue Danube, or you can join a walking tour which requires stamina to last nearly 3 hours. Oh, there’s a funicular to climb up Castle Hill and visit the 3 major attractions on this side of the river. But we WALKED. 🏃‍♂️🏃‍♀️ And we crossed the Chain Bridge ON FOOT. 👣👣And we CLIMBED. 🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️🚶‍♀️All the way to Buda Castle, 🏰🏰 Fisherman’s Bastion and St. Matthias Church 🕍🕍🕍 These 3 account for the best Buda attractions on the western bank of the Danube . All UNESCO Heritage Sites.

Its rich history doesn’t end here. The Austro-Hungarian Empire can claim much of what present-Day Budapest is. The Empire lasted only till the First World War. Then, during the Second World War, it cast its lot with Nazi Germany. The Germans seized the city and soon a dark period began for the country’s Hungarian Jews. There were political upheavals and once more, the nation in the 19th century transitioned from being a Hungarian Soviet Republic for a brief period, to being a Kingdom without a king.

Castle Hill looks more “imperial” than its better-half on the right bank. Where Pest is flat, Buda is hilly. The first bridge connecting the 2 was built only in 1848. The other bridges look nothing less and maybe more interesting for those eager for a view of the thermal pools. Among its attractions, I like Fisherman’s Bastion with its fairy tale windows offering the best views of Pest. I am also intrigued by St. Matthias Church which was the venue for the coronation of the last 2 Hungarian Hapsburg monarchs : Frank Joseph in 1867 and King Charles IV in 1916. Earlier destroyed by the Mongols, it was reconstructed, restored and survived wars to what it is today. Side by side, the Saint Matthias Church and Fisherman’s Bastion are 2 sites not to be missed. Or for that matter, a visit to Budapest is a must-see destination. One falls in love with this city. Buda or Pest side, both are lovely. On foot or gliding on a riverboat, both sites are magical.