Enjoying a beer by the fireplace at De Halve Maan brewery pub, Bruges.

The secrets of beer making in a 500-year old brewery

Text: Marcella van Alphen
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Belgium’s reputation of producing high quality beer is a reason for many to visit, and if it is not your reason, this is the perfect opportunity to learn how to appreciate better this millennium-old drink that has become more and more fashionable lately with the wave of microbreweries all over the world.

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White marble kitche counter with fresh ingredients from Italy

A day with an Italian chef in a 17th-century palace [Lucca]

Text: Marcella van Alphen
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Strolling the streets of the picturesque city of Lucca in the heart of Tuscany, we follow the passionate chef Giuseppe Mazzocchi while he leads the way through a maze of narrow alleys bustling with liveliness. A few tourists take in the richly-adorned façades of some of its 100 churches, as it is nicknamed. Others look up at one of Lucca’s characteristic towers contrasting with the deep blue Tuscan sky. Some opera lovers seem to walk towards the birth house of the world-famous composer Giacomo Puccini. Some locals enjoy window-shopping: the city of Lucca flourished thanks to the high-end production of silk textiles, closely collaborating with Genoa, and still today quality shops line its streets. However, the shopping that we are about to do with Giuseppe will have us explore Lucca from another perspective: the palate…

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Uncooked ravioli, pici and tagliatelle on a wooden table

The secrets of pasta making & everything you need to know to enjoy your pastas [Siena, Italy]

Text: Claire Lessiau
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Tagliatelle, spaghetti, pappardelle, ravioli, tortellini, trofie, pici… who has ever travelled to Italy knows there are many different varieties of pastas which almost all have their traditional accompanying sauces. It is in Siena that we are about to uncover the secrets of pasta-making, with the passionate chef Marta Ciappi, owner of Marta’s Cooking Classes.

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Colourful coastal village at dusk in Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre: do not visit, EXPERIENCE it

Text: Claire Lessiau
Photographs: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Cinque Terre is so much more than just five instagrammable colourful medieval villages dominating the crystal-clear Ligurian Sea. First of all, it is more like a dozen other tiny villages including the ones that are high up overlooking the five most famous Italian villages: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore (from North to South). It is also a National Park, including a large marine reserve, and it is an agricultural land where vineyards have been cultivated on narrow terraces supported by dry-stone walls for almost a millennium.

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Seven bottles of the Cinque Terre wines crafted at Possa's vineyards taken in a wine cellar.

High on wine: Cinque Terre’s dramatic vineyards

Text & photographs: Marcella van Alphen & Claire Lessiau

In Cinque Terre, five tiny colourful villages cling to rocky spurs that plunge into the turquoise Ligurian Sea. This rugged landscape has been softened for centuries by hardworking winemakers who painstakingly carved and maintained terraces into the cliff faces to cultivate them. Most terraces were planted with vines. A few areas were devoted to olive trees, citruses and Keep travelling!

Ready for the pesto workshop at Nessun Dorma in Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy: all the ingredients are on the table

Let’s pesto in Cinque Terre!

Text & photographs: Marcella van Alphen

Seated with my back against a century-old dry-stone wall, I am overlooking the small picturesque harbour of Manarola in Cinque Terre where a few fishing boats dance on choppy waves. Colourful houses built on the dark cliff above the turquoise blue Ligurian Sea in Italy set the backdrop. I contemplate the view when Keep travelling!

Your gastronomic guide to Réunion

Gastronomy in Reunion finds its inspiration mostly in Indian cuisine and around the top 5 spices used on the island that are onion, garlic, tomato, curcuma and ginger giving dishes an extra kick without pain! Add a pinch of Madagascar and a hint of Africa and you get a picture of the local dishes. Keep tasting!

A quick guide to Omani food

Oman is a nation of seafarers and desert dwellers where influences from far away countries mix to the Bedouin hospitality, and the land and the sea prepared with the best spices brought back from centuries of trading are the signature of the local cuisine. Today, with many influences from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, it can be tough to identify the authentic Omani cuisine: here is a short guide to help you make the most of your culinary discoveries in the sultanate.

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Madrid’s best kept secret restaurants [and the best Spanish wines!]

Article updated on May 15, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Andrés makes his way through the narrow streets of Madrid’s old town that he knows like the back of his hand. He points out to some interesting details on the façades of different buildings as we are making our way to one of his secret spots to taste some of the best food in town paired with some of the best Spanish wines. “Did you know this is Madrid’s oldest building?” he asks when he briefly explains its history before we pop into a 19th century tavern on a historical nearby square. Andrés is taking us out tonight, and we are starting the traditional way with a vermouth on tap and delicias de bacalao. The fried cod cooked to perfection and still crispy is enhanced by the sweet madroño jam made from the fruits of the tree of Madrid: the strawberry tree (go figure, this has absolutely nothing to do with strawberries!).

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View on the vineyards and mountains of Franschhoek, amidst dramatic mountains at sunset

Exploring the French corner, Franschhoek, South Africa

Article updated on April 20, 2021
Text: Claire Lessiau
Photographs: Marcella van Alphen & Claire Lessiau

Franschhoek, or the “French corner” has a fascinating history. Because of the wars of religions in 17th century France, a small number of French Protestant refugees settled in South Africa establishing a successful farming and wine making industry still recognised today as one of world’s best. Get off the beaten path and discover not only the famous wines of Franschhoek but also its stunning outdoors, and favourite restaurants!

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Born to cook, Barcelona

Do you know how to recognise a real paella from the ones that are sold to most tourists throughout Barcelona? Do you know that most of the olive oil in the world is produced in Spain and bottled in other countries to be sold as such? That there are 28 different protected Spanish cheeses recognized over the world? That gazpacho is traditionally a cold soup made by farmers with left over vegetables? That the delicious crema Catalana has a world-famous French twin sister? Join us for this tasty experience in the booming El Born district of Barcelona!

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A taste of Laos

With Thailand ranking high up in the list of world’s best cuisines, neighbouring Laos remains in its shadow. Because of the thaification that has been going on since 1933, you may find out in this article that your favourite Thai dish may very well be a Laotian one! And more importantly, that Lao food deserves more credits… Keep savoring!

A taste of Thailand

I’m savouring what must be the best pad Thais I have ever had: bitterness, saltiness, sweetness, sourness and spiciness are perfectly balanced. My taste buds are in awe as I dig into the nicely presented green curry. I look at Oay with a big smile of satisfaction as I slowly raise my head. Having fantastic food in Thailand is the norm, but what is all the more surprising is that I cooked these myself. My pride enhances my senses! Keep traveling!

The best ice-creams of Central America!

About 32°C and a bright sun, walking the streets of Panama City. I would kill for an ice-cream! But I must admit that the traditional Central American ice-creams sold in the streets, consisting of grated ice in a plastic cup topped off with a chemical colorant, or the industrial ones packed with sugar are really not tempting to me. That is precisely when I remember my discussion with Maria from Café Ruiz in Boquete and the fact that she supplies a high-end ice-cream store in Casco Viejo, the charming neighbourhood of the capital… Keep traveling!

Tasting the best coffee in the world in Boquete, Panama

“Position your nose inside the cup and inhale. Just close your eyes and smell thoroughly.” My hands are wrapped around a warm coffee cup while I  am distinguishing the elegant flavours. “Now move your nostril along the ridge of the cup and smell again. What do you smell now?”

I am trying to recognize the different scents: honey, a trace of jasmine, a hint of fruits, an orange aftertaste. This coffee is not just a regular coffee: I am tasting the best coffee of the world! Indeed, the Geisha coffee from the mountains of Boquete, Panama, has been acclaimed by worldwide independent tasters as the best, with its price reaching up to $350 for a pound of its unprocessed green beans.

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The national dish of El Salvador: delicious pupusas!

Pupusas are the specialty of El Salvador! We eat pupusas all day. There is even the National Pupusa Day every November where the biggest pupusa was cooked reaching a diameter of 4.5 meters! And if you ever fly from San Salvador, you will see that Salvadorans buy pupusas before the flight to bring them abroad!” With this enthusiastic answer of our Salvadoran friend to our local specialty question, we had to try as many pupusas as possible while traveling through El Salvador! Keep tasting!

Ultra fresh sashimis on rice at Tsukiji market, Tokyo, Japan

Japan food series – Sushi

Article updated on May 26, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau

About 5 centimetres (2 inches) in length, 2 centimetres in width (a bit less than an inch), and roughly the same in heigth for just a few grams and 40 to 50 calories… They do not sound like much but sushi have conquered the world to the extent that many identify them with the whole of Japanese gastronomy (as you know by now if you have checked out our Japan food series, this is far from the truth!). Keep savouring!

Delicious home-made dinner with locally-grown ingredients, ryokan, Hokkaido.

Pampered in a ryokan: Japanese hospitality [plus tips & etiquette]

Article updated on May 12, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Ryokan are traditional Japanese inns. More than a place to sleep, they convey a lifestyle and tradition that is a must to experience for any traveller to Japan. In this article, read about a typical ryokan experience and learn about the etiquette to make your stay a success!

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