Thursday, May 8, 2014

Off The Tourist Trail

Slow Food Kansas City
“Off the Tourist Trail…Tuscany and Le Marche”
October 14-23, 2014

I cannot wait to join my friends, Judy Witts Francini and Dwight Stanford, in Italy this fall for a Slow Food adventure.  Having Judy host our trip again…this is such an honor! Judy will take us to places that you cannot visit without knowing the owners and we will have a memorable trip just because of all of her contacts in Tuscany, and Dwight is so knowledgeable about the Marche region and has become an authority on Italian wine and cuisine and his new home in Le Marche.  Judy and Dwight will lead us on a Slow Food adventure of a lifetime.”
Jasper Mirabile
Founder, Slow Food Kansas City

Fall has always been a very popular time to experience Italy.  It is a time of harvest...grapes, olives, porcinis and more.  Tuscany and Le Marche both have a strong agricultural history and both produce some of the finest foods in the Slow Food “Ark of Taste”.  The intent of this journey is to experience the “un-touristy” culinary traditions of small towns and the countryside.

 In Tuscany travelers will enjoy the leadership of Judy Witts Francini, “Culinary Curator” of all delicious foods of Tuscany.  Judy has been in Tuscany since 1984, learning, teaching, writing and sharing her life with the lucky people who have been with her.
Visits in Le Marche will be under the direction of Dwight Stanford, who owns PS Vineyard and Winery.  Dwight graduated from the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy, (after being a surgeon in Kansas City).


Judy and Dwight with Ray Lamothe of Casamonti
ITINERARY (subject to adjustment)

 Tuesday, October 14 is arrival day into Florence with accommodations at Hotel Santa Maria Novella.

No activities are planned so you will have time to rest, relax and explore on your own.  Dinner at your leisure.

Wednesday, October 15 begins four full days of exploring, tasting and dining.  The first visit will be to the newly restored Mercato Centrale in Florence.  Head south down the Chiantigiana (Chianti road) to begin 4 days of exploring the back roads of Tuscany.  Accommodations will be at Hotel Villa La Palagina set in the hills near Figline Valdarno.  This was the home to Barone Ricasoli and is a near the estate of rock star STING.  A pretty nice neighborhood.

The days will be filled with eating, tasting, shopping, a cooking class, historic sites, etc.  All as “slowly” as possible.

Sunday, October 19 depart for Le Marche which lies between the Sibillini mountains and the Adriatic Sea.  The accommodations will be at Hotel Casale in the community of Colli del Tronto, a resort property, near to both the Adriatic coast and Paolini & Stanford Vineyard and Winery, the home of Dwight Stanford.  The first afternoon and evening will be spent at the winery, enjoying Dwight’s hospitality and delicious wine.  Weather permitting we’ll pick some olives to be pressed into fresh oil to be enjoyed.

 Dwight is eager to share the beauty and “deliciousness” of this mostly unknown (to Americans) region of Italy.  Three days of touring the area will include visits from the hills to the sea, a day of cheese, pasta, seafood, beautiful beaches and palm trees. A day to the Sibillini mountains for pecorino, cured meats and visits to Castellucio and Norcia, the birthplace of St. Benedict. And closer to Dwight’s home a guided visit of Ascoli Piceno and Offida with a  demo of ancient lace-making.  Also planned is a visit to Meletti, distillers of fine liqueurs.  The final night dinner will be at Degusteria del Gigante.

 Thursday, October 23, the program ends.  Transportation will be provided to Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci airport.  Additionally there is rail service from San Benedetto to other parts of Italy.


·        1 night in Florence, Italy, Hotel Santa Maria Novella

·        4 nights at Hotel Villa La Palagina, near Figline Valdarno, Tuscany

·        4 nights at Hotel Casale, Colli del Tronto, Le Marche

·        All meals beginning October 15, including wine

·        Cooking class at Fattoria Poggio Alloro

·        Private transportation

·        Admission fees to museums and historic sites included for the group

·        Gratuities for meals, drivers and hotel bell staff.

·        $50 per person donation to Slow Food Kansas City philanthropies



 RESERVATION DEADLINE…July 15, 2014            
FINAL PAYMENT DUE…August 14, 2014


 A reservation form, invoice, and travel insurance information will be provided upon receipt of your deposit.

Checks payable to "Travels With Taste Holding Account".

Mail to: Travels With Taste

5921 West 88th Terrace

Overland Park, KS 66207

Your deposit is refundable up until June 15, 2014, less an administrative fee of $75.  Cancellation after June 16 will result in loss of deposit.   Refunds for cancellations received on or after August 14, 2014 will be dependent upon monies recovered from suppliers. The price is also subject to increase due to imposition of taxes or fuel surcharges not in effect at the time of pricing, an increase in the exchange rate of more than 2.5%, or should the number of participants fall below twenty.


For more information

Mariann Vandenberg, CTC

 Travels With Taste,



Monday, December 23, 2013

Only One Room Left!!! Chef Jasper in Sicily

There is only one room left on Chef Jasper's journey to Sicily "On The Cannoli Trail"
If you would like to be the lucky travelers, please contact me as soon as possible.  The "sign up" deadline is January 19, 2014, but I would advise you not wait!  For details see the post of November 10, 2013.

Travels With Taste
5921 West 88 Terrace
Overland Park, KS 66207
Phone: 913-648-0858
Fax: 913-649-2288


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Chef Jasper Mirabile "On The Cannoli Trail "

March 17-24, 2014


Travel with Chef Jasper Mirabile to his family’s ancestral home of Sicily on this specially designed, all-inclusive program to celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph            and the delicious and unique tastes of Sicily. 

The program begins on March 17, 2014 at the airport in Palermo

Five nights at  “La Foresteria” on the Planeta Wine Estate near Menfi.  This intimate 5 star property is surrounded by gardens and vineyards.  The cuisine is created by award-winning Chef Angelo Pumilia and reflects the local and historic tastes of Sicily.


The Feast of St. Joseph’s on March 19 is one of the most important events in the life of all Sicilians.  To give thanks for  the end of famine in many years ago, the tradition of decorating the church altars with bread has become a true work of art by local residents in the village of Salemi.


Maria Grammatico is probably the most famous marzipan artist in the world.  The story of her young life in Erice, “Bitter Almonds” was beautifully written by Mary Taylor Simeti.  She continues to teach and produce the finest sweets at her shop in Erice.

The sea is so much a part of western Sicily, not only the freshest of fish, but one of the oldest and most needed substances in the world…salt. 
Trapani has produced and traded salt for several hundred years.


Many cultures are a part of Siciliy’s history…Greeks , Romans, Normans, Spanish and Arabs.  Cous Cous is a favorite along the western coast and the port city of Trapani serves the best

Two nights at the 5 star Grand Hotel Wagner in the heart of Palermo.  A guided tour of the historic city with a “gritty” beauty and spirit unlike any other.  Time for shopping of course.



5 Nights “La Foresteria”

2 nights Grand Hotel Wagner

Breakfast daily

All lunches and dinners (with wine) personally selected by Chef Jasper and the “Diva” of Sicilian (and Tuscan) cuisine, Judy Witts Francini

All airport transfers and private transportation through out

Cooking class with Chef Angelo Pumilia at “La Foresteria”

Visits to the ancient Greek ruins of Selinunte

Wine tastings, olive oil tastings, local shopping opportunities, and special festivities

And of course CANNOLI


This program is designed to be “up close and personal” and for that reason will be limited to 12 participants.


Price is $4,247 per person, based on two people sharing a room.  For a single room add $500

Air Transportation is additional

Deposit is $500 per person


For additional information, contact Mariann Vandenberg, Travels With Taste,


Face Book...Travels With-Taste...View for quick updates and links




Monday, February 23, 2009

Big Island Blogging...Avocados, Beyond Guacamole

Avocados are a most prolific fruit in the islands. the re are many varieties, but sharwell and "butter" are the most popular in the local farmer's markets. On Friday we hit the Kona Village Farmer's market in the late afternoon. I asked one of the farmers if he had an avo ready to hard ones please. He offered, at a discount, a huge soft-ball sized "butter" avocado for $1.

Cut open , it revealed a huge seed, but when removed, left a very large receptacle just right for what we had in mind for dinner,

About 2 years ago, I read a recipe in Sunset magazine for GRILLED avocados. I really consider it more a technique than a recipe, because it can have so many variations, depending on your individual taste, or what other things are available. Here is how we did it...

Cut avocado in half and remove the seed. Squeeze on some lemon or lime juice.

Brush with oil...olive, macadamia nut, vegetable, whatever.

Season with salt , pepper and/or seasoning you like.

Put on hot grill, cut side up, to let the bottom heat through a bit.

Flip to cut side down, and grill 2-4 minutes until it has nice grill marks.

When done, fill the center with whatever you like...we used a fresh island-made salsa from Adriana's in Captain Cook.

On other occasions we have used blue cheese dressing. This is where you can let your creativity take over! You can eat it with a spoon, fork, or just dig in with crispy tortilla chips! So "ono" (good)!!

PS...the 2 ounce bottle of Tobasco was used to give perspective to the size of the avocado.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Big Island Blogging...Whales Tales, or Tails?

The humpback whales has the best deal in the travel world...spend your summers in Alaska, then travel to the warm waters of Hawaii for the winter. Although Maui is considered their prime resort residence, they are frequently seen off the Kona and Kohala coast of the Big Island.

All of the units at Kona Makai have at least a partial view of the ocean. Our unit is in one of the buildings closest to the water, on the third floor and with a good view of passiing boats, dolphins and whales. Yesterday morning, the call went out from a couple of balconies..."Whales"! residents grab binoculars and train their eyes on the water. Bill has his tripod set up to go camera, 500 mm lens and a "doubler"...that makes 1000 mm and a good view of passing humpbacks. Although you can't tell from these pics, there were 2 big ones...
The dark area on the right side of the photos is a palm tree!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Big Island Blogging...Sunset Social Hour

In Hawaii the setting sun is a time when most of the action stops and friends and strangers alike gather the celebrate the end of another lovely day. At Kona Makai it is definitely a social hour, discussing the day's activities, grilling fish or steaks, and greeting new folks who have just arrived from the cold weather of the mainland.

The Kona coast has many wonderful places to stay, but this has become our favorite over the many years we have been traveling to Hawaii. Many of the folks here are either permanent residents, or spend the winter months away from the cold. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with so many varieties of tropical plants it could almost qualify as a botanical garden.

The question of the day is always "will there be a green flash?" When the atmosphere is perfect, the light of the sun, as it slips below the horizon, shines through the water and there is a flash of green light.

There was no flash last night, but Bill will keep trying to capture one to share with all our friends.

Big Island Blogging...How We Work!

Working in paradise! Well, not all the time! We have our office set up down to a science since we started staying at Kona Makai several years ago. We used to share Bill's lap-top, but now that I have my own, we only share the printer. This is a real "cozy" arrangement, but it works.

I have been gathering ideas for future posts on this blog. Yesterday was a hike to our favorite beach, last night was the "sunset social hour" and coming soon will be a rescipe for "Fresca de Lulo". So I hope you will come back for more!