Sitges, Spain

We were in Sitges for a good friends wedding and had an absolutely amazing long weekend in this beach/mountain Meditterean town.

We flew from Lisbon to Barcelona, rented a car from Europcar, and drove 20 Minutes to Sitges. We parked on the waterfront, put our feet in the water, walked the small beach and grabbed lunch at Ragazzi. Toasted goat cheese salad and procuitto pizza completely hit the spot. After we learned that we could also order off the menus from the the Argentina and sushi restaurants on either side, and I immediately regretted not getting some sashimi as well.

The wedding weekend was held at the villa Almiral de la Font, which is located about 15 minutes into the country side of Sitges. The villa was stunning at the top of a winding cliff. It had 28 rooms and an infinity pool overlooking it’s vineyards, and in the distance we could see the ocean.

4 days. Multiple bottles of cava and wine. 30 people sleeping in the villa. Moroccan inspired outdoor lounge areas. Infinity pool with floaties, and a hot tub. A game room with an Olympic sized pool table. A trampoline. Palm trees and wine vineyards. Hiking trails. Golf course on the Mediterranean. A bedroom with great sunset light and a private back patio. 2 incredibly sweet Spanish woman chefs. An amazing first night meal of authentic tapas at the banquet dining table. Every morning an array of frittatas, shashuka, chorizo, smoked salmon, prosciutto, and watermelon. A final last meal of paella with the best paella rice I’ve ever had. Late night snacks of taboulé and arugula salads. Family, old friends and lovers. A gorgeous beaded white dress. Beautiful white and pink peonies and roses. A Spanish guitarist. An American band of friends. A night full of dancing. And post-wedding flower and Bacchus crowns.


We were the first ones at the villa and the owner Paul gave us a complimentary bottle of the vineyards’ white wine which we sipped overlooking the hills while we waited for the bride and groom to arrive.

The reception cocktail party was at Sky Bar in the Avienda Sophia hotel, which is located one block from the beach in town. Here we had great views of the city and ocean.

During the weekend we took a trip to the grocery store where we discovered that you can purchase canned squid, octopus, clams, mussels, etc the same way we purchase tuna in a can back home. Incredibly jealous of this.


Heading back we took a wrong turn and ended up on a different peak from our villa, but we completely lucked out. We got out of the car and took a mini-hike along the cliffs where we caught an skyline view of Sitges and the ocean.


On our last day in Sitges we drove down to the main beach and took a stroll along the boardwalk. Filled with locals haggling sneakers, bathing suits and sundresses. We stopped in Tapes Pic Nic on the beach for some grilled squid and wine, then walked in the water back towards our car.


Lisbon, Portugal

We flew TAP Portugal from Austin to Lisbon via JFK. Total trip time 15 hours plus 1 hour at customs in Lisbon, and a 45 minute subway to our hostel. We stayed at This is Lisbon hostel which is located at the very top of a hill in Alfama, the old town. Not knowing there was an elevator to get to the top we climbed thousands of stairs and through run down cobblestone streets en route to find the hostel.

I chose the hostel for it’s great views of the city and it didn’t prove me wrong. We were on the peak overlooking a sea of red tile roofs and an old church.We checked in then headed out to stroll the town. No one had warned us that all of Lisbon proper is hills and most of the streets are cobblestone. Note to self that supportive sneakers are needed next time around.

We walked to Time Out Market, and indoor high end food market that features up and coming Portuguese chefs. We had the Sea bass tartar from Tartar-ia that was served with an apple and beet puree, as well as a prosciutto sandwich and goat brie cheese plate from XX. A glass of nice wine was 3.5€.


We then walked around Baixa Chiado which is full of shops. We stopped into a church and saw a service. We walked towards Barrio Alto, stumbling onto “Pink street” on the way (literally a street painted pink) and well as Texas Bar. We went into Cheers bar (Cheers like the show) and ended up staying and chatting with the South African bartender for a while.

Searching for am authentic restaurant we were lucky to find Taberna de Saudade. It was small and cave-like with a 13€ for 3 appetizer special. The food was mediocre but the atmosphere was perfect for our first dinner in Europe. After the meal we bar hoped then spent over an hour trying to find our hostel. 2 taxi’s and a 45 minute walk later to found it in the maze of the Castello neighborhood.
Monday we took the free walking tour at 11am (runs everyday) meeting at the statue of Luis de Camoes.



Our tour guide Francesco was amazing and we ended up going to lunch with him after the tour and devoured whole grilled fish. We then continued the day with another tourist, from SF. We walked along the water to Alfama, the oldest neighborhood in the city that wasn’t destroyed after earthquake. Here the neighborhood is also on an incline with smaller winding roads.

We walked back through town, stopped at a pastry shop in the Altis Avendie Hotel for egg custards, and onwards to Miradoura lookout point by way of an incredibly long and steep street lined with graffiti art. There is a trolley that runs up and down the street but we opted for the scenic art walk. The lookout point had the best views of Lisbon we saw.

On the walk back to the hostel we grabbed $2 prosciutto sandwiches from As Bifanas Do Afonso, a local window shop in our neighborhood. Dinner we ate at O Piteo da Graca, a packed local spot recommended by our hostel. Grilled cuttlefish and clams cooked in garlic sauce were out highlights.

Tuesday morning we took the train to Sintra, about a 45 minute ride out of town. Sintra is a very cute town that has two famous palaces and a castle.We ate lunch at A Pendoa, a very local spot hidden in town that was recommended by out your guide from the previous day. Nick tried his first Spanish burger that was served with a fried egg and without a bun over a bed of rice and fries.

We then grabbed a tuk-tuk (€5 per person each way) versus the bus (€5 per person round trip) to get a better view of the scenery going up the mountain. The ride took about 15 minutes and was well worth the extra €10. We zoomed through a lush forest that has over 200 species of plants that were all brought in from overseas. We bought tickets for the Palace de Pena and its gardens.

As soon as we purchased tickets it started raining, and continued until we got back to the bottom of the mountain. We bought an umbrella from the gift shop that lasted 1 day before breaking. Seeing the Palace through the mist was an experience but we definitely missed out of seeing the vibrant yellow and orange castle with the lush green surroundings.

We took the tuk tuk back down and went to Fabrica das Verdadeiras Queijadas da Sapa near the train station for Queijada pastry. Piriquita cafe in town has the best Travesseiro (cheese cakes) but we didn’t make it there.

We took the train back to Lisbon and began our walk towards LXFactory, stopping at Time Out for another prosciutto sandwich on the way. LXFactory is a 1-block artistic hipster street full of shops, restaurants and art galleries. The side walk is adorned with graffiti art. We had drinks at 1300 Taberna, including a glass of green wine. We also tried the local caldo verde soup, a potato soup with chorizo, which was fantastic. Recommend the Atlantida IPA.

An Uber to Mini Bar for dinner, which was recommended by my cousins who had been a few months prior. Mini Bar is one of chef Jose Avillez’s restaurants. While more high end in pricing it is still incredibly cheap as a US tourist. We had about 10 small plates but what really stood out were the cocktail bites and the tuna and steak tartar cones. I even ordered another steak tartar cone for my dessert.

After dinner we walked right up the road to Gingha bar, which was recommended by our waitress. Here we finally tried the famous Gingha liqueur, a cherry flavor. We chatted and drank in the street outside the hole in the wall bar with a young traveling couple from Wyoming, as well as some older Brits.

Baked Shrimp & Kale with Chermoula

Cook time approx: 25 minutes


- 1lb Shrimp, peeled and deveined

- 1 bunch kale, stems removed and torn into pieces


For Chermoula

- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped 

- 1/4 cup EVOO

- 3 large garlic cloves, minced

- 2 tablespoons lemon juice

- 2 tablespoons lime juice

- 2 teaspoons paprika 

- 1 teaspoon ground cumin

- 1 teaspoon salt

- 1 teaspoon pepper 


1. Heat over to 375 degrees.

2. Put all ingredients for Chermoula in a big bowl, mix well. Add shrimp and toss to coat.

3. Lightly grease 9 x 13 baking dish with EVOO. Lay kale leaves in a layer on baking dish. Sprinkle with EVOO.

4. Dump shrimp on top of kale and arrange in layer. Drizzle any remaining Chermoula on top.5. Place in over and bake for 20-25 minutes, until shrimp is pink. Serve. 

Pasta with Shrimp, Spinach and White Wine 

Cook time: Approx. 20 Minutes 


- 16 oz pasta (any kind)

- 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined 

- 6 oz spinach

- 3 tablespoons Butter

- 3 cloves garlic

- 1/2 cup dry white wine

- 1 lemon, juiced 

- red pepper flakes

- salt and pepper


1a. Cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Drain then return back to pot.

1b.  While pasta is cooking place skillet on medium heat. Add half the butter and melt. Add garlic and a few pinches of red pepper flakes. Saute until fragrant, approx. 2 minutes

2. Raise heat to medium-high, add wine. Cook until reduced by 1/3, approx. 2 minutes. 

3. Add shrimp, salt and pepper. Cook until opaque, approx. 2 minutes. 

4. Remove skillet from heat and stir in remaining butter and lemon juice.

5. Add spinach to pasta pot, then pour shrimp mixture over. Stir until spinach is wilting. Serve with Parmesan. 

Pumpkin Butter

Carving a pumpkin for Halloween? Make Pumpkin Butter with your leftover pumpkin guts. Butter can be used like jam and is great on toast!

Cook time: Approximately 40 minutes


- 3.5 cups pumpkin guts, puréed OR canned pumpkin

- 3/4 cups apple juice (fresh is best)

- 1.5 cups sugar

- 2 teaspoons ground ginger

- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves


If making pumpkin purée fresh:

1. Remove seeds from pumpkin and put aside. Then use hands/sharp spoon to remove pumpkin guts and purée them in food processor.

2. Put all ingredients in medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.

3.  Turn heat down to low and let mixture simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. 

4. Transfer thickened mixture to jar and refrigerate until ready to eat. 

* Let mixture simmer until thickened. May take more than 30 minutes.

Broccoli Quinoa Pilaf


- small onion, chopped

- 4 cups broccoli, chopped

- 2 cups quinoa, cooked

- 1/2 cup craisins or raisins

- 1 cup roasted almonds, chopped fine

- 1/4 cup chicken broth

- olive oil

- salt and pepper


1. Place medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil then add onions, salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally until softened and starting to brown, approx. 3 minutes.

2. Add chicken broth. When it starts to boil turn heat down to medium. Add broccoli and craisins. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until broccoli is tender.

3. Stir in cooked quinoa and let cook for another minute.

4. Remove from heat and stir in almonds. Salt and pepper to taste.

Garlic Balsamic Artichoke

Cook time: 1 hour


- artichoke(s)

- olive oil

- balsamic vinegar

- garlic

- sea salt


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Chop off bottom of artichoke, then top to expose petals.

3. Separate petals. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar inside petals, then sprinkle with sea salt. [Use your fingers to get inside petals.]

4. Stuff minced garlic in between petals.

5. Wrap artichoke in a double layer of aluminium foil. Seal tight.

6. Place on oven rack and bake. A regular sized artichoke will take 1 hour. For a jumbo artichoke cook 75 minutes.

7. Remove wrapped artichoke and let cool before opening foil. 

Orecchiette with Spicy Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Recipe from Everyday Italian.


- 2 bunches broccoli rabe, stalks trimmed, then quarter 

- 12 oz. orecchiette pasta

- 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage 

- 3 cloves garlic, minced

- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan 

- 3 tablespoons olive oil

- 1 punch red pepper flakes

- salt and pepper

1. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook broccoli rabe for 1 minute then remove- keep water.

2. Cook the orecchiette in the same boiling water until tender but still firm to bite, approx. 8 min. Reserve 1 cup of water before straining.

3. SAME TIME- Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook breaking up with a spoon until browned, approx. 8 min.

4. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for 30 seconds.

5. Add broccoli rabe and toss to coat.

6. Add pasta and reserved cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, until reached desired moisture. 

7. Add Parmesan cheese, stir. Salt and pepper to taste.

8. Serve warm or at room temperature.

A simple but delicious pasta dish that’s perfect for a regular night in or a dinner party. 

Sesame Snow Peas and Shiitake Mushrooms

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

6-8 large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 

3/4 lbs snow peas, trimmed

1 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp sesame oil

2 tbs vegetable or olive oil

Sesame seeds to garnish 



1. Combine soy sauce and sesame oil with 2 tbs of water in a small bowl.

2. Heat large skillet over high heat. Add 1 tbs of oil. When the oil is hot add mushrooms and stir for 3 minutes.

3. Add remaining oil, snow peas and pinch of salt. Stir for 30 seconds.

4. Add soy/sesame mixture and cool for 2 minutes, until peas are crisp/tender.

5. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve.

Ahi Tuna Tartare


1 lb ground tuna (sashimi grade)

2 tablespoons Sesame oil


Sesame seeds

1 large avocado


1. Put tuna in bowl.

2. Add oil and siracha (to taste.) Use hands to mix. 

3. Mash avocado.

4. Plate avocado, then tuna. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Garnish plate with wasabi paste.