In Barcelona, Pan Con Tomate or Spanish Tomato Bread is on every menu. It is such a simple meal. It can be eaten for breakfast or lunch with wafer thin jambon or alone. Or as a tapas with other dishes at dinner.
I just have to say that Pan Con Tomate is addictive. It really is. It has become my go to quick lunch. And wait to you find out how easy it is to make. It will become your go to breakfast, lunch, or appetizer. All you need is crusty bread, a big round tomato, good olive oil, garlic clove, and salt. Boom. That’s it. Now you maybe thinking, this like Italian Bruschetta. Kinda, but no. Spanish Tomato Bread is lighter than Bruschetta.
You maybe asking how does she know about Pan Con Tomate as when most people talk about Spanish food as Paella. I spent a week in Barcelona for work. Honestly, it was a city I did not know I wanted to visit. And now I want to go back to explore and experience Barcelona more. The vibe of the city is young forward facing with a deep understanding of the past. Coming from an island with an active harbor and beaches, I really could relate to the relaxed atmosphere. My kind of place.
Barcelona is in Catalonia which is a Spanish autonomous community where Spanish and Catalan are spoken. Tomato bread in Catalan is “pa amb tomàquet.” The Catalans are very proud of their culture and food. From grand restaurants to small mom and pop cafes maybe seating 10, food is everywhere you go. Lucky for me, my colleagues are foodies. We all live and breathe food so I ate well for my week in Barcelona.
My first night my colleague and I went looking for somewhere good and local near our hotel as both of us had just arrived from opposite ends of the world. The front desk sent us to Restaurant “Raco de la Vila” which serves up traditional Spanish and Catalan dishes. That’s where I first had Pan Con Tomate and I didn’t even know what it was. After that I had it for breakfast at the hotel and at almost every dinner once my colleagues told what it was.
Back to Pan Con Tomate
When I say it is so simple, but yet fabulous, I am serious. Really, all you need is crusty bread, a big round tomato, good olive oil, garlic clove, and salt to make it, that’s it. And of course a grater. The secret to this dish is that you grate the tomato. That’s what makes it so great and I have no answer to why. It just does and I’ve never thought to grate a tomato before. But it is works.
All you do is toast or grill your crusty bread, rub a garlic clove, drizzle some olive oil, spoon the grated tomatoes on the bread, drizzle some more oil and sprinkle sea or kosher salt. One tomato per slice of bread. And a garlic clove could do a couple slices depending on how many garlic you fancy. Me, I rub it lightly for a hint of garlic.
What I love about this dish is that it tastes just as good at my house as it did in Barcelona. I get to return to Barcelona whenever I make it and enjoy the good times I had with my lovely colleagues.
Check out more of my travel tales.
Barcelona Pan Con Tomate or Spanish Tomato Bread
- 1 slice of crusty bread, toasted
- 1 garlic clove
- Olive Oil
- 1 large tomato (not Roma)
- Kosher or Flake Sea Salt
- 1. As the bread is toasting, cut tomato in half and grate it.
- 2. Rub toast with garlic clove.
- 3. Drizzle olive oil and spoon grated tomato on toast.
- 4. Top with a drizzle of olive oil and sea salt.
What could you do in Montreal for 72 hours? A lot. That’s the amount of time we spent in Montreal recently.
My husband was speaking at a conference and our son had spring break so we thought why not make it a family adventure. Glad we did. It was a nice break from school and work. All of us enjoy travel and will rarely say no to go anywhere.
We decided to fly out of the closest airport to us which was T.F. Green or as everyone calls it Providence though it is in Warwick and not drive up to Boston fighting the insane nonstop traffic. That meant we had a layover and a long one going and coming. Basically we travel took us a day going and coming. All good as it saved us from having to drive to Boston.
We stayed at the Hotel Bonaventure in downtown Montreal. It is a roof top hotel with 2.5 acres of gardens and water features complete with wildlife on top of Place Bonaventure which forms part of Montreal’s Underground City. It has kept its 1960s cool with decor and feel. The room as comfortable with a window seat and a walk in shower. The staff was friendly and helpful. The restaurants were very good. We spent a lot of time at Le Kube Resto-Bar. The food was amazing. We had dinners, lunches, and afternoon tea with cakes. The fried chicken wings were the best I’ve ever had. And I have my very first poutine there. The selection of desserts plate satisfied our sweet teeth.
Where We Went
I was stupid. I wore brand new sneakers and only brought them to keep my bag light. As a result I got the biggest blister on the arch of my foot. To say it was unpleasant is an understatement. And no I don’t have photos. Dr Pimple Popper would have have relished that pop and drain. So my “injury” slowed me down a lot so I didn’t get to walk around as much I would have liked.
The positive of needing band aids is that we went to a drug store and came across my favorite chocolates from my youth in Ireland. And it didn’t cost me an arm and leg to buy.
The Barbie Expo
I grew up with Barbie dolls. Lots of them. I had the house. The car. The camper. I made clothes for Barbie. When I came across this I couldn’t resist so off we went to explore the downtown shopping district. It is a free exhibit at the Cours Mont-Royal (1455 Peel Street). Bob Mackey loved designing for Barbie and so it many other well-known designers. The designs are amazing.
Biosphère at the Parc Jean-Drapeau
We hoped on the metro to make our way out to see the Biosphère located in the Parc Jean-Drapeau. The Biosphère housed the United States pavilion during the World’s Expo or Fair in 1967. It was designed by American architect Buckminster Fuller. A museum in the Biosphère is focused on the links between society and the environment with the mission to raise awareness, action, and engagement on significant environment issues.
Miroir Miroir: An Immersive Art Experience
Downtown Montreal is a two cities. One above ground and other below it. Montreal’s underground world is connect by tunnels. At first is was confusing as addresses do not tell you if it is above or below, but once you realize it is a world is below your feet as you walk around the downtown, it makes sense given the brutal winters. It allows you to move around without braving the weather.
As we made our way back the Biosphère via the metro and the underground maze to return to our hotel, we came upon an immersive art experience that had just opened called Miroir Miroir (Mirror Mirror in English). Travel is an adventure and we really did not have any plans. Was not on our radar, but why not go for it? I loved it, but I can’t really explain it. Truly an experience and it is different for everyone. I could have spent hours in there exploring, but my feet were telling me it was time get my sneakers off and put the feet up before dinner.
We took cabs and the metro to get around the city. The metro was great and easy to use.
Loved the art. And the vibe.
What We Ate
OK. I was not plant-based on this trip. There were vegan restaurants around; however, my guys were not interested. The food scene is robust with cuisines from around the world. The food is hardy with a French flare.
Breakfast at Ben & Florentine
I was expecting croisant or baguette with jam for breakfast given Montreal is tied to France by language and culture. Nope. Hearty breakfasts rule and everything was great. Especially at Ben & Florentine which was a local chain breakfast/lunch place near our hotel. The menu was vast and plates overflowing with yumminess. Kept us full until dinner most days.
Dunn’s Smoked Meats
Dunn’s got the meats. It is an institution since 1927. Known for their smoked meats and having a Ruben is a must. I went into a meat sweat after eating it, but it was worth it. Go hungry. They had different types of poutine. I got the traditional
Eat My Buns
Our waitress at the hotel restaurant gave us this recommendation as it is her favorite restaurant. I quickly realized by the Satay Brothers would be her favorite place. It was my vibe and my type of food. They are known for their house made buns. We had the special buns which were lobster/crab. The meal was a religious experience. It was so good. It is a must if you like Asian food and want some vegetarian dishes.
What is the first thing that pops your head when I say graffiti? Spray paint on a wall in the form of anti-social behavior in a city. However, in recent years graffiti has transformed into street art, and Wynwood Walls in Miami is where this genre has a home.
Traveling for work, I got the opportunity to spend some time in Miami. The conference I attended was in Miami Beach, but since I registered late, my closest option was on the mainland in the Wynwood Design District. My hotel, Hampton Inn & Suites Miami Wynwood Design District, was tidy, comfortable, and with great staff, but it was an oasis in an urban desert.
I do two things when I travel for business: do something cultural and have an excellent city-specific meal. Visiting Miami was no different. Unfortunately, I didn’t have much free time due to the distance and traffic going back and forth between the conference venue and the long days at the event, so I needed to make the best of my free time.
Venezuelan Arepas and Giant Cream Puffs
I always ask the hotel staff for local recommendations. I wanted a Miami experience. Lucky for me, they directed me to little hidden gems right around the corner.
La Latina Miami specializes in Venezuelan Arepas. While I’ve been exposed to many different food cultures, I know little about South American foods. Arepas are Venezuelan comfort food often sold by street vendors. They are unleavened stuffed cornmeal cakes that are crispy outside and fluffy inside. Arepas contain ingredients like roast chicken or pork, eggs, beans, pumpkin, cheese, and more. I was a little worried that there wouldn’t be a vegetarian choice. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the options. I chose one with cheese, sweet plantains, and avocado. Delicious.
Of course, after having something savory, I needed something sweet. Lucky for me, there was a fantastic bakery next store. All the senses awake when walking into DBakers. As in if Willy Wonka made cakes. I asked for a recommendation, and the friendly fellow behind the counter suggested their specialty, Ferrero Cream Puff. OMG. Seriously. I brought it back to my hotel room. I kidded myself, thinking I would only have a couple of bites and save the rest for later. Nope. I. Ate. The. Whole. Cream Puff. I make no apologies as it was a religious experience. I was proud that I didn’t go back there every day.
Having checked off having a great meal, I set off to have a cultural experience. I’m big on exploring my surroundings on foot, but I found where I was that being a pedestrian wasn’t ideal. Miami is a car city. And while the Wynwood Walls were only a couple of miles walk which is the usual distance walked around Newport, I was told by the front desk to take a Lyft. They were pretty horrified at the thought of me or anyone walking.
Off I went in a Lyft to see the Wynwood Walls. As we snaked through the streets and traffic, street art was everywhere. The idea of Wynwood Walls came from Tony Goldman, a community revitalizer, in 2009 as a way to transform this warehouse district. He thought that Wynwood’s large warehouse buildings would make unique canvases to bring the most incredible street art ever seen in one place. Goldman succeeded. The art is diverse.
The Miami Experience
The highlight of the conference was what I called “The Miami Experience,” held at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden. The food represented a mixture of Miami’s cultures. And so did the activities: Dominos, cigar rolling, and dancing.
I’m looking forward to returning to Miami in 2023 and really exploring Miami Beach properly and discovering Haitian food. Adios. Have you been to Miami? And what are your highlights?
The summer of 2017 was a life experience where for the month of August we were roaming nomads. It is a polite way of saying we were without a home for 30 days as we moved from Tarboro, North Carolina to Newport, Rhode Island. It was not planned that way, but when life gives you opportunities just take them. I know I am a better person because of it… for me, it was a profound life experience.
My husband, Jeroen, accepted a teaching position at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. It is his dream job teaching architectural history and preservation. This is why he came to the United States from the Netherlands to pursue a Ph.D. It was to teach. When the opportunity came to him, we decided it was a one-in-a-life-time chance to make a dream come true.
Selling the House
The choice was made: accept the position and move up to Rhode Island. Our house was an old Queen Anne-style cottage from 1904 in the historic district of Tarboro and restoring it was on-going. We did, but mostly Jeroen, three years worth of work on the house in two months. Lucky for us the word got out we would be moving and folks started to offer to purchase our house before we even put it on the market. We sold our house to a lovely woman, Jennifer, and her sweet family. When you own an old house, you are more a caretaker than an owner and Jennifer was of the same mindset as us.
When we agreed on the closing date of 31 July, we didn’t actually know where in Newport we were going to live. Yes, crazy I know. The rental market in Newport is VERY tight and expensive. My son and I ventured up to Newport in June. We lost out in every place we looked it. It was feeling bleak when we looked at this one rental, which the owner had just found out their tenants were moving out in August making the house available 1 September. The house was a duplex built in the early 1900s in the “local” section of Newport. It has the number of bedrooms and bathrooms was right. It had an office space. A good kitchen. It was within walking distinct of campus for my husband and school for my son. Down the hill was a “Main Street” of shops and restaurants. Newport is really a walkable and bikeable city. Perfect for us.
And the journey begins
So on 31 July, we passed this old house caretaker role to Jennifer. We packed all of our stuff up on a moving truck to go into storage for a month. Jammed our cars with everything we would need for a month on the road. My car had Oppie the Cat and all of his things as well as my son and kitchen items. Off we went with our two cars, a cat, a child, and Opa.
Well Worn Apron Travels
The Well Worn Arpon begins its travels. I filled a tub with all my important spices, teas, tea kettle, knives, tools, and utensils as well as my slow cooker and Dutch ovens I love to use on a daily basis. And of course, the well-worn apron made it in the back of the car. I was looking forward to experiencing new cooking opportunities using local ingredients. For me, I love sourcing new and/or local ingredients. Going to a local grocery store or regional chain is fun. I enjoy just looking at what is different and special to locals. You can tell a lot about a place by what is in their grocery stores.
Northern Neck of Virgina
We are lucky to have great friends and are so thankful to them for their generosity. They offered their water house on the Chesapeake Bay of Virgina to us as they were traveling the month of August. We gladly accepted and stayed for three weeks. The Northern Neck is one of my favorite place on the planet. Maybe it is because of our wonderful friends, Dick and Sandy, who have made their home such as positive and warm place. The regional is filled with coastal beauty and deep history.
Staying in the Northern Neck gave me an opportunity to explore the Northern Neck of Virginia with its rich food culture of fresh produce and seafood. I became addicted to fresh heirloom tomatoes, corn, and nectarines again going through tomatoes like they were candy. I ate them every day for three weeks. It was wonderful. The selection of produce and seafood made it very easy to get fresh and healthy. Add in the water views, swimming in the Bay, and walks along the beach, I felt amazing. The best I have felt in years.
After an overnight stop in Princeton, New Jersey, we settled into our Airbnb in Madison, CT, for the last two weeks of our trip. We used Madison as our base to jump back and forth to Newport. First was our first Airbnb experience and didn’t know what to expect. It was super. Our host was amazing and helpful even though she was traveling Europe with her family. We chatted a lot. Madison is the picture-perfect New England town. It was quite lovely with an active Main Street scene. We did day trips to explore the area. We went to two open-air history museums. Mystic Seaport was one of the day trips and the other one was Sturbridge Village.
Newport, Rhode Island
Driving over the bridges to our new house and new life was a great feeling. It was like we were coming home though we have never lived in Rhode Island before. Our landlord was great and we got the keys a couple of days early. Unfortunately, the moving company did not arrive with our stuff until seven days later. We made the best of it. We urban camped as I called it. I am so glad to be living in Newport, Rhode Island. It is a great place to live. The people are nice and friendly. The foodie scene is strong. You can’t beat the nature and beach. Since arriving in Newport, I have never been so hopeful and excited about living anywhere. I feel healthier both mentally and physically.
The Life Experience
Living out of bags for a month as we traveled up the East Coast was a good life experience for me. It made me aware of what I really needed in life. And it is not tons of stuff. I had my favorite cooking pots and spices. I had clothes to wear. My iPhone and laptop to communicate and write.
Most importantly, I had my family and friends. We were able to spend quality time together. For 30 days, we were free of the typical American life where everyone is busy doing something. We slowed down to enjoy the simple experiences of life such as taking walks together, cooking, and long conversations. I have continued those feelings to Newport. While we were a close family before this, I believe this has made us stronger as a family.
I loved the travel and living in new places experiencing the regional differences especially the food. This life experience was good for our family. I set a goal for myself that in three to five years, we will travel somewhere during the summer for one month living there as locals. I am lucky with my chosen profession that I am able to work anywhere in the world as long as I have access to high-speed Internet. And now that my husband is a professor with a more flexible schedule, we have more freedom with our time. Currently, I am working to build my business.
if you could travel for a month, where would you go?
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Disappearing Tangier Island
Tangier Island is a small island in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay. It is disappearing due to a change in climate. This post is not about climate change, but the loss of a unique community and culture.
Tangier Island has a rich history dating back to the 1770s when settlers from England made the island their home. They started out as farmers; however, they found harvesting crabs and oysters more profitable. The island is now known for their blue crabs and having one of the most productive fleets in the region… and their distinct accent.
It has been said that the accent is derived from a 17th Century English lexicon and phonetics. It reminds me of the dialect of North Carolina’s Ocracoke Island on the Outer Banks. To my ear, it sounds faintly like Welsh or Irish. Many think it sounds like pirate talk. I have not met many 17th Century pirates so I can not confirm it. It is a waterman accent based on the isolation of the sea living on an island can do. Though with the influx of tourists and access to radio/TV/Internet, the accent is becoming less pronounced. The accent is not disappearing as fast as Ocracoke for the fact that more outsiders are moving to the Outer Banks to live and accents are intertwining.
It is a beautifully stark place. Windswept. Battered by the waters of the Chesapeake Bay for thousands of years. You can stand anywhere on the island and all you can see is water; no land in sight. The island is only 1.2 sq mi (3.2 km2) with about 700 full-time residents who are mostly watermen and those who support them. Tourism is popular, but crabbing is the main driver.
When you step off the ferry, you move to a different beat. A slower beat. The roads are narrow and are not paved. As you walk around the island you can hear the crushed oyster shells under your feet. Bikes and golf carts are the modes of transportation. Only a handful of cars on the island and honestly I am trying to figure out how they got there since the ferry service only carries people.
When the captain says be back at a certain time, then be back by that time or you will be spending the night or hope that either the supply boat or mail boat is there. There are only a couple of ferries coming from both Virgina and Maryland. Once they leave for the day, then that is it. Lucky there are a few B&Bs on the island and there are a few who do spend the night. We were there when the supply boat came in and unloaded. Golf carts were lined up to get their items ordered. While the island is a tourist attraction, daily life goes on around the tourists.
Crabs, Crabs, and More Crabs
The thing that makes Tangier Island famous is everywhere: crabs. Crab pots. Live crabs. Crab remains.
The Crab Cakes
You can not come to the island and not have crab cakes. And I love a good crab cake. We had lunch at the Hilda Crockett’s Chesapeake House. It is an all-you-can-eat family-style dining experience. I enjoy that experience. It is fun to talk to folks from all over visiting for the day. It is simple country dinner fare. The crab cakes are the star of the meal and if you keep eating them, the ladies will keep bringing them out to you. They are the size of baseballs. Also, clam cakes are served.
Tangier Island is worth a day visit to explore the island and culture.
Boiled Peanuts are an NC specialty.
Unless you are from eastern North Carolina then you most likely have never heard of boiled peanuts. They are a well-kept secret. It is a very seasonal and local specialty. You know it is that time of year when stands pop up all over the backroads of eastern North Carolina. The peanuts are sold out of pickup trucks. Some are well-oiled operations with tents and boilers while others are just a pickup truck with plastic bags of the warm peanuts. There are no worries about them getting cold since they are sold out quickly. People just know. And they just crave them regardless of age, gender, race, or economic status. It is a comfort food.
Now, most folks from eastern North Carolina are skeptical about anyone not from there liking it. They will raise an eyebrow at you if you are lacking the correct accent. That said, they will gladly share and talk to you about boiled peanuts. Though they are pretty sure you are not going to like it. It is nice to prove them wrong.
What are Boiled Peanuts?
All boiled peanuts are not created equal. Having lived in Tarboro, North Carolina, I have only eaten what I would call eastern-style. All the locals will firmly tell you that if it is from anywhere else it is just plain wrong and that those folks are not doing it correctly. Tarboro is in Edgecombe County just off I-95. It is a rural community where peanuts, cotton, and tobacco are the main cash crops. In fact, much of the peanuts you eat at baseball games come from eastern North Carolina and southern Virgina.
Not to embarrass anyone so I will just get it out of the way. Peanuts come from the ground like potatoes and other root vegetables. They are not from bushes. Honestly, unless I lived in Tarboro, I never would have known where peanuts came from. And yes I am educated and have traveled the world. Just never crossed my mind.
What makes boiled peanuts special in eastern North Carolina is the peanuts are new green peanuts. Other regions in the United States South dry the peanuts then boil them. Apparently, it changes the texture and taste. And as the Edgecombe County folks say it is not as good as their way. (Word of advice, never challenge someone from North Carolina about pork BBQ and boiled peanuts because you are going to lose. They are passionate and proud about their food culture.)
Everyone has their own way of preparing them like most comfort foods. They are simple to make: green peanuts in the shell, water, and salt. That is it. The secret is the ratio of water to salt. And that takes practice.
There are two ways of enjoying the peanuts. You just put one in your mouth then crack the shell and sucking out the peanut and juice. Or my preferred way, crack the peanut out with your nails. Eat it like you would an oyster with the slurping and all. You have to have the salty juices. I was unable to keep myself neat with salted peanut juices running down my arm… and ok my chin. It was not a dignified affair. After a bunch my fingers became wrinkly. Well worth it. Best not to eat in public until you have the form down or like me you will look a sight.
Go Ahead and Try Them
I am not going to fib to you, but it is an acquired taste and I rather like it. It only took me seven years of living in Tarboro in Edgecombe County to try them. I was always too late and would miss the small window they are available. It is worth giving it a taste. So if you are traveling the backroads of eastern North Carolina then stop and buy a bag for some local flavor.
It is worth giving it a taste. So if you are traveling the backroads of eastern North Carolina then stop and buy a bag for some local flavor.