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Chocolate, Desserts, Dining, Family Fun, Firenze, Florence, Italy, Markets, Pizzarias, Restaurants, Shopping, Tuscany, Wine bars

Florence’s Fantastic Mercato Centrale

September 22, 2016

Craving a cappucino and a cornetto? Need a bouquet of fresh flowers or picnic provisions? How about fresh pasta to enjoy at home? Or maybe you’re just in the mood for pizza and a beer? Florence’s Central Market or Mercato Centrale Firenze  is Florence’s answer to foodie heaven.  Housed in a historic building originally erected in 1847, and open from 10 a.m. to midnight, this is the place to go.

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Pick up picnic provisions like salami, cheeses, prosciutto and more at Florence’s Mercato Centrale.

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Fresh pastas and delicious sauces to go with them make a tasty and quick meal that’s easy to prepare in your vacation rental.

The market on the ground floor is fun to explore with every kind of seasonal produce, pastas, sauces, meats, cheeses, and flowers. Anything you could want that’s fresh and in season is right here.

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The Mercato Centrale has a bounty of seasonal produce, herbs and fresh flowers.

Upstairs at the Mercato Centrale is one of our favorite stops for for lunch, though you can also have breakfast, snacks, sweets, drinks and dinner here.

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Neapolitan-style pizza is done right at La Pizzeria Sud.

Go get some terrific Neapolitan style pizza at Pizzeria Sud. You can take your slices to one of the communal tables or go upstairs for table service. We opted for the former and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the place.

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Lunch is ready!

There are lots of tasty options– pasta, panini, cheese and meat platters, fish, pizza, even burgers and fried chicken to choose from. There is also a coffee bar, wine, beer, pastries, gelato and delicious desserts–something to please most any palate.

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Choose your favorite foods from the array of vendors upstairs at the market and grab a seat at the communal tables. Mangia!

Everything on offer here from the hamburgers made from Chianina beef at La Toraia di Enrico Lagorio, the pasta from Raimondo Mendolia, Maurizio e Poala Rosellini’s fresh fish, the bufala mozzarella, beautiful baked goods, chocolates and gelato are all of the highest quality.

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A great selection of fresh or aged cheeses to eat now or enjoy later are readily available.

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If you’re looking to really splash out, try these fragrant truffles.

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If your tastes run more to fried foods, you’re in luck.

We even sampled the trippa fritta—fried tripe, a Florentine favorite, though not to my taste.

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Trippa fritta is a Florentine favorite.

After lunch (or dinner), you’ll probably want coffee and something sweet. Please remember that no self-respecting Italian would even consider ordering a cappuccino, latte or similar milky coffee drink after breakfast hours. Stick to the espresso. Ask for a caffe lungo if you miss your American coffee. Desserts are in abundance here and include gelato, pastries, cookies, and cannoli, which are stuffed while you wait—as they should be. Crushed pistachios on the ends are optional.

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These confections look almost too good to eat. Almost…

Upstairs is also where you’ll find Eataly which features Italian grocery items, household goods, personal care items and my favorite Florentine soaps from Nesti Dante. You’ll also find a wine shop specializing in Chianti Classico selections, a cooking school, a bancomat (ATM)  and public restrooms which are in short supply in many cities like Florence.

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If you’re looking for Italian wines, particularly those from the Chianti Classico region, you’ve come to the right place.

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Students pay rapt attention at the Lorenzo de Medici Cooking School upstairs at the Mercato Centrale.

If you feel the need for yet more shopping, there are also stalls outside the building on the surrounding streets with scarfs, leather items, and souvenirs—all the typical Florentine goods you’d expect to find.

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Shoppers can find everything from dry pasta to Pinocchio at the market and stalls outside.

Buon appetito and happy shopping!

Berlin, Dining, Family Fun, Germany, Markets, Restaurants, Shopping

Berlin’s Little Istanbul and the Turkish Market

January 4, 2016

Berlin is home to the largest Turkish community outside of Turkey. In fact, more than 200,000 Berlin residents claim Turkish heritage making them the city’s largest ethnic minority.   The Kreuzberg neighborhood in central Berlin, known as Little Istanbul, is home to many residents of Turkish ethnicity, including our server at the Ritz Carlton’s Brasserie Desbrosses It was she who suggested we visit the popular Turkish market on Maybachuferstrasse.


Berlin’s Turkish Market is held Tuesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday morning we jumped on the Number 2 Ubahn line at Potsdamerplatz, changed at Alexanderplatz (a major transit hub) to the Number 8 line and took it to Schonleinstrasse. We walked a few short blocks on Schinkestrasse heading East towards the Landwehrkanal and Maybachuferstrasse—home of Berlin’s largest outdoor Turkish market.


Kreuzberg in central Berlin is known as Little Istanbul for its large number of Turkish residents, the largest community outside of Turkey.



Fresh produce, spices and herbs are in abundance at the Turkish Market on Maybachuferstrasse.



Shoppers line up to take home these kabobs.

Vendors set up shop from 11 a.m. until 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays and draw quite a diverse crowd from young mothers pushing their strollers to older residents in traditional garb to tourists looking for a quick bite from one of the many food stalls.


The Turkish Market draws a diverse crowd.



Fresh baked breads are one reason people flock to the market.



Fish doesn’t get much fresher than this.

Merchants hawking fresh produce, baked goods, fresh fish, cheese, spices, flowers, clothing, toys, electronics, leather goods, table linens and a surprising amount of fabric and sewing notions line the approximate half-mile on Maybachuferstrasse.


Thread, buttons, ribbons, trim, and other sewing needs are all available at Berlin’s Turkish Market.



Stalls with brightly colored bolts of fabric for clothing and household needs line Maybachuferstrasse.

Young people lounge along the canal enjoying impromptu musical performances by buskers while neighbors shop and chat. It’s a very lively scene.


A cup of subtly spiced saklep, a hot beverage akin to a milky tea, is just the thing on a chilly day.



It was hard to resist these delicious looking and aromatic Anatolian delights.

We were very tempted by the delicious looking food on offer at the market but had been counseled to try lunch at Hasir, so we continued on.


Hasir is a popular Turkish restaurant with authentic cooking and a casual vibe.

Though we probably could have walked, we were really hungry so we got back on the Ubahn and took the Number 8 one stop to Kottbusser Tor. A quick walk northeast on Adalbertstrasse brought us to the heart of Kreuzberg’s Turkish neighborhood and Hasir, located at Adalbertstrasse 10.

The casual restaurant features traditional Turkish dishes with lamb dishes and kabobs playing a major role on the menu. The service was efficient but friendly and the meals were well priced.  They also get quite a crowd here. Even past the typical lunch period, the restaurant was full.


Lamb, salad and roasted pepper with traditional bread made a delicious lunch at Hasir.



Entree portions are large enough to share.

After a delicious lunch we walked past several other eateries that were also part of the Hasir group including a Hasir Express.


We stopped into a local bakery and treated ourselves to some just baked baklava—delicious!


We weren’t really hungry but the pastry looked so good we had to stop in.

On our way back to the Ubahn, we took a detour at the Istanbul Supermarket—an enormous Turkish grocery fronted by fresh produce stands.


From the fresh produce outside, to the bounty within, this supermarket has everything a well-stocked kitchen needs.



Tea time!

The market had everything from meats, cheeses, canned and packaged goods, to walls of teas and spices. I would have happily filled my shopping bag had we not been staying in a hotel on this trip.  Perhaps next time!





Book Stores, Family Fun, Markets, Missions, Pirates, Restaurants, San Francisco, Shopping

Exploring San Francisco’s Mission District

September 19, 2015

It’s easy to spend your entire day just wandering around the Mission District. There’s someplace inviting to eat and drink every few feet, interesting shops, galleries, independent bookstores (there are still a few left) and of course, the Mission Dolores, for which the area is named.


One of many inviting places to stop for a bite in the Mission District.

Our itinerary included some of all of the above. First, lunch at the ever-popular Pizzeria Delfina. We’ve enjoyed many delicious dinners at Delfina, a lively, casual Italian restaurant that many say marked the beginning of the Mission District’s popularity as a dining destination back in 1998 when Craig and Annie Stoll first opened their doors. Today, we’re looking for lunch, and Delfina serves dinner only, so it’s Pizzeria Delfina (right next door) for lunch.


The original Pizzeria Delfina is right next door to the restaurant and has sidewalk tables.


With Delfina owner Craig Stoll.

There is almost always a lengthy line of hungry folks waiting for the pie at Pizzeria Delfina No reservations are accepted but there is a chalkboard right inside the small space– write your name and the number in your party then stand on line and wait your turn. Watch the pizzaoli as you wait—it’ll be your turn soon enough!


Lunchtime at Pizzaria Delfina.

The menu has a nice variety of pizzas with perfect thin and crunchy crusts (puffy on the edges—just like I like it), salads, antipasti and some desserts. There is limited seating inside but there are also some tables on the sidewalk. Wine and beer are available along with soft drinks. Service is friendly and pizzas are delivered to your table prontissimo.


Everything on the simple menu is fresh and delicious.


Perfect pizza– puffy, crunchy crust and best quality toppings.

If pizza is not what you’re after, Tartine is right on the corner. When we were loitering around the closed Pizzaria Delfina one sad Monday—the only day they are not open, owner Craig Stoll directed us to Tartine— one of his neighborhood favorites.


Crowds queue for Tartine’s pastries, breads and hot pressed sandwiches.


Diners in the back of the room can watch the bakers at work.

Superb sandwiches, salads, light meals and beautiful pastries are available in this small storefront, which also almost always has a line, especially on the weekends. If you grab a table near the back, you can watch the bakers at work and enjoy the heady aroma of baking bread.


If you haven’t satisfied your sweet tooth, walk a few blocks over to Valencia St. for dessert and learn how chocolate is made at Dandelion Small- Batch Chocolate.This café and factory has organized tours (book online at but even if you haven’t been able to reserve a formal tour, it’s easy to see the chocolate makers at work in the open kitchen area and they are happy to answer questions.


Reserve a tour of Dandelion’s chocolate making facility online.


The current roaster can handle five kilos of cacao beans. The new facility will have a 50 kilo roaster.

We couldn’t join a tour but Lisa Vega, executive pastry chef, was kind enough to show us around and explain the chocolate making process from bean procurement (high quality, single source beans from numerous countries including Ecuador, Madagascar, Belize, and Venezuela), to sorting, roasting, winnowing, melanging, blocking, tempering, and finally, wrapping the bars for sale.


Executive Pastry Chef Lisa Vega was happy to show us around.


Dandelion’s chocolate makers create small batch chocolates everyday.


Their chocolates are made from two ingredients only– cacao and sugar.

After you’ve satisfied your curiosity, sample the wares while you wait to place your order for a delicious cocoa or coffee drink and something sweet to eat. There are plenty of tempting items both to enjoy at the café and to take home.


It isn’t easy to choose!


Complimentary samples are available of most of the single source chocolates.

Dandelion Chocolate also has a small kiosk in the Ferry Building, which sells their tasty products, books and other chocolate-related merchandise. The Ferry Building location is at the same end of the building as Miette Patisserie and Humphrey Slocombe Ice Cream— just across the way from Slanted Door’s take away place, Out the Door


Soon chocolately drinks like these will also be available at the Ferry Building.

Dandelion has plans for a cocoa café there as well, so you can enjoy their delicious drinks even if you don’t make it to the Mission.


Say cheese– at Mission Cheese.

If it’s cheesy goodness you’re craving, check out Mission Cheese This little shop is across from the “parklet” on Valencia and just two doors down from Dandelion Chocolate. Sample and purchase a wide variety of cheeses both domestic and imported, or make a meal of it with their gooey mac n’ cheese, a pressed cheese sandwich, charcuterie or a cheese flight. They also offer a fine selection of wine, beer and ciders, plus coffee, teas and dessert.


There’s plenty to see and do in the Mission.

Need pirate supplies? Pop into 826 Valencia St. in the Mission It’s the only “independent pirate supply store” in San Francisco.


Stop in to 826 for pirate supplies and to support young writers’ programming.

There you’ll find an assortment of pirate paraphernalia including “Scurvy Be Gone,” pirate flags, booty chests, tattoo removers (metal brushes aka “the low cost option”), looking glasses, maps, eye patches, tee shirts, books and much, much more.


Everyday is “Talk like a Pirate Day.”

In the back room, you’ll see what makes this space so important—it’s the free writing/tutoring lab author and 826 Valencia co-founder Dave Eggers began in the storefront in 2002, along with educator Ninive Calegari.


The writing/tutoring lab is the heart of 826 Valencia.

826 Valencia is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to supporting underserved Bay Area students ages six to 18 by working with them to develop their writing skills. According to the 826 Valencia’s website, the group serves more than 6,000 students annually thanks to their 1,700 Bay Area volunteers. They also have an outreach program for teachers. Books by the young authors, including numerous anthologies, are available for sale, as are quarterly subscriptions to the young writers’ work. For more information on in-store events, volunteer and donation opportunities, and the writing programs, visit Proceeds from all sales in the pirate shop support the free writing programs, so stop by and pick up a few treasures, matey.


Support independent booksellers.

Borderlands Bookstore is also on Valencia and home to new and used sci-fi, mystery, horror and fantasy titles.  Independent bookstores like these are getting increasingly hard to find, and in fact, Borderlands was in danger of closing earlier this year due to the dramatic increase in minimum wage now required by the state of California. A community meeting and the clever idea to sell 300 $100 sponsorships have kept the doors open so far.


Grab a cup of coffee with your sci-fi.

Borderlands has special events including author readings and signings and a nice café right next door, too. I always like to support independent booksellers and encourage everyone else to do so.  If you’re in the neighbor and your shelves are looking a little empty, stop in and buy a book or two.


The Mission is named for the beautiful Mission Dolores.

Finally, a visit to the actual Mission, the oldest intact building in San Francisco. As we mentioned earlier, the Mission District takes its name from the Mission San Francisco de Asis established by Father Junipero Serra in 1776, but also commonly called Mission Dolores because of a nearby creek, Arroyo de los Dolores or “Creek of Sorrows.”


The gorgeous painted wooden ceiling is one of the highlights at Mission Dolores.

If the Mission Dolores seems familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it in the movies. Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo with Kim Novak and Jimmy Stewart was filmed here in 1957. Visitors are welcome, and for a small fee, can tour the church with it’s brightly painted wooden ceiling and alter piece, outbuildings and gardens, as well as the small cemetery, which was the final resting place of missionaries and parishioners alike.


Visit the tranquil gardens.

There are antique vestments, a diorama depicting how the mission functioned, paintings and Native American artifacts on display. There is also a small gift shop with handicrafts, devotional candles, rosary beads, prayer cards and Alfred Hitchcock bobble heads—really!

A tribute to "Vertigo."

A tribute to “Vertigo.”

Take a few hours, an afternoon, or the whole day, and explore this fascinating area of San Francisco. Buy some books. Enjoy a meal or a drink. Pick up some chocolate, cheese or even a bobble head while you’re there!