What We Learned About Wine-Tasting From A Local Sommelier In Rome

What We Learned About Wine-Tasting From A Local Sommelier In Rome

Italy is well-known for its great wines. But most travellers aren’t equipped with the knowledge to fully enjoy the wide array of wines and food pairings at their disposal.

For this reason, we decided to hold a wine-tasting and food-pairing experience for our BonAppetour community. Hosting us was lawyer-turned-home-chef Alessandro – who just happens to be a certified sommelier as well – and his girlfriend Elena. The couple also runs one of the top-rated home restaurants in Rome, so we knew that we were in for a treat.

What We Learned About Wine-Tasting From A Local Sommelier In Rome

True enough, we learned so much about the art of wine-tasting through this session. Here’s how it went down.

Wines for the day: prosecco, white wine, red wine, and moscato

By the time we arrived, the table was all laid out. 4 types of wines was set before us – prosecco, white wine, red wine and moscato – accompanied by foods that go best with each of them.

What We Learned About Wine-Tasting From A Local Sommelier In Rome

What We Learned About Wine-Tasting From A Local Sommelier In Rome

Alessandro laid out the first rule for wine-tasting: Drink more wine. Everybody agreed heartily, and started on the first drink – the prosecco.

What We Learned About Wine-Tasting From A Local Sommelier In Rome

What We Learned About Wine-Tasting From A Local Sommelier In Rome

Prosecco is a typical aperitivo drink in Italy. The Italian aperitivo – a bitter drink to be paired with snacks – apparently originated from Torino in 1786.

What We Learned About Wine-Tasting From A Local Sommelier In Rome

The rule of contrast

Alessandro then introduced us to the second rule of wine-tasting, which is the rule of contrast. The idea here is to combine the right texture of food with the persistence of wine flavours.

What We Learned About Wine-Tasting From A Local Sommelier In Rome

A common myth that Alessandro busted is that light-colored foods are best paired with light-colored wines, while dark-colored foods are best paired with dark-colored wines.

Enjoy the aroma

A critical part of wine-tasting lies in taking in the smells of the wine before drinking it.

We were told to take notice of the shape of the wine glass that the red wine was served in. The glass had a wider base and opening, which allows one to smell the wine while drinking it, enhancing its flavors.

What We Learned About Wine-Tasting From A Local Sommelier In Rome

Finally, we finished off with the moscato – a lovely sweet wine – to be accompanied by sweet treats. The perfect way to end off any meal.

What We Learned About Wine-Tasting From A Local Sommelier In Rome

Special thanks to Alessandro for being a gracious host and opening up your home to us!

Over to you

Want to join our next exciting BonAppetour experience? One of the slots has your name on it – click here to book it right away!

Bombay Howrah Dining Car priya barve masterchef asia home restaurant

From India To Singapore, Here’s How This MasterChef Finalist Is Sharing Her Culture Through Food

Why does mum’s food taste best? I’m sure anyone would agree that their mother’s cooking is finer than any Michelin-starred restaurant could ever be. It might be one of the greatest mysteries on earth, but a good reason could be the age-old tradition of passing down cooking secrets from mother to daughter.

Growing up in India, home chef Priya Barve ate most of her meals at home. As a result of this, she spent a lot of time in the kitchen watching her mother and grandmother prepare traditional Marathi cuisine.

That, she tells us, probably sparked her initial interest in food and cooking – she still holds memories of those days close to her heart:

When my mom used to make chapatis, she would always leave a small piece of dough for me to roll out, so the first thing I cooked was a coiled piece of dough!

The catalyst for her love of cooking, however, was her marriage to Aniruddha – also a food-enthusiast – and their subsequent move to Hong Kong. “[Moving to Hong Kong] exposed us to a lot of new cuisines, and that’s how the passion started growing,” she explains.

Cultivating her cooking skills, Priya has dedicated a lot of time to her trade:

Like with any skill, practice is the most important thing. And since we enjoy cooking, practising it is always fun. But we do research a lot when it comes to recipes and techniques and our sources are endless! Youtube videos, Pinterest, recipe books, blogs, and so on – it’s best to keep an open mind when it comes to food.

Hopping aboard the dining car

Experience Indian Culture In This MasterChef Finalist's Home Restaurant

The Bombay Howrah Mail (now the Mumbai Howrah Mail) is the name of a superfast express train that runs between Howrah Junction and Mumbai CST in India. It is also the inspiration for Priya’s BonAppetour dining experience, The Bombay Howrah Dining Car.

The superfast train was a common childhood link for Priya and her husband Aniruddha. The couple now reside in Singapore, but back then, Priya would “travel on the train to Nagpur to visit my paternal grandparents, while Aniruddha and his family would travel all the way to Kolkata.”

Although the pair did not actually meet on the train, this idea brought them together and connected them with their homes back in India. This is an experience that Priya wants her dinner guests to enjoy as well.

Going pro with a home restaurant

Bombay Howrah Dining Car priya barve masterchef asia home restaurant

Passion turned into profession for Priya and her husband as the couple decided to open up their own home restaurant in Singapore. Commercialising her interest and skill in cooking was something Priya and Aniruddha had long considered.

Although opening a restaurant seemed to be the obvious answer, the practicalities of such a project reared their ugly head, and it became evident that this venture would be too expensive. They ended up finding a better way:

I began to research innovative ideas on food, and stumbled across the concept of supper clubs in Europe. I loved the idea of hosting people at home because it felt more unique as an experience than going to a restaurant. And that’s how I started developing the concept for our home restaurant.

Thus, the Bombay Howrah Dining Car was born on BonAppetour. The aim of the dining experience was not only to make delicious delicacies, but to introduce guests to the history and stories behind two cities close to our hosts hearts: Mumbai and Kolkata. India’s cultural variations are also represented through the chosen dishes of this dining experience, with a focus on the Maharashtrian and Bengali communities.

Bombay Howrah Dining Car priya barve masterchef asia home restaurant

Inviting the world into their home has so far been a rewarding experience for the couple, who Priya admits aren’t necessarily very outgoing. The first few times were especially nerve-wracking, but eventually they got comfortable hosting guests, and even enjoyed it:

At first we were quite nervous about having people over […] But meeting people has been one of the most rewarding parts of our experience. We also love when our guests compliment us about our food and creativity – it pushes us to continue to improve with every dinner we host.

Bringing the MasterChef experience home

Priya takes great pride in hosting dinner parties in her Singapore home. From printing off little menus for her guests, to relaying the story behind each dish they are eating, she tells us that success lies in these little gestures.

This is something our BonAppetour hostess picked up during her time on Masterchef Asia 2015 on Lifetime, where she took part as a contestant. Priya got to connect with other foodies and learn from them in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. There, she learned how to be more conscientious in the kitchen

“[The most important lesson I picked up was] food presentation, or plating,” she says. “Indian food is meant for communal eating, and therefore I’d never really thought about presentation as such. As long as you garnish a dish with coriander, coconut or nuts, it was fine.”

But the moment you have to think about serving for one person, plating is really something you have to think about. I would almost say for some dishes you work the dish back from how you might plate it, because then you start to think of other elements that will be needed to complete the dish.

Priya is not only looking to share yummy fare, but she is also sharing a part of herself. A love of food is a common thread that links vastly different communities around the globe, and she wants her guests to feel connected to her past in South Asia by tasting her childhood-inspired dishes.

The Bombay Howrah Dining Car is the perfect passage to India, and it starts in Singapore. All aboard!

Priya’s favorite recipe

Since I have a sweet tooth, I enjoy making desserts the most. One of our favourite dishes is a steamed yoghurt and condensed milk pudding.

  • The recipe is basically equal cups of yoghurt and condensed milk with ½ tsp of vanilla essence.
  • Whip the mixture till smooth and then pour into containers of your choice.
  • Place it in a large flat pan with water that comes up halfway to the containers.
  • Cover and steam for around 15-20 mins.
  • Insert a skewer to check that the pudding is firm, let it cool and then chill for a couple of hours.

Simple and absolutely delicious!

Image credits: 1 / 23 / 4

Here’s The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling

Social Dining: The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling

If you’ve watched enough TV shows, you’ll know that solitary confinement is one of the worst punishments a prison can dole out to its wayward captives. They were invented with the purpose of rehabilitating and disciplining prisoners who had stepped out of line.

23 hours a day spent staring at four walls, though, proved to be too much for inmates – or any human being, for that matter. Research conducted in 1951 studying the effects of such isolation nearly drove its subjects mad. Not one of the students, who stayed in “small chambers equipped with only a bed for an experiment on sensory deprivation,” could last more than seven days.

The initial plan had been to observe them for six weeks.

Here’s The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling

Why can’t we stand isolation? Simply put, humans are social beings who are hardwired to be that way. The neocortex in our brains – which facilitates many social functions – is far larger than any other animal on this planet. We need to interact with others.

Understandably, it can be hard to reach out to and make friends with the locals while travelling. Where do you even begin? Simply walking up to locals at random won’t work, because they would likely be suspicious of your intentions.

Here’s The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling

Thanks to the sharing economy, it is a lot easier to interact with locals without seeming shady.

Hop into an Uber, and you’ll get the undivided attention of your driver for the duration of your journey. Rent a room via Airbnb, and voila! you’ll have instant housemates. Book a dinner through BonAppetour, and you can have a taste of authentic local cuisine while making fast friends over a meal.

The tradition of eating together

Meet The Locals: How Social Dining Can Help You Make Friends When Travelling

Dining is inherently a social activity. In fact, the dinner table is traditionally known as a place of community. This is why the age-old tradition of family dining still exists today. It is a safe space where people let their guards down, recounting the day’s events and swapping old and new stories, and connecting with each other.

In her book Eating Together, Alice Julier says that “dining together can radically shift people’s perspectives: It reduces people’s perceptions of inequality, and diners tend to view those of different races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds as more equal than they would in other social scenarios.”

[irp posts=”39″ name=”Foodie Guide: 5 Unique Dining Experiences in Italy”]

In short, the dining experience brings everyone to an equal footing as well. Regardless of whether you’re a lawyer, a teacher, or a driver, the simple act of sharing local foods with the person next to you goes a long way in forging friendships and long-lasting bonds.

As the saying goes: “the family that eats together, stays together.” We can just as well say that “friends that eat together, stay together.” This is why BonAppetour encourages travellers to eat with locals.

Making family and friends over a meal

Take travel blogger Ben, for example. Having moved to Barcelona from the UK in 2009, his experience dining at Chef Teresa’s home restaurant, Ben describes, left him “feeling like a local in a new country.”

Here’s The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling

As Ben recounts his lunch experience, it almost feels like he’s with family:

We chatted jovially and sneaked pictures of Teresa and her friend Mirella cooking up a storm in the kitchen. She’d grab our attention from time to time to show us the ingredients of the paella and explain how she’d prepared them.

Teresa piled the paella onto our plates and sat down with us to eat, which again made it feel like a family celebration, and we simmered to a low rumble as we sat pulling the heads off the juicy fat prawns and scooping up the rice with chunks of pan con tomate (bread with tomato, garlic and olive oil).

There’s really nothing like home-cooked food that can warm stomach and hearts alike.

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Natalie, an American who fell in love with Rome, had a quieter but equally intimate time in Sandra’s home. A less “rowdy family celebration” and more “best friends bonding” experience:

While chatting about Rome, food, and passions, I was instructed to slice the fennel and chop the spring onions. As Sandra worked the pans, I stood side-by-side in her kitchen, preparing the fresh alici according to her instructions.

Here’s The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling

Sounds exactly like what best friends would do on a laid-back Saturday evening.

And at the end of the day, that’s exactly what they were – new friends in a foreign country:

We headed out to her sweet Roman balcony and sat down, and toasted to new friends and good meals […] Being welcomed into Sandra’s home for a three-course feast was such a treat. It was the perfect re-entry into Rome, and I left thrilled to have connected to a new Rome foodie friend.

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Ready to eat with locals and make friends? Find a home restaurant in the city of your choice here now.

A Macaron Masterclass in the French Capital

A Macaron Masterclass in the French Capital

If cookies are an all-American classic, then macarons are definitely France’s choice confection. These meringue-based treats have become an embodiment of Paris, being chic, pricey, and associated with luxury.

We wanted to share a little of la vie parisienne, so we got in touch with four American expats living in the City of Light and invited them along to the best macaron making class in Paris.

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Experiencing French culture

Travel writer Deborah Carter once asserted: “You have to taste a culture to understand it.” And boy were they about to understand the French culture. 3 full plates of it.

Our bloggers arrived at BonAppetour hostess Bénédicte’s sun-drenched apartment in the chic 17th arrondissement at about 2pm. Bénédicte’s background in the French Luxury industry not only comes through in her cooking, but in her apartment too. It is effortlessly chic, with the crisp white walls meeting ornate mouldings on high ceilings.

Fans of Parisian architecture will not be disappointed with the added French flair of parquet floors and a wrought iron balcony.

Our hostess had lovingly prepared a spread of homemade chouquettes, mini-meringues and tea. This was the perfect chance for our bloggers to get to know each other before attempting the seemingly impossible task of recreating Ladurée’s famous sweet treat.

Our bloggers were Anne, Celina, Jocelyn and Melissa, all American and all lured to Paris by its timeless glamour. Once teas were drunk and mini-meringues eaten, the group of girls gathered around the rustic round table of Bénédicte’s apartment, eager to hear the secret to macaron-making.

“It’s actually not too complicated,” Bénédicte said to a group of bewildered bloggers. “It’s just sugar, ground almonds and egg whites.”

Armed with some scales, a sift and the knowledge that all macaron bases are the same (it’s just the filling that gives them their flavour), our bloggers began to craft their luxurious little treats.

With their mixture ready and sporting the vibrant colours of pink and yellow, they were placed in piping bags, and squeezed onto pre-drawn squares. Bénédicte, picking up the baking tray, said that this is “the secret to getting perfectly formed macarons,” then promptly dropped the tray onto the table.

The loud clang rang through the apartment, she repeated the action, stating that it was a great way to get the best shape for the macarons.

Once the base was ready, the bloggers started on the filling, using fresh lemons and real raspberries. As they stirred, peeled, and whisked, the lovely ladies laughed as they spoke about the differences between the USA and France.

[irp posts=”754″ name=”Social Dining: The Least Awkward Way To Make Friends While Travelling”]

They revealed their reasons for moving to the capital, what they missed from back home, and listened to Bénédicte’s own story. Our hostess has lived on the same street her whole life, making her a bonafide Parisienne and expert in the area. After sandwiching the filling between the macaron bases, our bloggers took a seat ready to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

This 3-hour macaron-making class in Paris ended in true French fashion, with a bottle of champagne. Conversation was as free-flowing as the bubbly, and the bloggers arranged to meet up again post-BonAppetour experience.

From left to right: Melissa’s review on Melissa in Paris, Anne’s review on Hardly Snarky, our hostess Benedicte’s macaron-making class in Paris, Celina’s review on Quirking It Out, Jocelyn’s review on Samba Through Life.

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Read any of our bloggers’ reviews of this macaron-making class, and get 20% off your own quintessential Paris experience.

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