We highly recommend the Old Vine Café for a breakfast, lunch or dinner. Chef Mark and his staff have the same passion, enthusiasm and attention to details. His wine (beer) and food pairings are my benchmark for all other restaurants. For the last 10 years he has paired food with wines. He also leads a tour of Southern Italy.
Farm to table, Simple cooking, Cooking lessons, Wine tasting, Mediterranean (Greek, Roman, etc) history and Artisans that define a town. Does the list of activities pique your interest? I would highly recommend the culinary tours by Chef Mark McDonald of the Old Vine Café in Costa Mesa, CA. Mark attended and uses the Italian Culinary Institute, located at Hotel Baia dell’Est in Calabria, as the home base for his excursions. The activities will change the way you take a vacation and how you approach food in all aspects.
Chef Mark has cultivated a relationship with artisans of various shops that have defined towns for generations. Pride of products was the most evident. It has a way of showing itself in the quality of production, enthusiasm and joy in the faces of the artisan and family members. What is better than one scoop of gelato? In the town of Pizzo, gelato is used to create a Tartufo, which is created by using TWO scoops of gelato with a liquid chocolate or fruit placed in the center…refrozen and dusted with chocolate powder when served. I had a “Vulcanetto” a tartufo with a center of berry compote, topped with a liqueur and flamed.
Chef Mark did a fantastic job of orchestrating our needs, the daily events, hotel accommodations and travel arrangements. A testament to Chef Mark was the composition of the tour group. Travelers from PNW, SF area, SoCal, Texas and Kalamazoo were brought together by word of mouth recommendations from participants of previous tours.
Lastly but not least, the people we met in Southern Italy and Sicily were fantastic. While the weather was a bit chilly, the people were warm and sincere. I would like to commend Davide Gentile. He maneuvered us through some narrow streets and was “top notch” in service. I would like to also commend, Orlando, from the Hotel Baia dell’Est in Calabria. My brother and I are early risers and Orlando was there to help us with our Espresso or Americano to start the morning.
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