Rome: What to eat in winter
The chilly breeze that signals winter arrived earlier than expected this year, but Romans are more than happy to welcome the season's hearty vegetables. Pumpkins have been piling up at markets like Campo de' Fiori, and the aroma of roasted chestnuts now fills the air. Early winter also brings a rare type of chicory called puntarelle, found primarily in the central region of Lazio and the northern Italian region of Veneto.
Puntarelle are prepared by peeling off the green leaves to expose the juicy upper stem. The stems are then soaked in cold water for about a half hour, during which they naturally curl. They don't look like anything more than fancy lettuce, but puntarelle pack a lot of distinctive flavor when paired with the traditional mix of anchovies, garlic, salt, vinegar and oil. Puntarelle will be in season until around March, depending, naturally, on the weather.
Staff at La Campana restaurant say that this winter's menu will feature insalata di puntarelle for €7 ($9.72), plus porcini mushrooms and artichokes from surrounding areas of Rome for dishes such as tagliatelle ai funghi porcini for €12 ($16.67), roasted funghi porcini for €18 ($25), and carciofi alla giudia for €6 ($8.34).
Truffles or tartufi are a national delight. They are sniffed out by dogs under cool soil and classified as a type of fungi even though they look like hard stones. They hail most famously from the northern region of Piedmont. Truffles can be preserved, but taste best in wintertime, when you'll often find them in creamy sauces. White truffles are more expensive and harder to find than black truffles.
Salumeria Roscioli is a Roman gem of a restaurant that serves a memorable tagliatelle al tartufo bianco. The price is about €25 ($34.74), but it's definitely worth the splurge. Head past the upscale deli area to the seating in the back, where the trappings make for a nice romantic dinner. Since seating is limited, my advice is to book in advance.
MORE FOOD COVERAGE IN ROME
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25 travel-inspiring photos
Halloween marks the beginning of the holiday season—before we know it Thanksgiving will be here, followed by Christmas and Hanukkah. You know what that means—time to start thinking about vacation. Since we love fantasizing about what's next on our travel list, we decided it was high time to dig through our files to find photos that are so spectacular they're bound to jump-start plans for a new adventure. See the slide show and tell us what you think—will you visit any of these places in 2010 (or 2011)?
Rome: Coffee prices are rising
Espresso drinkers in Rome should prepare for a jolt of another kind. The inflated price of coffee beans has increased the likelihood that local cafés will hike up prices before the new year, according to a report in the Italian daily paper Corriere della Sera. Coffee futures broke the $2-a-pound level for the first time in 13 years earlier in October, and coffee makers have already begun communicating the upcoming increase to businesses in Rome. Prices are currently around €0.80 ($1.10) for a cup of espresso, but experts predict an increase of about €0.20 ($0.28) cents to a new price of €1 ($1.38) in Rome, where café owners have so far managed to keep coffee prices comparatively low. In cities like Milan, the Italian hub of luxury, you can easily be charged between €1 to €1.50 ($2.07) at the bar. I checked with the staff at Rome's La Bottega del Caffé (Piazza Madonna dei Monti, 5, 011-39/06-474-1578). They said they will definitely be compelled to raise prices, though they don't know by how much yet. Last time they raised prices was in 2008 when an espresso went from €70 ($0.97) to €80 ($1.10). Some bar owners interviewed by Corriere della Sera said they only plan to up the cost of coffee served tableside and not the quick cup you drink standing at the bar. Most Italians on their way to work in the morning sling back coffees standing up and don't take more than a minute or two to drink a cappuccino. At La Bottega del Caffé, coffee at the bar currently costs €0.80 ($1.10) compared to €2 ($2.76) at the table. Watch this video clip for tips on how to order coffee like a Roman. On my way to a meeting last week, I stepped into a bar near the Vatican called La Bottega di Raffaello (Via dei Corridori, 42), which has started serving American-style coffee to go. An American coffee costs €1 ($1.38). If you have ever been to the Eternal City, you would know that this kind of Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts coffee is a serious anomaly. I personally think that the traditional Italian coffee experience is a treasure worth preserving and experiencing. But if you're desperate for that warm paper cup and plastic cover to take with you, now there's a place to find it. MORE ON ROME How to tip in 6 situations Neighborhood watch: Monti, Rome How to get tickets for Rome's film festival
San Francisco: The new Exploratorium breaks ground
San Francisco's innovative hands-on science museum the Exploratorium will get a new home in 2013. Construction has just started on nine acres of waterfront at Pier 15 and 17, on the Embarcadero between the Ferry Building and Fisherman's Wharf. The museum is known for its original educational programs and explore-for-yourself exhibits that explain science and technology. There's even a program where artists and scientists work together. The new building will offer gorgeous bay views, not to mention twice as much exhibition space, a new restaurant, a glass observatory building, and two acres of outdoor space. The construction itself is a feat, involving the repair, replacement, and installation of pilings that extend 160 feet into the sea floor. The sustainable design also includes green elements, like a heating and cooling system that uses bay water. In the meantime, you can still visit the Exploratorium at the Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon Street. admission $15, but free on the first Wednesday of the month. MORE ON SAN FRANCISCO A Shorthand Guide to Burritos 12 Things You Didn't Know About San Francisco 8 Perspectives on the World's Most Beautiful Cities
The only iconic American sites worth your time
One of my favorite childhood travel memories is of getting into an awkward downward dog at Four Corners—the place where New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, and Utah meet in a tidy point (navajonationalparks.org/fourcorners, $3). My sisters and I had to wait our turn for the privilege but it was well worth it—if only for the requisite silly photo opp. Meanwhile, back at home in San Francisco, if you asked us to wait on line for OUR local tourist attraction, the lame outdoor mall known as Fisherman's Wharf, you would have been out of luck. Waste. Of. Time. We're looking to do a story on iconic American sites in an upcoming magazine issue, sifting the time-wasters from the totally worth-its. A blatantly unscientific, informal poll in the office today has delivered this info: Hoover Dam: Go for it! (Surprisingly interesting…) Mt. Rushmore: Skip it! (Long lines; after immediate impact, the neck craning doesn't deliver.) Niagara Falls: Go for it! (Thundering awesomeness…) Times Square: Skip it! (We'll tell you better spots in the December/January of the mag.) We realize we're treading on risky ground here. Things could get heated. You're very likely to disagree with our unscientific, informal poll above. We're counting on you to do just that—and then tell us places you wish you'd skipped, and why. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: 8 Places Every American Should See 59 Jaw-Dropping Roadside Attractions National Parks (Minus the Crowds)