Do You Want to Cook in Italy? Introducing Vamoos Travel

Bella Italia! (photo by Vamoos Travel)

If I ever win lottery, I will spend the rest of my life traveling. That is, after I donate a large sum to juvenile diabetes research, fight against cancer, eradication of hunger, and education. And after I help some of my family and friends better their existence. And after I secure a substantial amount for my daughters’ college tuitions. As I don’t have to stay in four star hotels and I don’t have to travel first class, I believe that there will still be plenty left for my traveling budget.

Vineyards as far as you can see (photo by Vamoos Travel)

I am not a great fit with guided tours, preferring to explore the unknown places on my own, following my curiosity and interests, rather than bowing to the general assumptions of what needs to be seen. I carefully plan my vacations doing a lot of research, reading comments and recommendations, and bothering friends and family who ventured in the the area before me.

Balsamico di Modena (photo by Vamoos Travel)

I like to book rooms in small, un-glamorous hotels which sometimes do not offer AC and definitely do not have every cable channel available on TV, providing there even is a TV set in the room. I like to be on the first name basis with the receptionists/owners and get their input on the best-ofs in their area. I like to ride buses with the locals across towns and get lost in small village farmers markets.

Vamoos Travel Girls

Photo by Marcello Tori

On a few occasions in the past I was pleasantly surprised to discover small tourist agencies that cater to unorthodox tourists like me who remain behind, hidden under huge, floppy hats and Victoria Beckham-sized sunglasses as their group herds after a guide carrying a flag and talking in a condescending kindergarten-teacher manner.

Making fresh pasta (photo by Vamoos Travel)

Therefore, I was thrilled to meet Erika Suhr and Suzie Agelopoulos, the founders of Vamoos Travel, a small company that promises to take you off the beaten path and let you immerse yourself in the real life just waiting to be explored behind the glossy posters adorning the glass walls of most travel agencies. These two long-time friends hail from Seattle, where they dabbled in different careers before discovering their true passion: Erika sold pharmaceuticals and Suzie ran a Greek restaurant. Sensing that there is so much more out there, they embarked on an adventure and spent more than a year traveling the world and managing to feel at home at most places they visited.

Truffle from Emilia-Romagna, from Vamoos Travel

Truffles of Emilia-Romagna (photo by Vamoos Travel)

Passionate and vivacious, they befriended locals wherever they went and spent many hours experiencing their day-to-day existence. People they met opened their hearts and their homes to them, eager to share their hospitality, and in no time they learned that they were the happiest when sitting down at the family table, sharing food and wine with strangers who became fast friends before the first glass was empty. The seed of an idea was planted, and shortly after they returned to the US and relocated to Los Angeles, they started Vamoos Travel.

Prosciutto di Parma (photo by Vamoos Travel)

Prosciutto di Parma (photo by Vamoos Travel)

Their first destination for the culinary travel tour is Emilia-Romagna, a northern province of Italy rich with traditions, culture, and history, and home to some of the best regional cuisines. Small groups (not more than ten people) would visit family-run factories that make Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma, and aceto balsamico the old, traditional way; they would watch some of Bologna’s most acclaimed chefs prepare their dinner and learn how to roll pasta in some nonna’s small kitchen; they would ride in the pick-up truck to forage for truffles, and taste wine produced in small countryside vineries.

I want to be there! (Photo by Vamoos Travel)

I cannot imagine better way to spend a week. If that winning lotto ticket would somehow materialize in my hands, I would book this November tour for me and nine of my friends without blinking. In the meantime, I can keep this dream alive by practicing my Italian with my friends Barbara and Christina and eating simple, but flavorful foods that are the essence of Italian regional cooking. I offer you a recipe for baked vegetables, one of the quintesential Italian dishes our Food Bloggers of LA group sampled several days ago at home of Erika Kerekes in Santa Monica (whose kitchen I covet with every ounce of my being – when I get my own house, can I borrow Michael to help me with design of the kitchen, pretty please?)

Vamoos Travel Italian luncheon at Erika's from bibberche.com

Erika Kerekes prepared an amazing Italian lunch

Verdure Miste Gratinate
Recipe Type: side dish
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Erika and Suzie
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Crispy topping transforms these simple vegetables into a memorable side dish bursting with flavor and texture.
Ingredients
  • 3 large, ripe, round tomatoes
  • 1 eggplant
  • 1 yellow pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 3 zucchini
  • 150 gr./ 3.5 oz. bread crumbs
  • 4 or 5 garlic cloves
  • a little bunch of parsley
  • 4-5 spoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper as you like
Instructions
  1. Cut the tomatoes in halves and squeeze them a bit to get some water and the seeds out.
  2. Slice the eggplant and zucchini 1/2 cm thick, take away the seeds and the white internal part of the peppers and slice in 6 parts.
  3. Prepare a large baking tin, cover it with parchment paper, and spread vegetables in one layer.
  4. Mix the bread crumbs, garlic, minced parsley, salt, pepper
  5. and oil.
  6. Fill each tomato half with this mixture and sprinkle all the other mixture over each piece of vegetable, pour a thin thread of oil on top and cook for about ½ hour at 180-200 degrees C. (about 350-400 degrees F).

 

I apologize for the poor quality of the photo; the sample of baked vegetables (eggplant in my case) is on the upper left side

Please visit Vamoos Travel site and look at the photos. These girls will fulfill their dreams and make dreams come true for so many of us. I wish them all the luck in the world. Arrivederci a Bologna, amiche mie!

Thanks, Erika, for your hospitality, for preparing those fabulous Italian dishes and for introducing us to Erika and Suzie.

11 Responses to Do You Want to Cook in Italy? Introducing Vamoos Travel

  1. Well said! I think we are in for a road trip!

  2. I want to go with you to Italy!

  3. [...] Baked Vegetables with Crispy Breadcrumbs – Risotto with Truffles For the Baked Vegetable recipe check on Lana’s blog http://www.Bibberche.com  [...]

  4. If i got the chance to move out i would to go italy.

  5. Erika says:

    Thank you for your kind words Lana! You tell our story so beautifully! We are so happy to have shared such a tasty lunch and to have met so many talented women!!

  6. SMITH BITES says:

    lovely, dreamy and full of wanderlust Lana – sounds like the perfect vacation, although i must admit i’d probably stay for a lifetime!!

  7. Aren’t you the lucky one to experience all this!

  8. @yumivore says:

    I want to jump through my screen, visit the vineyards then eat everything on the plate! What a wonderful experience!

  9. sippitysup says:

    You and I are so alike. That’s exactly how I’d spend my lottery winnings, if I played the lottery. Which I don’t. So I guess I’m stuck just dreaming. GREG

  10. Trix says:

    Ah, you like to travel just the way I do!!! It’s so much better than being spoonfed the same stuff as everyone else is getting. Very interesting post!

  11. Monet says:

    I can’t imagine a better way to spend a week either! And like you, if I ever fell upon a large sum of money, I would travel! Thank you for sharing! I wish I could get over to Italy this summer!

Leave a reply