Buongiorno Venezia

Last weekend, as I moved into my 34th year, Jeremy and I celebrated Italian-style with a long weekend in Venice, Italy.

Although we’ve explored Italy a bit since arriving in Europe, this was our first trip to the Veneto region. Venice is made up of 100 small, intertwined islands, connected with a dizzying amount of canals and bridges that rival Amsterdam. It’s completely man-made with brightly colored buildings that are a dim reflection of what they were at the turn of the twentieth century. Not to mention they rise out of the sea with no visible support or structure. The city itself would seem like a dream if it weren’t for hordes of tourists vying for striped Gondolier shirts and Carnivale masks.

But through the hustle and bustle, it’s easy to slow down and let that facet of the city pass you by, for Venice is and will always be romantic. Strolling the narrow walkways to get lost in the inner city is a must. Kitsch restaurants, family-owned bakeries, dogs playing in the park and freshly washed clothes hanging on lines show the everyday life of the few residents who still reside in here. Gondolas and small boats pass through under low bridges and the waterbus (yep, it’s a bus that’s a boat) provides viable transportation along the Grand Canal. 

Venice is a photographer's dream with picture-perfect settings at every turn. While camera in hand monopolized much our trip – we also managed to see some sights and learn some fun facts about the city.

The original gangsta: Venice is home to the very first known ghetto. The name comes from an area restricted to Jews in the 1500s near the former foundry which translates to geto. The word ghetto was then coined to refer to a segregated community. Italian Jews are, therefore, the original ganstas. Respect.

Passing the torch: It’s apparently pretty tough to get a gondola license as there are currently only a few thousand. But there is no waiting list – for when a Gondolier dies, the license is passed on to his widow or children. Gondoliering is in the blood, and a unique family tradition.

Jesus rides on a rainbow: On the ceiling of the famous St. Mark’s Basilica, a mural depicts the Son of God riding a rainbow in exquisite detail. No unicorns were spotted, however.

Big Pimpin: Peggy Guggenheim. Her art collection is impressive. Her list of lovers is even more impressive. The number of furry friend Lhasa Apsos she owned is the most impressive.

One for the tummy, two for the show: The best eggplant parmesan you will every taste resides in a restaurant tucked away in the back streets of Venice. It’ll make you throw your fork down and scream, “holy shit that’s good!” True story.

And a trip to Venice isn’t complete without an overpriced gondola ride. Overpriced, yes, but some of the best minutes we’ve shared. Take a ride yourself in the video below.



The Earl of Pork

Pulled pork is 90% mental, 23% physical. 

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve always had a soft spot for a good pulled pork sandwich. 

I don’t specifically remember eating it that much growing up, but I know it was always there, not far from the smoked mullet and hot-boiled peanut stands.

When I moved to San Francisco, a place called Brothers BBQ on Divisadero reignited my taste buds for pulled pork – each order even came with two slices of Wonder Bread on the side in a folded-over plastic baggie (so you know it was authentic).

In Hawaii, kalua pork blew my socks off, too, but it wasn’t until a few months ago when it finally hit me – why have I never tried to make my favorite food?

The first time I made it I couldn’t believe how good it tasted – and the simplicity of its preparation made me like it even more.

Here’s a quick run-down:
This little piggy stayed home. 
  1. Place pork on top of onions & garlic in a crock pot.* Put spices, more onions & garlic on top and add 1.5 cups of water.
  2. Cook for 8 hours on low (or 4-5 on high).
  3. Remove water, pull/chop pork into bits and remove the fat (mail fat to Grandma Brown).
  4. Add more onions and seasoning and cook for another 8 hours on low.
  5. Sample the sweet, sweet nectar of satisfaction.
I’ve probably made it 3-4 times in the past two months, each time tweaking the recipe. Last time, on a recommendation from fellow pulled pork connoisseur Jeb, I used a local Bavarian smoked beer. 

Now that’s what I call a successful international exchange program.

*I know it’s probably better smoked versus in the crock pot, but you have to use what you’ve got.