The San Marzano tomato: I bet most people have heard the name and noticed them on restaurant menus or in grocery stores, but don’t really know much else about them (unless, of course, you have taken the time to learn about them). Well, not to worry, because prior to a few weeks ago, I didn’t know a whole lot about San Marzano tomatoes myself!
I was lucky enough to embark on an epic adventure to Italy and to the actual town called San Marzano, just to learn all about these tomatoes and what makes them truly special. And let me tell you, there is a whole lot of love and care that goes into cultivating these delicacies that has been perfected over generations. The San Marzano tomato really is one of the best tomatoes you will ever have.
San Marzano tomatoes come from the region right outside of Naples, Italy surrounding the famous Mt. Vesuvius (you know, the one that erupted in 79 A.D. that destroyed and yet preserved the city of Pompeii). Due to the rich soil around the volcano and perfect climate conditions, the tomatoes thrive in this particular geographic area and are harvested each year from July through October.
We had the opportunity to go into the tomato fields themselves as well as several canning facilities to learn about the entire process from field cultivation to seeing the final slats of packed cans being ready to ship around the globe. Here are some notable highlights I took away from the experience.
The tomatoes are hand-picked from the vines. In today’s modern world of automation, this crucial step of picking each tomato by hand allows the tomatoes to remain in the best possible wholesome state. It also comes with much less probability of being damaged during the process than if picked by machines. It’s truly a white glove service getting the tomatoes from the fields.
Each batch of tomatoes is labeled, sent to a distribution center and sent to a canning facility within hours of being picked. Basically, the tomatoes go from the vine and are in a can in a very short amount of time! You know this system has been perfected over time and is what also lends the tomatoes to remain the freshest and the best final product.
There are no additives or chemicals added to the tomato cans. The peeled tomatoes, some of their sauce, salt and a bit of citric acid are all that you will find in the canned version of the San Marzano tomatoes. The cans of tomatoes are truly just that and nothing else (sometimes basil may be added, but not always).
The tomatoes really are special! They tend to have fewer seeds, taste slightly sweeter and less acidic as compared to traditional plum style tomatoes. Also, the skin on the San Marzano tomato is very thin and comes off much easier as compared to other tomatoes.
Beware, there are imposter San Marzano tomatoes out there. I was shocked when I found this out! The key to purchasing legit San Marzano tomatoes is to look for two particular symbols: the DOP (the product designation in Italy) seal as well as the San Marzano seal with serial number. When you see these two symbols on the can, you know you are purchasing authentic San Marzano tomatoes from Italy.
I hope you found some of these facts both interesting and educational. I know I did! I had the honor to learn first hand from the most passionate and wonderful people who dedicate their lives to San Marzano tomatoes in Italy. And for that, I’m so incredibly grateful.
Stay tuned for my next post with probably THE most important aspect of the San Marzano tomato; the many ways to eat and enjoy them!
Please Note: While this post is in collaboration with Associazione Nazionale Industriali Conserve Alimentari Vegetali (Anicav), all opinions are my own.
Full disclosure: visiting Idaho for a summer vacation never really crossed my mind either. I mean, isn’t it just the land of potatoes? (That last question is verbatim what one friend asked when I mentioned I was going on a trip to Idaho.)
My one-week journey in July through Northern Idaho has now proven that this magical land is anything but boring and only potatoes. Quite honestly, the stunning landscape and plethora of outdoor adventures blew me away and was beyond anything I could have imagined. Let me show you.
My journey began with arrival into Missoula, Montana (which BTW, has daily non-stop flights on both United and American from Chicago) to meet up with my friend Mandy. We spent two days visiting Thompson Falls, MT before embarking on our road trip through Northern Idaho. Our journey took us in one big loop starting in Sandpoint, ID on to Coeur d’Alene, ID, ending in Wallace, ID before returning to Missoula, MT for my flight home.
I’m sharing some favorite things to see and do in or around each location:
Schweitzer Mountain Resort- This year-round mountain resort has so many amazing activities and views, it’s worth spending at least one full day exploring, but I recommend more time if your schedule permits. We enjoyed our time at Schweitzer Mountain riding the chair lift to the top of the mountain (several times because we just could not get enough of those incredible views), horseback riding to the top of Picnic Point and enjoying a lovely lunch at the Sky House.
Cruise Lake Pend Oreille– Idaho’s largest and deepest lake is perfect for a fun day of boating, wildlife viewing and relaxing. We took a lovely afternoon trip with Lake Pend Oreille Cruises soaking in the sun and some gorgeous views, while getting a little history download on the area.
Explore Downtown Sandpoint– This quaint downtown area is definitely worth checking out and can easily be done by foot. A few favorite spots to discover are the mural art alley, food truck park and beachfront area with a miniature Statue of Liberty replica.
Farragut State Park– A must visit on the drive to Coeur d’Alene, this state park was once a World War II-era naval training site, but is now a favorite spot for camping, hiking and boating. We hiked around Beaver Bay which has a great family-friendly beach, beautiful blue-green waters and spectacular views. We also visited the Museum at the Brig to see and learn more about how the site was used for naval training. Don’t miss Farragut State Park, it’s a real gem!
Check out the Instagram Reel (short form video) I created on Farragut State Park here!
Coeur d’Alene, Idaho (CDA)
Bike the Centennial Trail– The North Idaho Centennial Trail is 23 miles long, extending from the Idaho/Washington state line to Higgins Point, about 6 miles east of Coeur d’Alene. I had my first e-bike experience on the roundtrip bike ride to Higgins Point and absolutely loved it (both the trail and the e-bike experience)! You still must pedal on an e-bike, but it helps to put it in to turbo mode on those steep uphill climbs, which is exactly what I did. Highly recommend for whatever distance you plan to ride on the Centennial Trail (we rented the bikes from CDA Bike Co. in downtown Coeur d’Alene).
Sunset Kayak Tour– One of the best kayak tours I’ve been on! The waters were so calm on Fernan Lake, the majestic hues during the sunset were fantastic, and the best part, there was no one else around! It was such a peaceful evening and ROW Adventure Center was a great outfitter for the experience. Our tour even included a pit stop on an island where we had snacks and champagne as the sun began to set.
Check out my Instagram Reel on the sunset kayak tour here!
Zipline Adventure– Truth be told, I was scared out of my mind to go ziplining! But, I embraced stepping WAY outside of my comfort zone and went for it on this trip. We did the 7-line zipline course with Timberline Adventures, which also includes crossing two sky bridges and two auto-belays. Let’s just my heart was racing and I was barely breathing, but it was absolutely worth every ounce of fear seeing those stunning views over Lake Coeur d’Alene. I’m proud of myself for taking the chance!
Here’s the Instagram Reel I created from my suspension bridge crossing, click here!
Downtown Coeur d’Alene– Situated right on Lake Coeur d’Alene, I loved the vibe of this fun downtown area with all the shops and restaurants. It was a nice reprieve from all the adventures to leisurely stroll and pop by one of the many awesome coffee shops and grab an iced coffee, and then walk along the world’s longest floating boardwalk!
Old Mission State Park– We visited Old Mission State Park on the way to Wallace from Coeur d’Alene. Home to Idaho’s oldest building and rich with history of missionaries, we spent our visit going on a quick hike around the grounds while also taking in the beautiful views and a stop at the Cataldo Mission.
Downtown Wallace– A quintessential small American town, I loved the vibe and atmosphere of Wallace. Wallace is known as the world’s largest silver producer, making it the richest mining town still in existence. There are decorated mining carts throughout the town, a man-hole cover claiming Wallace to be “The Center of the Universe” and lots of fun, quirky sights. Such a unique place.
Silver Mining Tour– This was my first time in a mine and learning about the intensely laborious and risky job of a miner. Through Sierra Silver Mine Tours, we took a trolley to the site of an actual silver mine and donning a hard hat, walked through the mine with a history lesson and newfound appreciation for what it takes to excavate and extract silver. Definitely looking at any silver items I own with a huge sense of gratitude.
Route of the Hiawatha Trail– After an incredible week of exploration and adventures, biking the Hiawatha Trail was absolutely the cherry on top and my favorite activity of the trip. I will boldly say this is the best bike ride of my entire life! The 15-mile, all downhill, scenic bike trail on the Idaho/Montana border is something that you can not miss. Through tunnels, over trestles and with the most incredible views, I think I said the word “WOW” about every minute!! The best part is there are shuttles to meet you at the end of the trail and take you and your bike back up to the top of the mountain (although I saw plenty of people riding the trail back uphill). Perfect for families and anyone really, do not miss the Hiawatha trail, it’s truly spectacular!
Check out my Instagram Reel on the Hiawatha Trail here.
I hope through my words and more so, through my pictures, I’ve brought to light what an incredible place Northern Idaho is. After living 16 months cooped up in quarantine life, this was the most ideal excursion; spending almost all of our time outdoors, enjoying the beauty and gifts of Mother Nature. I highly recommend visiting Idaho, as it is a year-round outdoor playground, with stunning landscapes and incredible hospitality.
Please Note: While this post is in collaboration with the Idaho Tourism Board, all opinions are my own.
For as long as I can remember, Hawaii has been on my bucket
list of places to visit. I’ve grown up seeing this magical place in tv shows,
movies, magazines, travel fliers, you name it. It always just seemed like this
mystical land that I knew I’d one day make it to. And, I’m happy to say, that I
can finally cross off Hawaii (well, Kauai only) from my list. I’ve become so
enamored, that I know I need to see and experience more of the island life
again sometime soon.
When I mentioned to others that I was going to Hawaii,
almost every single person made the same comment; if you can only go to one
island, Kauai is the one you should go to. It’s very lush, has lots of outdoor
activities and is unbelievably beautiful. While I don’t think you can go wrong
visiting any of the Hawaiian Islands, I’d say this sentiment is on point.
Kauai is also known as the filming site for many popular
movies like Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones and Pirates of the Caribbean, to name
a few. That should help paint a picture of this rugged, tropical landscape. With
the famous Na Pali Coast and stunning beaches, Kauai truly is paradise. I’m
sharing some of my favorite things we had the chance to see/eat/do during our 5-day
There is honestly so much to see that I think no amount of time will feel like enough. We did SO much in our 5 days and I feel like we barely scratched the surface. I’m listing just a few favorites out of all of that we had the chance to see.
Waimea Canyon- Absolutely not to be missed, I kept calling it the “lush Grand Canyon” cause that is what it looks like. Make the drive to the lookout for the most spectacular views.
Na Pali Coast- Another place that can’t be missed is the Na Pali Coast. One of the places I was most excited to see on this trip and it’s worth seeing it from any vantage point you can (air, sea, land).
Kilauea Lighthouse- Not only a picturesque lighthouse, but also some fantastic views of the edge of the Na Pali Coast.
Spouting Horn- Right along the coast line, I like to describe Spouting Horn like the ocean version of Old Faithful at Yellowstone National Park. It’s a tall shooting geyser
ALL the beaches- We stopped as at many beaches as we could, but I know there are many, many more! Each was beautiful in its own way 🙂
I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of vegetarian food on Kauai and I have to say I was blown away at not only how many options there were, but how fresh everything was. We had some fantastic meals and treats, and here’s a highlight of some favorites.
Island Taco– Some of the best ever cilantro lime tofu tacos as well as bean and spiced rice enchiladas.
Jo Jo’s Shave Ice– A must while visiting Hawaii in general; shaved ice! This one from Jo Jo’s was special because we got the pineapple and coconut shaved ice, but found underneath it all was macadamia nut ice cream. So delicious!
Moloaa’s Sunrise Juice Bar– A great recommendations from my friend Amanda. This roadside stop had so many fresh juice and smoothie options as well as great breakfast and sandwich options.
Java Kai– Loved this adorable spot in Kapaa and I had the best ever iced macadamia nut latte. Wish I could have another one right now.
The Right Slice– OMG do not leave without getting the mango pie! It was to die for (I only got a picture of the blueberry pina colada though). Wish I could’ve brought an entire pie back!
Thai Food Coconut Corner- This spot had great vegetarian options and we really enjoyed the pad Thai as well as tofu curry with pineapple.
Kalapaki Bay Sunset Cruise– No joke, we landed at the airport, picked up our rental car and head straight out on a sunset catamaran cruise with Kauai Beach Boys. This cruise is situated on the Hulei’a River in Kalapaki Bay, so different than all the other sunset boat cruises along the Na Pali Coast. We had a blast on this chill cruise, where we sipped on delicious tropical drinks and enjoyed the beautiful views. What an amazing way to kick-off a Hawaiian adventure!
Hiking the Kuilau Ridge Jungle Trail– An absolute must while visiting Kauai is a hike through one of the many trails on the island. The lush, green, beautiful landscape lends itself to a plethora of options from pretty easy to probably one of the hardest, steepest hikes around. I choose to go the more easy-moderate route on this trip with Kauai Hiking Tours. While the elevation was not that difficult compared to other hikes I’ve done before, what got me on this hike was all the mud! It definitely made for a fun adventure and my first time using hiking poles on a hike. I had a blast though and our awesome guide Jeremiah was so knowledgeable and took us to some great look out points. At the end of the hike, we also got to see the famous rainbow eucalyptus trees, which are something cool I’ve never see before!
Auli’i Luau– One of my bucket list items for many years has been to go to a luau in Hawaii and I can finally put a check mark next to that box! One of my biggest concerns though has always been how much (if any) vegetarian items would be available. I was beyond excited when I saw that not only does Auli’i Luau have very clearly marked vegetarian (and vegan and gluten-free) options, but it’s the only beachfront luau in Kauai. It was a no-brainer then that we made it a point to experience Auli’i Luau. The setting, drinks, food and performances were spectacular and we had a great time (even though it did rain on and off). If you’ve never been, a luau is definitely something fun to experience, especially when in Hawaii.
Na Pali Sunset Cruise– One of the most famous coastlines in the world belongs to Kauai; the Na Pali Coastline. There are many sunset cruise options available and we had the chance to go out with Kauai Sea Tours. I’ve been on many excursions around the world and I have to say this was one of the best ones I’ve ever been on. Everything from the catamaran itself to the crew, hospitality, service and food/drinks were exceptional. Of course the views were out of this world…that majestic coast line with all the vibrant colors and cliffs truly took my breath away. A work of art by Mother Nature. And, the biggest and probably best surprise of them all was the sheer number of whales that we saw! There must have been at least 30 whale sightings on our trip and that honestly brought the biggest smile to my face. The sunset was spectacular on the evening we were out and all in all, one of the best cruises I’ve ever been on, hands-down.
So, as you can see, we covered quite a bit in just 5 days. What an amazing adventure and I can’t wait to visit more islands of beautiful Hawaii. Until we meet next time, I’ll have these amazing images etched in my memory forever. Love you Kauai!
Please Note: While some experiences were sponsored, all opinions are my own.