I Love You More Than Pizza

This is probably the highest compliment I could pay anyone, and Chuck hears it on a regular basis.

I am a self-avowed pizza junkie, it is probably my biggest addiction. It’s actually a combination of two cravings – bread and cheese. I think pizza is a convenient vehicle to bring these two delicious foods together.

IMG_3028

I recently started watching Ugly Delicious on Netflix. It features David Chang of Momofuku, and the first episode is about pizza. They traveled to Naples, ate a crazy pizza in Japan with all authentically Japanese local ingredients, met with Wolfgang Puck at Spago and delivered Domino’s pizza.

They also did a deep dive into iconic New York and Connecticut pizza. Growing up in suburban Philadelphia, halfway between NYC and PHL New York pizza is my life.

I am admittedly a thin crust, big honking slice, pizza purist. I am a tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese guy. If anything pepperoni and maybe (maybe) sausage and mushroom or meatball. But, they have to be homemade, light, fluffy, delicious meatballs (and sliced).

Being entirely Authentically Mark, I’m going to piss off some people here. I LOVE amazing, freshly made Philadelphia Tomato Pie, but it is not pizza. I’m not a fan of Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, it has great flavors, and I love the long strings of cheese; but the texture is odd to me.

{I almost said it’s not pizza but that would be too extreme and I’d get lots of hate mail}

I’m also not really a fan of some of the odd things people put on a pizza. Pineapple, ham, and jalapenos just don’t belong on pizza.

The other thing is that I kind of like some of the random flatbreads; but, like tomato pie, they are not really pizza. The California Pizza Kitchen’s Thai Chicken; has grilled chicken breast with peanut sauce and Mozzarella, hearth-baked then topped with crisp bean sprouts, julienned carrots, slivered scallions and fresh cilantro. It’s delicious, but it’s not pizza to me.

Here’s the rationale from my culinary career and it is still a pet peeve in my life. Caesar Salad is a classic preparation; it was created in 1924 by Caesar Cardini, an Italian restaurateur in Tijuana, Mexico.  And, it has a particular list of ingredients and a specific, unique, tableside preparation.

If it I not made tableside it is now a ‘mock’ Caesar, a bottled dressing is ‘mock’ Caesar dressing, and God forbid that you add things like tomatoes, grilled chicken or anything else; it is no longer a Caesar Salad… call it something else.

Pizza is the same way. It is about the perfect thin crust, slightly blistered on the edges, crisp on the bottom, tomato sauce (not too sweet), mozzarella cheese, a touch of good olive oil, a sprinkle of Parmigiano-Reggiano and then fresh basil or maybe a few other previously discussed Italian ingredients.

What is something you WILL NOT eat on pizza? And who makes your favorite pizza?

Missing In China

blog - blogger- food blogger- travel blogger - wedding ghost

LOL, yes, sometimes life gets in the way. Who would have known that my new, full-time job as a blogger for the wedding, events and hospitality industry would have taken off so fast?

Wedding Ghost originally started off with me blogging for wedding professionals. Mostly wedding planners, decorators and photographers. Since its start, I’ve started working with a number of venues, cake decorators, and caterers.

I’ve always been super passionate about food. It was my first love and with a formal education in Culinary Arts from the Culinary Institute of America, and working in the industry for close to 25 years; blogging for restaurant groups, caterers, craft food companies and bakers was second nature.

Check out some of my food reviews on Yelp!

On top of keeping really busy, we just got back from an awesome trip to China. Gate 1 Travel was amazing again! We started in Beijing, flew to Xi’an, took a bullet train to Chengdu, took a trip to Chongqing and embarked on a three-day riverboat cruise on the Yangtze River ending in Yichang and then wrapped up with a few days in Shanghai!

We saw some AMAZING sites including two of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World – The Great Wall of China and The Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an, and we spent a lot of time with Pandas!

IMG_5476IMG_5505IMG_5641

Not to mention some crazy food!

WHEW!

Honestly, we had a blast!!!

To see more of our trip to China and read some of my blogging check out In Search of Neverland!

There’s No Place Like Home

I’m a foodie, I fully admit it… when we travel we experience a new destination through its food; we LOVE food tours and eating where the locals eat.

Many of you know me as a Master Wedding Planner; but prior to that I worked a number of years as a chef and in food and beverage. I’m actually a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park New York.

When I got out of kitchens, professionally, I really started to enjoy cooking, entertaining and exploring food again. In wedding planning my love of food really helped me attract couples who were also foodies and wanted to incorporate food that reflected them in their wedding. My journey into my new blogging business, Wedding Ghost, has also attracted wedding venues, caterers and bakers as clients as well.

My wedding planning company was just a few years old when my husband and I met; we lived right at the edge of Philadelphia’s Italian Market. The market is filled with amazing butcher shops, cheese stores, fresh pasta shops, coffee roasters, bakers and produce shops. Some are new startups; others have been there several generations, but all offered AMAZING artisan foods… all within walking distance of our house.

When we moved to Orlando, nothing like this existed… Italian ingredients were few and far between. I found one location but everything was prepackaged and it smelled like a strip mall, and not of aged provolone, olives or fresh bread.

Then a friend introduced me to Mazzaro’s Market (thanks Shannon!) in St Petersburg… the skies opened and the angels sang. It was just a few weeks before Christmas and I made the pilgrimage from Clermont, about an hour and a half drive, and stocked up for the holidays.

What took up several city blocks of small store front row houses in Philadelphia’s Italian Market is condensed into two large buildings here in Florida. The first is mostly teas, coffee and kitchen wares… but the main attraction in all under one roof in the second building.

You enter the building through gardens with marble statues, classic Italian murals, fun quirky photo ops and into nirvana.

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - statues

Mazzaro's Murals

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - murals

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - murals

You are greeted by a small produce area with things you don’t often find in supermarkets, an olive bar with both oil and salt cured olives, an awesome selection of mushrooms, things like fresh fennel bulbs, whole fresh artichokes, fresh herbs and seasonal things like chestnuts in the shell.

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - Produce

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger- St Petersburg - Olive Bar

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Florida Chestnuts

Just beyond that is a butcher and seafood counter with homemade sausage, braccole and beautiful cuts of meat not found in your average supermarket. They have refrigerated counters filled with premade homemade meals, soups and salads.

I typically cut a path to the wine and cheese room! Wines from all over Italy fill this cavernous room, to get there you pass by counters of cheeses, pate and condiments from all over the world with a huge assortment from Italy including fresh mozzarella, aged provolone, dozens of others and on my last visit there were three kinds of fresh truffles!

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Italian WinesMazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Cheeses - TrufflesMazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Imported Cheeses

The main space of the building is almost overwhelming… premade foods to take home, fresh made sandwiches, imported oils, vinegars and specialty foods. A counter with imported meats and sausages, fresh made pasta with dozens of varieties daily, a bakery with fresh breads, pastry, cookies and gelato, a coffee bar and roaster!

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Breads

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Fresh Baked Breads

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Italian Pastry

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Fresh Pasta

It even has a taste of home with di Bruno Brother’s cheese spreads!

Mazzaro's - Authentically Mark - Blogger - St Petersburg - Philadelphia - Di Bruno Bros.

While nothing in St Petersburg is very far; having Marraro’s about 10 minutes away makes it feel like home. All the ingredients and food I grew up with helps me keep the feeling of family close, especially at the holidays.

One Step Closer

For those of you who have been following along on this journey to get healthier; Chuck and I have been really diligent with watching what we eat, preparing healthier meals and walking 10,000+ steps a day.

We’ve had our cheat days, I’ve eaten pizza, had some fried chicken and have gotten back on track the next day.

I’ve been pretty clear that weight loss should be a byproduct of healthier eating but is NOT the primary goal. Today I do want to share that as if this morning I have lost 30 pounds since New Years Day! (55 days).

img_4144

More importantly, I feel better, can walk farther with out getting winded, have more energy and am hoping by my next visit that my doctor may take me off my cholesterol and blood pressure medicine.

On to my next target number, I’m One Step Closer!

#HealthierEating #HealthierLiving #AuthenticallyMark

FRIED CHICKEN

fried-chicken-leg

OK, I SAID IT!

Last night, Chuck and I had fried chicken.

We’d both done 30 days of healthier eating. We’ve cut out all of the fast food, made great choices when we’ve eaten out with family and friends, added vegetarian meals, more lean meats, smaller portions and lots of veggies. Eating less and moving more.

Last night was a big splurge, we both said this would never work if we denied ourselves things we enjoyed. So we had fried chicken.

We both balanced that with our usual healthy options the rest of the day and an extra long walk last night.

Today is a new day, we enjoyed our splurge and are back on track – tonight I’m lightening up Thai Green Curry. Ground turkey, coconut water instead of coconut cream and lots of crunchy vegetables.

#EatingSplurge #ItsANewDay #HealthierEating #AuthenticallyMark

Reset: Starting back at Zero

0fa6657d-9315-4aaa-8bf6-fb5bf5a297ae_1-622b384712d89ee6d64496f60d333e36

Well, if you’ve been following my posts over the last 14 days you’ve seen lighter healthier eating, we’ve added LOTS of veggies, lean meats, cut out wheat flour and sugar, focused on slow burn complex carbs, drinking lots of water and cutting my diet soda intake to one in the afternoon.

We’ve used our Fitbits to track 10,00 steps a day and this week I increased my steps to 11,000 steps a day.

What you haven’t seen me talk about is my weight…

Part of this is because I’m really focused on my health and feeling better; which will in turn lead to weigh loss.

The second reason is truly that while I’m proud of the strides I’ve made, the reality is that about 18 months ago my doctor and I had a conversation about my need to lose weight and I went about it halfheartedly.

I actually packed on nearly 15 pounds in the past year…. so while I have lost just over 14 pounds in 14; I’m now JUST getting to where I was a year ago.

So, tomorrow morning I RESET, I focus on the new goal and make my way, one step at a time.

#MoveForward #HealthierMe #OneStepAtATime

#AuthenticallyMark

Be Prepared – Early Riser

Tomorrow is an early day, I have an 8:30 am meeting with means up an out pretty early. And  know I have multiple site visit and meetings throughout the day.

I need to make sure I have everything together to set myself up for success.

I took a small screw top plastic container and measured in my egg whites, added turkey sausage crumbles, low fat feta cheese, some diced peppers and mushrooms for some fresh veggies and crunch and then ground in some fresh black pepper, sea salt and a touch of garlic.

All set to hit a nonstick pan while I make my coffee and I’m all set.

A banana for the car ride a little later

Some fresh turkey, hard boiled egg, celery bites,cucumber slices and low fat cheese – easy grab and go between appointments.

A couple strawberries and roasted almonds for the drive home and I’m all set for my hectic day; prepping everything the night before gets me a few minutes more sleep and keeps me on track for the day.

#HealthyEating #GrabAndGo #MakeItEasy