Kelley likes food. Kelley cooks food. Kelley eats food all around the world. Kelley has a very close relationship with food and she’s been to known to have many opinions about restaurants, recipes, cocktails, wine and what you need to order. Here she will highlight the best food around the world, top vineyards, stand out restaurants, unique street food and of course, Kelley’s favorite, the best ice cream. She almost always gets a second opinion from a local chef, mixologist, winemaker or expert, so you don’t have to just take her word for it… enjoy!

Hotel Snob: Borgo Santo Pietro

Driving through Tuscany, Borgo Santo Pietro appears almost like a mirage. The gates open until this tranquil oasis of gardens, fountains, majestic views and stunning vistas. The 13th-century farmhouse serves as the main house but the interiors are modern and classical. Be prepared to eat very well here as they have a Michelin star restaurant, Meo Modo. And do me a favor, swim in their infinity pool with a natural bottom. You won’t regret staying at this charming property.

Cooking with Locals: Silvia Baracchi of Il Falconiere

I love to EAT Italian food, so it’s high time that I learn how to cook it, the Italian way! Michelin star chef, Silvia Baracchi invited myself and my parents to have a cooking class with her at her cute Tuscan kitchen on the breath-taking relais & chateaux estate of Il Falconiere. We made a 3 course meal from scratch, sipping wine, learning tricks and laughing along the way. A bonus is you get to eat what you make later on at their stunning al fresco restaurant. A truly memorable afternoon and meal.

Tohoku Japan Ginzan Onsen

The Five Places You Need to See in Tohoku

Before coming to Japan I hadn’t heard of the Tohoku Region and now I’ve been completely charmed by this pastoral, natural part of northern Japan. This is the antithesis of the bright lights and hustle and bustle of Tokyo, and that’s what makes it special. Many retreat up North to enjoy farm fresh foods, breathtaking natural beauty and to take step back into Japan’s traditional roots.

1. Spend a morning at Hirosaki Castle

Though not quite a castle in the “fairytale” sense of the word, the Hirosaki Castle is a lovely Japanese style building, with ornate roof details and impressive silhouette. However, the real reason you visit is for the vast park that surrounds it. We happened to be fortunate enough to be visiting in the spring, when the cherry blossoms were at the height of their bloom. It felt like walking through a sea of pink, every different hue, with delicate petals floating in the breeze. The cherry blossoms created avenues of flowers, and I meandered over bridges that crossed the series of pleasant canals.  Everywhere I turned was worthy of a photo–especially when I got to the viewpoint of the majestic snow capped mountain in the distance.

My Recommendation: Go there early (like 7am) if you want more flowers than people in your photos. Also, next time I go, I am bringing a picnic so I can waste an afternoon under one of the swaying sakura trees.

2. Eat Wanko-Soba

Wanco Soba

Tohoku is famous for its buckwheat noodle, soba. I tasted it in tea, in ice cream and in many variations of the noodle form. However, the best soba experience that I had was Wanko-Soba in Morioka. Here, diners are encouraged not only to eat soba but to eat as much as they can and as fast as they can. An average lunch can turn competitive as the waitresses serve you soba in small “mouthful” sized dishes. The waitresses tower over you, shouting encouragement as you slurp, refilling as fast as you can eat. Of course the other options were delicious as well–I really enjoyed their tuna sashimi and pickled vegetables. But if you plan to nab the record, don’t waste stomach space. You are going to need it since you’ll need to eat over one hundred bowls! Slurp!

My Recommendation: Bring a competitive friend and have a soba eating contest!

3. Stroll through a Samurai Village

Kakunodate

Kakunodate

Tohoku is known for it’s storied Samurai culture and to get as close as you can to it today, visit Kakunodate, a well preserved Samurai town. There is one completely original house dating back 200 years and it’s still in the ownership of its original Samurai family line. There’s another home that also has a museum, just a few steps down. The museum has an impressive display of Samurai gear, with intimidating swords and helmets. Even just wandering down the streets, stopping for an ice cream  and to admire this organized village, makes for a picturesque visit.

My Recommendation: Earlier is better to avoid the crowds!

4. Commune with Nature

Sanriku Fukkuo

The rugged coastline of Tohoku blew me away. It looked like the Mediterranean coast or even New Zealand–but it certainly did not look like Japan. The Sanriku Fukko National Park stretches along a pristine part of the coast, with three steep trails that allow you to walk through old forests and view the majestic cliffs. There are three lookouts with views, number 2 being the best.
My Recommendation: If you want a good workout, hike all the way down to the beach to get up close with the bright blue waters.

5. Visit Teapot Workshop Iwachu Nambu Tekki

IMG_1333

I hadn’t paid much attention to teapots until now. Tea is an extremely important part of Japanese culture and here at the factory, you can witness how some of the finest traditional teapots are made by hand. You can step inside the workshop, watching the craftsman painstaking create the signature dots that cover these iron pots. Each teapot takes about 2 weeks to create so it’s no wonder that they aren’t cheap. I toured the museum but was most taken by the gallery where their finest work is on display. Neon colors and even Hello Kitty tastefully grace some of the newer models of this old brand.

My Recommendation: Visit the workshop first to understand the intense labor and dedication needed to create each teapot. Then go to the shop and buy one for yourself!

BONUS TIP: GINZAN ONSEN

Ginzan

Ginzan-Onsen is a hot spring town, built lining a central spring. Stay at one of the handful of traditional style hotels, from boutique to more contemporary, each with their own onsen experience. The postcard worthy town has charming pedestrian bridges, boutique shops and several eateries. But the real reason to come here is to soak in the geo-thermal waters. I didn’t realize how therapeutic it could be until I tried it for myself. After a few minutes in the healing waters, I felt renewed from the inside out.

My Recommendation: Check out Ginzanso if you want large tatami style rooms with your own private onsen on your deck.  

For more recommendations, leave me a comment! Be sure to tune in to CNN on May 18th to watch the full video of my Tohoku experience!

Millennials Share the Modern Side of China

Just as China is so ancient, it is also so futuristic and advanced. In Shanghai, Xi’an & Beijing, the three cities that I visited on my experience with Wendy Wu Tours, I met up with many young locals and learned a lot about what it was like to live in modern China. From head sprouts, children laws to street dancing–I was able to get a real look at the country today through these honest, Chinese millennials.

The Food of China

On our journey with Wendy Wu Tours, we ate some of the best of the best of China’s exciting foods. From a variety of types of noodles (my favorite being “biang biang”) to soups, dumplings, hot pot and all sorts of street snacks, eating in China was an adventure. We toured the markets and saw the food come from the source. What was my best meal? Peking duck of course!

Adventure in Bahia, Brazil

I strapped on my sneakers and dove headfirst into all the adventurous activities of Bahia in the Chapada Diamantina National Park–from snorkeling in underground caves, ziplining off cliffs, hiking up mountains and swimming in grottos–this state of Brazil has so much going for the intrepid traveler. Our homebase was Lencois for 4 action packed days. Check out my favorites!

The Food of Brazil: Bahia & Rio de Janeiro

The culture of Brazil translates directly its food—each dish has a history, story, and purpose. I loved the rich feijoada, the crispy acaraje, decadent churrascarias and of course, refreshing acai. We bit into the food of Bahia checking out top eats in Salvador & Lencois and then we went on a food BINGE in Rio De Janeiro. YUM. Don’t miss the caipirinhas either–they might be my favorite cocktail ever.

The Food of Brazil

The culture of Brazil translates directly its food—each dish has a history, story and purpose. I loved the rich feijoada, the crispy acarajé, decadent churrascarias and of course, refreshing acai. We bit into the food of Bahia checking out top eats in Salvador & Lencois and then we went on a food BINGE in Rio De Janeiro. YUM. Don’t miss the caipirinhas either–they might be my favorite cocktail ever.

Show: Live like a Local in Brazil with Kelley Ferro: USTOA Travel Together

We won a Trippy for Best Food Video of 2015!

I am very excited to announce that a video from our Live Like a Local: Peru series won a Trippy Award from Tripfilms. Food of Peru won top honors in the Best Bites: Top Food Video for 2015. Tripfilms is the largest travel video website and I’ve had the privilege of contributing to Tripfilms for the past 8 years.

I can understand why all those tasty, exotic Peruvian staple foods and signature dishes made the audience salivate enough to bring home the top prize. From a ceviche cooking class to tasting local fruits at the market, to dining 6000 feet up at Machu Picchu, Peru deserves all its credit as a world-class culinary destination.

If you haven’t seen it already, check out the award-winning Best Food of Peru below.

Special thanks to sponsors Visit Peru, Travcoa Travel and USTOA for supporting the Live Like a Local: Peru campaign. And thanks to all the Tripfilms audience that voted for us!

The Food Of Saxony

Giant steins of beer, massive pretzels and pork knuckles the size of your head–Saxony has the large German beer garden fare. However, Saxony also has fine dining, with Michelin-starred restaurants and fine German rieslings. We sampled a little bit of all to discover Saxony’s food culture.