Greetings from Tuscany!


Follow our foodie adventures on our new Foodie Facebook page.

Michael and I are cooking and playing in Italy this week and our travelers are CELEBRATING!  Anniversaries, birthdays and an empty nesters. 

 A FOODIE ADVENTURE is a one of a kind vacation sure to make your celebration extra special. Choose from 5 destinations and unique itineraries that will introduce you to our favorite local family producers and the historic highlights of each region.  Italian Winemakers, Sicilian UNESCO sites, Provenćal Hill Towns and markets, Loire Valley Chocolatier, Mushroom Caves and Castles…just to name a few.  We will greet you at the airport and your adventure begins immediately. Each evening Chef Michael will guide you thru the menu and assign tasks at every skill level.  You’ll have the opportunity to cook with the freshest local ingredients… imagine transforming porcini mushrooms into ravioli, a rich veal stock into crystal clear consume and the freshest seafood into Paella.  Now imagine the terrific meal that follows each evenings class.

Full Itineraries and the upcoming trips are available to preview at  Come Join The Fun!  Facebook foodie page


Try Something New!


Here’s a Spanish favorite from our Catalonia Foodie Adventures that will be

perfect for your summer parties.



For us, the first stop is the market for olives, sausage, ham and vegetables to grill. During cocktail hour we roast the vegetables over an open fire, chop them and create a buffet of tasty ingredients. Foodies spear a combination of their favorite ingredients for their banderillas to enjoy with a glass of sangria.



For those of you who are unfamiliar with Banderillas, they are very popular in Tapas Bars, especially in the North of Spain.  They are called Banderillas because of the resemblance to the large sharp darts, of the same name, used in bullfights.  Various ingredients are cut into small pieces and threaded onto toothpicks.  Pairing the correct ingredients together is important to achieve the correct blend of flavors.  The idea is to get all of the ingredients off from the toothpick and into your mouth at the same time, so that the flavors merge together.


Various items that may be used:

Shrimp, cooked Chorizo, Pickled Cucumber, Spanish Olives, Roasted Peppers, Serrano Ham (use Italian prosciutto if you can’t find Serrano Ham), Tuna, Figs, Artichoke Hearts, Anchovy wrapped Capers, Cooked Mussels, Pickled Herring, Pearl Onions, Mushrooms, chunks of Potatoes, wedges of hard-boiled Eggs, Asparagus Tips, Boiled Ham, etc… 


A Banderilla Dressing can be made by blending together: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup finely minced parsley, 1/4 cup finely minced dill pickle or cornichon (not sweet) and 4 large cloves of garlic, minced in a food processor until smooth. 


Additional information and tour availability for our Foodie Adventures

Cooking Classes at the Hartstone Inn, Camden Maine 

email questions: or follow our adventures on Facebook.

Fun For Foodies in Catalonia, Spain.


I am writing this post from Catalonia, Spain where we are winding down an amazing first week in our newest destination.  The weather has been 7 glorious days of sunny mid- 60’s to low 70’s.  After a long Maine winter it’s wonderful to see lush green fields in the valleys of the Pyrenees and to choose from an overwhelming assortment of fruits and vegetables that are oozing with flavor.


Boqueria 1

Chef Michael Salmon and I have been taking a foodie travel break from our home at the Hartstone Inn, Camden Maine and hosting Foodie Adventure tours in Tuscany and the Loire Valley for several years. We look forward to the trips as a chance to cook and play in a new environment, to soak in the inspiration for new ideas from the markets, the local producers and the scenic villages along the way.

We start this tour in Barcelona. First stop The Boqueria Market,

If you’re looking for anything related to food, this is the place to be! 

I love the colors, the aroma’s, the passion the vendors feel for their products

and the excitement on the visitors faces.

Take time to enjoy a fresh fruit drink and some tapas at Pinotoxo. 


The chocolate vendors are close to the exit – a perfect last stop on the way to your next adventure.


Stay tuned for updates as the tour continues and to see the creations coming from the evening cooking classes. 

Additional information and tour availability for our Foodie Adventures

email questions: or follow our adventures on Facebook.

Foodie Adventures in the Loire Valley, France

It’s Market Day on our Foodie Adventure… 
Always one of our favorite days!

There are numerous markets through out the Loire Valley, but the scenic village of Amboise is our personal favorite.  The market is located in the park, along the Loire river and close proximity to the Chateau and beautiful shops in the village.

Amboise, Loire Valley, France

 Early morning our first stop is the Seafood Vendors!  It’s always fun to see the days assortment and a good idea to make your selections early for the best selection.  Last week we were lucky to find a delicious variety of oysters and crab that the foodie travelers learned how to steam, clean and pick for dinner that evening.

Seafood Market Loire Valley


Next stop Cheese -glorious Cheese!  I can’t think of many things I love more than French Cheese.

Cheese Monger


There are so many choices the best option is to try one or two each day to discover your personal favorites.  Valençay cheese is recognizable by it’s truncated pyramid shape, Crottin de Chevignol is shaped like a small cylinder, Selles-sur-Cher has a rind of natural mould covered with powdered and salted charcoal and Chavignol is hard black and knobby on the surface.



When Michael discovers the most delicious pears or the variety of berries available are irresistible, our nightly menus vary a little to reflect the seasons.   The dessert tartlet he had envisioned in apricots may soon become a tart topped with fresh cherries.  In a chef’s mind that’s the thrill of visiting a thriving market and letting your creativity come thru.  Our foodie travelers visit the market and dream of the evening’s creations from the Chef’s perspective.

People Watching


I’ll be honest, as Michael is soaking in all that is fresh and local in the food category I’m enjoying the people watching.  Young families and grandmothers are catching up with neighbors, exchanging news and I’m imagining gossip too.  I love to see the food they are buying to prepare for dinner, critique all of their market baskets and observe the fashion change from season to season, year to year.

A glimpse inside  life, in small village in France always makes me smile.

Shopping At the Market


And if there’s time maybe a little personal shopping too.  For Michael, he loves the vendor who sells the Limoges china, the slightly imperfect pieces are a great deal and it’s not as painful if they break in the luggage on the flight home 🙂  For me I can always be tempted by something that screams French fashion.  

If you’re curious about a Foodie Adventure, our full itinerary and availability calendar thru 2015 for the Loire Valley in France, Tuscany, Italy and Catalonia/Barcelona, Spain is available on our website:

Let’s Cook and Play together!

Week Long Tuscan Foodie Adventure at the Hartstone Inn with Italian Chef Benedetta Vitali

From the heart of Tuscany to the Hartstone Inn, join Chef Benedetta Vitali in Camden, Maine for a week of Tuscan cooking from June 4-8, 2012.

Benedetta Vitali is a chef who has lived and worked all her life in Florence, Italy.  Benedetta is the author of the James Beard Award finalist Soffritto: Tradition and Innovation in Tuscan Cooking, in which she makes a compelling case for learning to cook as Italians do by fully engaging all of one’s senses and paying close attention to the transformation of ingredients that occurs during cooking rather than by following recipes slavishly. She has taught cooking classes across the United States as well as in Florence.

This cooking week package is only available to guests of the Inn and includes lodging for 5 evenings ( Sunday – Thursday) and breakfast for two each morning. The package is based on a single participant joining us for the course (second person course cost is an additional $525) which includes lunch each day, 6 cooking courses, 2 tastings, Sunday welcome dinner, Hartstone Inn apron and welcome amenity.

The week long package also includes:

* Private Welcome Dinner Sunday evening: Maine Lobster Bake on the beach at Michael and Mary Jo’s House with Italian favorites

* Fresh Mozzarella Cheese Making class at the State of Maine Cheese Company

* Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar tasting at Fiore Artisan Olive Oils and Vinegars

* Wine Tasting and Private Tour of the Cellardoor Winery

Traditional Room: $1250 / Superior Room: $1500 / Suite: $1650. The course is limited to 14 participants

Click here for more information.


Fall "Foodie Adventure" Trips – Almost Sold Out!

If you were considering joining us this fall on one of our Michael Salmon Foodie Adventure trips, the time to book is now!  We have only one room left in the Tuscany, Italy trip and two rooms in the Loire Valley, France trip!  To view available rooms, click here.

Haven’t heard about our foodie trips yet?  Visit our website here.  If you have the desire to learn something new, would like to explore beautiful villages around the world and like to cook (or just eat), then this may be the perfect trip for you!

Tuscan Onion Soup Recipe

Many of our readers have asked for recipes from our Michael Salmon’s Foodie Adventure trips to Tuscany.  Here is a recipe for a soup that was a guest favorite!
Tuscan Onion Soup with a Pecorino Crust serves 8
by Chef Michael Salmon
3 leeks
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta, small diced
4 large yellow onions
1 cup young fruity Sangiovese wine
2 quarts beef stock
4 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 thick (3/4-inch) slices of rustic Tuscan bread
2 cloves garlic
1 cup grated aged Pecorino cheese
2 Tablespoons coarsely chopped Italian parsley
  1. Cut the dark green parts from the leeks and reserve for another use. Cut the remaining white and pale green part of the leek in half lengthwise and remove any of the root section that holds it together. Separate the pieces and place in a large bowl of cold water to allow the grit and dirt to loosen. Clean the pieces with your fingers, scrubbing off any dirt. Remove the leeks from the bowl and repeat the process of cleaning once more.
  2. Heat a large soup kettle over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and the pancetta and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes.
  3. Peel the onions, slice in half lengthwise and remove the root core. Thinly slice the onions lengthwise. Place in the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes over medium heat.
  4. Slice the leeks into thin long strips, add to the pot with the onions and continue cooking and stirring for 10 more minutes.
  5. Pour in the red wine and reduce the mixture for 5 minutes.
  6. Add the beef stock and simmer for 30 minutes.
  7. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and season with salt and black pepper.
  8. Just before service, grill the bread slices until they are very crunchy. Rub each slice with some of the raw garlic cloves; the coarse texture of the toast will actually grate the garlic.
  9. Preheat the broiler. Place the toasts on a baking sheet and divide the cheese equally over the top of the toasts. Place the pan under the broiler and melt the cheese until lightly browned.
  10. Ladle the hot soup into bowls and top with the cheese toasts and a sprinkling of parsley. Serve immediately.

Michael Salmon's Foodie Adventure to Tuscany: Pizza Night!

Italy is known for it’s pizza and the guests on our recent Michael Salmon’s Foodie Adventure to Tuscany couldn’t wait to make their own!  Pizza night at the Villa consisted of each guest rolling out their own homemade dough thinly and topping it with some (or all as some did) of the variety of toppings we had available.   The selection included fresh mozzarella cheese, young and aged pecorino cheese, fresh ricotta cheese, rosemary oil, pesto, tomato sauce, roasted peppers, marinated mushrooms, a variety of cured Italian meats, eggplant, arugula, roasted garlic, olives, basil, anchovies and more!

Each guest then cooked their pizza on bricks till it was crispy, bubbly and ready to devour!  Some people came back and made a second and saved it for breakfast the next morning!

Three Additional Cooking Classes Added to This Seasons Schedule

Due to an overwhelming response to our cooking classes this year, we have added three more to this seasons schedule!

Travel to Tuscany Saturday, May 21, 2011
If you can’t join Chef Michael in Italy for one of his Culinary Adventures, then come to Camden and experience some of his favorite Tuscan dishes. We’ll begin with a hearty Tuscan Onion Soup with a Pecorino Crust followed by handmade Pici Pasta with a Pork Ragu. Next, we’ll stuff Chicken with Prosciutto, Fontina Cheese and Sage and finish things off with an Almond-Ricotta Semifreddo.



Lobster, Lobster, Lobster Saturday, May 28, 2011
A trip to Maine should be based around eating as much lobster as one can. We’re going to help you with this class. Recipes include: Maine Lobster with a Vanilla Beurre Blanc, Lobster and Gruyere Soufflé with a Grilled Corn Cream, Maine Lobster and Asparagus Salad with a Tangerine Dressing, and Avocado and Lobster Cakes with a Chive Sour Cream and Roasted Tomato Jus.


French Specialties Saturday, June 11, 2011
Starting this fall, Chef Michael is leading Culinary Adventure Tours to the Loire Valley in France. Get a sneak peak to some of his favorite French dishes that will be included in the tours French cooking classes.

Classes are informative, entertaining, and of course, filled with delicious food. Cooking Class Packages are $352 – $544 and include two nights lodging, breakfast each morning, afternoon cookies and tea, a gourmet candlelit dinner for two and enrollment for one in the cooking class.  Additional enrollment into the cooking class is $45 per person. Classes are held from 1pm-3pm in the afternoon.

Private instruction,  or Chef for a Day is available also, year round.

Michael Salmon's Foodie Adventure in Tuscany – Italian Markets

Written by Chef Michael Salmon, Chef/Co-owner of the Hartstone Inn

During my adventures abroad, one of my favorite activities is visiting local food markets.  Mary Jo and I just returned from a short trip to Shanghai and Beijing, China where the markets abound with mainstays of lotus root, water chestnuts, bullfrogs and soft shell turtles. It is an amazing contrast to the ingredients found in the Italian markets we visit daily on our Culinary tours to Italy.  What I find so fascinating at the markets is the interaction between the people, the general respect for fresh food products and of course the amazing colors and textures that are seemingly easy to capture by the average person using an average camera.  Here are some pictures we took on our last Culinary Tour to Italy last fall featuring some of the fresh produce, salumi and the famous Italian Porchetta (roasted pig).