I've seen a lot of Italy. A lot. But until this month, one region loomed large as a a gaping hole in my Italian experience. I had gotten oh so close, arriving as far as Matera in the neighboring region of Basilicata. I had wonderful friends in Rome who were actually from Puglia and urged me to visit this mysterious and relatively un-touristy region. Puglia eluded me for 25 years and now that I have had the opportunity to experience it, my only regret is that I did not embrace it sooner. Puglia's history is legendary, its people enchanting and the food truly embodies the essence of what Italian cuisine should be. Over the next three weeks I will be sharing more about this amazing region. But for now, I invite you to enjoy this photo essay of the flavors of Puglia. Freshness, simplicity and love are the foundation of cucina pugliese. What could go wrong? We dined on exquisite food from the freshest fruits and vegetables to mozzarella that was literally made in front of us. Olive oil was abundant (did you know that Puglia produces 40% of all olive oil from Italy?) and used generously. We enjoyed orecchiette, tiny ear shaped pasta; shrimp from Gallipoli; pasticiotto, the most decadent little pastry stuffed with cream - a tradition in the city of Lecce; and we washed it all down with the magnificent and under appreciated wines of the region, namely Montenegro and Primitivo. Did we eat too much? Of course. Did we drink too much? Some would say yes... But I dare you to look at these pictures and tell me that you could have resisted. Plenty of time for salad in the States. Until then.... Buon Appetito!