8 p.m. The car is loaded down with bags, boxes, toys and random pieces of furniture for my family's trip to our weekend home in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Although we bought the house seven years ago, we have yet to learn how to travel light. I take the wheel with my wife, Maura, who documented our weekend here, beside me; Oona, our seven-year-old daughter, and our slightly senile dachshund are in the back.
In between sessions of a Harry Potter trivia game, I start planning the weekend's menu. My friends Alessandro and Elizabeth Lunardi are coming to visit, which should make our meals especially memorable. Alessandro is a wine expert who works for Robert Mondavi, and I was once the editor of an Italian travel and food magazine, so we have a lot in common. Alessandro is bringing the wine and will also display one of his other talents: making my favorite dessert, crème caramel.