Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Back from Our Tuscan Adventure...

One of the many gorgeous views from Fattoria Tregole.

But drowning in work so I'll need a few more days before I can start blogging again.

Lilacs in bloom everywhere.

It's good to be home.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Genova

Palazzo Reale

Gritty, gorgeous and should not be missed if making a trip to the Italian Riviera.  I've written about it before.  But every time I return from a visit, I am more and more enthused.  Rich in history, architectural genius and delicious food, it is also "real Italia".  And unlike the more popular cities, it is not mobbed by tourist (although it deserves to be!).


Cathedral San Lorenzo

Strada Nuova

Palazzo Ducale

Palazzo Rosso

Bella Vita Italia is now offering 1/2 and full day tours of the city with a fabulous Genovese guide who will take you on a trip into the city's glorious past and present along with some wonderful "gastronomic" stops along the way.

Mom & her friend, Sara, in Piazza Ferrari

For more info, you can contact me directly at: megan@bellavitaitalia.com

Buon weekend!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SLOW FISH 2009


Lui and I headed up to Genova this weekend to attend the SLOW FISH convention with our friends Diana & Micha Baur.  SLOW FISH is a part of the whole SLOW FOOD movement, a philosophy of "eco-gastronomy" that has swept across Italy (and elsewhere in the world).
Slow Food is good, clean and fair food. We believe that the food we eat should taste good; that it should be produced in a clean way that does not harm the environment, animal welfare or our health; and that food producers should receive fair compensation for their work.
While I agree with the idea, I have to say the convention was not exactly following it!  There were so many people, especially lined up for food, there is no way it could have been SLOW! Still there were some fun booths selling interesting items (lots of fish but also accompaniments):

People everywhere.

Fasolari, yummmm...

One of MANY pescherie.

Salts of the World (I bought lava salt and rose salt from Hawaii!)

There were also workshops from cooking lessons, to understand what fish you can fish, how to clean a fish, etc.  There were even "mini-restaurants" from various regions (tried my best to get us into the Sicily lunch!) but we missed the boat by not reserving ahead of time and were stuck fending for our fried anchovies for 20 minutes.  

Finally some food!

Hunger Satisfied, temporarily...

Interesting enough, but to go back, I would make reservations for everything!

Hey, I know that place!

Monday, April 20, 2009

GRANDE MATTEO!!!


Semi-finale performance that did it for me.

A 38 year-old construction worker/part time singer, married father of two ( and yellow lab owner) and now winner of X-Factor.

Bravo Matteo!!!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tis the "Season"

Let's start it off right!  Welcome to the Italian Riviera
(or at least my part of it!)...

video
Yes, I did post this video once before, about a year ago. 
But it makes me really happy.  Hopefully it does the same for you.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pasta "da Sola" 

I should have known better that Luigi would not make it home for lunch on Saturday. It is Easter weekend and he does sell fish. Still with great “speranza” in my heart and stomach, I headed out to the pescheria for some fresh fish (Lui sells flash frozen and always forgets to “bring home the bacon” let’s say, hence the reason for me BUYING fish!).

After my unforgettable meal at Lo Scudiero in palermo which started with grilled “neo-nato”, I decided to give my culinary skills a try with those delectable little fish (and I do mean little!).


"Neo-nato", otherwise, know as "Bianchetti", are are the spawn of sardines or anchovies. They can be fished only during certain and limited times of the year so as not to endanger the fish population (and it is the season). What I love about them, besides being full of flavor, is their diversity in the kitchen: you can serve them cold marinated, you can fry them into little fish balls, you can grilled them like an omelette (they stick together naturally) or saute them and add to pasta - which is what I decided to do. The recipe is very simple:
  • Olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/3 minced onion
  • Italian parsley minced
  • peperoncino
  • salt to taste (although rarely necessary)
  • 300 grams of bianchetti
  • Dry white wine
  • Your pasta of choice (I like it with whole wheat spaghetti)
Boil water and get the pasta going.
Mince all the ingredients (besides the fish of course!).
Saute the minced mixture in olive oil for about 2 minutes.
Add the bianchetti and let them saute without turning for about 2 minutes.
Flip the bianchetti to saute the other side for another 1 minutes.
Add a big splash of white wine, then mix up the ingredients while continuing to saute for another 2-3 minutes until the bianchetti have turned a greyish white and opaque.


Drain the pasta and add it to the fish.
Mix well and serve.

Bowl courtesy of the ever creative Diana Baur.

It was more than I could eat (having planned for Lui too), but I devoured as much as I could then presented Lulu with a little treat! :)

*Note: you can use the same recipe with calamari, seppie, fresh anchovies or sardines.

BUONA PASQUA!!!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Undici (11)...


Where does the time go?  I remember her picking her out of the pack from her nail polish (yes, my friend had painted each puppy's paw in order to distinguish them).  It was identical to what I had on my toes.  She had this little, uncertain face when I put her down on the front lawn.  She kept looking around for her brothers and sisters...
  
I sat down and waited patiently until she finally made her way up onto my lap and devoured me with puppy kisses.  
It was true love and we've been partners ever since.  

Auguri Lucy, 
our happy and healthy 11 year old lab!

With birthday present in bocca.

For dogs lovers and beyond, there is a "must read" out there.  It is a love story, a friendship spanning time and above all, made me realize we humans may not the smartest species out there.  I enthusiastically recommend "The Art of Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein.  "Marley and Me" was cute.  This book is genius.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Prayers and More for Abruzzo

This is a very sad time here in Italy.  So many lives lost and so much damage.  There are people who were left with nothing but the clothes on them.  And it will take years to rebuild.

We can help.

For those of you who would like to make a donation to help the earthquake victims, please go to: the Italian Red Cross.  The site is in Italian only but you will easily find the bank account details/online donation info on the right hand side of the home page.

Italian Red Cross: http://www.cri.it/

Friday, April 03, 2009

Palermo & Beyond: 
Too Much to See in Too Little Time...

The terrace at our hotel

Saretta at Molfetta Daily Photo was right, we were in Palermo.  And Segesta, Erice and Castellammare del Golfo.  All in 2 1/2 days!  My friends over at Slow Travel would be disappointed at our "pace".  But it's all the time we could spare for a mini-research trip before the "season" begins.

We would have had 3 full days had our flight been on time, but instead we arrived late Sunday afternoon, losing a whole day to explore.  (Note: Windjet Airlines is a borderline nightmare!)  We stayed at a fairly charming 3-star hotel called Hotel Ambasciatori.  Our room was nice and clean, bathroom small but decent sized by Italian city standards and it had an incredible rooftop terrace. The negative about the place (or at least our room) was it was pretty noisy.  There was some strange generator noise outside our window that would turn on and off all night, and then next door to our room was an apartment where a neat freak began to vaccum each morning at 6:30AM, and then again around 7:30AM.  I would stay there again, just request to be in another part of the hotel.

Our first full day (and I do mean full), we had a private walking excursion of the city center.  Our guide, Jackie, was born in California, but had moved to Palermo with her family over 20 years ago.  Her parents were one of the few Italians who moved to the states and then actually returned to Italy.  Jackie was extremely knowledgeable and full of interesting insight on a city seems to go in two very different directions.  While there is a distinct "turn for the better" going on in Palermo, Jackie assured us it is still years behind and "all that mafia stuff is true".  (That I didn't really doubt anyway.)  

We visited the Norman Palace with the newly open to the public Palatine Chapel which is a mix of 4 different cultures and architectural styles (German, Italian, Jewish and Muslim).


The Chapel

Byzantine Tiles

Incredible wood carved ceilings

Then we headed to The Duomo, Quarto Canti (the four corners that dissect Palermo), Fontana Pretoria, La Martorana, San Cataldo, BallarĂ² Market and Teatro Massimo - phew!


After a 3-hour plus tour, Lui and I needed some good food (not hard to come by in Palermo) and of course a dolce break.

A canolo at Cafe Mazzaro

We had planned to make it to Monreale as well that day, but no surprise we ran out of time (as I had a work appointment that evening). Still we made it to the
Crypta Cappucini, which is NOT for the "easily frightened or sensitive to skeletons" type of people. I had no idea I was either until visiting the crypt. Mamma mia is all I have to say!

That night we ate at one of my all time favorite restaurants in Italy, Lo Scudiero (Via Turati Filippo, 7 - tel: +39 091 581628).  I had eaten there 3 years before, and it had been one of the best meals of my life.  This night just re-confirmed what a special restaurant it is.  Menu as follows...

Antipasti:
Grilled neonate (tiny white fish grilled)
Tris Affumicato (thinly sliced pieces of smoked salmon, tuna and swordfish with oranges)

Second Course (we skipped the pasta in order to make room for dessert):
Gamberoni di Mazaro del Vallo (World famous grilled prawns from Mazaro del Vallo)
Spada al Forno (Swordfish fillet baked in an almond crust)

Dolce:
Cassata al Forno (Baked Sicilian ricotta cake, to die for!)
Semifredo di Mandorle (Almond semi-freddo)

Even Luigi had to admit, the food and service (a different server for each course!).  I cannot recommend this restaurant enough.  While not cheap, it's worth every Euro to have such a profound gastronomic experience!

The next day we headed west to Castellammare del Golfo and more.  But I'm saving that for another post.  Time to get to work.

Buon weekend!