Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Eating in Lucca

My best travel experiences have always had something to do with food.

Upon arriving in Lucca, a place I had visited once before and the only thing I remembered was the excellent restaurant I had eaten at, I was greeted by an immense fortress and the best kept fortress walls in all of Europe. My walk down Via S. Paolino welcomed me with not 1, not 2 but about 4 bakeries!!! I passed up the first one and settled on the second named Caniparoli where I bought some Crema di Gianduia al Cacao (hazelnut spread aka homemade nutella) and Caramel puffed corn which I thought would taste wonderful folded into vanilla icecream!!!! Affixed upon my face was a grin so wide that my cheeks started to hurt....Lucca promised to be gastronomically memorable.

My first destination was to make dinner reservations at Buca di S. Antonio, a place which was nominated a favorite by the editors or 5 guidebooks. Please note that reservations are really necessary....they squeezed us in at 930pm.

After we took a walk to S. Michele, the Duomo, the Roman other words we were good tourists but my eyes kept stealing glances at my watch hoping that 930pm would somehow come a bit faster.

We arrived at the restaurant at 9pm and told that our table wasn't ready and were offered a glass of prosecco. We sat outside, drank our "aperitivo" and patiently waited. At 925 we were shown to our table and the feast began:

Antipasti: Rabbit terrine with wild lettuce and Ricotta and Spinich tart with pureed chickpeas (somewhat of a staple in Luccese cooking)

Pasta: All pastas are homemade daily!!!
Maccheroni with with wild rabbit sauce and Meat filled ravioli in a bolognese sauce

Entree: Wild bird with roasted grapes (amazing)and Pork (Cinta) with truffles

Dessert: Oven roasted fruits with chesnut icecream...I swear I started to trip it was so amazing.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fattoria di Migliarino

Once again this year my boyfriend's vacation plans changed and last minute we had to make some new vacation plans. Since we had already bought our flights from Milan to Palermo we decided that it would be best to stay local and that it would be nice to go to a nice relaxing Agriturisimo sounded perfect. I pulled out a magazine called 100 Agriturisimi which I had bought last year and we began looking for places which weren't a far drive from Milan...we settled on the northern part of Tuscany near Pisa.

After calling a number of places, many of which had availability which really demonstrates that people are struggling this year, we decided on Fattoria di Migliarino.

The drive from Milan with a little bit of traffic in certain places took about 3.5 hours. We took A1 to A15 to A12. We got out at Carrara for lunch (a restaurant called Pancino 2 where I used to go many many moons ago...same owners and still decent food) and then continued onto Migliarino.

The farm is the property of a Noble family called Salviati. The property is vast and beautifully maintained. It has some 8 independent apartments you can rent or you can stay at the bread and breakfast which has some really cute rooms. The breakfast leaves a little to be desired, however, after having requested some fresh fruit from the farm Ludovica (the Duke's niece) quickly arranged to have fresh figs and melon at breakfast. The jam and honey are also wonderful.

Life on the Agriturisimo is quite simple....just relaxing, taking walks, picking berries and figs on the property and eating some fresh seafood at the nearby trattoria. It's a place where you can really regenerate and if you don't bring any work with you it is very easy to forget that one must work at all!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

French Supermarkets

This post is for all of my US expats living in Italy and have difficulty finding some American staples. GO TO FRANCE FOR THE WEEKEND!!! My trip to the Cote d'azur was wonderful for all of the reasons listed in my post below...and exhilarating due to the discovery of some of my favorite products at the Geant Casino.

List of Groceries

English muffins
Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice* (which I can find in Milan for €4)
Heinz ketchup*
Hellman's Mayonnaise
Pita Bread
Dannon Vanilla Yogurt (it's gelatin like)
Apple Sauce
Sour Cream
5,000 varieties of Mustard
Pancake Syrup*
Pancake Mix*
Corn Soft Tacos
White Tacos*

*Just to be fair you can find these items in Milan but they cost double or triple the price

Monday, July 28, 2008

No such thing as gloomy days on the French Riviera

We woke up Saturday morning disappointed to discover that it wasn't going to be a great beach day. What better way to spending the weekend than sharing places with people you care about! After a breakfast which consisted of toast and Nutella (no chance we were resisting a brand new spanking jar of fresh and creamy!!) and an iced cappuccino we were off...Itinerary was Monte Carlo, Eze and Villefranche sur Mer.

I had been to Monte Carlo when I was hasn't changed. We counted 30 Ferraris in 5 minutes and many beautiful stores and people. After exploring Hotel du Paris and the Casino we decided to walk down to the Port, a place I hadn't visited on my last trip. I think one should see Monte Carlo if he is in the vicinity of Nice...but I don't care for it. It's nice but nothing that takes your breath away. Although, we did see Roberto Cavalli's yacht which was pretty impressive. Look out for me speaking terrible French on the E! Channel in the coming months.

Now Eze village is totally a different story. This is a place that takes your breath away and deserves an out of your way trip. It is sincerely an absolutely stunning village, which transports you some 7 or 8 centuries back in time. I've never seen anything similar.

No great food discoveries, however, we did eat some decent crepes in Eze at an outdoor cafe. Yum.

Our next stop was a trip to surprise an old friend in Villefranche sur Mer. This is a beautiful tiny little town that made a name for itself in An Affair to Remember. My dear friend D was MIA and not answering my texts so I decided to pay him a visit at the only time which I was sure he'd be home...SIESTA....the hours between 3 and 6 than any decent person would not disturb someone let alone someone in the restaurant business in Nice. I should have probably tried a little harder to get in touch with him...he answered his door in his boxers only to discover I had brought along my boyfriend and two teenage cousins.
After he got over the surprise of my visit and got over my disturbing him he was delighted to see me. It has been 3 years since the last time we had seen each least I hope he was delighted!

Sunday turned out to be a beautiful day and we spent a lazy afternoon at the beach. Since it was a pebble beach and not very comfortable to lay on we decided to get two lounge chairs from one of the establishments (The rest of the beach was public). What a wonderful treat...While I read "A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle, two 50 year old Brazialian men sang and played bongo drums and guitar....Heaven.

Cote d'azur- Finally a weekend at the beach

On Friday evening after a really busy week, Chris and I decided to go see my cousins in France. Chris finished working at 8pm and I had a lesson until 830 pm so we were undecided whether we should leave Milan that evening or the following morning. After discussing it for about all of 10 seconds we both agreed that we preferred to wake up in France so we'd have an entire day at the beach.

After preparing my bag and trying not to forget anything I realized that neither of us had eaten and that we didn't have time to stop and eat if we wanted to get to Villeneuve Loubet before the wee hours of the morning. Moreover, I think my sandwiches are a lot tastier than anything you'd find in an Autogrill.

Very quickly I began to quarter cherry tomatoes and slice basil and put them in some recycled Tupperware (ice cream carton- they are plastic in Italy and are great) so you don't have to lug it around or feel guilty about throwing it out, added two cans of tuna in olive oil, a teaspoon of pesto and a teaspoon of mayo! Perfect for a quick sandwich to be made in the car! Along with some pita bread (or something similar which I bought at the Autogrill while Chris got gas) we had a really tasty dinner. Really tasty!

Tuna Salad

20 cherry tomatoes quartered
2 cans tuna packed in olive oil (any tuna will do although I prefer olive oil)
10 basil leaves
1 heaping teaspoon Mayo
1-teaspoon pesto (without garlic)

This is really good as an appetizer or a cold pasta condiment....rocket lettuce or rucola tastes wonderful with it in a sandwich, appetizer or pasta dish.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bianco Latte Milano

In addition to sharing my recipes, my experience living in Italy and my new teaching career, I will also keep old and new friends updated on my new "food" experiences...good or bad.

Tonight, together with my friend Isa, my quest to find experiences worthy sharing brought me to Bianco Latte Milano. Let's start with the ice cream flavours: almond, chocolate cherry, chocolate cinnamon, fig, cookie and bacio. Second, they have some cool sounding coffee concoctions like biancotino or something or other which is coffee shaken with ice cream. They also have breakfast and offer fruit with yoghurt or ice cream. Lastly, the space is really bright and very homey feeling...reminds me of a place you'd find in NYC.

Bianco Latte has a counter with chairs where you can read the paper or bring a book...or blog. I hope some single people start going to Bianco Latte to meet other singles...even for just an interesting conversation. People need to stop travelling in crowds in this city and learn to mingle!!!

Okay..."a domani" (till tomorrow)

A day in my life

After amazing myself once again with one of my "quick" meals today I've decided that I must begin sharing my daily experiences with food and living in Milan with others.

So...this morning I woke up for my 820am lesson at 8 and with my eyes still closed I made some espresso and popped it into the freezer. I quickly washed, got dressed, put a headband on (which I never do), a quick makeup fix and waited for my student. 825 am...not here yet so I step out onto my balcony (can't yell out my window because I now have "zanzariere" (screens) to keep the huge mosquitos out) and see he is smoking a cigarette...I yell out that he can come up, say hello to Giuseppe the doorman and the little boy William who hasnt quite warmed up to me yet and go back in.

Today my student doesn't want to do any we talk about the law profession, how we all need a vacation....and the type of work he does. In the meantime my espresso has frozen so I take it out and pour some milk on it....Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Lesson ends and we've gone a bit over....I put some cereal in a cup with some milk, i read my email, send some other out and realize it is Thursday- MERCATO day!!! I quickly grab my wallet, get my bike and go over to the market.

Today I'm looking for the man that sold me delicious cherry tomatoes at € 1a kilo (2.2 pounds) two weeks ago...during my search i find chiquita bananas at €1 a kilo and some baby zucchini with flowers that are huge! pick up 10 of those. I finally find my man and buy a kilo of tomatoes, some peaches because i remembered that they had been delicious and watermelon.

I realize that it is 11am and my second student must be waiting for me! She was!! I put my things down, explain that I wouldnt have been able to go to the store later in the day and we sit down for our lesson. For the first part of the lesson we listen to a broadcast about wine..really interesting. After we move on to Sicilian food....then once again my student suggests we speak instead of doing grammar and asks me how I met my boyfriend. I explain...ask the same question of her and our hour is up.

1205pm....i have exactly 30 min to cook and feeling a bit like Rachael Ray. I put the pot of water on....and cut up some parma prosciutto (which i had bought yesterday from the supermarket near my apt; The supermarket sells the end part of the prosciutto a third of the price and so i use it to cook), add a tablespoon of olive oil and a garlic clove in its skin and turn on the heat. While that's sautèeing, I slice the baby zucchini attached to the blossoms and add it to the pan. Next I quater some cherry tomatoes and add those...after about 1 min the water is boiling and I add the trofie. I then take about a small ladle of the salted pasta water and add it to my dish and let that cook for another 4 min...trofie are done, i drain it and add to the pan. I also add at this point the blossoms (sliced) and a tablespoon of pesto made without garlic. Grate some parmeggiano.......................and the rest I will leave to your imagination. Absolutely excellent.

Trofie with Blossoms, Zucchini and Prosciutto

1 slice of prosciutto di Parma cut thick (with fat) use only half
6 baby zucchini with blossoms (sliced)
6 cherry tomatoes
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs pesto
1/2 pound of trofie* (250 grams)
Black pepper and grated parmeggiano

Trofie is a twisted short pasta from Liguria...great with pesto. I find it in my fridgerated section at my supermarket...i am pretty sure you can find it in NYC...not sure about anywhere else-

Hope you try it!!! Let me know.