Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I’ve always been fascinated by the pastry shop Pasticceria Siciliana Svizzera. Friends always talk about it, in loving terms, as one of those Roman classics. When I ask “What do you mean? Switzerland and Sicily? What’s that about?” they just kind of give me a blank stare. Like, duh, of course there is a pastry shop in Rome that combines traditions from Southern Italy and north of the Alps.
It’s remained a bit of a mystery to me due partly to it’s location. It’s along the Via Gregorio VII, in that weird piazza that’s not really a piazza, Pio XI. I’ve seen it many times, as we were heading towards the Aurelia, on our way out of town. But if you’ve ever driven on Via Gregorio VII, then you’ll understand why I couldn’t simply pull over. Gregorio VII is one of the most frustrating streets in Rome: stop lights where you don’t expect them, seemingly no where to turn off, and absolutely no way (that I can see) of making a u-turn once you’ve driven past a delicious looking pastry shop.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Today I'm visiting over at Rome Local Flavor, which is the blog on Rome for Nile Guide, written by my friend Erica Firpo. Talking about....well of course I'm talking about what to eat in Rome.
You can read it all here. And while you're there, you should take a look at all of the other great posts about Rome, written by an insider.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Even though my daughters haven’t watched The LIttle Mermaid in about 15 years, whenever I go out to visit my friends Doug and Guido I get Under the Sea stuck in my head on an endless loop. It’s not that their house is simply by the sea . It’s the fantastic ceramic frieze that covers one side of their house. This marvelous tableaux depicts all sorts of little darlings, frolicking around. Under the sea. Shrimp, lobsters, fish, and crabs all darting amid techno-colored seaweed. Dating from the 60’s, it’s signed Paris, but no one has figured out who this incredible artist was.
Three things happen when I see this work. The first is Sebastian singing in my head. The second is my unstoppable urge to take yet another 400 photos of all the little fishies. And the third (which I’m sure you’ve already guessed) is the desire to eat those little creatures.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
The problem with getting into the habit of having a cocktail every night before dinner is that not everyone shares our passion. (Ok. I know there are other problems associated with having a cocktail every night. But I’m not going there) Most people - especially here in Italy - are still very fond of the ‘would you like white wine or prosecco before dinner’ thing. Which is ok. I understand.
But. Well. What I really want is a cocktail.
Which makes me so happy to go over to Sienna and Yves for dinner. Because they are into cocktails big time. While Sienna (who has a gourmet tour company) takes care of the cooking in their house, Yves is definitely the drink meister. He’s the miester of the classics, like martinis, negronis and gimlets. But he also likes to experiment, and is very keen on making it all look very glam. Since he’s also a musician, the music usually goes with the drinks as well. Nice touch.
The other night, as Frank Sinatra played in the background and before Sienna’s feast, Yves served up these beauties, which he is calling a Cherry Planter. I don’t care what he called them. I was just happy to hear the word cocktail.
2 oz rum
1 oz maraschino
1 oz roses lime
1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp casis
Pour rum, maraschino and roses into a shaker, add ice, and shake till chilled.
Strain into martini glass.
Pour in cassis, which will settle to bottom.
Garnish with twist.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Taste (the food fair I went to last week) wasn’t just about things tasting good, it was also about good taste. As in elegant, fashionable and cool. Yes, there was incredible food, but the entire fair was one of the most ‘tasteful’ (sorry, I know) of these types of events I’ve ever attended. Located in the abandoned-then-restored turn-of-the-century Stazione Leopoldo, the backdrop was urban artifact, complete with exposed brick, intricate iron work and soaring spaces.
And whoever designed fair itself should get some sort of award. (Thank you Pitti Imagine for doing this so well.) It never felt crowded, the stands were solid and well thought out and - this is my favorite part - the lighting (which is usually atrocious at these things) made both food and people (including me) look perky and beautiful (which is not an easy thing after wandering for six hours sampling beer, pork and chocolate).
Even though I spent most of the time stuffing my face, one of my favorite parts of Taste was actually the section that was non-food. Here are some of my discoveries:
Believe it or not, these plates and glasses are plastic. This is the new line by Marioluca Giusti, who have been turning style into plastic for the last few years. I kept picking up the plates and glasses, tapping them against each other, to make sure they really weren’t glass and ceramic. Love love love the colors. But couldn’t decide if I liked the rustic ceramic looking ones better, or wanted to go with the more glamorous fuchsia. Then I went to their site, and realized that they have a huge line, and all can be delivered. Uh oh.
Who doesn’t like gorgeous tablecloths? (ok, maybe it’s a girl thing) Amblekodi, with their understated naturally dyed hemp fabrics yelled out to me from across the show. Their natural fibers are used to create patterns that are woven into the fabrics, rather than just printed. This gives them an extraordinary tactility and richness, that paired perfectly with their muted hues.
But for something completely un-muted, Tablecloths.it brought on a rainbow full of color. My fave was their line of place mats, I Pantoni. (Again, dangerously, they seem to have an online store that works only too well)
Most chefs say they don’t care how they look while working in the kitchen. Chef’s whites, clogs that are comfortable and that’s that. But I’m guessing they haven’t come across Gandini Foodwear, that puts fashion behind the burners. While their deconstructed aprons may have been a bit much, I think every chef I know should buy one of their pinwheel toques. (Yes, I know you are reading this, and this means you.)
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
I mentioned briefly that I had been up to Taste last weekend. This is a food fair organized in Florence by Pitti Immagini, with exhibitors chosen by Davide Paolini (one of the most respected Italian food journalists). Now in it’s sixth year, the fair differs from other - bigger - events like Cibus or even Salone del Gusto. Taste is on the small side - only about 200 exhibitors - and is by invitation only. And since it’s mostly Paolini that is doing the inviting, it’s really the best that’s going on in Italy these days.
It’s hard to report on everything I saw/ate/did, especially in one blog post. So I’ll be dividing my discoveries into the next few days.
Today: The Sweet Stuff
One of the trends I picked up on was the biscotti thing. Yes, the perennially and well-known Biscottifficio Mattei, from Prato, was there. But much more exciting was the interest in creating new types of biscotti. I loved the way bakers were using different herbs, spices and even flowers. And the small size kept things definitely on the Italian side of things. (no huge chocolate chip cookies, thank god). What I really loved was, when it came to biscotti, not all was sweet. There were just as many biscotti salati. Which I guess you could call crackers if you really wanted to, but they are more like salty cookies. Great to have with an aperitivo.
Il Mondo di Laura was there, of course, with her kosher cookies from Rome. (Sorry, somehow didn’t get any photos). And Biscotti di Lory came up from Sicily with cookies studded with saffron, fennel, lavender, coriander and mustard seeds.
My favorite cookies of all may have been from Biscotteria di Bettina, from Treviso. She’s ‘invented’ two types of cookies that kept me coming back to her stand. Tiramisu cookies (I mean, why has no one ever thought of these before?!) layered crispy tastes of coffee, chocolate and mascarpone. And my favorite salty treat: peanut and parmigiano cantucci. They look like traditional biscotti, but what genius pairing peanut and parmigiano, with enough butter and flour to hold them together. (I’ll be trying to recreate these darlings at home)
And the winner of the most inventive use of olive oil has to go to Signorini for their version of panettone: L’Insolito. Instead of using butter, they make an emulsion of olive oil, walnuts and basil. That’s why it’s greenish. And that’s also why it tastes so extraordinary. Yes, it sounds a bit weird, but wasn’t at all. It was moist, and fragrant with olives, but with all the right sweet notes.
Olive oil (from Vicopisano) also made it into Trinci’s chocolate spread. I think the empty jar says it all.
And the winner of the best use of beer goes to Rizzati from Ferrara for their Baladin beer-filled chocolates.
Flowers, spices, nuts and fruits make it into I Biscotti di Lory
Bettina's Tiramisu cookies. A gift to the human race.
Salty peanut and parmigiano cantucci from Bettina.
Sounds wierd, tastes great: olive oil pannetone
Maybe olive oil added to chocolate spread makes it health food?
Mondo di Laura
Biscotti di Lory
Bicottificcio di Bettina
Signorini tel: 0574 464 997 (Prato)
Sunday, March 20, 2011
I love going to food fairs for a lot of reasons. I discover new products, meet new people, schmooz with friends and colleagues. But then there’s the down side to taking off for three days. First of all, I get WAY behind on work (although food fairs are work for me). And secondly, I come back with WAY too much food, some of which I’m not quite sure what I’m going to do with. (Yes, I still have at least six different kinds of salami in the fridge I got at the Salone del Gusto last October)
I was up in Florence for Taste last weekend. This is an amazing food fair organized by Davide Paolini (a.k.a. Gastronauta) that brings together what is really the creme de la creme of Italian food producers. More about this in the next post.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
I bet you thought it would never really happen, but I’ve finally finished my app! EAT ROME is officially out into the world, and available for downloading on your nearest iPhone, iPad or iTouch.
Why an app? I don’t think a day goes by when I don’t get a call or email from someone (or someone’s aunt. Or someone’s aunt’s dentist) who is coming to Rome and wants to have a few restaurant suggestions. I’ve gotten pretty good over the years at having a list ready and waiting. Easy enough to forward far and wide. But the problem was that as the list grew, it also grew unwieldy. The list included not only the places I’ve written about over the years for magazines like Food & Wine and Town & Country, but also my own personal favorites.
It was long, and not in any particular order. Also, once I handed it out, there was no way to update it from afar.
Eventually I started posting the list on my website and on my blog. But since it was always just a list, it was never that easy to use. I thought that someday, somehow I would manage to get this list into some sort of shape that was easy for everyone to download and use.
That day is here. I was lucky enough to work with a fantastic new App publisher, Sutro Media, who did all the hard, behind-the-scenes stuff. All that coding and interface development? They took care of it. All I had to do was enter in my expert knowledge and photographs and voila’: EAT ROME.
Well, not really voila'. EAT ROME is the result of my many years of eating and living in Rome, all boiled down in one handy, nifty app. But don’t go expecting exhaustive. If you want ALL the restaurants in Rome there are tons of guide books out there - in English and Italian. EAT ROME is simply what I think is the best. In other words, these are all places that I go to, love and would send friends to.
You’ll find most of the entries are located in the historic center of Rome, since that’s the area most convenient for the majority of folks. In addition to restaurants, I’ve also included things like wine bars, coffee bars, bakeries, and kitchen stores. I plan on adding more categories in the future, like butchers and picnic spots. And if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear from you. And I’ll constantly be adding new entries, so stay in touch either on this blog, or by becoming a fan of EAT ROME on Facebook. (and yes, at least for the next couple of years, all updates are included free)
If you’re planning a trip to Rome, make sure you buy and download EAT ROME before you leave, to avoid roaming charges. Once you’re in Italy, all of the features will be on your iPhone or iPad, even if you're offline.
For now EAT ROME is only available on iTunes, and so visible on iPhone, iTouch and iPad. But the company that I work with, Sutro Media, is working on getting the guides onto other platforms like Android real soon.
To buy EAT ROME simply log onto iTunes from your computer or the App Store directly from your iPhone, iPad or iTouch. Type in EAT ROME in the upper right search box, or else follow this link.
Friday, March 11, 2011
I know that after all those Bonci bread making and pizza making classes you probably assumed I’ve been busy making things right and left with my precious starter that we got in class. Well, sorry to disappoint, but I failed as a mother to my mother. It died. It was just one too many things that I had to feed, and it starved to death.
And you saw what happened to the pizza I tried to make. After using expired dried yeast (does yeast just come to my house to die?) I ended up with a nice batch of crackers.
But it’s hasn’t been all failure all the time. I’ve actually been baking loaves that have risen to the occasion.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
When we plant our vegetable garden in Todi, we’re always way more ambitious than we have a right to be. Like clockwork we end up planting about six more zucchini plants than we can possibly use. And don’t even get me started on cabbage. But I always figure you can never have too many tomatoes, right? Wrong.
The problem is that we don’t live full time in our villa in Todi, we use the house on the weekends when we can, and spend most of August there. But there are times when we are just too busy with life in Rome to make it up to Umbria. Even though we know the vegetables are literally falling off the vine.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
I didn’t mean to go to another flea market this weekend. Really, I didn’t. But I was meeting my friend Andrea Truglio at Tatti 28 for a late morning cappucino, and pretty much didn’t have any choice but to wade through the stands.
I always knew there was a Sunday mercatino here, under the 1930’s arches of Piazza Augusto Imperatore. But since buying knick knacks didn’t have much appeal, I never went. Little did I know it was kitsch central. I mean, how do you know you need a little ceramic stature of a pig, holding a basket of piglets in its mouth before you actually see one? Or a clothes brush with a German Shepherd’s head? Or a cherry red chicken and her family (on sale, no less)?
Saturday, March 5, 2011
Believe it or not, there are some stores that I never think of going into. Slick furniture stores just never attract me. I’m not talking about brand name showroom stores like Cappellini, B&B and Artemide, which I love. But those no-name stores that sell a bit of everything. You know. Where you go to buy an armadio or a set of bookshelves.
Well, we need some bookshelves, and Ikea just wasn’t gonna cut it this time. So Saturday morning saw me and Domenico in a store I had passed by a million times, but never set foot in. Interiors Fattorini. Right on the corner of Via Arenula and the Lungotevere. Even though Domenico (my Italian architect husband) had bought tons of stuff there, for clients, I just had never had a reason, before today, to wander in.
To answer your question: yes, we bought a set of bookshelves that will fit our new flat screen TV. But of course what got me all kinds of excited was the pretty, glowing dishes and glasses that were scattered all over the store like confetti. Goblets and flutes, platters and teapots, mugs and pitchers. Although the store is mostly about couches, beds, tables and chairs someone there sure knows her accessories.
(FYI: They have really nice furniture too.)
Via Arenula 55
Friday, March 4, 2011
It’s been raining in Rome this week, so it was inevitable that I would eventually wander into Off, the jewelry store just up the street from me, in Monti. If the sun was refusing to shine, then I needed to see some sparkle. Even if I didn’t really need to buy anything for myself.
Of course I always convince myself, when I walk in, that I’m looking for a gift for someone else. And, to tell you the truth I usually am. As most of my family and friends can tell you, these baubles look awfully familiar. Any time I’m heading back go the States, or when Christmas or a birthday is coming up, I can count on this store.
Why? Well, I guess the designs are just the right mix of classic and creative. And they go from fuchsia beads to snow white pearls. Silver or gold, dangly or sculptural. Really, it’s one stop shopping. And the prices are extremely reasonable. (Well, not your present. Your present was really expensive. And by you, I mean who ever is reading this who got a gift from me.)
And if you don’t quite see what you want? (Like that's gonna happen) They are always very happy to make things to order.
Via dei Serpenti 25
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I know we all get creative in the winter when it comes to salad. A bit of fennel here, some cabbage there. But come this time of year, what I really start to crave are leafy salads. But heads of Romaine and Bibb, still coming from hothouses, are thin, sad, tasteless things.
That’s why the other day at the Roma Farmer’s Market my eyes immediately went to a big crate of what I thought were baby lettuces, all bright and perky. As I got closer looked more like the first little leaves of gallinella, (mache). But no. They turned out to be itty bitty baby radicchio heads, all leafy and tender. Score!
Once I got them home I realized that they were actually two different types of radicchio, one the deep purplely red we’re all used to. The other were infant pan di zucchero, a type of radicchio that stays green and - as the name would suggest - is much sweeter than regular radicchio.
Both kinds were a slightly tougher than I had anticipated, but I was still set to use them in a salad. Given their slightly bitter edge - and robust texture - I figured they would stand up just fine to a warm vinaigrette. And...well.... you know me by now. If I can work pork into a recipe, I will. So crispy bits of guanciale and their rendered fat made there way in too.
Radicchio Salad with Guanciale
6 cups of torn radicchio leaves
4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar
1/2 red onion (about 1/4 cup) chopped
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1/2 cup cubed guanciale*
1/2 tsp of salt
freshly ground pepper
Place cleaned radicchio leaves in a big bowl.
Place chopped onions in a small bowl, with vinegar and salt. Let stand at least 20 minutes.
Heat small pan and pour in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add cubed guanciale and fry until crisp and browned at the edges. Take off heat, add vinegar and onion mixture to guanciale and the rendered fat, and stir.
Pour over salad, along with the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil and pepper.
Toss well, and correct for seasonings.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
You know at the end of yoga class, when you finally get to relax, and let you mind go blank? This is just about the best part of the class for me, and I’ve gotten really good at turning off my brain. (I’m must better at brain-turn-off than at head stands or crane pose). But somehow yesterday, I couldn’t find the off switch. Try as I might, all I could think about was what cocktail I was going to make that night. I guess I needed something stronger than yoga to unwind.
Anyway, having been to the farmer’s market at Circo Massimo this past weekend, I knew I had a half dozen bottles of home made fruit nectar waiting at home. So, while lying in corpse pose, I devised what I thought would be a perfect combo: blackberry and gin. I guess I associated the black of the berries with the dark juniper berries that flavor gin (I’m always about the color, even when it’s only implied)