Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Last week, when I went up to Tuscany for the Outstanding in the Field dinner, Sophie and I ended up staying the night, since it would have been too long a drive to come back to Rome that evening. Rather than rush back the next morning, we decided to make a day of it, and it ended up being a very nice mini-vacation.
Monday, September 26, 2011
You know how you sometimes day dream about the perfect meal? Well, at least I do. I think if you cook and eat a lot, your mind tends to wander off into table territory quite often.
Have you ever thought about having a picnic in a vineyard? At a long table, draped in white linen, sipping Chianti as the sun sets and smoke from grilling bistecche fiorentine wafts through the vines? I was at that dinner the other evening. And it wasn’t a dream.
Friday, September 23, 2011
I can’t get enough of the whole pear and cheese combo thing this time of year. I recently wrote about an easy, delicious salad that I make often. But one of my favorite mid morning snacks is a perfectly ripe pear with a small hunk of pecorino. Since it’s mostly fruit (and just a tiny bit of cheese) I can tell myself that it’s sort of like a healthy diet snack.
Last weekend we were up in Todi, had guests, and so I decided to fancy things up a bit. We had all been working hard in the garden. Actually it was Scott and Domenico who were working hard. But Jane had done a lot of laps. And I had....watched Jane do a lot of laps. So we all deserved a treat.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
I was chatting with my sister Jodi the other day and we started talking about gardening, as we tend to do. She has a vegetable garden in Connecticut and we usually trade notes on zucchini, tomatoes and basil. So I was all set to talk cabbages only to find out that she doesn’t go that way. “The nurseries around here really don’t have starter plants for the fall,” she told me. Who knew? So she was just getting ready to pull down the summer vines, and lay down a compost cover for her patch to take it’s winter’s nap.
Not me. I had other plans. While I am fond of my vegetable garden in Umbria in the spring in summer, I really love it in the fall and winter. About mid August we start planning and planting. I guess I am very lucky to live in a agricultural area, so my nursery has tons of cruciferous veggies and other winter greens to choose from. In fact, the problem is restraining myself when I make a nursery run.
Monday, September 19, 2011
It’s the end of the summer, and I’m just about to say bye bye to my tomato plants in our garden in Todi. Most of the cherry tomato plants, as well as the big salad tomatoes, are starting to shrivel and I have no hopes that the last green orbs will ever turn red.
But the San Marzanos are another thing. They were slow to get going, but are in full form now. It’s always tricky with the San Marzanos. I’ve learned over the years that they usually don’t do very well where we live. They end up getting blossom rot, and I end up getting frustrated.
Yet, for some reason, I never truly give up hope and usually buy at least six plants, hoping for the best. It finally paid off, and this year - late in the season - we’ve got tons. (well, not tons, but kilos).
Friday, September 16, 2011
Sometimes my friend Martha and I kid each other that we are one. As in ‘we are the same person.’ We’ve been friends for so long (a scary long time) that we often finish each other’s sentences (she hates that!), have the same brilliant thoughts at the same time and share most of our major passions (ok, we each have a different guy, but they too have a lot in common.)
Which partly explains why Martha’s latest exhibition at her gallery, Martha Richardson Fine Art, in Boston seems like it was planned specifically for me. I mean, if I could plan my dream show it would probably include gorgeous watercolors of Italian food and landscapes, interspersed with brightly colored majolica with some cheese, olive oil and wine tastings thrown in for good measure.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
I’m always amazed that there are still recipes in Marcella Hazan that I haven’t cooked yet. I thought that over the last 20 years or so I must have cooked, baked or fried just about every recipe in her books. But no. I’m always discovering something new.
Last weekend in Todi I was trying my best to just cook with what we had in the house already. We had loads of fruit and veggies - from our own garden and from my friend Laura’s. My neighbor Marisa had even given us a goose, so we were set in the meat department.
But desert? What to make for a desert? I had eggs from Marisa, and plenty of flour. I could have used the jam from our friend Paolo but....Sophie said no to crostata. She wanted something cakey.
So I turned to Marcella, thinking that I’d find something. And I did.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Remember when I went to Slow Food's Salone del Gusto last year? (yes, it’s already been a year) You can read about some of my experiences here , here , here and here.
One of the highlights of the trip was a cooking workshop I attended, which was conducted by three African chefs. Bineta Diallo Dioh, the only woman, cooked Fonio a la Sauce Mafe, which was delicious.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
I’m a sucker for a good ceramics shop. I’ve written about it here and here on this blog. I’ve covered the topic for publications like Financial Times, Veranda and Bon Appetit. And I’ve even written an entire book about Italian ceramics: Deruta: A Tradition of Italian Ceramics.
And evidently I’m not alone in my obsession. In addition to ‘where to eat’ questions, I get a surprising number of ‘where to buy ceramics’ queries at least a few times a week. Because - besides eating - I also like to shop. And am very good at it, thank you very much. So good in fact that I’m about to launch two new apps: Shop Rome and Shop Florence. (stay tuned)
In the meantime, as I compile my lists, I thought I’d share one of my all time favorite ceramic shops with you. This is a shop I’ve been going to ever since I was a graduate student in Florence: Sbigoli. Although there may be fancier, more sophisticated and historic places to buy majolica in towns like Deruta, Faenza, Caltagirone and Vietri, I can’t think of a more charming workshop + store than Sbigoli.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Rome is a city of neighborhoods. If you live here you already know that. If you visit Rome, you’ve likely heard of and visited some of the more central ones, like Trastevere, Monti, Campo dei Fiori or even Testaccio.
Once you live in a neighborhood you get very attached to it. Even though Rome isn’t really that big, like most people I get lazy and tend to stick close to home. Yes, I’ll head over to other areas to shop or meet someone for a coffee. But there are entire areas of Rome that I don’t know very well since - I admit it - I never have a good reason to go to them.
Via Gregorio VII is one of those places. For me, Via Gregorio VII is simply one of those roads that lead out of town, (like the Cassia or the Salaria) This is the road I usually take when headed towards the Aurelia. The four lanes which lead up from behind the Vatican are separated by a divider and shaded with huge pine trees. This should make it a nice street, but if you’re in your car (which I always am) the road is a nightmare. Cars are double and triple parked, lanes turn into left-hand turn only lanes with no warning, pedestrians are always running across the divider (what else is new? this is Rome) and I’m always in a tizzy by the time I get to the top.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Thursday, September 8, 2011
The Guardian ran a really great piece on Gabriele Bonci this week. Since the request for information about Bonci Bo seems to be endless, I thought I’d post the link here. And yes, the title of the article is "Rome's Michelangelo of Pizza."
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
I’ve already told you about the joys of parking in Rome in the summer. This allows us to easily drive into neighborhoods that seem far away during the year. So, on a hot Sunday at the end of July Domenico and I drove over to Parioli for breakfast. I was in the mood for a brioche and had heard that Boulangerie San Bartolomeo baked delicious ones.
I’d been meaning to get to San Bartolomeo for quite a while. I am a big fan of their eggs, chicken and rabbit - organic and free range - which are raised at their farm in Vetralla (near Viterbo) I usually buy their products in Testaccio, at the Farmer's Market or else at the Bio Market. So I was very curious to see their Rome store.
Monday, September 5, 2011
It happens every year. I plant tons of tiny basil plants, then worry that I won’t have enough basil to see me through the summer. I plant basil on the terrace in Rome, in pots outside the kitchen door in Todi as well as straight in the ground in the vegetable garden. All June and July I carefully nip the flowers off the plants so that they will continue to produce big green leaves.
But I’m always stingy in terms of what I pick. Just enough leaves to get me through a recipe. And I would almost never think of picking enough to make pesto. Because then what would happen if I ran out?
Which is really stupid, since I’m basically growing bushes of the stuff.
Friday, September 2, 2011
How do I stumble upon new restaurants? How do I decide where to go out for a meal? Obviously in my circle of friends I’m The Decider. This is doubly true within my family as well. And can I say something right here? This is a lot of pressure. While everyone wants me to decide where we go out to eat, everyone always has their opinion as well. The worst offenders are my family. “I don’t feel like fish” or “I definitely want to sit outside.” Well, then, you suggest something, ok?
Last week, as it neared lunch time, Sophie and I decided to go out to lunch. Of course, I was the one to decide. The problem was that it was the end of August and almost none of our usual places were open. So, who does The Decider turn to for help in finding restaurants in Rome? As it turns out there are two very good sites run by colleagues that I use quite a bit. Tavole Romane and Puntarella Rossa. Both sites cover the restaurant scene in Rome and both have very good taste (and by good taste of course I mean taste that matches mine.)