Thursday, December 29, 2011
We’re in NYC this week and between eating, shopping and running around to museums, there hasn’t been much time to blog. Since I’m sure you’re not interested in my shopping (American essentials such as new bras, jeans and vitamins), and I haven’t had time to get together my act about where and what I’ve eaten, I thought I’d share one of the amazing exhibitions we’ve been to.
These photos were taken at the current show at the Guggenheim: Maurizio Cattelan. The retrospective pulls together almost everything created by the Italian artist since 1989. Hung - en masse - from the center of the circular museum atrium.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
Monday, December 26, 2011
It’s not always easy being married to an Italian. There are a lot of expectations. As you probably know by now, I’m not a bad cook. My range is wide, and I’m comfortable cooking everything from pizzas to crostatas. And pasta? I make it at least once a day.
But reproducing Mama’s dishes? That's another story. Making orecchiette con le cime di rapa just like Domenico’s pugliese mother makes. That one threw me for a loop for the longest time.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
Sometimes an egg is just and egg. But if you’re lucky, sometimes that egg comes from the uber egg meister Paolo Parisi.
Parisi’s egg-like head is well known in Italy, where it appears on the cartons that contain his magnificent white orbs. They are some of the most sought after - and expensive - eggs around. Are they worth paying a euro and a half per egg for?
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
All families have their own personal histories. And even if the main outlines of major events are etched in stone, the details always change from family member to family member. My family is no different. We all have our own spin on the milestones of growing up. But there is one historic Christmas meal we all remember in sync: The time we went to Sicily.
And if you think this is going in some sort of Italian Catholic celebration direction, think again. The Christmas in question was 1972. And my family - unobservant Jews from Missouri - had just moved to Rome. Rather than spend the holiday break in the shadow of St. Peters (which would have actually been kind of nice) my father decided to take us on a road trip: to Sicily.
Monday, December 19, 2011
A few weeks ago I was invited down to Puglia by the Identita Golose folks, along with Oscar Farinetti of Eataly fame. I - and the other journalists on the trip - somehow thought the trip was supposed to be all about tasting Coratina olive oil. As it turned out it we were invited mostly to help ‘judge’ some dishes that are going to be served in Eataly’s round the world.
It was all a bit odd, with quick visits to local sites which included a somewhat industrial olive mill and a very ‘cheesy’ mozzarella showroom set up by Caseificio Olanda.
When I first saw ‘visit to caseificio’ on the itinerary I imagined a visit to a farm-based cheese making workshop, to watch the entire process of buratta being made. Instead, we were all seated in a sort of small - very artificial - auditorium, where a master cheese maker stretched, braided, pushed and shoved fresh curd into various mozzarella shapes.
Not quite the authentic experience I was hoping for.
But.....actually kind of fascinating to watch.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
I’d been reading and hearing about Zeb for a while. A grocery store that reinvented itself as a lunch and dinner place. Great soups. You eat at counters, not tables. Friendly service.
And the food was supposed to be fantastic.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but certainly not the elegantly stylish, modern and sleek diner that I walked into a few weeks ago.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Contests and games. I’m really not very good at them. Just ask my sisters (Robin and Jodi). While they were busy playing Monopoly, Go Fish or Scrabble, I was - according to them - off in some museum. I was equally uninterested in playing competitive sports. There’s just something about losing I guess I don’t like. I’d just rather not compete. But I also don’t like seeing other people lose. It’s just no fun.
Which is also why I’ve never really considered myself a reviewer. When I first started out my writing career, I wrote about art exhibitions. But rather than review them, I just described and analyzed them. I thought it went without saying that if I was writing about them, that was positive enough. And the bad shows? They got no ink.
Same goes for restaurants. I HATE saying anything bad about a place. I’d much rather stay silent about a restaurant I don’t like, rather than say anything negative. If a place is in Eat Rome, Eat Florence or on my blog, that means I like it. If not, well.....I either haven’t been there. Or I have, and am going to keep my mouth shut.
Which now leads me a position I rarely find myself in: judging food. As you know I was asked to be one of the ‘experts’ in a hamburger contest that has just finished in Rome. Four restaurants participated: Urbana 47, Tricolore, Pastificcio San Lorenzo and Roscioli. Along with the public, I went and tried all four.
Monday, December 12, 2011
In the States, when talking about trying to get people to eat more vegetables, the debate often turns to the fact that vegetables are hard to prepare. That when faced with something like an artichoke, asparagus or even a head of lettuce, many Americans can’t be bothered to clean, trim and cook.
The processed alternative is to buy a bag of pre-washed lettuce, ‘mini’ carrots or frozen spinach. But these ‘vegetables’, which have been prepped in huge factories, long after they have been picked, have about as much flavor as a shoe insert. It’s no wonder that many say they don’t like them.
Which is why I’m so happy/lucky to live in Italy. Yes. I’m as lazy as the next person. Come meal time, it’s not as if I always have the time/energy/patience to pod 3 kilos of peas, trim a dozen artichokes or - I admit it - even peel a carrot.
The great thing is that I don’t have to.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
As you know, when it comes to cocktails I have my quirks. I go through phases (there was the Martini phase of 2011, and the very long Negroni phase of 2009). But I’m also very much influenced by how a drink looks: the color, the glass, the garnish.
Lately, as the work day ends, I’ve been picturing red cocktails. I know it has something to do with the holidays. Yes. I’ve been reading the myriad ‘festive cocktail’ features popping up everywhere from the New York Times to Cigar Affciando.
So the other night I opened the liquor cabinet, and decided to play around with Campari, Gin and Lingon Berry syrup. Was kind of thinking of this look.
But by the time I had lugged my bottles into the kitchen from the living room (ok, my apartment isn’t that big, but there were three bottles to wrangle) I realized that what I really had in mind was something more savory, rather than sweet or bitter.
So back went the bottles and I started over. It took me a minute, but I finally settled on this equation: Red + Savory = Bloody Mary.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
I love planting my garden in Todi. I love it so much that I often get carried away. Why plant six cabbages when you can (almost) as easily plant 12? And why just one variety when six will be so much better? You can see where I’m going here.
Yes. It’s that time of the year when we play “what can I do with my cruciferous vegetables tonight?” At the beginning, when the first harvest of broccoli, cabbage, cavolo nero and other crunchy winter veggies come in, I’m more than happy to just steam or saute them, basking in their just picked freshness.
But by cabbage number 8, I’m thinking, really?
Monday, December 5, 2011
I was going to call this recipe "Easy Cabbage and Potato Soup." But then decided that it was more honest to admit to the motivation, rather than rely on the description.
Yes. There are times when I am very lazy. Or tired. Take your pick. But when it’s 7:30, and my mind and stomach finally turn to dinner, but my brain and body are not up for anything fancy, I work with what I have.
Thursday, December 1, 2011
In Italy you get used to stopping by a favorite restaurant or bar, only to find the owners have either sold it, or - even worse - redecorated. And by redecorated I mean stripped the warm, cozy trattoria you knew and loved into their ideal version of what a successful restaurant should look like. Yes, I’m talking shiny marble, ‘designer’ lighting and oddly shaped plates that they think will lend glitter to their menu.
Which is why I’m always so glad to revisit places that don’t change. That revel in their patina of history, embracing every cracked tile and rickety chair while still turning out incredible dishes in pocket sized, ancient kitchens.
Sostanza is - thank god - one of the latter. While working on Eat Florence a couple of weeks ago, I made a point of stopping by. And am very happy to report that not one single solitary thing has changed since I first started going here over twenty years ago. In fact, I don’t think much has changed since they first opened in 1869 .