Thursday, May 31, 2012
One of our favorite things to do in Bari is eat fish. Domenico’s family’s home hangs out over the port, and as his mother often repeats: “siamo gente di mare,” we are people of the sea. She always tells the story of how, growing up, every day fishermen would stop by their house up the coast in Molfetta, with baskets of flopping fresh fish for her mother to choose from.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
There is never a trip I can’t turn into an excuse to buy food. Istanbul, London, Barcelona. You name the city, and I will find a place to buy food within hours of landing.
The same goes for places that are nearer to hand, and that I visit often. A weekend up in Umbria is always an excuse to stop in Orte and stock up. Likewise Bari, where I always end up coming back not only with pasta and pastries, but also produce.
But this last trip to Bari I had the great pleasure of discovering a completely new source of wonderful foods I didn’t really need to buy, but did anyway.
Monday, May 28, 2012
I recently discovered a new blog (at least new to me) in a round about way. I got a very sweet email from someone in Connecticut who was headed to Rome on his honeymoon. He wanted to surprise his new wife with a food tour with me. “She's a cook, and has a blog” he explained, “So I think she’d really enjoy this.”
Of course, I immediately went to Jodi's blog: What’s Cooking Good Looking. It took all of my will power not to start leaving comments right and left (I didn’t want her to suspect anything and spoil the surprise) But that didn’t stop me from cooking from it almost immediately.
Sunday, May 27, 2012
My favorite time of year. Roses at their peak, and tiny baby fruit just starting to form.
I didn't think there could possibly be any cooking angle to this post (only pretty pictures), but my friend Judy just suggested this rose syrup. So have at it. I might try it too on this lazy Sunday in May. That way I could mix it into a cocktail in August, when the roses are only a memory.
Posted by Elizabeth Minchilli at 9:51 AM
Thursday, May 24, 2012
This past weekend when we were in Bari, we took a walk through Bari Vecchia, the old part of town. Even though Bari Vecchia is a warren of small alleys, dead end streets and passages, I pretty much thought I had seen it all. Domenico is from Bari, so I've been going down regularly for the last twenty years.
But as we made our way towards lunch (more on that next week) we took a turn down a street I had never been on: Strada Arco Alto. As the name suggests, we passed beneath a low stone archway and then onto one of the many pristine white flagstone-paved streets.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
One of the saddest pieces of news I’ve had in recent years was when I heard that Salavatore Denaro’s restaurant in Foligno was closing. His Bacco Felice was our favorite restaurant in.......
....I was going to write Umbria. Then Italy. But I’ve come to realize that it was probably our favorite restaurant in the world.
I know this is saying a lot, but it’s true. Although our love of Bacco Felice had everything to do with the food, favorite restaurants are always about so much more than that, right? What made Bacco Felice what it was, was due to the Happy Bacchus himself, Salvatore Denaro.
Monday, May 21, 2012
I usually write up my blog posts at least a few days or even a week before I hit the publish button. And I had a completely different post planned for today. One that was (as is my wont) a celebration of all that is good and delicious and Italian.
But after the events of this past weekend, it just didn’t seem right to post something as banal as a recipe for grilled scallions.
We spent the weekend in Bari, so were far away from the epicenter of the Earthquake that struck Emilia Romagna over the weekend. We were, however, unnervingly close to the horrific bombing that took place on Saturday in Brindisi.
So today’s post is just some photographs I took while walking through Bari Vecchia. Life there hasn’t really changed much over the course of the centuries. Much of the daily existence - the mundane as well as the spiritual - takes place right on the street. Homes open out on to the narrow, stone-paved alleyways as house wives cook dinner, men gather on the corner and boys play ball. While the towering bulk of San Nicolo' casts it’s protective shadow over it all, there are smaller monuments to faith - and to life - on almost every block.
Friday, May 18, 2012
I love my job.
I get to eat, travel and write about it. Life is good.
But when an editor asks me if I want to go stay in Francis Ford Coppola’s new luxury hotel in Basilicata, even I have trouble believing I do this for a living.
The hotel is Palazzo Margherita, and I’d been hearing about it ever since Coppola had bought the property about 6 years ago. First it was going to be a private villa, then a hotel.
The reason I got to go down was so that I could check it out for Travel & Leisure’s annual It List. Of course it made the grade.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
I admit it. Pasta scares me. Not cooking pasta. And certainly not eating pasta. But making pasta. Scary.
You’d think that after most of my life spent in Italy in the food world that I’d be flinging sheets of pasta right and left. But up until now the only thing I was flinging around was flour and water, and making a mess of it in the process.
The thing is, pasta making takes technique. It’s not really something that you can read about in a book and ‘get’ the first time around. It helps to take lessons. I’m big on reading, and rarely sign up for classes about anything (the whole Bonci pizza and bread thing was not the norm for me) And so even though I always thought about taking a pasta making class, plans never turned into reality.
Until I found myself with two free hours in Palazzo Margherita a couple of months ago.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
When I was invited to visit Francis Ford Coppola’s new hotel, Palazzo Margherita, in Basilicata I said yes real fast. A no-brainer, right? Of course the main reason was the chance to be one of the first to stay at what is one of the most exciting new hotel openings of the year (and see my write up of it in this month’s Travel & Leisure ‘It List’).
But the other big draw was the chance to revisit Basilicata. Although I’d been to Matera quite a few times (for various articles as well as while I was working on Restoring a House in Italy) I hadn’t really been to the countryside since we filmed for Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie.
While filming there we were on a ridiculously tight schedule, which meant we arrived at 1am - stayed for a full day of shooting - them left late that evening. So most of my driving around Basilicata’s back roads was done in the dark of night.
All of which left me totally unprepared for the incredibly dramatic and gorgeous landscape as we made our way to Palazzo Margherita.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Remember last week , when I used Swiss chard greens to make gnudi? I promised that I’d be cooking up the Swiss chard stalks too, and sharing the recipe.
For dinner last week I made a quick and easy casserole that not only managed to make good use of the rest of this two-for-one veggie, but also enabled me to use up odd bits of leftover cheese and a hunk of capocollo our neighbor had given us.
It was one of those days when all of the sudden I turned around and it was 8pm. Time for dinner, and too late to do any shopping.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
One thing I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I always buy too much food. This is especially true for the weekends we head up to our house in Umbria. I end up loading the car with food here in Rome, then stopping in Orte at the mozzarella store, and then again at the supermarket in Castel del'Aquila. All of this, plus the fact I have a full pantry and vegetable garden waiting for me in Todi means that come Sunday I’m toting back as much food - or more - as I arrived with.
But I’ve learned. Lately I have put myself on a very strict regimen: bring nothing from Rome and only buy what is absolutely essential (milk, bread, mozzarella) on the way up.
Then, once in Umbria, I forage. I make do.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Even though some of my favorite cocktails are classics, I’m ALWAYS one to mess around with a good thing. Give me a dirty martini and I’ll make it even dirtier in new and wonderful ways that probably make purists cringe.
Lately we’ve been in a Manhattan kind of phase. While I prefer Maker’s Mark, I’ve been making do with Jim Beam. But the one thing I demand in my Manhattan is a cherry. And when my jar of maraschinos came to an end the other day, I trotted up the street to Castroni, where I know I can get almost anything - cocktail and otherwise - I want.
The problem with going to Castroni is that I always end up buying things I had no intention of bringing home. Impulse purchase big time. Besides carrying all sorts of exotic ingredients from countries all over the world, they also have an incredible selection of Italian goodies that I didn’t even know existed.
Monday, May 7, 2012
Vignarola is one of my favorite Roman dishes. I have a feeling there are versions of a spring vegetable stew all over the world, but the Roman version - with peas, artichokes and fave beans - seems like it must be the best, right? I guess one of the reasons I love it so much is that its season is so fleeting. Artichokes have been in season for a while, and but peas and fave beans are just hitting the farmer’s markets. The overlap between all three only lasts about a month, so I try to get as much in as possible.
Even though vignarola is a traditional Roman dish, it had fallen out of favor in restaurants until about ten years ago or so. I guess on the surface there is nothing particularly attractive, sexy or appealing about a pile of stewed vegetables. And in fact, I often get emails from people telling me that when they ordered this spring medley they were expecting something bright green, crisp and vibrant. Instead, when faced with the decidedly brownish green pile on their plates they were a bit dismayed.
Thursday, May 3, 2012
I’m never one to make it to the opening night of a restaurant. Or the opening month for that matter. I have colleagues who rush to the newest place and seemingly blog about it on their way home. I’m lucky in that respect, because that’s usually how I end up hearing about what’s hot and what’s not.
It’s been about a year that I’ve been reading about Cesare al Casaletto. (here, here, here , here and here are just a few of the Italian reviews). And I’ve been meaning to go, really I have. But it sounded so far away (add slightly whiny tone here). I kept reading that it was in Casaletto, which sounded like another city or something.
But as my good friends Betta and Ruth pointed out, Casaletto is just the name of a street, and it’s only a block away from where they live in Monteverde. In Rome. And that wasn’t the only thing to convince me. Last week we were at Flavio Velavevodetto and Flavio himself told me he thought it was the best trattoria in Rome at the moment.
No more excuses.
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Just in case you were unduly shocked by yesterday’s post on roasting a lamb’s head, today’s recipe is something totally, absolutely and 100% animal free. While I can easily get excited and inspired by a rarity like a lambs head, something as simple as a bunch of mint or a bright yellow lemon will get me going just as much.
I'm also often inspired by friends' and colleagues' blogs. Like everyone else in the world when it comes to diving into the sweet end of things, I head to David Lebovitz. And when it comes to healthy, delicious dishes that taste bright and look fantastic I visit Heidi Swanson's 101 cookbooks. Some of my favorite recipes have come from her blog over the years. And even when I don’t end up cooking specific dishes, her general way of putting together a meal - and the bright, clean flavors that she uses - ends up informing my own recipes more often than I realize.
So the other day when I decided to make a farro salad for dinner it was definitely my inner Heidi that I was channeling. That and the bumper crop of mint on the terrace resulted in a minty, chewy, crunchy, lemony salad that was healthy, filling and delicious. (just like Heidi in other words)