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Authentic French cuisine prepared by chef owner Madame Caroline Poussardin in the style of Aix-en-Provence is a sweet find. The food is beautifully presented and an evening at Côté Gourmet is as if you are sitting in a lovely little village in the Provence. It is a family owned establishment where her husband runs the front of the restaurant making people feel as though they are in their dinning room. Côté Gourmet is a little bit of France in Miami Shores. As in many small restaurants in France, the chef and her husband enjoy talking to guests and making their dinning experience memorable. If you speak French, a big smile will come over their face and they will be delighted to communicate with you in their native language.
Fresh ingredients of the season are prepared by Chef Caroline in typically French country-style with specials prepared such as crêpes on Wednesday evening and a special soirée dinner on Thursday. They serve lunch and if you should show up early in the morning and would like breakfast, she will accommodate you. A small menu is complimented with daily specials and is a nice selection. When I tasted the polenta soup with shrimp, I was in France. The soup was seasoned perfectly, smooth and light, amazing for polenta. The lamb chops were prepared exactly as I had requested, rosé with chèvre sauce. I couldn’t resist dessert, the warm pear tart with chocolate sauce over vanilla ice cream on a beautiful flaky crust was a perfect ending. The wine selections compliments the menu and you can order it by the bottle or glass. I almost never order a three-course meal, as it is often too much food. But I made an exception in this case.
Madame et Monsieur owned two restaurants in Aix-en-Provance before moving to Miami to start a restaurant with their daughter. They have been serving their guests for 5 years in a neighborhood local in Miami Shores. The atmosphere is typical of many small restaurants found all over the French countryside. Space for about 30 guests, it is decorated with white crisp tablecloths, white napkins tied with a large golden ribbon, fresh flowers and candles burning, creating a warm romantic atmosphere. When you walk into Côté Gourmet, you walk into France for an evening and you walk out feeling you have returned to your favorite little neighborhood place.
Having lived in Europe for many years, I must admit that finding a good French restaurant that doesn’t compromise itself and is unmistakably French was not easy to find. When it comes to maintaining the meaning of Provence French cuisine, Madame Caroline delivers exactly what you expect.
Côté Gourmet French Restaurant
9999 NE 2nd Avenue
Look for them on Facebook
A lucky mistake landed us in Northwood Village and after a short stroll we were making plans to come back. A Palm Beach restoration project brought this neighborhood back to life and it belongs to everyone who visits. Home to Art, antique, interior decorating shops and galleries filled with items that reflect the style of the 1940’s – 1960’s. I felt that I had truly missed but found a period in time that brought out not only the elegant life style of that period, but when color and beautiful furniture decorated the homes throughout the region. Shops are stacked with decorative items that I just wanted to spend hours sifting through. Being an Art Deco fan, this was my candy shop. If my husband didn’t prod me to move on in every shop, I probably still could be found searching in some corner.
When you need nourishment between searches, there are many restaurants, café’s, coffee houses and bakeries ready to feed you and keep you going. At “Bistro, Bistro, The French Bakery” you can have an authentic pâté served with real French bread by friendly owners who are thrilled to speak French with you. This little French Bakery cooks up the real thing and you can easily put together a French picnic to take to the beach or on a boating day or just take home for a French light evening meal maybe with some nice French wine. You know, the French love picnics, and a variety of pâté and country terrine are perfect. I wish this bakery were right next door so that I could just walk over and fill my French food desires anytime. They also have specials, soups and desserts.
We stopped in at Jade Kitchen for dinner and almost walked into the open kitchen. White tables and comfortable white couches fill the small space with views of the busy kitchen activities. The food is fusion with specials from Asian to Mediterranean.
Sunset Bar & Grill constantly changes the tables around so that you never get board with the surroundings. There are Jamaican, Chinese and Italian restaurants ready to fulfill your food preferences.
After dinner we stopped in a coffee-house to listen to jazz and drink an espresso. People sat around on comfortable chairs, someone was sketching the singer, another danced to the the sultry voice of a jazz singer and base musician. Strangers became neighbors enjoying a few nice moments together.
This friendly neighborhood has an “Art & Wine evening every time a new business opens welcoming their new friends in style. Street artists, musicians, craft vendors line the street to entertain you as you stroll in and out of the little shops. The historic neighborhood of Northwood Village is located just one mile north of downtown West Palm Beach between Broadway and North Dixie Highway.
Bologna is a food city, well there are many other things to do and see, but it is known for its wonderful small restaurants, markets and some of the best food in Italy. While every region in Italy boast the best food, Bologna is a serious leader. There’s a special touch, a feeling, an inner sense and understanding of cuisine that is hard to describe. They expect the best quality and they can find it in Il Mercato de Mezzo everyday of the week. Bologna is not a fish town, meat and game are their specialty.
Alimentari Tamburini in the region of IL Mercato di Mezzo is one of Italy’s most celebrated food shops. They also have a cafeteria-style lunch packed with people everyday enjoying a large array of hot freshly made dishes continuously coming out of the kitchen and a large wood burning rotisserie producing juicy flavorful meats. This is no ordinary cafeteria, it is famous and I got to eat there every afternoon when I was studying Italian just down the street. I just couldn’t wait to be part of the atmosphere at Alilmentari Tamburini. Cafeteria-style restaurants are very common in Italy and serve good local specialties at very reasonable prices. But this combination of market and cafeteria is special as you can lunch there and walk out with an arm full of cheeses, freshly made pasta, vegetables, and a large variety of salumi for later.
On of my favorite little trattoria is da Nello al Montegrappa (via Montegrappa 2). Their signature dish is Torelllone or Tortellini Montegrappa. This pasta is served in cream-and-walnut (or meat) sauce with white truffle shavings on top. The restaurant is also known for its grilled Porcini mushrooms and one of our favorites stuffed zucchini flowers (zucca fritti) that are light and crispy, absolutely delectable. The restaurant is small with a room crowded with tables on the ground level, a down stairs dinning room and a very small outdoor dining area. You feel a little packed in at times and this might be very uncomfortable to some tourists who are not use to Italian restaurants at lunch time. Italians eat out and crowded restaurant are not at all unusual. Even though the restaurant is in the center of town where there are many tourists, locals swam da Nello. Some may consider it touristy but I’ve been going there for many years and have never been disappointed. The fried zucchini flowers are among the best I’ve had in Italy and their grilled Porcini mushrooms are succulent.
As you can see in the photo below, my granddaughter is in her glory with a dish of their fried zucchini flowers.
I have tried to recreate Tortelloni Montegrappa and came up with my own version. Of course I don’t have white truffles to my dismay.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings as a first dish
2 cups all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
12 oz. ricotta
1/2 cup walnuts, crushed
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Place the flour and salt on your counter or cutting board and make a well in the middle. Place the eggs in the middle and with a fork begin to combine the flour into the egg. The dough will be a little dry, but if you are using a pasta machine, it must be dry in order to roll the dough. Knead the dough for 10 minutes until it becomes smooth and set it aside in a kitchen towel for 1 hour to rest.
Cut a piece of the dough and roll it through the pasta machine beginning at the widest section. Roll the dough through each section until you have rolled it through the second to the last slot. If the dough is too moist, rub a little flour into it with your hands. The dough should be somewhat dry. Lay it out on the countertop and cut 2 1/2” x 2 1/2” squares.
Mix the ingredients until it is well blended and smooth. Taste for salt, it should be a little salty.
Place a full teaspoon of the ricotta mixture in the middle of each square and dot the edges with water then fold them over into a triangle. Dot the two ends of the back of the triangle with water and fold them to the back overlapping the ends. Fold down the top of the tortelloni slightly. The water acts as a glue and seals the pasta. But do not use too much or it will become slimy.
Note: The tortelloni can be frozen for up to a month; they take about 5 minutes cooking time if frozen. Do not place them on top of each other when putting them in the freezer. Once they are frozen you can remove them and put them in a plastic freezer bag lying them flat.
Walnut and Mascarpone Sauce
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings
1 container Mascarpone cheese
1/3 to 1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1 small clove garlic, whole
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
3 tablespoons walnut oil
Slightly cook the walnuts in the walnut oil with the garlic. Remove the garlic when the walnuts have released their oils and are slightly toasted.
Place all the rest of the ingredients in a blender and pulsate just enough to blend well. Add the chopped toasted walnuts and place the sauce back into the pan and heat slightly.
Cook the pasta in a large pan of hot salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Taste for doness.
Pour the sauce over the hot pasta and put a handful of whole walnuts over the top for decoration.
You hardly feel like cooking on hot summer days and yet fish and shellfish seem so perfect for light summer meals. They are also very easy and fast to prepare. I have a husband who just didn’t like fish but would eat shellfish. I solved this problem by taking him to a cooking class in Italy where just about all the dishes we prepared were fish. There were 4 chefs from a 5 star restaurant and just the two of us. I didn’t expect this, as it was a class at a hotel that we had gone to many times and advertised as a class for a maximum of 6 people. Seems we signed up for the first class of the season that started the beginning of June. Along the Adriatic, this is not high season and we were the only ones to register. The chefs wanted to do the class in any case, probably to test it out, how lucky was that!
I wondered how my husband was going to deal with eating the meals we prepared, as he really hated fish. My husband is a diabetic and it was important for him to change his diet that consisted mostly of meat. This class was the cure and he totally enjoyed every dish we prepared. He still eats meat, but today we have fish at least two or three times a week. The message is that if there is something you don’t like, it is worthwhile to learn how to prepare it. Many times you can find recipes that you never knew existed and will satisfy your taste.
The following is an easy recipe that is great as it includes greens, shellfish and pasta, what is there not to like!
Strozzapreti con rucola, patate e cozze
Chef Franco, Vieste (Foggia), Italy
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
1 lb. strozzapreti, cavatelli or pasta of your choice
1 bunch arugula (rucola in Italian)
1/4 lb. of potatoes
1 lb. of mussels
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Wash the mussels thoroughly and let them soak for about 1/2 hour in cold water, changing the water a few times. Remove the beard that is between the shells. Steam them in a small amount of boiling salted water. This will take 3-6 minutes; discard any that have not opened. Strain out all the liquid and reserve it for the sauce. Remove most of the mussels from their shells, keeping about 5 per person for garnish.
Peel and cut the potatoes into small squares, par boil them in salted water. Set them aside.
In a skillet, sauté the oil and onions until they become slightly translucent. Add the garlic and pepperoncino and cook a few more minutes. Add the reserved mussel liquid and boil it down to about half. Add the cubed potatoes.
In a large saucepan, cook the strozzapreti in salted boiling water. Three minutes before the strozzapreti is cooked add the arugula in with the strozzapreti and cook until the strozzapreti are al dente. Drain them and toss them into the skillet blending them until they are completely covered with the sauce.
Some may think that cannoli is the ultimate Italian pastry, but for me it is sfogliatelle. I have traveled long and far to purchase them. When studying Italian in Bologna, there was a pasticceria across the street from the apartment I rented. Every morning they make them fresh, and I was there when they came out of the oven to enjoy a warm sfogliatelle for breakfast – I still dream of those mornings.
One Easter on our way to Genoa we stopped at an Agip highway restaurant for an espresso and they were giving them out free for Easter, what a wonderful surprise.
In Genoa they had stalls in the outdoor market selling them in huge quantities filled with variety of fillings. We bought several as I wanted to try all the assortments, but I still prefer the traditional sfogliatelle.
The Villa Crespi is a magnificent Middle Eastern style, 4 star luxury hotel with a 2 star Michelin rated restaurant overlooking Lago di Orta. A merchant who traded in Iraq built the Moorish style villa. You can have a massage in your huge room beautifully appointed with antiques or relax in the garden on lounge chairs with views of the lake. It is a short walk to the village where you can visit the shops or take a boat to the island. Visit the many vineyards of the Piedmonte region where you can taste wines such as Barbaresco, Baarolo, Muscato and Asti Spumante . Nebbiolo is the main grape grown here in the Piedmonte, which is one of Italy’s largest wine growing regions.
The chef, Antonio Cannavacciuolo runs the hotel and elegant restaurant serving creative, artistically presented cuisine that is a dream to eat. The chef made sfogliatelle every afternoon and served them with espresso for a late afternoon delight. They were smaller then the typical ones you find in the bakery and light. Filled with the traditional ricotta filling, I was there in the garden waiting every day during our relaxing visit.
Orta is a small picturesque village along the lake in the Piedmonte west of Lago Maggiore. It is one of the smallest and least known towns along the lakes. If you have spent your vacation visiting the Lakes region and want a few days of relaxation before returning home, spend them at the unique Villa Crespi. The hotel is only 45 minutes from Milan’s Malpensa International airport and a perfect hotel to wind down.
This recipe was taken from one of the chef’s antique cookbooks and I translated it into English.
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 15 minutes @ 400º F, 15 minutes @ 350º F, 5-10 minutes @ 250º F
Yield: 16 large or 32 small pastries
8 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
2 cups suet or lard
1 3/4 cups cold water, more if needed
2 tablespoons fine salt
1/2 cup honey
2 cups semolina
1 3/4 cups whole milk ricotta
2 cups confectionary sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup candied fruit, chopped
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 pinches cinnamon
7 oz. distilled water, as needed
Salt to taste
1 egg, beaten with the water
1 tablespoons water
Other things needed
Melt the honey with water.
Put the flour into a food processor and add the suet, salt and mix until it crumbles. Add the honey/water mixture a little at a time until the dough forms into a ball. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.
If making the dough by hand, put the flour in a large bowl or on a wooden board. Make a well in the middle and add the suet, salt, honey and water. Mix with your hands until you form a ball. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
Roll out thin strips of the dough in the pasta machine. Make several equal strips in length of at least 40”. The strip should be the thickness of 1/16” or less.
With care, lightly but lavishly brush the suet onto each strip. In doing this, you must be very careful that the strips are not stretched or torn. Never use flour.
Place 3 of the greased strips on top of each other. Tightly roll up the strips toward you. You will find that the fat will begin to melt. Continue with this process until you have rolled up all the strips.
You will then have a coil of approximately 12” in length and 3” in diameter; you will find that the suet has melted somewhat. Cover the cylinder with plastic wrap. Put it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
If using a pasta machine your strips are not going to be the same size, they will be the width of the pasta machine. This is not a problem; just follow the recipe directions in the same way.
The following day proceed with filling and baking them. Remove the cylinder from the refrigerator. Cut the cylinders into slices the thickness of 1”.
You must transform the slice into sfogliatelle flakes. On the cut side, using your fingers, gently push in the folds from the center inwards. Making the inverse movement on the outside, from the edge towards the larger end. Gently spread the larger end outwards, so that it looks like a clamshell with grooves.
Continue with the same treatment for the other slices. Then, maneuvering delicately and flattening them to take the shape again working in the shape of a clamshell with a point on top and wide at the base creating what looks like a shell; finally the sfogliatelle is ready to be filled.
Another possibility is to take each 1” slice and sprinkle a little flour on a board and a little on the slice. With a rolling pin, roll from the center out to the right and the left. Again place the rolling pin in the middle of the oval and roll down forming an oval shape. Pick up the oval and fill with the filling in the middle. Seal the wide part of the oval and place on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper.
This process does not create the typical shell shape but is acceptable.
Place all the ingredients in a bowl except for the water. Beat by hand until you have blended all the ingredients. Begin to add a little water at a time beating it in until the filling is just a little fluid. This is a thick filling and you just want to add enough water to make it smooth.
Hold the shell in the hollow of your hand, put a spoon full of filling inside the center; seal the edges, but don’t pinch them together. Carefully lay them down on your cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush each one with an egg wash or melted suet or lard whatever you choose to use.
Prepare all the sfogliatelle. Bake in a 400º F oven for 15 minutes. Brush with the lard and reduce the heat to 350º F and cook for another 15 minutes. Brush with an egg wash and cook for another 5-10 minutes at 250º F. When they are a beautifully golden in color, remove them from the oven.
Sprinkle them with a veil of powdered sugar when they are hot out of the oven, and serve them warm if possible.
NOTE: A special machine is used in bakeries to form the pastry and this can’t be effectively reproduced at home even when using a pasta machine. They are delicious even though the pastry isn’t as fine.
NOTE: Sfogliatelle do not stay well. It is best to make the dough and rolls the day before and the next day bake and serve them.
The Limmat Quai runs through the city flowing out of the Lake of Zürich. Lined with swimming areas and restaurants it is the playground of the city where people meet in beer gardens and cafes. The city is sophisticated, elegant, spotless and yet it seems like a beachfront with people sunbathing along the river and lake. Motorboats, sail boats and steamboats move along the lake in a frenzy of activity while people dinning in the restaurants enjoy their champagne brunch. During summer, the lake promenade is a relaxing way to spend the day or evening enjoying the beautiful views and feeding the swans that gather around the shore.
This is the center of Switzerland’s famous financial services, an important international business hub. It looks more like a resort then a business center. But then you walk down the Bahnhofstrasse and you are in another world. Banks, insurance companies, trading companies stand side by side with exclusive shops.
Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland and offers the traveler more then 2,000 restaurants and some of the most luxurious hotels in the world. People stroll along the Bahnhofstrasse window-shopping at spectacular jewelry, art galleries and elegant boutiques. Smartly dressed people stop at Sprüngli’s for an espresso and decadent desserts. Sweets are not just for special occasions here, they are an important part of the lifestyle and you cannot pass by without experiencing some of the luscious chocolates beautifully displayed to excite your taste buds. My internal navigation system is permanently set to take me to the Paradeplatz; if not to indulge myself in chocolate truffles, griotte, and tarts, but to also take in the visual experience of Sprüngli’s and Teuschers’ chocolate concoctions. It is said that the average Swiss eats approximately 22 pounds of chocolate per year.
Zürich has the biggest techno parade in Europe, and has the Züri Fäscht, a fest with spectacular fireworks to music that sprawls along the entire harbor side and held every 3 years. Zürcher Theater Spetakel, an outdoor cinema and live musical programs fill the summer schedule with entertainment.
Many political refugees lived in Zürich shortly before and during the two world wars of the last century. They gathered in the Odeon Café at the Bellevue, among them Trotsky, Lenin before the Russian revolution and many artists and writers during the Nazi period, such as Berthold Brecht. Even today it is a place where intellectuals gather.
Visit the Grossmünster, a Romanesque church and the Fraumünster. The old Gothic church has windows created by Marc Chagall. Kunsthaus, one of the major Swiss art museums and many more are mostly free entry.
This civilized city somehow seems to be in slow motion and still in high gear at the same time. It is like everyone’s back yard yet there is serious business going on in the majestic buildings. The intermingling of young smartly dressed business people in suits lunching at the many ultra modern bars and the serious looking bank buildings are a stark contrast to all the activity surrounding them.
The Niederdorf can’t be forgotten. This is the Old Town, and here like in many cities it coexists with jazz clubs, exotic shows, small theaters, restaurants, clubs, galleries, jewelry shops and boutiques. This is the place to go at night and during the day for a bit to eat in one of the many restaurants. Here you find people elegantly dressed on their way to the Opera or pre-opera dinning or enjoying jazz at the many clubs. This is not the typical seedy part of town, but the entertainment district for all to enjoy. It is buzzing from late afternoon into the early morning hours. Fourteenth century buildings and small cobblestone streets offer apartment living and city getaways for people living in the suburbs.
Switzerland has a fantastic transport system, not only can you tour the city by tram, but you can also take restaurant trams enjoying lunch as you go. In a very short time you can be in the Pre-alps or even in the Alps. Steamboats take you on slow lazy cruises along the villa-lined lake with the alps looming in the background, and during the Föhn (warm air coming from over the alps from the south) seem to be touchable. The contrast of the countryside is stunning as you very quickly go from this alluring city to the peaceful awesome views of the green rolling hills to the alps. Travel by train along transparent blue glass like waters of the many lakes. Buy tickets at ticket machine before boarding or from one of the kiosks. Tickets are sold for the day or multiple trips, or tickets that offer you all forms of transportation.
Zürich is as complex as the Swiss themselves – a reflexion of the Swiss personality. Complex, reserved, conservative, hesitant, precise and even reluctant and yet there is an underlying energy, bursts of excitement and curiosity. These traits create an innovative and courteous place that typifies the city and the people who live here. It is stunningly beautiful.
The pebble-paved streets wind through Haut-de-Cagnes’ narrow alleyways past stone houses, artist’s studios, restaurants and a few shops. The Chateau Grimaldi, a fort built around the 1300 dominates the village overlooking the sea. Replicas of canvases by well-known artists who painted this romantic place are stationed at the locations of the scene. The clay colors of the roof tiles, grays of stone walls, colorful vines creeping up the sides of the ancient buildings seem to be growing where ever they can find a little earth. Haut-de-Cagnes is a heritage site, classified as a “Monument of France”.
When I first walked up the pebble streets some 30 years ago, I thought I was stepping into a Renior canvas. Brush strokes and pallet knives created this village from the imagination of a genius painter I thought. Of course it must be, because Renoir lived and worked in Les Colette just around the corner from Haut-de-Cagnes. The panorama over the hills and blue Mediterranean gave him inspiration and his canvases reflect the colors and vegetation of the region. So this must be where I am, in one of his paintings. Then, when I came back to reality, I saw that Haut-de-Cagnes was a real place, with real people, and real stone buildings and flowers and I was going to stay here forever. Well I almost did and have visited it many times.
Painters lived in this region of France such as Picasso, Chagall, Monet, Erté, Rodin, Bonnard, Matisse and Modigliani who spent time with Renoir – just to name a few. All conspired and enjoyed each other’s company in this medieval world. The village reflects the romanticism of the past and you wander through the streets appreciating the beauty that they saw. Today you can visit Renoir’s home, now a museum where you can see why he was in love with Cagnes-sur-Mer.
In recent years there has been a revitalization of Cagnes-sur-Mer and in many ways it has improved along the sea. A boardwalk goes on for miles all the way to Nice. Restoration of the beaches and buildings has brought new life with little seaside restaurants that serve both French and Italian specialties. The city is charming in the area of the market place where people seem to be stationed all the time in the café’s. Maybe they are really sculptures by Renior who probably joined in this typically French pastime of café life. Sometimes I feel they are purposely placed there so visitors think that relaxing and drinking espresso or a glass of wine is all people do here. There are many new apartments in the center of the city, which I suppose is to be expected, and in some ways nicer architecture then some other towns. The town has all the shopping you need with outdoor markets and excellent boulangeries. Years ago it was possible to find small boulangeries and boucherie (butcher shops) in Haut-de- Cagnes, but they are long gone. Many foreigners have bought apartments and live part-time here making it difficult for small shops to survive. But they have also renovated the apartments and have played a role in keeping the village alive and free from commercialism.
There is a parking lot in Cagnes-sur-Mer, a paid parking garage in Haute-de-Cagnes and parking along the streets, but the chances of finding parking is slim. The public parking lot in Cagnes-sur-Mer is a quarter the price of the parking garage and with very good bus service to Haute-de-Cagnes. The shuttle bus leaves every 15 minutes from June to September from the Castle and can be taken from several places along the route to Cagnes-sur-Mer. From here you can catch buses to other destinations along the Côte d’Azur. The shuttle is free and the bus service is inexpensive and a good alternative considering the lack of parking in Nice or Cannes.
By some stroke of luck Haut-de-Cagnes has survived tourism. You quickly appreciate this when you visit St. Paul de Vance. It hurts to think that such a beautiful village that inspired so many famous artists is now a big commercial mess. The people of Haut-de-Cagnes and all those who settled there saved this magical place from the sickness that takes over when people only see dollar signs. This could have easily happened here, but instead it has stayed the same and you feel like you are going home every time you visit. This is the village where I could easily see myself getting lost in forever and many new residents have. It’s simplicity and charm just carry you through life as though you have nothing else to worry about except stepping around the palate knife and paint strokes that created it.
Vance and St Jennet are easily reached and are a nice side trip. Vance has done a lot of restoration and in fact has replaced its fountains with ones dating back to its origins. Many guests visit the perfume factories in Grasse. Collectors search for perfume bottles that are now collectables at some of the weekly outdoor markets.
I will only mention two restaurants in the village and one in Cagnes-sur-Mer that we found worth visiting. Le Fleur de Sel we did not visit because it was closed for vacation, we have dined here in the past and I was told that it was good and under new management.
You won’t find many restaurants in the village but a few stand out. Chef Stephane Francolino, owner of Entre Cour et Jardin, told us that many Italians fled to France during WWII and settled in the region mostly in Grasse to work at the perfume factories. Since we had just come from Dolceacqua, Italy, his hometown, it was an interesting connection for us. The region’s culture is intermingled with Italy and its cuisine reflects this. Entre Cour et Jardin is a lovely little restaurant decorated in the style of the village with paintings adorning its walls and in one corner a typical French fireplace. The chef’s menu reflects his love of travel and his creativeness in combining his roots with his cooking. He is the cook, waiter and owner and takes pride in his relationships with his customers, who he calls his family. Stephane and his restaurant are as enchanting as the village and exactly what one would expect to find here.
Thank you Stephane for this lovely recipe.
Entre Cour et Jardin
102 Montée de la Bourgade
06800 Haut de Cagnes
Tel: 04 93 20 72 27
Fax: 04 93 20 61 01
Crème de foie gras et fruits
(Cream of goose liver and fruits)
Yield: 40 glasses
Bake: 15 minutes @ 212ºF
250 g (9 oz.) of stuffed goose liver terrine
1 egg yoke
90 cl. (3 1/4 oz.) cream
Pimient d’esplette (Basque chili pepper)
Mix all the ingredients.
Put a raspberry and some raspberry coulis (puréed and strained raspberries) at the bottom of the glass, and then add the preparation.
Bake approximately 15 minutes in the oven at 100º C (212º F)
Put them in a cool place for 2 hours. They can be refrigerated for a few days.
La Goutte d’Eau
108 Montée de la Bourgade
06800 Le Haut de Cagnes
Phone: 04 93 20 81 23
La Goutte d’Eau has contributed a wonderful typically French “tarte au citron”. I will test the recipe and post it at a later date. I loved it because it has a light citron flavor, not overwhelming, with an Italian meringue topping. The little outdoor eating area is very pleasant in the evening and owners run back and forth to the restaurant to serve its guests outdoors. They are fun and it is a casual restaurant with an atmosphere so typically French.
23, Place Sainte Luce
06800 Cagnes Sur Mer
The restaurant is located next to the left of public parking lot in Cagnes-sur-mer. Its contemporary setting is a surprise, as the outside looks quite old with a small outdoor terrace seating area. The food was very good and even on what one would have considered an off night; it was completely booked with locals.
Le Cagnard Hotel
Rue Sous Barri
06800 Le Haut de Cagnes, France
Le Cagnard Hotel, our choice for many years has come upon some difficult times. Still beautiful, it’s one time one star Michelin restaurant has been closed. But I remember my first encounter with Madam Barel showing me each of the 4 rooms and 2 apartments so that I could choose my favorite room (They have many more rooms now). There were huge tulips on top of the antique chest and on stools placed around the hotel. It had a small elevator that never seemed to stop at the right floor and has a beautiful restaurant with its painted ceiling tiles (now opens to view the stars). I remember the New Years Eve we spent here with a fire glowing in the large fireplace and the huge selection of chèvre for dessert. This is where I was introduced to chèvre. On our 10th anniversary of visiting Le Cagnard, Madam came into the dinning room as we were having breakfast and insisted that we join her for a bottle of champagne to celebrate our 10 years of visiting her. We never made it back to Switzerland that day and she has remained in our memories of Haut-de-Cagnes. This year we opted to rent an apartment which we find a more interactive and interesting way to enjoy a place that is a home away from home.
I search for the small hotels that are owner operated and the service is focused on your return. The place where you say, I would come back. Where the chef comes to your table to make sure that everything is to your satisfaction and they are willing to spend time talking with you as though you have gone there many times before.
In S. Mamete village in Valsolda, Italy is the small hotel of Stella d’Italia. On the Italian side of Lake Lugano, it is about 2 miles from the Swiss border, 6 miles from the city of Lugano and an hour from Como.
Mr. & Mrs. Ortelli have owned and run the family owned hotel for many years. It has been in their family for 4 generations. They are very welcoming and speak English fluently. There are 34 rooms tastefully decorated with French doors, balconies and beautiful views of Lake Lugano.
Guests can enjoy breakfast; lunch or dinner under the rose covered terraced garden boarding the lake. The gardens also have small tables where you can enjoy drinks or lounge and take up the sun and beauty of the lake. It has a very small beach and a dock where boats can pull up and moor until guests have finished their meal.
The restaurant is very good and stopping by just for a meal on our way back from Como is a must. I suggest if you decide to stay there, that you make a reservation for dinner as you won’t be disappointed in the food, and there are few other places to eat in the village.
The village is very small and does not offer much interest. There is a ferry that links the village to the city of Lugano and Porlezza, Switzerland where ferries can be taken to other points in the Lake Region. It is a fantastic location to visit Gandria, Monte Bre, Lugano and the Lake Region with rooms at a reasonable price compared to Lugano. If you are a golfer the Menaggio e Cadenabbia Golf Club is one of Eruope oldest and most prestiges clubs and is about 15 minutes away (http://www.menaggio.it/). If you want a small, friendly and well-appointed hotel while traveling from the Ticino, Switzerland to Italy it is a perfect place to stay. Be sure to make a reservation, the hotel is fully booked in the summer months. Spring and Autumn are beautiful in this region and the hotel opens on Easter weekend.
Salsa crema e zucchini was inspired by a dish I had at Stella d’Italia.
Zucchini Cream Sauce for pasta
Salsa crema e zucchini
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 Servings
2 cups water
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large fresh zucchini
4 tablespoons cream (half & half or heavy cream)
1 small anchovy (optional)
Salt to taste
Peel one zucchini. Half both zucchini lengthwise and remove seeds. Put the peels and seeds into the broth. Cut both into 1/2” cubes. Put half of the peeled cubes and half of the unpeeled cubes into the broth. Reserve the 2 remaining halves for the steamer.
Add water, garlic (whole), peppercorn and anchovy into broth. Put the steamer with the remaining half of the cubes on top of the pan and cover. Boil down at medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove the steamer and reserve the steamed zucchini. Remove and put aside the zucchini cubes from the broth. Strain the broth and reduce to half, approximately 1 1/2 cups.
Put the reserved zucchini from the broth back into the broth. Puree with a hand emulsifier until smooth. Add the cream (heavy cream will make the sauce thicker; I prefer half & half). Just before serving the pasta add the reserved zucchini from the steamer to the cream sauce. Taste for salt and spoon it over the pasta.
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We started out in Dolceaqua in search of more medieval stone villages and came across Pigna just a few miles from Apricale. The village is beautifully restored with many apartments renovated into full time or vacations getaways occupied by dwellers in search of the past. Many people had witches (le streghe) hanging above their doors or in the apartments. This of course coming from New England was rather strange. I assumed that it must be that they are meant to keep evil away. As we walked through the narrow caruggi (paths) we met up with one of the locals who was entering his apartment and had a witch hanging above his door. He explained that the witches bring good luck to the family. An odd concept we thought as they are considered shadowy figures working their potions and strange ideas in dark rooms somewhere to us. But not here, as the village of the witches here is Triora he told us and suggested we visit this interesting stone medieval village. So off we went in search of the story.
Back to Pigna for a moment as it is too pretty to just pass by. The large spa of The Grand Hotel Pigna Terme is cradled just below two medieval villages with breathtaking views. Hidden just below the Toraggio mountains the views of the ancient villages of Pigna and Castle Victorrio, the green plateaus and centuries of history and art are surreal. The Grand Hotel Pigna Antiche Terme offers just about everything for relieving stress and beauty treatments in harmony with nature.
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From there we headed up winding roads, sometimes hairpin turns into the mountains with views covering miles of forests and olive groves out to the sea to Triora. The small village is truly fascinating, as the world’s technological advances have not reached it as yet. Some locals and a few vacation apartments have been renovated, but if you want to get a true idea of what life must have been like during the 14 century you can find it here. It is hard to call the spaces apartments – they are really caves carved out of the mountains with walls built of layered stone. A simpler construction then their neighbors, it reaches down into your physic with wonderment of what life must have been like and how lucky in many ways we are today. Hard to contemplate living in this cold yet imaginative environment. The village was very poor as we were told by one of the local woman. She went on to say that the women were the center of life with great power over the family. As in many cases the mystic overtook reality and those who didn’t understand their world considered the women witches. They were burned alive during the Inquisition; Troira was the site of the last witch trails. Today the witches are thought to bring good luck to families. Troria has a witchcraft festival in August and Halloween. It was selected as “I Borghi Piú Belli d’Italia”, (The most beautiful villages in Italy). We didn’t find any witches, but I’m sure there are some behind the old wooden doors along the caurggi.
As usual we were taken up with what we were doing and lost track of time as we began our decent to San Remo. We needed to find a restaurant before 2PM when the restaurants close for the afternoon. As we entered Moiline Di Triora we came across a very small restaurant along the side of the road. We know that they usually don’t have a menu but this has never stopped us in the past, and we always enjoy the interaction with the local people. This was no exception as we listened to the two main courses and the pasta of the day, we made our selection and enjoyed some wine as we waited for the fresh tagliiatelle with pesto Liguria, now going on at least 3-4 times we have ordered it. The homemade pasta was delicious (pesto Liguria is made without cheese) and shortly came the Cinghiale di Liguri (wild boar) and the Coniglio di Liguri (rabbit) that my husband ordered. These are typical dishes of the Alpe Liguri and we had to try them at least once.
The stews were simple and the meat just fell apart. Knowing that not many people would have access to wild boar, I asked the owner for the rabbit recipe. This is always interesting as everyone in the restaurant usually has his or her idea of how to prepare a dish. As she explained how to prepare the rabbit and left to serve another customer, our neighbors began to explain that she had not told us the most important part. The rabbit must be browned to a crisp and not to add too much olive oil or wine as it should not be steamed or it will get too dry. The conversation went on for quite some time as they ate their panna cotta with chocolate sauce and a shot of Vodka poured over the top. Seeing that I was a little surprised, they explained that this was how people in the mountains eat – they drink a lot! We had a good time talking to them except by the end of the discussion we had eaten all the boar and rabbit and I forgot to take a picture. So here is the recipe without the picture.
Cinghiale Bianco Ristorante
Molini DI Triora
Via Regina Margherita 77
Coniglio di Liguri
1 rabbit cut into pieces
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 whole cloves garlic
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup white wine
Vegetable bouillon, as needed
Mixture of herbs: thyme, sage, rosemary, chopped
Black Taggia olives
Large grain salt
Extra virgin olive oil, light
Other things needed:
Terra cotta pot
Put a small amount of olive oil in the pot and sauté the onions and garlic until translucent. Add the rabbit pieces and brown until a crust has formed. This step is very important, as the rabbit will dry out during the cooking if it is not properly browned. Add the herbs and wine and salt and pepper. About 1/2 hour into the cooking add the olives. Let the stew cook for about 40 minutes. Add the broth as needed.
The medieval village rests on a small hillside 7 km from Ventimiglia in the Val Nervia dominated by the ruins of the Chateau des Doria. The medieval bridge stretches over the Rio San Rocco river connecting the two sections of the town and is a symbol of Dolceacqua. Terraces (fasce) are carved into the hillside where olive trees, vineyards, flowers and eucalyptus grow. Art and history create a visual feast of beauty that caught the eye of Claude Monet who painted Dolceacqua and said that it was an “extraordinary picturesque village”.
The sunny Piazza Garibaldi acts a theater for feasts and events in the village such as the Festa dell”Olio Nuove (Festival of the new oil), and is lined with restaurants where you can enjoy the famous pizza made with local light olive oil. Stone pathways with arches connecting the buildings called “caruggi” (narrow paths) wind upwards through the stone village that protected its inhabitants from invaders and the weather. Small shops tucked along the caruggi house workplaces of carpenters, electricians, galleries, small B&B’s and agriturismi that cater to today’s residents and guests. Each day as we passed we could hear the sound of classical music combined with workmen’s tools as they go about their tasks.
The ancient village is slowly being renovated into charming apartments and rough stone spaces still await a loving owners to bring them back to life. Many French come over the boarder to enjoy the views, the famous pizza at one of the 15 restaurants, and mountain breezes that provide a naturally cool and pleasant environment during the summer months. This is mountain life and the pace is slow and peaceful. People meet in the café’s, drink cappuccino reading the newspaper in the mornings, and socialize with friends over a glass of wine in the afternoons. The fish man comes along in a small truck selling fish from the sea as people go about their business working in the shops or greenhouses that ramble along the hillsides and olive groves that seems almost impossible to reach.
The region has a culture of roses and floriculture with tangerine trees lining the streets and the sweet aroma from the multitude of flowering bushes. Although the region has been deeply affected by difficult economic times, 80% of Italy’s flowers are grown here.
Dolceacqua means “Sweet Water” maybe named after the very nice red wine called “Rosses di Dolceacqua” that has the deep red color of roses. Made from grapes grown in vineyards where their roots cling to the hillsides, it was highly revered by Napoleon Bonaparte and Pope Paul III who made sure that casks were shipped home.
Maybe it is the olive oil that is the sweet water of Dolceacqua. The silver green leafed olive trees covering the hills produce light yellow oil perfect for fish, wild boar and rabbit dishes typical of the cuisine of Liguria. Beer is also brewed here, and is deep yellow, served very cold in glasses similar to a Bordeaux glass. The beer is a perfect accompaniment to the thin-crusted pizza made in wood fired ovens covered with local dried salumi, porcini, fresh vegetables or shellfish, the best pizza I’ve had in Italy.
Just up the road about 4km is Apricale, one of the” Rock Villages” certified as the most beautiful villages in Italy. Stone houses and alleys lead around the castle housing artist’s workshops and painted murals. Paintings and stone carvings can be seen along the caruggi and doorways decorated with flowers that add color to the grey stone structures.There are a few B&B’s and restaurants in the center of the piazza where there is a washing trough and along the caruggi you can see the old village central oven. The village is also well-known for its summer theater. A local Balu tournament is held in June and July with 16 teams taking part. A popular Ligurian game using an elastic ball is played against the walls of the ancient village. The local players are even more popular then football players.
Sun showers light into the dark covered caruggi during the day lighting the painted and carved murals walls. At night it is the stars that light the ancient village, which seems to sit just below the sky. The villages were owned by the Counts of Ventimiglia, captured by Grimaldi until Andrea Doria liberated them. Apricale even has an American history as Giovanni Battista Martini fought at Little Big Horn and was the only living survivor.
Both Apricale and Dolceacqua belong to the prestigious “Associatione dei Borghi piu belli d’Italia”, (The Association of beautiful villages in Italy) and there is no doubt why many foreigners have bought apartments in appreciation not only of the villages but the life style of the mountains.
Ventimiglia is 7km, San Remo is 14km and the French border is 16km from Dolceacqua making this little village a perfect base for visiting the Alpe Liguri – the backdrop of the Riviera dei fiori is a refuge from the crowded beach towns along the Riviera. There are many apartments for rent by the week or weekend. Renting an apartment offers you the opportunity to experience village life and select some of the local cheeses, salumi, wines, foccica, bread and pastries to enjoy at home. The local merchants are very helpful and always happy to recommend local specialties. French and Italian are mostly spoken here and even though only a few people speak English you can always find ways to communicate with the friendly locals. There is little night life except for the restaurants and a few clubs, yet you are a very short distance to the sea side towns.
Cars are not allowed in the old villages anywhere along the Riviera, so be prepared to walk up hill or steep steps to reach an apartment or B&B. Villages have parking lots; some are free at the entrance of the village. Summer months are crowded with heavy traffic clogging narrow roads through the towns along the sea. The best time to visit the area is in May to Mid June or from September through the fall.
Pizza Verde Dolceaqua
Cook time: 200c (400ºF)
Time: 20-30 minutes
500g flour (1.1.lb)
5 tablespoons extra virgin ‘Taggiasca” olive oil
250gr water (1 1/4 cup)
40gr yeast (1 1/2 oz.)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 whole eggs
750gr chard (1 lb. 10 oz.)
150gr Parmesan cheese (10 1/2 oz.)
1 1/2 onions
Extra virgin olive oil
Black Taggia olives
Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and a teaspoon of sugar and allow it to rest in a warm place.
Pour the flour onto a work surface and add the yeast mixture, and salt to the flour. Bring it together into a ball and knead it. Let it rest under a clean cloth, preferable woolen, of a bowl until in a warm place for at least 2 hours.
Take the risen dough and knead a second time until you have soft dough and let it raise again under the cloth for another 2 hours.
Roll it out and put it onto a pan greased with olive oil and let it rest again before covering it with the greens.
Chop the uncooked chard and add the oil, salt, eggs, onion and cheese. Spread the prepared mixture onto the dough and sprinkle olives and whole cloves of garlic over the top. Cook in the oven at 200/300º (400ºF) for 25/30 minutes.
Michetta, The sweet bread of Dolceacqua
The story of michetta:
The Marquis Doria sent a young bride who refused to give herself to him to prison to die. The population of Dolceacqua rose up and forced the Marquis Doria (1364) to stop his abuse of power and on the 16th of August there is a festival to celebrate the event. The women of the village created the “michetta” now the symbol of love and freedom.
1kg flour, (2 lbs 3 oz.)
100g yeast, (3 1/2 oz.)
350g sugar, (13 oz.)
250g butter, ( 9 oz.)
Grated lemon zest,
Warm water and Marsala
Bake time: 200ºc (400ºF). until they puff up and have alight brown color on top.
Dissolve the yeast and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in the warm water and add it to the flour. Add the eggs, butter, lemon zest, salt and Marsala. Let the mixture rise for one hour and knead it. Shape it into an oval or knot shape. Place the michette on an oiled baking sheet and bake in the oven at 200ºc (400ºF).
Dampen the tops with a little water and dust with remaining sugar.
The polenta, porcini and truffles and Genovese pesto spaghetti were dishes we had for lunch at Locanda dei Carugi, Via Roma 12/14, Apricale, a small little inn and restaurant – they were excellent.
It is impossible to imagine French cuisine and culture without the baguette. Baguette is a staple food in France and is usually bought many times a day in neighborhood boulangerie. Going to the boulangerie for a baguette for breakfast was just part of what made life in a small village romantic and typically French. The Boulanger wraps a piece of paper around the middle and off you go to enjoy your baguette with a pat of butter and maybe if you are lucky some homemade jam. In some villages, the locals still bring their bread to the community ovens to be baked.
Djibril Bodian, a Senegal-born baker at Le Grenier à Pain Abbesses (38 Rue des Abbesses; 33-1-46-06-41-81) has won the Best Baguette prize in Paris. Mr. Bodian will supply Nicolas Sarkozy’s residence, the Élysée Palace.
See the full article on NowPublic.
The first sign of spring in Europe is when asparagus begin to show up on restaurant menus. Asparagus are considered the king of vegetables and some restaurants open only during the season serving asparagus with hollandaise sauce (Spargel mit Sauce Hollandaise), slices of ham and fresh strawberries for dessert. Once the season is over, these restaurants close.
Having lived in Germany for several years, we would see fields of white asparagus packed in dirt with the tips peeking out of the ground during the spring. They are deprived of light, which keeps them from turning green.
White asparagus are thicker and juicer but I think more fibrous. Some restaurants in Germany serve them in their water, not my favorite. A chef friend of ours, Rolf Messmer, owner of the Au Major Davel Restaurant & Hotel in Cully Switzerland (www.hotelaumajordavel.ch/), tells us that when he started his apprenticeship he cleaned tons of asparagus. He is meticulous in making sure that the skin has been neatly removed from the stalk. Using a vegetable peeler, he turns the stalks slightly with every stroke removing all the skin. He adds sugar to the water to bring out the flavor and slightly undercooks them, wrapping them in a towel for the final cooking. His asparagus are perfect and his restaurant is filled with people enjoying the king of vegetables as they watch the steamboats pulling up to the dock on Lake Geneva.
There are special asparagus pans where you stand them in a rack in about 3” of water. But you can cook them lying down in water also. Don’t overcook them, as they will become soggy and uneatable. Prick them with a knife to judge if they are beginning to get tender after about five minutes. As soon as the knife starts to penetrate the stalk remove them to a clean kitchen towel as suggested by Chef Messmer.
Green and white asparagus are interchangeable in recipes, but I feel that due to the amount of water in the white variety, they are not as good if added to pizza for instance. I also prefer the green the variety in pasta or anything where the heat continues to cook the vegetable.
When choosing asparagus, make sure they are fresh and the ends are not dried out. When they are old, they will begin to show ridges along the stem – the stem should be smooth. Store them covered in the refrigerator for a few days only. When you are ready to cook them, snap the bottoms off – they will break where the tender part starts. Discard the hard bottom parts, as they are woody and fibrous.
Asparagus are a versatile vegetable and can be roasted, boiled, steamed, made into soup, tossed with pasta and so on. The white variety tends to be a little more expensive and are not as easily found in the US as they are in Europe. I prefer the green variety, as I think they have a more intense flavor but this is a matter of taste.
Place several on a warm plate and add some hollandaise sauce over the top or on the side. It is acceptable to eat them with your hands holding the ends and dipping them in the sauce. A good chardonnay, or a light burgundy goes well with this dish.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 8-12 minutes
Yield: 2 people
12 green or white asparagus (remove the outer skin with a peeler)
Salt & sugar
1 tablespoon of black peppercorns
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Chopped parsley
2 tablespoons ice cold water
1 stick of butter
2 egg yolks
Juice of one lemon
Boil the peppercorns, wine vinegar and chopped parsley until it is reduced to almost nothing, deglaze it with 2 tablespoons of water. Run it through a sieve and pour it into a cold double boiler. Add 2 egg yolks, whisking them into the pan. Add the juice of 1/4 of a lemon, at this point put the double boiler onto medium heat and begin whisking little pieces of butter until the it has melted and thicken. Wisk constantly – this is very important. If the sauce separates, put chilled water, and if necessary add another egg yolk.
Prepare the asparagus by peeling the outer skin with a vegetable peeler. This is not necessary if you are using green asparagus, but it has to be done with the white asparagus. Remove about 1 inch of the bottom of each steam. You can simply bend the stalks and they will break at the point where the hard stalk separates from soft stalk. However, if you want all the stalks to be the same size, cut them where you think the hard stalk ends. Boil them in salted water (add a little sugar, which brings out the taste of the asparagus), for about 4-5 minutes.
Remove from the water and wrap them in a kitchen towel to finish cooking.
Pour the sauce over the cooked asparagus.
Your hobby gives you the space you need that is all your own. It becomes part of your life and love of life. It is your place to go when the stresses of everyday life begins to weigh you down. It keeps you centered and you are good at it. People around you are drawn to the excitement and pride you project. Or maybe its your family heritage that you want to pass down as I did. Whatever drives you to pursue this, friends and family recognize the enjoyment you get out of it. It is a passion that everyone around you shares and suddenly people are saying, “ You know you should start a business”. What could be better then making money at something you love to do.
The ideas begins to keep you awake at night and you can hardly do anything else but think about how you can make your hobby a paying business where you can work on your own time, stay at home, do what you love and even make money.
Starting a business must start with a detailed business plan and a clear description of what your goals are. For me making Italian biscotti was not the goal, but the means to keep family traditions and recipes alive. We talked and joked about it for many years, Each time someone told us that we should sell our biscotti because no one makes them like we do anymore, the desire became more of a passion. Then one day, out of the blue my sister got laid off from her job and in this devastating moment, we said why not, lets do it.
We started down the path of making our dream become reality. Creating a business plan, baking every cookie that was in our family’s hand written cookbooks and pricing out the ingredients, timing each step along the way. When we made them for family events we didn’t consider the cost at all. The first decision we had to make when we realized how expensive they were was what compromises were we willing to make. Do we go for trying to make them less expensive or do we say this is what they cost and we are not going to compromise quality. We put everything down in an excel workbook, set our prices and took a shot.
First were the permits, licenses, packaging and administration as we started our business at home our overhead was less costly but not zero. The costs began to mount and we began to look again at ways to make our product price friendly. We wanted to keep our product authentic, the way our family made and packaged biscotti. We found a packaging manufacturer (Italian packaging), who was willing to sell directly to us eliminating the middleman and sell at lower volumes. Many of these companies sell huge volumns that most small business can’t afford or keep in inventory. Searching out wholesale prices, sales and discounts became an obsession. We buy items we need after the holidays when they go on sale for example. We now kept awake at night worrying about costs; quality was first and foremost so we had to diligently work at cost control, the key to any business success. Since my sister and I have had careers in business, we were already aware of the pitfalls and the things we had to consider from a business perspective. Our family has been in the food and restaurant business ever since our grandparents immergrated from Italy in 1912. We grew up in the business and know how difficult it is.
One other important finding was that all those people that pushed us to turn our hobby into a business were there for us in the beginning. We quickly found out however, that you can’t depend on your friends and family to be your main support and customers. People love the biscotti and buy them, but you can’t sustain a business with friends and family alone. You have to move this business into the market place. This means advertising, sales, insurance, administration, bookkeeping etc. Cost control becomes harder and harder as you enter the world of business and your pride and joy hobby begins to take on more pressure. Your dream hobby job is another reality.
It became clear that we needed something to help us keep costs in check. The excel workbook worked fine for a while but became cumbersome as we began to increase product varieties and production. We needed something easier and faster to make quick quotes, print labels, keep track of our customers, send invoices out and make bookkeeping easier. Reality kept creeping in.
My husband who has a software business offered to write a program for us based on the very detailed excel sheets we had developed over a two year period and the experience we had gained. He had prepared the basis of our excel program that led us in the right direction considering all aspects and factors that had to be considered, always allowing us to know every cost factor and what our profit margin was with every order.
As I began to communicate with others and read articles of people wanting to turn their hobby into a business, I realized that we had some experience that would help others and maybe prevent them from making costly mistakes. The program he developed is the cornerstone of our business and we decided to offer it to home and small to medium size businesses – an inexpensive program that was easy to use and affordable. The Bakers Pricing Software is the result of this effort and we hope it will help others like us reach their dream of bringing their hobby to the market place successfully.
We are currently developing an accounting program that will be integrated with the Bakers Pricing Software.
THE BAKERS PRICING SYSTEM
The Baker’s Pricing Software is a system that stores all essential data to price a product in a database. The most basic data is raw material information. It stores the name, description, vendor and price information and raw material properties such as whether it is perishable, the density if available in order to accommodate volume and weight input for recipes. The system allows quick updates to take care of changes be it price or vendor. Other key information needed for price calculation is stored in the Preferences: Labor cost, energy cost, overhead percentages, material loss percentage and last but not least the profit targets for retail and wholesale. These cost items and the raw material are the foundation for all subsequent calculations and it is extremely important that this data is not only entered carefully but also maintained on a continuous basis as most of the prices fluctuate!
The next step in the process after establishing the basic cost factors is entering the recipes for your products. You select from the list of raw materials available, add quantity and dimension for each ingredient, the amount of labor and the energy used. The cost for individual item wrapping is also added. You will also be asked whether the product can be used on a tray (the basic building blocks of an order) or not. For example a recipe for frosting would not be available for trays but could be entered as raw material and be available for other recipes. The last information to be entered about recipes are the yields, i.e. the number of items you get per recipe and per pound.
Trays of one or multiple recipe items are the building blocks to fill orders. Trays may be actual trays, but also boxes or more generic, sets of items that can be used for different orders. You can assemble trays by units or by weight (if you sell a pound of a recipe item for example). You can add packaging and transportation cost to the trays. The system will then calculate the retail and wholesale price you should charge to meet your profit objectives. You then fill orders using trays. An order is a customer-oriented record. You not only enter a unique identification and the client’s name but also the delivery date, the actual sales price and any additional delivery costs. The system then provides you with a sales and a reimbursement summary for the different expenses incurred. Last but not the least are the cumbersome health permit labeling requirements. The Bakers Pricing Software automatically creates labels for individual products or summary labels for trays.
Page examples and downloads can be found at http://www.pturo.com/
We often shop in 2 markets in Como, Italy; one is the main market in the center of Como and the other is the Ipera in Grandate. Very near to this market is a little local restaurant called Ristorante Arcade. There isn’t much about the curb view of this restaurant that would make you look twice and stop for a meal. However, this restaurant has some different dishes specializing in snails not often seen in Italy. On one of our shopping trips, it was lunch time, and we were very hungry with not too many restaurants around, we noticed Ristorante Arcade. Having had many wonderful meals in small local restaurants, we stopped in for lunch. I had Funghi lumache e salsiccia con polenta taragna. It was not like any dish I had eaten in Italy and I not only loved it but asked the chef for the recipe. He was good enough to give me the recipe and a bag of Teglio-Valtellina polenta. I have featured this dish on Foodbuzz.
The story of coffee began in the East, in about 400 B.C. The first coffee traders were the inhabitants of Ethiopia. The trade then moved to the southernmost part of the Arabian Peninsula. Later, Yemen became the nerve center for the coffee trade. There are many legends telling of the origins of coffee, historic, religious, popular, each of them with varying degrees of popularity.
In the West, coffee first became popular in Venice. It is believed that the first coffee shop opened in 1640. It was an instant success and both the coffee “Bar” and the beverage spread to every Italian city.
Drinking expresso is a phenomenon marked by a ritual in Italy.
The Italian name for a bartender is “barista”. A bartender is considered a profession in Italy and is the professional operator of an expresso machine. A pre-warmed demitasse is a small cup used for espresso. The foam floating on the top of the coffee is called “crema”.
The Italian Bar is the center of social life in Italy. It is where Italians have their breakfast that mostly consists of a cappuccino with a sweet roll usually filled with jam. The bars also serve freshly squeezed orange juice, pastries, small sandwiches, liquors and sometimes gelati. Italians drop in several times a day for an expresso and meet for a glass of wine after work. The atmosphere is warm and inviting and filled with the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans. The Italian Bar is a way of life; it is everyone’s living room or office where friends meet and business is conducted. You are never alone in Italy because there is always a bar close by. If the tables are occupied, and you see a free seat, you simply ask if it is free and join the others at the table. One always pays for their order first at the “Cassa”. You can sit all day in a bar if you wish without ever being asked to order anything else. Scurrying waiters deliver “expressi” from local bar’s balancing trays in one hand to offices in the surrounding area. The activity is constant and the common link is the “espresso”.
On a recent visit to Modena, although it was a cool day, people wrapped in coats and scarves sat outside sipping their espresso. Weather does not interrupt the coffee “pausa”. It almost seems as if drinking expresso is an addiction, but it is a lifestyle. I remember when I took my brother on his first visit to Italy; this tradition was astonishing to him. The Bars on every corner filled with Italians drinking what he called their ” teaspoon of coffee” was an attraction in itself. To walk by a Bar and not go in is totally impossible to do. The aroma lures you in and you find yourself sipping an expresso without even thinking about it.
It is said that four “Ms“ are key to a good espresso: miscela (blend), macinazione (grind), macchina (machine), and mano (hand).
The term “espresso” was translated from the Italian “esprimere” meaning “pressed out” or “express”. In Italy it is simply called caffé.
An espresso machine forces water at 90 °C (195 °F) and 15 bar of pressure through a puck of finely ground coffee. This produces a rich, beverage by extracting and emulsifying the oils in the ground coffee. An espresso machine also has a steam element, which is used to steam and froth milk for cappuccino and latte.
The flowing list the different types of coffee prepared in a typical Italian Bar.
Caffè or espresso
Decafinato – a decafnated espresso
Ristretto – the espresso amount of coffee with half the water it is very concentrated
Doppio – (“Double”) Double shot of espresso.
Caffè lungo – a long coffee, more water is added and the coffee is weaker
Cappuccino – espresso with steamed milk and foam. Italians drink cappuccino only at breakfast
Macchiato – espresso with just a bit of steamed milk on top
Corretto – espresso with a little liquor, usually Grappa or Sambuca
Latte – short espresso with hot milk
Caffè con zucchero – espresso with sugar. Usually you add your own.
Known as the Bündner Herrschaft, and the Five Villages (Fünf Dörfer) Zizers, Malans, Jenins, Maienfeld, and Fläsch, are located in the district of Landquart and the Chur Rhein valley in the Canton of Graubünden.
Maienfeld is dominated by the Schloss Brandis built from 1270-1275. Narrow streets curve through the small village like a ribbon wrapped around a perfect gift. The beautifully frescoed Rathaus (town hall) stands proudly in the center of the village. Scholss Brandis – now a restaurant has a small garden where you can enjoy the beauty of this village with a glass of local fresh light Pinot Blanc.
The wine route (Weinbergweg) runs from Chur to Fläsch through the five villages. The main variety of grape grown is Pinot Noir. Riesling-Sylvaner (Müller–Thurgau) and Chardonnay, Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris) and Weissburgunder (Pinot Blanc) are now also being grown. The route is best visited by walking or biking and taking in the beauty of the vineyards decorated with roses and artist ateliers scattered about the villages displaying works of art. You can catch a bus or train back to your starting point if you don’t want to walk back. Wineries are open for wine tasting and little hotels and restaurants with terraced gardens interrupt your walk as you just can’t resist going in and sitting down to a glass of wine and a Bünderteller (air dried meats and cheeses). Some of the restaurants have jazz evenings serving local specialties while people patiently wait for the vendange. The lively music seems to stimulate the sugars in the grapes. Cows graze lazily, and friends enjoy horse and carriages rides as they spend a day together laughing and waving to people as they pass-by.
“Städtlifest” celebrates the harvest and is held on the last weekend of September or the first in October. This year it will be in Maienfeld from Friday, October 2 until Sunday, October 5. The quite villages and typical Bündner chalets are decorated with huge sunflowers covering the doorways and fountains filled with roses and fall flowers. Locals, dressed in traditional costumes are entertained by small musical groups and Alpenhorn billowing music over the vineyards. A typical Swiss fest full of tradition and color has people waiting in line to get a portion of Racelette in huge wheels melting and scraped onto hot boiled potatoes. Grills are placed throughout the village with huge wood skewers of goat (zigerspitz) grilled in flashes of fire as seasoned oil is scooped over them in what looks like a flamethrower performing amazing tricks. We watch munching on our zigerspitz; the bratwurst grilling, wine being poured into cups while people and children scurry around visiting friends and making this one of the most colorful local fests in the region. This is Switzerland at its best.
The Lavaux is a region is in the canton of Vaud. It was developed mostly by monks about 800 years ago, the vineyards of Lavaux can be traced back to the 11th century. The villages are strung together by miles of stonewalls along steep hills with magnificent views of Lake Geneva. The small ancient villages and the terraced vineyards are reminiscent of another time. The stonewalls create a micro-climate storing the warmth of the sun during the day, radiating warm throughout the vineyards during the night hours. In the Dézaley the surface area of the vertical stonewalls is larger then the land area. Lavaux is mainly known for its white wines. The main wine grape variety grown here is the Chasselas. It is a full, dry and fruity white wine. The villages of Chexbres, Cully, Epesses, Forel, Grandvaux, Lutry, Puidoux, Riex, Rivaz, Saint-Saphorin, Savigny, Treytorrens and Villette makeup the “Route du Vin”. Stone houses grouped along the route, with panoramic views of the lake quietly stand watch over their precious vineyards. Under cantonal law, the vineyards of the Lavaux are protected from development. In July 2007, the Lavaux was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“Le Caveau des Vignerons” are open on various days of the week for the convenience of guests and wine connoisseurs. Here in the ambiance of a Caveau you can taste the wines of the Lavaux accompanied with local dried meats and cheeses. Visitors can walk from village to village along service roads, stopping to enjoy an apéro at one of the many restaurants and café’s along the route.
Having lived in Cully for several years, I enjoyed a daily walk through the vineyards and made it my duty to watch over the growth of the grapes. The peace that blankets the vineyards as the grapes mature was always amazing to me. It is as though they are being attended to by angles whispering encouragement and gentle nurturing. However living in this wine growing region, I know the effort that goes into the vineyards. As we sat in the afternoons at the “Au Major Duval” restaurant” where many of the locals meet, we listened to endless discussions about how the weather is effecting the maturing of the grapes, what the Oechsli degree (sugar content) is or might be, and when the harvesting should start. The tedious job of pruning and testing, harvesting and finally making the wine is what a vinter’s life is about.
The harvest starts late September to the beginning of October. The atmosphere is animated as many pickers arrive to work the vendange. The grapes are carried down steep hills on temporary rails set up to carry carts full of grapes down to small trucks. Crushing machines are setup outside of the wineries and the grapes are dumped and crushed with the juices filling large stainless steel vats for the first stages of the fermentation within hours. When this difficult work is completed the pickers set off fireworks and jump into Lake Geneva to celebrate.
Every year approximately 40,000 music lovers enjoy the Cully Jazz Festival held at the end of March for 9 days. Professional and armature artists from all over perform in an environment with a unique ambiance. Sessions are held in the Caveaus are free. Buy a bottle of the festival selected wine and enjoy the best of jazz throughout the village visiting each caveau. Events in a festival tent installed in the park, at the Salle Davel and in the Church require tickets.
There are a number of local restaurants and hotels in the area. I have only listed a few of the more well know establishments.
Au Major Davel, Place d’armes 8,1096 Cully. Tel: +41-21 799 94 94: Fax: +41-21 799 37 82. www.hotelaumajordavel.ch
Bernadette and Rolf Messmer own “Au Major Davel”. The small hotel and restaurant offers its guests superb views of the lake and the hills of the Savoie on the French side of Lake Geneva from every room. The 12 rooms were renovated a few years ago and the restaurant opens onto the park along the lake. In the summer the Messmers offer Jazz one evening a week in the open air in front of the restaurant.
As you enjoy your meal you watch the steamboats slowly float to the dock to drop off or pick up visitors traveling among the villages around the lake. We spent many evenings after being away on business enjoying dinner and wine of the region at Au Major Davel. As we looked out at the lights blinking on hills around the lake, the sky full of stars we were happy to be back in paradise.
At the “Raisin” Chef Hasler and his team are well respected in the world of gastronomy. The hotel is a member of the Relais & Chateaux and has hosted many famous guests. It was built in the 14th and 15th century and is equipped with all the comforts and a beautiful decor. The wine list, including the wines of the Dézaley, selection of spirits and a Cigars list await their guests. Located in the center of the village, it is within a short walking distance to the lake. Log on to their web page for more information.
A battle is on about the use of natural corks in wine. Wineries that are turning to synthetic stoppers say it is because a small percentage of the natural corks leak, crumble or leave wine with a musty taste. This is true, there is always that risk if the wine isn’t stored properly. The wineries that I have visited all do technical testing of corks but it is not a guarantee.
Some wineries are moving from corks to metal closures. The reason for this shift is that an increased amount of wine being contaminated by cork taint, leaving the wine tasting musty and dull. The culprit for this unpleasant phenomenon, which can spoil up to one in 10 bottles, is trichloroanisole (TCA), a compound formed when chlorine used for bleaching reacts with mould already growing in the cork. Humans are incredibly sensitive to the compound and can detect it even at weak dilutions of six parts per trillion. TCA can flourish in several areas of a bottling facility, such as drains and barrels, but corks pose the biggest problem. “AZo Journal of Materials Online”.
Many types of grape wines are bottled using a cork sealed with a metal cap. The metal cap traditionally used on the better wines is made primarily of lead. Any lead product used in connection with foods or consumable liquids should be examined carefully to evaluate the danger of lead contamination. An earlier report by PERRE and JAUL~S (1948) showed that lead caps on wine bottles lead to an increased level of lead in wine. Lead Caps on Wine Bottles and Their Potential Problems by C. M. Wai, C. R. Knowles, and J. F. Keely- Department of Chemistry, University of Idaho. Today led is forbidden in many countries and metal caps are usually made of aluminum.
Scientists have shown that the long-term use of plastic corks in wine bottles leads to organic chemicals leaking into the wine, causing potential health risks. A report by the Leatherhead Food Research Association, a centre funded by the food and drink industry, shows that plastic corks can taint wine, causing an “off-taste” if it is stored for more than 18 months.
Plastic corks are cheaper than top-grade natural corks. The Mediterranean Region is the largest supplier of cork oak and they will be economically affected by this change. It’s not so much about economics to the wine connoisseurs as it the tradition and ritual that is at stake. They say that most people wouldn’t even know the difference. Plastic stoppers may be more acceptable to wine lovers then metal caps. Most wine lovers are clearly enthralled with the tradition of opening a bottle of wine with a corkscrew, listening to the pop when pulling it out and sniffing the cork. The process of a sommelier opening the wine at the table and popping the bottle is not going to be easily given up. A lot has gone into the romanticism of this process-it goes hand and hand with drinking wine.
Is the glass closure the answer since it seems to allow some oxygen into the bottle and the loved process of opening the bottle at the table with pomp and circumstances isn’t threatened?
According to Alcoa’s Closure Systems International new glass and acrylic closures provide attractive alternatives to corks and synthetic stoppers.
The elegant new closure looks like a decorative decanter stopper, and it is recyclable. Made with flexible o-rings, the stopper provides a sterile seal, preventing contamination or oxidation. An aluminum overcap and traditional neck sleeve will ensure mechanical protection and tamper evidence. Whitehall Lane owner Thomas Leonardini says “The glass stopper makes perfect sense. It is attractive, functional and eliminates the problems associated with natural cork.”However, the greatest benefit is that the possibility of cork taint ruining the bottle aged with a Vino-Seal closure system is zero,” said Leonardini. “And, the bottle can also be safely aged standing up.” Vino-Seal is also easy to open – no corkscrew needed. There also comes a second advantage: It is resealable. The contents of already opened bottles can now be sealed easily over and over again. In addition, the decorative stopper appeals to the aesthetic demands of connoisseurs.
George M. Taber says “I am interested in the new glass closures, for a red wine to age properly I believe it needs to be exposed to minute levels of oxygen over a long period of time, and cork seems to be the only closure capable of achieving this. However, when a closure is invented that keeps my wine safe from oxidation, allows it to properly age and eliminates TCA contamination from cork I’ll gladly retire my corkscrew”. GM Taber’s book, “Cork or Not to Cork”.
We are finding many more wines being served with metal caps, but mainly for white wines that are drunk within the first 2 years. I have to admit, I’m not excited about this and don’t like being served a bottle of wine with a metal cap. I have less of a problem with a plastic or glass stopper. There are about 350 wineries in Europe now using the glass stopper. I have yet to be served wine in a restaurant with a glass stopper, but I’m sure it is only a matter of time.
We store wine for a long period of time, especially when buying futures. The incident of a wine having a cork is small, but it is not a happy occasion when this happens. Ultimately the glass stopper may be an elegant solution that preserves the long time traditions of the wine industry and wine storage. The jury seems to be still out on this issue and it will be interesting to see which one wins, the old or the new.
My grandparents came from Vieste (FG) Italy. In my quest to learn more about my heritage I went to Vieste and took a cooking program. My husband and I had 4 chefs at a five star hotel to ourselves for a week and learned many traditional dishes made in the village and Gargano. I’ve had many people ask me how to make pizza dough at home. The recipe below was given to me by Chef Marco at the Pizzo Munno Vieste Palace Hotel.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: N/A
Yield: 1 large pizza, 2 medium size pizzas
3 1/2 cups flour 00, reserve 1/2 cup for working the dough
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 cup water, tepid
PREPARATION IN A FOOD PROCESSOR
Put the water in a bowl and mix in the yeast and sugar. Place it in a warm place such as the oven and allow it to activate for about 15-20 minutes or until it doubles in size.
Put 3 cups of flour and salt in a mixer with the dough element and pour in the yeast mixture. Process it until it forms a ball. If working it by hand, place it in a bowl and mix the flour and yeast mixture with a wooden spoon or your hands.
Knead the dough lightly and place it in a bowl brushed with the olive oil and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Place it in a warm place and allow it to rise for at least 1 hour.
Punch the dough down and let it raise for another 1/2 hour covered. You can use as much of the dough as you might need and freeze the rest. When defrosting it, allow the dough to raise again.
Roll out the dough using the reserved flour and you are ready to prepare your pizza, calzone, cheese bread, stromboli etc.
When spreading the dough out, use your hands if you don’t want any air bubbles, use a rolling pin if for a flat crusty crust. I prefer stretching the dough with my thumb and the back of your hand. Use you finger tips to then rotate it on a board stretching it and turning it over a few times.
Most of us don’t have wood burning pizza ovens however; a pizza stone is the best solution for a home oven. You can also use terra cotta tiles, which can be bought in a home supply store. If you do this, purchasse 2 or 3 layers, they will keep the heat in really well and do the trick without spending a lot of money for a pizza stone. It is very important that you buy tiles that have not been made with chemicals.
Spread a medium grind semolina flour on the bottom of the pizza pallet, place the rolled out dough on the board and prepare your pizza. This will allow you to slide it off the board easily onto the tile or stone. flour will also do, but the dough slides off the wood palette more easily with semolina. You can also put parchment paper on the board and slide it onto the stone.
Cook the pizza in a very hot oven at least 500º F or as high as it will go. Put your pizza stone in the oven at least 1 hour until it is hot. If you are grilling it in a fireplace or on a grill, I have found that a metal grate works very well and makes it easy to turn it on the grill. I like this method because it also allows the heat to brown the bottom making it very crispy and gives it a smokey flavor. The coals should be red hot. The cooking time is about 15 to 20 minutes, but this depends on how high the heat is, so keep checking the bottom, it should be brown and crispy.
Don’t be afraid to use whatever you like. Goat cheese, Gorgonzola, Fete cheeses are great as are olives, most vegetables, meats and seafood. Be creative!
You can use fresh tomatoes, or Passate di Pomador0 or just pureed can tomatoes. An Italian home is not complete without a bottle of Passate de Pomadoro in the refrigerator. It is great for flavoring soups and vegetables as well. Some people like to use prepared tomato sauce that has already been flavored, but I really prefer the fresh taste of tomatoes adding the herbs that you prefer. Sprinkle with chopped garlic, oregano or basil, salt and pepper; add whatever you like on the top. Mozzarella is traditionally used layered on the top. Whatever cheese you use, add it a few minutes before the pizza is done. Just long enough so that it melts. This allows everything to cook on top without the crust getting soggy or the cheese overcooking.
La Chitarra (pronounced key-tahr-rah) is a pasta maker believed to have been invented in Chieti, Abruzzi Italy around the 1800’s. No one seems to know who invented it and until recently pasta made with the chitarra was mainly found in the Apulia and Abruzzi regions.
Since I’ve never been able to find a story behind this unique simple pasta maker, I made up one.
A long time ago, a young boy by the name of Michele, watched his mother making pasta every day, toiling over kneading the dough, rolling out it out into huge thin sheets and cutting it with a knife into thin stands. This is how Michele’s mother earned a living. Michele loved music and often sat on the steps of his simple stone home located along a narrow street of the village playing his beloved chitarra. He played for his mother while she worked – it seemed to make her life a little easier. As he was playing, he had an inspiration that the musical strings of his instrument would be perfect for cutting the dough. He removed the strings and placed them over a simple oblong box – he was going to miss his chitarra. He brought it to his mother and together they cut the pasta on his invention. To their amazement, as they rolled the dough over the musical strings, the pasta fell below the box in perfectly cut strands. The musical strings not only worked perfectly for cutting the pasta, but the beautiful sounds of the chitarra filled the small kitchen as they ran their fingers across the strings. From this point on they called her pasta “pasta chitarra”. Well of course this is my story, but every time I use my chitarra, I think of Michele and his mother.
There are two sides of the chitarra; one side cuts thin strands the size of spaghetti and the other Taglatelle and Fettuccini. The dough should be rolled out a little thicker to make troccoli, which is famous in Apulia. There are screws at one end, which are tightened to make them taut when rolling the spaghetti and loosened when it is not being used. Roll the dough the width and length of the chitarra and place the dough on the strings. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough over the strings. Run you fingers along the metal strings to loosen the cut strands and the cut pasta will fall into the box below.
During a trip to Vieste, Foggia, I visited a little restaurant in the old village called “Enotecca di Vieste”. Here I met the owner who brought me into the kitchen to show me how to make her mothers recipe for troccoli with chickpeas, eggplants and zucchini. After we enjoyed this hearty pasta dish with these lovely people, she handed me a bag filled with all the ingredients to make the dish at home myself. In Vieste restaurants have large balls of dough on a table covered with a kitchen towel. When you order troccoli, they cut off a piece of the pasta dough and roll it over the chitarra. You can’t get pasta any fresher then this.
La Chitarra is possible to find in some specialty kitchen supply stores.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 3 minutes
Yield: 4 servings as a main course, 8 as accompaniment
4 cups all purpose flour
2 pinches salt
4 medium eggs
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Tepid water (if necessary)
Place the flour mixture on a pastry board and make a well in the middle. Add the eggs, olive oil, salt and a small amount of water (you can always add more water if the dough is too dry). Begin to stir the flour from the outside part of the well into the wet ingredients. Continue this process until the dough holds together in a ball. The dough should seem as if it is too dry, but once it is rolled out in a pasta machine it will hold together. If the dough is too wet, rub a little flour on it, as it will be difficult to handle and too sticky to roll through the pasta machine.
Knead the dough for at least 10-15 minutes, and allow it to stand covered with a clean kitchen towel at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
ROLLING THE PASTA DOUGH
Start with a wider slot when rolling it out on your pasta machine. Roll it out a few times on each level until you have reached the second thinnest level. You will have to develop a feel of the thickness of the dough.
Once the dough is rolled out, cut it the length and with of the Chitarra. The dough should be a little thicker then if you were cutting it for fettuccini or spaghetti.
Pressing down with a rolling pin, roll the pin over dough. Run you fingers across the exposed strings at the end of the Chitarra and the pasta will fall to the bottom of the box.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
10 sprigs fresh basil
3 ripe large tomatoes, deseeded and chopped
1/2 cup dry chick peas (soaked overnight)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cube beef bouillon, dissolved in water (1 cup per cube)
1 small eggplant, cut into 1” chunks
1 small zucchini, cut into 1” chunks
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
10 sprigs Italian parsley, chopped
1 pepperoncino, soaked in olive oil
1 green pepper, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
If you are using dried beans, place 1/2 cup beans in water overnight, they will double in size. Put them into the sauce for the last 15 minutes of cooking. If you are using canned beans, add them at the end only for a few minutes.
Place the olive oil in a pan and sauté the onions and garlic until the onions are translucent. Add the chopped pepper, zucchini, pepperoncino and eggplant and continue to cook for 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, basil, and bouillon in the pan and cook for about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked. You can add a little wine, more bullion or a little pasta water if required. In separate pan cook the troccoli in salted water for 3 to 5 minutes until al dente.
Mix the sauce with the troccoli and sprinkle parsley over the top of the pasta before serving. Put a nice piece of Parmesan cheese on the table for people to grate over the dish.
Rome has seen less of an economic effect from tourism then other cities in Europe. The drop in tourism has only been 5%. Tourists still flock to this city of so many wonders even in difficult times. If you are looking for a way to visit Rome but need to cut back on some expenses don’t cut back on seeing the sites, but maybe try some of the less expensive but great meals offered in Rome. Pizza is as famous as Rome itself. Some recommendations of great pizzas around Rome -most offer many other dishes at good prices are listed in the article attached. It is fast if you are on the run to get as many sites in as possible, and yet you can experience the flavors of Italy. Some have pizza with wild mushrooms, or asparagus, maybe one with pesto or eggplant. They are a whole meal and a great alternative to some of the more touristy restaurants found around Rome. Many Pizzerias offer other meals like risotto balls, fried mozzarella, fried baccala (salted cod). The ultimate fast food!
Pizza to go Slice and easy
By Alessandro Mirra march 2009
“One of the best things that Rome has to offer visitors in search of a quick and satisfying snack is takeaway pizza or pizza al taglio. You just go in and choose the amount of pizza you want by weight or by price. There are an almost infinite variety of toppings to suit all tastes and most places will offer a wide range of other hot foodstuffs such as suppli (balls of risotto with tomato sauce bound together by eggs around a piece of mozzarella, the whole surrounded by breadcrumbs and then fried) filletti di baccalà (salt cod in batter) or potato crocchette.
The city is packed with takeaway pizza stores that provide office workers, students and tourists a cheap, quick alternative to traditional restaurants or imported fast food outlets. One of the most famous is Lo Zozzone, tucked away down the Via del Teatro Pace behind piazza Navona. Zozzone’s pizza is so go good you can often find members of the Senate from the nearby Palazzo Madama who have deserted the luxury parliamentary restaurants for a quick and tasty snack. Another popular place among pizza afficionados is Pizzarium in Via della Meloria (Metro Cipro). This gourmet takeaway outlet not far from the Vatican Museums is run by celebrated pizza chef Gabriele Bonci, who combines slow-rise dough made from special flours with fresh, seasonal toppings like wild asparagus, or pesto and aubergine. You’ll also find super suppli and a wide range of imported beers to wash down your lunch. Antico Forno Roscioli in Via dei Chiavari 34 (Campo dei Fiori) is one of the oldest pizza bakeries in Rome. The choice of toppings is perhaps not as vast as in other places but the quality of the ingredients is unparalleled and the pizza itself is second to none. Near Piazza San Silvestro is Pecora Pazza (Via della Mercede 18). Despite fierce competition from the mass-market “Spizzico” pizza joint in Via del Corso, this place is always packed.
To finish on a sweet note, Laboratorio Pasticceria Lambiase, better-known as “Il Sorchettaro”, is a superb bakery store at Via Cernaia 49/a (not far from Porta Pia) famous for its deadly luscious pastries. Pride of place goes to the Sorchetta doppio schizo a freshly-baked croissant covered with whipped cream and melted chocolate. But they also sell a vast array of pizza fresh from the oven. Open until late, it’s the perfect spot for a tasty treat after a night on the town.”
The Burgundy is well known for its gastronomy, history and excellent wines. It is old France – a land of culture with historic castles, Roman roads and magnificent Romanesque churches. As you slowly cruise along the prettiest canals in France you pass peaceful hamlets, pastures with the famous white Charolais cattle grazing, and herders caring for their ducks. Thousands of acres of perfectly maintained vineyards are seen along the way-Canal de Bourgogne is very picturesque indeed.
Construction of the canals began in 1727 and was completed in 1832 as a means to transport goods. The trading routes and crossroads provided economic importance for the region. The canal provides North to South access through France via the Yonne and Seine to the Saône and Rhône (Burgundy, Centre and Niverais). In Burgundy alone there are more than 1000 kilometers of navigable waterways on the three major canals with 209 canal locks.
Houseboats and barges are available for rent with limited engine sizes so that no “pilot’s” license is required. A short explanation of how to operate the boat is given and you’re on your way. You often come upon people fishing along the canal and it takes some care to keep from coming in contact with fishing lines as we found out very early in our trip. However, with a little practice we managed to keep from taking out fishing poles. The locks can sometimes be a little tricky until you get the hang of tying up the bow and stern of the boat. Some locks have attendants but the smaller ones do not and here it is up to you to open and close them. At first this is an interesting experience as one person has to jump out and tie up the boat, open the lock, untie the boat and again once the boat has passed through, close the lock and jump back on board. It is important to follow the operating procedures exactly as a boat in front of us neglected to loosen the line as the water went down in a large lock. As we began to descend, their boat swung around and caught onto the lip of the lock wall so that both the front and the back was suspended in mid air. We were speechless as we were looking up at the hull of their boat and watching this dramatic event helplessly as the people screamed for help. The attendant immediately flooded the canal and the boat detached as the water floated it again. Cleaning the filter each morning is about the only other thing to do except stirring the boat.
This is a slow easy vacation. Stopping whenever you want to nap or read a book. Mooring at small medieval villages, viewing vineyards surrounded by miles of stonewalls and enjoying the ambiance of the towns is the part I loved. You can rent bikes with your boat and bike through some of the most famous vineyards in the world tasting and buying wine for the evening’s dinner. Mooring along the canal covered with weeping willows, enjoying a bottle of wine with the cheese you bought at the local market and maybe a long evening walk alone the canal ends a beautiful day. In the morning we visit the local boulangerie filled with the aroma of fresh bread and buy a baguette and croissants for breakfast.
The Burgundy is known for its fine restaurants and the Michelin guide has awarded stars to 27 restaurants. Culinary arts are considered the best in the world and we were not about to miss enjoying at least a few of these restaurants along the way. Lameloise in Chagny is quite easy to visit as it is next to the canal. Trois Gros, in Roanne on the southern boarder of the Burgundy, (we took a taxi) were food experiences we will not forget. Reservations are usually required long in advance but we found that in August we were able to just call ahead and we took our chances. There are many small wonderful charming restaurants in every village and sampling some of the specialties of the Burgundy such as Escargots à la Bourgogne, Boeuf Bourguignon, and Coq au Vin should be part of your meal plan. There are many varieties of mushrooms, such as chanterelles, and cèpes and many others can be purchased at the markets and are very easy to prepare just by sautéing them in butter and tossing them with some fresh herbs from the region. Try stuffing morels with goat cheese and sautéing with butter-so easy to prepare on a boat, wonderful!
One cannot talk about France without mentioning cheese. What would France be like without cheese? Well of course there is wine and desserts, but the cheese – no other country can boast the variety and range of cheese.
Epoisses is one of my favorites and I am a lover of goat cheeses. The variety is awesome and it is difficult to choose especially after having a meal. They can be bought at cheese shops in every village and are so easy to prepare on a boat. France has such wonderful desserts enjoy them at the restaurants and choose cheese for meals on the board. There are also many prepared foods in the markets that can be easy meals on a boat trip and also gives you the opportunity to experience the local food specialties.
Cruising down the canals of France is a wonderful experience and can be fun for kids as well. Handling the boat is so easy that children can join in safely. They might find the slow pace a little difficult, but taking some games and books along can solve this. It is a great trip for a group of friends to enjoy together or maybe you have a gourmet club to experience a trip down the Canal de Bourgogne.
When we think of Venice the first thing that comes to mind is St. Marco’s Square and the Grand Canal. It is hard to imagine that people actually live and work there. The photo’s I’ve uploaded here are of the back streets of Venice where people live and work.
What is Agriturismo? It is an Italian term for a farm holiday or agricultural tourism, but mainly it’s a concept. The idea is to better apprehend farmers’ life and rural traditions. It is taking in the culture, art, food and the countryside of Italy. It is not about working on a farm or even necessarily staying at a farm.
Many agriturismi (the plural of agriturismo) offer guests cooking and/or painting classes, horseback and bike riding, language lessons, guided tours or wine tasting – none of which you are required to do. Some farms do have programs where you can participate in various tasks. Italy does a fantastic job of educating and promoting their products and they do it with passion because they believe they have the very best.
The advantage of agriturismo is to experience a tranquil vacation and come in contact with the local population and nature. Enjoy biking for example through olive groves, or hiking in a National Park. Some areas have thermal baths and most have cathedrals and architecture rich in history and art. You can enjoy local food grown either on the farm or from the local area. Meals are often served family style by people from the farm or village. One small castle we visited in the Assisi area was located down a long dirt road surrounded by olive groves. There were only 6 rooms, all occupied by people of different nationalities. We ate at a long table in the dinning room served family style by local women from the village. Large dishes of pasta and roasted chicken held by one woman and served by another filled our dishes as we tried to discover what languages we all could communicate in. The conversation was translated into French, German, English and Italian and we managed to have a lively and fun discussion. All of the ingredients were farmed in the local area and the olive oil was made from olives grown in the surrounding orchards.
We took an apartment at a farmhouse in Montepulciano where we had a kitchen and shopped at the local markets and prepared some of our own meals. The owner of the farm helped us out by recommending where to go and what the specialties were of the area. The farm also had a pool and taking a swim late at night after a day of activities with views of the town of Montepulciano lit up at night was enchanting – we were in another world. We sat outside under an awning-covered patio overlooking the gentle hills and patchwork of colors created by the terra cotta buildings and farmland as we enjoyed a breakfast of fresh melon and prosciutto, fresh breads and pastry from the local pasticceria. Breakfast is a good meal to prepare yourself as the local markets have wonderful fruits, salumi and cheeses. Italians tend to eat a very simple breakfast of croissant and cappuccino. Speaking a little Italian in this case helps and is a great opportunity to practice. Italians are very understanding about language so no need to be embarrassed if you don’t speak well. They are truly happy if you make the effort. There are many free Italian lessons on-line if you want to learn some helpful phrases.
Many towns have revived traditions and costumes such as old games, plays and sports performed in traditional costumes that characterized the midlevel life of the area. Having your own transportation is important, as you are in the countryside where public transportation is not readily available. If you don’t have a car, then look for locations that are serviced by public transportation or where proprietors are willing to pick you up at the train station. Possibly a portable bike would work if you want to use public transportation but still have some freedom of movement. It all depends on how much your willing to invest in getting to and around your destination. Many farms will have bikes for you to use but be sure to inquire, as you will want to explore the area at your leisure. Most regions offer Argriturismo vacations. It always pays to do research before booking a region or farm.
You can find websites on the Internet but keep in mind the activities you enjoy the most and make sure that you will be able to experience them in your chosen area. Also inquire about major local events. Most of these places are small and sometimes prices increase and reservations during major holidays/events are difficult. Argriturismo vacations are often but not always the least expensive way to travel, this is a concept that brings together a way of life and nature.
Two agriturismi that I visited this summer in Veneto are “Col Delle Rane” in Caetano, S. Marco (Treviso) Italy http://www.coldellerane.it/en/home.asp and “Nicobresola” in Custoza, Verona http://www.nicobresaola.it/. Located in Veneto both offer wonderful accommodations at reasonable prices. If you are visiting Verona, Lake Garda, the Prosecco wine route are in a good location. Venice is only an hour train ride from both locations and the train is very inexpensive. Look for my articles on Veneto which will be posted here in the near future.