Archive for July 2014

Off To The Market

To quote Mother Goose:

“To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, dancing a jig;
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog;
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog;
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.”

OK…so we neither bought the pig or the hog but the bags were stuffed to brimming anyway!

trout lakeSummer Saturday mornings mean one thing and one thing only…Trout Lake Farmer’s Market. The place is crammed with awesome veggies and seasonal fruit and as per usual, we know I’ll buy too much…I mean there is only two of us!

I’m my own worst enemy because once home there’s work to be done! No lying about reading a book for me, except a cookbook!

The only “absolute” item on my list were zucchini blossoms. I bought a large bag of red and yellow bell peppers, a box of blueberries (we’ve already used up the last box!), our favourite Sieglinde potatoes, basil, plum tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, cauliflower, peaches, I think that’s it! Oh…our annual garlic braid!

First order of business, what the heck am I going to make for dinner with zucchini? The zucchini blossoms that I planned on stuffing with ricotta and serving a fresh tomato sauce on the side appeared to be unavailable! Yikes! There goes dinner! “zucchini blossom guy” informs me that one of the most famous chefs in our city placed an order and scored them all! When I asked if they just couldn’t short famous chef six, well here’s the reply, “no, the guy is too good with a knife!”

Plan “B”, the stuffed zucchini blossoms I could hardly wait to have for dinner have now morphed into zucchini fritters with fresh tomato sauce! Excellent…but you know…

DSC_8135 nx2Now it’s time to turn those bell peppers into peperonata and this time I am experimenting with Judy Witts Francini’s mother-in-law’s recipe and I must say, it’s very, very good!

Next up the basil, thinking to make some pesto to top the crisp polenta rounds to have as an appy before dinner…yum!

What to do with that last picking off the raspberry bushes in the backyard…well, there’s those blueberries, a bit of rhubarb and a handful of strawberries and that apple in the fridge, so how about dessert and how about a “crisp?” Yup…that works!

Those fabulous green beans are going to be even more fabulous, if you can imagine! Julia della Croce swears by boiling the beans for 5 minutes, then tossing on some excellent EVOO, salt and pepper giving that a toss and served either hot or warm…sounds good to me! A great excuse to use some of the Azienda Agricola Casamonti oil we brought home from Chianti in May with perhaps a squeeze of lemon?

My husband hates peaches so it’s just me and the peaches! These are so good, so drippy and juicy I have to eat them over the sink or standing up outside!

Now I have to work on plans for that cauliflower and the potatoes…not a problem! Isn’t summer simply glorious??

**If you would like to check out the Zucchini Fritters, click here. 

**For Judy Witts Francini peperonata, click here.  Just scroll down a bit to find it!

Phyllis Signature

Destination…Greve

If you drive the SR222 Highway in Chianti, aka Strada Regionale Chiantigiana, there’s a lot to discover along the way! We were introduced to Greve in Chianti in 2007, during our first trip to Tuscany where we rented a house nearby, and have returned many times since.

DSC_2475 nx2Greve in Chianti is often considered the entrance gate to the Chianti region because it’s the first major town you reach as you head south of Florence toward Siena.

It’s history is connected to the beautiful Castello di Montefioralle located on a hill above Greve as it was the castle’s marketplace beginning in the 13th century. It’s a delightful small fortified village where the famous explorer Amerigo Vespucci was born.

We enjoyed our first visit to Montefioralle, this past spring, so much, we went back a few days later to take more photos and to enjoy a second lunch at the delightful Taverna del Guerrino…they have a covered patio with an awesome, I mean awesome view!  Click here to see my Tripadvisor review.

DSC_2480 nx 2 ver 2At the beginning of the 1500s, the triangular shaped Piazza Matteotti was already there and is where, every Saturday, a big market of livestock and foodstuffs took place. Today the piazza has a covered arcade on three sides with shops such as Antica Macelleria Falorni who have been in the same spot since 1729! We couldn’t resist their cured meats and Pecorino! The weekly Saturday morning market still exists today and is great fun. It not only takes place in the piazza but overflows up the street towards the parking lot. Nowadays there are no live animals though! But there’s clothing, shoes, foodstuffs, housewares and I bought a pair copper hoop earrings there that I love! Also held in the piazza are a number of regular food and wine festivals each year. Watching out over the piazza, near Palazzo del Comune (the city hall), is a large statue of Giovanni da Verrazzano, the famous explorer, born near Greve, who discovered the Hudson Bay in New York. And at the other end of the piazza is the Santa Croce Church with its neo-classic facade.

While doing all this wandering about Greve, one does get hungry! We had heard that Nerbone di Greve had a restaurant on the piazza but as it turned out, it is now known as La Terrazza oli Osteria…no mind, seems to be the same chef and we had a great lunch upstairs, on their covered patio overlooking the piazza!  Ooh…that mascarpone cream with mosto cotto…heaven!

Let’s face it…for us it’s about the wine! In 1932 Greve, after the area had been redrawn, found itself DSC_2527 nx2included in the noble wine region of Chianti Classico. The Gallo Nero or Black Rooster symbol, seen everywhere, appears only on wines whose producers belong to the Chianti Classico Consortium. When you visit, you simply cannot miss doing a little tasting! An absolute must for us, at least once every trip to Chianti, is spending some time at Le Cantine di Greve tasting wines. We love this place! They use a credit card that you apply a certain amount of money to, then amble over to the different tasting stations, pop your card in your chosen slot in the “wine machine”, place your glass under the spigot and voila! Why don’t we have this in Vancouver?? When last there we were on the lookout for some Vin Santo to bring home. We tasted a few, found a delicious one and bought the last bottle!

 

Click here to see my Tripadvisor reviews of Taverna del Guerrino and La Terrazza oli Osteria.

 

Phyllis Signature

Aah…Roma!

Heading off to Rome?   Here are a few places you may want to check out. They are a bit off the beaten track but after you have spent a week or two “doing” all the stuff on your “list”, if you haven’t already…then I’m telling you, you need to GO! I don’t think you will be sorry you did!

OSTIA ANTICA, viale dei Romagnoli 717, Ostia

DSC_1523 nx2Excavations and a Museum for all us Ancient Rome archaeological fans! Take the M to Pyramide, then head towards the train station “Porta San Paolo” (basically the same building). Hop the train to the Ostia Antica stop, not the Lido, about a 20 minute train ride. There’s a pedestrian overpass that takes you over the highway, from there; it’s a short walk to the site. There probably are bus tours…but we like the adventure of actually finding what we are looking for!

Ostia was Rome’s main port and a busy trading center until the 5th century AD when it went into decline. The “town” now lies 3 miles inland. The ruins, divided into 5 regions, give us a look into life during ancient Roman times. The main road, Decumanus Maximus, runs past the Forum, which contains Ostia’s largest temple and past the restored theatre that is still used for open air concerts in the summer. The road is lined with baths, shops and multi-story buildings where we saw a number of amazing black and white mosaic floors. After three hours wandering and clambering about we wish we could have spent another three hours but we ran out of steam! The site is considered to be very well preserved, even better preserved than Pompeii!

There is a lot of walking involved and there is a cafeteria on site. If one could find a way, safely, to bring a picnic lunch along to enjoy in this amazing place it would be awesome!

VIA ANTICA APPIA AND CAPO DI BIOVE

DSC_1443 nx2Last time we were in Rome Via Antica Appia was on the list…but we simply ran out of time or rather each day we planned to visit it bloody rained! This trip we had plenty of time to plan around the weather. If you are planning on a meal during your visit, it might be a good idea to do a little research before going.  It might be worth looking into to avoid tourist traps!  I’ve seen good reviews of Antica Hostaria dei Liberti at #87.

There are buses that take you to Via Appia Antica and if you are not visiting the Catacombs don’t get off the bus there! Trust me…we made that mistake. We did not want the Catacombs (one of us hates enclosed spaces), which meant a bit of a hike; the “via” has a lot of traffic during the week and it’s a little nerve wracking dodging cars.

The road was built in 312 BC and extended  in 190 BC to the ports of Taranto and Brindisi becoming Rome’s link to its empire to the East. It’s lined with ruined family tombs, decaying monuments and other burial places.

Along the way we came upon the Circo Maxentius where chariot races were held. Pretty amazing to wonder what it must have been like!

As we hiked along, we got hungry…not wanting the usual 3 course Italian lunch that particular day, we opted for a place where we sat outside, under orange trees and had panini, beer and wine. It’s a family owned place, very casual and exactly what we wanted. The very nice owner recommended we visit #222. What with my limited Italian and her limited English, it was a challenge to figure out what the heck she meant by “stop at #222.”

DSC_1463 nx2After lunch we continued our journey along the ancient stones where you really can see the ruts left from carts going up and down the road for all those years! It’s overwhelming.

We continued on to the huge grand Mausoleum of Cecilia Metella, the daughter of a Consul and wife of the son of the famous Marcus Crassus who served under Julius Caesar. Her tomb remains while others have decayed and that makes it a very special place.

Further along and we finally discover what that nice lady meant by #222! In ancient times, wealthy Romans built big villas along the road probably to escape the heat of Rome in summer, where they could catch the breezes. As we discovered, people still have homes there today. #222 turned out to be Capo di Bove an excavated archaeological site of an ancient villa set in a garden containing a number of fantastic modern bronze sculptures executed by Columbian artist/sculptor, Fanor Hernandez.

English Cemetary

DSC_1615 nx2Coming back to M Pyramide from Ostia Antica we decided to check out the Pyramide of Caius Cestiius on Piazzale Ostiense and the Protestant Cemetary; a Roman friend suggested that we should not miss it!

If you have not seen the Pyramid, it was inspired by all the Cleopatra scandals and at the time there was a craze for all things Egyptian. Sound familiar! Caius Cestius commissioned the pyramid as a tomb for himself. It’s set into the Aurelian Wall near Porta San Paolo, built in 12 BC. At the time of our visit it was under renovation like so many other sites we came across.

The Cemetary, officially known as Cimitero Acattolico is on Via di Caio the street to the right of the Pyramid. The entrance is about ½ block from the Pyramid. Non-Catholics have been buried here since 1738. The cemetery is surrounded by a tall wall and in the oldest part, on the left as you enter through the gate, is the grave of John Keats and close by the ashes of fellow poet Percy Shelly rest. It is so beautiful, peaceful and serene, full of gorgeous marble sculptures, plants, trees, birds and cats. There is even a donation box for money to feed the cats! We were  glad our friend recommended it to us…

Click here for my Tripadvisor review.

Phyllis Signature

The Times They Are A Changing?

Our “hood” needs help getting some soul!

DSCN1446Copy copy nx2Here’s my vision: I want one or two new restaurants to come and add some life to our neighbourhood.  We need it!

It doesn’t have to be cutting edge! Traditional food, well-cooked, open for lunch and dinner or even to drop in for appy’s and a glass or two of wine or a beer!  That would suit us right down to the ground!  A place that is just a short walk from home, that’s the ticket!  There would be no need  to taxi to and from dinner because you want to have a bottle of wine!

Our neighbourhood, situated between Cambie and Oak, just a bit shy of the ritzy Shaughnessy area, is sort of a place in “limbo”. Something is missing. We need some vibrancy in our little area, especially in the evenings. And a little ethnic restaurant would fit the bill, maybe with an outdoor patio; it would be a great way to meet up with neighbours who you hardly ever see or if you do, it’s when they are getting into their cars and driving off. The two blocks of retail on Oak Street is quite the mix! We have a pet supply store (handy for us because we buy our neighbour’s cat treats), a corner “grocery” store, a nail place, (great for me every month for a “pedi”), a health-care clothing store, a take-out pizza place, a deli that’s pretty busy, although we have never understood why. A laundromat, a pet day care, a small sushi place (don’t like sushi) and lastly, a very casual Middle Eastern place that seems more suited to dropping in for a quick lunch. So there you have it! Of course, within a half mile radius there is an abundance of Asian restaurants to be sure…but one doesn’t always want Asian, no matter how good!

DSC_1722 nx2It really brought it home when we were in Italy a few months ago.  Both places we stayed in were in residential areas but just up the road there were to be found at least two or three choices, just what we wanted on some evenings when we didn’t feel like trekking far afield; it was terrific!

Friendly places that welcome you warmly, have a comfortable atmosphere and good honest food and drink, that’s what I’m on about. The patio doesn’t need to face out onto the stunning Chianti countryside either!

That would get my vote!!

Perhaps the “good news” here is that on one corner a building has a redevelopment sign on it and a block away an old rental apartment is also going to be redeveloped, keeping the existing “heritage” building but building an 11 storey high-rise on the site.  Now, what all this means is a lot more people moving into the area and fingers crossed, demand will increase!  One can only hope!

Phyllis Signature

An Etruscan City

The last time we were in Volterra was in 2008, spending time with friends in Tuscany and Umbria.

DSC_2877 nx2One day we planned a day to visit Volterra followed by a trip to San Gimignano but liked Volterra so much that instead of heading on to San Gimignano, we spent the day in Volterra checking out some of the sites such as the Museo Guarnacci’s Estrucan artifacts, the Palazzo dei Priori, Pinaoteca e Museo Civico an art gallery and museum and see some alabaster statues and objects d’art at various studios/workshops. Craftsmen there have been carving locally mined alabaster for 2,500 years. And let’s not forget lunch!!

This trip there were just the two of us and Volterra being such a beautiful location, very high up, making a great spot for my husband, the photographer, it seemed a good idea to return. Last January Volterra suffered a huge mudslide when a large part of the cliff DSC_2800 nx2simply fell away. Luckily the road remains and it appears as though the houses there are OK. Luckily the Etruscan Gate remains intact! Near the end of WWII when the German’s were retreating, the people of Volterra decided that the gate might be in jeopardy of being destroyed, so they took the gate apart, stone by stone, identifying each one so that when the time came they could re-assemble it and that is just what they did…an absolute miracle!

We arrived late morning, did some wandering and picture taking. The last time we were here I wanted to buy something alabaster until I realized that taking home wine and olive oil was “more important.” And…it’s time for lunch!

“Let’s see if we can find that cute place we liked so much last time, what was it called?” Somehow or other “husband/navigator” found it without much ado! Il pozzo degli Etruschi Ristorante is so inviting and when I explained in Italian, I might add, that we had been there six years ago they were absolutely delighted! The word pozzo in Italian means “well” and sure enough there it is, right in the middle of the ristorante…luckily it’s fitted with a plexi-glass cover!

DSC_2717 nx2It was nice to be back…so much pasta, so little time…we shared a melon and prosciutto “primi” then Joe ordered fresh pasta with a Sicilian sauce full of eggplant and zucchini in a light tomato sauce and being at least within “spitting distance” of Liguria, I ordered fresh tagliolini with pesto, probably because it would match my shirt! We enjoyed our pasta enormously with a nice bit of vino rosso! After lingering for a bit over macchiato we are off to continue the photo shoot.

Phyllis Signature