Monday, December 18, 2006

Happy Christmas

Just a quick post to wish every one a fabulous Christmas and New Year.
We are flying out early in the morning to London as we have just bought a car there, then we have decided to drive down to the Czech Republic and hopefully experience a white christmas with a bit of snow boarding and skiing thrown in.
A presto!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

As I sit here writing this I am indulging in yet another piece of Panettone, with toasted almonds on top ( Not for you Annika!). It is so easy to eat several pieces and not realise.


Well Christmas is just a week away and to be honest I'm having trouble getting into the Christmas spirit this year especially since Ikea were sold out of trees, I'm seriously thinking of decorating our large pot plant!.

As it is going to be a quiet one we are thinking of taking off to Prague for a week on Christmas Eve.The airfares have sky rocketed so I reckon we could drive there as it only takes 12 hours and we could stop in Austria on the way.
All our life we have always taken holidays on impulse due to the nature of the business we had, nothing has ever been planned much to the disbelief of our friends.
Many times back in New Zealand we closed the restaurant around christmas time, went to the travel agency wanting a package deal that week only to be told no accomodation available. It has never deterred us though, we hop on the plane and keep our fingers crossed that we will find something when we arrived.
In Bali we found some amazing hotels all willing to barter the price, Thailand was a bit harder though. We arrived late at night, I hadn't slept on the flight and was sooooo tired, I need at least 7 hours sleep to function properly or you don't want to be around me! We trailed around several hotels in Phuket all to no avail, in the end I sat on the side of the road and balled my eyes out. Where was I going to sleep!! Domenico took off to find somewhere, leaving me to drown in my tears. Luckily he found a room in the Holiday Inn for the night where I crashed and woke up the next day totally refreshed and happy.

The next day we hired a scooter and found a fabulous resort just out of Phuket where we spent rest of the week.
It is all very adventurous and I actually like not having to commit to accomodation or a place we are not sure about.
Well I will finish there and have yet another piece of panettone.

Jamies Great Italian Escape



I got a lovely suprise in the mail today, a belated birthday present from my daughter, the DVD of Jamie's Great Italian Escape.
I know alot of people are not Jamie fans, but I really like and relate to his style of cooking and was very frustrated when I couldn't get this particular TV series in Italy as we don't have Sky. I searched everywhere for the DVD with no luck, then my daughter called to say she managed to find a DVD in Australia of all the Italian series put together. So I've been glued to the TV this morning watching all 6 series' and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the different regions with their own styles of cooking and the attempts of Jamie Oliver to cook and have his food accepted by the locals. It shows the stubborness of the locals in their particular region to accept any style of cooking that is different from what they are used to, it was all very interesting. The DVD does require parental guidance as there is one particular scene where he is asked to slaughter a lamb.. eek... very gross and I had to look away! If any bloggers here in Italy would like to see the DVD let me know.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

HELP.......

I need some help guys, I don't know what I am doing wrong, but I no longer seem to be able to leave comments on Blogs that I previously could. When I go to the comment page it has the google/blogger account bit which no longer accepts my password when I put in my details. Ive tried changing my password, still no luck. I did notice that the people who were leaving comments on other blogs seemed to be with Beta Blogger, could this be the problem. Very frustrated!!!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Chocolates Galore

A rather belated post as there is a fight for the computer at the moment in our house,with one computer being down. I think I am going to have to draw up a timetable!
Last Saturday we all hopped on a cheapy 99 c Ryan Air flight to Belgium as my brother who has moved to Antwerp with his family was celebrating his 40th birthday. It was originally going to be a suprise as we haven't
seen each other for over 4 years, though he had planned to fly to Israel on Sunday so my SIL had to tell him we were coming so he could reschedule. It was great to see them all again especially my nieces and the cousins all got along so well despite not having seen each other for so long.


Bruges Town Centre

Unfortunately we were not able to do much sight seeing as the weather was wet and blustery, however we did take a day trip to Bruges on Sunday dodging in out of shops between the showers. It was certainly a picturesque little town with loads of quaint boutique chocolate shops. I thought the chocolate in Italy was great but the Belgium chocolate is to die for, so exquisite and creamy and packaged in lovely little boxes. So after dinner the rest of the evening was spent indulging in our chocolate purchases followed by hot chocolate.




I found a huge difference between Belgium and Italy, everyone was so quiet and reserved, although very polite they tended to keep themselves to themselves. On the train to the airport we were speaking to each other in our normal voices, though I think to the other passengers we were being loud as we got a few glary looks. Perhaps we should have been whispering.
We had a lovely weekend though, it is always nice to visit new cities and experience a different culture. It is made all the more easier with the cheap flights, next on the list is Prague.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Autumn

One thing I love about Italy is the distinct change in Seasons and the new fruit and veges that arrive in the markets. When I first came to Italy I used to get very frustrated when I was unable to get a certain fruit or veg, as in NZ they were always available whether local or imported. Now I have accepted the fact that I can only get certain things when they are in season and in fact it has given me a greater appreciation of them as its something to look forward to.
Autumn has to be one of my favourite seasons, I love the green leavy veges, broccoletti, kale,friarielli, the fresh carciofi, porcini mushrooms and roasted chestnuts are the ultimate in comfort food.




Today was a beautiful day in Rome and it felt very Autumny whilst walking along the Tevere, the trees all changing colour and the river was very calming as the sun was beginning to set.





Blondie

Yesterday I took the plunge and decided to go very blonde. Even though I was reasonably happy with my hairdresser nearby I was finding that every time I went for highlights he never quite did enough, and due to lack of communication I wasn't able to express exactly the colour I wanted.
So I decided to pay a visit to my husbands friend Maurizio who has a salon in Rome. I have only had Maurizio cut my hair once when I first arrived in Italy and at the time I said 'never again' as I feared that I was going to leave earless!. Its not a nice feeling to have someone chopping away at your hair whilst he is looking in another direction talking to someone!!
Well yesterday I was desperate, so I went to see to him with a photo of Uma Thurman in hand, hoping he could transform me to the same colour. He did a pretty good job copying the colour, though I am now starting to freak out as its the first time I have had a full colour and I'm now worried about the mousy roots that are going to expose themselves any day now!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

What does one 'do' with a Cachi.

Today I bought my first Cachi. I have seen them in the markets quite a bit lately and usually just look at them and think what on earth would I do with one as I am not at all familiar with this fruit.
I peeled away the skin and was pleasantly suprised to find the inside very sweet with a sort of firm jellyish texture.
If anyone has any cooking/ dessert suggestions for the cache, please send them my way.

Grazie

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Napoli. I love it and hate it!

I have a real love hate relationship with Napoli (the birth place of Domenico, though he escaped at 15 years old!).

Lately I have been feeling a bit vulnerable and especially wary with all the violence that has been happening and especially since Domenico and his friend were held up at gun point last week.
They had just parked when a couple of guys on a motorbike pulled out a gun and asked if they had
any money, when they said they didn’t they just said OK and took off with a wave! Unbelievable! It seems to be a normal occurrence, though I would be freaking out.

My love of Napoli comes in the form of food. I just love Neapolitan pizza and desserts, as well as marinated Octopus Salad, made with the big octopus’, whilst sitting outside one of the waterfront restaurants on a balmy evening, watching all the crazy antics of the passersby.

I also love walking around the side streets of the Spanish area just off Via Roma, exploring the food shops and markets whilst dodging crazy Neapolitans on their scooters.

After a couple of days though I am driven away by the chaos, dirt and constant noise and can’t wait to return home.

I can’t get my head around why Neapolitans have such a problem with rubbish, it is everywhere and such a health problem. For weeks sometimes the big street bins aren’t emptied due to strikes. Whilst driving into Napoli one day on the autostrada, the people in the car in front of us threw out two supermarket bags full of rubbish straight onto the next lane. I was in shock, sometimes I wonder if they have their heads screwed on properly! They don’t think about the ‘what if’s’.

And to finish off my rant, who in their right mind would live here…….

Bella Roma

Whoops I seem to be slipping a bit, no posts for the past 3 weeks. No excuse really just lack of motivation as well as going back and forth to Napoli the past few weeks.

Well the days are certainly a lot cooler now, but the beautiful crisp sunny days and less tourists make it a perfect time to visit Rome. Quite often I take a trip into Rome, a quick 20 minute train ride from Frascati, and do a walk taking in all the sights as well as exploring new areas.

So if you are ever short of time and want to do a speedy sight seeing trip taking in as much as possible I suggest the following itinerary.

Once you arrive at Termini station, hop on the metro B line to the colosseum, here you can also take in the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

Look out for my daughter Liana and say hi if you see her. She is currently taking tours of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, they say she is the youngest guide down there at 18 years old and loves to meet new people.

Next head down Via Dei Fori Imperiali towards Piazza Venezia and Piazza Del Campidiglio, to take in the sights of the amazing Complesso Del Vittoriano and Campidoglio..

From here once you have dodged the traffic of Piazza Venezia, walk down Via Del Corso where you should see the sign to Fontana Di Trevi.

From here you can cut through the side streets to the Spanish Steps.From the top of the steps there are some great views over Rome.

By this time will probably be ready for lunch. One of my favourite places is Gusto in Piazza Augusto, very cheap and they make great Pizza Napoletana.

From Piazza Augusto take the little back streets to the Pantheon and then onto Piazza Navona. The streets around Via Coronari also have plenty of little restaurants and hosterias to eat at.

At this stage if you still have time and your feet are not crying out, head towards the river and cross the bridge ‘Ponte San Angelo’ to see Castel San Angelo. From here it a straight walk to Piazza San Pietro and the Vatican.

To get back to Termini, take the Metro A line at Ottaviano.

So there you have it Rome in a hurry. Of course ideally you need at least 3 days to do it justice and to take in other areas such as Campo De Fiori, Trastevere and Villa Borghese and the park.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Dinner Parties

There have been alot of dinner party menus flying around blog land lately and it got me thinking about how much I miss the dinner parties we used to have back in NZ where we could be creative with food.

I find in Italy when I am entertaining Domenico's family and friends (mainly from Napoli) it is not quite the same and I don't get the same satisfaction. They are stuck in such a rut where the concept of food is concerned and they can't see beyond their way of cooking.
Don't get me wrong I have alot of respect for the traditional recipes that have been passed down through generations, but it isn't the 'be all and end all' when it comes to food and I wish some of the Italian buddies would see this, perhaps it is more of a Southern Italian mentality. I get so frustrated when I am told that you can't put this with that and that a certain food can only be cooked a certain way! What happened to a bit of fantasy.

For me food is like art, a chance to play around with flavours etc, you wouldn't give an artist a plain canvas and paints and expect the same picture time and time again, the same applies to food.

Anyway enough ranting, it doesn't stop me from cooking the way I want to cook even if the finnochio does gets picked out of the arugala salad or I am told that you can't put apple sauce with roast pork.......

Our last guests were treated to the following, on this occasion I did Italianise a bit.

Marinated Alici
(before)
After they were gutted and beheaded and before they were dressed with White Wine Vinegar, Lemon, Garlic,Olive Oil and Parsley


Unfortunately I forgot to take a pic of the final dish before they were woofed down.

Followed by :
Roast Pork with Apple and Sage Sauce, and Caramalised Onions
Braised Leeks wrapped in Proscuitto (before)Barbecue Grilled veges tossed with Balsamico, Olive Oil and Basilico
I usually cheat when it come to dessert and pop down to the Pasticceria for some mini pastries and cakes, though ocasionally I make a Lemon Tiramisu with a full bottle of Limoncello, its lethal!!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Puglia in a hurry!

We have just arrrived back from a whirlwind visit of amazing Puglia.
Domenico decided that due to the unreliability of the courier company he was using that he would personally deliver the barbeques that were ordered at the Bari Homeshow himself.
We piled the barbeques into the truck and off we set for a weekend on the road.
Puglia is a beautiful part of Italy, unlike the other regions it is set apart with its mix of Arabic, Greek and Baroque architecture, a totally different Italy.

Unfortunately due to our lack of time we had to whizz around, passing through countryside made up of mile after mile of olive groves.
We have decided to take another trip to really absorb the region and to take more photos when we have more time.

Olive Groves


The Pugliese are truly lovely people, everybody we came across was very friendly and helpful. Their generosity really showed through when we did our final delivery in Metaponto, near Taranto. We asked the guy Andrea if he knew of an agriturismo in the area. Unfortunately there was a shortage of accomodation, though he insisted that we stay at his friend Aldo's holiday apartment for the night as it wasn't being used.

He then took us and Aldo to a restaurant in the town, where the food was absolutely amazing.
We started with marinated anchovies, octopus salad and tiny frittered pesce, this was then followed by fresh homemade pasta with the most succulent vongole, and mussels. They were smaller than usual though much tastier.
Puglia is famous for its fresh seafood in fact most is eaten raw, I was suprised to see plates of raw sepia (squid) being eaten.

We were so full after the pasta that there wasn't any room for a Secondo, though they insisted on fruit and dessert followed by homemade Meloncello liquer. This was similar to Limoncello though a bit thicker.
Fresh Pasta with Vongole e Cozze

When we finished our meal our new friends refused to let us pay for accomodation or the restaurant meal and the next day before we headed back home they came by with a large crate of grapes from their vineyard, and tubs of olives and mandarins.
Such generosity. I am definetely looking forward to our next trip.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Our Summer Holiday

I was sorting out some photos when I thought I would do a blog of our summer hols.

It was coming to the end of July when we realised we hadn't made any plans for our summer holiday and decided on the spur of the moment to take the children to the South of France where Domenico and I lived for 2 years and then on to Spain. As accomodation gets rather pricey for four of us we took the plunge and bought a cheap camper van off Ebay in the UK. We were really lucky and dealt with a lovely honest chap from Surrey. As this was the first time we had ever tried campervanning we had no idea what to expect, though we liked the thought of being free to go where ever we wanted.


Domenico flew to London to pick up 'Steve' (the camper) and prepared to travel down France ( a 1st for him without me to navigate!) and DJ and I piled the car full of bedding, clothes and kitchen stuff to meet up with him in Nice. All went well, DJ and I arrived on time and met up with Angelo (Domenico's brother who lives in Nice) and we were all to meet up with Domenico in a restaurant that evening. It was there we got the SOS text- 'Help I've run out of petrol, I'm in the french Alps (God knows what he was doing there as I told him to stick to the autostrada), 30km from Nice, beside a river near such and such town!!' Well I knew it was too good to be true. From what we were told the area where he stopped was treacherous mountain roads, so we were tossing with the idea of just leaving him as he did have a bed and kitchen facilities! In the end we decided to go and save him as we thought he wasn't too far away. Thats when the fun really started. We arrived at the gas station to get some petrol for the camper but when I put the car key in the boot to open it, the key snapped and Domenico had the spare on his key ring. The car was stuck at the petrol pumps blocking everyone as the power steering had locked and which ever position we pushed the car it left no room. In the end the nice chap at the gas station let us use his car to try and track down Domenico in the mountains and retrieve the spare key. It was all to no avail as he had no reception on his phone, and he wasn't where we thought he would be,so we arrived back at 5am in the morning and called a tow truck to take the car away. At 8am in the morning I got a call from Domenico saying he had arrived in Nice, after finding petrol nearby.It was such a relief and we went to retrieve the car from the towing people, who actually kindly let us keep the car there for a few weeks while we travelled in the Camper.

The first couple of days we stayed around Nice and Villfranche, before heading to St Raphael along the most amazing red rocked Esteral coast road with crystal clear waters.

Villefranche



The Esteral Coastline

Sunset Port St Raphael

We quickly learnt that we were better off staying away from the big towns as there was no where to park the Camper and we didn't want to stay in campsites which were just so overcrowded.
It was
really nice being back in France and didn't take too long before my french came back, it was a bit of a cocktail for the first few days though.The french are certainly a lot more respectful than the Italians and were very polite. It was nice to experience great customer service again which is pretty much non existent in Rome.

Liana arrived 5 days later by train and we made a quick detour back to Nice to pick her up. We quickly told her the camper rules, as with such a small space this was important, it didn't help matters that she bought just about everything with her!

We did the next stint on the autostrada until we came to Montpellier then headed cross country to the coast, through the Camargue region where the wild horses roam and then on to Cap D'agde.I remember this resort town from when I went on holiday as a young girl, though now it was not very nice, a bit run down and tacky, so we only stopped off one night.

The next day we headed to Spain by the coast road, it was really stunning though hair raising driving along the cliff roads, my toes and fingers were so sore afterwards with keeping them clenched. It was funny arriving in Spain as we were all mute when we went to get supplies from the supermarket. Even Domenico who knows some Spanish couldn't get the words out, so we were speaking italian and adding an 's' onto the end of each word hoping it would sound right.Little did we know that the grammar is totally different to Italian.

Whilst driving through the spanish villages we came across several 'hole in the wall' Fire roasted chicken joints. The chicken was absolutely irrisistable, stuffed with lemon, garlic and rosemary. The queues outside proved the popularity with the locals.

Fire Roasted Chickens

Barcelona was our next stop, an amazing lively city which really functions well and is so easy to walk around, with so much to see and do. Unfortunately it was not very camper friendly and we only stayed one night as we were broken into.The bloody thieves took off with my laptop (which I had hidden), our soap and beach bag, leaving behind Liana's Ipod and the mobile phones. I was so peeved off as I lost so many photos which I hadn't backed up.We would really like to return in the winter to see more of the city and will definetely fly next time.


The next day we headed to Sitges, this we later found out is Spains main Gay resort, a gorgeous town and beachfront, lots of quaint streets and funky cafes/ restaurants as well as LOTS of gays.DJ and Liana went out one night and DJ couldn't get over how happy everyone was, though after a while he said he started to feel a bit uncomfortable.When we arrived in Sitges we had to sit out the biggest storm which went on throughout the night, I have never experienced gales like it, really frightening, though the next day the waves were awesome.

Sitges Beachfront
Sitges


Liana & DJ and the amazing waves
We spent about a week in Spain before heading back along the French coast stopping in St Tropez for a few days.This place is oozing wealth, and is extremely expensive, so we avoided the main town. The port was full of boats bigger than the buildings, we could just stand and drool. We found a beach area about 2km long just outside, made up of private and public areas,and a lovely camping area just for campervans right on the beach.

This old dear was parading up and down with just a piece of string around her bum, I think she thought she was still 20 not 80 .
Beignets sur la plage
This pooch was loving the sea
Liana & DJ St Tropez
The Port St Tropez
The rest of the hols were spent back near Nice and Monte Carlo and we showed Liana and DJ the areas we lived and where we worked (the same staff are still working there after 20 years).

Nice

End of our holiday,Domenico & I sur la Promenade Des Anglais
About 5000km later we arrived back in Rome after a fabulous adventure and have decided that campervanning is a great way to travel. We are hoping that the next trip will be to Morroco though next time we will put the camper on the ferry over to Spain.