Dear Reader, 

I am so glad you stopped by today.   I promise not to disappoint. 
You will find new stories daily and old stories that have been expanded.  
Scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to see what you have missed. 
You will find that I have inserted some new posts farther down the page.     Happy reading.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ain't He Cute!

Wild Boars are common throughout Italy.

Campari and Soda with a Splash of Orange Juice---Delightful

Our New Favorite Drink!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ristorante La Caravella Amalfi Italy

On the last night in Amalfi we went to Ristorante La Caravella   6/10ths of a mile straight down hill from our hotel.  The restaurant was small and unpretentious.   We ordered the 7 course tasting menu.   The Ristorante added an appetizer to the beginning of the meal and a desert to the end of the meal.   That made for 9 courses and a painful hike back up the hill when it was time to go. Ristorante La Caravella has been in business 50 years.  They have a wine shop and a ceramics shop.   

It was a white table cloth kind of place.  And the owner seemed a bit stuffy when we first appeared requesting dinner without a reservation.  However, they soon warmed up to me after I not only dropped my fork for my second course on the floor but then the one for my third course too.   A game of place the silver as far from the edge of the table as possible, ensued prior to each successive course.   By the end of the meal even the guys in the kitchen were rooting me on.  They loved us!!

We loved our meal, which was a medley of seafood and pasta courses.   Al's favorite was the black Squid ink Ravioli.  The most unique dish was a potato encrusted pasta.  For desert we had a very decadent lemon filled pastry and to top it off an even more decadent spoonful of chocolate surrounding a moist bite of cake.   

As usual we tried a local wine.  Tonight it was Greco di tuto, 2006,  from Montefredane Italy in the region of Campania.

We saw 2 dishes come out of the kitchen that we will definitely try next time we are at La Caravella.   The first, Salt Baked Fish, is fish baked encrusted in a thick rock salt.  After being baked the salt is removed with a hammer.  I think it would be fairly easy to imitate this recipe at home, so follow the link to the recipe.   The second, is a lemon souffle for 2 that was slightly bigger than a football.  I kept thinking if I stared at the guy at the next table long enough he would bring me over a bite.   It  didn't happen.  

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Have Scooter will Travel

Because of the narrow streets and  lack of available parking
scooters are the preferred means of transportation in Amalfi, Florence and Rome.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The American Express Man

Pigeon in Window at the Vatican

Bad Hair Day in St Peter's Square

Self Portrait on Amalfi Balcony

The Ruins of Pompeii

We visited the City of Pompeii.  Destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD and buried under 60 feet of ash.  The excavation of the city continues today.  We spoke to American archeology students who were chiseling away in an attempt to further uncover the remains.  

Italian Gelato was on Every Corner: who could resist?

Some of our favorite flavors were Pistachio, lemon, green lemon, ciocolatte, and bannana. Gelato is made with fresh fruit, chocolate, nuts and lots of air.  The colorful arrangements in each window were beautiful. This picture does not do the temptation justice.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Italian Grappa

Grappa is a colorless Italian brandy distilled from the pulpy mass of skins, pits, and stalks left in the wine press after the juice of the grapes have been extracted. Young grappa is fairly fiery, but mellows with age.  There are many different kinds of Grappa depending on the variety of grape and the aging period.  Grappa is quite strong and reminds me of Tequilla.  You drink it as an after dinner digestive.

Maggie goes to the Amalfi Coast

Friday, July 10, 2009

View From My Balcony - Santa Caterina Hotel

When the Moon Hits the Sky Like a Big Pizza Pie That's Amalfi!

In the Kitchen at Mamma Agatas

One of the highlights of our trip to Amalfi was the day we spent at Mamma Agatas cooking school.  We arrived at 10:30am and departed at 5:00pm.  The day was a tasting, eating, drinking and cooking experience.  We made pasta, eggplant parmesan, and chicken.  We drank wine, limoncello, tangerinecello, fennelcello.  And we ate the best lemon cake.

Mamma's Secrets for Frying Eggplant

At Mamma Agata's cooking school we learned a lot about how to successfully fry eggplant.  The 4 most common mistakes made when frying eggplant are 1) using the wrong oil  2) buying eggplant that are too fat, 3) slicing eggplant improperly, and 4) not getting all the water out of the eggplant prior to frying.  

Mamma suggests using peanut oil, never olive oil.  Peanut oil allows you to fry the eggplant at a higher temperature.   

According to Mamma, long skinny eggplant are best.  These have the least amount of water in them.   One variety suggested was the Japanese eggplant.

Eggplant should be peeled in stripes, leaving intermittent rows of skin.  They should be sliced length wise.

You can remove most of the water by sprinkling with sea salt and letting set 15-20 minutes then wringing out the eggplant as you would a wet rag.

Lemons Growing in Mamma Agata's Terraced Garden!

When Life Gives You Lemons Make Limoncello!

The Green Door -- Mamma Agata

Midnight, one more night without sleepin'
Watchin' till the mornin' comes creepin'
Green door, what's that secret you're keepin?

There's an old piano
And they play it hot behind the green door;
Don't know what they're doin'
But they laugh a lot behind the green door.
Wish they'd let me in 
So I could find out what's behind the green door.

Knocked once, tried to tell them I'd been there;
Door slammed, hospitality's thin there.
Wonder just what's goin' on in there.

Saw an eyeball peepin'
Through a smoky cloud behind the green door;
When I said "Joe sent me"
Someone laughed out loud behind the green door.
All I want to do 
Is join the happy crowd behind the green door.

Midnight, one more night without sleepin',
Watchin' till the mornin' comes creepin'.
Green door, what's that secret you're keepin? 

Green door, what's that secret you're keepin?
Green door!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Who is that Florentine with the Hat?

Street Artists In Florence

Ponte Del Vecchio Florence, Italy

I Fell Immediately in Love with Florence

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I Finally Got Him Where I Want Him!!

This was taken in the Midevil town of Monteriggioni, in Tuscany.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Hotel Capitani, Montalcino

We Loved this Hotel.  Great View of the Tuscan Countryside. 

La Taverna and the Cypress Trees

While staying in Montalcino we had dinner at La Taverna, the restaurant at Castello Banfi.  We enjoyed a delicious 5 course tasting menu with  wine pairings.     The Banfi property is a beautiful countryside Tuscan estate. We do admit to getting lost en route from our hotel to dinner, which made us a good 45 minutes late for our reservation.  Despite our set back the staff was gracious despite our tardiness.  The service, the food, the drink and the location were all perfect.  We highly recommend La Taverna, we would return again should the opportunity present itself.  The next day we returned to the wine shop, Enoteca,  at the Castello Banfi to purchase some of the wine we had been served the night before, as well as, to purchase some local pottery with paintings depicting the beautiful cypress trees seen throughout Tuscany.  The pottery will forever remind us of our visit to Banfi and the beauty of the Tuscan countryside.  

Friday, July 3, 2009

Castello Di Montauto

We were so lucky to stay as guests of Cecchi at Castello di Montauto, one of the estates owned by the Cecchi family.  It was everything I every dreamed a Tuscan estate would be. High on a hillside the estate had a enchanting view of vineyards, the valley below and of the medieval hill town of San Gimingnano in the distance.  That day we ventured out to explore San Gimingnano.  We were not to be disappointed.  Al and our friend Doug both bought hats to complete their attire. We brought back sandwiches for dinner at the Costello and sipped on the delightful wines left for us by our hosts.  High on the hill there was a cool breeze.  We thoroughly enjoyed having the windows and doors open.  What a delightful evening in Tuscany.

The next morning we slept in late and awoke to an Italian breakfast set out for us by Sylvania.  Thank you so much for sending us off in such style Sylvania.  Our stay could not have been more wonderful.  

The Cecchi Winery

We loved our tour, tasting and luncheon at the Cecchi Winery in Castellina in Chianti.   Chiara and Cecilia were our hosts for the afternoon. 
Chiara gave us a tour of the winery.  Spoke to us about the growing and wine making processes.  I loved the smell when they opened the doors to the wine making facility ... it was intoxicating.  Each of the barrels above contains about 300 bottles of wine.  Another trivia fact:  the Italian vineyards are prohibited by their government from irrigating their vineyards.  They depend on mother nature.  As a consequence they try to match the grape to the characteristics of the region. Growing each varietal in a climate that is conducive to its needs. -- we loved our visit at Cecchi.   

Next we tasted a sampling of the Cecchi wines both red and white including a Castello Montauto, Chianti, Chianti Classico, Chianti Reserva,  and a Val Delle Rose.  Heavenly!

We ate outside at Antica Trattoria in the Piazza del Commune. We sampled several local specialties including my favorite and a new one to my repertoire, a fresh Pasta with Pigeon sauce.  This was probably one of my favorite dishes of my entire trip.  It had a brilliant red sauce that I loved.  Al's favorite was without a doubt the sushi inspired appetizer of 3 fish Tartare... sea bass, tuna and salmon... out of this world.  

Tuscan Sunflowers

Sometimes Life Seems Backwards

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Viareggio, Italy

Italy is all about Gellato.  It seems like there is a gellateria on every corner.  You won't get a complaint from me.   My favorite flavors are Sorrento Green Lemon and Pistachio with Chocolate.