Thursday, September 1, 2011

Arrivederci Italia

Did you miss me? I have definitely missed writing the blog. I haven't cooked in 3 weeks and I am excited to get back in the kitchen. I have been home for a few days now and am pretty much unpacked from the move back into my parent's house. I think by next week you can expect a new recipe or two.

To tide you over until then, I thought I would show you a few highlights from the trip. They are in no particular order.  Blogger photo uploader drives me crazy.

This was my favourite photo from Venice. I really liked this area of Venice (Dorsoduro) as it was quiet and more quaint. There are also better restaurants outside of San Marco.

The three nights in Venice resulted in 1 really bad expensive dinner, 1 good dinner, and 1 dinner that was phenomenal and worth mentioning. It was at this very small restaurant near the rialto bridge. It was fairly hard to find but well worth it. It is also important to make a reservation or you will not get a table. At this restaurant I had linguini with anchovies and it was the most memorable restaurant meal for me in Italy. Expect a recipe soon, if I succeed at recreating it that is..

In case you were thinking it, yes I ate meat and seafood in Italy. My desire to sample authentic food trumped by desire to eliminate my meat consumption. I am very glad I did as I did not have to turn down food made for me by my family, and I was able to try some really delicious food. The vegetarian options on menus are few and far between. I am also glad I decided to eat seafood because in Cinque Terre, I had the best seafood I had ever had. Our first night there we went to Ciak. We were very hungry from travelling from Venice and this was the first place we saw. It looked busy and the food looked delicious. We ordered a seafood risotto. It came in this big ceramic pot which is cooked from a flame from below. It was absolutely amazing, and comes in a close 2nd for my favourite restaurant meal during the trip. The chef can be seen every day hanging out outside the restaurant, and preparing food for the evenings dinner. A window from the street looks directly into the kitchen and dining room, which draws many curious people to stop and take a look. This restaurant is a bit pricey but is worth it at least once if you are spending time in Monterosso Cinque Terre. They also do not carry any house wine and the bottles are expensive. Skip the wine and save room for the sea food. Check out their website for information and their history.

I would like to point out that the seafood risotto and the pasta with anchovies were my favourite restaurant meals in Italy. I say this because for the first 4 days I was staying with my Grandfather's sister and her husband in Pescara, and she made us many fantastic home made meals. Upon our arrival she has fresh homemade pasta made with eggs from these chickens you see here. It was amazing pasta with such fresh homemade sauce. We also were able to sample the freshness of the eggs by simply having fried eggs one night for dinner. This may sound crazy to some, but they were the best eggs I have ever had. I had never had a fresher egg. The yolk was so much creamier and delicious.  It might be due to their rather unconventional diet (keep reading). We got to visit the chickens one day in the small town where my Grandfather was born. The house is now under the care of my Great Aunt and Uncle. They have fixed up the house and they maintain a large garden and chicken coop. The chickens get fed whatever food is laying around. While we were there, they feasted on some pasta with tomato sauce, and the watermelon (pictured below). After deciding the watermelon was not fit for human consumption, it was subsequently dropped off the kitchen balcony into the chicken coop (one story below) by my Aunt, resulting in a splatter of watermelon, happy chickens, and a quiet laugh from my Aunt. I will miss my Zia Cesira until my next trip to Italy.

Also during our visit to the house, I walked around the garden with my Nonna and Aunt picking any ripe vegetables and admiring what was to come. I had my camera with me and my Nonna made me take a picture of these tomatoes. I am glad she did.

This is my Zio Nunzio taking care of the garden. He takes a 45 minute drive every day to care for the garden and the house. His hard work sure pays off!

Now this isn't food related but it was my favourite sight in Rome. I didn't manage to get a good picture of the Trevi Fountain, but the sight blew me away. I guess I didn't realize the size the fountain would be. When the slender street leading to the fountain opened up into the Piazza, I was surprised. The fountain was large, dynamic, and vibrant and I knew immediately that I loved it. It was very busy so it was hard to soak it in, but I could have sat by the the fountain for hours.

Oh the gelato. I had gelato almost every day in Italy. It is almost neccessary. It makes a perfect afternoon snack to tide you over until dinner which is always late, and cools you off from the afternoon heat. I usually got a 'piccoli' size cup and sometimes in a cone, but this particular day where this photo was from I was feeling a bit more adventurous. It was actually my favourite gelato of the trip. The flavour you see is stracciatella which is just a milk gelato with chocolate pieces. It was my go-to flavour. What you don't see is a venetian cream stracciatella below the regular straciatella. This flavour was to die for. Most likely due to added cream or vanilla. It was more rich than the other flavours I had tried and was a welcomed change. In case you are wondering, yes, I am currently in gelato withdrawal.

In both Rome and Venice, we tried to visit a market to get some fresh fruit to have for snacks. This photo is from the Rialto market in Venice. It was a Sunday so there wasn't too much at the market but I thought these peperoncinni were beautiful. We went home with nectarines, bananas, plums, figs, zucchini and tomatoes. Since Venice was rather expensive to eat out in comparison to Rome, we decided to make our own lunches as well as breakfasts during our stay (we stayed in an apartment with a kitchen). After purchasing some fresh buns, mozzarella, and prosciutto we had all we needed.

This is a photo of a portion of the Pons Aemilius bridge over the Tiber river which flows through Rome. It is right alongside a much newer bridge, Ponte Palatino. This bridge portion is now called Ponte Rotto and is the oldest bridge in Rome. It was build in the second century BC. It is amazing that even this portion has withstood the last 2000+ years.

In Rome we stayed right in Campo dei Fiori. It was a great location to stay as it is central to most attractions in Rome. Here we are enjoying a cafe latte at one of the restaurants overlooking the market at work. My Nonna lived in Campo dei Fiori in her teenage years and it was great to hear about her memories of this market. The market has shifted over the last 50 years. It used to be a spot for fresh fish, fruit, meat, vegetables, eggs etc. Now it is mostly fruit/veggies and some specialty foods mostly geared to tourists. Regardless, it still has some charm. There is also a great deli along the border of the market where we used to get sandwiches for breakfast.

Well, I hope you enjoyed those few photos and a small sample of my experience during my trip. Like I said, I hope to share a recipe soon. I purchased some food items in Cinque Terre and I hope to use them to recreate some of the dishes I had in Italy.

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