September 10th, 2013
Honestly, I don’t know what my deal is these days. Somehow, ever since getting back home to California, I’ve been too busy to post anything. Seriously?! I don’t know what’s going on because I don’t remember having 24/7 appointments/parties/obligations since we’ve returned. At any rate, here are the photos I’ve been meaning to post from our last night in Italy (disclaimer: apparently I thought playing amateur food photographer would be cool, so pardon the results of that adventure).
Again, special thanks to Mr. & Mrs. R for not only letting us stay with them in Bergeggi, but also hosting a fantastic send off party Ferragosto celebration.
RELATED: There’s no place like home.
August 26th, 2013
I feel it appropriate to get started on this blog post now, because I just finished (what I hope will become) my daily workout routine, in which I work to “undo” the indulging that happened in Italy. And speaking of indulgence, remember when I spent a great deal of time eating magnificent dishes and how I’m now on the hunt (pun intended) for cinghiale because it’s fantastic? Well, one of those extraordinary evenings of eating took place high up on a hill, overlooking the Mediterranean, on an Italian farm. The farm land happened to belong to some family friends of Dave’s parents, who have a long-standing relationship with the farmer who maintains the property and tends to the crops. Beppe, the farmer/winemaker is pretty much the epitome of someone you’d hear about in old Italian folklore. He’s in his mid-80s and after my latest attempt at a workout, I can confidently attest that he is in better shape than I. He makes his own wine from grapes grown on the farm, stomps them himself (yes, with his feet!) adding nothing else but fermented grape juice to the bottles when he is complete. He also tends to the land and each year, puts on a feast, at which he and his wife and children all prepare amazing dishes with the crops.
This year, the feast happened to coincide with our stay in Bergeggi (near Savona) where we were staying with the friends of Dave’s parents. They were kind enough to let us crash with them on the days surrounding our flight so we wouldn’t have to make the long drive from Elba to the Nice airport. We also lucked out in that the Feast of Beppe happened during our time in Bergeggi. The farm is high up in the hills and we drove as far as we could before parking and hiking the rest of the way to our scenic and delicious dinner. I can’t even do it justice with my words….you really have to see the photos of this gorgeous, rustic dinner setting.
The hospitality shown by Beppe and his family was incredible. We were all welcomed warmly and served fantastic dishes that were as “farm-to-table” as one can get. A highlight for me (probably the person least fluent in Italian) was sitting next to Beppe at dinner, where he took the time to teach me all of the Italian words for the foods we were eating. He even went so far as to find herbs and foods not on the table so he could teach me the words…it was an absolutely memorable and enjoyable evening all around. We were so lucky to have been included for such a fun evening full of delicious eats!
August 12th, 2013
Back in May, you may recall that I reconnected with an old friend, thanks in part to Google’s slightly-creepy-yet-in-this-case-helpful ability to find people. Once Dave and I had made our way to Italy (my first time there ever), we thought a trip to try and meet up with Gillian and Brian would be a great way to do a bit of exploring, while also giving us girls a chance to catch up on the last 17 or so years of our lives.
Gillian and Brian live in Naples and were kind enough to drive up to Tuscany to meet Dave and me at the ferry terminal in Piombino the last weekend in July for a quick overnight trip to Massa Marittima, in the Grosseto province of Tuscany. (Did I mention the only way to get to/from Elba is a ferry? You drive your car right on the ferry, cross the Mediterranean for 30 minutes or so and then drive off again.) Having lived in Italy for around three years or so, they were happy to come up and explore a new food and wine area with us (as we found out through emails prior to the trip, G&B enjoy food, wine and beer as much as we do!).
After picking us up in Piombino, we drove to the agriturismo where we’d be staying. Basically, agriturismos combine their working farms with tourism, allowing them to make a little more income, while the guests can enjoy great accommodations in renovated farm houses, amazing meals (often prepared with items grown at the farm) and some of the tradition Italian farms have to offer. And after staying at Il Felciaione, I will always seek out the local agriturismos when and if we travel in Italy; it was spectacular! Our room was actually a little apartment that was much too big for us; it boasted a kitchen, a huge bedroom and loft with additional beds and a huge bathroom and best of all, air conditioning (a necessity in July).
We dropped our things off then headed to a winery Gillian had scoped out online. They offered a sit down tasting with a flight of six wines and some of their own olive oils with bread, prosciutto and salami…it was all so tasty! Moris Farms was a gorgeous mom-and-pop seeming place up on a hill in Massa Marittima. A very kind Italian woman hosted our tasting, telling us about the wines in Italian…though a little lost, I picked up way more than I thought I would, and Dave was with me to help translate my misinterpretations.
Following our tasting, we asked her for a restaurant recommendation and she pointed us in the direction of a local place where I ate cinghiale (pronounced ching-GYAH-lay) or wild boar, with some fried polenta cakes. The cinghiale was so incredibly tender and perfectly seasoned and now my mouth is literally watering for it, as a I recall the deliciousness. Though the heat was pretty stifling, we wandered into the town center of Massa Marittima where we took a couple photos and stopped for ice cream (my fiordilatte flavor comparison left me wondering why I would even bother to get it anywhere else besides Il Chiosco in Cavo. I should have gone with another flavor. Once you’ve had the best thing ever, nothing else will compare, but I digress.) Shortly after finishing our ice cream we decided the sun had done us all in and a nap back at the room was in order.
And nap in the air conditioned room we did, before getting cleaned up and heading to what would turn into a full-on feast of a dinner (spoiler alert: I did a lot of eating in Italy and I apologize in advance to all the food-related posts. In related news, I’m going to learn to make all these delicious things I’ve eaten and Dave and I will probably be 100 pounds heavier next time you see us.)
At dinner, it was literally plate after plate coming out. We started with a zucchini frittata-style dish, only is was cooked in a muffin tin with a yellow pepper sauce. Then came bruschetta and some tiny “spring-roll” like bites that used thinly sliced eggplant as the wrap. The filling, stuffed inside a piece of prosciutto rolled inside the eggplant, was a delicious mix of herbs, summer veggies and cheese. Next came a ricotta and basil quesadilla, then panzanella salad with beautifully-colored red tomatoes and green bell peppers, cucumbers and pieces of bread. And those were just the appetizers! Our first course was like a cross between a lasagna and a chile relleno casserole that included artichoke hearts, ricotta cheese, egg and noodles and was simply amazing. Our entree was a choice of eggplant or chicken. Dave and I split our choices so we could have bites of everything. My chicken was breaded with a touch of citrus that somehow worked with the dish, while Dave’s eggplant was almost like a veggie lasagna with eggplant as the headlining vegetable. By the time dessert came, we had our choice of a handful of items but Dave got an apple torte, while I went for chocolate cake with the option of warm chocolate sauce drizzled on top (like adding that was even a question).
By the time dinner was over, we had to be rolled out. The four of us shared stories, laughs, book titles we were reading and the whole evening was so much fun…it was nice to sneak back into what was closer to our old “pre-student” lifestyle for a night and it was even better to do it with new/old friends.
The next morning, before heading back to the ferry, we enjoyed breakfast at the agriturismo, then stopped at La Rocca di Frassinello for a tasting. This winery was much more expansive than the day before, and we were led on a tour of the facility before tasting three of the wines produced. Trusting our winery host again that day, we asked for another recommendation for lunch and weren’t disappointed in the food. I once again dined on my new favorite cinghiale, but this time my meal was a bolognese-style dish that boasted the cinghiale in sauce-form over pappardelle. It was tasty and the four of us rotated dishes so we could each taste a little bit of everything.
Bellies full, it was time to return to the ferry back to Cavo, but I was so grateful to hang out with Gillian and meet Brian too. It was a lovely little get-away within a get-away, and I hope we can do it all over again next year in a new city, when G&B get settled in Spain!
August 9th, 2013
I’m back in the good ol’ USA and much more tan for it (amazingly enough)! We arrived in New York from Italy late last night and now that I’ve had a chance to pool my pictures together, I’ve decided that a photo tour is the way to go for this blog post. Because, really, how one is supposed to put a month of living on an Italian island, going to the beach every day and having the most amazing gelato for dessert every night into words when pictures say it so much better?? You really can’t.
But because brevity has never been my strong suit, I would like it noted for the record that, already after one month of living in Italy (versus the nine months I lived in France), I’m already much more comfortable with the Italian language than I was with French— like night and day difference. I was pretty proud of myself for being able to converse (though definitely not fluently) with the bartender who brought us limoncello each night.
But, capisco meglio di quel parlo (I understand better than I speak). And it helps that Dave’s dad is Italian and is a constant resource for my barrage of questions.
Also, there were a few extra special gatherings of our trip that warrant their own blog posts, so those are in the queue to be posted soon.
In the meantime, check out where I was living for the month of July…not too shabby, right??