My fork slid slowly across the plate…
fresh buffalo mozzarella (mozzarella di bufala campana) baring a pearl white centre oozed in creamy texture…
it’s nakedness dressed with a lush, deep green extra virgin olive oil, potently rich in flavour…
cherry tomatoes (pomodori datterini) from Sicily ripened by the eyes of Helios, Titan God of the Sun
burst with a grape like sweetness…so seductive that if you close your eyes…
you can imagine… Prego!
I was introduced to Rossopomodoro a couple of weeks ago through a friend. We went to the back of the restaurant and sat at the bar. They make a seriously good Spritz at a cost of 3 Euros …
…and two people can snack on the complimentary food plate they give you.
Plates of olives and salted peanuts are in reach as well as slightly dangerous massive chip bowl. The restaurant is just behind San Marco Square. This awesome Aperitivo starts at 5 p.m. and goes until 8:00 p.m. Do I have to give you the address? Ok well as long as you leave a seat for me! I will give it to you in the next post! Oh and p.s. yes that is deep-fried zucchini in the middle of the plate!
A bit of a tease as I debut the feature ingredient for my upcoming “Recipes with Cheek” blog post! No pun intended but for those that don’t know, this is pig’s cheek or pig’s jowl known in Italy as Guanciale. It is the heart and soul flavour ingredient for Amatriciana and Carbonara. This piece is from the Tuscan region … could I get any more authentic than that! I purchased it from my supplier in Campo San Polo… who has definately confirmed with me that his origins are from Montepulciano. His photo made an appearance twice in my pre-Christmas blog posts when I purchased the Wild Boar et al.
What pairs nicely with a glass of Prosecco? Some women might answer, “An Italian man of course!”… No that answer is wrong… although depending on the circumstances, it could be right. In this case, the correct answer is … Parmesan Chips. I posted my step by step recipe a couple of years ago when I was in Vancouver, going through the “pre-cursor” stage of life changing Italy move. But, the very first time I made Parmesan Chips was approximately 11-12 years ago when I was following a low carb-eating plan. There is a bit of a trick to them and I believe it’s in the cooking temperature and the cooling.
Welcome to a new Category in my Blog called “Recipes With Cheek”. It is the influence of Italy in all aspects. Now before I start, an accessory you might require yourself to wear is an apron, I can make some recommendations if you like. The following choices Nos. 1-3 can be found in ample supply in Rome or Florence. But don’t think too long and hard about it. Just remember it’s all about making cooking fun. Right?
I know… what on earth! Apologies, I scaled this photo down but it still seems to be quite large.
If you are in Venice you of course would find the more Gondolier influenced aprons such as:
Andiamo!! Let’s Go!
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
First, pour yourself a glass of Prosecco. If you do not have Prosecco, white wine will suffice but remember you deserve the best!
Using a medium heat put a thin layer of the shredded Parmesan Cheese in the pan. Do not use oil as the cheese has its own oils that are released when heated.
Note: Do not use the fine Parmesan because it does not gel together and it will turn into a bunch of brown crumbles. (I tried it!) Also, slightly layer the shreds of cheese just enough so that when it melts it joins together. It does not have to be a thick layer.
Let the cheese melt in the pan and bubble until it is slightly light to a bit golden. The thing is, if you make it too golden then it will flake apart into bits when trying to lift it out of the pan.
Sip of Prosecco (you have been working hard and need to balance work with pleasure)
When the bubbling cheese looks like it is the right colour, remove the pan from the heat and let sit for a couple of minutes with the cheese still in the pan. I find this works best because you need to let the cheese harden a bit. If you try to take it out of the pan right away, it will be too soft, stick to your spatula and turn into a big glob.
You have “2″ options at this point:
You could have another small pan ready to go while the other is cooling and you can start the procedure from the beginning making the next chip;
Relax! Have a sip of Prosecco while the cheese is cooling in the pan. After all, what is the hurry, it‘s only a couple of minutes.
After letting the cheese harden for a couple of minutes in the pan, slide the spatula under the cheese and it should lift out easily. Put it on a plate so that it can harden a bit more.
Repeat the procedure for the next chip by starting at “Step 2”, although some might want to start over completely with Step 1.
Take all of the chips that you have made and break them into bite-sized pieces. Put them in a small decorative bowl. I put mine in a decorative martini glass!
Sip Prosecco with Parmesan chips! Enjoy!
Here‘s to a job well done!!! Cin Cin!!
It was the morning of Epiphany (January 6), the 12th day of Christmas and I was chasing after a witch by the Rialto Bridge. You’d never see me doing this back in Vancouver… in fact January 6 would not even be celebrated there. The only other time I have been amongst Epiphany Celebration was in Mexico however my day was celebrated by lying on beach with then dreamy boyfriend, Alejandro… Christmas present from Mexican Gods, but I won’t get into that now… I will save that for my book called, “The Ways of the Latin Man – a Survival Guide for Women” to which I will note Italian men will be excluded from… Not “Oh no!”… “Oh yes!” I’ve decided that an ENTIRE book must be dedicated to the Italian Man.
So, there I was chasing after La Befana. I had missed the Regata delle Befane (oaring race by boat) by ten minutes and also missed seeing the male participants dressed up as old women draped with shawls and wearing white caps on their head as one would see from the days of yore. Some had special effect props such as broomstick and witch hat dedicated to La Befana.
I wanted to get a photo of the famed witch. A good witch I might add who as legend has it delivers presents and candy to children on the eve of January 5. She or rather he… he was dressed as a she witch and walked with a sack full of presents. The Regata delle Befane (Regatta of the Witches) happens every January 6 (Link to photo) http://www.veniceconnected.com/it/content/regata-delle-befane-2013 I have read several versions as to the origins of La Befana and it seems the legend might even go as far back to Roman Pagan times and another version is that the 3 wise-men stopped at an old woman’s house to ask for directions. An invitation was extended for her to join them but she didn’t… Later deciding that yes she will meet up with the wise-men and bring with her the presents that were meant for her child who had died.
There was a tap on my shoulder and then an invite to join people I know for prosecco in a nearby piazza. The day just seemed to flow from there because as we parted ways, I ended up strolling back through San Polo to Dorsoduro and it was then that I discovered Frittelle in a Dorsoduro bakery. Photo posted yesterday. The discovery of this treat prompted a feeling of relief as I was reminded that the next celebration would be upon us in the coming weeks… Venice Carnival! You see, I did not want to let go of the Christmas season because it brought with it so much spirit and my cup was over flowing.
It seemed to be a day of new introductions as I was later introduced to aperitivo at the back of a restaurant in San Marco. I plan to re-visit and get some photos of the seriously delicious complimentary food plate consisting of meat, cheese, bruschetta, deep fried zucchini et al. not to mention, massive chip bowl. The Spritz at a cost of only 3 Euros, I give a 10 out 10 for size and taste!
Aperitivo was followed by an unexpected invite to a private dinner. The dinner started with an antipasto of assorted dishes and the polenta was served traditionally on a wooden board and cut with string. This was followed by a Sardinian pasta with bottarga, a cured fish roe grated over top. The next dishes came and consisted of different seafood… I think one was miniature black octopus… not sure and thought it would have been slightly rude of me to pull out pen and paper during dinner to jot names of everything I was eating so I tried to memorize. Desert, after dinner digestive and then with La Bufana gift tucked into the outside of my purse, I walked to the vaporetto … asking myself, “Why did I wear boots with 3 3/4” heel…?”
Four days later and I am now thinking ahead to Carnival and more feasting… the pre-curser to Carnival will be the weekend of January 26 starting with Festa Veneziana. This is when it will be announced that Carnival has arrived to the City. The weekend promises a night show, parade of masks, water parade and… more food! So, I have come up with a plan… it’s called “Portion/Beverage Control” add daily walking and reinstate abs routine all of which will better increase my chances of not getting midsection like that of Michelin Tire Man or Pillsbury Doughboy. As Paulo Coelho says, “A Life Spent Resisting Temptations is a Wasted Life”.
I was seated at aperitivo when “it” came out of no-where. “Oh dear … and it seemed to be mixed with some bad perfume or air freshener… “ Even worse handsome man was standing behind me … Feeling slightly awkward because really how long can we go on pretending that “it” is not there… the “elephant in the room!” …“What’s that smell?”, I finally said …“The canal… it’s a side effect when the water level is really low with no fresh water flowing in. I had completely forgot about the door that swings open giving way to wafting spirit. Hmmm, I wonder how many men actually do blame the canal.
With Christmas behind us, I am thinking that Spanx will be a popular accessory and possibly one’s best friend for the month of January… Needs must as they say and for extra re-enforcement a tip someone gave me one time is to try “layering” them. Not only for women but there is a man girdle as well. I know because I saw someone wearing one… ohh yes I did. It was during the “salsa” days back in Vancouver. Fellow dancer gone MIA due to couch potato syndrome finally made an appearance one night… I didn’t notice it at first because he had done some layering of white t-shirts, but white is your enemy if you are trying to hide anything. I only noticed because it was after a good 10 minute salsa that sweat had revealed the hidden… the massive “man corset”! Then I got the “Go over there! When I am ready to dance with you I will come and get you!”… To which my thoughts replied, “Don’t get mad at me just because I discovered your little secret.”
Remember you deserve the best if this helps you feel and look better until you get back on track in February then do it… I know I will be! I had found this handy wide waist band type thing (you know for just in case) at one of the little stores in Campo Santa Margherita… waited for the coast to be clear and made my way up to the cash register only to have the male cashier read the box with smirk on face for what felt like eternity …My thoughts hissed, ”Very funny, now just put it in a bag… on second thought no pale white bag that is see-thru!” … I thought about saying, “It’s a joke … for a Christmas gift”, but the words, “silence is your friend” came into my head so I took it and placed it in my purse.
The days have been really nice which makes for excellent walking. That I have been doing a lot of and forced myself to do again yesterday as New Year’s Eve emotion hit me upon waking. I decided not to think about it and went out for a walk to escape my thoughts. I found myself in Campo San Polo again where I embraced Zucchini fries and warm vin brulè. The skating rink in the campo was busy as well as all of the kiosks… As I stood looking up at the buildings around me emotion returned again … “I don’t want to leave” came into my head… I distracted myself as I turned to chat with the man I bought the cinghiale from the other week… he was now trying to talk me into buying this sauce and using key words like “rapida, semplice etc.” Right, fast and simple is good and I do like those words but I have decided to make my surprise recipe from scratch.
Walk took me over the Rialto bridge… it happened again, I saw “him” … man in stripes. I waved and said “Ciao” there was a moment that I almost stopped but it was like a magnet had pulled me forward and I continued to walk … in all honesty that moment was a bit harder for me due to the vulnerability of the cursed New Year’s Eve emotion that hit me earlier that morning grrrr. Not every day is going to be a travel book of fantasy but it almost is… On Vaporetto ride home in Negroni cocktail haze, I looked at the canal and the palaces that passed by….it all felt so surreal. Time to create some more magic!
This is so goooood, somebody please take it away from me!
Last Saturday I found myself over by the skating rink in Campo San Polo… again! I went back to the little kiosk to try the special boiled meat called “bollito”. I had visited this food kiosk a few days earlier when the Kiosk chef enticed me with his charm and said, “Would you like to try something really good?”… Before I knew it the sample was in my hand. I was baited and hooked by this delicious piece of meat and it was all I could think about!
So there I was back and ordering the bollito. I watched as the dish was prepared. In the center of the wood serving board a base was built using the long thin strips of radicchio tardivo. The boiled meat was placed on top. He explained that he was putting a wine reduction on one side of the board and a mustard reduction on the other side. The meat was topped with a lovely green sauce, which seemed a bit different than the one I had on the sample. This one was more like a pesto flavour. Basil leaves topped the bollito off and voila it was presented to me. My beverage: Montepulciano wine was a must as far as I was concerned. The meat was so tender as I pulled it apart and the green sauce on top was a perfect coupling… a marriage of flavours if you will. “Would you like to try a deep fried mozza ball??”, he asked. Of course I said yes…the mozza ball was placed before me… made with fresh mozzarella! I would say this was in deed Comfort and Joy…
With dining experience over, I sipped my wine and started taking photos of the skaters on the ice rink. Then the man in the kiosk on the other side of where I was standing said, “The ice rink is cold, why don’t you take a picture of me?” I turned to look at this handsome man who was wearing a big smile on his face and a bib that read, “I Love”. And in keeping with the Christmas spirit “Love” is one of the magic words. Plus he made me laugh so lets add another magical word “Joy” which gave me “Comfort”.
I wandered by another kiosk that was laden with white cheeses, and pork meat… I tried a slice of filet di cinghiale (wild boar) that was offered to me. This was my first time to ever eat wild boar. I really liked it. Then, I sampled wild boar jerky, followed by wild boar sausage, fresh pecorino and pesto! Needless to say, I walked away with a bag of goodies. I bought the filet di cinghiale, pecorino cheese, cinghiale jerky (which was laced with peperoncino), fresh pesto and was given Cinghiale sausage as a present… to round it all off, a bottle of Montepulciano was added to the bag. I just needed a baguette and I would have a seriously good aperitivo! The pecorino cheese has to be the best I have ever tasted and there was slight moment of panic when I wondered if I would be able to find this amazing cheese again. Bottle of wine and pesto are still waiting to be popped… don’t worry that will be happening very soon!
Later that evening, I woke to my phone beeping… it was alerting me to a comment posted on my Facebook page at 1:30 a.m. (forgot to turn phone on silent)… it was with respect to a photo of the food I had purchased. “Ha, Ha poor food for a poor girl” is what it read. Then it came back to me…the memory of the one and only dinner date where this person (high on vodka martinis and wine) sat loudly slagging off the couple next to us (over and over) for drinking a particular wine … not to mention the insults that I received which prompted me to walk out on dinner. So here was the Grinch trying to steal Christmas and I wasn’t going to have it. This person from Florence who claimed to be a better singer than Andrea Bocelli had just publicly insulted the Italian makers of pesto, pecorino, cinghiale and Montepulciano wines… However, in keeping with Christmas spirit, I did not wish upon him “chasing by pack of wild boars”. I took the high road and hit the “Delete” button!
More Christmas posts to come!
Yesterday I went in search of Christmas… I had a feeling that the spirit of Venice would be playing along with me … Here I am chasing after Santa Claus…
Then my attention was pulled away to where I found this Santa capped Gondola
I walked through the Rialto Market and turned to see a heart spray painted on the brick wall of the building… I thought that my day would mostly be about finding red Santas etc. But something else beyond the Santa suit took over just as I had suspected. The market was busy with both patrons buying and seagulls flying above. The fish market is a haven for all water birds. Luckily I was spared being pelted by generous bird droppings – Christmas present from Seagulls.
I wandered through San Polo, which is an area I had not really explored yet, except for the Rialto market of course. People were walking with groceries, presents, chatting with friends and taking their dogs out for a stroll. I walked past a large Saint Bernard type dog, which instantly reminded me of the puppy I saw on the Strada Nova last year… started to feel sentimental…
Then I saw the little dog that I have been dreaming about… the future Alessandro Botticelli who I’ve actually decided will be named “Alvise” (in lieu of A.B.), after the sweetest Venetian I know. Just like in Vancouver, here too in Venice you will see dogs dressed in their finest jackets whether it be sporty, full on jump suit, rain coat, fur, knit… I even think I saw a poodle wearing leg warmers…
A street led me to Campo San Polo where I found the outdoor ice rink. (mobile phone shot)
There were some kiosks set up selling cheeses of all sorts… the tartufo laced white cheese caught my eye but was quickly distracted by something else. I was drawn to the happy man ringing a bell. He spoke to me in Italian. Of course my face blanked because it was all too fast for me. I saw that he had Vin Brule and because it was a happy and very authentic little place I stopped for a bit. He gave me a sample of this really delicious beef topped with a herbed sauce… the meat was really tender… I was hooked but at that moment I was more in the mood for zucchini fries and a warm vin brulè. I went to pay and he said, “It’s free… it’s a Christmas present.” Wow, what a nice and unexpected gesture. I watched this charismatic man shouting out to passers by and people would stop, as did two lovers. He spoke to them in Italian about “food and amore” and they laughed… after a quick think about it, they were back and ordered what looked like stuffed calamari and a Steak tartare type dish. I was searching for the name of the stand but couldn’t see it. As he was getting busy with customers, I managed to squeeze in to say “Thank you” and promised I would come back.
I slowly made my way back through San Polo towards the Rialto Bridge. Along the way I ran into someone I had dated a few times but not seen for a while. It was in that moment of greeting, a kiss on each side of the cheek that a peace had been made. He pointed to where he was working and then we parted ways. Sentimental thoughts started creeping into my mind trying to drug me … ugghhh, thoughts to self, “Get out of my head!… Remember he was only an illusion… at least everything he said to me was… then it all came back to me… the words that made it all a lie, “I’m Italian, you know how Italian men are!” (oh yes thank you for reminding me) Moving on…
I made my way over the Rialto Bridge and was drawn towards a small calle that opened onto a canal. I set up my camera and waited knowing that a gondola would soon come by… a group of workers started chatting with me and wanted one of their friends to model for a photograph… I now wish I had taken their photo because they were another element of the happy spirit I kept finding… They wished me “Merry Christmas” to which I replied, “Buon Natale!”
I walked through the San Marco area taking in the beauty of every Campo I passed, I was at this point seriously high on fresh air and everything around me. Out door markets were set up in quite a few places along the way. Just before the bridge that crosses the canal to Accademia, I found the word Love again and again… ok I get the point!
Still feeling high from the spirit of the day that was not yet over, I decided to stop at the little restaurant next door to my Venice flat. I went in and ordered a spritz and although toasty warm inside I wanted to be outside sitting by the canal. As you can see, I fit in very easily with the Venetian lifestyle.
Later, I continued my search for Christmas with a visit to the lounge where my friend works in San Marco.
A Christmas party was in full swing when I arrived and Bellini’s were being poured. Other people sat sipping prosecco in the lounge after an evening of shopping… I love December in Venice!!
My search for Christmas in Venice continues this afternoon!
“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move.
As far as you can, as much as you can.
Across the ocean, or simply across the river.
The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food,
it’s a plus for everybody.
Open your mind, get up off the couch, move.”