Friday, September 24, 2010

Tuscany

If you read the last posting, I started with the beginning of our honeymoon when we flew into Rome to 2 years ago. It should have been named the same, but it's all the same.

We spent a couple of days on Rome and then hopped the train to Pisa. A nice trip as part of it was up along the coast which offered up some fantastic ocean views. Looked like a postcard. A couple of hours later we were there.

We were set up at a place called Hotel Bologna (http://www.hotelbologna.pisa.it/default_en.php). Nice rooms, clean and a decent amount of space. A good central location with proximity to the river and loads of restaurants. We walked around and looked at the menus all the places had posted out front. Our tour lady at the Vatican told us if a place charges more than 12 Euros for a pizza, avoid it. You can find lots of places around which charge around 8 Euros. Instead of dropping 80-90 Euros, two can dine at a nice place for around 40 Euros, depending on what wine you choose. We aren't cheap, but I refuse to pay more money for something I can find at another joint which is exactly the same, but without all the frills. Sometimes frills are good, but only if I'm in the mood for that type of thing. And my wife being an accountant doesn't make things any easier.

We found a nice place to eat and had a nice walk around the town. Little did I know there was a soccer game on I could have gone to, but now that wouldn't be right, would it? It was a nice night out so we decided to find an outdoor cafe or piazza to sit down and have a glass of wine together and enjoy the evening.


The next day we rented a car and set out for the place where we would stay the longest on our trip, Poderi Arcangelo (http://www.poderiarcangelo.it/), just outside of San Gimignano. If you go to Tuscany, I highly recommend checking this place out. Very nice spot with a great view. Before supper, we would grab a bottle of the farms organic wine, Ciuccarello Vendemmia 2007, and head down to the pool to watch the sunset. This was great as earlier on one of the days we went to Voltaire, which was about a 30 minute drive away, and bought some prosciutto and Gorgonzola. We would put that on the table with the wine and I would make the short climb up a steep hill to cut a few fresh figs off one of the fig trees right beside the pool. What a perfect way to ease into supper.


Every night except Sunday, supper was served (if you RSVP'd earlier in the day) for 20 euros a head. The ladies who ran the kitchen would cook up a 5 course meal for whoever showed up. Every night was a different menu made from what was grown on the farm. Unbelievable! It was kind of a communal thing where you sat down with a bunch of strangers for dinner, but it was fine with us.


We met a couple from Phoenix who we hung out together with for a couple of days. Every night the meal was great, from risotto to bean salad to lasagna, but not on the same night of course. All the meals I considered to be fairly healthy, with one dish which was higher in fat than the other ones. A good trade off as far as I'm concerned.


This went on for a week. Now, I don't want you to think we were piled up all of the time as there was quite a bit of wine lingering around. But this is what happens in Italy, a glass at lunch, a glass in the afternoon and a glass or two with dinner. They don't seem to be to bad off in the health department over there. Besides, we were on holidays so go with the flow.

One afternoon, we went in to San Gimignano to see the sights. Not much was happening there, so we decided to go for lunch and head back to the farm. We thought a lighter lunch was in order, so we ordered a pizza and am antipasti plate. The girl who was serving us said it was a nice, light lunch which most all of the people order. Yeah right! Pretty good sized pizza and a pretty good sized antipasti plate.
They were both very good, but way to big for our appetites. Unfortunately we had to walk away from some of it.


Next time I will talk about what we did in Florence. We must have walked about 10 miles there and took a thousand pictures. Very cool place.

This afternoon, I baked off the Hubbard Squash my Uncle G gave me from his garden. Mrs. Urban Eater and I will both share this along with a little bit for O.


All you have to do with this one is chop off the ends and cut it in half. With a large spoon, take out the seeds and fibrous parts. Slice off the outer skin and chop up into small chunks. Drizzle a good amount of EVOO on top with a couple of tablespoons of maple syrup or your desired amount. Don't be shy with the maple syrup. It's good for you (http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=115) and and adds a nice earthy and almost smoky flavour to any dish you add it to. Add a little sea salt and fresh ground pepper.



Place it in a pre-heated 350F oven on the middle rack for about 1 hour or until fork tender. The maple syrup may burn because of it's high sugar content, so this is why 350F is safe, not too hot but yet hot enough so it won't take forever to cook. Instead of opening your oven door and letting all the heat out, you can also tell it's done by the almost golden brown colour of the squash. When finished, eat it as is or as a side dish with steak or chicken. I'm going to try it with chicken as I don't each steak much. I will show you this on another posting.


Little O's Menu

This morning, I fed her chunks of peaches and plums again along with the usual yogurt and rice cereal. I threw in a few saskatoons as well to give it a different texture as she seemed to shy away a little. The rest of it went down in a hurry as she really likes the saskatoons. Lunch was mashed carrots, chopped green beans and broccoli with sea salt, fresh ground pepper and EVOO. With supper, we decided to go with beets again. They are frozen and won't last much longer. They say a month is as long as you should keep any fresh vegetable frozen. This is why O will eat quite a bit of one or two things in a stretch. She likes the beets, but geez are they messy. That's alright as she likes them quite a bit. We fed her some chunks of the squash as well. She ate 4 or 5 of them and wanted more. This is good as she will be eating a lot of squash over the next couple of months.

Some of the foodie festivals around the continent happening now or right away:

Sept 30-Oct 1, 2010  NTDTV International Chinese Culinary Competition - New York, New York
Sept 30-Oct 10, 2010  2010  Fall Wine Festival - Okanagan, British Columbia, Canada
October 1-2, 2010  8th Annual Great World Beer Festival - New York, New York
October 1-2, 2010  28th Annual West Point Crab Carnival - West Point, Virginia
October 1-3, 2010  Niagara Food Festival - Welland, Ontario, CanadaOctober 1-Nov 14, 2010  Epcot International Food & Wine Festival - Lake Buena Vista, FloridaOctober 2-3, 2010  Montreal Gourmet Expo - Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Oh, and pick the Oktoberfest in the city of your choice.Quote of the day:

"I cook with wine; sometimes I even add it to the food!"
 ~W.C. Fields

Oops, I almost forgot. Seeing as how I'm talking about Italy so much, I thought I would throw in this shameless bit. I was invited to go to the VIP opening at the new Brooks Brothers in downtown Calgary last night, and met the head of the company, Claudio Del Vecchio. Nice guy, very pleasant and personable guy. Very Italian too.


Until next time, good eating everyone.

Mark

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