Thursday, June 21, 2018

Fooling Europeans For A Profit


The search continues! 

I had high hopes that this new product in my large super market would be the real thing.  We tried, we tasted, it failed. 
Doing further research we found that this product was not a real corn tortilla based product even though you can see the title "Corn Tortilla".  They used 34 % wheat flour.  The result of this is that they do not cook well, you cannot fry them to make soft tacos as the edges burn.  They do not even come close to tasting nor smelling like the real thing.  You begin to wonder about these food companies.    more below..

Why is it so hard to get a product that is the real thing here in Europe?  These companies change the composition way too much.  An example are the many different brands of salza offered in markets.   All of them contain way too much sugar and no "heat".   Yet they are labeled as the real thing found in Mexico or Texas.  I never add sugar when I make my own.  It's all about the chili flavor.

I keep joking with my Italian friends about them opening a small factory which would make corn tortillas. I think they would make a killing on this.  Masa flour is available here in northern Italy.  It is made near Padova.  This is what you use to make corn tortillas, so all my pals would need is a tortilla cutting machine.  There are enough Mexican food restaurants in Italy that would keep them busy, and when people here taste the real thing--watch out!

If Starbucks can move in, surely a tortilla factory has a good chance.

In the meantime, I suggest to you readers to NOT buy this product, find some masa flour, watch a youtube video on making corn tortillas at home, and proceed.


Shown here is the description of ingredients and their silly instructions of sprinkling water and then using a microwave to cook.  You also cannot make enchiladas like this!  OMG, what must they be thinking in Belgium in that factory?

Ciao.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Northern Italy News


Has it been two years?  I am thinking it has been far over that, but I can almost begin to smell the roasting coffee beans in the new, still not ready, Milano Starbucks.  Upon more investigation, this Starbucks will not be the usual type, but a much larger one they call a Roastery. 
Plans for smaller ones in Milano by the Italian licensee Percassi might open in 2018.  They are publishing that these smaller ones will respect the local community, etc.  I guess this means that the bigger one near the cathedral does not respect the Milanese setting. ??

Here is something you would find in a  Roastery .   Shiny Copper with tubing, etc, looking more like a small craft brewery.  You can see that this not be your usual coffee bar found everywhere in Italy.
Ah, there’s nothing like getting a cup of java that is several 100 % mark up over normal coffee a few doors down the street.

The owner of our fav enoteca in Arquà Petrarca sat down for a few minutes and  told us that so far this looks to be a good year  for grapes.  We have had enough rain, but not too much and  lots of sunny days.  Grapes harvested into wine last year have turned out excellent.  I have noticed that prices have risen a bit, too.  

Prices, overall, in the past ten years have risen from 11 euros for an excellent wine we buy to 20 or more for similar wines.  That is a lot.  Table wine in the super market has moved from 3 euros to 5ish.  It’s not bad wine, just has fewer of the qualities that a swirler of wine desires.  As I  have said before, you  don’t see much swirling in Italy.

There has been much in the news lately where the new Italian government has turned away boats from Africa  Facts to consider:  690,000 migrants who have arrived by boat since 2013, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa. Some arrive with papers, and others don’t.
There are other immigrants, however from other countries.  23% of immigrants to Italy are from Romania.   9.0 percent are from Albania, 8.0 percent are Moroccan, 5.5 percent are Chinese and 4.5 are from Ukraine.
My experience at immigration in Padova every year when I go, I see a lot of Romanians, Russians and a sprinkling of places like Sri Lanka.  I think this year I will be seeing a lot more Africans.  
It has been stated that there are 500,000 people living in Italy illegally.   This is equivalent to 0.9 percent of the population. Which includes failed asylum seekers and those who have outstayed their visas.  
When I first came here I was told by many officials that I could live in Italy a long time, but when I was caught without a visa, I would be sent out of country and  never allowed at the border to return.  This motivated me to keep my visa in order.  

Lastly I would like to show two of my latest watercolor paintings.  Size is A3, on Winsor & Newton Rough paper.  



Ciao!




Thursday, May 17, 2018

An Italian Morning

Sicily
It is a normal day here in Italy.  We had a rain last night and the sun is trying to show itself through the Venetian haze.  Parents have delivered their children to school and now there are fewer cars  on the streets.  Today is the weekly market day in my village.  There are about 25 stalls selling anything from women's clothing to the smelly cheese I like to buy every so often.  Many villagers turn out for this, most of them crowd around one vegetable seller, the other two veggie sellers get a lot less business. Other popular stalls are the roasted chicken guy, and the fish ladies who try to get me to speak my broken Italian.  They make sure to have old fashioned Italian music blaring from their stereo.  Last week I heard Cella Luna which always brings a smile to my face. 
C'e la luna mezz'o mare
Mamma mia me maritari,
Figghia mia, a cu te dari
Mamma mia pensaci tu.


There's a MOON IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEA:
MOTHER I MUST GET MARRIED --
My daughter, who do I get for you?
MOTHER I LEAVE IT UP TO YOU

All this with typical polka accordion.  
Years ago when I played this on my stereo to my group of Italian friends... you should have seen their faces.. ha ha haaaa.
My father, who was certainly not Italian used to sing this song, but with different words.  something about the butcher boy.  ( another smile)

and here it is, contemplate these words in our modern world
 
IF I GIVE YOU THE BUTCHER
HE WILL COME AND HE WILL GO,
BUT HE'LL ALWAYS HOLD HIS SAUSAGE IN HIS HANDS...
IF HE LIKES THE IDEA
HE'LL SAUSAGE YOU OH MY DAUGHTER.



Roman Area in Sicily
I am sitting in my bar having a coffee Americano and watching the people come in for their medicinal shot of coffee.  We got a guy, 25ish in a hoodie and black sweats, a guy in a white shirt dressed for an office, but wearing no  socks in his shiny dress black shoes.  Two ladies, usual attendees, sit near the back talking animatedly, one is shaking her finger at the other, who covers her head as if the world has collapsed.  They are always friendly to me and offer me a "ciao" when leaving. (The hoodie guy was here for less than two minutes, a trait similar to the majority of workers who stop.)
The barista, in her high pitched sing song voice calls out to a new customer  what is in side the many brioches resting in a glass case.  She calls out the ingredients loudly as if people have difficulty hearing.  She keeps the place clean, sweeping up the pieces of pastry that fall off onto the floor when hurried people are enjoying a quick bite.  Every day when I arrive she doesn't ask me what I want, she just brings my coffee.  She is efficient and the bar owner is lucky to have her.

House of Marco Polo in Venice
In the back of the bar one finds a wall displayed television that spurts out rock videos nonstop.  No one watches these.  They are pretty much ignored.  I have to admit, I watch sometimes thinking how the world has changed and I wonder where we are going with this junk music.  (Remember I am a classically trained musician)  One thing I do know, if you are a male and want to sing Italian rock music you must do several things.  You should smoke cigarettes non stop, hit the vino all night long which will make your voice raspy sounding.  You must always sing loudly with exaggerated  passion and for sure you must never comb your just woke up hairdo.  That ought to get you past the first  round of Italian Stars on television.  Good luck on the second round.  If you are a female wanna be singer, plan to wear a lot less clothing than normal. 

How trash is taken away in Venice
Sitting here I contemplate my friends who are vacationing at this moment.  One is in Ireland, one on a cruise to Greece, one in Thailand, several in Lithuania,   All the while the rest of us dream of getting away.  Right now my mind is on a beach in Turkey.  I cannot  complain though, we get around more than most.

Quiet Canal, Venice
The readership of this blog has been increasing month by month.  Most from googling, a lot from Germany and Russia, but also from European countries.  They seem to hit all at once, confirming they probably came from googling a blogging site with links to mine.
I have decided that my next blog will concern itself with struggling to live in Italy, jobs, visas, shopping and general concerns with moving here from another country.  I have written about all this  before in previous years, but it is difficult to find those blogs for people.  I also have trouble, it is not user friendly at all.

One thing that bugs me about my blog which is based by google is that many readers seem not able to comment.  I have been told that they must have a google + account.  Few have that!

I have inserted some photos of Italy.  Until next time, Ciao!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Not A Burger Review

Easel Will Travel
This will be a short blog posting.  It is outdoor painting season.
After writing several emails, posting a blog review, and alerting Old Wild West about their lousy burgers and asking for a response, I have received nothing.   Therefore, I can only conclude that they do not care about changing for the better.

Other Italian news....Allergy season got a two week break here in the Veneto because of rain, but now it is back in full force.  Sufferers can only wait for another two weeks or so and the pollen will reduce.

To Die For Mexican Cuisine
On my terrace my jalapeno plants are producing flowers.  It will be only a short time before I will have fresh jalapeno for my Mexican food.  I have been using ones from last summer that rest in the freezer.

We have seen a growth of Asian and Mexican food products in the larger grocery stores here.  I don't get too excited about this as a package of 8 corn tortillas costs 8 euros.  We have never bought these expensive tortillas. We make our own from masa that we buy in the Chinese market store in Padova. If you are interested in this and how to make your own, look at Youtube.com.

Tomato with a nose?
Do you like guacamole?  We eat it at least once a week.  Avocados are good for your health.  They go good with tortilla chips or on enchiladas or tacos.  Here is my own recipe.  Make sure your avocado is soft not hard.

Guacamole

One ripe (soft) avocado
remove fruit with big spoon and place in bowl
chop 1/4 onion, add
chop 2 small garlic cloves or 1 elephant size, then
place  in garlic press, squeeze juice on top of avocado
remove pieces from the press, chop them and add to avocado
dice a tasty tomato, and add at least half to avocado
two table spoons of lime juice,  or lemon
1/2 teaspoon of salt
mash all in bowl, leaving no chunks, mixing well

NEVER ADD MAYONAISE!!!

(motor boat if desired for smooth)

dash of chili powder on top

dash of paprika on top for color

Ciao!





Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Old Wild West Burger Joint Review


The Old Wild West world got a little smaller last weekend. The glitter of a freshly barbecued burger with all the trimmings took a big hit.   I fear that Old Wild West is losing its legendary reputation of serving up great cowboy sized meals that are fresh off the grill. Lately, the deeper you dive into their menu, the more you will want to stay away.  It's no longer a unique experience.    This is sad to me as getting a good burger here in Pasta Land is difficult, and being American I kind of need a good burger once in awhile.  

There are few burger places in and around the Padova, Italy area, and the one we frequent, called Old Wild West, is located in the town of Monselice.  This week, when arriving,  we first noticed that they had finally taken down the tattered American flag that had sadly hung outside in the rain all winter long.  Workmen were freshening up the wooden patio area with fresh paint, and so it looked like the management was taking some pride in the business.   However, it was all downhill from then on.

One thing you have to get used to at Wild West is that after you order your food and drinks, it takes a long time for the drinks to arrive.  We have waited more than ten minutes for drinks.  I usually remember to  mention to the waiter that we would like our drinks before the food.  This time it came late and my beer was flat as a pancake.  It had little of the carbonation that one finds in a St. Benoit Red.  

I don't expect it to look exactly like this
I had ordered a California Burger.  This is what the menu shows it should look like.  This is the burger as shown on the Wild West Website, which  is the same picture that is on the menu.  You see lots of cheese, a large tomato, lettuce, mushrooms, and a good size beef patty.  It’s not difficult to make a good burger, especially when you have this photo to show you what it looks like.

Clearly not even close to expectations.  Is there cheese?  Bacon broken into pieces.   Pee wee sized tomato.  The bottom of the bun is much smaller.
I always cut my burgers in half when they are large, and I sliced down through my California Burger to find this.  It is hard to see any of the items pictured, and my tomato fell out.  It was the size of a half dollar coin.  You cannot even see it in the photo.  Clearly the manager is cutting corners on this, too.   I did not squash my burger, either.  That was how it came. 

What was the cook thinking of?  Or better yet, what is the management thinking to serve up a burger not even fit for a horse thief.   If this was served anyone in Texas, there would be a lot of trouble.  
I don’t want to forget to mention that my burger was cold, and my  small side of fries were only a little warm.  So far, a complete waste of my money, and you can see from the menu that these burgers are not cheap!   Lastly, I received half the fries normally placed on the plate!

This is not the first time we have received cold burgers.  This was the second in a row.  I can forgive them for charging for ketchup,  I can forgive them for slow service, but take a look at my burger and you can see why I am upset.    

I figure that I am going to give Old West one more chance, and if they don’t serve up a burger that sort of looks like the menu picture, if they don’t  serve up something hot off the grill, then we will stop going there.

Many of you read my blog to find out what life is like in Italy.  You want to know about the people, and the food.  One major difference I have found in Italy is that the Italians seem to be a little more easy going than Americans.  They accept things as they are without complaining.   When we were paying the bill for our burgers I wanted to mention to the manager what I was feeling about Old Wild West after such a deflated experience.  My Italian wife stopped me.  She reasoned with me that writing about our meal in my blog and also sending it to the corporate website would be better.  (I prefer a face to face chit chat, however, it had been a long day.)  

I am not recommending Old Wild West anymore.  13 dollars, (euro to dollar) for a deflated cold burger without any of the fixings that you can see is not worth it.  All that cowboy junk hanging on the walls, rodeo scenes on the big screen, and peanuts for appetizers won’t cut it for me.  It shouldn’t for you.    Better get your burgers at  American Graffiti at the movie complex and give them a try.  So far, they have come through 100%.  They don't charge extra for ketchup!

Ciao!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Escape From Pasta Land


Plated Artistically 
We escape Pasta Land of the Veneto to visit Croatia at least 5 times a year.   The scenery is beautiful and the coastline is colorful.   You can tell you are near Croatian man-food by the smell from the pigs roasting on a spit at almost every restaurant into and out of each town.  If you are not in the mood for pork there is always fresh fish, or something with local truffles.  However, in the  past two years we made a major discovery and have always planned to visit a restaurant called Barba Danilo at least twice on every weekend visit.  Our first time resulted after reading  several reviews of restaurants in the area around Rovinj.   Now after becoming a quasi regular customer I want to write my own recommendation and urge you to make an effort to visit them if you are on the coast of Croatia.  (Rovinj is just over 3 hours from Venezia)

The sauces w the tuna Wow!
The restaurant is highly popular, usually you have to make a reservation ahead of time.  Located out of Rovinj and next to a campground, one would think that the menu would feature burgers and pizza.  Lose that kind of thinking!  Here they are famous for their tapas appetizers.  You won’t find burgers, or pizza here.   You will find a sign along the walkway to the restaurant warning No Pizza!   Instead you will taste appetizers so good that last year a Slovenian food editor tried to steal their recipe for their smoked white fish mousse.  BTW this item is our top pick, one to die for, and please don’t leave until you taste it!  One of those presentations that you are not sure it will taste as advertized, but then….it is so good that you begin to take smaller and smaller forkfulls to make it last.  Heaven!   

Steak Tartare
The owners have a good thing going with their completely irresistible food. Everything is farm fresh to order, and presented with an artistic flair.   This year they are taking a risk by cutting back on their dinner items while  enlarging their appetizer items into a full blown menu.  The owner explained to us that they will keep experimenting with recipes and then add them as time goes on.   It took them months to perfect the mousse recipe for instance.
They further explain that “we are transforming our tavern into a new, simpler and a more relaxed place where the emphasis will be on wines, top food ingredients and relaxation.”    




Danilo helps with a cooking class




The restaurant was started by the father, named Danilo, and many of the items on the menu has his signature.  These are innovative and cannot be found in other restaurants in the area.   Concept is not as important as creating food that is so good it is comfort food.   The ingredients are drawn from the local area, for instance we had food prepared with tiny baby-wild asparagus, not sold in shops, but hand picked that morning from  the forest area.   Their seasonal cooking has earned them a strong local and critical acclaim.  No wonder it is hard to find a table at the last minute.   All this makes Danilo the most popular of all Restaurants (189) in Rovinj, according to Trip Advisor.







2012 Teran

As far as wine goes, attention goes both to great wines of the area.  Their wine menu has some very expensive wines and wines that I can afford.  (Retired educator)  The wines we considered came with  stories about the makers, when they bottled, how long in oak cask,  and the condition of the grapes that year.  While talking with our waiter, Sandi, who is Danilo’s son, we found that in December he had taken a trip to California where he spent time sampling wine in Napa Valley and then drove south from Carmel along highway 101 to taste wine of the Central Coast. 








Cheesecake in a Jar
I mentioned to Sandi that Anthony Bourdain had made a food tour of the Croatian coast and many people now have Croatia on their bucket list.  He laughed and told me that he had  seen that program more than once and, yes there has been a large increase in tourists from the United States.   That  program has also been seen throughout Europe on the major channels. 





Tiramisu



Lastly, let me suggest to you that on your first visit ask the waiter to use their judgement and bring you a varied selection of items.  This is how we fell in love with Danilo’s restaurant.  Now we have our own favorites, items we would never find in northern Italy where we live.  You will discover why it is our top pick of the area and the reason why we would drive three hours, stay for the weekend to enjoy innovative, irresistible food.  

Ciao!


Thursday, January 18, 2018

BACK IN THE DAY

Clone of "Dave" Meeting Bob
Maybe you missed it.  Maybe you are too young or living in a foreign land.    There was a time, a really good time, when if you had 60 cents you could meet this big plastic Big Boy at the front door of Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant. Ah, those were the days!  Their burgers were so good that some teens made this the prom night restaurant.  Imagine a bunch of teens in tuxedos and fancy dresses having a burger.  It DID happen.
Real Prices
 

Not to Pass Up!
When I was a teenager in high school, you could get a great double decker burger for 60 cents, fries for a dime (10 cent), and even a cup of coffee only cost 10 cents.  This burger was made on a grill, not from a factory box, warmed up in a microwave contraption.  (You know who I am talking about right?)
Those aren't real burgers at Mickey D's!

Thank you, Brits!
Caramel Inside Was Better
Let me divert for a second and explain how things have changed. This  will help you realize how prices have sky rocketed by inflation and the greed and world wide profit making.  We can now find burgers for ten dollars or more.  Just last week I saw one for 20 euros.  Items like Snicker Bars use to cost 5 cents while a Mars bar was 10 cents, and chewing gum, 5 cents.  I think I have seen Snicker Bars here in Italy for 1 euro, and they are a lot smaller than they used to be!  A real premium candy bar from Great Britain called  Cadbury had creamy caramel inside cost 10 cents.  

Due to the fact that I announced one evening during dinner that I would be going on strike and not washing dishes anymore until my parents raise my allowance above one dollar.  I had been studying American history and we were learning about worker rights and how the economy expanded through union action.  My father, a union man who knew how to negotiate the hard way and always quick to see good luck, told me, “Fine, you can now wash the dishes for free!”  This was not the outcome I had expected.  My plans for extra money in my wallet went out the window.   I actually thought about making a sign and marching up and down the sidewalk in protest. 

Later on in life, I got the chance to carry a sign on the streets of Seattle, and I even carried one in protest against Arnold Schwarzenegger , who was governor of California at the time.  Another story.

How I Remember It.
Was A Bad Governor Of California

I had to go into survival mode, by not eating lunch and pocketing my lunch money,. IMy mother gave me 2 dollars a week to buy my lunches at school.  2 dollars for the whole week could cover the dreaded school cafeteria offerings.   By starving myself I would have 2 dollars for the weekend girlfriend activity.  It was far easier back then, here is how I did it.  

The Truth Hurts!










Our Ford Was Corporate Grey
(We Were Ahead Of The Times)



In order to use the family car I had to buy gas.   1 dollar went into the gas tank of the family car.   Gasoline prices, in the 60’s were lower and 1 dollar would buy at least 3 gallons or more.   Sometimes there would be a gas war between stations, and one could find gas for 17 cents a gallon.   It was smart to look out the window when driving around to find the cheapest station.  We didn’t have texting back then so teens actually were aware of their surroundings.   They could even carry on a discussion with a real person.  
The local “drive in movie” had a price of 1 dollar a  car load, so if I double dated with a friend I would have 50 cents left over for popcorn (10 cents) and sodas, also 10 cents. 

Bring This Back
Don't Remember the Hypnotist

Weekend Entertainment
How We Saw Most Movies Back Then
Recent Movies Were Never on TV






Ask a teenager how much money they spend now on a weekend!  Those of you who have teenagers, don’t you wish two dollars was back in style?   My parents never actually knew how lucky they were.  I bet those Bob’s Big Boy Hamburgers now cost a lot more, if you can find one of their restaurants.    I do miss their burgers.




To help you further understand the times back then here are a few reminders.
They Sold The Rights To Their
Music to Michael Jackson!
The Bee Gees Were Better

A Lot Of Boys Got This Stupid Haircut




During English Class
Announcement to Go Home
School Cancelled For Days




I believe that this headline announces the slow death of the American spirit.  We sadly sat in front of the television for three days and watched.  Another Story.....
Go have a burger this weekend.
Ciao!