Monday, October 28, 2019

Tasting the Asiatic

Today we are covered in fog.  It is difficult to see more than 50 meters, and most everyone drives a bit slower and safer.   It gives one a feeling of dreariness.  We watch the leaves turn and slowly fall.  Tomorrow it will rain and we will join our British friends who have had their umbrellas in their hands.  Winter proceeds.   

However, this past weekend was  glorious.  The sun was in abundance and warm.  We looked up and saw a large V flight of a type of ducks  that live in the Veneto,  heading south for the winter.  I hope you can see them in the photo.  I expected to hear the type of vocal sounds that snow geese make when they fly over my father’s home in Manzanola, Colorado, but it was more of a screeching sound.  Still, it was nice  to hear.  I think this is the first time we have ever seen this above our village.

Venice to Cesenatico
Along the Adriatic Coast
We were so lucky to choose this weekend to drive down to the area around Rimini where my wife would visit a knitting conference and I would paint scenes of the sea.  

Served With Bread
We both planned to enjoy the mussels that are grown in the Adriatic sea, served up on big platters in a special piccante (spicy) sauce.   We hit a major roadblock in sadly finding that our favorite restaurant on a canal that we ALWAYS go to was closed for the month.  However, we were happy to find out that the owner also owned another fish restaurant on another canal in nearby Cesenatico.   In this area there are many canals which feature colorful boats and great fish cuisine.  There is a lot of competition, so you can be assured the food will be awesome.

A Very Large Wooden Boat
At the Canal Bridge

On The Other Side Of The Canal

With reservations made digitally we arrived on time to walk across the canal and then ten minutes toward the sea we found Trattoria  Lampara.   There were so many boats, I cannot feature them here.  You must come yourself and enjoy the view. 

A Boat Like This Will Take
A lot of Work to Maintain Its Beauty
I am always happy to visit this area and its canals because there are so many old wooden boats.  The residents and owners make sure they are always well painted in colorful schemes.  It is quite like walking through a museum and I try to take a lot of photos to use later in watercolor paintings.  

Many Smaller Ones Well Kept
Our View From Our Trattoria
This weekend there was good lighting and the water showed deep colors and the shadows from the boats made a good contrast.  

Eye Catching
We passed one trattoria which had a terrific front, one which reminded me of what I thought I would always see when coming to Italy.  I will use this shot while adding some people in painting.  We did not eat there, but kept walking towards the sea.

One Happy Tasting Expert

Here you can see a happy customer leaving Lampara.   We sat two tables down from the door.  The menu was loaded with choices and after choosing the mussels appetizer we easily found other items to try.  The waitress suggested a chardonnay and we were set!  

Taste Of Heaven
My parents always called the yummy liquid in the bottom of the pot "Pot Liquor".  That is the perfect name for what is left after the mussels have disappeared.  The local type of bread is used to enjoy it.

Still Warm In The Shade
Last Gasp Of Summer
 We  spent a pleasant two hours enjoying the local  specialties with a lot of people watching and of course, the romantic boats moored nearby. 

The canal where we were is
 at Cesenatico, a port town with about 26,000 inhabitants.  It is on the Adriatic coast of Italy, I have included two small maps to show you were it can be found.   It is located in the region of Emilia-Romagna, about 30 kilometres south of Ravenna.  

This is an area that most tourists do not have the  chance to visit because they choose Rome, Florence, Pisa and Venice.  They are missing out as Ravenna has some very nice Roman ruins with well preserved mosaic floors, and the sea and the beaches are quite nice.  During the summer, especially August, it is overwhelmed by Italians on vacation.  We won’t go there in August for that reason.   We also avoid Venice for the same. 

Finishing off our meal the host brought out a  flask of limoncello.  They make their own and it was quite good.  Many trattorias offer this end of the experience treat.  In the Veneto it might be a "gasoline"  called grappa.

I plan to continue this posting in a few days with some other activities we found plus two other restaurants we were lucky to find.  The food in this area of Italy is somewhat different from what one will find in Rome, Florence or Venice, so I want to write a bit about the differences.  Plus I plan to write a blog posting about how to translate menus, including the type of pastas and sauces.  That will all be coming soon.   

With that, I wish you all a fine end of October.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

A Big 10-4, Wines and A Mussel Weekend

Along a Pass at the Austrian/Italian Border

It is almost the end of October already.  The leaves here in the Veneto are changing faster now, we are seeing a lot of yellow.  We wake up to fog and hope the sun will win the day later.  Temperatures have held into the mid 70’s but next week will drop down into the 60’s leaving warm as a memory.

My bar today is frequented by men dropping in for a quick coffee and brioche while on their way to work.  There have been only two people lingering to read the newspaper, provided for free, or like me use the free wifi on their computers/phones.  It is a slow day for Bar Jolie, but later business will pick up as today is market day in my village.  Shoppers will stop for a pick me up, and then the workers will begin to make a visit for lunch.  What do they serve here?  Take a  look.
A second choice could be this.  Both come with a sauce I see a lot in Italy, which  is a mixture of ketchup and mayo.  I prefer it with a fish plate. Mustard could be also a  good choice but ...this is Italy.

This year has been a good year for  wine production.  There was little rain near the picking days, and lots of sun.  The grapes had more than enough water during the summer.  Now the vines stand empty of grapes and ready for winter to change the leaves to a dried dirty brown.  I am anxious to go to my favorite enoteca in Arqua Petrarca and  talk to the owner about this years production.  He was the one who introduced be to Vignalta wines and then   later other super choices.  I trust his judgement and he is very energetic to find small vineyards that have produced a great wine after which he buys their whole production.  

We are about to head south from our village and drive to the beach where they have mussel farms.  There is a restaurant there that serve platters of mussels with a spicy flavor.  We were shocked to see these giant mussels the first time, now we are hooked and try to go back twice a year.  The restaurant is always packed and you must obtain a reservation in order to be assured of a seat.  

The first time I ever tasted a mussel was at a festival in Belgium with my friends who were living in Holland for two years on a work assignment.  I had never eaten mussels and always used them as fishing bait on my hook when fishing off the pier in Huntington Beach, California.  So I was wary of this new taste.  The festival brought huge bowls of mussels to the table with lots of bread and Belgian Beer.  We had to have a second bowl.  Now I am hopelessly addicted!

On the way south on Saturday we will use the freeway joining folks who are whisking themselves along at a pace of 130 kilometers an hour, the so called speed limit here.  Left lane is used for the speedsters who desire to  push folks into a  more right lane by flashing their lights as they approach you.  It is best to move over.  Luckily there are usually three lanes, the one on the right is used for truckers who are not allowed to go at such a high speed. Sundays are a good day to travel, except on holidays when the traffic can get a bit heavy.   One of the best ideas that Italy has ever had was to make truckers rest on Sundays.  Since they are not allowed on the freeway on Sunday, you will see them lined up at roadside rest stops that feature restaurants, restrooms and sometimes showers.  We also do not see trucks pulling two trailers, nor trucks that do not have a live driver.  That will never happen here.  It would be way too dangerous, as one always has to remain totally aware of what is going on ahead and behind you.  Cruise control, a good thing driving across the desert of Nevada, cannot be used here much.  Your speed is always changing. 

I am not happy with Google and  Apple as in some way they have changed the way my blog is presented and the photos cannot be placed in exact places anymore.  Sorry, everyone.

                                                  I wish everyone a peaceful Autumn.  Ciao!  

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The great thing about living in the north of Italy is that we are near other countries, and so that makes life twice as good!  Croatia, Slovenia and Austria are within a few hours drive and so they make for a fun weekend.
Slovenia on right, Austria left, Italy Below
This past weekend a friend, who is a complete expert in beer suggested we meet at a big beer festival in Slovenia.  Knowing the tasty food, the scenery and the beer would be great we signed on.  Unfortunately our friend encountered a problem and could not go.   We decided to skip the beerfest and explore the area around Gorizia.  This is the area of the battle lines for the First World War,  "The Great War "as Italians call it. 

Buildings Are Also Different
The scenery changes a bit when you enter Slovenia.  We  both agreed that it is more green and open, seemingly less crowded.  Even though the countries are neighbors, and their foods seem close, they are a bit different.  There is less pasta and more meat in Slovenia with recipes like those found in Austria and Germany.  

I promised several of my friends that I would write about and  list recipes of some things we tasted this weekend.  These are not difficult to make and I recommend trying them.   The photos are from our table, not professional, but clear enough to show them well.   
Potatoes With Onion, Beef With Mushroom Sauce
                     Slovenian Potatoes With Onion
  • 5 tbsp lard, yes cooking with lard (not corn oil)
  • You could use butter as a substitute
  • 2 medium white onions, peeled and chopped small
  • 100-200ml liquid beef broth  (important part of recipe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pepper

Boil the peeled potatoes in salted water until just tender - about 20 minutes. Drain, cool and slice.  The photo shows them a bit mashed, but not completely mashed.
Cook the onions in the lard at a low to medium heat, until soft and translucent. 
Add the sliced potatoes to the pan and cook for another fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little  hot beef broth every few minutes.  

Present the potatoes on the plate in one big round ball much like a dumpling. 

This Pasta Had Three Different Sauces
                           Slovenia Stuffed Pasta With Potato Filling

Ingredients Needed

  • 100 g Wheat flour (patent)
  • 2 Eggs
  • 200 g potato
  • 3 Bacon slices
  • 1 Spinach or other lettuce
  • 1 White Onion
  • 20 ml  Olive oil
  • 5 mL apple cider vinegar

  • Mix the flour, eggs and vegetable oil until obtaining a smooth and elastic dough.  You can use a dough hook for this or knead by hand.
  • While the dough rests, cook the peeled potatoes in water for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Stir-fry the chopped onion and the bacon in a frying pan.
  • Mash the potatoes  and mix with the onion and bacon.
  • Roll the dough out thinly and cut into 8 cm wide strips.
  • Place knobs of filling in a straight line, at regular intervals, on the upper half of each pasta strip. Leave space between.
  • Fold the lower half of the strip over the filling.
  • Cut out the ravioli obtained then, using your fingers, press the 3 edges together firmly to seal.  Try to remove air pockets.
  • Cook the ravioli for 4 to 6 minutes in salted boiling water.
  • Meanwhile, mixi the olive oil with cider vinegar and season the salad.
  • Serve the potato ravioli along with the green salad.
  • A cabbage salad can also be used.

  • If you try these, drop me a line and let me know how it was accepted by your guests/family.  Ciao.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Lasagna in the Veneto

Lasagna in the Veneto

Lasagna, Venetian Style
When I first moved to the Veneto I was invited to a dinner where I could watch the food preparation, something of which I am always interested.  I saw sheets of pasta hand rolled using a long pole, quite like a cut off broom stick.  It was amazing to see how the pasta could be rolled up around and around and then laid back out on the floured work surface.  Over and over it was being worked and flattened into a sheet for lasagna.  This is the original old way of doing a lasagna sheet and I have to admit it was a lot of work.  When I make this I use an attachment for my Kitchen Aid mixer.  

Very Heavy Metal Attachments
My three attachments for pasta are the roller sheet, the fettuccine and the spaghetti cutter.  If you have a Kitchen Aid, look into purchasing these handy attachments that are so easy to use.   Below is the recipe I use.

300 grams of 00 flour
3 egg yolks
1 Tbl Ex. V. oil
1 tsp salt
1 Tbl water

(You may have to add a bit more water and maybe  a touch more salt.  I refrain from too much salt due to health reasons.)

But it wasn’t the talent with the pole that got my attention it was the lack of tomato sauce in this lasagna.  I kept waiting to see a pot of tasty red sauce appear, but it wasn’t to happen.  The lasagna used La besciamella, Italian for bechamel sauce.  This white sauce is made with 50 grams of butter, 50 grams of flour, 1/2 litre of mi, salt and nutmeg.  I was  also surprised to find that no meat was used!  At the end of layering the lasagna was topped off by  laying a full size sheet on top as a covering.  She did not have to use foil.

So I was questioning myself if I would like this new kind of lasagna.  I was willing to give it a go and it turned out great.  I learned something new in Italian cooking that I never expected.  This past weekend we were in the hills outside of Padova and we had, as an appetizer, this same lasagna but made with onions.  When you see the photo you can see that the pasta layers are so thin, which is really nice.  You can see a layer of thinly sliced porcini mushrooms near the bottom and a nice pile of parmeggiano cheese on top.  You taste that and you want more, trust me.  

Dangerous Box
Those pasta attachments come with a funny story.  I brought them to Italy in my carry on and when going through the  metal detector  my suitcase set off detector alarm bells etc.   Three workers suddenly surrounded me as if they had caught some sneaky terrorist.  (Do I look like one?)  They told me to open my carry on and they all stood back.  I reached in and pulled out this box which held my three very heavy attachments for pasta.  They did not trust the box and ordered me to pull the attachments out one at a time.  Evidently they thought I had a bomb or ????  I had a good laugh.  
I had packed my heaviest items in my carry on so that I could get more items in my checked luggage as at that time carry ons were not weighed like they are now.   You should have seen their faces when they realized that they had only nabbed some old guy who likes to cook.  

Lot of Work To Use
Not Uniformly Placed Strings
I would like to introduce you to my guitara, which uses an old fashioned way of making spaghetti.  It is a slanted wooden box with metal guitar strings with which you push the pasta through to your spaghetti.  Funny thing is I did not buy this in Italy, I purchased it in Philadelphia of all places.  After trying it one time, I decided that it should become a knick knack on the wall.  Some of my Italian friends have never seen one, which is another smile.  I cropped a shot for you to see the wires up close.  

I hope that if you travel to the Veneto area you will have the chance to try onion lasagna, and  also spaghetti with onions another specialty of this area.  
Until next time, Ciao!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

People in Turkey Can Buy
Ripe Tomatoes
Still waiting for just one person in Germany  to respond.  Every day I receive 25 hits from Germany on my blog.  I would like to know who is looking  at my blog. Why every day the same 25?    If you are one of the 25, please make a comment or write me at 

If you are not one of the 25, please leave a comment.

Pink Olives?

Thank you,
D. Lester

Monday, June 17, 2019

Escaping the Veneto heat

Covered Awnings Keep Tourists Cool

Suddenly Summer arrived and it is hot here in the Veneto.  Mornings are quite nice, but by 11:00 the sun is cooking the pavement and the humidity keeps clothes sticking to body parts.  I begin to miss living in New Mexico where the weather is dry, and even when it is hot, it is bearable.  People here scheme to escape the heat, my friends go to the beach nearby and lie on beach chairs under an umbrella during the weekend.  My neighbors stay inside and serenade us with their air conditioners.  We scheme and plan our own getaway.

We, quite often, escape to Croatia, the country just across the Adriatic from Venice.  Three hours from our village, along the shores are huge huge campgrounds with restaurants along the beach and lots of trees and grass.  The place near where we go actually has 3 restaurants and a huge pool for those folks not wanting to swim in the  sea.  If you walk to the south end of this campground you will find those folks sunning themselves suitless.  Throughout this campground I have also found two markets, several snack stands, and a tattoo artist.

We don’t stay there, but instead just walk through to get to the beach.  We stay 10 minutes walk further away in a small two bedroom cabin.  

The porch is covered, perfect for me to sit and paint watercolors.  Lots of  birds are found and serenade us during the day.  It is much cooler there than home, but that is not the only “escape” part.  It has to do with the food.

Beef Tartar
Yes, it  is safe to eat raw beef,
prepared correctly

No Teeth Needed!

The restaurant in our campsite is exceptional.  Who would think that in a campground one would find such a place.  You cannot find a burger on the menu.  You will not find pizza or spaghetti with meat sauce.  What you will find is a taste out of this world, honestly!  Here are a few photos of what we have eaten there.  We have been going there for three years, and it just keeps getting better.  

Smoked Sea Bream Mousse
My Favorite
They have a menu that features cuisine we cannot find in Italy.  Here are a few more specialties.

In case you are wondering this favorite restaurant is in Rovinj, and is called Barba Danilo.  I highly recommend you call for reservations before arriving.  

Your Stomach Will Be Happy In
Other Parts of Croatia, too.
Noodles and Goulash 
We have another escape to a beer hotel just across the mountains in Austria.  They make award winning beer and the food is quite different from Croatia, and quite different, of course, than Italian.   This will be another mention soon to come   Until then, ciao!  Stay cool.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Serious About Italian Food

Celebration of Italian Cuisine
Arriving in Italy with a mind to taste the sauce, the pasta and those meatballs, you are shocked that spaghetti and meatballs is not offered in almost any menus except a few tourist catered restaurants.  From then on you will either choose to eat a lot of pizza or venture into a new tasting adventure that will make good memories when you are back home.  What to try? Here are a few suggestions.
Marinated Sardines
The menus feature what Italians call "antipasti".  These will be choices of appetizers.  There will be cold cuts of choice meats, some cheeses,  specially prepared vegetables or fish delicacies.  I promise you that these sardines won't taste like the sardines that come from a can or jar.


You might find bruschetta on the menu, be assured that they will use those tasty ripe tomatoes we hardly find anymore in big grocery stores.  They will have added extra virgin olive oil and some spices on toasted bread.  You cannot beat the flavor!

Ultimate Taste!

Another specialty to try would be these shellfish that are called St. Johns.  They are cooked in an oven with butter and just a touch of spices.  This dish is more expensive but really worth it.

A primi that is offered more in the south is cannelloni.  Pasta filled with mozzarella swimming in a rich tomato sauce, this is one of my favorite looked for items when we are south of Firenze.

My Spaghetti With More Sauce
Bigoli With White Sauce
In the north, particularly in the
Veneto area (Venice), you will see featured on a menu a pasta called bigoli.  This is a larger type of spaghetti.  If you like pasta I recommend you try this as restaurants that have bigoli usually make their own.   Nothing beats fresh pasta and the Italians present it with less sauce than foreigners are used to.   Don't worry it is not  impolite to ask the waiter to add more sauce before bringing it to the table.

Musso With Gnocchi
In some restaurants in the Veneto you will find musso, donkey, with a red sauce.  Cooked long for a better flavor, it is known as a comfort food.  On a cold and rainy evening, it works for me.   In the volcanic hills outside  Padova you can find this dish with gnocchi, potato dumplings made by hand.  Paired with a red wine from this area famous for the volcanic soil wine production... PERFETTO!

Lastly, you may not find any vegetables on the menu, and if you wish, you can ask for contorni (side dishes).  The restaurant may have cooked seasonal vegetables, such as asparagus, spinach, zucchini or roasted potatoes.  The locals know to ask, don't be ashamed to inquire when ordering.

I hope that you can visit Italy and enjoy some of these tastes.  Wishing you a sunny day.  Buona Giornata!