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Friday
Nov052010

I Heart Cappuccino From Van Leeuwen



Look at this work of art! Straight off Van Leeuwen's Panda truck this morning on 6th Ave. A good start to the birthday weekend, I think. This little beauty was followed by a delivery of Butterlane cupcakes from Marmo and the Box.

This weekend will bring some good stuff for you, my dear readers, in the form of two great restaurants that will be reviewed. Get excited, but I'm going to keep you in suspense as to which restaurants.

In the meantime, let's review:

First, don't forget to sign up to follow us, or tweet me "Happy Birthday" for you chance to win the herbed Italian salt. Click here for more details. Many thanks to all the people who have already done so!

Need a recipe for the weekend? Try out Velia's Eggplant Rolls.

Want some Sant' Eustachio Coffee? Order from Gustiamo and be entered to win a free coffee cup!

Have a great weekend!

Friday
Nov052010

Italian Favorites (in a non-comprehensive list)

This will be the end of the Italy posts. Next week we start talking turkey, as Thanksgiving is coming up! In the meantime, favorites from my Italian journey:

Il Cane: Favorite image of a dog sleeping behind an old-timey wagon:



Il Pranzo: Favorite lunch – Pasta Cacio e Pepe at Roma Sparita. Note the basket of FRIED CHEESE. Yeah, that's right.



Carne: Favorite new cured meat: Like prosciutto but not pork from the Jewish section in Rome.



Le Patate: Favorite photo of boiled potatoes cooling on a windowsill (I know, it makes no sense).



Il Polpo: Favorite Octopus for sale at the Roman Testaccio Market.



Il Negozio: Favorite Roman Gourmet Food Store (where I bought the salt) – Castroni



La Scuola Cucina: Favorite Daytime Activity: Velia's Cooking School



La Strada: Favorite Creepy Alley in Orvieto - ALL OF THEM!



Il Miele: Favorite Vendor at the Orvieto Farmer's Market – Sigillo di Garanzia Miele (No website I could find).  I bought Sunflower Honey and a jar of hazelnuts in honey, which is pretty much awesome. I keep saying that I'm going to bake something with it, but I just keep eating them out of the jar with a spoon.



Il Gioielli: Favorite Jewelry Shop in Orvieto – Spazio Manassei Gioielli di Monixa Coscioni. I think this woman is a metal/gem stone working genius.



La Cattedrale: Favorite Over-Exposed Cathedral Photo  –  Orvieto Cathedral (still learning the fancy new camera)



L'Auto: Favorite Tiny Red Car Loaded with Too Many Things (Orvieto)



L'Albergo: Favorite B&B in Orvieto: B&B Sant'Angelo



Il Vigneto: Favorite Hotel/Vineyard in Orvieto: La Rocca



La Ceramica: Favorite Pottery Store: L'Arpia - handcrafts pottery based on Medieval designs native to Orvieto. You can watch them paint in the store!



I Ravioli: Favorite Pumpkin Ravioli EVER: Palazzo Manfredi (Michelin Star Restaurant)



Il Castagno: Favorite Curbside Snack: Roasted Chestnuts from Street Vendors in Rome



La Photografia: Favorite Tipsy Photo Take from a Moving Taxi in Rome



La Pasta: Favorite Close-up Photo of Pasta with Cured Meats: Pasta Carbonara from Le Mani in Pasta (Trastevere, Rome)



Le Bar: Favorite Wine Bar in Rome: Il Goccetto



Le Bar: Favorite Wine Bar in Orvieto: La Champagneria



Salute! Thanks to Marmo for an amazing trip!

Thursday
Nov042010

Win a Sant' Eustachio Cup from Gustiamo 



Since Doug already won the Sant' Eustachio coffee that I brought back from Rome, it has come to my attention that some of you may still want some of this coffee. But where to get it? I didn't bring any more back with me, sorry.

Enter Gustiamo - a magical website that imports fancy Italian delicacies, including....wait for it....Sant' Eustachio coffee! Can you imagine? So if you would like to order some of your very own, you can get it here.

To sweeten the (coffee) pot, our new friends at Gustiamo have offered a Sant' Eustachio coffee cup giveaway exclusively for our readers. Isn't that nice? Here's how it works:

1. You order Sant' Eustachio coffee from their site.

2 Enter the word "mug" in the special instructions box in the shopping cart.

3. A presto! You are entered to win the coffee cup, pictured above.

Neat right? We thought so. Now who wants a cup o' joe?
Thursday
Nov042010

Pizza and Pastries in Rome



Life is uncertain: eat dessert first. Does anyone know who said that? It was apparently an American writer named Ernestine Ulmer. I actually just looked that up, because I didn't know.

Today's post most certainly involves eating dessert first, a practice that I whole-heartedly support. I also support eating dessert last. First AND last would be best, I think.

While in Rome, Marmo kept going on and on and on about a bakery called Antico Forno Roscioli. It got kind of annoying, so I had to take her there. Then, once we got there, she kept going on and on and on about this particular pastry, ventagli, which means "fans" in Italian. So we had to eat one.



The sign lodged in the ventagli says "no eggs, no milk" so I can only assume that means one thing: BUTTER. Also: SUGAR. As for taste, a few words come to mind: HOLY %^$& that's good!

Honestly, I was a little skeptical when Marmo was going on and on about ventagli. It really didn't look that special to me. I like desserts and pastries that I can sink my teeth into. This one looked like it was going flake all over me, leaving me with very unsatisfying bites.

I was wrong. Proven wrong by a pastry is really not all that bad, folks.

This little "fan" was surprisingly hearty. It had a nice snap upon biting into it, and the layers, rather than being a flaky mess, really hung together making it more dense than it appeared (a good thing). As you may note from the photo above, the sugar coating looks intense, but honestly, this was not a sickly sweet dessert. The balance of sugar-to-pastry was quite good, and I wouldn't have changed a thing in that regard.

Antico Forno Roscioli stocked a number of other freshly baked items, including pizza in the Roman style. I really liked those long ones shown in the above photo, but I have no idea how you go about baking such a monstrosity. However, for pizza I wanted to go to a real Roman pizzeria. I was going on and on and on about it. I think it was annoying.

So Marmo took me to Monte Carlo Pizzeria, where we sampled two beauties: the Margherita and the Fiori di Zucca (squash flower).

Pardon this PIZZA TANGENT: Roman pizza is characterized by an especially thin and crispy crust. The use of a pizza stone when baking this type of pizza is imperative as the crust really needs even heating from the bottom. The crust should have some give to it, like a thin bread. It shouldn't crumble or have the texture and consistency of a cracker.

In terms of preference I'm not sure where I stand: Neopolitan Style or Roman Style. I like both, but if pressed, I may veer towards Naples. I am Neopolitan, after all...Feel free to leave your comments about your pizza preference!

Onto the Margherita:



You can clearly see the thin crust in the above photos. However, the pizza doesn't stay rigid, but is a bit bendy (like bread). The taste was excellent. Pure crushed tomatoes combined with a thin, even layer of mozzarella cheese. I did find it interesting that there was no basil. I do love basil. I also loved the bubbles that formed around the outer crust (you can see this well in the top photo). Some of these bubbles got nice and charred, and really gave the pizza a kick.

Next up, squash flowers:



As I may have mentioned, I have become a bit obsessed with these flowers. I wanted them on everything while I was in Italy. This combination of the squash flower and lightly-cheesed pizza was quite good. The flowers have a very mild taste, almost buttery. This soft, buttery flavor compliments the salt of the mozzarella cheese. As you can see, this pie also had a nice char going on around the edges, which gave it a slightly smoky taste. Definitely a winner.

Overall, both of the pies were very light. It was quite easy to eat an entire pie and still have some room left over for dessert (again). Did I hear someone say gelato? This is both because of the thin crust, and also the light, even-handed application of the toppings.

I'm thinking this style of pizza would be a great appetizer at a party, cut into small pieces. I'm going to try out a thin crust in the laboratorio semi-moderno (test kitchen) soon for you all.

In the meantime....I did hear someone say gelato?! Let's have some:



A few gelaterias to keep in mind, should you find yourself in Rome or Orvieto:

San Crispino, Rome

Ciampini, Rome

Gelateria Pasqualetti, Orvieto

Wednesday
Nov032010

Birthday Wishes and a NEW Prize



This Sunday is my birthday! And unlike John who wishes to hide the fact that he is aging at the same rate as the rest of us, I don't give a hoot about all that. I like my birthday. It's fun. You get presents. And cake. Oh, how I love cake.

This year, however, the presents are for you! I decided that for my birthday I would like two things:

1. Wine.

2. More Twitter followers.

So I am running another giveaway (I'm really into these giveaways), with yet ANOTHER Italian prize. To win the prize, you can do one of the following things from NOW until midnight on November 7th:

1. Sign up to follow us on Twitter (click here to do so).

2. If you are already one of our loyal followers you should be rewarded for that as well, so just tweet "Happy Birthday" to me.

If you do one of these two things (or both) from now until midnight on November 7th, you will be entered to win the following prize that I brought back for you from Italy:



It's a fun jar of very fancy sea salt combined with a medley of Italian herbs. It will make everything you cook better. Yes, even that. And this.

* John would probably say that this is a shameless plug for attention. Most likely it is, but I would like to remind you that it is a shameless plug for attention with PRIZES. So there.

** In the background of the first photo is my Aunt Lena. With a glass of Scotch. Nice.

*** If you want to send me wine, I would not be opposed to that. Just sayin'.