we got it in our heads that we should visit the Veneto region of Italy….so we rallied up our travelling friends and set our plans for April.
here are my favorites for anyone travelling here:
1. Sirmione Lake Garda
sirmione is a penninsula at the southernmost tip of the lake. it was protected by the scaliger castle in 12th century which you pass thru into a lovely town of windy lanes and small squares. the lake views are vast and stunning. the lake fish - trout-pike & eel - most delicious and clean. and the clams ! i ate pasta e vongole most everywhere it was offered.
2. Villa La Contenta
our home for two weeks . this villa is secluded on an estate in Padua. its a beautifully restored 14th C home complete with indoor /outdoor kitchens & dining spaces - living room with fireplace - well stocked & applianced kitchen - 6 bedrooms with private bath and a pool (plus daily cleaning & room service) !
our usual MO is to sightsee and explore during the day - pit stop the wine shops & daily markets - and enjoy cooking & imbibing at home in the evenings
( including games of bocce ball ) !
everywhere. we travelled with a cooler so we were prepared at all times for purchasing from the markets in any town we happen to be in.
a most beautiful town nestled in the dolomites up in the region of trentino-alto adige - with as many apple trees flowering in the valley as vines just beginning to bust on the hillsides. we came to tour the winery Kallerei Terlan - the source of some favorite wines on our ASTI list. we were graciously toured by our host Klaus and treated to lunch - which included the famed white asparagus. this is the real deal white asparagus from only this area in italy ! sweet-bitter-tender. not to be confused with the likes of spanish or peruvian. it is a short 6-week season. this is a typical dish served with a cooked egg & oil emusified sauce & prosciutto cotto. yum !
we have been drinking this bubbly for years. what a treat to tour and taste the sparkling wines of franciacorta ( italian champagne ) ! this is a fairly new ( <50 yrs.) winery. the contemporary facility included quite a few art installations for added attraction.
rated #3 on Pelligrino’s list of Top 50 Restaurants in the world ! 7 of us delighted in a lunch of 10 courses each paired with special beverages.Chef Massimo Buttura visited us a few times to chat about the food and life in his town of modena ( town of the famed balsamico ). this lunch was most impressive - i may do a separate post ! dishes clockwise: ” think green / foie gras icecream bar with traditional balsamic vinegar of modena / five ages of parmigiano reggiano in different textures and temperatures / an eel swimming up the po river “
people seem to love it or leave it - we loved it ! there is no place like it. our group of 6 took a 30 minute train here and stayed an overnight. we ate amazing seafood - toured the guggenhiem museum - walked the streets at night - delighted in the singing gondoliers - toured the canals in a water taxi - shopped - and ate more amazing food !
loved this little hillside town with medieval walls & castle ( so much we visited here twice). Enoteca il Drago. beautiful food & wines from this area - ( even our red wine diehards turned on to this impeccable white wine - hail garganega) ! by chance we met and were graciaously offered a tasting by the daughter of the winery Coffele - what a treat.
10. Osteria Torcol
sirmione lake garda. we loved it so much we spent another night here on our way to milan to depart. our final lunch at this osteria was most memorable and we were completely taken care of by our waiter - who turned us on to ( too many ) incredible local wines. housemade bigoli pasta with lake fish & mint - bresaola & puntarelle salad - grilled fiorentina t-bone….. cheese plate and desserts…attention to details in varied salts & olive oils & breads. highly recommended !
grazie mille ! to all the wonderful sights & people - food & wine of the Veneto region !
jim lahey - the creator of the no-knead bread - has now created the no-knead pizza dough ! and it is just as impressive as his bread.
it’s the real deal for the home cook and it takes only 5 minutes to stir it up in a bowl. the most difficult part is to remember 18 hours ahead of when you want to enjoy your pizza !
the 18 hours allows for the developed flavor - texture & chew …it’s very neapolitan ! we made guanciale & onion pizza topped with egg & dusted with parmesan and a grilled eggplant- smoked tomato - spinach & goat cheese pizza. of course most anything would taste great on this dough…..even just a little rosemary & sea salt with EVOO.
the book - titled MY PIZZA -offers lots a great recipes for both red sauce and white sauce pizzas - plus a few salads & soups - along with great photos and jim’s detailed technique. it’s a great book to own ( buy it ) !
one of our favorite meals to prepare for a crowd at our place is paella. hanging out by the hot grill - sipping cold cava- and laboring over the stages of making a perfect one.
there are always a few cooks in our group of friends which means there’s always discussion ( heated debate) over the details of making the perfect paella.
is there a good socarrat …. too much or not enough ? does it have to be a “classic ” paella or can it be “creative” with the ingredients …………and so it goes……paella makes for a fun & causal time around the fire pit.
lay out a spread of tapas - a variety of spanish wines & a never-ending game of dominoes on the patio…….and you have yourself a party !
check out addie broyles latest article on E’s paella - plus info on the paella-event of-the-year ” Paella Lovers United” …..happening next month.
tired of the summer’s produce - the dwindling of peppers & zucchini - summer squash & eggplant - i was happy to be buying the first of local kale. i recreated a favorite salad made at ASTI by our chef kenzie allen ( soon to be found on our menu and in the bloggers pages of texas monthly too ).
i love this tender kale from johnsons backyard gardens ( wheatsville coop and farmers market ). lightly oil salt & pepper the full leaves and throw on the grill for a few minutes while they soften and char around the edges. chop into bite size pieces
kabocha squash ( or butternut ) cubed and roasted
creamy goat cheese
drizzled with balsamic vinegar this salad tastes of fall.
(kenzie’s version includes a few strips of smoked bacon or pancetta) yum !
i can do without icecream. i know that sounds crazy but i don’t crave the creamy cold custard. but i do like the play of savory flavors in an icecream and i do love the texture of a just-churned icecream ( i often “taste test” from the machines at the restaurant ). two spots in san francisco hit the spot !
i was delighted by smitten icecream. what a concept. a framed out cargo box dropped on a cool corner spot ( hayes valley neighborhood ) and showcases ‘freeze-to-order’ icecream. they designed and are the first to use this one-of-it’s kind machine (for now) called the kelvin (as explained below). it ‘s a specially designed machine and uses liquid nitrogen. brilliant !
smitten offers a revolving 4 flavors on their chalkboard menu - which can be embellished with sundae like items. we went for a salted caramel with candied almond topping and a TCHO chocolate straight up. the custard base is poured into a churning machine and within a mere minute or two ! your name is called to pickup your frozen treat. deep freeze = small ice crystals = smoother icecream. the texture downright sexy !
another favorite is standby humphry slocombe with their creative flavors. obviously larger ice crystals here ! ( perhaps even grainy ) but who can top flavors like this - salt & pepper ! peanut butter curry ! sweet summer corn ! and a couple of their signatures like ‘breakfast of champions’ with bourbon & cornflakes and boccolone’s prosciutto. with flavors like that you need to try a few !
so i guess on occasion a can scream for icecream !
just off the conveyor belt - happy water ! the bubbly version of Richards Rainwater - otherwise known as “carbonated cloud juice ’ !
if you have not experienced the taste of Rainwater - you are missing out. it is water truly worthy of being bottled. it is local - from tank town in dripping springs texas. it is pure - no use of chlorine or other chemical germicides for disinfection - as with other bottled water. it is one of a kind - it is the first (as far as recorded) company to be licensed to bottle rainwater.
what an achievement. talk about bottling from ” the source” ! ( “water that has never touched the ground” ).
clearly - i am a fan. he is a man committed to water - and bringing it to the masses. he does it with a lot of hard work - and humor ( “fresh squeezed cloud juice made over dripping springs texas”). richard not only bottles rain water - he also installs rainwater collection systems.
emmett first met richard 12 years ago and the topic of us building a home in dripping springs came up in conversation. richard excitedly talked up the idea of collecting rain water off the roof instead of drilling a well. that was crazy talk ! who would do something so primative ? ( this was the beginning of our friendship with richard ). we did not have the convenience of city water here at that time - and i am glad we didn’t. once we got the shpeel from richard - a lightbulb went off - it made perfect sense. of course we will collect rain off our metal roof ( 3200 sq. ft. ) into a ( 10000 gallon ) tank and filter it back into the house ( thru UV and micron filters ) and enjoy the perfect PH - not hard - not soft - spot free - delicious tasting water ! ( the garden flourishes ). at the collection rate of .6 gal per 1” of rain per sq. ft. of roof - we usually have the luxury of rainwater in the tank. of course last years droughts and slow times in between force us to have city water ( yuk ! ) delivered. what a difference. we are spoiled.
and you can be too ! drink rainwater ! get happy !
our group was planning menus for the upcoming memorial day - a weekend to be spent poolside with drink in hand. but our host rick wanted goat ……..which lead us away from the pool and on our way to hayes farm - just south of fort worth.
this place is a trip. chicken, duck, pig, sheep, rabbit & goat. tejano music playing - a makeshift taco stand and all kinds of folks here to pick up some fresh meat.
along with a couple of chickens - we picked out this 45-pound goat. 45 minutes and $155 later we were walking back to the car with it in a bag ! talk about being close to your food source. i was feeling a bit too close - seriously !
the butchered pieces were marinated in harissa (a concoction of chiles-garlic -cumin-coriander & mint ) and slow cooked for almost 8 hours. ( chicken was dry rubbed with chile & fennel and spit roasted ).
so busy getting a plate - i forgot to shoot it. this succulent goat ( and tasty chicken ) was served with couscous salad with feta cheese - garden tomatoes stuffed with salsa verde & a cabbage-fennel-jalapeno slaw washed down with more rose wine and a lineup of chianti wines. thankyou goat #321. another swim anyone ?
just back from a fix of the big apple - and all it’s wonderful restaurants - i was struck by the sameness of the plated dessert. the formula must include no less that six components flavors colors & shapes - include sweet sour & savory - creamy crunchy frozen crispy - use of sousvide paco jet fryer & dehydrator….. and all topped off with torn cake ! not that i’m complaining………they were a treat.
i love this hidden downtown gem. it’s a tiny space with a great menu & wine list & lots of personality. it’s Mulberry. it probably seats 25 - 30 inside - mostly around the bar - but we like to sit outside under the umbrellas. taylor knows what we like to drink ( yes - rose bubbly to start please) and if jacob is in the kitchen he comes out to say hello. mulberry is good anytime ( including brunch) but i love to go for happy hour.
while there’s a good menu selection ( considering the tiny kitchen ) - i have a few items that i crave and always order………..
fresh - creamy ricotta crostini with cipolline onion jam -black salt & pepper
salmon sashimi with fried capers - thinly sliced garlic & hot garlic oil
brussel sprout salad ( fried & raw ) with radish - dried shitake “bacon’ & ‘the best ever’ ranch dressing
meatballs in brodo with crusty bread
taking a tip from taylor we tried this greek wine ( when did greek wine get to be so pricey - $14 glass). worth it !
save room for dessert - it’s always a treat. this is one sophisticated s’more !