Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Thursday 8 July Urbino

For our last night in Urbino, we hit La Balestra (“Crossbow”), which had given off a simpatico vibration as we wandered by around lunch time.

A nice young waitress brought us a plate of papardelle di duca, broader than elsewhere, with a ragu of wild boar sausage. Then freshly snipped gnocchi with duck (real ducky with a fugitive bone or two). For secondo, we split a plate of lamb stufato (beef stew) Urbino style, which was, we must confess, a bit too salty. The meaty dishes called for a red, so “Maioliche,” from Rosso Conero (a DOGC area), 2006.

Wednesday 7 July Pizza in Urbino

Wednesday 7 July Pizza in Urbino

After the stunningly beautiful frescoes of the Oratorio di San Giovanni Battista (1415), we headed out for a night of feasting, only to find of the three restaurants recommended, one had closed for vacation, one had been renamed (and closed for vacation), and the other was just plain closed. So we sauntered into the pizzeria Morgana. The joint was pretty dead—all right, we were the only ones there at 8:00—but the staff was nice, and we had two pizzas: a classic boscaiola (woodsy with mushrooms and sausage), ‘tother with cacciota (the local creamy cheese) and picante salami. The almost too picante salami called for a flagon of the house white. A little side salad with an ingenious spritzer for the balasamic vinegar, which Holt used creatively. We left at 9:30, still the only folks there, and it was only on crossing the square that we realized what everyone else in the world knew: it was the semifinals of the World Cup, you know, where Brazil and that other country, whatzitzname, play soccer to the death.

Earlier that afternoon: other white tasty wines in the square.

1. pecorino (not just a cheese): an old grape newly revived in Abruzzi and the Marche: very lovely, crisp, cool, and long flavors.

2. Vermentino di gallura, yet another new grape, this time from Sardinia. Nice taste of peach and tangerine.

Not to mention the fabulous crescia sfogliata at Il Ragno d’Oro at the top of the citadel. Crescia (pl. cresce) is an amazingly flaky and satisfying fried puffy flatbread (not a contradiction in terms). The secret is in the lard. And we pass the calories onto you, the home reader.

A nice article about Crescia and a recipe:

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Le Tre Piante, Urbino

Tuesday 6 July

After the glories of the Palazzo ducale, and a nap (not in the museum by the way), we headed out for evening drinks on the swallow-swooped veranda of Le Tre Piante (directions below).

A little antipasto, with prosciutto, melone, various nice meats, rucola (arugala in the south and America), shaved parmesan, and pickled onions/cauliflower/mushroom/pepper, led somehow inextricably to dinner.

Two primi: tagliolini arcobaleno, the colors of the eponymous rainbow (and not “Head Whale” in case you were wondering) being the green of zucchini, red of tomatoes, and gold of eggy pasta (all house-made), with lots of little pieces of calamari. Then tagliatelle with cecchi (the chickpeas that saved the Roman Republic), rucola, and pendoini (which turn out to be grape tomatoes). All excellent, made with pride.

Address: V. Voltaccia della Vecchia 1 ( 0722 48 63). From P. della Repubblica, take V. Veneto, turn left on V. Nazario Sauro, right on V. Budassi, and left down the stairs onto V. Foro Posterula.

Trattoria Antica Urbino

Monday 5 July

A day mostly devoted to getting to Urbino.

(By the way, once we got to Pesaro, we asked six people, all of whom worked for the bus company and were wearing uniforms, where the bus for Urbino left from. Got only two completely different answers. Pay no attention to anyone except the woman behind the gelato counter, which, according to a very helpful, peeling, faded, xeroxed, unique, carefully hidden piece of paper, doubles as the biglitteria. She will inform you rightly that there is no espresso autobus, the claims of the OFFICAL WEBSITE for il stesso autobus notwithstanding, and is the ONLY person who actually knows what’s going on).

After settling in we chose a restaurant open on Mondays but closed on Tuesday. We arrived ridiculously early (7:55) to the very pleasant Trattoria Antica Urbino, with our choice of table (we were the first, of course), looking out over the garden where bottle-plants were growing.

An antipasto of pears wrapped in prosciutto and grilled.

Then tagliatelle al tartuffo: butter and shaved truffle, simplicity itself, and so perfect.

Only one secondo (uno per due, a useful expression) of fesa rosmarino. Fesa is veal rump, rather on the steaky side. Not a revelatory dish. With a verdura of a gratine of melanzane and tomate.

Wine: Rosso Conero by Lanari, a nicely tannic mix of Montepulciano with just a shot of Sangiovese.

Sunday Lunch: I Tri Scalin and Cucina e Butega

4 July

After a long morning in the Archeological Museum, we found ourselves on the south side of town. A recommendation from VirtualTourist stuck in the mind, that a restaurant called I Tri Scalin (who needs final vowels!) was a place where families went for Sunday lunch. It was Sunday; it was lunch time; and the ipod real came to the fore. A quick peek at the downloaded webpage gave us the address: via Darsena 52, and the sear

ch function actually found the street on a pdf map, something of a walk outside the walls, and the search function for more nice people in Ferrara, led us to the spot.

No menu, as such. The waiter reels off what they have today, but for our benefit, he did bring over a printed list, and told us what dishes “non c’è”: these included donkey stew (to Holt’s slight disappointment and greater relief). We asked about salama da sugo con purè di patate. Too hot, he said. Instead we checked off another of the classics: pasticcio di maccheroni. Take fresh elbow maccheroni, blend with a white sauce charged with nutmeg and ground meat, and bake it in puff pastry. Only the Italians can put a starch inside another starch and make magic.

The best dish, worth the detour all by itself, was the agniolini with pesto and cherry tomatoes. N

ot the usual blender pesto, but finely chopped basil (growing everywhere in July), set off by the acid of the little tomatoes. No nuts.

For a cold platter: vitello tonnato. For a hot: fritto vegetale, crackling bits of zucchini and eggplant. Plus it made its own dessert: batter-fried apples and crema, sprinkled with powered sugar.

A half liter of the house white. It effervesced. So did we.

Despite thinking we might never eat again, we did. The peckish feeling returned around 9:30 and after a pleasant walk we entered the bright and bustling Cucina e Butega (bottega to those of us whose Ferrarese is a tad rusty). All our restaurants have been rather sedate till now, so it was a pleasure to enter a well-lit, crowded, but not clattering space.

A well thought out menu of mostly slow cooked, easily plated dishes. We asked about salama da sugo con purè di patate. Too hot, he said. Holt finally understood, when Barbara likened it unto ordering “turkey with all the trimmings” in July. A restaurant might well give it to you, but would be wrong not to protect the ignorant from their follies. (Not one of the guidebooks which listed the “typical” dishes mentioned that this is a winter dish).

We ordered rabbit: coniglio disossata , which arrived in nice slices (nices slices?), rolled around prosciutto and a whole zucchini running the length. Then oca arrosta with mele verdi: goose dark and rich, where the green apples had melted into a background sauce.

The wine was called Zefiro, which we ordered purely for the name of our nephew Zephyr, Not only did it turn out to be from a region we had read about and wanted to try, the Colli Piacneti, but a totally new grape, Ortrugo. It was wonderful, bright, crisp, fading to a delicious mineral water flavor at the end. Since all the wines are frizzante by default, they use fermo to mark a wine as “still.”

Holt went up to ask about desserts and then, at the very end of our time in Ferrara, he was granted his wish: a dessert called “salama a sugo,” prepared only there, a rich creamy chocolate cake with zabaglione, which we swear is (lightly) flavored with turmeric.

And so we left Ferrara having finally sampled all the classic dishes (sort of).

(Isn’t it) La Romantica

Saturday 3 July

La Romantica is a Ferarra classic, so we had Ferrara classics. We asked abbout salama da sugo con purè di patate. Too hot, they said.

First, cappellacci di zucca, largish tortelloni filled with zucca puree, in a light cream sauce just tinged with , sprinkled with walnuts. Now, zucca is a problem word, used in Italian for every type of gourd, and universally translated as “pumpkin.” The zucca in question was what we’d call “pumpkin,” a sweet pie pumpkin with overtones of sweet potatoes, which is the combo we’ll try when we make this at home.

The other, strozzapreti, “strangled priests,” was the best. The pasta is thin irregular pieces rolled between the hands, served with a light brodo with shavings of onion, radish, carrot, celery, and fennel. Each vedge was fresh and tasted clearly of itself. A very restrained, elegant dish.

Then, a thin tuna steak, decorated with a pink grapefruit mayonnaise, and a delicate fish called pagro, in a potato crust: ultra thin slices of potato fitted around the fish and crisped in a hot oven.

The wine was Aulente, San Patrignaro, a sauvignon-chardonnay blend, a perfect fit for the fish.

(Earlier that afternoon: Kind Chiara had recommended K2 (kappa due) for gelato (Yes, it has its own facebook page). Barbara remembered the general directions and still more kind people pointed it out as it hoved into view. We had coco, stracciatella, lemon, and fior di latte.)

K2: Via Armani 30, 44100 Ferrara +39-53-224-0332

Ca’ da Frara

Friday 2 July, Ferrara

After a day in La Schifanoia (gasp-making), the Museo Lapidario (yawn-making, unless you’re the sort of person who enjoys escaping the heat to puzzle out Latin inscriptions, and you know who you are); lunch in a park (on a pickup piadina; Holt saw the sign stuck in “il famoso salame rosso” too late); a nice conversation with a girl named Chiara, who loved her home town and had studied in Virginia; then, the smaller scrappier museums: Palazzina Marfisa d'Este (mostly about the ceilings and a great barrel-vaulted “arbor”); and a quick pop into the main building of the University (only the doorway remains of the original building, but most importantly we found the bathroom, undoubtedly used by Copernicus himself), we sought out Ca’ d’ Frara (House of Ferrara in farrarese - not to be confused with Ca’ di Frara, the wine), a good restaurant. We asked about salama da sugo con purè di patate. Too hot, they said.

Holt confounded the nice waiter by (this time) ordering three primi! Even in the air-conditioning a red meat heavy meal seemed out of the question. So we ordered mussels and clams in a pleasantly spiced brodetta, with bread to sop it up.

The hit was tagliatelle in a white sauce (wine and oil only) of prosciuto: a festival of salty goodness. And for the “secondo”: a bollito misto with two cold sauces. The waiter and the waitress both referred to it as a salad, which confused the heck out of Holt, who was imagining a bowl of various boiled fishy things. Instead a salad as promised, attractively arranged, with something of a salad niçoise about it. Green beans and greens, we think, with one big prawn, several small shrimp, etc. but on the whole rather bland and we’ve already forgotten about it.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Ferrara: L'oca giuliva

Thursday 1 July

After the dig ended B&H headed off on a tour of humanists, first to Ferrara, home of the Este family, Guarino’s school, Ariosto (whom we've read), Tasso (whom we haven't, but we've seen all his operas), and Olympia Morata.

A good recommendation took us to L’oca giuliva (“The Silly Goose”). We could sit inside (air-conditioned, a great blessing in Ferrara in summer), but looking out (a great blessing in any Italian town). We were greeted with proseco and little green olives filled with riccotta. Now, it seems that every wine from around here, or maybe the whole of Le Marche is fuzzy and fizzy, the reds, the whites, the rosati, too, probably (though we have yet to try the last), so we continued with the local Bosco Elencho Frizzante.

We started by sharing a primo of ravioli stuffed with radicchio, robiola cheese, and coarsely ground almonds, with an aromatic pesto of ortiche (“nettle”) and mentuccia (“pennyroyal”), which we're going to try to duplicate at home.

For secondi, two Ferrarese specials, roasted eel with pickled onions (which had a puréed raw tomato sauce under it; perhaps a little underspiced for the dish?) and a rich flavorful leg of faraona (guinea-hen) stuffed and served with mostarda of apples and pears and (a pleasant surprise) slices of pickled ginger.

The restaurant was crisp as was the service. Alas, despite splitting a primo (in defiance of all that is good and proper), we were too stuffed ourselves to indulge in any of the pastries for which Ferrara is famous. We'll try tomorrow.

Tasting notes from Il Brindisi, already open for business in 1435, where the very nice young sommelier who, when I asked to try a grape I had never had, recommended:

Bursôn 2006, a negretto longanesi, which was new and nice: complex, with rich, slightly gamey tannins.

We also had a Vingeto Saetti, a lambrusco di Modena, with that fizzy feel on the tongue, hints of coffee and something else: plum?

Whites: Corte Madonnina (the main négociant in these here parts), sauvignon (also the principle grape): crisp and flinty.

Lo Scambio, a chardonnay from Ravenna, very honeyed.

All of June

Holt joined Barbara at Stabia on 5 June. We’ve been staying at the wonderful Instituo Vesuviano, headquarters for Restoring Ancient Stabiae.

The pictures on the website don’t lie. This really is the view from our room.

The only problem is that Barbara and her hearty team from Brock have been too busy actually Restoring Ancient Stabiae (specifically excavating the gardens at the Villa Arianna) to keep much in the way of notes.

So just a few highlights. The kitchen does a remarkable job of providing three meals a day, to varying groups of students and scholars, with due (if perhaps not over bold) consideration for vegetarians. The crowd at dinner ranges from 30-90 depending on who’s where. The food was always good and every so often great. There were fresh baked croissants dusted with powered sugar for breakfast (at least there were until we all had to start the day at 7:00). An eggplant parmesan (for about sixty) stands out in the memory as does the going-away dinner for the Brock group, with phenomenal salt and pepper shrimp and calamari (for some reason the phrase “shrimp eyes” made the rounds of the Brock students).

Our main culinary adventure occurred on our way to Paestum, when we stopped off at an ultramodern, ultra-fresh buffala mozzarella factory, Vanullo. The cows even have their own automated milker and scratchers. People line up for hours to get the mozzarella which is made fresh every day and sold only on that day. Since a long bus ride in the heat is not good for mozzarella's freshness (or ours), we were served bocconcini that had been in a cow only a couple of hours before and which popped with fresh whey (No whey! Whey!).

One other memorable night was dinner with the Villa People, a group of friends, many of whom had worked for Canada Bell in British Columbia, and were now traveling about and stopping to work with Kathy on the garden excavation. They had rented a huge villa (hence the name) in Piano di Sorrento and invited us over for a game of Dodgem Cars (to get to the villa), Follow My Leader (to be led through the lemon trees of the garden of the villa), King of the Mountain (to climb to top of the villa), and Eye Spy (to be flabbergasted by the views from the top of the villa). The Villa People were so kind and so generous. The antipasti were perfect for sopping up the lashings of wine: roasted artichokes, all kinds of olives, cheeses, salamis. Then pizza. Yes, we finally had pizza near, if not in, Napoli.

Barbara really only got away once. Following Steve Ellis’ advice, after a long day in Naples, we set out to find some seaside shanty called “San Maria’s” or something like that, above what Steve swore was the best water in the Mediterranean. Not much to go on, but we learned that the name had “chalet” in it, and by asking everyone every two blocks and following the old tramway tracks to the very end, we discovered ”Chalet Annamaria,”* The real clue was asking if there was a fontana proprio qui vicino, and being directed to the cunningly disguised source. People were filling up every kind of container, from reused coke bottles to 10 liter tuns, with what one must confess to be mighty tasty water indeed: just traces of magnesium, not too minerally, but with a unique but refreshing palate.

While watching the boats and feeling the evening breezes, we had a insalata di frutta di mare (a little too much kamaboko), fried calamari and shrimp (not as good as the good-bye meal), and vongole verace in a rich buttery sauce (the best of the lot), portioned out over a couple of hours, several refills from the fontana (not so) segreta. But the hit of the evening came around 8, when normal people start eating, and the Oyster Kind set up his stand directly opposite. He shucked ( but did not jive) and presented us with fresh tasty salty oysters. The folks at Annamaria (including, we think, Annamaria stessa, seen bustling back and forth between various chalets) have no objections. A perfect marine ending to a long day.

and now for something too familiar

And now, an interval (familiar sucking sound heard) until Holt can join Barbara in Italy.

Pre-departure dinner

Tuesday 18 May

First, wine and some finely stinky Morbier cheese over at Julie's house.

Then home for a beautiful lemony lamb, cut off the leg and broil- roasted according to Julia; served with parsleyed potatoes.

And in patriotism to Brock, whose students Barbara is taking to dig at Stabiae tomorrow, a Strewn terroir cabernet franc - our favorite lamb wine.

Venison Medallions and Fava Beans

Monday 17 May

Fava beans are such a spring thing, you have to eat them when you can. So we do, and did: sautéed a little chopped onion, added some rich chicken broth, and simmered the beans in it until tender. Holt takes the outer shell off before he eats them, but Barbara just crunches them whole in their sweet meatiness.

The venison backstrap that our brother in law David so generously gives us comes as little medallions these days, so it's easiest to pan-fry it quickly, just about two minutes on a side, so each piece is still rare and tender and juicy. Then, as it rests on the plate, you can deglaze the pan with some marsala and stir in some of Barbara's second-prize-winning cranberry chutney, for a fruit flavored sauce that goes well with gamy meats.

This afternoon, when Barbara had to free a stupid fledgling caught in the strawberry nets, she found eight ripe strawberries. For dessert, we ate them and a first ripe Georgia peach with Graeter's strawberry chocolate chip ice cream, featuring a dark chocolate monolith that took up about a third of the pint.

Fishy Leftovers

Sunday 16 May

What do you do with three little fillets of sole, a bouquet of dill, and a dozen or so shrimps that didn't get used for last night's sole roulades? There are several options, but the path of least resistance on a very cool spring evening was to flour and fry the soles, then set them aside while we sautéed a panful of sliced mushrooms and poured cream over it. Once it thickened, we poached the shelled shrimp in the sauce, showered it with dill, and poured it on the side of the golden fillets.

Potluck at Our House

Saturday 15 May

Things are getting a mite crazy around here, as we prepare to head out for a field season at Stabiae in Italy, but we wanted to see our good friends before we all took off. So Liz, Julie, Kathy, and Russel came over and shared in a potluck supper, which kept anyone from going plumb crazy to put a whole dinner together.

We started out on the patio, where the pink and white roses were blooming their fool heads off, and had a first toast with prosecco from Julie and a wonderful wild mushroom strudel appetizer in phyllo pastry, from Kathy.

The main course was Holt's sole and smoked salmon roulades.

The lox was a bit scrappy, so he cleverly ground it up with a bit of extra sole and smeared it on the fillets to be rolled up, which worked perfectly. He also cooked up some extra shrimp and mussels to adorn the plates, using the shrimp stock as the basis for his sauce. This was so beautiful on the plate, and even more so on the tongue!

Julie brought a salad with dried cranberries and raspberry vinaigrette, for a nice palate-cleansing tang after the main course; and for dessert, Liz provided a chocolate turtle cake that was deliciously gooey and sweet. We loved the dinner, and we love our friends.

Dinner at Liz's

Friday 14 May

It's always a pleasure to go to dinner with Liz, because she has such a European sensibility about dinner parties. For example, this one began with nice wine, crusty bread, and lashings of luxuriant imported French butter, a taste that none of the American varieties can rival. Then there was a hearty sausage and chickpea stew with savory curry flavors; and for dessert a rhubarb and ginger mousse.

Sicilian Spaghetti

Thursday 13 May

Okay, I was making this up. There's not much in the fridge, so I chopped up a couple of little sprouty onions and a big clove of garlic, sautéed them in olive oil, added a big clump of old sun-dried tomatoes in oil from the fridge (chopped), and simmered with a can of tomato purée until it got dark and sludgy. Then threw in a handful of pine nuts and a big bunch of fresh oregano leaves from the garden, and as it cooked down, a few shots of white wine to sweeten and lighten it.

As I cooked the spaghetti for it, I realized that I should have had some goat cheese (or good mozzarella for choice) out and flaked and warming, so that it could be tossed in at the last minute and form warm gooey chunks over the pasta. But it was too late, so I just stirred it into the sauce, where it melded and was warm. Which is all you can ask, really, of a pasta sauce - or a friend, for that matter.

Mahi Mahi with Feta Crust

Wednesday 12 May

I don't know what any Greek would say when asked to put mayonnaise on fish, but I bet it wouldn't be printable. Nonetheless, this "Greek" dish worked great with just frozen mahi mahi from Trader Joe's.

We didn't top with the lemon slices, and it melted nicely and tasted good - though not Greek - anyway. I suppose you could use them if it looked like the fish was getting too crisped on top.

Leftover Steak and Potatoes with Onions

Tuesday 11 May

This was a late night in the department, so we needed a quick dose of protein and carbohydrates. The ideal: steak (left over from yesterday, sliced and brought to room temperature), horseradish sauce (ditto), and a nicely crisped fryup of parboiled potatoes, onions, and a shake of pimenton della Vera. Dessert: Graeter's seasonal variation on a delightful theme, chocolate coconut ice cream with chocolate chips and almonds - or the frozen Almond Joy.

T-bones and Zucchini

Monday 10 May

Holt had a yen for some red meat, so Barbara hunted and gathered him some from Kroger's. These were steaks weighing a pound and more, so we anointed them with Worcestershire sauce and grilled them using the frequent-flip method. Our condiment of choice was a horseradish sauce: about a teaspoon of Mr. Gene Green's fresh horseradish from Findlay Market, plus about a tablespoon of mayonnaise and about two tablespoons of nice thick yogurt; season with plenty of salt and a modicum of white pepper. Alongside, we had some sliced zucchini sautéed with garlic and doused with a bit of white balsamic vinegar.

Penne alla Saffi

Sunday 9 May

This is undoubtedly the pasta we make most often. Especially after a long drive home, when there are a few precious asparagus still in the fridge, and an even more precious wodge of Schad's ham.

Wild Turkey Stew

Saturday 8 May

Cooking at the Kelley house is lots of fun. All you have to do is rummage in the freezer and find lots of tasty wild animal parts that David has shot. Then you cook them. This was a long-simmered stew of two wild turkey breasts, cut up in chicken broth with bay leaves, thyme, and sage. Then carrots, sautéed onion and celery, and potatoes were added in their turn. We served it up after several hours, and not only was it good, but Laura and Garrett both ate and enjoyed big bowls of it. We consider it a big success.

Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

Friday 7 May

We drove down to Smyrna, Tennessee, to see the family; Ralph and Geraldine, David's parents, had just left, but they left behind a fridgeful of tasty stuff, including a nice meat sauce and a bag of pasta already made. We didn't feel like facing much prep, so reheating the sauce and just throwing the spaghetti in was a natural. This is just to prove that we don't insist on fresh pasta every night.

And for dessert, we had Ralph's bread pudding, made with his own peerless, matchless biscuits. Melting goodness.

Crab Ravioli

Thursday 6 May

The farm eggs from Findlay Market have daisy-yellow yolks, and make beautiful sticky pasta. We've been looking forward to making crab ravioli with it for a week or so, since we opened that can of crab from Trader Joe's. The filling was much as here, except that we didn't have any red bell pepper.

Just butter and lemon juice poured over the ravioli; we previously used grated romano, but this mixing of fish and cheese flies in the face of received Italian opinion.

Beef with Broccoli

Tuesday 4 May

A Chinese-style classic, pretty much as we do it here.

Wild Ginger/In the Garden

Monday 3 May

A susurrus of suckery: Holt had to go out for faculty dinner with a speaker at Wild Ginger, where the food is only -eh-. Barbara stayed home in the garden, where the breeze was cool, the skies spectacularly blue, and the earliest roses were just blooming, and had her first beer of the season (Samuel Adams Lager) and a Spanish tapas-style tortilla with potatoes and chorizo. Ahhhh.

Spring into Vegetable Soup

Sunday 2 May

A wonderful soup we made out of the gleanings of yesterday's trip to Findlay market - in fact, the same thing we made exactly a year ago on Kentucky Derby Day.

This time we used the kernels off two early ears of butter and sugar corn as well as the favas, asparagus, zucchini, potatoes, onions and carrots. The broth was chicken, and the fresh garden herb was chervil.

Party at Archie and Sharon's

Saturday 1 May

Archie and Sharon always give terrific parties, with conversation as good as the food, and wines from everywhere (we should have brought one - Becky had given us a bottle of fine Illinois wine at Christmas that would have been good to sample). High points were homemade dolmades, shrimp with cocktail sauce, many cheeses and dips, then mains of pork loin stuffed with herbs and roasted, salmon fillet, rice pilaf, and many cakes for dessert. Thanks, Sharon and Archie!


. . . A bit behind on the blog. So some ketchup to do.