Archives for category: Food and Beverage

As I’ve written before, I love me some HGTV. And when I can’t find something I like there, you might just catch me watching something on the Food Network, or The Great Canadian Baking Show or The Great British Baking Show. I have always loved cooking – be it a main course or dessert. I think I was about six years old when I baked my first cake by myself (mum wasn’t far, but I did it alone). So I guess it’s no surprise I love a good baking show. For that matter, I also love watching Nailed It, where people who can’t bake…try. It’s so funny, and I have to give them props for attempting the crazy stuff they are asked to bake – I’m not sure I would!

A few years ago, I spent the better part of a three-day bone broth cleanse watching the Food Network. I couldn’t eat anything, but I sure could watch people cook and bake all day! No wonder I came out of that cleanse and immediately made brunch for about 20 people – even though only ten or so were actually in attendance. Oh, I do make myself laugh.

I went a little crazy with the baking when I got back from Tokyo – taking full advantage of having an oven once again. Thankfully I calmed down a bit on that one (eating too much of it myself!).

This summer, a friend mentioned the desire to can peaches — I was all in. I love peaches, and when they are in season – so amazing. So why not try to preserve some of that summer goodness for cold winter days? We looked online to see what equipment we needed, and find instructions. Couldn’t be much easier – a massive canning pot, pot-lifter, and jars – lots of jars.

Although I am saving most of the peaches for the dead of winter…I did open a jar. I must say, they are DELICIOUS! The only mistake we made was not canning enough of them. Next year, three times as much!

While working on the peaches I mentioned that I have another friend who married into a large Italian family, and they can tomato sauce every year – and I mean A LOT of tomato sauce. V was interested in doing this too, so I called A.M. to get the details on what to do. This also seemed easy enough. All we needed to get was a food mill – and more jars, of course.

When I saw these bushels of roma tomatoes at the Atwater Market I got super excited! I wasn’t going to be doing 15 bushels like A.M. though. One, let’s start with one bushel, and see how that goes.

The process here is a tad more involved and laborious than the canning of peaches.

1) Boil the tomatoes until the skin cracks.

2) Put them in a colander and press out the water (so the sauce won’t be too liquid).

3) Run them through the food mill to remove the skin and seeds. Our one bushel took four hours of food milling…manually cranking the mill for four hours! Next year I’m definitely splurging the $100 or so for an electric food mill.

4) Once all the tomatoes have been put through the mill, cook up some onions and garlic in olive oil, add the tomatoes, some salt, and let it simmer for a few hours.

5) Put some fresh basil in the bottom of the jars and fill with sauce while it is still super hot (when you put the piping-hot contents into a jar, you don’t need to boil the jars to seal them).

6) Place the jars upside down on the counter and let them sit for at least 12 hours.

There’s something very satisfying about hearing the ‘pop’ when the jars seal.

Fresh tomato sauce is now ready for pasta of all kinds. And let me tell you, it is pretty damn tasty!

I’ve been making my own apple sauce for years now. I have it almost every day with oatmeal or granola for breakfast. Normally I’d be making it every weekend. But then with all the jars I have, I thought to myself why do this every weekend? It’s apple season, get a bunch and can it!

All in all, pretty pleased with the canning this year. And looking forward to doing more of it in future.

While doing the canning, I found myself thinking that our ancestors really were on to something. Okay, I know a lot of it was out of necessity, however having the freshness of available fruit canned and at the ready for consumption during winter is just smart. Plus it feels good to make this myself and reach into the pantry to get some more once a jar is done. Next year I’m adding pears to the mix. Yes, it’s “convenient” to buy it at the super market, but it does not taste like this! It is also very satisfying to see the fruits of your labour.

Now that we are well past the canning season, and with Christmas around the corner, you know that means — time for baking! Even though Covid-19 means Christmas won’t be quite the parade of dinners and time with family and friends it usually is, you can still bake and share that love. So V and I decided that we would bake, exchange recipes and baking. Because I am in V & P’s bubble, and they are in mine, we decided to bake together. Also, I live alone, so for sanity reasons am allowed to visit someone or have someone visit. I mean, I love my own company, but even I get tired of hearing myself talk sometimes! It’s great to throw in another voice or two every now and again.

A quick chat revealed we wanted to make:

  • Chocolate Chip Butter Balls
  • Candy Cane Cookies
  • Date Pinwheels
  • Ginger Cookies
  • Lemon Cookie Sandwiches with Lemon Curd and Meringue filling
  • Caramel Candy
  • Shortbread Cookies
  • Hello Dollys

This was a two-day endeavour. Next year we will start sooner and spread it out more!

The lemon cookies are delicious – however they take a while because of the lemon curd and meringue. I strongly recommend making the curd the day before (which we did, thankfully). And although the recipe says you can make the meringue the day before too, I’m not sure I would – putting it into the piping bag when it’s a day old and has been in the fridge overnight might be a little messy and challenging.

The caramel candy – well that was another story. Day one’s batch became some awesome caramel sauce to have with ice cream. Day two saw V headed to a local kitchen shop in search of a new candy thermometer as the one we used the day before was cheap and not so good. Day two’s batch was a success. Woop woop!

Day one’s results!
A quick look at all the different items baked. Some from my childhood, some from V’s, and a few new recipes thrown in.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve been in the same place for a while and I’m nesting – big time – but it’s feeling really great to do all of this. Makes this woman want a little house with a little land, enough for a veggie patch and hopefully a few fruit trees (what kind will depend on where I find this little bit of paradise). An old barn or church or house that needs some loving, preferably close to water, would be perfect. I know that sounds like a lot, but why not ask for a lot and see? Things to ponder…. We shall see what happens next.

Welcome to Pizzeria da Baffetto

Welcome to Pizzeria da Baffetto

Okay…I’ve been absent from the blog for a while now. It’s not that I haven’t had plenty to write about – I have. But for whatever reason, I got out of the habit. But I am back. What brings me back you ask? Easy. Food.

A year ago I want to Rome for the first time. I loved every second of it. So before heading back to Vancouver from Istanbul – for good – I made sure I went back to Rome for a few days. I know there are a lot of places I have yet to visit that I am sure I will love, but I had to get some more time in Rome. And a trip to Rome had to include a return to Pizzeria da Baffetto.

I knew what to expect this time – a busy little restaurant, filled with both locals and tourists, and likely being sat at a table with strangers. The owner is working the crowd and making sure everyone is having fun and great pizza. And there’s a line-up – there’s always a line-up. It’s one of the few places in Rome (okay, maybe the ONLY place in Rome) where coming to dine on your own is actually a plus. When the waiters come out to see how many are in each group, they get to me, I say “solo uno”, and they grab my hand and pull me in immediately. No wait for this party of one.

Last summer I got really lucky and was sat right by where all the pizza making happens. This year I was sat upstairs at a long table, between two groups of two. A local father and son on my left, and a couple from San Francisco on my right. I ordered my insalatta mista, pizza con prosciutto, and vino blanco, then sat back and watched those around me devour their pizza. It was the first visit to Baffetto’s for the couple on my right and knowing what they were in store for, I sat back to watch their reaction as they took their first bite. A chorus of “oooohs” and “aahhhhs”  and “wow this pizza is great” ensued. Worth the wait, it is always worth the wait.

So when in Rome, treat yourself. Go to the original Baffetto’s location, just off Piazza Navona. Whether you prefer a margarita pizza or one with all the trimmings – you will not regret it.

As much as they are known for their pizza, I will say they make a damn fine salad as well.

As much as they are known for their pizza, I will say they make a damn fine salad as well.

And there she is, my pizza. Essentially margarita pizza with some prosciutto on top. DELICIOUS!

And there she is, my pizza. Essentially margarita pizza with some prosciutto on top. DELICIOUS!

At this point I'm wishing I hadn't had such a huge lunch. How am I going to finish this? I can't let it go to waste...

At this point I’m wishing I hadn’t had such a huge lunch. How am I going to finish this? I can’t let it go to waste…

Oh the last bite... It's bittersweet. I'm stuffed so I'm happy it's the last bite - but it's so good....I just want to keep tasting it...

Oh the last bite… It’s bittersweet. I’m stuffed so I’m happy it’s the last bite – but it’s so good….I just want to keep tasting it…

Oh come on now, there's always room for a little dessert. Dessert has its own compartment in my stomach. Besides, it's a little lemon sorbet, served in a frozen hollowed out lemon!

Oh come on now, there’s always room for a little dessert. Dessert has its own compartment in my stomach. Besides, it’s a little lemon sorbet, served in a frozen hollowed out lemon!

And that is that. Another fine dinner at Baffetto’s. Now it’s time for a walk to la Fontana di Trevi – best seen at night, and a good way to walk off all that pizza!

Pizzeria da Baffetto’s – so good it warranted its own 2nd post!

On my way back to Bologna from Monterosso Al Mare, I stopped off in Parma for a few hours and met up with Jacques, Laura, and Emily. Emily is on of my nieces, and Jacques and I are her godparents. She had arrived that morning from Montreal for a 2 week visit. I was supposed to have been gone by the time she arrived, but what the heck, the chance to see her seemed like another good reason to stay even longer, so I extended my stay…again… She didn’t know I was going to be in Parma when she arrived, so it was a nice little surprise.

And yes, we did all have prosciutto di Parma, in Parma. From the train station we walked into the centre of the old town – it’s maybe a 10 minute walk. We were all hungry, so we quickly found a little cafe and sat outside. Prosciutto y melone to start – for all of us. Now, I’ve had a lot of really good prosciutto while in Italy, some of it even labeled Prosciutto di Parma on the package,  but this really was that much better. They must keep the best for themselves. Strangely enough I didn’t take a photo of it…but luckily Emily did so I’ll get that from her later.

Once our bellies were full, we explored the old town. Much like all old towns in Italy, it is so pretty, and has its own distinctive look.

Each town has its Duomo – the central church – with a piazza around it. The Duomo in Parma is gorgeous. It never ceases to amaze me the lengths to which people went in constructing and decorating these old churches. I don’t have any shots of the inside to show you – there’s no way I could do it justice.

Parma still has buildings where the original wood supports are intact – which is unusual as the majority have burned down over the years. It’s great to see, and really gives you a sense of how truly old these buildings are. I should have taken more care in photographing it…but it’s the dark part under the roof that juts out on the top left.

Parma also has amazing lanterns throughout town.

As we sat having lunch we all noticed the bike and thought it was perfect. Turned out it belongs to the girl who served us at the restaurant. She has great taste in bikes!

Of course Parma also has its share of beautiful balconies and windows.

Simply beautiful.

And last, but certainly not least…a photo for my gorgeous niece Olivia. Look at what I found in Parma.

And with that it was time to walk back to the train station and hop a train back to Bologna. Thanks for a wonderful few hours discovering Parma Jacques – it’s great to have such a savvy travel consultant!

 

After spending a week enjoying life in Bologna, it was time to venture out a little. I discussed a few options with my travel consultant Jacques, and then decided that Monterosso Al Mare, Cinque Terre would be the place to go. There are  number of seaside options in Italy – Orbetello is fabulous, and there’s the Adriatic side as well. I wanted something that was easy to get to and make my way around once there. All things considered I was assured this was the place to go.

First of all, Cinque Terre is beautiful. If you don’t know Cinque Terre – it historically consisted of 5 villages, and you could only get from one to the other by boat. These days there’s a train connecting them along with roads and a hiking patch along the rocky shore. Hiking between the villages is very popular.

As I was only spending a day and a half there, I really wanted to concentrate on time spent on a beach, and have it as easy as possible. In Monterosso the train station is right in the middle of town, facing the sea-shore, and a 5 minute walk to the hotel I ended up booking. Perfect!

Monterosso Al Mare, here I come!

The beach. Well, this is the larger beach, split into a number of ‘private’ and ‘public’ beaches. Private means you pay for your chair, and if you want, an umbrella. I came to the beach to lay in the sun…no umbrella required!

Walking around the old village.

So lovely these old streets.

Aaah the beach…

When you follow the main road into the village, this is the view you get once you’ve gone through the tunnel.

Take a close look at the rock on the left…

Crazy.

I repeat. Crazy. Crazy beautiful that is. Really, who sculpts this?

I mean really, look at this! That is amazing detail, carved into a rock on the edge of other rocks…

It seems I never get tired of seeing scenes like this one.

Or scenes like this one…

I think the village is even prettier at night.

And then there’s the food… This part of Italy uses a lot of seafood, and it is delicious. They are also known for the lemons they grow in the area. You guessed it…photos of food coming now…

Dinner on night one. A caprese salad (which I apparently didn’t photograph) followed by Ravioli with prawns. So tasty. And what I love is the fact that the ingredients are simple. No cream sauce, just a nice light wine sauce. Simple flavours.

Of course there was wine. The pitcher did arrive full…and for all of this a meagre 6 Euros. Um, ya, that would likely cost at least $18-$25 at home.

And the best lemon tart I’ve ever tasted for dessert.

Dinner night 2. A caprese salad – what can I say. I love me some tomatoes and mozzarella.

Seafood spaghetti. Again, simple and flavourful. Mussels, clams, calamari. Delicious. No dessert photo this night. Instead of dessert at the restaurant I opted for some chocolate and lemon gelato on the walk back to my hotel.

And there you have it. Two wonderful nights in Monterosso Al Mare. Next time I’ll have to stay longer and hike from one village to the other and see all of Cinque Terre.

For now, all that talk about food has made me hungry so I’m off to find some dinner.

 

 

My arrival in Bologna could not have been any better. I arrived by train from Rome and was met by my brother Jacques at the train station. We went to his place, changed and headed for a local vineyard called Podere Riost0. You see, Jacques took some sommelier classes a while back and has been enjoying Italian wines – particularly northern Italian wines.

Let me introduce you to Podere Riosto.

The owners of the vineyard decided they wanted to build a restaurant where they could provide a set meal once a week – Thursdays. I could try to explain all the dishes and how good they were, but…

Thursday dinner – course 1 – the most delicious pasta salad I’ve ever eaten. Wish I knew what they put in it, simple, but incredible. Black rice salad, equally as wonderful, and crostini – yum.

Cucumber, cheese, red pepper, and veal in a tuna sauce – a standard dish here and utterly delicious.

Add some turkey to the veggies and cheese.

And of course some wild boar.
PS: all these dishes were cold – likely due to the 35+ degree weather here.

A meal is not a meal without dessert. Bring on the various biscotti and cake.

It was an incredible meal in an incredible setting. Those who come simply sit around the tables, talk, eat and drink a number of different wines served at different stages of dinner. And then, when I thought I could fit nothing more in…came the grappa. Goodness me, grappa…

This is where we mingled, talked, ate and drank.

I love the tables made of reclaimed wood.
The woman you see on the left is the owner.

I know I say this a lot on this trip…but a girl could really get used to this! When we heard that they were doing a special meal on Sunday around truffles, we thought “why not?”. A meal where every dish includes truffles in some way ¬†shape or form sounded good to us. So at 1:30pm Sunday we were back at Riosto and thoroughly enjoyed this fine meal:

World’s. Best. Risotto. Ever. I don’t eat risotto a lot, but man, this one was outstanding.
Somehow I forgot to photograph the crostini that came before this – little pieces of garlic/truffle bread – fantastic.

Pasta. Simple and delicious. Pasta + olive oil + cheese + truffles + spices = yummy.

Veal and scalloped potatoes. Seriously. I love this country and the food – risotto, pasta and potatoes all served up in the same meal. But I am seriously going to have to cleanse when I get home (thank goodness I did before coming here!).
I also thought I’d give you a glimpse at the various wine glasses… And there’s a water glass there too. Plenty of water was drunk as well.

I don’t know where they get their pineapple from, but it is juicy and sweet – you’d think it was grown locally. And the melon is also fresher and sweeter than I’m used to.

Just in case, like me, you thought the fruit was dessert – no. Gelato and cake, with local blackberries.
I thought I was going to burst. But every mouthful was fantastic.

No trip to a vineyard is complete without coming home with a selection of its wines. Now, we’re just outside of Tuscany here and if this vineyard was in Tuscany the prices for its wines would be triple what they are. But, luckily for us, they are not quite in Tuscany. Their wines go from 6 – 10 Euros per bottle. That’s crazy when you think that a comparable bottle of BC wine runs $20-$40 at the very least, some more.

The front desk inside, with the wines lining the shelves.

The dining room inside, where we ate on Sunday because although it was beautiful and sunny out it was also very windy. The building is a fairly industrial building, but the owners wanted to make sure they gave it warmth and character and therefore brought in reclaimed wood. They definitely succeeded.

Jacques and the owner as we were chatting outside post Sunday’s meal. We were the last ones to leave. This time I said no to the grappa and the scotch, but yes to his homemade lemon/basil liquor, which was actually very tasty.

I will leave you with more photos of the area. It’s only 10-15 minutes away from Bologna, so close to the city but still out in the countryside. Tranquility.

The owners of the vineyard also own this house in the hills beyond. Likely pretty darn quiet there!

They also have rooms/apartments you can rent in the middle of the vineyard. You follow the winding road in this photo into the valley. As they are not set up with a restaurant that does regular meals, the units have full kitchens so you can grocery shop and bring your food with you. Next time. It would be great to spend a couple of days there.

Just so pretty.

Take care little grapes. You will be harvested and made into delicious wine soon!

Merci Jacques! I’m so pleased you discovered this place and that I got to experience it.

Pizza Margherita

When I had lunch with my friend Sarah in London, she told me that if I wanted to taste the best pizza in Rome I needed to go to Baffeto’s. Given that Sarah grew up in Rome, I took her word for it and on my second night there decided it was time to sample Baffeto’s pizza. As Sarah mentioned, it’s a small place and people line up for it (locals and visitors alike). When I told the owner that I was looking for a table for one he exclaimed ‘mi amici!’ gave me a great big hug, took my hand and told me to follow him. Next thing I knew I was sat at a table for 4, along with an Italian couple. When in Rome….

This is one busy pizza joint. And I now know why. The food, along with the service is fantastic. I kept my order simple – a salad, pizza margherita, and some white wine. I’ll let the photos do the talking…

Insalata mista

And while I ate what was a very tasty salad I watched many a pizza be prepped, cooked and then sent off to its table.

One of the two people prepping pizzas essentially spends all his time rolling dough.

The other man adds the sauce….

…adds the toppings…

..and pops them into the oven. When ready, he lets people know orders are up. He’s a very busy man, and honestly sounded like he belonged in a Godfather movie – raspy voice, might be missing a vocal cord or two.

I have no idea how many pizzas they make in one evening, but the lineup of orders looked like this most of the evening.

That’s quite a stash of orders to be fulfilled, and each slip corresponds to a table so there’s no telling how many pizzas are on each piece of paper.

Yes, it’s a wood oven. I even saw the pizza guy put in more wood.

I’m not sure how I found room for dessert, but I did. Besides, sorbetto al limone isn’t particularly filling!

It’s even served in a hollowed out lemon. Pretty and delicious.

It is a very good thing that there is a lot to see in Rome and a lot of walking to be done, or else I’d be hard pressed to do anything but sit in Baffeto’s and eat pizza all day long.

When in Rome….go to Baffeto’s! Grazie mille Baffeto, grazie mille.

PS: yes, I know…my first blog about Rome is about a pizza joint – but it’s not just any pizza joint! And in fairness, everything else about Rome is a little overwhelming – it’s beauty, the Coliseum, the Vatican, etc. I’m still sorting through all that, so stay tuned, more to come.