Happy Passover, Easter and all that jazz. I know, I know, tiramisu isn’t exactly passover fare, and it isn’t exactly baking but we were on the hook for dessert with Nicole’s family. Given traditional Easter ham, I don’t think the bread rule is what will me get me called to the principal’s office. In a dual religion household you sometimes have to
bend the rules?, break the rules? douse those pesky rules with gasoline and set them on fire.
Happy St. Paddy’s day all my Irish friends (and anyone else that decides to wear green or add a “Mc” or “O’” to their name today).
While most people think cabbage ain’t good for much, at least today the cabbage gets to be in the spotlight as best supporting veggie. Cabbie’s baby cousin the brussel* gets so little respect I thought I’d gussy some up for some proper roasting.
So today enjoy your cabbage, but soon give the ole brussel a spin. Just half them, toss in olive oil, and bang them onto a cookie sheet with a little salt and pepper. Roast them until they are nice and brown and you are good to go. Wanna add bacon or pancetta, who am I to stop you?
Notice I didn’t write “roasted to perfection” anywhere? It’s not a weekend unless I am complaining about something, so dear reader let me get a rant off my chest. “Cooked to Perfection”? Everytime I see that phrase on a restaurant menu I want to hurl. So what they are saying is that one dish of shrimp or whatever the hell they are so freakin’ proud of is “cooked to perfection”? What about everything else? Do they just slap that crap together? “Cooked to perfection”. Humpf.
OK, gotta run, I have an O’tini (ugh) with my name written all over it. That should help get me “drunk to perfection”.
You can tell from the picture, this ain’t your yiayia’s moussaka. Hell, it ain’t my yiayia’s moussaka either, especially given that my heritage demands me to have a bubbe, and not a yiayia. And bubbe didn’t make no moussaka.
To be frank, it ain’t even my moussaka. Well, it is, but I’ve never make it this pretty before. Usually mine looks like you’d expect a moussaka to look, like a nice Greek lasagna. Sorry all my Greek friends out there, I’m sure you’d rather me say “a lasagna looks like a moussaka”. Political correctness aside you know the deal: square pan, bubbly stuff on top, and served in a nice rectangular hunk. Its been close to a year since I last posted something that didn’t feel like a cop out (limoncello is the bomb, but its not exactly cooking), so I thought I’d make the normally ugly duckling moussaka a bit more photogenic. The pretty version was inhaled in the same fashion and if you serve it this way maybe you can charge $18.99 a serving instead of 7 bucks.
I suppose this would have been a better summer post, but not much beats a crisp and sunny fall day than a glass of homemade limoncello by the water. While in Italy, Nik and I got to sample about 20 different limoncellos from all over the country. Our hands down favorite was at a little restaurant in Tuscany, who’s name eludes me (maybe a little too much drink already today). What made this version special was that it didn’t taste super tradional, at least not to us. When talking to the priorietor in broken Italian and him talking in broken English, we discovered the secret ingredient: vanilla. Mmmm…vanilla.
I’ve been doing my research on the proper base for limoncello, and it seems split between 100 proof vodka, or Everclear. Yeah baby, we ain’t in college making garbage pail punch anymore Everclear. The going trend is vodka is much more smooth, but is slower to make. I went the Everclear route because I could, and also thought it would extract the lemon flavor quicker. If you know me, I don’t like waiting. Especially when it concerns getting my drink on.
I completely screwed up my intended proportions and not just a little bit (it was supposed to be twice as much Everclear for this citrus ratio). The good news is this blend rocked and was so smooth that it’s my new recipe now bitches!
Enjoy, and chin chin. Then chin chin some more.
…continued from Part 1
Now where was I? Oh yeah, we just finished lunch on Isola Comacina on Lake Como.
One of the interesting things about Lake Como is where it is situated in Italy. Lake Como is way up north at the edge of the pre-Alps which is only about a 15-20 minute drive away from Switzerland. This explains why all the menus where in Italian, German and finally English (in that order). I wish we did a little more studying of geography ahead of time because we weren’t adventurous enough to jam in a totally unplanned trip to Switzerland, especially since we only had the GPS programmed for Italy. We figured we got in enough trouble not knowing how to speak Italian.
After several days of ferrying about the lake, we hopped in our ugly-american-mobile (which the manufacturer more lovingly calls an E class station wagon) and drove to Tuscany.
This may have been the longest leg of our drive, so now is a good time to talk about driving in Italy. Driving was much easier than I expected, mostly because they drive on the same side that we do, that is, the correct side (see, I am an ugly American). An interesting tidbit is that the roadsigns are not quite as literal as here in the US, they are merely suggestions. One way? Do not enter? 90km/hr? Surely recommended, but sometimes you gotta make do. Some other fun stuff? On the autostrade, each lane has a different min and max speed limit! How awesome is that, slowpokes are not allowed (remember, not recommended) to be in any other lane than the rightmost one. Italians are very aggressive drivers, but they seem to follow passing rules really well. They totally get up your ass, pass on the left, and immediately get back into lane, leaving the left most lane for “the blinks”. The blinks? This is what Nik and I call the drivers in the left most lane with the left blinker on. Apparently this is a signal meaning, “I am going really fast, so get the fuck out of my way”. I am sure that comes out much nicer in Italian. Let me quantify really fast for you, I was driving around 110mph (that’s not a typo, I do mean miles), and cars were flying past me.
City driving was a whole other kettle of fish. Motorcycle and Vespa driver own the road, and it feels like you are always navigating through a swarm of bugs. Trying to get into a busy roundabout was not my most pleasant moment. What came out of my mouth likely wouldn’t sound good in any language!
Holy crow, it’s been a while hasn’t it. I’ve had some fun stuff queued up for a bit, but writer’s block, photographer’s block, weird blogger’s cooking block has set in. Well Greg, over at SippitySup reminded me why you all come here, and it ain’t the brown and orange decor! Where’s the content man? OK, here goes my attempt at breaking the blockage, with some blogger’s metamucil if you will.
This spring Nicole and I went on our long delayed honeymoon to Italy. We didn’t mind all the delays, as each time we postponed our trip we just added a few more days to the length of it. The end result? A sprawling 3 weeks from Venice to Sorrento with a whole bunch of stops in between. Here is about a minute long sampler of our journey:
Our trip consisted of the following stops: Venice, Bardolino (Lake Garda), Menaggio (Lake Como), Gaiole in Chianti (Tuscany), Orvietto, Rome, and finally Sorrento.
I know, this isn’t a travel blog, so what about the food (or the photography or wine?) We had plenty of great photo ops and tons of great wine, but the food? Surprisingly, I wasn’t super impressed. Whoa there fella, them’s fighting words! Don’t get me wrong, we had some spectacular meals, but they were few and far between. I am guessing since we were in touristy areas we got hosed more often than we should have. For most places I tried to do research, hitting places that were rated highly online, recommended by friends, or recommended in the usual gastro forums. In the end, one in every 3 meals was memorable.
Below, I’ll describe some of our memorable meals accompanied by a photo or two of the region. I tend not to photograph what/when I am eating, as I’m usually too busy checking the wine list!