Wednesday, December 31, 2008
I would like to say my "gratefuls", as my Dad calls them, out here in the blogosphere. I am grateful for life, to learning how to live and learning from my mistakes. I am grateful for employment and the possibilities of doing more Italy tours in the future. I am grateful for my husband, who after having had to jump many physical and emotional hurtles this last year, not only cleared them, but came away jumping higher than I ever would have thought. I am grateful for the 5 wonderful years I spent with my dog, Golia, whom we had to put down this year. I am grateful for the opportunity we have to move in the next few weeks to a glorious piece of country on the Central Coast of California, where serenity reigns supreme. I am grateful to an amazing and supportive family, who I am lucky to count as my true friends besides being related to them. I am grateful for friends, old and new, who walk the path with me. I am grateful for my health, yoga, teachers, travel, abundance and nature.
May your new year and beyond be filled with peace, happiness, love and health. And just for some inspiration, I give you this quotation from Marianne Williamson:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.We must ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,talented and fabulous?Actually, who are you NOT to be?You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.It is not in just some of us; it’s in everyone.And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give people permission to do the same.As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
I am excited to announce Piccola Cucina's fall classes. You may have read about my cooking and language classes here before, but this fall, my partner and I have moved our venue to a wonderfully roomy culinary store in Long Beach - Kitchen Outfitters.
You can hop over to our Piccola Cucina site to read all the details of the classes, and I hope those of you in Southern California come and join us for one or more of the classes.
On a completely different note, if you have never tried La Quercia products, I highly recommend them. They are an artisanal producer of cured meats in the U.S. - one of the very few that creates products similar to the Italian originals. I first tried their meats at Mozza in Los Angeles, and have since bought them on-line. Again, I am very impressed with their quality and hope that you will be.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
My computer is on the blink and being repaired. I don't expect to have it back for two weeks. So, my computer time is cut to a minimum as I share my husband's (slow) computer. Oddly, I welcome the respite from so much computer time, while being challenged at how to keep my businesses running on one cylinder in stead of four.
I'll be back with more posts just as soon as I can. In the meantime, have a passionate Thursday!
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Venice: Now, we're talking! Many of you know this is my favorite city in Italy, so I love to spread travel tips and help for "La Serenissima".
Now through October 12 - in celebration of Peggy Guggenheim's arrival to Venice 60 years earlier and the mark she left on modern American Art - "Coming of Age: American Art, 1850s to 1950s" at, of course, the Peggy Guggenheim Museum.
Florence: Now through September 7 - "I Grandi Bronzi de' Battistero: L'Arte di Vincenzo Danti, Discepolo di Michelangelo." "The Great Bronzes of the Baptistry: The Art of Vincenzo Danti, Disciple of Michelangelo."
When I was there I really wanted to see this exhibition a the former prison of Florence - the Bargello. Unfortunately, the museum was closed every time I had some free time. I hope you can see this exhibit of the artist who created three of the great doors of the Baptistry.
Verona: July and August - the great Verona opera season is in full swing. See their site for full details.
Macerata, Le Marche: July and August - the other great opera venue is the Sferisterio in Macerata (my husband's home town!) Not as many Americans venture into Le Marche, but it is worth it. The details of their opera season can be found on their site.
Saturday, July 5, 2008
From there I headed southwest to the Maremma area. This is the "wild west" of Tuscany, with miles of meandering coastline, islands, mountains, pastoral and agricultural lands. My first stop was in the mountains above Bolgheri at an agriturismo I had read about and had wanted to visit. It is an old restored villa - Tenuta La Bandita. One of the things I love about Europe is that you can feel like you are in the middle of nowhere, as in the case - 45 long minutes on a windy road to the nearest small city or freeway, but you can have all the comforts and culture that you could ask for. This place is run by a lovely young woman who looks like she could be on a fashionable street in Milan. Yet here she is the middle of mountainous country overseeing hectares and hectares of crops (vegetables, fruit and lots of olive trees), cinghiale, sheep, goats, pigs, dogs, workers, a lovely hotel with about 20 rooms and a first-class restaurant. How does she do it? When I asked her, she sighed and couldn't really give me an answer, but her tired look spoke volumes. Almost all the food you eat there was grown and made there, and it was delicious.
The grounds are lovely, with sculptures and views of nearby medieval hamlets:
I was very fascinated by these wild, dangerous creatures being raised for food. Can you see the cinghiale?
I took leave of this lovely sanctuary and headed south to see a very famous and ancient Etruscan town. I was in no hurry, which was a good thing because those mountainous Maremma roads are tedious to drive, but worth it for their views and tranquility. The solitude was good for my soul. What felt like three hours later, I reached my destination of Pitigliano. I had heard this "city of the tufo", or a city built on this tufaceous rock, was a must-see and now I know why. As I approached the city, I couldn't see it. The road signs kept stating I was getting closer, 10km, then 8 km, then down to 2 km and I still could not see it! I didn't understand as I know this city is built up high. I rounded a corner and the view took my breath away, literally. I exclaimed to no one, "Oh my God!" I pulled over as soon as I could to take in this view.
It turns out that I had been driving at about the same level as the city, the trees obscuring any view, but the city is surrounded by a kind of ravine. As if a river had naturally worn away at this rock. So, while it is high, it stands in a bit of a valley/ravine.
This is a big tourist attraction, although it is difficult to reach. Parking is at a minimum, so go when you have plenty of time.
After parking, I walked a bit to get into the city and stopped and admired yet another amazing view of this Etruscan marvel:
The grounds are as tasteful as the inside of the buildings. With artistic and tranquil touches everywhere.
There are many hectares of vineyards here, too, growing Sangiovese, Cabernet and Merlot. Terrabianca also has a winery and vineyards in Chianti Classico.
Perhaps I was a bit bored, but definitely relaxed, while watching a storm roll in from my room I was playing with the view out my window. I dubbed this "A Matter of Perception."
Monday, June 23, 2008
My most recent Tuscany tour began in Florence, where after a welcome dinner, we departed the following morning for Montepulciano, in southern Tuscany. Our first stop was to the spectacular Avignonesi winery. Our VIP tour was lead by the lovely and elegant Signora Fulvo, the owner, who led us down into the ancient barrel caves,
then into their Vin Santaio, where there very special Vin Santo is made, or should I say where it rests and makes itself. The mother for their Vin Santo is centuries old, and they treat their aging wine like gold, as they should. These little half bottles of very precious liquid sell for over 100 euros a bottle and fetch perfect scores, yes 100 points, from top wine magazines. Amazing. Here is a shot of a barrel of Vin Santo:
We also visited the stunningly beautiful property of Vignamaggio in Greve. Vignamaggio is the ancestral home of the Monna Lisa - yes, there really was a Monna Lisa and Leonardo da Vinci painted at this property on several occasions. Because of its beauty and views, I understand why. With their delicious array of Chianti Classicos and Super Tuscans, we were served a typically delicious lunch.
After lunch, we walked around their immaculate gardens where "Much Ado About Nothing" was filmed. Leaving was the difficult part. "Celebrating the Harvest" (my title). One of the many garden sculptures at Vignamaggio.
One of the highlights of the trip was a day of cooking lessons at Badia a Coltibuono winery, the home of Lorenza di Medici and her family. She founded the famous cooking school and now her son runs it, deftly teaching typical Tuscan dishes with a great sense of humor. Everyone loved it so much that after the long lunch with dessert, dessert wines, grappa and coffee, I had a hard time getting everyone on the bus!
My group, firmly planted, not moving from the comfort of Coltibuono.
Some of Coltibuono's cellar collection.
In between all this wine tasting and fine dining, we had time to tour Florence, Siena, San Gimignano and Volterra. This was a tremendous group of people, all genuinely interested, kind, easy-going and responsible. The tour could not have been better. We celebrated its success with a fabulous meal our last night in Florence. At Il Latini, known for their roasted meats, we not only ate like kings, but drank like them as well. The staff treated us great and stuffed us like pigs! Most of us took a late walk around Florence that night to help digest what we ate.
I invite you all to come on one of my tours. I will be posting two 2009 trips on my website in the next month or so. Hop on over there and sign up on my email list if you want to receive more information when I have it.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Here are a couple more of my favorite sights in Florence:
Monday, June 9, 2008
We met in front of the Santa Maria Novella church, and I had no problem spotting her through the crowd. My Swedish aunt insists that in each country, people have a distinct walk. Many times she has shown me the difference between a Swedish walk and a Danish walk. I have no idea if this theory would hold up under scientific testing, but when I saw the Swedish Ilva walking, I new immediately it was her. Maybe it was instinct.
I instantly felt like I had found a long, lost and very delightful friend. She has a bright mind with a natural curiosity about everything. Our conversation covered so many topics, from illuminated texts to food to Alzheimer's. (We have both lost parents to that disease.)
Ilva took me to a quiet lunch spot above the crowds with this incredible view:
I took a couple of photos of Ilva, but somehow I think the one of her behind the camera captures her spirit (and I think she is a bit shy of showing her face.)
Thanks Ilva for a great afternoon, and I look forward to our next meeting!
Saturday, June 7, 2008
The next day I made it to Florence where the tour was starting from the following day. I had time to meet up with two fellow bloggers...stay tuned for the next installment for my visit with them.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Friday, May 2, 2008
More soon my friends!
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons Quaker or Aunt Jemima Corn Meal
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Italian Cooking & Language Lessons
Have you ever wanted to speak Italian?
How about learn to cook authentic Italian dishes?
Now you can do both at the same time!
All levels of Italian welcome – including beginners. Three hour class includes Italian language instruction along with a cooking lesson, in Italian, lunch and wine. Small group – limited to 6 people. Classes are held on Sundays from 11 am – 2 pm in Long Beach.
Sunday, April 13: “Stuzzichini” (appetizers, salads, bruschettas, etc.)
Sunday, April 27: A regional lesson on the cuisine of Tuscany.
Sunday, May 4: “Primavera” – cooking with the freshest Spring ingredients.
Sunday, May 18: A regional lesson on the cuisine of Le Marche.
Fees: Save money buying when you sign up for all four classes! 1 class $100, 2 classes $90 each, or 4 classes $75 each.
Christina Sbarra is the Coordinator and Instructor of the Language Center of Long Beach (a branch of La Lingua La Vita from Todi, Italy – www.lalingualavita.com.) She has over 10 years of Italian teaching experience and specializes in teaching language through activities, which has been proven to be one of the most effective ways to learn a language. Christina has been a passionate home cook of Italian food for over 20 years.
Jeni Moretti is an Italian wine and food expert who owns Passionate Palate Tours (www.passionatepalatetours.com) a company specializing in group wine and food tours of Italy. She also has many years of working in the Italian wine business and studying the regional cuisines of Italy.
For more information, please call Christina at 562-930-9194 or email christinasbarra AT yahoo DOT com.
Saturday, March 15, 2008
I am still here, but have been away from blogging for a few weeks. Life happened. My intentions are to get back to a normal blogging routine soon, after some things calm down in my life. I miss you all!
In the meantime, please don't forget to submit your post for this month's Apples & Thyme event. This is the first time we have a guest host - the talented and beautiful Chris at Mele Cotte. Do forward all entries to here at melecotte AT gmail DOT com.
May you all be well.
I'll be back soon (or "A Presto" as we say in Italian),
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Before I launch into the round-up, my lovely partner in this event, Inge at Vanielje Kitchen, and I have decided to have a guest host next month. Chris over at Mele Cotte has happily agreed to be March's host. So, please watch for her announcement and send all entries to her by March 20. Her email is melecotte AT gmail DOT com.