Monday, May 25, 2009

California Miles

Exploring her own state is something she has not done much of so, she decided to grab her buggy and head off up the coast of California. She pointed her wheels towards the coastline until she arrived to stop in Santa Barbara and sip wine at the Harbor House as the late March fog swirled in around her.

Wandering up and down State Street in the heart of a lovely town, she wished she had a buddy with her to stop and eat at just about every wine bar and eatery there. As the fog rea
lly moved in, she decided to head out to Solvang for a little tour of the place one she had not revisited for over 25 years. Upon arrival she was truly surprised to see how much the town had changed over the years all except the Abelskievers. After a really fast tour and a jaunt through the farmer's market for a bag of fresh cherries and bucket of cookies she jumped back in the car and left for San Luis Obispo to spend the night at the Madonna Inn.

Reading some of the print material, she was fascinated to learn how Alex Madonna was such a g
ood friend with William Randolf Hearst and how the two of them, with their dreams, created two masterpieces in their own rights. They both loved craftsmanship and quality and there seemed to be no end to their dreams. After a funky dinner in the pink restaurant, laden with photos of old Hollywood stars with the Madonna family, she headed back to explore the nuances of her funky room.

Clearly, the next day she was destined to visit Hearst's Castle and from one who has lived in Europe for over 10 years, living with, among and around villas, castles and palaces, this was enthralling, overwhelming, and humbling all at once. His vision, which he changed ad infinitum, was a mental work-out particularly when one can practically “feel” his vision, his dream and experience his efforts in every corner, in every piece of furniture, Della Robbia and gads of other antiques. Such fun it must have been for him! She almost envied that kind of power to create without limits.

OK, so onwar
d and "upwards" in the buggy towards Big Sur. Nepenthe was her late lunch stop. Anyone ever been there? Spectacular vistas, architecture and a luscious Bordeaux! '99 Pichon Lalande, from Pauillac coupled with artisan cheeses of California. She was in heaven! Contrary to her habit of wanting more wine, she savored this glass over an hour, feeling it wash over her velvety in texture, reveling in the deep purple ruby color and knowing she would never be able to find a bottle of this once home. Ha, thanks to her favorite wine merchants...she found her paradise after returning hom.

Off again, towards Carmel for a lightening fast "look" and then a late arrival into San Francisco for a night on the wharf. Always her favorite place to be anytime of the year! Those
crab cocktails from the street vendors...! Later, in the room, she quietly planned the winery stops for the next day through Napa Valley.

The next day she flew through the wineries buying up a car load of "bottles full of grapes" and then headed out for a stop in Reno so she could spend the last night in another one of her regeneration spots, Mammoth Lakes...a small spot of tranquility this time of the year. The skiers were still there but just barely so the town was quiet and cozy.


When we are mindful of every nuance of our natural world, we finally
get the picture: that we are only given one dazzling moment of life
here on Earth, and we must stand before that reality both humbled and
elevated, subject to every law of our universe and grateful for our
brief but intrinsic participation with it.

E. Gilbert

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Superb Cheese Tarts from the Alps

250gm or 8oz Flour
100gm or 3.5 oz Butter unsalted
1 Egg

Butter and flour the molds diameter of 3 inches 7cms about 12 of them.
Cut butter into the flour with a pinch of salt, when crumbly, add 4 Tablespoons water mix quickly and lightly then add egg and mix quickly until homogeneous. Cover and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes. Roll out on a floured board about 3mm (the thinner the better)

Filling 240ml or 8oz heavy cream

The following cheese combinations are recommended:

Swiss Emmenthal (good swiss cheese) and Brie or, Gruyere and Brie or, Fontina and Brie or, Gorgonzola dolce or piccante and Brie or, Gorgonzola and Fontina (a strong combination) or, Stilton and Brie If you are able to find Sbrinz (from Italy) this is a great one as well to combine with either Brie or Fontina

229gm or 8oz of "type one" cheese grated or finely chopped

115gm or 4oz of Brie or Fontina or type number two cheese cut into tiny squares or pieces

100 ml or 3oz Whole milk
3 Egg yolks
Parsley, salt, nutmeg

Cut cheese into cubes trimming crust off of the Brie. Divide the two cheeses evenly and place in the dough lined tart molds.

Combine milk and cream in a bowl, add the yolks mix and beat well. Add fresh grated nutmeg, a teaspoon of chopped parsley and a pinch of salt. Pour the mix into the tarts covering the cubed cheese.

Bake in a preheated oven 190 degrees Celsius or 375 F for about 20 minutes Cool 10 minutes and unmold and serve

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Firenze - Summer and Sangria!

Maybe it is the heat, causing me to think of Firenze, urges for Sangria or is it my usual spring fever...hum. Three recipes for Sangria are posted here, one in Italian, one for parties, English and the basic recipe in English and all superb! Now, all I have to do is grab that crazy maschio to share it with me somewhere high above the city or on some mountain top; I crave high mountains or is it the altitude and Italy combined, the lifestyle, the people, the culture and architecture, the cradle or culla of civilization? I must have lived there in a previous life.

When I took the early train to Florence last fall, I wanted to walk my old haunts and see if I could find a few old friends. Walking from the Santa Maria Novella station I could feel the city take hold of me. I walked around the Duomo and headed for Via Cavour; it was early and most of the eateries were receiving deliveries (the only time vehicles can be on the street) with shopkeepers out front sweeping and moping and washing windows. After passing one intersection I looked up at the pale rose and yellow facades and literally fell into a trance feeling the past around me, in me and pushing through me; I was home, I could not deny it, I had lived here before.

I felt like an Ea
gle soaring through and around the streets as I continued my walk.
Upon passing Piazza della Republica I yearned for more time to sit at the pink café seated outside nursing an espresso. Finally I spotted, through a space in two buildings, my favorite vista of Piazza della Signoria and I had to stop and lean against a wall. I felt as if someone had punched me in my gut; and someone had, my beloved city my favorite piazza; so many feelings assault me when I get to this square.

Years ago, when I lived close to the city, I remember walking through that same Piazza with my husband; it was late November, wicked cold and windy and it was night time although, not late. As we made it to the center near the fountain, we stopped and just listened, voraciously soaking up the solitude, the distinct lack of tourists and the cold air. I knew he was oblivious to what was coursing through me because he had slowly drifted away walking towards the Uffizi. I stood there and felt myself going back in time, as if someone was taking me back to this same spot, centuries ago.

I felt the different clothing I was wearing; I heard the horses and carriages over the uneven stones I could even smell the different scents, the fire pots burning in the square. Unexpectedly, it seemed as if I was in the midst of a crowd, spirits brushing against me and all this laughter, chatter and noise whirling around.

My husband yelled at me to get moving and I snapped out of it to find utter silence except for the wat
er falling in Neptune’s fountain (by Bartolomeo Ammannati). The wind was shoving me and, with the suggestive lighting of that square, I knew I had been there a lifetime before. Ah, home sweet home. So yes, when I crave Italy, now I truly understand why. I just wish I could make more frequent visits to this now crazy, loud and dirty city; my city, my past (or maybe it was a past I best forget).