Category Archives: Eating

Domenica pranzo with friends

On our ride south today to lunch with friends. Brilliant sunshine.

We met up with friends in a town called Bastia Umbra. Completely overlooked by everyone but we are told there are a lot of monied folks living there. I assume it was bombed during the war since much of it was new. But the old outline of the wall was still there. And some of the old gates remained. Inside was a clothing market along the streets. The second picture below is marking the border of one of the Rioni, or neighborhoods. Most towns have a number of neighborhoods and people living within them are fiercely loyal.

Our friend Doug found the restaurant we went to. It was just outside the old perimeter, called Perl d’Oro. Unpretentious outside but pretty inside. Good service. Delicious seafood.

Here are pictures of our food. Captions under photos.

This was called Gamberi tempura. Not like any tempura I have had. But very delicious.
Luther and I chose the red snapper. It was under potatoes and roasted tomatoes.
Jen got the Branzino in a salt crust.
Afterward they brought scoops of Gelato di Mele (apples) with pistachios. Very refreshing.
Finally we shared this chocolate dessert. Mmmm.

Originally we wanted to visit a huge fair on the fairgrounds there which was all kinds of vintage things, clothes, furniture etc. We didn’t allow enough time to make the entry fee worth it but I will go again in the future allowing more time…once I am in the buying mode for our new house. 😁

Thanksgiving

We had a very good meal with nine others at our table in Calagrana yesterday. They started doing a traditional turkey dinner with all the fixins a few years ago for all the Americans in the area and a sprinkling of British and Italians. Originally Susan and Gary had them cater a dinner for us since a big turkey here is too large for the normal Italian home oven. After a couple years of making the gargantuan Tom turkeys, Ely decided there might be interest in a dinner from others. And the rest is history!

The Tom Turkey which we feasted on yesterday was a whopping 17 kilograms, or 38 lbs. Here he is!

And my dinner. The turkey was amazingly moist and tender. Jane and Christie had brought two bags of real cranberries on my request. So we had real cranberry sauce — my old standby Zinfandel cranberry sauce. I have to use Primativo here which is a relative of Zinfandel.

Besides the turkey we had antipasti of tiny shrimp and a primi of ravioli with zucca puree (sweet winter squash). Very sweet with a surprise of what I thought was wasabi. It turns out it is Senape Essense. She got it at the pharmacy. It added a nice kick. Her little bottle had a skull and crossbones on it. 😄 If you’ve ever had hot Chinese mustard and eaten just a little too much on your eggroll you’ll know what I mean. I looked it up and I think I’ll order some, could be fun to experiment with!

Although I am a day late, I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a great day! I am thankful for all I have. I wish for peace in the Ukraine and the USA. I also wish for global accord to combat climate change. 🕊 Today is the day Against Violence to Women. There is a little demonstration in the piazza. I also wish violence of all kinds would stop. Andrà tutto bene 🌈

Celebratory lunch at Calagrana

What a day. It has turned sharply colder. Today was the day we celebrated with our buyers, Christie and Jane, and our former realtor Jim and his wife Jill. Jim was our original realtor in 2014. He knows the system and we just give him power of attorney and he handles the rest. So easy. We all went to Calagrana. The day was incredible the sky brilliant blue and the slanting autumnal sun made everything starkly clear.

Calagrana on it’s hillside.
View from in front Calagrana.

There was a new addition to the Calagrana family. Here is Tallula. She is 50 years old and is entirely original. She has only 60,000 kilometers on the clock. An original Fiat Centocinque.

Here is the group with Ely in the foreground.

It was a lovely afternoon. Lively conversation and great food. When we got back to Umbertide, the Castagne man had his fire going and the chestnuts were a-roasting. I love this! Every autumn this man and his family come and roast their chestnuts just next to the Piazza. This farmer is one of my favorites and comes to both of our weekly markets. He has the best tomatoes of anyone…but now is not tomato season…it is castagne season!!

So good. Sweet. I ate well today…Ho mangiato bene oggi! And it was lovely to spend our day with friends.

Carbonara

I am sure you all know I am taking one-on-one lessons in Italian every week. We are now using a book called L’italiano per la cucina. It is at the B1 level and focuses on the traditional cucine of Italy.

Today’s lesson was on the traditional recipe for Spaghetti Carbonara. The legend goes that the origin of the dish was from when the American soldiers during WWII were occupying Rome. They had rations provided but to make them more interesting the soldiers gave them to local restaurants and asked they make a pasta using the ingredients. The rations had powdered eggs, bacon and cream. Carbonara was the result. The traditional recipe now does not include cream. [there are other legends about the origin of the dish, but this one is the most accepted]

I got so hungry during the lesson I was nearly drooling. SO…tonight I just HAD to make the recipe. It is super easy. Only four ingredients. Guanciale or pancetta, egg yolks, pecorino cheese and spaghetti or rigatoni. I whipped it up and it was delicious.

😋

Excellent lunch with friends

Today, Saturday, was a bit gray, dreary and chilly. I went out to the market to do some shopping where I bought quite a lot of stuff for soups and salads. I noted we have a new bread kiosk which I must try. But today I visited our local forno for bread.

My haul.

Our friends from Spello, who moved here in July, were coming up for lunch at C’era una Volta, a restaurant near our new apartment. The name means Once Upon a Time. But first an aperitivo in the Piazza was in order. We sat at a table and Jane happened by so we invited her to join us. Then Jim (our realtor) and four other Brits sat at the table next to us. Bar Mary is always the place to meet and greet.

We headed down to the restaurant. We pointed out our new apartment on the way. I actually love C’era una Volta. It is only one block from our new apartment so I anticipate it will become our go-to place. The people are so friendly. I think they are Sardinian. Mom, dad, and daughter. We got the names of Mom, Laura, and Dad, Giuseppe. Next time, daughter. The food is quite good. They have a menu but the specials are recited. It is a real language and memory test! Here are pictures of our food.

Our shared antipasto plate. Amazing variety.
Delicious, made in the house, pasta with zucca (winter squash/pumpkin), prosciutto, and funghi (mushrooms).

We had such a nice time catching up with Roselyne and Steve. They are renovating their apartment right in the historic center of Spello. Excellent location with three terraces, one of which is right over the main drag up the hill so they can see what is happening all the time. Much like our view of our Piazza. It is ALL good! We will see them again soon!

When I got home I snapped yet another photo from our terrace…our last Autumn here. I want to always remember this view.

A little later I looked up and was greeted with an amazing sunset! It doesn’t get any better!

Buona domenica a tutti! 🌈

What a productive week!

First I want to mention that we had a good hard rain Thursday night/Friday morning last week. First rain in weeks. I was up checking the gutters and all looked fine. Draining, no more waterfalls. And best of all, no leaks inside. Whew. Glad to have gotten that done thanks to Fabio and Mario. Excellent workers in a difficult situation.
~~~~~~~
Our friends and buyers of our apartment, had a bit of a mishap. Jane fell off her bike hitting her chin and cheekbone on the ground and breaking her thumb. She and Christie walked over to the Pronto Soccorso (emergency room) where they gave her a temporary cast and made an appointment to visit an orthopedic doctor in Citta di Castello yesterday. Meanwhile, our signing of the Powers of Attorney was scheduled for Tuesday.

We did manage to get the signing done, even with Jane’s right, and main, hand in a cast. It was somewhat amusing. The Notaio’s office is in a former Palazzo built in the 1600s. It is just next to an enormous green space which Jim told us it was once the main Piazza of Castello, and a formal garden. Now it is just an immense lawn. The office is just as I remember it. Grand but threadbare in a pleasing way. I took a couple photos.

Ceiling. Probably 20 feet high.
Ornate door into the room.
Cool fireplace, obviously unused.

So, Jim can now sign for Christy and Jane to close on the apartment. And he can close for us on our new place. That way we don’t need a translator. Saves a bit of money. The deal is not quite sealed…but a step closer.

Because we weren’t sure what they would do at the hospital in Castello I drove them up for the appointment. We went to the hospital and found the orthopedic department where Jane was seen pretty quickly. But she had to endure the pain of resetting her thumb…no anesthetic. The norm here. She said is was REALLY painful. Then they put on a cast and we went to get an X-ray to see how the set was. It took us 45 minutes to FIND the Radiology department. They are very short on signage. On the good side, we got our steps in. 🫤 We returned to the orthopedic docs who viewed the X-rays and told us to make an appointment to come back in a week. Making the appointment at the ASL (Azienda Salute Locale).

To give ourselves a reward for our ordeal…more for Jane than Christie and I, we decided to have lunch! We tried a new place called Grace. It opened in the space where Patrick’s Enoteca used to be. It is a bit of a sad story. Grace was the wife of the chef. She was a 28 year old American. She and her husband were involved in an accident in which she was killed. The restaurant was opened in her name.

We had a delicious lunch. They have half portions of almost everything, so we decided to do three half portions each. It was a lot of fun. Here are some pictures.

Zucchini carpaccio with walnuts.
My ravioli with black truffles
Jane and Christie got this zucca stuffed pasta. Zucca is the big orange winter squash they have here.
Inside – mmmm.
The zucca main course Jane had. She and Christie are vegetarians.
Being an equal opportunity eater I tried the venison. I eat a lot of vegetarian but like to try meats too.

This week we also got our guy to come to arrange to replace two window screens, the electrician is coming to replace two lights, and Luther had a hearing test today. I gotta say…I am OVERWHELMED at all the progress we are making! So un-Italian! 🙂💕 Ciao a tutti!

Zuppa di bietola e cannellini beans

I bought some pretty greens for my next soup. They are called bietola here. When I put them in the translate app they say chard. But they also have what I call Swiss chard here, in red and yellow varieties which is different — chisa! Here is a picture of what I used. I am sure you could use the colorful chard as well.

I cooked a batch of dried cannellini beans yesterday. Today I used them with the greens. You can also use cans of cooked cannellini. It was a truly delicious soup. I will make it again.

Here is the recipe which I will also include on my recipes page.

Bietola and cannellini bean soup

2 carrots chopped
1 large stalk celery chopped
1 medium onion chopped
4 cloves garlic minced
Handful of dried mushrooms (like porcini), soaked and chopped, saving the liquid
2-3 cans cannellini beans or cooked dry beans
1 sprig rosemary
1 bunch bietola, washed and chopped, including stems
Water with 1 vegetable bouillon cube or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper
A little vinegar (optional)

Sauté carrots, onions and celery in oil until soft. Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add chopped mushrooms and their water, strained for grit, beans, rosemary, bietola, water or stock and/or vegetable cube and salt. Cook 30 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and add pepper. Off heat. Add a splash of vinegar to brighten it a bit if desired. Buon appetito!

A special gift from friends

On Saturday we had lunch with one of my long-time friends who was once my boss many moons ago. She and her husband are visiting Italy and are staying near Cortona. We met in the middle at a restaurant we have passed by a million times, but never have we eaten there. It is on the top of a mountain and has a view to die for of Lago Trasimeno. It is called Lo Scoiattolo which means the squirrel.

She brought me a couple of things from home — first, some always much appreciated ziplock bags. Between Shirley and other friends I think I am now set for a couple of years! But she also brought me a package of Alaskan smoked salmon which she had bought while on a cruise in Alaska. What a great thing to get! I haven’t had this for donkeys years, which, trust me, is a long time!

So, I decided to make a recipe I have been waiting to try. Pasta with pistachio ”cream” and smoked salmon. The pistachios are not a cream. They call them a pesto, but not a normal pesto to me. It is just ground up pistachios and olive oil, and a little salt and water. It becomes very creamy.

Pistacchio pesto
The salmon
Final dish.

It was yummy. It was also super rich. Feeling full!

For those interested, my knee is much better. Seems the olive harvest perked it right up! My calf muscles were sore, probably from standing on tiptoe. But the knee is pretty good now. YAY!

My green tangerine…

I make a good deal of Mexican food and Asian food. Limes are something that I use often. To me, they have a distinctly different taste from lemons. Italians seem to think they are interchangeable. In fact, I have a very difficult time finding lime juice too. Only a couple of stores seem to have it. The last two times I went shopping I spied piles of nice limes. Of course I bought some and both times I got fooled.

You would think they were too, wouldn’t you? Well, it turns out that they are…

Yep! Tangerines. Green tangerines. I looked them up and they are Miyagawa mandarines. They are successfully cultivated in Italy in the citrus groves of Sicily, Basilicata and Calabria. Originally thought to be from China and/or Japan they thrive here. They ripen in September and October so they are the earliest of the citrus fruits. I don’t know why this is the first year I have seen them, but they are everywhere. They are sweet and good. It is not that I don’t like them, but they don’t work in my salsa or my chili.

🎶 And to top it all off, now I have that old song stuck in my head…you remember? ”My green tangerine 🎶 ” 😉

This n that

Short post – not much going on in Umbertide. One of the bars out in the piazza was closed this past week so it was quiet. The weather has been spectacular. One of the best Octobers I have seen here. The light has gotten that beautiful slant which makes the autumn so beautiful.

We went out to the market today. There were fresh porcini mushrooms so I had them for my lunch. Scrambled eggs with sautéed mushrooms.

We have finished a number of the chores on our ”to do” list. We still have a number of things to get done. We had our caldaia (heating system) inspected, mandated by law yearly. We still wait for the stufa (pellet stove) cleaner. We got our booster vaccines this week. We did some financial stuff. We need to buy a new light for our bathroom. And we need to see if we can get two screens replaced. This week we expect the gutter cleaners back to finish the job. I think they will build a scaffolding in the street to get to the top of the house. I assume they will need police permissions to block the street. I will report on the work as it continues.