Category Archives: Eating

Lovely first lunch out with friends

Well, today was our first foray out of our house with friends to actually eat at a RESTAURANT!! We went with friends to Calagrana who have a new menu and have their outside terraces open. It wasn’t really warm, but it was warm enough and it didn’t rain. I count that as a good day. Here are pictures of my food. I’m sure you’ve all missed seeing these 😁 ha ha!

First I had Chef Alberto’s tartar…it was piquant and perfect. This was a new dish.

Next I went with the cappelli di preti or priest’s hats. Bi-color pasta filled with goat cheese and ricotta in a butter sage sauce. Mmmm.

My dessert…

It was a good day. Piano, piano we slowly move forward… Stay safe everyone 🌈

Umbrian Pecorino Cheese

So, I got that wrong. As of Monday, we can travel to any yellow region. Doesn’t have to abut. The only orange regions (off limits) are Puglia, Basilicata, Calabria, Sicily, and Val d’Osta. And poor old Sardinia. What did they do wrong? They were the only region to be Bianca, just a few weeks ago. Now, they are the only Red Zone. It’s just hard to understand how this virus works.

I was out at the market this morning. Beautiful sunshine. Everyone is in a jubilant mood anticipating next week. I ran into many friends. Everyone is looking forward to aperitivo on the Piazza next week. Let’s hope for nice weather. 🤞 Also, we will be going out to lunch on Thursday and Sunday, next. Indescribably excited.
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Pecorino DOP
I was talking to an American friend who lives in the US recently. She talked about making something in which I had used Pecorino cheese. She said she would get a different type of cheese for her version.. This made me remember that Pecorino in the US is generally one type of cheese….Pecorino. That is definitely not the case in Umbria.

Today, I bought a few of the different types of pecorino cheese to showcase here in the blog. Umbria is known for Pecorino, and pretty much ONLY Pecorino. It is ewe’s milk cheese and is slightly sour. But this gives it a bit of depth in comparison to cows milk cheeses. It is also made in uncountable ways. What we lack in variety in the type of cheese, we gain in the many ways the cheeses are made, flavored and aged. I decided today to just concentrate on the non-flavored cheeses. But there are truffled varieties, varieties aged in hay, in ashes, with pepper, etc. Next time I’ll talk about those.

Pecorino is one of Italy’s oldest cheeses, and over the centuries there have been very few changes in the way it is made. Over the course of 2000 years, cheesemaking traditions and techniques have been handed down orally.

The methods used to curdle the milk, break the curd, press, drain, scald and salt the cheese vary, depending on the type of Pecorino being produced. The best Pecorino is made between May and June, using the milk from sheep grazing on spring pastures. Pecorino can be either mild or aged. The mild variety should be consumed shortly after it is made, while the second is aged in a cool, fresh cellar with low ventilation, so that it matures fully.

Pecorino fresco is good in salads, and is perfect with a toasted Umbrian bread topped with extra virgin olive oil. The aged and semi aged cheese also pair well with Umbrian cured meats, and they go well with honey, and of course, with Umbrian wines.

Here are the few types I bought. They go from Pecorino Fresca (fresh), to semi stagionato (semi soft), semi-dura (aged and hard), and dura (aged longer and it is very hard). I think the cheese monger thought I was nuts although I did explain to her I was writing a blog about Pecorino. She was happy to sell it to me. And now we have tons of cheese to eat! 😐

Fresca. You can see the liquid it releases. It’s good in salads and with toasted bruschetta.
Semistagionato. Good eating cheese, firm and soft.
Semi-dura. Semi hard. Aged 8 months
Dura and aged 18 months.
Aged 2 years. Good for eating and grating.

Italiano phrase, “Dopo pranzo è tempo di fare un pisolino” In English, “After lunch it’s time for a nap”. Dope-oh prahn-zo A tem-po dee fah-ray un piss-oh-lean-oh. I like the word pisolino 🙂
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Stay safe all! 🌈

Vaccine appointments

Yesterday we got the call from our medico di base. She has vaccines and we have an appointment on Tuesday to get our shots. We are happy. It is good news. If we get AstraZenica, as we assume we will, we will get the second shot in July sometime. They say the efficacy is a lot higher if you wait.

On Monday we go to Zona Gialla. Zone Yellow. This is the BEST news. We will be able to travel to places in our region and even to adjacent regions that are Yellow. So we could go to Tuscany, Emilia Romagna, Le Marche, Abruzzo, and Lazio. 😁 💕 What freedom. The ristorante and the Bars are also opening for sit down outside drinks and meals. How exciting for them. It’s been very hard on these businesses. I was out yesterday, and the chef at San Giorgio, the restaurant across the Piazza from us, was outside cleaning his tables in anticipation. I was excited for them and asked if they’d be open next week. And yes! They will be, for Pranzo. It is the best place in town. It warms my heart to see Cafe Centrale out spiffing up the outside space, and Bar Mary too. It will feel like the old Umbertide again 💕. Spritzes on the Piazza…wow.

Beautiful weather today. Just perfect. Pastel blue sky, bright green wheat, the trees with varying blushes of tiny spring leaves. The birds flitting about. I saw our resident Hoopoe or Upupa on our terrace today. Big beautiful bird.

Dinner last night was from the little group who do “takeaway Thursday”. They offer two menus. One, more traditional Italian or continental. The other, more exotic. This week we got one of each. Luther got the French one. I got the Thai one. Very yummy. I walk across the bridge over the Tiber to pick-up at 6pm. Half of Umbertide seems to be over there getting dinner! Here is a picture of my dolce. Peanut butter cups with spicy bits on top…to be honest, I ordered my meal just to get these. 😁 There were three…

Next chore is to put together our packet for the Permesso di soggiorno UE per soggiornanti di lungo periodo (ex carta di soggiorno) – elective residence. We finally have gotten everything we need to apply. And it is quite the list, let me tell you. I will be working on this today and tomorrow and I hope to have it all ready to submit on Monday.
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Italiano phrase for today. “ho pranzato, ora è tempo di fare un pisolino” In English “I had lunch, now it is time for a nap”. Pronounced….oh pranz-ahto, or-ah aa tem-po dee fah-ray une peese-oh-lean-oh. Pisolino is a favorite word…a nap!
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Stay safe everyone. Un buon fine settimana! 🌈

Sunday lunch

Yesterday we picked up our lunch at Calagrana. It was Five Spice Slow Roasted Pork Belly and Bau Buns. Tasty! Picture follows.

It was a decent enough Sunday weather wise. Quite cool but a nice little drive. A tiny change of scenery. The pretty driveway to Calagrana.

Otherwise it was same ole, same ole. Today, Monday, I called our doctor. She said we would get our shots this week or next. She seems to be a little behind the other doctor in town that most of us go to. She said last week she did 78, 79 year olds. This week she will do 76, 77 year olds. Depending on the number of shots she may get a little lower. We may have a bit of a wait. I volunteered that we would be happy to come and take any left over shots if someone doesn’t show. She said her practice has never had anyone not show for their shot. Ok then.
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Yesterday, I noticed the exciting sight of our little House Martins visiting their nests after the long migration back from Africa. They return every year to the same nest. So today, in honor of our returning friends I chose as our Italiano phrase…”i balestrucci sono tornati a nidificare” In English “the House Martins have returned to nest”. Pronounced Ee bah-lay-struch-chi so-no torn-ah-tea ah nee-dee-fee-car-ay.
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Stay safe everyone! 🌈

Only in Italy

A town here in Umbria, called Città della Pieve is hosting a protest. It so happens that Prime Minster Draghi has a home there. So the Italiani decided we need to do a PROTEST for all the lockdowns and loss of business… To my amusement, they are doing a protest LUNCH or PRANZO here. Only in Italy would they have all these beautiful foods and delicacies of Umbria and call it a protest…I love Italy. 💕 Here is the translated article from our Corriere dell’Umbria newspaper.

A crunchy pheasant egg, with Pietralunga potato cream, Cervia salt and white truffle. A puff pastry candy filled with Norcia caciottina, baked in a black truffle fondue. These are some of the dishes that Umbrian restaurateurs and producers will bring tomorrow, Sunday 18 April, to Prime Minister Mario Draghi in the good retreat of Città della Pieve. A demonstration duly authorized by the Perugia police headquarters to ask the government to reopen safely but to reopen immediately. After 14 months of closures and stop and go, restaurateurs are now exhausted by insufficient compensation and bills to pay.

With the risk of never reopening. And therefore for Prime Minister Mario Draghi, chef Simone Ciccotti is preparing a “sustainable menu dedicated to my Umbria entitled: an hour a day, culinary cocktail”. Ciccotti explains: “In the first course I revisited the egg in two moments for a never-ending tasting. Like us who want to move forward. I thought of Luisa Spagnoli’s Rossana instead when I made the candy for the 3 seasons of truffles, that is, the ones we lost. ”But these are just two of the dishes that will be brought to Villa Draghi: many other surprises are announced from the kitchen.

The details of the event will be defined this morning. There is a certain emotion among the promoters, a sense of responsibility and privilege to represent a land and its excellences that lockdowns and closures risk canceling: tomorrow in Città della Pieve there will be in addition to the owner of the ancient trattoria San Lorenzo, Lina Angelucci chef of Balestruccio, Alberto Massarini of Pentagramma, Petronilla Angelucci of the homonymous farm, Giuliano Martinelli of the Giuliano Tartufi company and the winemaker Marco Caprai. But support for the spontaneous initiative is coming from many operators in the sector. Like Gianfranco Vissani: “It seems to me the Sahara desert – he says – and after 13 months they have to give us real answers and help. There is only one life and the government must rekindle a flame that is now dying out. Life goes away, not only in catering, but more generally in human relationships. Trust and security must return ”.

This may be amusing for us who would never think of a protest with food like this, but that last sentiment really sounds a chord. A chord of despair among these restaurants and even the smaller Bars. It has been a very hard 13 months for them all. For us all…I wish I could go!!! Borrowed picture of the town.

It is a lovely town. I could easily live there. 🙂 Stay safe everyone and enjoy your weekend!

Code Yellow!!

I cannot believe we have not left this Comune since before Christmas. This Comune is not big. It encompasses Umbertide city and three of four other smaller towns. And that’s it! We did go to Citta di Castello to pick up our Permessi, but that was a legitimate reason. We had the official appointment. The fines can be upwards of €500 if caught without a reason.

We heard today we will go Yellow Zone on April 26. I can’t wait. The biggest changes from Orange to Yellow are the restaurants can open of lunch and you can sit down and have a coffee or a drink. We will still have everything closing at 6pm though. And the 10pm to 5am curfew stays. The other change is we will be able to leave Umbertide. And travel within Umbria. Not outside, just inside Umbria…but that will be wonderful! Wow! What freedom!
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Dinner tonight was from Calagrana. It was not one of the regional dinners like normally on Friday. It was a veal chop with the vegetables that go with it. It was delicious.

The weekend weather will be pretty chilly but no rain to speak of. Not that we have anything planned! How could we? There is the local market tomorrow. I will probably go out for that and a few errands I need to do. Sigh. Zona Giallo can’t come soon enough!
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Have a great weeknd! Stay safe. 🌈

Everyday food

Someone wanted my bolognese recipe. So here you go.

Ingredients
1 carrot diced small
2 garlic cloves minced
about a pound of ground beef
1 can (15 ounces) tomatoes chopped
About 3 to 4 cups whole milk
Pasta (about 8 oz)
parmesan to serve

Sauté carrot in oil. Add garlic for one minute. Then add the ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Add the tomatoes with juice and mix and cook a bit. Add around a cup of milk. Cook slowly until milk is incorporated. Add some milk every so often and let simmer into sauce. I try to cook the sauce for two or three hours. Or until it’s creamy and all the milk is incorporated. The amount of milk can be more if needed. It will become creamy. Once it is finished you can feeeze some of it. I usually get two or three meals for two from it. Boil pasta in salted water until nearly done. Drain. Saving some water. Return pasta to pot. Add sauce and some water and cook over heat letting the pasta finish cooking and absorb some sauce. Salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan. Mmmm.
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For our weekday lunches we often have egg “McMuffins”. Silly huh? We’ve been getting English muffins from Ely at Calagrana. They are not to be found elsewhere here. So we enjoy them. I have a cute little contraption I brought over here from the US that cooks my eggs to just the right size. I put it in a non stick pan, and add a pat of butter, salt and pepper. Heat it up and crack an egg in. Cover and cook 2 minutes. Remove that little ring and flip egg for 10 seconds. This “should” finish up with a not completely hard yolk. Depends on the size of your egg. Eggs are smaller here. It makes a good lunch. Here’s the ring. We have a set of four.

And here is the finished egg “McMuffin”. I toast the muffin and add cheese.

What else is there to do around here except eat? Well, that’s not completely true. We ran errands this morning. We picked up some cat supplies and went to the Coop supermarket. Brought it all back, to include emptying the trunk of four bags of pellets. We figure these are the last we will use this spring. All of this had to be carried up to our house. Huff puff.
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Italian phrase for the day…”ogni giorno leggo molti giornali” — English “everyday I read many newspapers”. Own-knee gee-or-no leg-go mol-tea gee-or-nahl-ee.
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Four of my friends here in Umbertide got vaccinated yesterday. Stupendous news! Soon it will be our turn, we hope. Stay safe everyone! 🌈

Winter returned

Not a lot going on around here. Our weather changed. We had a cold front come through and I had to cover my lemon tree again. It was -5C yesterday when we got up. That’s 23F. Pretty chilly for April. I saw a lot of snow pictures too, but we didn’t get any here.

Last night I picked up dinner from our friends Soudy and Emma. I’m not sure I’ve mentioned them before. They are a couple who offer a menu every Thursday for pickup nearby. They cook mostly ethnic foods. Thai, Indian curries, etc. But they have partnered with an Italian couple, who provide a second menu, usually Italian. Both offer vegetarian options. We tend to order every week. It is a nice change and I don’t have to cook. Last night it was gyros. Very yummy. Along my short walk across the Tiber bridge last night to fetch dinner…I took this photo. This is the city wall with the Centro Storico behind it. Brilliant blue sky at 6pm. Our house is around the wall on the left side. See the copse of trees? That’s right behind our house. The city wall turns there and continues around.

Italian phrase – “domani è il mercato locale” — English “tomorrow is the local market” — pronounced doh-mahn-ee eh eel merk-ah-toe low-kah-lee.
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The new case numbers in the US are really going up. I am not surprised. Things loosened up too fast. People need to keep in mind this virus has not finished having its way with us. We still must stay vigilant. Stay safe all my friends! 🌈

Buona Pasqua!

Umbrian beauty from my friend Jill’s garden. This picture is from our first lockdown a year ago when Jill sent pictures everyday of her spectacular garden. She kept me cheered up!
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Today is Pasqua. Easter. I’m not religious but I enjoy the rituals of the season. I did not buy a Colomba, which is the traditional cake of the season. It is shaped like a dove. Here is a borrowed picture.

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Pasqua Pranzo is the big meal. Normally huge groups of friends and family gather for the multi-course, Lent-ending meal. Heavy on meat after six weeks of fish! Sadly, because of the Zona Rossa lockdown no big gatherings are allowed. We decided to buy the Calagrana Pasqua lunch. Here’s the menu. Mmm mmm good.

I will post pictures of the food in tomorrow’s post.
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Phrase for today — “cielo azzurro ma freddo per Pasqua” — “blue sky but cold for Easter” — pronunciation…chay-low ahz-zur-row ma frayed-doh pear pahs-quaw. Don’t forget to roll those Rs!
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Stay safe everyone and buona domenica a tutti!

Spring has sprung

Finally we have passed through that dark, damp, cold tunnel that is winter here. The forecasted temperatures are the upper 60s or lower 70s. No cold snaps that I can see. I will be working on the terrace soon to get the soil ready for new plants.

Saturday kilometer zero market was it’s usual self. Happy people in the warm sunshine. I went out and saw a number of friends. I was shopping for soup ingredients. We are nearing the end of the winter produce. I admit I’m tired of the same old things. The greens and winter veggies. I am ready for new spring things. I see the wild asparagus is being foraged. But you’ve got to go get that yourself. It’s not normally sold. It’s too early for strawberries or anything like that locally. The supermarket has a small section of local things and I bought fava beans for the first time although I don’t see them in the market on the piazza yet, which is my bellwether. I’m not sure where they come from. They are soft and super fresh in any event. They were in our pasta last night.

I went over to Piazza San Francesco to leave something for a friend. This is, in my opinion, the prettiest Piazza in Umbertide. There are three churches. All the buildings were built in the very early 1600s. I noticed today that the gates to the cloister were unlocked so I took a couple of pictures. Just look at these stones! Look at all the many colors. Are any of them original? Which ones? Wish I knew…

These next two are the pavement directly in front of the cloister. Look at these stones. They are smooth river rocks of similar proportion. Flat. Probably collected from the river nearby. They embedded them into the earth with the narrow side up. Much work went into these and I figure they’ve been here a long time. They are only in front of the cloister.

Italiano phrase — “In bocca al lupo “ this means good luck in Italy. But it literally means “in the mouth of the wolf” — the correct response is “Crepi il lupo” or “May the wolf die”. Pronounced as it looks.
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Stai al sicuro…🌈