Sunday, February 25, 2007

A taste of Venice

We set off for Venice with a few warnings regarding the food: that it was overpriced and lousy, mostly. I did get some restaurant names from friends, and also, the day before we flew, I lucked out to receive a book in the mail that had a number of recommendations for good, traditional osteria, so I wrote down the suggestions, along with some of the Venetian dishes I wanted to try, like the spaghetti with squid cooked in its own ink. Venice is, I'm sure, more expensive than other parts of Italy, if only because of the tourism industry and the fact that it's an island. But I can say that it was easier to find a good meal there than in the town in which we live, so I've really got no complaints. We ate a good amount of pasta, and pizza, and we did not go to any expensive restaurants. Griffin likes to eat spaghetti with butter and cheese, so this was not the time for any fancy evenings out. We stayed the casual course.
Wyatt is pictured, above, with a bowl of vegetable soup, which was a perfect beginning to a homey meal on a cold, dark night.

And a lovely beginning to one sunny day could not be denied the boys: a Nutella crepe eaten outdoors, with hot chocolate to go with.

This was one version of mozzarella in carozza the boys ate at a little oesteria in the Dorsoduro district. They made and excellent salad with mixed greens, artichoke hearts, anchovies, tomatoes, dressed lightly with oil & vinegar.

One of a few samplings of gelato. We tried mint, mint chocolate chip, panna, Baci, & chocolate. Not all at once.

This was the mozzarella in carozza we found at a little place near the Rialto that had an impressive line-up of snacks and seafood dishes. It was a diner-like environment.

I ate the arancini w/shrimp and I think the other piece on my plate is a fried eggplant.

A great pizza Margherita at Sportivo in the Dorsoduro. The crust was thinner than the layer of cheese.

These are traditional Venetian frittelle, fried balls of dough rolled in sugar. The classic version contains sultanas and pine nuts. One was filled with a pastry cream, and the other was filled with a zabaglione cream.

This was an appetizer platter with a sampling of traditional Venitian treats. A fresh scallop, a fried shrimp, a fried small fish (small fry), a fried zucchini, a piece of bread with a bacala mixture, and a slice of a vegetable torte that contained a lot of sweet peas and carrots.

I wanted to try the bacala with white polenta, but it wasn't my favorite dish. Personally, I found it to be too strong a flavor. It's extremely fishy smelling, with an oily texture, and was overwhelming to me.

Spaghetti with clams is one of my favorite foods, and this was a straightforward & simple version. I enjoyed many plates of pasta with fresh shellfish and squid. If you like seafood, this is a good place to visit!

My first Bellini in Venice! Delicious! This was served to me at our hotel.
It tasted better than the one I tried later in the week at Harry's Bar. The one at Harry's was good, of course (I'd say it's hard to get a bad Bellini), but expensive. We paid 33 euros for three Bellinis, two of which were non-alcoholic. But it has to be done, once.

Wyatt dipping a taralle into his bowl of pasta e fagiole, which he really enjoyed. He's such a good eater and is adventurous, so it is always fun to travel with him.

Venice is risotto country. Here is a delicious & warming vegetable risotto Wyatt & I shared on a cold evening.

Griffin liked to sample the local vino rosso. Just kidding, that's a Coke at a little place we stopped at for lunch somewhere in San Marco.

Produce at a grocery store looked very fresh and colorful.

A lovely affogato -- cold vanilla ice cream with a shot of hot espresso.

Venetians seem to really enjoy snacking, and that suited us perfectly, because as we were out and about, walking around, we could always duck into some little place for a bite to eat, or a slice of pizza. I loved how, in the evenings as people were leaving work, they stopped off at the neighborhood wine bar for a tiny bite and to share a glass of wine with their friends and neighbors. The matrons in their fur coats and pearls, sitting down for a leisurely Campari or spritz with their friends, chatting and looking at photographs of the latest grandchild. These scenes offered me a glimpse of a life that I have never known.
It was a pleasure to be able to relax and eat and drink in these restaurants where we were greeted with smiles and warmly welcomed. The boys would get a gentle pat on the head or a hair ruffling, and once, when a fast-swinging door slammed back into Griffin's forehead, the evening crowd roared in shock and quickly rallied to comfort him with soothing words. One gentleman kindly offered Griffin a small wrapped piece of chocolate retrieved from his winter coat pocket. It says a lot about the Italian culture and sense of life, and I left the city with great admiration for the city and its people.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Venice continued...

Il Ponte dei Sospiri...
I, too, sighed, when I took my last glimpse of Venice.

Campo San Marco.

Griffin about to hurl on the red velvet sofa.

I travel across the sea to find...Fritos at the bar! Had I not been so preoccupied with sick children, I would have volunteered to introduce the Italians to Frito Pie, as this bar was right off the hotel kitchen.

The action figures go with us everywhere. Here they are attacking a pitcher of milk. Or maybe they're rescuing it; I'm not sure.

Griffin is always talking more than he's eating...

The Redemption of Tiramisu.
For years, I have had a hate-relationship with this dessert. All is forgotten, as I tasted the real deal. It's all about the custard.

Grand Canal

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Serene Republic

Riding on the Alilaguna Ferry to Venice, from Marco Polo Airport.

In the heart of San Marco.

Hot chocolate and cappuccino at Cafe Flore, on the Piazza San Marco.

Beautiful details everywhere!

One of my favorite dishes: spaghetti with clams.

Our first evening. Seeing the lights strung the entire length of the street had the effect of lifting my heart, like pre-Christmas.

Our wooden headboard. A carved angel's head, and inlaid mother-of-pearl.

The boys running through one of the campos. They heard a dog barking around the alley. It was probably a fierce shihtzu.

Heading across the Accademia Bridge, over the Grand Canal.

Trying on masks as Ca' Macana.

Spaghetti with squid cooked in its own ink. Salty. Eating it leaves your mouth black.

What a serene scene.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

An evening of bitters

As usual, yesterday my best-laid plans were derailed. I planned a thoughtful, romantic dinner, attempting to recreate a dish I tried in Italy: tagliatelle with shrimp & arugula, with a light cream tomato sauce. I started the evening with Campari sodas and a bowl of potato chips, which, again, I copied from a cafe I visited. I've been told that Italians love bitters, and so do I. Campari is my favorite apéritif (technically in the "aperos" family of bitter drinks), and I love arugula.

All was going so well, until Griffin called out from the bathroom about a lost roll of toilet paper. I thought he meant he needed toilet paper, but it turns out, he needed the toilet paper roll fished out of the bowl, because he'd dropped it in there. You don't even want to know -- it was a visual that I will need to erase from my mind. So Troy and I argued over whose turn it was to do "that" kind of a job, and I lost.
We scowled at each other for a while and then managed to (kind of) like each other again by the time dinner was ready. The salad was good.

The pasta sauce was just okay, not a great replicant, and then everyone -- right, because we weren't alone, we had our romantic dinner with four boys running in and out of the area -- was exhausted.

So the planned affogato for dessert was nixed. Foregoing the espresso/caffeine, we had vanilla ice cream with chestnut honey and pine nuts instead, and then soon called it a night. So much for my execution of Mannix's concept of dating in. Next year I'll hire a sitter and run like hell.

Good riddance, St. Valentine!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day!

Following the advice of my style guru, Mannix, I got tulips. He's right, they're a great choice. So fresh, simple, and chic.
And then I made La Nige's love buns. Devoured by all.

Here's to love & happiness. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

"When I was a chambermaid in Venice..."

Dazed from 48 hours stuck in Frankfurt, we arrived back home late yesterday, and feel very happy to be showered!
I am convinced that, had Dante lived to glimpse the modern world, he would have defined Frankfurt International Airport as another terrace of Purgatorio, or perhaps even classified it as the 10th circle of Hell.

Here is a shot of our bathroom in Venice, where you can see I continued my duties as chambermaid whilst on vacation, since the boys contracted an intestinal bug and left their mark all over the city & our clothing.
I have nothing but glowing remarks about the Venitians we met, who were kind-hearted, considerate, fun, and hospitable. We had a wonderful time, and my heart has been filled with a hearty dose of joy, for which I am very, very grateful.

It is an amazing place, and I have about 500 (give or take) more pics to share with you!