Fresh Ricotta Anyone?

RicottaItalyandMeOk. Admit it. Your image of ricotta comes from a tub bought in the supermarket. Dry and tasteless. Think again. Imagine ricotta so light and smooth that it melts on your tongue.  It has a rich yet vibrant taste.  That’s the real stuff.  When in Rome last October I became addicted to this. Try it with honey. Yum.

The only sad thing is that it’s almost extinct here in the U.S.  I’ve searched high and low.  Some say “make it yourself” with a combination of heating milk and curdling with lemon juice.  This produces a nice and light homemade cheese but it is NOT ricotta. Ricotta (re-cooked) is an Italian whey cheese made from sheep milk whey left over from the production of cheese. Similar but not the same.

I sure wish I had some right now.  Don’t you?

Carabinieri. Searching for My Italian Style.

While in Florence for the annual Gelato Festival, I spied these handsome gents sporting that ever so illusive jaunty Italian style.  All I can surmise is that it’s either in the espresso or the genes.  I think I will have another cup, please.

Ode to Italian Undies.

Do you ever wonder what Italians think of our endless fascination with their laundry?  We go on vacation armed with our best cameras but, alas, we seem to ignore the beautiful countryside in favor of taking picture after picture of their undies suspended high above our heads.

So, this picture is my ode to Italian underwear.  I think the juxtaposition of the laundry and the old building makes a good picture.  What say you?  This photo was taken in Pienza in May of 2012.

Wild strawberries. Simple and sublime.

Strawberries Sostanza Florence bbeeman

Mouth watering wild strawberries in fresh cream.  True Italian style.  This simple and the sublime dish was served up to me at Trattoria Sostanza,  Il Troia as it’s often called,  after I dined on a decadent dish of baked chicken smothered in butter.  The concierge at my hotel assured me this place was easy to find and just around the corner from the hotel, but failed to tell me that if I got there too early a rolling door would hide the restaurant from view. I was early because I did not have a reservation.  I was armed with a verbal note from my knowledgeable Florence tour guide from earlier in the day.  “Just tell them I sent you”, advised Ann Reavis, a  guide arranged by my friend of Judy Witts Francini.  “But get there early.”  So I wandered up and down the tiny street until they flung open the rolling door.  I then had an ah-ha moment.  Upon entering I firmly announced my recommendation from Ann and they grudgingly found me a seat at a communal table. My seatmates were an Italian family celebrating something (never did figure out exactly what they were celebrating) and a young British couple.  The simple decor and brusk mannerisms of the waiters were unimportant. I had my prized seat and mustered up my best Italian to place my order.  Over dinner we discussed American politics and I learned about how my British friends met and later married.  The wild strawberries and cream topped off one of my best evenings on my own in Florence in May of 2012.  As I made my way back to the hotel, I found myself surrounded by a bevy of stylish young Italians mingling outside a nearby restaurant.  “Maybe someday this will be me,”  I dreamed.  Yeah right.  If you would like to read more about Trattoria Sostanza, here is a great post from Elizabeth Minchilli.

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Italy: Storybook Land and Dante’s Inferno

IMG_1194This is the amazing view from Castello di Monteriggioni in Toscana.  As the sun set after a long day of touring, wining and tasting we settled in at the Fattoria, Castello di Monteriggioni near Siena. Before dinner we walked all around this little town where there are no autos allowed.  Built in the early 1200’s, Monteriggioni is an excellent example of a medieval walled town. You can find mention of this fairyland in Dante’s Inferno.  Photo taken in May of 2012.

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Style. Even Italian beehives have it.

I spied these stylish Italian beehives during a splendid afternoon and evening at Agriturismo Il Greppo,  a lovely winery and bed/breakfast located somewhere between Siena and Montepulciano. Before dinner and as the sun was setting amongst the vineyard, we were treated to tour of the grounds, the production room and a full round of wine tasting.  As a result I left with an entire case of Vino Nobile.  Il Greppo wines are based on the Sangiovese grape. and their main production is Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.  We also tasted Rosso di Montepulciano, Chianti and Vin Santo. Una bella esperienza!