May 31, 2010

Edible Florence: Obika Mozzarella Bar

I had a student say to me that all they had been warned that all places downtown Florence are touristy and to stay away. It is not true, many trattoria's, restaurants and wine bars are in the same place they have been for generations and happen to be visted by tourists as well as locals.

Recently a new restaurant opened on one of the most expensive shopping areas in town, via Tornabuoni.

In a prime tourist spot, on Via Tornabuoni, sits Obika' Mozzarella Bar.

I have been several times to the Osteria Tornabuoni, inside the building, but never gone to Obika as it was always so crowded.  It is located where my old bank used to be- and under the Palazzo Tornabuoni, a new property in Florence for time-share style apartments.

Today, finally warming up, it seemed the perfect moment to stop in.

We arrived before the lunch rush and sat inside. The acoustics were so bad with the music playing we moved outdoors into the courtyard under the umbrellas.

The menu is really nice and varied, featuring the cheeses from Southern Italy, a tasting place includes Mozzarella from Naples or Potino, closer to Rome as well as Burrata, smoked mozzarella and Ricotta.
Then there are side dishes to from sliced meats to vegetables or even the wonderful anchovies from Cetara. The ingredients have all been selected with care.

We enjoyed a plate of crostini with 'nduja, the spicy pork fat spread from Calabria.

I had the Potina mozzarella with a huge side of Sicilian caponata.

The portion size of the caponata was HUGE and also wonderfully rich with the addition of toasted almonds as well as the traditional pinenuts.

Andrea had the wild smoked salmon crostoni. 
There were three,as well as a chickpea paste to eat with the salmon.

The plates come garnished with small salads as well.

We loved out white wine, available by the glass, a Pinot Grigio by Felluga.

Total for lunch was under 50 euro- for such large portions and quality of ingredients a great price.

Via Tornabuoni, 16
8am -11pm

May 30, 2010

Bologna day-trip album

Thought you would enjoy a "taste" of my day-trip.
Did not accomplish all I set out to do... but a lot got done.

The fast train from Florence to Bologna is now only 37 minutes!

May 28, 2010

Day-Tripping: Bologna

Foto from yesterday's market tour in Florence

I adore markets,taking trains and day-tripping. It is a fabulous way to take mini-vacations without spending a fortune. I am on my way to combine all three!

We are heading to Bologna to check out the Slow Food Market there on Saturday mornings and the cooking school Amici di Babette for my Fall Slow Food tour with Jasper from Kansas City and Travels with Taste.

So now a quick review of places to go and things to do that I have not gotten to see before or to check out other friends recommendations.

Here are a couple of things I want to do in my over-night trip:
From previous visits I already have a huge list of places I love- and with new friends new places get added all the time.

May 25, 2010

Certaldo- Home Sweet Home

Since moving to Certaldo, but working in Florence, it has not really seemed a home. Now that I am teaching cooking classes at Villa il Poggiolaia  it has finally become home.

Having more time here has allowed us to finally plant an orto , our own vegetable garden. We ate our first peas last week and this week planted for summer crops, tomatoes, eggplant, chili peppers and watermelon.

The zucchini are now producing blossoms and tiny zucchini are also showing up. Now the decision- fry the flowers and eat the tiny zucchini or let them grow?

Since we are lucky enough to be able to buy or vegetables from local farmers too, no need to panic about fresh foods.

Certaldo has two markets, the larger one which is more like a moveable "shopping mall" is on Wednesdays when I offer my Market to Table classes and the smaller one in the parking lot is on Saturday mornings.

One of the most fun events in Certaldo is the Cena con Boccaccio which is held in June. The streets in the old city are set for about 350 people to dine outdoors with entertainment in the streets.
When you leave you take your tableware with you! Easy clean up!!!

Later in the year, in July, we have Mercantia, a medieval festival also help up in the old city.

The old city has been so well preserved and left to be fairly untouched it is a fotographers delight too.

Come and explore my new home!

The Val D'Elsa is a lovely valley between Florence and Siena- the "other" Chianti.
Rolling hills filled with vineyards and olive groves, it is a relaxing haven.
From here you can tour to Chianti Classico region, San Gimignano, Volterra and Colle Val D'Elsa where the wonderful lead crystal is made still using old traditions.

When we first bought the house, it needed intense restoration and in the process the work was stopped and it took 8 years of red tape to begin to finish the work.

NOT FRANCES MAYES- was a t-shirt I wanted to make to let people know the pain, blood,sweat and tears that are involved in restoring a house where you really need to rebuild.

The laws have just changed, allowing me finally to close in my courtyard and make a large kitchen with huge door/windows onto the garden and create a guest bedroom from what is now a tiny galley style kitchen.

Miracles do happen! We are in the process now of getting new permits and new plans for the work which will probably start in September. Who knows when we will finish!

Bring on the Martini's! I will surely need them.

May 18, 2010

Spring is Here

Although the rain has been non-stop, Spring is here.
The hills of Tuscany are like a velvet patchwork with tiny knots of red poppies everywhere.

The wheat fields swaying in the wind, the grapevines finally forming leaves, filling in the hills with shades of green. Acacia blossoms ( Black Locust) dotting the trees with white and exciting the bees as they fill the air with their buzzing around, creating our fabulous honey.

My husband waited for me to return home to harvest our first tiny crop of peas, and am I glad he did. They were so sweet. I ate some raw and considered making a pea salad, but Tuscan tradition won out. I made Peas Florentine style, using pancetta.

From the garden to the table in the time it took to shell them, what flavor and really O km cooking. We sauteed some of the new red onions we had planted also, used extra virgin olive oil coming from the Frantoio next door to our house and added some pancetta cubes.

The peas needed little cooking, a pinch of salt and a little water. We hated to ruin the flavor by eating anything else with them, so just had a bowl each of the peas.

The left-overs we tossed with some pasta and sprinkled with some parmesan cheese.

For the recipe stop by my article on FoodConnect, where I write twice a week.

Another GREAT recipe is as a filling for foccaccia. Mix some fresh ricotta with the cooked peas and use as a sandwich spread in a lovely Schiacchiata all'olio, the Tuscan Focaccia.
The bread is baked lower than a normal foccaccio and the top is brushed with olive oil and sea salt before baking and again with oil when it comes out of the oven.

I hope you all can plant some peas next year- we started in winter and created a little green house which turned out better than the ones we planted when the weather got better.
Live and learn!

May 5, 2010

Heading Home to Tuscany

Steve Sando and Judy at the Rancho Gordo demo

My long tour comes to an end and I took a couple of hours to just sit by the ocean and breathe.

People always ask me if I miss living in California- so much of the scenery is the same but there is no ocean. I also got my fill of food I miss, Chinese, Thai, some great Sushi and Mexican.
Perhaps tomorrow will have my bagel and smoked salmon breakfast and then I am ready to go home.

Had a blast with Steve at Rancho Gordo, was almost a "This is your life" moment as friends showed up from the hotel where I used to work and also from high school.

Thanks to all that came by. The final day was a family cooking class get together and the weather was perfect. Hosted by my friend Terry in her new Kitchen/School, the weather was lovely for dining outside and everyone loved the truffled salad and the three year old parmesan cheese with 20 year old balsamic vinegar!

my nephew ben and almost cousin austin

Ciao for now- arrivederci in Tuscany!