Food glorious food…part two

Whilst travelling around Europe last year I took thousands of photos, some of these focused on the delightful array of food available from markets and the meals we consumed. Many of the photos are merely happy snaps, badly lit and slightly blurred photographs of the food we ate and often I was so absorbed in the eating of a tasty dish that I completely forgot to take a photo. Anyway, the first part of our journey and the food we ate is covered in Food glorious food…part one and I had meant to continue the story but never got around to it…until now.

The food in Italy can be bad, good or fantastic, we were lucky in that we chose good to fantastic food for the majority of the time and the two bad meals we ate were due to laziness and convenience, not bad for four weeks of eating in Italy. Italians don’t really do breakfast, at least not the way we do so we settled for the in-house breakfasts most of the time, although not great, we enjoyed trying Cruesli (Muesli with choc chips) and the array of home baked cakes and tarts at the B&B Villa degli Ulivi were scrumptious. Occasionally cold cuts of meat and boiled eggs were also available in addition to the pastries, jam and bread rolls, the coffee was usually very ordinary so we took to visiting the local bars for an espresso.

Wherever possible we tried local wines and local specialties, guided by the waiters in the restaurants and in Rome we asked the ‘host’ of the Cantina Cantarini to help us choose our meals, selecting fresh, seasonal produce and simple flavours so good that we returned the following night. In Florence we ate picnics outside the Boboli Gardens, pasta in the San Lorenzo Markets and spent an evening with our travellers at a inTavola cooking class, the class was so much fun and at the end of the evening we sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labour accompanied by a couple of glasses of wine.

Wherever we went I managed to track down a gelateria (even in Germany), I was on a mission to try as many flavours as possible and am proud to say that I tried 25 different flavours, some of them twice (pistachio, zabaglione and pannacotta) and some of which I don’t remember. I have to admit that there are just some flavours that I’ve never been really fond of such as melon or licorice so I stayed clear of them and there are possibly hundreds more flavours I could have tried however there was still a budget to stick to and having gelato for every meal was not the objective. Some of the more unusual (for me) flavours were: Coconut, Riesling, Fior di Latte (Milk), Torrone and Cherries and cream.

Here is just a taste of what we enjoyed in Italy, starting with local specialties in Vernazza to wild boar in Umbria, panettone in Siena and seafood in Sorrento, it really was a food tour of Italy and the extra kilos in weight that I gained were well and truly worth it 🙂

Buon appetito!

Pesto al trofie, Vernazza
Pesto al trofie, Vernazza
Fried seafood, Vernazza
Fried seafood, Vernazza
Sicilian Cannoli, Il Pirata Vernazza
Sicilian Cannoli, Il Pirata Vernazza
Learning to cook in Florence
Learning to cook in Florence
The first course ready to go in the oven
The first course ready to go in the oven, layers of eggplant, mashed potato with zucchini and pancetta, and fontina cheese.
The first course, made by us in Florence
The first course, made by us in Florence
Steak, Florence
Steak, Florence
Fried Zucchini, Florence
Fried Zucchini, Florence
Sweets on display, Florence
Sweets on display, Florence
Wild boar ragu and pappardelle pasta, Siena
Wild boar ragu and pappardelle pasta, Siena
Spaghetti with clams, Siena
Spaghetti with clams, Siena
Roast pork sandwich and Panetone picnic, Siena
Roast pork sandwich and Panettone picnic, Siena
Fresh fruit for sale, Siena
Fresh fruit for sale, Siena
Tortelloni, Siena
Tortelloni, Siena
Coffee to end the meal, Siena
Coffee to end the meal, Siena
Sausage pizza in Volterra
Sausage pizza in Volterra
Salami and pecorino sandwiches in Pienza
Salami and pecorino sandwiches in Pienza
A glass of wine to celebrate the day, Orvieto
A glass of wine to celebrate the day, Orvieto
Breakfast in Orvieto
Breakfast in Orvieto
A little food with our wine, Orvieto
A little food with our wine, Orvieto
Wild boar stew, Orvieto
Wild boar stew, Orvieto
Roast pork medallions, Orvieto
Roast pork medallions, Orvieto
Cooking over an open flame, Civita di Bagnoreggio
Cooking over an open flame, Civita di Bagnoreggio
Grilled vegetables at a cantina, Civita di Bagnoreggio
Grilled vegetables at a cantina, Civita di Bagnoreggio
Pastries for sale, Assisi
Pastries for sale, Assisi
Pasta and assorted food products for sale in Sorrento
Pasta and assorted food products for sale in Sorrento
Mixed seafood and pasta, Sorrento
Mixed seafood and pasta, Sorrento
Prawns and pasta, Sorrento
Prawns and pasta, Sorrento
Fresh lemons, Sorrento
Fresh lemons, Sorrento
Eating gelato in Rome
Eating gelato in Rome
Mmmmm...gelato, Rome
Mmmmm…gelato, Rome

…and so that was Christmas

Poinsettia plant
Christmas colour

Christmas Day in our family has always been about food, food and more food so it was nice to have a small Christmas celebration this year where we didn’t eat ourselves stupid. Normally the day starts with a cooked breakfast and then we snack on chocolates, peanuts, prawns and oysters before sitting down to a smorgasboard of meats, vegetables, salads and desserts for a late lunch. By the time night falls we’re usually too stuffed with food to eat anything else but do anyway because we’re often the guests of another family or group of friends.

Maxi in front of the Christmas tree
Maxi doing her best to avoid looking at the camera
Bundy and his Christmas present
Bundy and his Christmas present

With only four of us at our house (my parents and husband), the decision was made to go easy on the food and not cook every type of animal available from the butchers, a cooked breakfast was still on the menu but instead of snacking on seafood we enjoyed a tasty seafood lunch. Before we ate anything it was time to open our presents, even Maxi and Bundy got gifts from Santa and family members – chew toys, schmackos and liver treats. Bundy and Maxi had done alot of shopping, it is amazing how well they did, buying coffee mugs, running shoes and DVDs for all of us.

Australian King prawns with seafood sauce
Prawns and seafood sauce
Oysters Kilpatrick
Oysters Kilpatrick

With lunch out of the way it was a lazy afternoon of talking on the phone, reading magazines and newly acquired books, the two black dogs moving around the yard in an effort to try and find the best place to sleep. With the warmer weather comes flies and mosquitoes, mosquito coils and sandlewood candles helped to keep them at bay however a can of insect repellant was still required. Background music was supplied by cicadas, magpies, noisy miners, lorikeets and the occasional crow.

Dogs being fed prawn tails for lunch
Prawn tails for lunch
Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise
Tealight candles
Tealight candles

Our good friend Ron arrived late in the afternoon and joined us for dinner, the outdoor table was set with candles and bon bons, a casual affair enhanced by glasses of sparkling Savignon Blanc from New Zealand and Bundaberg Rum, a local and very popular brew. Dad had the duck roasting in the barbeque and the pork roasting in the George Foreman oven, Mum and I prepared vegetables and I decorated the cake I had made with icing and fresh cherries. Dinner was delicious, the vegetables were basted with duck fat so they were extra tasty and the cake was heavenly served with cream, ice cream and jelly. It was a successful Christmas meal and although we had plenty to eat our stomachs were not uncomfortably stretched, there was still room for the obligatory after dinner cup of tea.

Merry Christmas! I hope you all had a wonderful day, best wishes for the upcoming new year.

Cherry Cake
Cherry Cake

Food, glorious food…part one

Plane food, Emirates
Plane food, Emirates

You get fed well when flying Emirates, the meals are pretty good in comparison to many airline meals I’ve eaten but it is important that you don’t eat all the food on offer otherwise you will feel extremely uncomfortable and besides delicious treats awake once you reach your destination. When travelling around Europe you expect to eat good food and drink lots of wine because its usually cheaper than soft drink and mineral water and generally tastes good as well. We’ve had some great, inexpensive meals and also a couple of ordinary expensive ones, most of the time we’re dining on baguettes, paninis or crackers with cheese and cold meat but after a while the craving for vegetables and a different taste can’t be ignored.

Dinner in Paris, Rue Mouffetard
Dinner in Paris, Rue Mouffetard
Frites and mayo, Amsterdam
Frites and mayo, Amsterdam
Dinner at the Blazer Brasserie, Amsterdam
Dinner at the Blazer Brasserie, Amsterdam

In Paris we tried escargots in herb and garlic butter at La Grange on Rue Mouffetard, nice except for the slight hint of dirt on one particular snail. The bread served with the meal soaked up the herb and garlic butter nicely, in France and Italy the bread comes free with the meal. The cheese we bought made our fridge smell, we threw one lot out (it may have been perfectly okay to eat however the smell made us heave) and ate the rest cruising on the train to Amsterdam. Wine was cheap and much lighter in flavour than Australian wines, we ordered the house wine on most occasions and it was served up to us in a carafe or jug.

My favourite meal in Amsterdam was frites and mayo, the dinner we had at the Blazer Brasserie was delicious and the cheap thai (9 euro) on our last night was the best value. No way was I trying the pickled fish that are sold at stalls, I’m fussy about fish and they look horrible and slimy.

I’ve tried to remember to take photos of all our meals eaten at restaurants and cafes, having started well I’m now failing dismally and usually half way through my meal before remembering that I have a camera on me. The most expensive meal we had was in Lucerne Switzerland, I forgot to photograph the main and should have scanned the bill because it is a meal we won’t forget and not because it was the best one we had. The meal was nice, local produce and wines followed by luscious creme caramel with cream and strawberries, for 120 swiss francs you might expect more, but hey, we’re in Switzerland and everything is expensive.

Fresh asparagus, Hotel des Alpes, Lucerne
Fresh asparagus with Hollandaise, Hotel des Alpes, Lucerne
Creme Caramel and Strawberries
Creme Caramel and Strawberries
Macaroons, Lucerne
Macaroons, Lucerne

In Germany, Marty ate Weiner Schnitzel four nights in a row, it is a dish that brings back wonderful memories of childhood meals with his Grandparents and I have to admit that it was quite tasty. I tried having different meals even though we ate at the same restaurant in Bacharach and Rothenburg ob de Tauber, we enjoyed the company of the host at each place and the food was good. Our most memorable meal and one of our favourite experiences was courtesy of a friend of Marty’s, he took us to Neuschwanstein and showed us some of the surrounding area and then we went to his family home for the most delicious meal of roast pork, crackling, potato dumplings and salad. Just when we thought we couldn’t eat anymore Joe’s Mum brought out cherries and Bavarian cream and his Grandmother started cutting up cake. Their hospitality and friendliness really made our day, it was also nice to have freshly brewed coffee to finish the meal – we hadn’t had much success with coffee in Germany.

Salad for starters at Rusticana, Bacharach
Salad for starters at Rusticana, Bacharach
Venison stew with potato dumplings, Rusticana Bacharach
Venison stew with potato dumplings, Rusticana Bacharach
Wiener Schnitzel, Rusticana Bacharach
Wiener Schnitzel, Rusticana Bacharach
Roast Pork and dumplings, Rothenburg ob de Tauber
Roast Pork and dumplings, Rothenburg ob de Tauber
Roast pork knuckle and potato dumplings, Hofbrauhaus Munich
Roast pork knuckle and potato dumplings, Hofbrauhaus Munich

The food in Italy is so far, so good, breakfast was lacking initially (prepackaged croissants and toast) but our stay in Varenna on Lake Como has proven to be a ‘filling’ one. Seafood in Venice is a must, I even ate little fishes fried in batter, at first quite nice but after a while I couldn’t eat anymore and the whole prawns fried were nice (couldn’t bring myself to eat the heads) although I after consuming half the meal I was a little over eating whole fried creatures. Chocolate shops and sweet shops line the narrow streets, Lindt and Perugian chocolates of all kinds and you can pick and mix – we added to our stash of sweets for the Easter weekend. We couldn’t find crostoli anywhere, a small bakery over near the Rialto markets sold something very similar and we ate the sugary fried treat as a snack while walking back to the hotel, wish I could remember what it was called.

Flavoured cheese, Lucerne Markets
Flavoured cheese, Lucerne Markets
Gnocchi with prawns and zucchini, Venice
Gnocchi with prawns and zucchini, Venice

In Florence we’ll be attending a cooking class, maybe I’ll have something more interesting to write about, until then I’ll try to remember to take more photos.