Surprise Birthday Party

Last night Luca organized a surprise birthday party for me!  How exciting.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a surprise birthday party before.  It was a low key event, but highly enjoyable nonetheless.  I thought we had plans to go eat pizza with Luca’s parents, but when we went to pick them up, Luca’s mom had prepared an elaborate birthday dinner and two of our friends were there waiting for me!  They gave me a beautiful Guess leather handbag.  (It’s kind of like this one, but beige leather instead of gold). 

The dinner menu included: 

Chicken Aspic (slices of chicken rolled with carrots and peas under a chicken stock gelatin)

Roasted red and yellow bell peppers with bagna cauda (olive oil, anchovies, lots of garlic, all slow cooked together into a flavorful sauce)

Crepes filled with Porcini Mushrooms, Ricotta and Bechamel & Crepes with a Spinach Ricotta filling

Roasted Goat and Lamb with a Mixed Green Salad

Assorted Artisan Cheeses

Two Birthday Cakes!! 

And of course, lots of wine and digestives afterwards.


Interesting Yogurt Flavors

Perhaps you’ve noticed that a few yogurt brands are branching out and developing innovative new flavors.  Yomo is one of the highest quality yogurt brands here in Italy and they have quite an array of new flavors, including:

fragola.jpgStrawberry Tomato – the mineral salts & vitamin C in strawberries (11.6% of the final product) and the “oligoelementi” & vitamins in tomatoes (5%) combine for a really red yogurt.  I noticed that they use concentrated beet juice to give the yogurt an extra rosy color!

 mela.jpgSpinach Apple – Iron & soluble fiber, baby yeah!

 pumpkin.jpgMango Pumpkin – Rich in vitamins A, E, potassium, calcium, phosferous & magnesium.

 fennel.jpgPineapple Fennel – Pineapple has detoxifying properties and fennel improves digestion and can even lower cholesterol.

 carrot.jpgCarrot Blueberry – Blueberries help the body’s microcirculation and improve vision, while carrots provide anti-aging elements and help repair damaged skin tissues.


Special Cheese From A Special Cow

Razza Modenese


There’s a special new Cru of parmigiano being made here in Italy.  It’s a parmesan cheese made with the milk of the White Modenese Cow, a race which is quickly becoming extinct. 

I’m dying to try it!  When I do I’ll give you the full report…

Salciccia Al Vino Rosso / Sausage Cooked in Red Wine

Here’s Luca’s famous wine and sausage recipe. I’m not editing it to make it easier for you all to understand. Luca never measures anything except pasta, so fly by the seat of your pants and use your best judgement. Enjoy!

*Quantities are per person. For example, for four servings, you should use about 600 grams of sausage.


Sausage, chopped into 3″ pieces 150 grams
Red Wine 1 1/2 cups
Rosemary 1 sprig
Bay Leaf 1 leaf (2 maximum)
Flour 1 Tablespoon or so
Butter 1 Tablespoon or so

1. Chop up the onion, shallot, carrot, and celery. The easiest way is to throw everything in a cuisinart, if you don’t want to dirty the cuisinart or prefer a more rustic dish, chop by hand into small pieces.

2. Heat a pot (something that looks like a pot you’d use to boil pasta water but with shorter sides) on medium-high heat. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil and heat. Add the chopped vegetables and cook until soft–don’t let them brown. Remove half the veg and add the sausage. Lower heat to medium if necessary.

3. When the sausages are about 3/4 of the way cooked and the pan is nice and hot and looks like it could use some liquid, pour in the wine. Add the reserved veggies. Lower heat and allow to cook until sausage is cooked through.

4. At the end, add flour and butter to thicken the sauce as desired. Bon Appetito!

Distinguishing Wild Mint from Stinging Nettle

heidi_shira.jpgLots has changed since we last spoke!! The biggest news is that I’m a proud new owner of an old Italian car and that I’ve officially moved out of Sinio and into Verduno, where I have my own apartment. The hotel and restaurant are officially open and all of the castellani are working like maniacs around the clock to keep up the four star standards.

Did everyone have a nice Halloween?! Luca and I made jack-o-lanterns (his second pumpkin carving EVER, can you believe it?!!) three days after the fact, but it was still a Halloweenish celebration. Here, people celebrate their friends and relatives who have passed away by bringing flowers to the cemetery and participating in a special graveside mass.

I went for a walk yesterday to look for some wild mentuccia to use in the evening’s Thai Spring Rolls. Unfortunately, I mistook a stinging nettle for wild mint and had a stinging nose all day long. Won’t make that mistake again!!

Here’s a picture from when our old exchange student Heidi came to visit me in the beginning of September. She stayed with us for a year in NY when I was in 10th grade–eeks, even before moltenchocolate was born!

Devo andare a letto adesso perche sono proprio stanca e domani sveglio presto. Santa Polenta. A presto!!

Piemontese Food

I’ve been in the US this week–and what a quick week it was! I came home for Sarah’s wedding and got to catch up with family and friends a little too. Heading back to Italy and the Sinio gang this afternoon.

Before I left Italy (actually, a long time before I left), Gigi and his family took me out to dinner at a great little restaurant where we had spaghetti with fruits of the sea. Anna isn’t a big fan of fish, so she had pizza instead, and Gigi introduced me to a great new digestivo called San Simone afterwards. Yummers!

nonna.jpgCristiana and Luciano (Chanin in dialect–pictured above) also invited me to eat with them. This time at their house for a wonderful and traditional Piemontese dinner. Cristiana’s gradmother (left) and Carmela, Walter, Bea, and Guiseppe joined us as well. We started with cocktails and then moved into the kitchen for the real feast: focaccia (Chanin used to be a bread maker!), torta salata (like quiche with lots more veggies), vitello tonato (boiled veal, sliced thin and served with a homemade tuna and anchovie mayonnaise), asparagus with fonduta, two types of lasagna (pasta al forno), roasted bell peppers with garlic, that had been slow-cooked in oil for two hours, the cheese course, bunet (a traditional custard dessert made with amaretti cookies and cocoa–everyone has their own secret recipe for bunet), and strawberries (diced and macerated in their own juices)! You can imagine how full we were afterwards–but everything was soooooooo good!!

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