Category Archives: Italy

Lunch at Dancing Ewe Farm

Ever since I first heard from friends about Dancing Ewe Farm in Washington County, I’ve wanted to get there. I loved the romantic story about the owners meeting in Italy and coming together to create a life that includes family, sheep, cheese and authentic small production Italian products imported and sold from their barn and presumably online.

Yesterday was the day.

The trek north took approximately 90 minutes each way, a bit of a commitment for a midday meal but by no means a punishment on a glorious early July day. There was no traffic in our direction, but heading west into Lake George was definitely congested. Plan accordingly.

We arrived about noon, figured out parking and started checking the place out. Near the parking area, a canopied table was set up to offer guests a taste of the day’s wine selections. We sampled both the rosato and a bianco and found them both light and refreshing. Ultimately we selected a bottle (included in the price for lunch) of Sauvignon Blanc which was lovely with the three courses which we were soon to enjoy.

The aroma was intoxicating.

But, before the meal, there was first an informative history walking tour of the farm and some of the facilities. There were “Mexican” chickens,* herding dogs, sheep galore and milking, cheese making and storage areas. The tour was maybe 30 minutes or so and was interesting and totally casual.

When we arrived back at the barn, the long table was beautifully set with fresh flowers and a place setting which was substantial in both flatware (chintzy flatware is a pet peeve) and antipasti. Our plates were artfully arranged with 3 examples of bruschetta (roasted red pepper, sausage and mozzarella and, my favorite, roasted cauliflower which came with a wonderfully spicy little kick), 3 varieties of their cheese, one of which was drizzled with honey, presumably local to the farm or to the owners’ home in Tuscany. Also on the plate were a marinated artichoke heart, a sweet cipollini onion, some coins of dried sausage and a marvelous wedge of vegetable frittata. It was all killer and almost completely vegetarian friendly.

Next up was the main course, a gorgeous plate of four handmade ravioli served in a simple sage butter. The large pockets of pasta, filled with ricotta and spinach, were fantastically delicate, yet completely satisfying. Perfect.

We finished with a delightful panne cotta served with tender strawberries. Satiated, yet not stuffed we paid our check ($60pp +tax) and made our way slowly back to Albany with the remainder of our wine corked to enjoy later. Dancing Ewe is a lovely place and if you haven’t yet experienced it, I highly recommend it. $60 is bit indulgent for a midday meal, but it sure felt like a bargain ticket to Tuscany. Thanks, Mike & Leslie!

* a completely benign and inoffensive joke

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Filed under beauty, Brunch, Eating, Food, ideas, Italy, Observations, Recommendations, road trips, Summer, sunday, Uncategorized, upstate New York, Wine

Steps

In Italy, there are more steps than you can imagine. They’re everywhere. I remember my first trip to Italy, when I visited Liguria. I was so impressed with the beauty of the women – strong-looking women, with great legs from all of the walking they did, seemingly from terrace to terrace, probably with a glass of Pigato in hand. If there weren’t steps, there were hills and sidewalks to walk. The pace was comfortable, never rushed, and somehow life felt like something to be savored. It spoke to me.

I saw and felt a similar vibe when I visited Rome. There were steps everywhere and my legs got a workout carrying me all day as I explored the city. Again, there were steps too plentiful to count, and sturdy and attractive women. The pace was ideal and I found it easy to breathe there.

I thought about how steps in Italy actually took you somewhere. Your feet carried you from place to place and you felt, I imagine, strong from it. It wasn’t important, though, to measure or count those steps. I mean, what would a number measure? How many times you moved your feet? Who cares about that anyway? Do people really positively evaluate their lives on the basis of the number of steps they take in a single day? That’s just weird.

In Italy, everyone walks and navigates steps all around the country. The steps are what connect places to one another, city to city, town to town, village to village. Steps are how you get somewhere.

In America, people don’t walk regularly but they do talk about how many steps they have taken on a particular day. They wear devices to collect data about how far and fast they walked during a specific time period. People set goals and are encouraged and held accountable by their devices. It’s all about achieving a number, regardless of how you do it. A step is a step whether your eyes are open or closed. It doesn’t matter what you see along the way, the importance comes from a number.

I’m sincerely sorry if I sound judgmental. It isn’t my intent. We all take our motivation where we find it and I respect that truly. I was just so struck in the difference between the connotations of a simple word like “steps” in two different cultures. Maybe it’s time to stop counting and start going.

 

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Filed under Europe, favorites, Italy, musings, Observations, travel, Uncategorized

The things she carried

Returning from a long anticipated vacation can be challenging even without the body clock readjustment necessary from a six-hour time difference and a nine hour flight.  Fortunately, there’s some consolation in the form of souvenirs whether they’re physical, emotional, mental, or some combination of all three. My recent trip to Italy provided an excellent array of “things” which will continue to provide memories of a wonderful trip, as well as life inspirations moving forward. Some of the highlights…

In my suitcase I stashed the nearly intact hunk of fine Italian butter that I just couldn’t leave behind. I wrapped it tightly (and cozied it up next to a few slices of lovely prosciutto) and placed it in a small ziplock bag I had recycled. I thoroughly enjoyed the butter on toast for a number of mornings, sitting in my DelSo dining room.

Three bottles of Duty Free booze – a 10-year-old tawny port, Amaro, which I have limited familiarity with but want to experience, and a promising bottle of Amarone which I will uncork when the urge strikes.

A very large Toblerone bar to replace the one my oldest son lost a few years back to Jeter.

A beautiful green, wool blend overcoat which straddles the line between cozy duster and oversized topper. I bought it in Naples for 15e and it makes me smile when I see it hanging in my closet.

One clementine, purchased at the Campo de Fiori market in Rome. Still not eaten, but intended to fuel this weekend’s half marathon.

Two items purchased at the Vatican – a simple silver cross and chain for my youngest son as a special gift in honor of his 13th birthday and a key chain depicting the moment God created Adam. That went to the guy whose eyes could have inspired Michelangelo’s paint color choice.

The other stuff I returned with is far less tangible. I came home relaxed, refreshed and confident in my ability to find my way around a new city or two. I have an even deeper appreciation for how Italians live – their sense of priorities, their commitment to la dolce vita, the importance of history and beauty in the everyday.

My trip was days after the most recent school massacre and ever since I’ve been considering how only in America do we repeatedly have these kind of events. Our culture of guns and violence is unique and I’m thinking that when I retire I’d like to spend more time in Europe than my schedule currently allows. I need to get serious about getting a German passport and citizenship.

The biggest thing I brought home was a more clear vision of the life I want. Where I want to be, how I’d like to live and what sort of companion I’d like to share all of that, and myself, with in the future. It may not have taken up any space in my luggage, but these thoughts have occupied a big part of my head and heart since I returned. Time to carry on.

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Filed under aging, Europe, Italy, musings, Observations, travel, vacation

I ate (and drank) everything

(Let’s call this a throwback Thursday post. I started it last week on my final evening in Rome.)

It’s 8:00 in Rome and I’m starting to get hungry. The rain is pouring down, which makes my hope to go Enzo 29 again a bit soggy. I think I may need to stay closer to home on a night when the weather makes the prospect of waiting for a table at the perpetually busy Enzo more than a little discouraging. I’m out of wine so going out is my only option.

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But, first, what have I already enjoyed? The cream filled cornetto I had a few days back was pretty spectacular. Actually, all the pastry I’ve sampled have been perfecto. Not too sweet or overly large, but simply created from butter and spectacular dipped into a cappuccino.

I’ve had pasta – a lot. There was with delicate clams in Napoli, and Amatriciana, carbonara and cacio e pepe all from the same wonderful trattoria in Trastevere. Delicate duck filled ravioli and hearty rabbit ragu with paparadelle. Tender prosciutto and bresaola and the best friggin porchetta ever. Cheeses – fresh ricotta, something smoked from the provolone family and a burratta that almost made me cry. I enjoyed pizza margherita in Napoli, but it was trumped by the panini presented to me wrapped in paper and unlike any sandwich I’ve ever had before. There was also pizza in Rome at a special spot recommended by a local (to Albany) pizza aficionado called Bonci. The crust was like eating air.

Don’t worry – I ate my veggies, too, in the form of artichokes (both deep-fried and Roman style), sautéed chicory and other contorno. Oh! I also had zucchini flowers stuffed with cheese and anchovies which were divinely addictive.

I drank the most simple of wines. Falanghina in Naples and the house bianco and rosso in the trattorias where I took my meals. Of course, I sipped prosecco and limoncello to bookend a dinner or two and I tasted amaro and found it to my liking as well. The highlight of my wine consumption came in a single glass of absolutely divine Amarone on my last night in Rome, the night I initially began to write this post just a week ago. My belly, and more importantly my soul, remains full. Te amo, bella Italy.

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Filed under drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Italy, Observations, travel, vacation

Thoughts inspired by dinner at Enzo29

img_4217-1Americans are always the loudest. They want everyone to hear them but they don’t know how to listen. I want to softly tell the table of 6-Got-SUNY-semester-abroad written all over them, (unfortunately not in invisible ink), that I adore their enthusiasm and excitement but couldn’t they enjoy themselves just as much if they spoke in more quiet voices?

Waiting for a seat in a restaurant that I saved my cacio e pepe cherry for. Sorry if that sounds vulgar. It wasn’t my intent.

The crew here is outstanding. The door guy, smoothly and with a discreet disdain that even Paul McCullough could learn from, was impressive. The servers all served smiles.

This restaurant is at the end of a street named Salumi… Come on.

If I knew how to say it I’d say “I’m so sorry I don’t speak Italian because it is such a beautiful language.,” to every Italian I was lucky enough to encounter.

I just said “no bread.” I had the bread last night and it was delicious. I didn’t need it again, though.

It’s ok cool to be recognized with smiles when you frequent the same trattoria two nights in a row.

There’s a man wearing a lavender, I assume cashmere, turtleneck seated directly in front of me. He isn’t even trying to be ironic.

img_4221-1Holy shit. This cacio e pepe is the best pasta I’ve ever had. Ever. Period. The sautéed chicory on the side is a spicy green vegetable nirvana. Contrasted, yet companionable, to the pasta it all creates something which can only be described as sublime.

img_4222-1This meal is one of those that can be described as “final meal request” material.

I ate my full leaving enough on my plate(s) to prompt a couple of queries to confirm that I had found everything molto bene. Si! I just wanted to save room for dolce.

The tiramisu was worthy of service in this very, very fine trattoria. Bene. Molte bene!

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, Italy, Observations, Random, Recommendations, Restaurants, travel, vacation

#solotravel

I’m cozy in my Rome AirBandB with a glass (or 2) of wine and vague plan of taking a hot shower and heading out for dinner. I think I’m going back to the same place I enjoyed last night because I must have the cacao e pepe there. It wasn’t possible to fit it in my belly last night, but, tonight there’s room after a day of walking without a stop for lunch. I mean, if you don’t count gelato as a legitimate meal, that is.

It’s been a wonderful few days – actually I can’t believe I’ve already been in Italy for 5 days. It doesn’t seem possible. My pace has been mostly leisurely, but the days have passed quickly and I’m hyper focused on how many more meals I get to indulge in before I head home. Not enough.

When you travel by yourself, hours may pass with the only conversation you have is with yourself. Getting “lost” means nothing because there’s no place you really need to be. Taking a left instead of a right is ok. Eventually you’ll find your way to where it is you want to be. Yesterday, in Pompeii, I stood in the same spot for more than 10 minutes waiting for the clouds to offer me a peek at Vesuvius. I felt no haste, only gratitude for the luxury of time of my own.

Coming to Italy solo was a big leap. Of course, traveling to what feels like the most romantic city in the world would be lovely with a partner, but to not come alone would be a disservice to myself. Not experiencing this beautiful country, or the world at large, would be regrettable in a way that I’m not willing to know. Time to go shower. It’s almost my dinner time.

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Filed under beauty, Dinner, Eating, Europe, Food, Italy, Observations, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized, vacation

In Napoli…

The men flirt relentlessly.
One walks a little slower
Hips swing a little wider
Wet cobblestones are as slick as frozen sidewalks
The food is simply delicious
Scooters, motorcycles and cars compete for the road                                            Spaghetti with clams is everything it should be
Somehow the rain at night seemed the most romantic weather ever

I felt at home.

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Filed under beauty, Europe, Italy, musings, Observations, travel, vacation