samedi, octobre 23, 2010

Collecting Passports from Milan

The B's building in Milan

We have never taken a train in Italy and having read an American mum's recent account of her (seemingly complicated, danger-filled) ticket-buying experience, I was needless-to-say a little worried about having to do the same myself.

In fact, after 3 trainless years here in Modena, I suddenly found myself, in a matter of weeks, faced with the need to buy train tickets to Zurich and to Milan.

For the former, I went to the station armed with accompanied by a French mum and we were both surprised at how pleasant the whole experience was. Certes the queue was particularly long, but we were well received and the ticket seller did all she could to help me plan my trip, find the best connections at the best prices etc. I bought my tickets Modena-Zurich in less than 15 minutes which I thought was fast for Italy. And at no time did I feel endangered by any person next to me gypsy or not.

Then at the beginning of the week, braver after the last experience, I decided to try buying my train tickets to Milan online. From choosing the trains to paying up, it took me about 10 minutes and I even printed my own ticketless tickets. Was the system easy-to-use or was I a genius?

Of course Hub had to tell me a few days later that he had a change in plans and would in fact be able to drive us to Milan where he had a meeting. Here I had a few complications simply because I didn't want to trust the Italians and decided to physically turn up at the train station to try to have my tickets reimbursed. I was told that it could only be done online since my tickets had been purchased online. Sure.

With 24 hours to go before we were due to leave for Milan, I doubted if the Italians would be capable of reimbursing me in time. I was wrong, of course. In one click, the website cancelled my ticket and reimbursed me. 20% less what I've paid (and those tickets have been expensive), but they accepted my cancellation with no questions asked. How's that for efficiency?

Hub drove us to San Donato to take our metropolitan to the French Consulate. He dropped us a few hundred metres from the metro and as we walked through the bus bay, I checked to see if there were cameras (I drove through there the last time). Of course they had to be where I actually stopped my car at the zebra crossing to let the pedestrians cross the street. You can be sure that they'll be able to even admire my person when they check the video for violations of my sort. Sigh...

We had lunch in this Japanese restaurant Tsukimi opposite the French Consulate and it was quite good. The ambiance was nice and the set lunches were value-for-money. Milan does have nice restaurants. Not to forget the nice shops that we walked past on our way to Turati. Armani has this huge flagship store complete with a chic café filled with chic people. How's that?

Then we met up with the B's who used to live in Modena. They live near the modern French School where their 3 girls are now studying and it is amazing to see how much the girls have grown and changed since the last time I saw them! We had dinner together in a small Indian/Nepalese restaurant Namaste and once again the food was quite good. It was lovely seeing the B's again and I still feel sorry that they had opted to leave Modena over the schooling issue. But isn't that what most parents would do for their children?

Clams and Mussles with Chanterelles and Sancerre

Clams and Mussles with Chanterelles and Sancerre

The kids are on holiday this week and we'll be away in London to visit Legoland, the Science Museum and do a spot of shopping! Weatherman has predicted rain, but what the heck, we'll beat the weather and try to have fun - I hope.

Have therefore been busy trying to get the luggage packed and a few odds and ends tied up before we leave. We were in Milan yesterday to collect the kids' passports and met up with the B's for an Indian/Nepalese dinner in the evening.

Didn't feel like cooking much, so prepared really simple dishes in the last few days. One of them was this Clams and Mussles with Chanterelles and Sancerre.

The usual olive oil, garlic, white wine, salt and pepper. Only it's still mushroom season so we also had some fresh chanterelles that had been sauteed with the garlic and a few drops of Hub's very good Sancerre. Not forgetting a few slices of crusty fresh baguette to soak up the sauce.

Cooking Catalan with LY

LY's Fideua

We have come full cycle when LY demonstrated Catalan cooking to our cookery club - 6 lessons, 6 different cuisines since we started our club in April this year. And we will start over with CT's turn (again) in a few weeks, at a more sustained pace this round as we really enjoy coming together to cook and eat. Besides, I need to have my turn since we'll be leaving Modena sometime early next year.

Now, LY was not born Catalan. Though she became one when she married her Catalan. This means that we'd probably do Syrian the next time ha ha. The wonders of mixed marriages giving us ever more cuisine options for the cookery club - without having to take in extra members.

The menu that morning was : Escalivada, Fideua and Brazo de Gitano. Yum yum.

For those of you who are not familiar with Spanish cooking, escalivada is a typical tapas in Barcelona where tomato puree is spread on toasted bread which is then topped with roasted aubergine and peppers and preserved anchovies. We learnt something new that morning, namely that you could roast aubergine quickly by placing it directly on the fire. But be prepared for some messiness.


Meanwhile, Fideua is the noodle version of the famous paella and LY's version was absolutely delicious, made with freshly-made fish broth and prettily-presented.

Ladling fish broth onto the fideua

Brazo de Gitano is actually a swiss roll, easy to make and so lovely to finish a meal with.

Brazo de Gitano

We had a great time as usual and were running a little late since we started out with coffee and talked too much (especially me). And CT wasn't around in the early part of the morning to help cut and chop as he had Italian lessons and his fabulous knife skills were sorely missed :-).

It is difficult to imagine leaving my cookery club friends behind in a few months. I would have to join GA in becoming the next empty chair. Mais c'est la vie, I'll hopefully learn new tricks and recipes in my next destination and if God wills, maybe make friends as wonderful as the ones I am going to say adieu to soon.

jeudi, octobre 21, 2010

My 2 New Babies

Canon EOS 500D with EFS 18-55 Lens

If you know me by now, I am like my mother in many ways. Like if I couldn't decide between 2 things I may end up buying 3.

I woke up this morning and decided that I needed a new camera. Do not get me wrong, I am not going to abandon my old and trusty Sony Cybershot DSC-T5 that I have been having for donkey years now. I've spent a part of my childhood writing English compositions pretending to be a lost or abandoned pencil, so I have a lot of respect for inanimate objects. I have lost my nice pink Parker 3-in-1 pen the other day and I am still mourning its loss, wondering if it's lying alone in a drain or being abused by some gipsy. Where are you, pen?

I just felt that my camera needed a sibling and/or friend. I've been toying with the idea of a reflex camera for a few months but my reflexes being quite slow in general, I haven't found the money courage to go ahead and buy one. And then ever since Tati lent Hub her camera to take pictures of the girls underwater, I've craved for a water-resistent camera...

Well folks, I've acquired non-identical twins this morning : Olympus MJU Tough 3000 and Canon EOS 500D with EFS 18-55 lens. Since I take pictures without ever finding the time to print them out, I'm sure I'll have fun (and space) trying to use both cameras.

My birthday is coming up in a week, so I'll try to pass them off as my birthday present.

lundi, octobre 18, 2010

Roasted Chestnuts

Peeled Roasted Chestnuts

Elaine told me this morning that Hub's former boss OR (also her Hub's current one) died of cardiac arrest at the age of 49 while out cycling over the weekend. At the very same moment, my cleaning lady came by and told me that her friend in Ukraine was killed by a bus when she stepped off the pavement in a hurry, working a few jobs to raise 2 young children on her own. She was 33.

All this just when I've been thinking alot recently about life and death and how unpredictable it could be. One could be laughing one moment and dead the next. You could go out and never return, leaving your children waiting for you in vain. You could save your best dress for a special occasion that you may not live to enjoy. You kiss your Hub goodbye as he leaves for work and that could be the last one you'd ever give him. How depressing is all that?

It's age and the cold all getting to me. I am getting morbid. I feel like roasting chestnuts all the time.

I bought one of those roasting pans with holes in it, a chestnut cracker and a few bags of chestnuts. My fireplace does not work as one needs to open the windows when using it which is so stupid it is not worth the try. I roasted them on my gas stove instead.

Basically you pinch each chestnut with the chestnut cracker twice on the same side so that you get a cross. Then you put them in the roasting pan, cover with aluminium foil and roast them over the fire for about 15 minutes, shaking the pan from time to time to roll the chestnuts over to the other side. You can hear them crack open when they are cooked.

The Teenager loves roasted chestnuts. Peel them while they are still hot.

Porridge with Chestnuts and Raspberries

Oat Porridge with Roasted Chestnuts and Fresh Raspberries

I love porridge. Whether it be made with rice or oats. Though I only eat it sweet if it's not made with rice.

I've been roasting chestnuts now that it's Autumn and is getting really cold. The fat is starting to stock up on top of the layers that I already have and I had a craving for breakfast this morning when I usually couldn't bear the thought of eating anything sweet early in the day.

Made Oatmeal Porridge with Roasted Chestnuts and Fresh Raspberries.

1 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
4-5 tbsp quaker oats
a pinch of salt
enough milk to cover the oats

peeled roasted chestnuts
fresh raspberries

Microwave the oats with the condensed milk, milk and salt till the oats are cooked. It took less than 2 minutes in my oven. Cover if you do not want it to splutter.

Stir well and top with roasted chestnuts and fresh raspberries.

dimanche, octobre 17, 2010

Dinner for 14

Smoked Salmon Sandwiches

When we were living in Andalusia, we often wondered why we were rarely invited to our Spanish friends' homes for a meal. Over time we would understand that that was because they rarely dined indoors with friends, preferring to grab a bite in a tapas bar when there was company.

In Germany, our German friends rarely invited too. Especially not to dinner since most Germans in the south like to have a cold meal in the evening. I was told that an Italian colleague of Hub's was once invited to dine in a German home in Reutlingen and was really excited about it. At 6pm, she was called to the table where they had some cream cheese with berry coulis - a nice afternoon snack thought she. But when nothing else looked like coming after 8pm, she finally realised that what she had before was actually dinner.

We didn't fare better in Modena. Whether at home or in a restaurant they like to eat pasta. And most Italian women work nowadays, so not many know or have the time to cook. Every time we did a pot luck, our Italian friends would either ask their mothers/aunts to cook or buy something from a shop.

But you will tell me that I seem to be going around alot eating in other ladies' homes. Which I did. But they were mostly our fellow expat friends and the most inclined to entertain at home were often French or Asian.

I did a dinner for 14 last Saturday at home. With 2 German families who have become rather close friends over the years. I told MB that I will miss her alot when I leave and I meant it. My heart is starting to feel heavy even though I am looking forward to the change.

The expat community in Modena is particular. With only one international school and a few companies hiring expats, you will know almost everyone with a child who's of school-going age here. "Are you from Tetra Pak or Ferrari?" is often the first question that we would ask a new arrival. And since most women in the community do not work, you'll be seeing quite a bit of each other (the ones you have affinity with) in the week and often also on weekends. After a while, you may even go on holidays together.

What I like about the expat community is that most people are well-off without being ostentatious about it. And we come from everywhere and are usually open to new faces, always happy to welcome someone new to the fold. You may get sick of eating pasta after a while, or not having exciting places to shop in; but you will enjoy the friendships that you will make here.

The empty bottles the day after

Hub spent quite a bit of time checking out the wines in his cellar for the meal. To make his job easier, I promised to cook a French dinner (click on some of the dishes for the recipes) :

Smoked Salmon Sandwiches

Baked Sausage Rolls

Dom Pérignon Champagne Vintage 2000

Barton & Guestier Sauternes 2006

Boeuf Bourguignon on Fresh Tagliatelle

Paolo Conterno Barolo "Ginestra" Magnum 2003

Camembert "La Rustique"

Pane di Genzano

L de La Louvière Pessac-Léognan 2000

Ice Cream

Choice of Digestives from Hub's private collection

Just like it is wonderful sharing good bottles of wine with those who love the grape, it is motivating to cook a good meal for those who appreciate good food. I found lots of pleasure preparing dinner for this group of friends, as much as I've enjoyed sharing the meal and the conversation with them at the dining table.

Porcini season is almost over, am having more and more difficulty finding the mushrooms fresh. That I will miss too when we leave Modena.

Da Pasticcino, Castelnuovo-Rangone

Ristorante Da Pasticcino

Hub found out yesterday morning that he had actually obtained his golf handicap the day he won the Tortelloni d'Argento (last month). So the Teenager will now be alone in his quest. The father will now have to keep practising in order to improve his handicap, for there are still many golf courses in the world that will only accept players with a low handicap.

Tagliatelle ai funghi porcini

With the kids at school exceptionally on a Saturday, we decided to celebrate the occasion by lunching out en tête-à-tête. Hub had been meaning to bring me to Ristorante Da Pasticcino near our place for a while now, so why not yesterday?

Filetto di manzo all'aceto balsamico with fried zucchini and spinach

The restaurant has 3 dining halls one of which looks out to a little patio. The food is good quality Modenese with some focus on Argentinian beef. Prices are normal for the region, the service reasonably attentive and the wine list correct and reasonably priced. In fact, Hub will tell you that during one of their last events they drank alot of good wine in the restaurant which was probably why he kept a good impression of the place. For our meal, we had a bottle of Banfi which was quite lovely indeed.

A toast to Hub's winning his golf handicap - at last!

Ristorante Da Pasticcino
Via Paletti 32
41051 Castelnuovo Rangone (Mo)
Tel : +39 059 535404

Foie Gras and Porcini Raviolis with Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Foie Gras and Porcini Raviolis with Aged Balsamic Vinegar

Hub's last words before he went to bed last evening were, "Those foie gras & porcini raviolis were really delicious...".

And he woke up this morning saying more or less the same thing. It is interesting how something as simple and easy to make as Foie Gras and Porcini Raviolis with Aged Balsamic Vinegar should make such an impression on my dear Hub. A pleasure for the cook, of course.

I had 6 adults and 8 children to feed last evening which was nothing new nor exceptional since I have been doing dinners of this size, see bigger, for a few years now. No, I do not have any domestic help and I cook everything myself. The only thing I lack is a huge fridge/freezer. I also wish that I have a larger reception. Hopefully this would be rectified in the next house we rent.

Foie Gras and Porcini Raviolis (makes 24) :

180g foie gras (cuit or demi-cuit)
3 fresh porcini mushrooms (cleaned)
2 tbsp sauternes wine
salt and pepper to taste

24 fresh won ton wrappers
dense porcini-infused broth (for poaching the raviolis)
aged balsamic vinegar of Modena

Slice the foie gras into approx. 3x1 cm slices. Slice the porcini into small cubes.

Marinate the porcini with the sauternes, salt and pepper for 15-20 minutes.

Fill each won ton wrapper with foie gras and porcini. Seal them making sure that there are no air pockets.

Bring the porcini-infused broth to a boil. You can use a stock cube or make one yourself using dried porcini. Lower the heat to medium-low and poach the raviolis 4 at a time. You just need to cook the wrapper so the cooking time is really very short.

Gently fish out the porcini & foie gras raviolis and arrange them on a plate. Drizzle aged balsamic vinegar over them and serve immediately. You'll need at least 4 raviolis per person as a starter.

PS : This was the ugliest ravioli. I kept it just for the photo and it was unfortunately torn before the poaching.

vendredi, octobre 15, 2010

Fried Ham and Cheese Won Tons

Fried Ham and Cheese Won Tons

I do not know why we're always trying to do as much as we can in a weekend. In fact, we've actually become so organised about it that in the last year or so, we started having our weekends booked (and often booking other people's weekends at the same time) literally months beforehand.

One of Hub's friends contacted him to ask if he could come visit. We looked through our agendas and realised that we have almost no free weekends until the end of the year! It is no wonder that the year is finishing so quickly for us, there is no time to watch the time slip by.

There is school tomorrow (Saturday) as it's the school's Open Day. It's always nice for visitors to visit when there are children studying and playing in the school. I am going to do a spot of grocery shopping and finish cooking tomorrow's dinner that I've already started preparing this evening. The menu has been kept simple as Hub wants to open a few bottles of good wine for his friends. So no spices and preferably nothing exotic. I'm basically going to cook French in other words.

However I cannot resist adding an exotic touch to the meal if you wish. There will be 6 adults and 8 children to feed, so the rule is always to stuff the children before the proper meal begins so that they wouldn't wreck the house while waiting for dinner to be served. One of my appetisers, I have decided, is going to be Fried Ham and Cheese Won Tons.

I've made them for an afternoon snack a few days ago and know that they work very well with the children. And they are so easy to prepare, requiring only won ton wrappers, cooked ham and cheese (e.g. cheddar, gouda, emmenthal...). I like to alternate layers of ham and cheese in each won ton wrapper. Seal and deep fry in hot oil.

Petits Pots de Crème au Chocolat (Chocolate Cream)

Petit Pot de Crème au Chocolat

I was thinking of my late maternal grandfather as I was driving to the Italian lunch today. He died in October 1988 at a rather old age. Still, I sometimes ask why he couldn't be younger when I was still a teenager. 16 was very young for one to lose a beloved gonggong.

I've spent my early childhood between my Malay babysitter and my gonggong. Who went with him to the cinema? I did. He would buy only one ticket for an aisle seat (for himself) and then spread his Chinese newspaper (that he only bought for the 4D results) on the floor beside him - for me. Then he would snore during the movie while I watched it. Very often I would need to go to the loo and he would bring me there - and tear out a page from his newspaper for me to use as toilet paper. Once in a while, you'd find a group of young men singing me this jitty in the movie hall :

"Xiaojie xiaojie ni zhen mei
Jinwan qing ni qu kanxi
Wo zuo yizi ni zuo di
Wo chi xiangjiao ni chi pi."

(Translation : You are so pretty little Miss, here's an invitation to the movies this evening; I'll sit on a chair while you sit on the floor, I'll have a banana and you can have the skin.)

And who spent her time with a group of old folks in Toa Payoh central (near the library) because that was where gonggong met his ah pek friends daily? Well, those days we didn't have to do too much homework - yet. I couldn't read or write when I entered Primary 1.

Grandpa walked me to Secondary School and back everyday (for 4 years). And he died the year I graduated - good timing if you wish since I would need to take 2 buses to attend Junior College the year after. I didn't see him after he died (in hospital) - so I only remember him alive. Dipping his soda cracker in his bowl of milo. I went on purpose to Temasek JC's open day (even though I already knew I would go to National JC) so that I wouldn't see him dead. Once they've closed the coffin, they wouldn't open it again. In my memories of my grandpa, he is always alive and kicking and I guess that that was how I wanted it even then.

I just want you to know that 22 years on, I am still very sad that my gonggong had to grow old and die like everybody else. I miss him very much.

Needing some comfort food, I found chocolate. Petits Pots de Crème au Chocolat. Used to buy them by the dozen from La Laitière when we were living in France. Very rich, but so very good.

Chocolate Cream :

150g dark chocolate
300ml full cream milk
200ml cream
4 egg yolks
1 egg
80g sugar
a good pinch of salt

Heat the milk, cream, chocolate (shaved or in small pieces) and sugar to a very gentle boil. Mix everything well together.

Beat the egg yolks and egg with the salt till just mixed. Gently stir into the chocolate mixture.

Pour the egg-chocolate mixture into ramequins, filling them up to maximum 3/4 of each ramequin. Place them in an oven dish. Fill the dish with water - enough to reach 3/4 of the ramequins.

Just out of the oven

Bake for 30-40 minutes in a preheated oven at 150°C. The custard should be slightly wobbly.

Before being chilled

Cool them in the open before chilling them for at least 2 hours in the fridge. Serve them cold.

jeudi, octobre 14, 2010

Meet Max

Max and the Babies out in the garden

This is the year of the kids bringing home some soft toy and writing about the things they did with it. Which is fine with me as long as it doesn't get mixed up in my own pile of soft toys or require me to sleep with it. Tetete would be jealous.

Jumping on the trampoline

This dog is called Max. It came home with Babinou on Tuesday and played with both Babies all afternoon. They watched TV together, went for walks in the fields outside and even jumped on the trampoline together.

Policing the fields

In the evening, Max went with us to Old Wild West for dinner and then to watch The Sorcerer's Apprentice at the cinema. I'm sure that Max would agree with me that Nicholas Cage was quite gorgeous as a sorcerer who probably hadn't bathed in a thousand years.

Max and the Babies in the cinema

Cream with Green Tea and Jasmine Petals

Cream with Green Tea and Jasmine Petals

Hub sent me an article from Le Monde about Facebook, how dangerous it is becoming and how we could modify our behaviour after being on it. But not being on FB is a bit like not moving with the times, and in any case, we're now being warned against so many things from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, the education our kids receive, the programmes we watch, the transportion we use, about the harm we're doing to the environment, the language we employ would soon become blasé, see fatalistic, about the dangers of living.

Besides, we are being watched/tracked all the time anyway. Immatriculation numbers for births, schools, clubs, cars, taxes, loyalty accounts, email, IP address, shopping at the supermarket, walking in the street, stalking blogs, the list goes on. See a tall and handsome rugby player bringing his kid to school - google up his name and you may know all about him, may print out his picture and sleep with it if you so wish. And in addition you also know his wife and children. (For the record, I've done none of that - am not into tall muscular men!)

My children are growing up in the FB Age. When I left school as a kid, I also left most of my friends behind (and found some of them lately thanks to FB). Today, the Teenager has probably more friends than me in his FB account (he's probably also less discriminating). Though I have not gone on his page to check him out - wanting to respect his privacy even though I am his authoritarian mother. However a number of mothers have told me that they made it a point to control their children's FB pages and I am beginning to feel like a bad mother for not doing so. What if he should fall into bad company, be bullied virtually...

Yesterday a friend told me that she reads the boy's pages from time to time and was surprised at the kind of language that some of the children employ. Fancy even my friend reading my son's page! After asking him a few questions, I discovered that even really "good" children employ "adult" language when they are on FB. And visibly the kids' mums must not be aware of that or surely they'd have freaked 0ut by now.

I do not see any point in forbidding him from doing this or that. I just told him a few real horror stories (that I've been following in the tabloids) and asked him to think of the consequences of whatever he should do or say. That at his age he should watch and choose his company carefully. If you've been following the tabloids, the weirdest things do happen in life. And you can only hope that they wouldn't happen to you.

Needing to be a bit more zen after all that excitement, I thought to make a few pots of Cream with Green Tea and Jasmine Petals. The operation is a little delicate as the idea is to infuse the cream with the tea leaves and not let anything else overwhelm the perfume and the taste. Only for those who love tea as the taste takes some getting used to. Can also be made with other kinds of tea notably Earl Grey.

Cream with Green Tea and Jasmine Petals :

300ml full cream milk
2 tsp green tea leaves with jasmine petals
80g sugar
3 egg yolks (with a bit of the white)
A good pinch of salt

Bring the milk to a boil with the sugar and the tea leaves. Remove from the fire and set aside for 20-30 minutes for the tea to infuse the milk.

Beat the egg yolks with the salt till just mixed.

Add the milk to the egg, mixing well with a whip. Filter through a sieve to remove the tea leaves.

Pour into ramequins. Place them in a water bath (bain marie) and bake in a preheated oven at 150°C for 30-35 minutes.

The cream should be slightly wobbly and it will firm up as it cools. To better taste the tea, allow the cream to cool at room temperature. For better texture, chill it for at least 30 minutes before consuming it.

Sprinkle a few tea leaves over each pot of cream and eat them with it - they are not just for decoration. The crispy tea leaves goes well with the cream, giving extra taste and bite.

Steamed Minced Pork on Silken Tofu

Steamed Minced Pork on Silken Tofu (with French Beans)

I have been busy. Like the Queen is English.

Though of course there are different kinds of busy. Like can-be-avoided busy (e.g. having lunch with friends, visiting Margi in Bologna, going to the sauna, learning how to knit with MD, planning holidays to London, Zurich, Shanghai and the French Alps...), cannot-be-avoided-anymore busy (e.g. doing the laundry because we've run out of underwear and socks, shopping for food as one has 6 adults and 8 children to feed in 2 days, making the kids do their homework...) and just-busy busy (aka I-do-not-know-why-I'm-busy busy).

When I was a kid I often wished that I could just sit around and do nothing (especially no cleaning windows every Sunday or doing tonnes of homework everyday). Though now that I am economically unproductive and the kids are at school - I find that sitting around doing nothing is one of the most horrible states in a person's existence.

So keeping busy is necessary even vital. Only some people are more productive in their busyness than others. I'm the sort who has been busy and has nothing much to show for it at the end of the day. Bollywood beauty spends her mornings busy in the gym and she has an hourglass figure to show for it; Me, I'm still fat, the house is still in a mess, the kids are still not brilliant, and my to-do list is so long I've lost track of where to start.

Anyway, I started out the morning booking the hotel for our weekend in Zurich (and I'm close to finalising our coming week in London) and I am just procrastinating on getting the clothes, furniture etc sorted out. We do not yet know for sure (meaning it's still not official) where we'll be going to next, but we do know that we will be leaving Modena in a few months. Hub had made his intention to leave the company known to his hierarchy a few months ago and they have finally approved it the day before. Once they've found someone to replace him, we'll be free to leave. And every one in the family is looking forward to the change - surprisingly.

Before being steamed

When I procrastinate, I cook. Steamed leftover minced pork and prawns from yesterday's dumpling soup on silken tofu. That was for breakfast. Now, what should I cook for lunch?


dimanche, octobre 10, 2010

A Busy Saturday

UNA Poggio dei Medici Golf and Spa Resort

That last morning at the gym, they weren't showing a cooking programme on TV so I spent the 10 minutes I was walking (very slowly) on the treadmill looking at the old people around me. They spend their mornings there, rain or shine. And every one of them is fitter and slimmer than me. And I'm not yet 40.

Some of the men strutted around like proud peacocks (but this is typically Italian) and best not to cross eyes with them or they'll literally start to preen. The women however were less vain. And I could see traces of the beauties that some of them used to be. And they must have broken a number of hearts in their youth so pretty they still are today.

With these thoughts, I started staring at myself in the mirror and felt sorry that I wasn't meant to be a beauty in this life, that when I become an old witch later, nobody is going to look at me and think that once I've been young and beautiful too. I also wonder if the wrinkles would just turn up overnight, or if it'll be a slow process that will take place over the next 20 years. As it is I'm trying not to smile too much nowadays, but not frowning when you have 3 kids is more than impossible.

Entrance to the Golf Hotel and Spa

The ceiling

On Saturday Hub woke us up early so that we could go to UNA Poggio dei Medici Golf and Spa Resort in Tuscany for a golf competition - you may remember the men's search for the still elusive handicap. They didn't obtain their handicap - only painful feet and a sore back. But the golf course was beautiful, set in rolling hills next to the Mugello International race tracks. They played with a colleague of Hub's and probably inspired by this mediocre father and son pair, the guy played like a god that morning.

Even the view from the driving range is fabulous

While the men were playing their 18 holes, I, under Hub's urging, drove the Babies to the Barberino Shopping Outlet for a spot of shopping. Honestly I thought that I had nothing to buy, but of course put me in a shop and I ended up spending the Greek minimum monthly wage in 3 hours.

Fattoria il Palagio, Scarperia

Hub reserved a table for us in Scarperia for lunch so I had to leave the Outlet after just one boutique. He insisted that we try the Fiorentina steak in Fattoria il Palagio, so that was what we did. The restaurant's situated in an 18th century villa (I think they also rent out rooms) set in a vast park near the Mugello race tracks and he was there last week with his team for a team-building session. Liked the food so much (would also recommend their roast suckling pig and selection of wines) he apparently told the waiters that he would be back with his family soon. So I had to fulfill his promise for him.

Our Fiorentina steak

And so it was good our Fiorentina steak (but I felt some pain paying 57 euros for it) and the service was attentive especially after I've mentioned who I was (Hub insisted that I do so - I'm usually too embarrassed to name drop - and he even called me up during the meal to check things out). I wonder though if I shouldn't have tried the pasta dishes or the piglet, they all sounded so good. The olive oil on the table was excellent (we were in Tuscany after all) though the Babies noted that the bread was tasteless - yes, there is usually no salt in Tuscan bread. They used the same balsamic vinegar that I do, and I discovered that my landlady "AGGAZZOTTI" (or some branch of her family) still produces their own balsamic vinegar for sale.

The entrance to the restaurant

Part of the grounds

After the golf club we drove to Bologna to visit the Poltrona Frau shop there before it closed for the weekend. The boutique is situated in an old building with frescoes on its walls, so it was quite an interesting visit. I like that part of the old town very much, it's charming and has some very interesting boutiques.

Would you believe that they sell the Vanity Fair armchair in 90 colours? And I thought they only have it in 4. Now we're in a dilemma, we have no idea which colour we would like to have ours in. We like the classic red (Siam) and the brown (Bruno), but the former is kind of difficult to decorate a room with. We've gotten samples of the 2 colours and will be meditating for a few weeks on them. Maybe I'll go around asking everyone what they think.

After that we had dinner (at the Indian restaurant Taj Mahal) with one of Hub's former apprentice who is today an important Director in his own right. The young man has followed Hub when he moved to the Fiat Group so he's now working and living in Bologna. You know that time passes really quickly when those former apprentices then fresh out of school are now doing so brilliantly, with their own families and have even more children than you do.

Voilà that was my Saturday last weekend for me to remember. We should go to Tuscany more often (if we survived all those speed cameras along the way) as it is a truly beautiful region. But you can feel the cold in your bones now, I figure that we would be hibernating instead very soon.

UNA Poggio dei Medici
Via San Gavino, 27
50038 Scarperia (FI)

Fattoria di Palagio
Viale Dante 99/101
50038 Scarperia (FI)
Tel : 055 846376