Tiramisu for Susie’s Birthday

Sister Susie preferred to go out on Thursday night, the night before her actual birthday for a celebration dinner.

Zorba and I had tried to book into L’Arco Del Cappuccini – allegedly one of the best restaurants in Taormina – without success.  So we booked into the restaurant next door, Tiramisui, where we had enjoyed a beautiful meal a couple of days before.

The whole family came out to dinner – Master Sam 3, Miss Indi 5, Susie, my bro in law Ben, Mum Gina, Dad Walter, and husband Zorba.

A grumpy niece with her pasta and tomato sauce

Dad with his hot mussels

We did what we always do when having dinner with the kids in Italy, order for them first.  Sam wanted pizza and Indi wanted her standard, pasta with tomato sauce.  Both kids did well and had very simply yet tasty dinners.

To be fair, the kids were really good going out to dinner most of the time and they were good this night for the first 90 minutes.  Then they got bored and fidgety.  That’s when the kid-rescuer gets fired up, the portable DVD player featuring this week’s favourite animated feature, Robin Hood.  Man, those kids must have watched Robin Hood 17 times in two weeks!

Zorba and I had talked up our lovely dinner at Tiramisu somewhat, so everyone’s expectations were high.  Nonetheless, we all had lovely antipasti and mains.  I opted for marinated scampi followed by fresh pasta with porcini mushrooms.  Both were beautiful, but the scampi was particularly light, fresh and delicate.  I didn’t want to share it because it was so good…but I did!

Marinated scampi

Zorba loved his starter of octopus cooked in balsamic.  His main of linguine with sea urchin was not to my liking – sea urchin has a very fishy seaweedy almost flavour to me, but Zorba loved it.

Ben opted for the traditional Sicilian pasta dish of tagliatelle norma – with eggplant and breadcrumbs, followed by a mixed seafood grill.

Mum’s bruschetta with eggplant was really delicious. For mains, she just had a plate of grilled vegetables and shared Dad’s pizza of grilled vegetables and balsamic (no cheese!).  Dad has hot mussels to start and he loved those!

Bruschetta with melanzane – eggplant

We were all feeling pretty full, however, it was Susie’s birthday dinner so when she slipped away to the ladies room, I asked the waiter if he had a piece of cake that he could bring out for her and passed him a packed of birthday candles.  The waiter recommended some tiramisu – I concurred. That sounded good!

When Susie returned to the table and started talking about finding a gelato for dessert, along came her birthday cake tiramisu – and wow – it was HUGE!  It fed all eight of us!

Happy Birthday Susie!

The tiramisu was so gorgeously light and unbelievably tasty. The tiramisu I make is also delicious, but it is a lot heavier than this one.  I could have kept eating that until I burst. It was gorgeous!

Nephew Sam even liked it!  I spoon fed it to him while he was on automatic pilot watching Robin Hood on the portable DVD player.  Watching Sam go through a caffeine high on the way home from the restaurant was something else. It was the kid was charged with super duper everready batteries. He kept running and jumping and running and jumping. This did not calm down when we got home either.  Running in the villa, jumping on couches, up and down stairs!  Not surprising really.  It took him about an hour to wind down and get to sleep.

It was a lovely family dinner out.  Happy Birthday Susie!

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FACT FILE

Tiramisu Restaurant
Via Cappuccini 1, Taormina
Tel: +39 (0)942 24803

 

 

Italian supermarkets

Oh how I LOVE Italian supermarkets!  Most of them (not all mind you), have the most fantastic produce, delis, and butchers.

Fresh produce in the Umbrian supermarket

Supermarket shopping when I travel is something I love to do. It gives a real insight into the sorts of foods people eat, what is cheap, what is expensive, and what is readily available. For example, when we shopped for our stay at our Umbrian Palace, Laguscello (near Orvieto), two-minute noodles where nowhere to be found.  And I think this is a good thing.

The variety of tomatoes available in the supermarket is enough to make me want to live here, and the price of them is enough to get Walter excited about being here!  I’ve seen tomatoes from Euro 0.99 cents per kilo and the most expensive I’ve seen have been Euro 2.60 per kilo.

A 1.5 litre bottle of natural mineral water at Eurospar, one of the bigger supermarkets in the area costs Euro 0.15.  That’s about A$0.18!!  18 cents!  We pay ten times that in Australian supermarkets!  We are getting totally ripped off!

My contribution to dinner, Caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella bought from the supermarket – OMG yum!

Proscuito crudo (parma ham) cost Euro 7.00 per kilo.  In Australia, we pay a minimum of A$40.00 per kilo for the locally produced proscuito. Imported proscuito costs A$65 per kilo and more.  It’s hard to believe.  And people think Europe is expensive….

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Two cappuccini and a plain croissant cost Euro 2.60 or A$3.12.  And to think in Australia we pay more than that just for one cappuccino!

Eating out is also so much cheaper than Perth.  Last night for example, Zorba and I had an amazing three-course meal with house red wine for Euro 50, or A$60.  In Perth, it would have cost twice that without a doubt.

It may be expensive to travel to Italy, but once you are here, it’s cheap.

The only thing that isn’t cheap is firewood.  Two sacks of firewood cost Euro 25!  That is heaps!  Still, to be able to make our own pizza dough and cook them in our own wood-fired oven is going to be fantastic.  Can’t wait til we do that tomorrow night!

 

 

Assisi, Umbria

A reluctant brother-in-law Ben conceded to a majority ruling of visiting Assisi, the Umbrian town made famous by it’s patron saint, St Francis of Assisi.  Ben was reluctant because Assist is a 1.5 hour drive from our Umbrian palace Lagoscello and he is the father of our two youngest travellers Miss 5, Indi, and Master 3, Sam.

Nonetheless, we packed ourselves into our two C-class Mercedes, programmed the GPS, and set off for an exciting day out discovering a new city.

It was supposed to be a 1.5 hour drive and it probably was if you went directly there. However, as I have described in recent posts, we have inadvertently turned into the Griswalds and kept missing roads, having to do u-turns.  Sigh.

On our way though, we did zoom past the place that sells firewood, Baldini – a place we have been looking for since we arrived so we could use the old fashioned wood-fired pizza oven at our Umbrian palace.  But alas, traffic was heavy, Zorba was driving too fast and it was just impossible to stop. Everyone chimed let’s stop there on the way home. I was skeptical – we haven’t had the best track record of finding places (despite a GPS and directions)…

On we travel, onto Assisi.  It took us under two hours, not bad going for Bortoletto / Kings /  Griswalds really.  All six adults took photos and made mental notes of where we parked the car, not wanting to repeat the fiasco of Orvieto. Once again, today was shaping up to be another hot one and it was already starting to heat up even though we were in Assisi by 10.30am.

Assisi seemed lovely, albeit pretty busy. Tourists everywhere! Cars were edging their way up crowded streets, forcing us to duck into shop doors, between parked cars and the like.  It was distracting and I have to admit, especially with two young ones with us. I much preferred walking around Orvieto and Bolsena with their calm pedestrianised streets.

We decided to walk directly to the main attraction, the cathedral of St Francis of Assisi, a world heritage site, while the children were coping ok. We were nearly there when the kids were starting to fade.  A closed restaurant had its tables and chairs out the front and Ben opted to stay with the kids whilst they had a snack from their lunch box while the rest of us went into the Cathedral to check it out.

St Francis of Assisi was completed in 1253, and a really beautiful cathedral inside. From the outside it was a large impressive structure, but doesn’t have nearly as much of the ornate decorations that the Duomo in Orvieto has.  We went down stairs to see the tomb of St Francesco.  The whole cathedral was impressive and three levels. I don’t think I’ve ever been into a multi-level church before, besides crypts below the main church.

There were loads of monks and nuns in Assisi – no surprise really, after all, it attracts pilgrims from all over the world.

Conscious of Ben with the kids up the hill, we ventured back.  We decided to find a place to sit and have lunch.  Susie chose the first place we came across that had tables outside. An ordinary looking bar that had a gelati and very sad looking panini in the window.  No way was I going to eat any of those. Susie had one and said it was disgusting. I wasn’t surprised!

Gelati were bought for the kids, and that’s right about when Sam cracked it.  His major hissy fit over I don’t know what, made Susie invent a naughty corner in the cafe and Sam was sent promptly there.

Zorba was already checking out other places to buy some lunch, so I tip toed out of the Sam war zone to see what he had found.  Right across the road was an organic cafe that only sold gluten free piadini – a flat bread.  They looked nice enough and the man behind the counter was happy to deviate from his menu to make us our favourite combination; proscuito crudo, fresh mozzarella, and tomato.  They were delicious! Mum and Dad followed us in and had a different yet just as yummy combo.  Zorba said it was the best piadini he has ever had.

By that stage, Sam’s hissy fit has dropped a couple of notches and Susie and Ben decided to start the trek home and said their good-byes.  But, they didn’t go straight to the car. Instead, they stopped at a shoe shop. When I followed them in, Indi was already trying on a pretty pair of pink sandals.  In her own words,  “These sandals are excellent and very comfy!”  Susie bought Indi’s first pair of Birkenstocks.

After that, they went straight to the car.  Mum, Dad, Zorba and I wandered around a little more, had a gelato, and found the car on our second attempt (hurrah!) and went back to our villa.   Of course, we had to stop at the supermarket and butcher to buy some supplies for dinner.  It was 4.20pm and nothing was open.  I bet they opened at 5pm, so we didn’t have to try hard to convince Walter to have a beer and wait til they opened.

We had the afternoon to relax by the pool, cool off from the heat.  Our dinner of local delicious salami sausages – yes, they were a mix of salami and sausages and absolutely beautiful, especially cooked on the coal BBQ.  We again had veal scallopine steaks cooked some sage from the herb garden, some buffalo mozzarella with tomato and basil, a delicious garden salad and yummy crusty bread.  Man, it was a meal for champions!

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Another great day, thank you Umbria.

Bolsena, Lazio (near Umbria)

Bolsena is an ancient hill top medieval town that dates back hundreds of years.  According to Wikipedia, records for Bolsena Lake – which is a huge crater filled with water – date back to 105 AD.

From our Umbrian palace near Castel Giorgio, we decided to drive to the near by medieval town of Bolsena.  Bolsena is actually in the province of Lazio of which Rome is the capital, close to the Umbrian border.

Bolsena is oh-so pretty. The lake is massive and almost looks like the sea. The Lake’s edge is dotted with pretty colourful hydrangeas, manicured gardens, and shady trees.

The short drive to reach Bolsena was enough time for Sam and Indi to fall asleep in the car.  As you can imagine, they were pretty cranky at being woken up.  Not even the bribe of a gelato could quietened them.  Indi was particularly grumpy and I have to secretly admit, I found it quite funny! The horesy ride thing that was available for kids to ride still couldn’t put a smile on Indi’s face.

The actual town of Bolsena is so so so cute!  Stone houses made out of black volcanic handmade bricks, narrow cobbled streets, flower boxes with gorgeous coloured flowers spilling over the sides, big wooden doors and cute small doors that look like they were designed for dwarfs, and a castle with a commanding tower that dates back to the 13th Century.

We did a little walk through the town and little 3 year old Sam was very excited to be seeing a castle where the brave knights once were.  Similarly, 5 year old Indi (once over her grump of having to walk up stupid stairs) was excited to see where the princess used to live.   We paid the two euros per person to be able to climb up the castle tower where the view of the Bolsena lake was stunning.

As you may imagine, at 4pm in the middle of an Italian summer, it was baking hot and we were keen to get back to our Umbrian palace and cool off in the beautiful pool.

Bolsena is well worth a look. It’s teeny tiny and absolutely cute.

Back at the Umbrian palace, our dinner was sensational.  We marinated some chicken in rosemary, garlic and lemon and cooked them over the coal BBQ.  Accompanied with barbecued eggplant and zucchini, it was healthy and heavenly.  The buffalo mozzarella we had bought was amazing and sitting in the beautiful garden of our villa, Lagoscello, it was a lovely evening.

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FACT FILE

Bolsena is in the province of Lazio and is 21km from Orvieto.