In preparation for a presentation this week, I created a small video as a visual aide for promoting my travel services. More than that, I hope it inspires my audience to travel and discover some of the wonderful places I've discovered over the years. I hope it inspires you, too!
After a week of organizing Italy vacations for others, I was feeling a little nostalgic (and envious, I might add!). So, for me, there's only one way to tame that green-eyed monster: cook up an Italian feast! This time, the mood called for one of my all-time favorite Tuscan dishes: Pappardelle al Cinghiale (pronounced pa-par-dehli al ching-ee-al-ay).
This is no spaghetti and meat sauce dish, folks. Uh-uh...this is the real deal. Local to the Tuscany region, cinghiale (wild boar) is one of the best meats around. It has a distinct taste--much richer than pork. Since cinghiale is not available in Texas (and, no...Texas wild boar is no substitute--trust me!), I chose to use a pork shoulder roast.
So, if you're ready, I'll share my recipe with you:
4 lbs pork shoulder roast (quartered; seasoned w/salt and pepper; dredged in flour)
3 tbsp. each of mushroom demi-glace and tomato paste
1 cup each red wine and chicken broth
pappardelle (cooked al dente)
Using medium-high heat, warm two tablespoons of olive oil in a pan. Brown the pork roast on all sides and then transfer to a plate. Add the pancetta and brown. Add soffritto; cook 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl. Add a another tablespoon of oil to the pan; add the mushrooms and cook for about 15 minutes; transfer to the bowl of vegetables. Add tomatoes, demi-glace, tomato paste, wine and broth; bring to a simmer. Add the pork, pancetta, soffritto and mushroom mixture. Cover and simmer for 5 hours. When done, use tongs to gently work the meat, pulling it apart. Serve over pasta.
HEADS UP!: This makes a huge pot of ragu. Any remaining can be frozen and reheated later (in fact, it tastes even better the second time around!).
NOTE: Next time, I want to try rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves in lieu of fennel. I think the combined flavors of these herbs will add even more complexity to this well-deserving dish!
When my clients asked me to plan their France vacation, I was thrilled. When they asked me to find Italian restaurants for them to eat in, I was knocked for a loop! I don't eat Italian food when I'm in France. Yes, France is the epicenter for gastronomy, I just didn't know where good Italian food was. So, the search began. I polled my resources, made a list, and sent Samina and Nick on their way. Fortunately, they returned home with a good report.
Graciously, Samina and Nick have agreed to share their story with all of us who would enjoy a little piece of Italy the next time we are in France:
My husband and I traveled to France in August 2010. We were not too excited about France’s
beef or salmon tartar, fois gras (goose liver) or any other kind of pate. Although we did have some enjoyable
meals at French restaurants, we found ourselves searching out Italian
restaurants to satisfy our pallets.
Two of our most enjoyable Italian restaurant experiences
were at La Ville de Sienne in Nice and Romantica Caffé in Paris.
My husband and I ate at La Ville de Sienne the last night we
were in Nice and absolutely loved it. It is located right in the Old Town, which is made up of
quaint intersecting streets. We sat outside so we could enjoy the atmosphere of
the night life. We ordered seafood
risotto and ravioli with braised beef and red sauce. We were not disappointed. The portion sizes were generous, the food was delicious, and
the price was very reasonable! The
seafood risotto came out in a black skillet full of assorted seafood and
risotto. The ravioli came out
plated, but along side was a small bowl of braised beef. There was so much food we could not
finish! This is a restaurant that
we would definitely recommend for those seeking Italian food in France!
Romantica Caffé –
Paris, FranceRomantica Caffé is a cute little restaurant located not too far from Les Invalides and within walking distance to the Eiffel Tower. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were greeted right away and were waited on by a woman who happened to be Italian and spoke perfect English. She made some great recommendations for us. We started out with bruschetta, which was amazing, and ordered their featured pasta and pasta with artichokes. Their featured pasta was not a let down and even featured a show! It was probably one of the most memorable eating experiences of our lives. The featured pasta was a Parmesan Pasta, which is made table side. To start, they rolled out a wheel of parmesan cheese (about 2 feet in diameter) that had been turned into a bowl through use. They first poured cognac into it and then light it on fire!! The server then would continuously scrape the sides of the cheese bowl to create a pile of cheese. They then brought out steaming hot pasta from the kitchen and put it into the wheel of cheese. We watched in awe as she continued to stir the hot pasta with the cheese. She then plated it and we enjoyed. It was scrumptious! The other dish we ordered was pasta with artichokes, which was also delicious. We were truly satisfied with our food and savored every bite. This is a restaurant that we would definitely recommend for those seeking Italian food in France!
If you have a favorite Italian restaurant in France, tell us about it by leaving a comment below.
It was on one of our earlier trips to Italy that we decided to stay in a small medieval village. We chose Cortona. Sitting high on a hill embracing the Valdichiani, Cortona had a sense of eeriness when we arrived, appearing cold and forlorn. Not at all the hubub it is today since Under The Tuscan Sun hit the big screen. Ready for the challenge, we set out to find some lunch.
With no rhyme or reason, we began down a street off the main square. It was a steep walk downhill. Maybe it was a sudden realization that the further we went, the longer the uphill trek would be to return; or simply that we didn't see any activity on the street, that we nearly gave up. Then out of nowhere, we heard it: the clanging of silverware. Was it simply someone's nonna preparing the family's lunch? Or, was there truly a restaurant nearby? Finding out meant a longer uphill walk later, but we had to know. A few steps further down stood the doorway to La Bucaccia. It seemed so isolated and out of the way.
To add to our uncertainty, there were no other people in the restaurant. Suddenly, and looking a little surprised, a tall and impeccably dressed gentleman (we later learned was named Romano) appeared and escorted us to a table. Inside, the restaurant was beautiful: stone walls, flickering lights and soft music.
It was almost as if Romano could sense our unease, because he soon swaggered to our table, snatched the menus out of our hands and gleefully shouted, "Soo-prize!" That's when the fun began! The ensuing three hours were filled with one delicious plate after another interspersed with Romano's whimsical hospitality. Something magical was happening at La Bucaccia that day.
By the end of the meal, we were stuffed beyond belief and on a first-name basis with Romano, his wife (and chef), Agostina, and their lovely daughter, Francesca. Warm sentiments were exchanged as we said our goodbyes. Giddy and delighted in our dining find and new friends, we were oblivious to the uphill climb in front of us.
This was only the first of many visits to La Bucaccia. When we return, the walk downhill is deliberate. Our hearts race in anticipation for the warm welcome, the hugs, and of course, the 'soo-prize.'
La Buccacia is more than a place to eat, it is a restaurant with a soul. The soul of three amazingly warm and delightful people.
On the first Friday of every month, I will share a photo from my travels, or yours. If you'd like a chance to see one of your fabulous vacation photos published on this site, send it (in .jpg format) along with a brief description to: Julie@myfarandaway.com.