Turin at a glance

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Turin

It’s the last day of 2013 and I am back from our glorious holiday in Turin. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas (for those of you who celebrate) and now have more celebrations with a fabulous New Year! Family and friends in Australia are kicking their heels up as I type so I am sure there will be a few sore heads on the first. I, on the other hand, have just made a big bowl of chilli to take up to Ross and E’s place so we can watch the fireworks, eat chilli, drink prosecco and talk about our festivities while bringing in the new year.

I have so much to tell you about our travels up North, so many pictures to share and the best place to start is with our accommodation. For those of you who are unaware of airbnb and love to travel then you have to click on the link and check it out. The link is also the apartment we rented while staying in Turin for the week. It was fantastic and situated in a wonderful square right in the heart of a city crowded with really, really good restaurants, food shops, clothes shops, cake shops, chocolate shops….the list goes on. This was our first time using airbnb and I can easily say I am already looking at places for our trip to Venice in Feburary. Our hosts were friendly, helpful and then left us to our own devices- perfect!

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Our square with the Mole in the background, just behind the tree

Just outside the windows of our lounge room, dining room and kitchen was a great view of our square where we started our trip with one of the best lunches we have had in Italy to date. This is a big call I agree but with all honesty my gnocchi was hands down the best gnocchi I have had (it was served with baby mussels and caviar). The restaurant was called La Badessa and our servers were dressed in priest collars. At first I thought it was a bit of a joke but then found out the restaurant was run in a former monastery- very cool! There is a history on the website you’ll just need to translate it if you are like me and can’t read that much Italian!

I’m getting off track a little and what I really wanted to say was we started our holiday off on the right foot choosing La Badessa as our first pit stop. We were hoping for a white Christmas, however, there was no snow falling on the streets of Turin only on the surrounding mountains, which were breathtaking when the fog lifted and we were surrounded by the beautiful backdrop of the Alps.

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On our first walk around Turin we fell upon a wonderful cafe with the most fabulous looking cakes in the window. Nic and Alex were salivating as they were packed within an inch of their lives with cream! However, seeing as we only just arrived and finished our lunch at La Badessa where we ate a divine dolce, we decided we would come back later to sample…..sadly that day never came as we were busy eating lots of other yummy goodies!

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Turin is full of beautiful squares with lots to offer tourists, locals and anyone else visiting. I have to say I am stunned it doesn’t get more tourists visiting. The city is nothing like Florence, it has more of a French feel without the attitude and extremely good food at great prices. If you are thinking of visiting Italy then I really think you should consider Turin as it has so much on offer, is not over-run with tourists and is extremely affordable. We purchased a Torino Card so we could see the sights around town. This card is worth its weight in gold and only costs 34 euro per person (for 5 days) — to put that in perspective, the Florentine Card is around 78 euro per person — oh and kids under 12 are included FREE with an adult! Once we had the pass we barley put our hands in our pockets because pretty much everything was on the card and that included the Egyptian and Cinema Museums which were both brilliant. I think we spent about 4 hours wandering around the Cinema Museum without a single complaint from the kids- nice!

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An advent calendar next to the Royal palace on the 24th December 2013

We did have Christmas Day in Turin and we got to sample some local produce from the surrounding gourmet shops, however, that needs to be another blog in itself. I’m not sure if it was because we were there over Christmas but Turin put on ‘Luci d’Artista’ (lights by artists) and it was something we looked forward to as the sun went down. This was also very helpful to find streets you wanted to go back to!

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I know I have more things to show you but this is turning into a bit of an essay so on that note, have a wonderful and festive New Year and I’ll be back with more very soon.

 

Auguri

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The boys with the Christmas lights on the night before Christmas 2013

 

 

 

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Santa Croce Christmas Market

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Santa Croce Christmas Markets 2013

This time last year I was really looking forward to a wintery Christmas in Florence and although we have wandered around town with the beautiful fairy lights twinkling at dusk and the massive Christmas tree in front of the Duomo I still have to remind myself it is Christmas.

Part of the problem is I don’t venture down town all that often, we don’t have a Christmas tree up and, lastly, we forgot to bring our Christmas music. Tomorrow we leave for a Christmas holiday in Torino (hence the lack of Christmas tree) which we are all really looking forward to. Unfortunately rain has been predicted instead of snow so perhaps a quick train ride into the Alps might have to be on top of our ‘Things to do’ list. Anyway I am wandering in my thoughts, I decided to take the boys down to the Christmas market on Friday to get us into the spirit of Christmas and stare at the Christmas tree again. I am not sure if it is a sign but the rain decided to join us which meant the crowds were non existent!

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Light stall

There were a hand full of beautiful stalls brightening this dreary day and the smells of German sausage cooking along side suckling pig rotating on the spit did in fact put the boys and I into a festive state. To amplify the mood the boys spotted giant pretzels as big as their heads so they opted for a sugar cinnamon one for Alex and a dark chocolate, nut and apple one for Max (we had just finished lunch 30 min before so I wasn’t the least bit hungry!).

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Alex in pretzel heaven

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Max and his giant chocolate pretzel

Blissfully stuffing their faces the boys walked the booths with me and admired all the handy work that was on display. I loved the bright table cloths, pottery reindeer ornaments and English cheese vendors the most. However, the boys jaw dropped when they saw the sausage van and said with their mouths full of pretzel ‘Oh mum sausage!!!!’

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The German sausage tent….smelt delicious!

As you can see (but sadly can’t smell the sausage aroma) the customers were a bit light on, however, I wasn’t about to let the boys go on a food binge. So as I agreed that, in fact, yes, the sausages did smell fantastic, alas it was time for us to head over to the leather markets and see what we could find. I actually loved being at the Christmas market on this rainy day because I was able to look at my leisure and sample a few yummy delights. The Stilton was to-die-for. The last time we popped over to the Christmas market it was heaving with customers, so much so we left after 5 minutes because we couldn’t even walk up the paths let alone see what vendors were selling.

The Christmas spirit revived me and we are ready for our week in the North of Italy. I shall be taking a short break from blogging. However, I will be back with vengeance with tales of the North in the new year.

 

Happy Holidays to you all!

 

 

 

Music to my ears

I was dropping the kids off today for their last day of school before Christmas break (edible gifts in hand!) thinking I’d get a few things done before I had to pick them up again for lunch. I started talking with a few of the mums outside the school for a bit of practice and it always starts with ‘Ciao! Come va?’ ‘bene, tutto bene….e tu?’ and for these short seconds I feel one of the gang. If they tell me how cold it is I can come back we ‘Sì,sì, molto freddo’. I consider this a conversation and so do they because the look of wonder on the Italian parents’ faces tells me I have come a long way. It’s just when we break into a real conversation that my act falls apart and I revert to crappy Italian, and (by all accounts) crappy broken English! I am seriously wondering what language I really can speak!

There is a lovely mum at school who always talks Italian to me and takes me as far as I can go before we revert to English so I can actually say something that has meaning and body instead of polite greetings. As we were talking she asked me (in Italian first) if I was coming back for the music concert. I had a blank look on my face and asked her in English if she had in fact just asked me what I thought she did and when she said, ‘brava, sì,’ I told her I had not heard about any concert. Hmmmm…

I got the details and I came back to school at 9.30am with all the other parents (there were a lot of them!) and waited for the doors to open and then the concert to begin all the while wandering why Max hadn’t told us about this. As we filed into the music room I spotted Max looking a bit blah and then he spotted me and looked totally dumbfounded! A big smile came on his face as he mouthed the words ‘What are you doing here???’ To this I merely raised my eyebrows and mouthed back ‘I do talk to people you know!’ He laughed.

The music programme is very different to ours back home. Max plays the trumpet in Sydney. To do this he had to join the school band, have a least 4 lessons a week and be serious about the instrument, especially since the price of letting your kid play an instrument in Sydney is about the same you would pay for a second-hand car!

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At our school in Italy everyone gets a chance to play an instrument. One group plays the violin while the other learns to play the guitar. They have one lesson a week for one hour and then they put on a small concert for us parents. In my opinion I think they all did a fantastic job with so little hands-on practice with the instruments and I also love the fact that everyone gets to have a go, not just those who can afford it.

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Brava classe 5! You did a wonderful job, although I was worried Max was starting to put himself to sleep while he played the guitar.

As we shuffled out of the concert room at the end, Max was waiting for me and gave me a big hug (in front of his mates!! WOW). From that I know he was happy to see me. When I asked him why he didn’t tell us about the concert he looked at me and said

‘I didn’t know we were even doing a concert!’

We still have a lot to learn with the Italian language but we have come a long way. Even though I might not be as fast as the kids at learning, somehow I seem to get to all the important bits so I think I’ll keep cruising along at my own pace. Something seems to be working!

Edible gifts of the lemon kind

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I love all things tart. When your lips curl as the flavour hits them: that is one of my all time favourite sweet moments and when I can get that in the form of a slice, tart, or cheesecake (preferably baked) then I am a happy camper. 

This is our last week of school for the kids and the Italian parents are in a flap about buying presents for the teachers. Should we, shouldn’t we?? There have been copious emails from parents agreeing and disagreeing with the present idea and quite frankly I don’t see what all the fuss is about? Alex’s class is on the ball when it comes to extracting money so I paid my 3 euros along with everyone else and am waiting with baited breath to see what his maestra receives (actually that is a lie, I’m sure it will be something quite useless and not at all what she wants). Max’s class on the other hand are too busy fighting with each other because someone sent an email around asking if we were going to do presents for the teachers and forgot to take the teacher OFF the email list so now everyone looks a bit silly!

I tend to stay out of these classroom games, usually I am way to busy to get involved, however, this year I am not busy at all and still have no interest in jumping in and giving my 2 cents worth…..actually I’m not sure too many people would hang around and listen to my English/Italian ramblings!

What I will be doing this year, and what I do every year, is send the kids off to school on Friday with a box of homemade edibles. My mum used to do this for all our teachers when I was a kid. Mum would make mini Christmas puddings and wrap them in cheese cloth then attach the brandy sauce recipe and instructions on how to heat up the pudding. It was always a massive hit and something our teachers looked forward to each Christmas. The same thing happened to the boys when I started doing it with them. Last year we made chocolate covered honeycomb together which was a massive hit with the teachers and got requested every time there was a school event on. I thought I would stick with our family tradition and make the boys Italian teachers an Aussie food gift.

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Chocolate covered honeycomb

I would have loved to make honeycomb but I can’t find glucose and my work space is way too small. I thought of salted caramel popcorn and then remembered taking a bowl to Alex’s class Halloween party and seeing a fully grown Italian lady spit a piece out of her mouth and watching it fly across the room with her words ring in my ears, ‘SCHIFOSO! Sale e dolce perchè???

I decided to stick with one of my favourites, lemon slice. It is tart, sweet and I’ve never had a bad reaction yet! However, I am slightly paranoid so I made a batch on the weekend to trial it on friends and family. It was, as I thought it would be, a big success. So I am going with lemon slice and good old fashioned shortbread.

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Lemon slice

 I guess it doesn’t really matter if they like it or hate it, it’s the thought that counts and the good feeling it gives the kids. I am sure Alex will help me make the shortbread (and to try and eat half of the dough before it is cooked) and that is what I want to preserve, the feeling of making something for another person and feeling proud to give the gift. Let’s hope the boys keep the tradition of edible gifts going long into the future. Which reminds me: I must buy some more butter for extra shortbread for our train ride to Turin!

 

Natale came early

Buon Natale dear readers, I may be a few days early but I can’t help it. I love Christmas and I am loving the cold weather we are having this year. Sure I enjoy the summer Christmases of Australia and the seafood barbies that go with it but I do love a good winter Christmas too. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire and all that.

I do, however, have a confession to make……I bought, unwrapped and used a present already! Pam and Ian, my wonderful In-laws deposited some Christmas shopping $$$ into our account and I couldn’t hold out any longer, I bought the gift that keeps on giving!

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Merry Christmas to meeeee

 

I couldn’t stand it any longer, the days are getting colder, the pumpkins are ripe for the picking and we are all craving smooth velvety soups. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hearty Tuscan bean soups and ribollita but there is something luxurious about a smooth, creamy pumpkin soup you can dunk your buttery toast in.

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Pumpkin, coconut and ginger soup

I am so, so happy that a) I finally have a stick blender back in my life and b) It comes with an added attachment so I can now make dips and marinades. Does life get any better?

I know I should of waited a few more days to unwrap it but that was just not going to happen and I didn’t really think you’d mind too much Pam. 

I will tell you that the boys grumbled home from school the other day asking what was for lunch and when I told them soup…..pumpkin soup they were so excited they gobbled down two bowls of the liquid gold. I call it liquid gold because cooking it with delicious olive oil gives the soup a fantastic velvety, smooth texture you can’t get enough of. Actually I made two batches of pumpkin soup in two days just to see if I was exaggerating the flavour………I wasn’t!

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Pumpkin and cumin soup

I thank you in advance Pam and Ian for my wonderful Christmas gift and don’t worry I have purchased a fabulous gift for the boys from you and have it all wrapped up for the 25th!

I don’t think I’ll ever tire of kitchen appliances, not when they can bring you and all your family and friends so much joy!

What do you want in your stocking this year?

 

Torta di carote

Torta di carote

Do you ever have those days where you wake up thinking there is something going on today but you just can’t quite remember?

I had a day like that on Monday. The morning was the usual Monday rush getting the kids to school, Mondays are always hard because both the boys have a full day 8.30am-4.30pm and Max has double science which he hates because his teacher ignores him (I think it is the fact that she doesn’t have any English and he speaks English so instead of just giving him work like the other teachers, she ignores him which makes him feel dejected). This is not the best situation and I have talked to him about helping her out and asking her for regular work in Italian. However, I have decided I can talk until I’m blue in the face but it’s not going to make him do anything. He has to figure out how to make it work so for now I just get the body throws at breakfast, pouts and ‘do I reeaallllly have to go today??’ every Monday.

Nic went off to work, kids were gone and I was left to do the shopping, cleaning and generally work out what was going on for the week, though I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something was happening. That thought was stuck in a deep, dark part of my brain that was not active because if I really thought about it I would of remembered that in fact I had invited all (three) of Max’s friends over for a play after school!!!

Two things went through my head at 2.45pm- Holy crap!!! and what am I going to feed them???

If any of you have pre-teen or teen-age boys then you will understand it was a major concern and as I was looking around the kitchen I wasn’t seeing anything I could whip up in a hurry, all my cake recipes started with ‘cream and butter and sugar……’ and that wasn’t about to happen on a winter’s afternoon with cold butter and a wooden spoon! It was about now that I remembered I asked a mum at a dinner party a few weeks ago for her torta di carote recipe because it was so light and flavoursome. I flipped through my emails and found the recipe……it was in Italian! Shit!

After looking at it a few times I decided I could in fact read it and understand most of it and the biggest drawcard was that the recipe was butter-free which meant no creaming, I had to proceed.

There was no time for buying a proper cake tin so I made do with my all-in-one square oven tray (thank god I finally bought some baking paper!!). Time was ticking on so I started grating carrots and took it from there. The cake was made in about 8 minutes which gave it enough time to cook, cool and be ready and waiting for the onslaught of hungry boys that were coming my way in a matter of minutes.

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The boys were all a bit nervous when I went to school pick-up because they haven’t come to our place before and they all know my Italian is somewhat limited shall we say! This also made me a bit nervous and wondered if they would have a good time? When we got into the house the profumo of the torta de carote hit their noses and they all started saying ‘yummy!’ I didn’t even have time to give the cake a shaking of icing sugar before they devoured slabs of it. Silence hung in the air while they were chewing (for all of 2 seconds) and then I asked if they wanted some popcorn?

To say the carrot cake hit the spot would be an understatement. The boys all relaxed and even started telling me to ‘please just speak English….it is better’ 😦 Oh well you can’t win them all!  The kids were fed, happy and running around shooting each other with Nerf bullets while Italian words were flying around a hundred miles an hour…Max included (Yay!) and I am proud that I actually read an Italian recipe and it worked! All in all I guess it doesn’t really matter if I have a shitty memory or bad Italian……just so long as I can bake!

For those of you who want to give it a go, here is the recipe.

Torta di carote

400 gr di carote

3 uova

300 gr zucchero

1 bicchiere olio di semi

300 gr farina

1 bustina di lievito per dolci

un pizzico di sale

tritare le carote nel mixer e tenerle da parte. mescolare uova e zucchero e poi aggiungere olio e farina, il lievito e un pizzico di sale. quando l’impasto appare omogeneo, aggiungere le carote. mettere tutto in una tortiera foderata di carta da forno e cuocere a 180 gradi per 20/25 minuti.

decorare con zucchero a velo o granella di zucchero

I Tatti Fettunta

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There is nothing more pleasing on a brisk winters morning than a good frost. It is bitterly cold first thing, however, you will always know the day will be fantastic! Blue sky, sun shining and a dry cold instead of the wet, misty fog we have have the past few days.

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Last Thursday was a classic winters morning with a grass snapping frost which meant it was going to be a perfect day for I Tatti’s olive oil harvest celebration- Fettunta (which is a colloquial Tuscan word for bruschetta). The farmers have finally picked all the olive trees (and there are a lot of them), pressed the oil and we were all invited up to the farm house to taste the new olive oil and enjoy the view.

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The kitchen staff had made beans, chickpeas, pappa pomodoro and ribollita for the festivities and we all gathered round the tables and helped ourselves to the delights, melding the flavours with the new oil.

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I almost got a great shot and then this pink head came out of know where! The line behind me wasn’t as fascinated with all the photography so I didn’t push my luck.

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Once we had our plates full of food it was then time to pop on over to the bread toasting section, grab a piece of sliced bread and toast in over the open coals- perfect for a cold day!

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The trick was now rubbing your toast with raw garlic, adding a sprinkle of salt and drizzling over more olive oil all while holding your plate of beans and chickpeas. Never fear I wasn’t going to let a little thing like this break me, I just decided I’d sip the farms vino rosso after I ate. Worked like a charm!

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The food and olive oil were deliciously morish with a lovely after flavour of pepper from the oil, a perfect combination for a day at the farm. It is always lovely to catch up with everyone in the great outdoors and enjoy this beautiful view because I had a terrible realisation the other day….we are almost half way through our year…….I can’t even think about that just yet!

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Winter is coming……

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gelateria No. 2 Vivoli

I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t eaten gelato since my last blog entry regarding the gelaterie but sometimes you have to put the camera down and just enjoy the gelato if you know what I am saying.

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Vivoli is a Florentine favourite and it was the last stop on my birthday afternoon to complete a wonderful day. I had never been here before and yet it is said by many Florentines to be the BEST gelato in the city! A big call and so I was glad Nic had this in mind for our dessert destination. The boys couldn’t get in the door fast enough…..

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to choose from the many flavours that were on offer. Before you can order you must pay in advance at Vivoli. Every gelato is served in cups (a big disappointment for the boys). The service was very fast, friendly and on a cold winters afternoon the shop was warm and cozy to sit and eat cold gelato in complete comfort.

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The boys both had their regular lemon flavour and then strawberry as the second. I have to say it was one of the best strawberry flavours I have tasted. It had real fruit pieces flaked through it and the strawberry was jam packed with flavour, Max wasn’t too keen on sharing his that’s for sure!

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I of course had pistachio (the colour was a deep army green that really grabbed my attention) and the depth of flavour was fantastic I have to be honest, however, the body was too creamy for my taste. I paired the pistachio with a meringue flavour (new to me) and it was a great match. It had bits of crunch, a little sticky wet meringue texture and then creamy gelato. Of course I ate every last scoop and then tasted Nic’s coffee and marscapone gelato for the sake of my dear readers!! Again beautiful deep, rich flavours with a creamy texture. 

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I can understand why a lot of Florentines love Vivoli and I wouldn’t say no to a return trip ,however, I felt it was a very rich gelato and one I could have on very special occasions where guilt wasn’t allowed to crawl into the back of your mind. 

With the afternoon coming to an end, our tummies topped up with gelato and our warm house waiting for us at the top of the hill, we all ventured outside into the cold and walked among the Christmas lights on the way to our bus stop.

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Christmas is coming, the cold weather is staying and it is time to put the birthday celebrations to rest for another year. 

Vivoli ranked high on my gelato recommendations, however, you do feel the rich layer of cream on the back of your throat which makes you stop and think maybe you should wait a few more weeks until having another……..or perhaps I should just eat it in summer?

 

 

Acquacotta

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So I told you I have been celebrating my birthday all week and now I am going to tell you about a place you should visit if you’re in Florence and after a fantastic meal. Acquacotta is a wonderful restaurant that is tucked away off the main tourist track for those of us who are looking for delicious Tuscan flavours.

I had no idea where Nic and the boys were taking me for lunch on Sunday. We walked around a few streets I knew well, however, I should know it isn’t Nic’s style to take me directly to a secret location (I’m sure he did this so I wouldn’t be able to go back without him- smart!). From the outside it is a very non descript trattoria so don’t be looking for bells and whistles to draw your attention to the wonderful food inside, just trust me!

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When you enter the small, warm and inviting trattoria the first thing that hits you is the beautiful smells coming from the kitchen. That mixed with soft yellow lighting, red and white checkered table cloths and the really friendly server are a fantastic combination and one you can only enjoy. The trattoria is made up of three small dining rooms while the small kitchen is smack bang in the middle. I love a kitchen you can look into and see the engine purring. We were sat in a small, intimate room next to the windows which was lovely. There were about 5 other small tables in the room and all were full!

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Nic ordered a delicious bottle of Morellino di Scansano which hit the spot and paired beautifully with our antipasto of Tuscan meats. I have to appologise as I forgot to photograph the meat platter and we polished it off before I remembered, I was too busy being caught up in the moment! However, I did manage to get back on track with the artichoke and pecorino salad which we also shared as a starter…

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A very simple and typical Tuscan salad excecuted perfectly. The raw artichoke was thinly sliced with a lovely soft crunch that paired beautifully with the sharpness of the thinly sliced pecorino. The boys were not keen to try so Nic and I didn’t push the matter and enjoyed the delicious salad while they polished off the bread!

They were busy, very busy in fact and with only one server for the entire restaurant there was a bit of a wait between courses. It wasn’t that long but try telling that to the boys who would of happily chewed through the bread basket if we let them!

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When our meals arrived I was tickled pink! I ordered the rabbit and was not disappointed. The flavour was delicate, yet morish and with a side of roasted potatoes cooked beautifully I was really happy. Alex ordered the cinghiale (wild boar) with polenta mash and devoured it within minutes (he did manage to offer me a piece for a taste of the rabbit and it was divine).

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As much as I loved my rabbit, I have to admit I was totally envious of Nic’s beef! He ordered the tagliata di manzo (sliced beef) and without a doubt I can honestly say it was the best steak I have eaten (kind, dear husband let me have two slices!!). Not only was the meat cooked to perfection, it melted on your tongue with it’s sweet, sweet flavour……breathtaking to say the least. Poor Nic had his whole family eyeing off his dish. Max ordered the homemade beef ragù with parpadelle, it was another dish full of deep, rich flavour, though I do wonder if he paused long enough between bites to actually enjoy it!? (pre-teen age boys are scarily hungry ALL the time!)

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We all sat there after our meal feeling comfortably full, savouring the beautiful flavours we had just consumed.

The birthday plans prevented us from eating dessert at Acqucotta (that is another blog entry), however, that didn’t stop the boys from getting a piece of chocolate cake to share from our server! I did manage to sneak a bite and it reminded me of my mum’s death by chocolate dessert she use to make in her restaurant years ago, a dessert people would wait out in the cold for!

Acquacotta is a trattoria I will be taking people to when they come to town and want a fantastic Tuscan meal. I hope I have managed to talk some of you into going…….just don’t tell too many people!

40 years and counting

Nesli and I at my 40th B'day dinner, 2013

Nesli and I at my 40th B’day dinner, 2013

I have been a bit laxed in my blogging this week as I have hit a milestone. I turned 40 on Sunday and I have been celebrating my 40 years of existence all week…..because I can. It’s funny I have been going through old photos and looking back at my life (as I am sure we all do when we hit a milestone?) and there are two things that stand out clearer than day.

1. I have filled my 40 years with a lot of stuff, I could almost say some years have been jam-packed!

2. I have met an outstanding amount of people and have the great pleasure of saying I have an awesome, eclectic assortment of friends all over the world.

Roisin my running partner in the World race, Chicago

Roisin my running partner in the World race, Chicago

I have always loved doing things, anything as long as I am doing something and having fun. Travelling has always been a huge part of my life, even before I realised how much I love going to different countries and exploring how other people live. Mum and dad installed the travelling bug into my sister and I at a very young age and I haven’t really stopped, nor have they!

Mum sitting in the departure lounge at Tokyo airport a few years ago

Mum sitting in the departure lounge at Tokyo airport a few years ago

The fact that I am lucky enough to have timed my 40th while we are spending a year in Italy is quite brilliant. If I am being totally honest, I wouldn’t have thought it even possible 10 years ago and yet here I am feeling the love from all my wonderful friends and family from all over the planet sending me warm wishes on my birthday. I truly believe I wouldn’t be the person I am today without having so many supportive, positive and truly wonderful people in my life. I made a decision a long time ago to leave behind people who have negative and sole sucking vibes….this was an excellent move!

I love the fact that I am still in contact with friends from High school, and I want to be in touch with them. My old bosses are some of my oldest and dearest friends. I love that the Mexican guys I use to work with 5 days a week in Chicago still keep in touch, even though I was nicknamed ‘hard nose bitch’ (well you can’t be a shrinking violet when you work the grill in a kitchen!) and constantly asked when I was leaving!.

Friends I travelled the world with when we were young, silly and quite stupid (considering some of the situations we got ourselves into!). These ladies have a very special place in my heart. As we discovered the world around us, we also discovered who were as individuals and what  made us the strong, independent women we are today.

Nic and Max, Chicago 2002

Nic and Max, Chicago 2002

When I finally grew up a little more, fell in love and met my life travelling partner I was so excited to see what we were going to get up to with our life together and I have to say it has been better than anything I dreamed up.

8 months pregnant with Alex, Chicago

8 months pregnant with Alex, Chicago

The kids came and that made me grow even more and placed me in a community of extremely talented women I call my very dear friends. A new country and a new baby really throws a spanner in the works but I wouldn’t change it for quids, I just wish the world wasn’t so far apart. I have a brilliant family (ok we may be a little mad, batty and talk to much) but a family I cherish and love and who have excepted this crazy path Nic and I have chosen and offered nothing but support and love. With all this I was not expecting to meet a whole new group of people I would open my heart to  and welcome them in with open arms.

Shelly and Nesli at my 40th, Italy 2013

Shelly and Nesli at my 40th, Italy 2013

This trip to Italy was looked at as an adventure and an experience. I am so blown away at the beautiful community I have here. I love the fact it is possible to still make wonderful friendships because there really isn’t a ‘cap’ on how many great people you meet in your life (must have been a random thought when I had too much prosecco!?

Elena

Elena

 

Ross

Ross

 

Sue

Sue

Anyway, what I am trying to say is in 40 years I have managed to do, see, meet and love some truly wonderful people and places and I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me get this far. Life is about living it to the fullest and meeting people from whatever situation you are in and making the most of it. I will never be a millionaire (airfares are a killer), however, I will be enjoying a lot more countries, people and revisiting old and dear friends for the next forty years, this much I know.