Monday, July 8, 2013

Feasting in Abruzzo

Abruzzo is a region of central Italy, between Rome and the Adriatic. Though less famous to outsiders than Tuscany, Abruzzo is renowned among Italians for great wine and food. And my visit didn't disappoint.

My first dinner was in the wine cellar:

The main course of the meal was a typical dish of Abruzzo, scripelle, (like crepes filled with savory sauces) with a light zucchini filling:

Then I went to a wedding with ten courses of food all prepared by the chef of the Palazzo Baronale Masciarelli, so I was treated to dish after dish of the best of Abruzzo. First came the antipasti (appetizers):

Dozens of tarts, crostini, polpette, tartare, so many choices I lost count. After having wine and appetizers by the castle we went to the dining room for the sit-down dinner. The first course was a cauliflower cream soup with mini profiterol:

Next came the primi pasta courses - there were two! First the chitarra with a saffron-infused lemon sauce and edible flowers:

Followed by the lasagna with buffalo mozzarella, eggplant, tomato and basil:

The segundi meat courses were a lamb shoulder from the Maiella Park with wild thyme and almonds, and a beef fillet medallion with aromatic butter, served with fresh sauteed spinach and an aromatic salad.

After dinner came the buffet of fruit and desserts in the secret garden behind the castle:

Served with liquors and Prosecco, naturally. And to finish, the wedding cake of course!

Around two a.m. they had more food for the inebriated dancers: penne in a tomato sauce. By that point we had little room left to eat more...

The next morning (well, noon) there was a brunch outside for all the wedding guests, serving salumi, frittatas, and more cheese and meatballs:

And a wine tasting to sample the wines made from the vineyard on the castle property. Absolutely delicious! I had an incredible visit to Abruzzo, and the food was part of the experience: unpretentious, perfectly done, and unforgettable.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Gourmand in Greece

Greek food is hearty, delicious, and has had centuries to evolve to its modern-day niche in Mediterranean cuisine. My recent trip to Athens I made sure to sample all the classic Greek staples, and enjoyed everything I tried.

First I had to have spanikopita, the spinach-filled pastry that may be my favorite Greek dish:

Then souvlaki, grilled meat (I chose chicken) served in a pita with vegetables and sauces, and often fries:

This souvlaki was from Boutique, a nice cafe with gourmet souvlaki that's lighter than the (often greasy) typical street food. Souvlaki is to me the quintessential Greek meal after a long day in the sun.

I also tried dakos, a traditional Cretan salad with tomatoes and feta over bread:

And for breakfast the freddo-cappuccino:

While Italians typically don't serve iced coffee - ask for a cold cappuccino and they'd look at you like you're crazy - with the hot climate in Greece, thankfully Greeks have adopted a whole variety of incredible iced coffees. "Freddo" means cold in Italian, so the Greek "freddo-cappuccino" literally means cold cappuccino, and reflects what I consider to be a brilliant culinary adaptation.

Of course the most beautiful place to eat in Greece is by the sea:

The last night we had an assortment of mezzes (small plates) with ouzo, the classic Greek liquor, to sample lots of different dishes: dolmades (stuffed grape leaves), Greek salad (tomatoes, cucumber, and feta), tzatziki dip, and moussaka, a bubbling eggplant casserole baked traditionally in a clay pot. A fantastic culinary trip!