Re-energizing for 2012!

How about a photo recipe to end 2011?
After Xmas in Copenhagen I'm now spending the last days of my holidays in Castelraimondo, where my belly is growing thanks to all the delicious food! (2012 new resolution: exercise!) Anyhow, here's the recipe for the greatest Italian dessert: Tiramisù!
"Tirami su' " is a dialectal expression from the Veneto region meaning 'pick me up', in the sense of re-energizing, regaining strength, or waking-up, what better way to prepare for the new year?!

5 fresh eggs
6 rounded spoons of sugar
500 gr. of mascarpone
Cocoa powder
1 box of Oro Saiwa cookies (ladyfingers)

1. Prepare coffee in advance.
2. Divide the yolks from the whites of the eggs. Mix the yolks with the sugar.
3. Whisk the whites until they get foamy (like a chantilly cream).
4. Add the mascarpone to the yolks and then the whites and mix.
5. Dip the cookies in the coffee and place them in a rectangular dish covering all of it.
6. Add a layer of the mixture, sprinkle some cocoa, then another layer of cookies and finish with a layer of mixture.
7. Sprinkle with cocoa and put the dish in the fridge for some hours.





I feel it in my fingers...

Just a quick post to wish you all the greatest holidays!



"...I know, I know that this is changing
we walk the streets to feel the ground
I'm chasing through Berlin

(fragment of Uberlin - R.E.M.)

Oh, such a pity that R.E.M. are not together anymore!
Anyhow, this song was playing loud in my head in our last year's trip to Berlin, and also in the radio (I'm not completely nuts).
Brandenburg gate
Berlin had always been one of the places I wanted to see,  so when the opportunity came I was good to go.
After 20 years of the fall of the Berlin Wall, you almost can't imagine that this city was once divided and that both sides were so different. Still, when we found the brick line that marks the places where the wall once stood, and we crossed this line, we couldn't help to feel a bit overwhelmed by the historical meaning; I mean, we were able to do what just 20 years back was forbidden, to go from East to West Berlin.

There are still remnants of the Wall standing in a few places around town (near Potsdamer Platz, Checkpoint Charlie and Freedom Park), and sadly, next to them you will find the worst of sourvenirs: people dressed in 'communist' uniforms who put a stamp on your passport for money, or people in soviet uniforms at the Checkpoint Charlie who pose for your photos (it is almost as sad as the chubby gladiators in front of the Colisseum in Rome).
remnant of the Wall
 One of the most touching monuments I've ever seen is in Berlin, not far from the Reichstag and it's famous Norman-Foster-designed Dome, the Holocaust Memorial, which is "a tribute to the murdered Jews of Europe", consisting of 2.711 blocks of concrete of different heights; the feeling when you walk around them is of a deep sadness, but it's such a beautiful modern monument.

Another impressive monument are the remains of the Gedächniskirche, in Kurfürstendamm (Ku'damm for locals), damaged by the bombings in World War II.
 The area near Alexanderplatz ("Alex" as locals call it - you can't miss it, it's where the TV tower is) and Hackescher Markt, which were part of East Berlin and had a very socialist look in their buildings, is now the hip area for shops and nightclubs.
If you want to stay in this area, the Radisson Blu is the place to stay, It's not far from Alexanderplatz, right by the river. It has a huge acquarium in the center so when you wake up this is your view:

pork knuckle

For a beer and a bite, Brauhaus Lempke in Hackescher Markt is the place. It's a brewery located under the railway, it gets crowded but it's all part of the atmosphere, if you're hungry, the Berlin style pork knuckle is a must.

And if you want a quick bite while you explore the area, there are:
- All in One Kebab (Rosenthalerstrasse 43-45, just off Hachescher Markt) - they say kebab is actually Berlin's typical food, I must say this one is delicious!
- Dolores Mitte - if you feel like a quick burrito, visit Dolores, near Alex, they also have delicious aguas frescas and hearty soups.

For shopping, Münzstrasse in Mitte is the street to visit, a lot of fun and hip shops; otherwise, for larger budgets: KaDeWe in Ku'damm is the spot, it's gourmet section is a foodies paradise!


2012 resolutions

As 2012 approaches, I can't help to start thinking that it will be my 30th year on ed earth! And I've also started thinking about the changes I would like to make or the places I'd like to go, so here's a quick vision board:
2012 purposes

1. Visit Lisbon - the only European capital I've never been to, but always wanted to. The food, the people, the atmosphere, it's all so inspiring! So I hope 2012 will be the year I get to go there!
2. Visit Dubai - actually this is an easy one since we are already planing this trip, so excited!
3. Learn how to make sushi - it shouldn't be that difficult, right? That way I can make a rich cirashi filled with tuna and salmon and only a couple of spoons of rice...
4. Move! - I confess I have never been a sporty type but I guess when you turn 30 you might need a bit of excercise, I'm thinking yoga...

5. Learn Turkish - a language I've always loved, hope I have some time to learn it, even by myself!
6. Get a grown-up bag - a girl must have a grown-up bag in her 30ies, I'm thinking the Kelly-bag type...

Hope to get at least three of these done by 2012!


When in Rome...

So, what happens when two foodies choose their next travel destination? We start doing restaurant research! (Actually I do, G only approves). Anyhow, we start from Trip Advisor, Yelp, blogs from locals and expats (when we don't understand the language), etc. I love this whole research process and the discovery of special places. We don't want fancy Michelin-starred restaurants with micro portions and high prices and our worst nightmare is to end up in a McDonalds, so we focus on the places that offer good food that is part of the place's culture, and if the price is good, great!
Almost a year ago we were in Rome for a weekend and, tired of always ending up in an anonymous Trastevere trattoria offering "menu turistico" (when you see this sign, run away, fast!), after all the research we chose a tiny little restaurant in the Jewish quarter: Sora Margherita (Piazza delle Cinque Scole 30 - Roma - Tel. *+39 06 6874216* - no website). After reading in some blogs that they serve Rome's best tripe, a dish we both love, we couldn't ignore it. We called 4 days ahead and booked for dinner at 20,00 (they have two seating times (20,00 and 21,30), they are open on weekdays only for lunch and weekends for dinner.
It was a bit difficult to find the place because there's no sign outside, but we called them and they guided us to get there. The place inside is small, there's place for 40-50 people and you're literally rubbing elbows with the people in the next table. The decor is made of guides and newspaper articles (note: we normally don't do restaurants that appear on so many guide books - we feel they're too advertised and offer a fake food-experience based on what they think tourists may like - but Sora Margherita is definitely not one of those), some paintings by the owner, simple tables with paper tablecloths. The waitresses are nice, in their own way: they are busy, the place seems to be always full and they like you to eat everything in your plate, so they even yell at you - and you shouldn't think it's rude, it's just the way they are. The menu is hand written in the same paper used for the tables and it includes fried artichokes, puntarelle (roman salad with anchovy, garlic and oil dressing), fresh homemade pasta with different sauces, tripe, beef sausages, fried zucchini, broccoli, meatballs, ricotta cheese cake, etc. No wine list, so we ordered 1/2 liter of the house's wine. As a starter, we had the fried artichoke, cooked jewish-style, and the  puntarelle; both very good, the dressing of the puntarelle was delicious. As an entree we both had the trippa alla romana (tripe cooked roman-style in tomato sauce with parmesan), which probably makes it to our Top Ten of the best foods we've had in our life - simply delicious, tender, tasty, perfect portion and the atmosphere makes you think you've discovered one of those special places you keep talking about (sometimes even annoying people). But wait, we're not done yet, for dessert we shared a ricotta cheesecake with cherries, it was as italians say: "the cherry on top of the cake", very good, perfect to end this perfect dinner in the most beautiful city in the world. The bill was about 55 euro, perfectly average for Rome but a bargain for the supreme quality. The walk back to the hotel in a mild January evening with the enlightened monuments was just "another cherry on top of the cake".
entrance of Sora Margherita


my tribute to Carbonara

In 1999 I visited Italy for the first time, that's when I fell in love with food. I was very picky as a child (G thinks I am still), I wouldn't eat vegetables, always left half of my food, but after I tried the Carbonara I knew that was going to be my favorite food forever, I could eat it everyday for the rest of my life! After 11 years, I can say I've learned to prepare it and I can even tell you where I've eaten the best Carbonara.
But first a little history: Wikipedia tells us that, like most recipes, the origins of the dish are obscure, and there are several hypotheses about it. As the name is derived from carbonaro (the Italian word for charcoal burner), some believe that the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers. The dish was first recorded after the war as a Roman dish, when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States. The dish became popular among American troops stationed in Italy; upon their return home, they popularized spaghetti alla carbonara in North America.
As it happens with the amatriciana, there's always diatribe among food lovers about the ingredients of the Carbonara. Some say it's better to use bacon, others lard and whether or not to use the egg white, cooking point of the egg, use of cream and the type of cheese.
Here's the average recipe:

Ingredients (serves 4):

- 400 g spaghetti;
- 150 g bacon or lard; bacon has to be high quality but for everyday, regular diced bacon will do.
- 30 g pecorino romano - a good seasoned parmigiano or other pecorini will do as well.
- 4 eggs - You must use one egg per person (max. one for 2 pax), I prefer to use the whites as well.
- salt and pepper;
(Isn't it amazing that with these simple ingredients you can create something so delicious? maybe that's what I love the most about Carbonara, simple yet amazing)
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the past and cook as directed on the package.
In the meantime, cook diced bacon in a skillet until crisp. Mix the eggs in a bowl with the grated pecorino and plenty of pepper
When the pasta is cooked, drain and pour it in a big bowl where you will add the bacon (with the cooking grease/fat). Stir in the egg mixture and toss thoroughly until combined (my short experience has taught me that the egg must not be cooked, so it must be added after the stove's off, mixing continuously and serving immediately).
Serve immediately and, if needed, add more grounded pepper and grated pecorino
Wine pairing (by G): medium-bodied white wines from Lazio, possibly with scents of aromatic herbs, Vermentini from Liguria and Sardinia but G prefers a good Verdicchio from Le Marche. Collio from Friuli (Ribolla, Tocai, Malvasia, Pinot gris and Sauvignon) might be an original idea. If you prefer red wine it must be a smooth blend that won't cover the taste.

We were saying, after years and years of eating Carbonara all around Italy I can state that the best one I've tried was prepared on a wonderful sunny summer afternoon in the Marche hills by my friend S. from Iran... now you must be thinking: what? was it not prepared by an Italian??? - No. I don't know what S. does (she's very secret about it), but her Carbonara is just perfect! and you have to consider that most of your perfect meals also depend of the atmosphere and company. So imagine, having this just-prepared delicious Carbonara by the poolside overlooking the Marche smooth hills and enjoying it while chatting with good friends... just perfect!

A quick fact FYI, recently, Rome's best Carbonara was elected, turns out it's prepared by a Moroccan chef from Antico Forno Roscioli - a gourmerie near Campo de' Fiori. I won't be writing about it because even if it's Rome's best, portions are ridiculously small and prices are high... thanks but no thanks!


My travel bag

My travel bag

Xmas holidays are around the corner and this year I'll be spending it with my family in Copenhagen!
Here's what I'll be bringing as my carry-on:
- Passport, obviously
- my great Samsung Galaxy Tab (acts as my travel guide, ebook reader, camera and document holder)
- sunglasses (I don't think I'll be needing them a lot, but who knows?)
- sleep mask and socks for the plane
- leopard print scarf (my new travel must!)
- a black beanie to keep my head warm
- some beauty must-brings


Castelraimondo, my kind of town!

These days there's a big celebration going on: the 700th anniversary of Castelraimondo! Doesn't sound like a place you may know but this 4800-and-something inhabitants town in Le Marche in the centre of Italy was my home for almost 7 years and I still miss it.


These days there's a big thing going on for it's 700th anniversary: all restaurants and take aways in town are offering a special medieval menu from those days, people in shops are dressed in medieval costumes and there are lots of events to attend. More info on the events can be found in the official website of the event.
Castelraimondo enlightened for the 150th anniversary of Italy
 I was there last weekend and could attend an event I have been waiting for more than 10 years; see, when I arrived to Castelraimondo's train station in 2000, the first thing I saw was this big tower (called Il Cassero) all covered up because of some rebuilding going on (I later got the explanation that there had been an earthquake three years before and they were rebuilding many parts of the town), so I couldn't see much of it for some time, until it was rebuilt. So for the 700th anniversary the local authorities decided to open the tower to the public. There's not much to see inside since it was a tower used in war times to surveil the area (Castelraimondo was born as a surveillance point due to its strategic position between the neighboring towns of Camerino, Matelica and San Severino) but the view from the top is great! (a bit difficult to climb if you are afraid of heights, like me, but it was worth it).

Happy 700th birthday Castelraimondo!
the old town of Castelraimondo

north part of Castelraimondo
inside the Cassero

If you happen to be in the area:
Where to stay: Villa Casabianca 1573 is a beautiful country house with great landscapes and a relaxing pool.
Villa Casabianca 1573
Where to eat: Tre Stelle is a small and cozy restaurant just in front of the Cassero and the train station, they serve both regional and Italian dishes. And if you are in the mood for coffee or an ice cream while wandering around town, don't miss the Gelateria Centrale (Corso Italia 21), best gelato you will ever taste!

the creamiest hazelnut gelato!

After a while you will realize you still have some time left, what to do? Relax, enjoy the fresh air, the delicious food and ice cream and the dolce far niente in this special corner of Italy!

And if you liked this preview of Castelraimondo, why not consider a study holiday here? There is a great languange and culture center there called Edulingua, there's no better way to learn Italian!