Buena sera! And wow, some evening it is here in the Minneapple. We're just back from a family vacation in Italy, Forte dei Marmi in Tuscany (thus my writing absence, if you noticed, which you most likely did not, ha). Nathan, John, and I left last Wednesday, with John's parents and brother's family, got back (very) late last night. I can't believe I'm saying this, but at least for tonight, the weather is much lovelier here in Minnesota than in...Tuscany! Woo hoo! This, right now, is my perfect night. Warm, dry, fragrant - everyone's outside, desperate for summer to begin. Es bueno.
Too bad I'm so jet lagged, it's pretty disappointing. I've always had big plans to "travel" - but in reality, it completely wipes me out, screws up my digestion, and makes me feel old and tired. That said...
...I (of course) had a great time! Forte dei Marmi is on the coast of Tuscany, so seafood and fish are menu staples. I cashed in, passing on the pastas and risottos (other than stealing bites from my son!) and enjoyed lovely fresh vegetables and fish dishes - moderation made easy, nice. Which is the whole vibe in Italy anyhow, and most of Europe for that matter. Particular favorites included:
- Warm lobster with raw shaved carrots and fennel in a pool of extra-virgin olive oil
- Whole-roasted branzino (Mediterranean sea bass), served with roasted potatoes and zucchini
- Farro soup, thick with clams, calamari, and shrimp
- Salad "imperiale" with mache, cherry tomatoes, and warm langoustines (otherwise known as Norway lobsters or scampi; similar to shrimp or crayfish)
- Focaccina (grilled, salted pizza crust) sandwiches with rocket (arugula), shaved bresaola, and soft cheese
- Antipasti at the bar of our hotel (Grand Hotel Imperiale): salamis, Parm with honey, pizza fritta (fried bread dough with salt; Nathan's favorite)
I confess that after a 20-hour trip home (bad weather in New York seriously delayed the second leg of our trip), I was too tired to make dinner tonight. So John and I set out for an early meal at Alma - the perfect destination for extending our fresh-food Italian reverie for just a few more hours. I opened with a beautifully composed little salad of smoked whitefish, arugula, potatoes, and spicy mustard; followed by a cold entree of farro, shrimp, and chickpeas. With a Turley Zin, and a nice piece of sheep's milk cheese to finish (I love that Alma will let you buy one slice of cheese for dessert, every restaurant should do the same), I am a goner, my friends. More tomorrow.