Friday, February 27

 Marbled Ring Cake - Ciambella Marmorizzata

When you're pressed for time & need a go-to dessert - this is it! So simple to make, you can't mess it up!  I love it because it can be eaten all day - breakfast, lunch & dessert! The only problem...never lasts long!

Serves 6-8

6 tablespoons sweet butter, melted (plus extra for greasing)

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour(plus extra for dusting)

2 teaspoons baking powder

scant 1/2 cup superfine sugar

2 eggs

3/4 cup milk

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

confectioner's sugar, for sprinkling


Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

Grease a ring mold with butter and lightly dust with flour.

Sift together the four, baking powder, sugar and a pinch of salt into a bowl.

Add the eggs, melted butter and milk and mix until smooth and even.

Pour one-third of the mixture into another bowl and stir in the cocoa powder.

Pour the plain mixture into the prepared mold, then pour the cocoa mixture on top.

Bake 35-40 minutes. 

Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes, then turn out.

Sprinkle with confectioner's sugar and serve.

Thursday, February 26

Meet the Milk Man - Latte Crudo

We can't get enough of latte crudo - whole, raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk! We gather our glass bottles & loose change, head up the hill to the medieval town of Urbino & eagerly fill our bottles.

Whenever guests come to visit either I take them there myself or suggest a visit to the little roadside stand where you can get a litre of fresh milk straight from the farm for 1.10 Euro! 
What a deal - especially when the regular milk is just under 2 Euro. So why not go straight to the source and support local farmers!  You just can't beat the freshness & quality of raw whole milk- the cream rises to the top & you can either scoop that little bit of heaven out & enjoy or shake it up & drink straight from the bottle! Last winter we sat around the fire, our hands warming the milk & passed the bottle around the table, everyone shaking it to their own beat & we made homemade butter!

The other evening we were stopping to fill our bottles after visiting with friends and low & behold guess who walks up - the milk man! The farmer, Andrea Busetto Vicari who produces this delicious liquid gold!  

We recognized his face & wild white hair immediatly (most of the milk stands have a life-size cut out of him) He's larger than life! I ran right up & introduced myself as an American living in Italy & that we love his milk! He was thrilled! I think he was just as excited to see two Americans so enthusiastic over his milk as we were to meet the famous milk man!

A crowd started to grow as we chatted about his milk production, fears some have of drinking raw milk & his plans for the future.  He brilliantly cut out the middle man a few years back & started selling directly to locals through these self-contained, self-cleaning roadside stands that he fills up about 3 times a week. He opened the door & let us peek in to see how it all works!

Next time you are in the Pesaro-Urbino area of Northern Le Marche stop at a latte crudo stand - even if only for a taste! (Handy plastic cup dispensor makes it easy to sample the goods). Keep an eye out for a big fake cow near the side of the road - the telltale sign of the latte crudo stand.   
 PESARO: Via Flaminia
PESARO: Via Pantano, 53 (presso panetteria Malandrino)
PESARO: Via Guido d'Arezzo (presso "Piatto ricco")
PESARO: Via Cecchi, 16 (presso "Gastronomia del Porto")
MONTECCHIO: Via Pio La Torre (presso "Macelleria Londei")
URBINO: Viale F. Comandino
CATTOLICA: Via Allende, 21 (presso Piro’s)
MONTECALVO IN FOGLIA: Strada Provinciale Fogliense
FANO: via Roma (presso sagrato di San Cristoforo)

For more information on the milk man & his farm check out Latte di Montefeltro
Support your local farmers & drink raw whole milk! For more information on raw milk in the States:

Monday, February 23

Spring Fever? Check Out Cheap Flights & Airline Sales to Italy

Looking for flights to Italy this spring or summer? Try $325 round trip from JFK to Bologna April 25th - 2nd of May and arrive just in time for our All Inclusive Spring Cooking Week! There's tons more, you just gotta know where to look!

Spring in Le Marche

Check out these sites: (I used Seattle & New York as example to show coast to coast deals)

Cheap O Air - I just checked out round trip tickets in July from Seattle to Rome & found tickets for $1,100 (with one stop) OR JFK to Rome in April for $420 bucks nonstop - now we are talking! Plus with their Presidents Day Sale take $10-$15 off the final price (ending 28/02/09)

Lufthansa is offering numerous discounted flights including Bella Italia with tickets to Italy from $180 for the spring and they just released a Romantic Europe Sale including a Buy-1-Get-1 at 50% OFF special to some of Europe's most popular destinations. Fly to Rome or Venice starting at $546 - but remember, that's each way for 2 people. So it's actually $273 each way per person after the discount! Depart April 3 through May 22 to take advantage of this special. Just be sure to book soon as we don't expect this offer to last long.

Travel Zoo - is packed with deals take a look - that's where I found the Lufthansa sale!

Kayak - I randomly checked a week in June & found JFK to Bologna for 805 Euro.

Skyscanner is great too & checks for inter-European flights which come in handy when you are hitting up multiple destinations or find an outrageous deal to London & then need to find your way from London to Italy for example. Also it uses a handy graph of each month, with the cost per day of flights so you can see when its cheapest to fly.

How far of a drive are we from the airport?
Rimini - 1.5 hours
Ancona - 1.5 hours
Forli - 1.5 hours
Bologna - 2 hours
Florence - a little over 2 hours
Rome - a little over 3 hours
Venice - 4 hours
Milan - 5 hours

So start clicking away & find a cheap flight today!

Monday, February 16

Grand Slam Breakfast!

"Che cosa hai mangiato per la prima colazione?" (What did you eat for breakfast?)

I don't know if this is a set-up for a joke - but all eyes eagerly await this answer, every time we are asked! With smiles growing as we start with "umm..cereal." Which is true I am a cereal lover, that and our daily cappuccino & fresh squeezed OJ.  

But they press harder not satisfied with cereal, "Is that all?" .... "I don't know...sometimes pancakes, uuuhhh I love waffles with strawberries, or eggs, bacon, toast & hash browns..." - we are really rolling here & all the Italians eyes light up - "Ah yes! The American breakfast - we have heard soo much of this!"  They finally got the answer they were looking for, all nodding in agreement that this is what they thought and must be why Americans are so much bigger.

Italian cannot understand or even imagine how we could eat all this for breakfast, but they seem to be fascinated & love hearing about it. We get asked this question all the time! 

I was slightly mortified when friends stopped by one evening & we were doing the unthinkable...eating breakfast for dinner! French toast to be exact and since pancetta is just oh so good thick slices of pancetta (much much better than bacon) & I was in hog even!  Then all the sudden I thought - we must look insane & like americani pazzi (crazy Americans)...we are doing the unthinkable - drinking MILK! Our friends seemed to understand the idea of breakfast for dinner - but the milk, blasphamia! wine - you drink wine with dinner - even if dinner is breakfast!

Just a bit of daily life....

Saturday, February 14

Assisi, A Day Trip in Umbria

A few weeks ago we finally went to atone our sins in Assisi. This was our first trip to the city of San Francisco & growing up catholic...I don't know, I was always a bit nervous....such a holy & sacred city, would I be stuck by lightning? Could a passing priest issue me Hail-Mary's?

I have procrastinated a bit posting this day trip because I felt I couldn't do this city justice. So here is a humble look at Assisi through our pictures, a few tid bits & hopefully a handful of helpful info...

With our buddy Pat (from Seattle) in tow, we packed up the car with tons of snacks, grabbed our camera & I ripped out the section on Assisi from good ol' Rick Steves' Italy - we were ready for our pilgrimage!

It was dark & foggy in the morning, you could barely see down the narrow lanes leading us to the center of town.

In a city with what seems to have a million churches & chapels you can find yourself spending the day just wondering about, in & out of dark damp old buildings, with only the creaking of the pues to be heard (at least in the winter)

There were a handful of tourists when we visited in the late late fall, but even in those small numbers we could here that familiar American-twang & saw the blue book in hand - another Rick Steves follower! Quickly we switched into Italian-mode, I don't know why we didn't want to be 'made' but for some reason we felt more comfortable speaking in Italian since we are in Italy & mainly, because we want soo badly to blend!
We got a bit turned around looking for the Roman Arena- we couldn't seem to find the tiny lane named Via Anfiteatro Romano which was the entrance to this ancient neighborhood...we walked passed it probably 3 times before we finally figured it out - there wasn't the 'ancient site' or 'tourists stop here' marker that I guess I had expected, just a flimsy chain to keep cars from driving in.

The old town laundry is still wonderfully intact (with a bit too much graffiti), but you can easily imagine it bustling with dirty laundry & gabbing ladies!

Just down the block -

Note: at first glance this is just a driveway, ah but look closer - notice the stone, arches, more stone, & it kinda looks like ruins....Well that's because it is an archeological site dating back to the 1st century AD and it's a driveway at someones house! This is Italy baby!

Back to wandering the streets -

It's great to get 'lost' in old cities like these - you are walled in, so you can't get far - just meander, follow the smell of brodo, wander & day dream - you will most always end up back in the center of town.

Basilica of St. Francis, obviously not at all what Francis had in mind, but nonetheless stunning!

What a fantastic medieval citta! This city is totally do-able in a day if that's all you got. From our agriturismo it was less than 2 hours drive - a perfect day trip for wandering about in the morning, lunch & an afternoon stroll for pastries.

I must say the self-guided walking tour from Rick Steves came in handy, we definitly went off-the guide at times but it was nice to have a bit of info & history on what exactly we are looking at in regards to art or a specific location- especially in the Basilica - otherwise I would have been lost....

For tourist information head to the center of town on Piazza del Comune or visit their web site: click here

Assisi Online
Rick Steves Blog on Assisi
Slowtrav on Assisi

On the Road with Francis of Assisi by Linda Bird Francke - I have just started this lovely book (a gift from a very kind guest) it is a travelogue of parallel journeys, one of the author & the other the facinating story of St. Francis of Assisi and his path to sainthood. I love books like this because it helps brings these ancient cities to life for me!
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