Tuesday, March 31

Podcast from Italy: Italy vs France, Bucket List Winter Travels & Spring Cleaning

We've fired up the mics after a winter hiatus - listen in to the latest Podcast from Italy to find out where we traveled and what Jason checked off his bucket list!! A discussion begins on France vs. Italy - mainly food related of course. We breakdown how to open the farmhouse and get ready for guests after being closed up for the winter months. Finally, we answer your burning question: Why are we moving and selling the business/farm?!...Listen to find out why!

Listen to Podcast from Italy on Stitcher or iTunes: Episode #81: Back at it...

Saturday, March 7

Norcia: A Land of Pork, Butchers, Boar and Truffles

We recently spent a night in Norcia (Umbria) a land famous for it's pork, butchers, wild boar and truffles. (Not so different from our neck of the woods in Le Marche.) Just over two hours from Rome (and about two hour from our farmhouse) time seems to stand still, it is the perfect place to unwind and loosen your belt because you are about to eat pork for every meal!

We stayed at the gorgeous Palazzo Seneca in the center of town. (The family seems to own a bit of everything in Norcia.) It was nice being the guest instead of the host! The hotel was luxurious yet comfortable with a cozy fireplace & chess room, library, spa and restaurant. The breakfast was irresistible with hand sliced prosciutto di norcia and a half dozen homemade cakes and pastries (Jason kept sending me back for more)!

Breakfast at Palazzo Seneca

After a stroll through town to get our bearings (and making reservations for dinner) we decided it was time to eat! We hoped in the car and headed to scenic Scheggino (a tini tiny Venice) for a lunch of grilled trout that was out of this world and worth the drive. (We knew that dinner would be pork-heavy and we had already stopped at a few butchers to sample the goods so fish sounded good for lunch!)  In a restaurant perched on the river we ordered the mixed antipasti and was blow away by the black truffle crostini (better than either of us had ever had.) The trout was moist and flavorful sourced locally and the veggies done up perfectly. (The total bill for two including antipasti, wine, secondo & veggies = 40,00 Euro)
Scheggino & the Italian flags
mini Vencie - Scheggino
  Strolling around Norcia signs for butchers and stuffed boar heads are everywhere. The prosciutto from this village is famous, Prosciutto di Norcia is sweeter than salty and melts in your mouth when cut by hand paper thin.  Even if you don't speak a lick of  Italian you will know at least one word before you leave this town, "norcino" a pork butcher. Visit Ansuini, the oldest butchery family in the area. But make sure you visit the shop outside of town in the 'zona industriale' the other shop in the center of town (with the same name) bought them out years ago and it's not the same quality, price or family history. (I had read so many articles about the area, where to eat, what to do & of course I came across this name "Ansuini" a dozen times, all with the photo of the original shop in the center of town. But it wasn't until we meet with the owners did we discover the real story and how they were bought out.)
in the center of town - beware of imposters
the real deal - Ansuini Family!
Before dinner, if you get a chance visit the crypt in San Benedetto to hear the monks chanting, it is spine tingling hearing their haunting voices echo off the cold stone. (I grew up Catholic so it could be just the rush of memories from weekly mass growing up.) As the snow began to lightly fall we made our way across the empty cobblestone streets and enjoyed one of the most memorable meals I've eaten!

Directly across the street from the hotel is the best restaurant in the area (and one of the oldest), Granaro del Monte. We settled in for a full meal. (Jason jokes that I ordered the entire right side of the menu - so what if I did!)  The area is famous not only for it's pork products but lentils as well (from Castelluccio in the Sibillini Mountains) so I started with the lentil soup.

Then came my second primo (most people only order 1), the fluffiest, melt in your mouth, truffle topped gnocchi. I died and went to fatty heaven! Red potatoes are used for their creamy consistency. I was hooked  - this dinner was amazing! After I licked my plate clean, the secondo arrived - pork tenderloin with truffles, pecorino, potatoes & tomatoes, dry fried chicory and a poached pear in red wine. (Basically all five flavors balanced on one plate). Jason didn't order nearly as well as I did opting for fish which ended up to be a vehicle for prosciutto & cheese. (Lesson learned: never order fish in a pork town). In fact, I ordered so well they brought me out a commemorative plate to take home! We waddled across the street stuffed like a ...pig and fell into bed as the snow continued to blanket the hills. 
Twenty-four hours in Norcia was the perfect weekend getaway! (We'll visit again the spring when the lentil fields are in bloom in Castelluccio...)

Where to STAY:
Palazzo Seneca
Via C. Battisti 12 Norcia (PG)

Where to EAT:
Granaro del Monte
Via Alfieri 6 Norcia (PG)

Del Ponte
Via del Borgoo II Scheggino (PG)

Ansuini (Butcher)
Zona Industriale Norcia (PG)

For more photos of our trip to Norcia & Scheggino visit our Facebook Page

Sunday, March 1

Lavender + Orange Cake = Love at First Bite

The perfect balance of orange & lavender makes for an absolutely heavenly cake that it is quick & easy to make!

Each year I add a few more lavender plants around the pool but never really knew what to do with the fragrant flowers. Sure, I dried them & placed them in the guest apartments but to be honest I was afraid to cook with them at risk of making a lovely dessert taste soapy! Well this year I was determined to try - Jason made the first attempt with lavender short bread cookies - they were amazing & eaten in one sitting. I was inspired and my taste buds were salivating for more... The perfect opportunity arose when a we found ourselves with extra yogurt in the fridge and I thought -great, I'll make a lavender yogurt cake. I actually made two - orange & lavender cake and rosemary cake with lavender glaze and they are both to die for!

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