Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Living in a Foreign Language, A Memoir of Food, Wine, and Love in Italy.

Posted by Lyndi

Are you looking for a happy-go-lucky read?

A week ago I purchased a paperback at Borders in Rogers from the 50% off table.  It had all the makings of what I like:  non-fiction with a story, discussions about food, wine, Italy, and it was 50% off!


I have to tell you… this is such a delightful book! 

Immediately it held my attention because the author, Michael Tucker, is happily-in-love with his soul mate for the past 35+ years, Jill Eikenberry.  Yes, these are the two actors from the hit 80s/90s television series L.A. Law

This 252 page book details their adventures purchasing a 350 year old stone house in Umbria, Italy, and their quest to afford to make Italy a year-long adventure and not only a twice a year seasonal event.  Originally published in 2006, it is neither outdated nor dull.

Sautéed throughout the pages are delightful tales of Mikey (that’s what his friends call him and yes, I do feel like one now) discovering local butchers who have their passionate preparation techniques that have been handed down for generations, the joys of savoring the simplicity that is so revered by Italians and their cooking, his initial falling in love with the enormous pizza oven on his grounds and then the awe he felt when he learned it was constructed 50 years prior to the building of the home as the communal baking oven for the townspeople.  Oh, and the tales about wine and grappa, and more wine, and more grappa. Ahhhh… bella!  Beautiful!

I cannot wait to cook some of his recipes he worked in as he told his stories.

The other element that was seasoned throughout the pages was tales of friendships found.  I actually felt wistful as I lived, (momentarily as literature so easily provides) through the day-in and day-out interactions with friends and towns people, laughed as I read about over-the-top gluttonous food focused parties, and marveled at the ease of companionship they made with friends while living in Umbria. 

Sigh… I realize I am missing out getting to know friends and family in such a comfortable way.

This book is a must read for anyone who has ever been to Italy, wants to visit Italy, ever dreamed of moving to Italy or ever dreamt of escaping for a while in a foreign land.  This book is also for anyone who loves the incorporation of simplistic foods that have been gently prodded to bring out its fullest flavor. 

This book is for anyone who dreams of slowing down in life, with the loves of their lives, and with the fullest love of life.

Happy reading!

P.S.  Family, friends, or if you are local, feel free to drop me an email if you want to borrow the copy of my book.  Otherwise anyone can purchase it at Borders in Rogers, or Borders online, or Amazon online. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

A carafe takes wine to the next level of enjoyment.

Posted by Lyndi

The first thing Dennis and I went out and purchased after returning from Italy was a wine carafe.  You may prefer the term decanter.  Either way, we decided that wine tastes so much better from one.

The original use of decanters is interesting.  You could use it to house not-so-great wine (still a relevant point these days) or use it as a tool to ensure that sediment from your wine bottle is filtered out.  That is, to make sure that the glorious mouth-feel from your full-bodied glass of wine is not marred by the dirty, chalky, and bitter sediment that an older wine can ungraciously deposit from bottle to stem.

For me it was simple.  I discovered that it is just a delight to pour from it.  

It takes savoring a glass of wine to the next level. 

We went to Target, Bed Bath & Beyond and Williams Sonoma to find a simple, not too complicated carafe.  Williams Sonoma won for us for two reasons:  1) Dennis used to work for ARC International (makers of Mikasa) and I still feel un-loyal buying Anchor and 2) the Riedel carafe we purchased at Williams Sonoma had a nice cut crystal pour spout.  It is beautifully simple.  I won’t lie to you, I am scared to death to accidently break it! 
A quick google search opens us many affordable and interesting options:

·       Sur La Table (also a great site for everything kitchen!)
·       Williams Sonoma (this is the one I purchased)
·       Crate and Barrel (I am in love with the “Vino Carafe” for just $4.95)
· (has beautiful pieces as well as decanter dryer shelf, funnels, and cleaning kits)
· (has one really interesting amber colored carafe I am intrigued over)

If you have a wine carafe packed away in the cupboard, the attic, or come across on at a flea market or garage sale, it’s time to put it to use!  It adds that extra-special touch to a dressed table, whether it is filled with white wine, red wine, or good old-fashioned apple cider.

And besides, we all can use a little extra-specialness to our lives... to make everyday a special day!

Happy decanting!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A quick and inexpensive to-go item at Atlanta Bread Co.

Posted by Lyndi

We were running around in Fayetteville yesterday and Dennis was hungry.  Me?  Not so much since I was gorging out on a huge breakfast of vegetable omelets and hash brown potatoes.  Then again… I can always eat!

So we popped in to Atlanta Bread Co. on College Avenue, in front of Tuesday Morning and Office Depot.  Dennis ordered his meal and I ordered something that hit. the. spot.

A scoop of chicken salad on a leaf of lettuce to-go!  And guess what?  It only cost $2.00!!

Next time you are running around Fayetteville or Rogers (or you happen to have an Atlanta Bread Co. near you), pop in for a satisfying scoop of chicken salad.  Packed with dried cranberries, apples, and celery, it satisfied with creaminess, crunchiness, sweetness, and delivered a punch of protein. 


Let me know if you have any quick and inexpensive to-go items you have discovered along the way!

Happy Eating!

Friday, October 15, 2010

It’s cast iron skillet weather. Do you have one?

Posted by Lyndi

Fall is so much more than a season.  It is the warm hug from the sun on your cheekbones as you walk outside on a blustery day.  It is the ever-changing colors of leaves evolving on the tree until they can no longer hang on.  And then.. almost in super-slow motion.. only then do they drop to the ground.

Fellow foodies, you know what Fall means to us.  It is the glorious baking and cooking season!   At last we can turn our ovens back on from its summer sabbatical.  Welcome back my dutch ovens, my baking sheets, my roasting pans, and my trusty time-worn cast iron skillets.

Do you have a time-worn cast iron skillet?

Me?  I wasn’t lucky enough to have inherited a cast iron beauty from a family member.  Some of you may have acquired yours in that usual manner.  But for the rest of us who weren’t so lucky, have no fear, we can easily acquire our own heirloom and at economical prices, too!

A found a location in Northwest Arkansas that has plenty of old, dirty, dusty, and oh-so-magnificent cast iron beauties for sale!

Where?  The Tontitown Flea Market & Antique Mall on Highway 412 (Henri De Tonti Blvd).  Check out booth #35 and you will be overwhelmed by all the choices.  But don’t stop there.  Be sure to browse the rest of the store because these beauties are scattered throughout.

This is where I purchased my Griswold #8 trusty cast iron skillet.  It was well worth the $35 and Dennis and I use that baby at least once every day.

Here are a few helpful tips before you head out and purchase your first cast iron skillet (or add to your collection):

1.     Take a few minutes to research. 
a.     I went online and googled “old cast iron skillets” and read advice. 

2.     Write down the identifying marks that appeal to you to help you narrow your search.
a.     Me, I knew that I wanted a Griswold with the stamp of Eerie.

3.     Log on to an auction site like eBay and browse the current bid prices. 
a.     This will give you a pricing guide.
b.     It may also spur you to start a collection or find a specific hard to find piece.

4.     Ask you shop, don’t worry about rust, dust, or grime
a.     It will clean right up!

I hope that you will consider adding a cast iron skillet to your kitchenware collection.  There is something soul-satisfying about reaching for a skillet and feeling the heavy tug of the weight as you lift it to the stovetop.  Maybe it is part of knowing you are a foodie.  You want each part of the food experience to enhance the feeling of comfort, delight, warmth, and soul embracing.  A cast iron skillet delivers just that.

If you are a fellow cast iron skillet fan, I would love to hear from you.  Does your skillet have a story?

Happy Fall!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mi Scusi. I’ve just been to Italy.

Posted by Lyndi

I must apologize. 

You know I talk about all things food-related in Northwest Arkansas… but today I MUST break free. 

Mi Scusi!

My family and I have just returned from a two-week trip to Sabaudia Italy, just south of Rome…. and wow, how could I NOT share with you my food adventures from this glorious land?

Besides, there will be something in it for you, too.  This trip renewed my passion to search out and prepare simple, pure, clean, and tasty dishes.  I cannot wait to share them all with you.

Hopefully you will indulge me.

Overall Favorite Memory:  The delicious food, pampering and friendship of the wait staff at Hotel le Dune!  I cannot say enough about them all:  Marcello, Mario, Giovanni, Sonja, Giuseppe, Pinot, and Marco! Grazie!!!

Food item that most surprised me:  Would you believe… eggs?  What are they feeding these chickens over there?  Look at the vibrant orange of the yoke!  I still cannot get over it!

Favorite completely shocking moment:  After a long day of travel from Arkansas – Memphis – Amsterdam – Rome – Sabuadia, we arrived in time for dinner.  After the first course of antipasta, we were served the pasta course.  “No Glutina,” I said, as a fresh steaming delightful dish of pasta was placed in front of me.  It was quickly whisked away.  A second waiter appeared, again with the pasta.  “No Glutina,” I said to him.  But the pasta stayed.  Guiseppe, my waiter, said “No…. NO Glutina!”  Can you believe it?  EVERY MEAL I HAD MY VERY OWN, SPECIALLY PREPARED GLUTEN-FREE PASTA AND GLUTEN-FREE BREAD!!!  Oh joy, oh joy, oh joy!  My tears welled and the family cheered!  I must say, as spontaneous as that reaction was, it must have encouraged them greatly.  It was so much fun to see my pasta dish was double-the-size of the regular pasta dish of everyone else.  Pampered?  Definitely. Spoiled?  Terribly so.

Foods that let you know you’re in Italy:  What can I say… Italians know how to do it right!

Biggest food regret:  Fioria de zucca.  Stuffed squash blossoms.  I got a photo of them in the market… but alas, Lyndi failed to imbibe.  It was right there, right within my reach.  In Rome, we grabbed lunch and I actually ordered them!  The waiter quickly told me, “Oh, you no eat… has glutina!”  So, I cancelled the order.  Big mistake!  I should’ve ordered and just admired them while everyone else experienced it.  Sigh.  Next time in Rome..

Favorite living-vicariously-through-someone-else food moment:  My niece’s first gelato.  Isn’t that adorable?

Thanks for letting me go on and on today.  I cannot wait to share with you all that I’ve learned!  I missed chatting with you all these past few weeks! 

Happy eating!  Caoi!
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