Monday, November 28, 2011

Sole e Luna

The pier in Marina di Massa, on most days you can see Porto Venere from here

One of my last days in Marina Di Massa before I leave for the US to visit family.  (Strange to now be vacationing in my home country.)  I haven't featured my dog, Luna in a post yet, so I decided to take a few shots of her enjoying the sun and the beach in Italy.

To some Luna may not be beautiful, but she is to me

Luna likes to get close to the water, but is careful never to get in

A view of the bagno that are closed now for the winter season and my wedding night hotel, Hotel Excelsior

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Italian Thanksgiving

No explanation needed...but the Nutella from Italy does taste different then the one in the US, a bit more oily
So today is Thanksgiving and I am in Italy.  While I am not necessarily complaining, I am missing a fews things on this day of being family, my husband (who is in England working as today is not a holiday anywhere in Europe, but especially in England for which we all know the history, but I do digress...) turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie.  Basically turkey is availabe here in Italy, but I have rarely seen it, stuffing....hmmm well, maybe a panzanella but not even close to satisfying my craving.  And pumpkin pie....well, in my dreams, not here, not ever.  But I do have some food products here in Italy that I am very thankful for, mostly dishes that are freshly prepared, but also some food products and ingredients that make the Italian dishes I love.....the dishes I love.  Check out my favorites here, and if you are in Italy and want to purchase any make sure you go to a grocery store or a Carrefour ( ) so you get the best price.

Bringing olive oil on a trans-atlantic flight can be challenging but possible...this was our choice to bring back when we had the extra space in our luggage, now available in the US for purchase but at twice the price
Pomi, basically strained, crushed tomatoes, available in the US but always much, much cheaper in Italy
Tomato paste in a tube, my favorite is Cirio ( ) but Mutti is good too, great for travel and gifts for the foodie in your life
Any Fini product you see in Italy is good, I generally purchase the balsamic vinegar and salsa as it is so much cheaper then in the US, also great for gifts
We really don't have a similar product in the US, this is great for a quick meal, just boil pasta and mix in. These prepared pestos are great, you can't even compare any sauces in a jar in the US, so just don't
A very Italian product, basically a shot of espresso in a hard, bite-sized chocolate shell....yes, yum is correct!  I have seen this for sale in an Italian market in NYC, but I paid $15 for the same size box that would cost 5 Euro in Italy.  Another tidbit about this product is it is not for sale in the warmer months because the product would melt, so you can't get your pocket coffee fix during the summer.  I love this approach to food production because in the US someone would add some sort of chemical in order to sell this product year round, but in Italy that's not how food works.  
A non-alcoholic aperitivo drink that is usually served chilled with ice, if you are ever at a bar in Italy for aperitivo try this!  (Aperitivo in Italian bars is generally served with some goodies like chips and nuts.)
No this is not Kahlua, it is better.  Basically a coffee liquor (and coffee meaning espresso.) I love these plastic bottles as they are easy to travel with and great for gift hampers
This is a new product in Italy and I like it, basically a chocolate cream cheese, I don't know exactly how you would carry this back on a plane, but in the plane where luggage is kept it is very cold, it could make the journey.....
I have blogged about this product before, ( ) absolutely love this and very inexpensive and easy to take home
A different answer to the boullion cube, great, fast and easy flavor to your weeknight chicken or a quick soup
My absolute favorite drink from Italy, this is not the original flavor of Esta The which is limone, but rather the green tea version (a peach flavor is also offered.) Difficult to bring home as it is a liquid, but I think Ferrero would make a killing selling this in the US.  And while we are on the subject of Ferrero, basically any food product that bears this brand name is great, so if you see a product you might want to try and this name is on it, it will be good!
Another product that is really amazing!  Fiesta cakes I would compare to a Little Debbie snack, but much, much, much better tasting and way more sophisticated.  This snack cake has a orange liquor flavor with the whole thing dipped in a thin layer of chocolate....very yum!  (Again, by Ferrero.)
Another snack cake, my second favorite to Fiesta
These little "cakes" are found in the refrigerator section as they have fresh cream in the center, but it is not so much a cream as a softer cream cheese texture milk-cream kind of thing...I don't know you just have to try it!
OMG!  The best thing ever, to me better then Ferrero Rocher chocolates (there's that name again....damn you Ferrero!)
Umm, yeah one would think the US has the junk food market cornered, but alas Italy makes Cipster.  This is unlike any chip I have ever eaten, thick like a kettle cooked chip, but light and airy like a cross between a Pringle and a Cheeto (sans the Cheeto cheesy flavor)....really time I ate a whole bag in one sitting!
Carrying the oh so famous seal of Parmigiano Reggiano this little cheese snack is relatively new, but very tasty!  Imagine a Parmigiano flavored Laughing Cow cheese wedge....yes this is a little piece of heaven.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sapori d'Autunno

I saw the postings for this fair in Massa earlier this week and was really excited to go.  Since it has been raining quite regularly this week, the turnout of vendors and businesses was less then expected, but still fruitful for me!  I was able to try numerous local food products and it was nice to see all the Italians out and about.

The Piazza degli Aranci, the sister of Napoleon had these orange trees planted here
A meat and cheese stand.... I purchased a pecora (sheep) cheese with pistachios in it
While I love Vermentino, I had not yet tried Acinodorato (white wine made from grapes grown in the Massa hills)
Chunks of "Lardo" (pig fat)...this is sliced extremely thin like prosciutto and eaten on bread,  Lardo di Colonnato is world famous
The candy stand!
Croccante with peanuts, (similar would be a brittle)
A large rotating "caldron" (for lack of a better term) with a fire underneath that roasts the peanuts
Croccante made with pine nuts, good but not as good as the original
I really loved the peanut croccante, as the peanuts are roasted first and then covered with rich syrup

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Pane di Paola

A two minute walk from my mother in laws house brings you to the local bread store or "panetteria."  It has been almost routine for us to go a little before lunch and purchase some focaccia.  This bread, focaccia is extremely addictive; soft on the inside with a crunchy, olive oil slathered crust.  (It is heaven to have right out of the oven.)  As you might have guessed we know the owners by name and my mother in law is friends with her. They have other breads and products, but this is the place in Marina di Massa for focaccia.

You can purchase the whole focaccia or just a half

This day I came a bit late and most of the fresh bread had been sold

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mercato di Forte dei Marmi

Wednesday mornings you can find an outdoor market (mercato) on the streets of the seaside, Tuscan town of Forte dei Marmi.  This is no ordinary street market as Forte dei Marmi is known for upscale, designer brand shopping.  (This town has approximately 7000-8000 residents and two Prada stores alongside many other premium brands.)  Needless to say you can find deals on cashmere, clothing, dishes, handbags, shoes etc as the cliental are quite discerning.  My husband and I made a morning of it strolling the market in the morning with a lovely breakfast of cappuccino and brioche.

Every kind of belt you could imagine

Streets of Forte dei Marmi
Caffe Sambo where we had a lovely colazione (breakfast)