An early morning trip to the Rialto fish market in Venice is always a treat. This morning, after coffee and a croissant at my favourite coffee bar in Venice, Torrefazione Cannaregio, I hopped across the Grand Canal at the Santa Sofia, traghetto (a traditional gondola ferryboat) and on to the fish market. I was in search of mazzancolle a type of king prawn in order to make one of the most Venetian of dishes, mazzancolle in saor.
Venice is a city that most experience on foot. Even those residents that have boats do an awful lot of walking and most of that on unforgiving flagstones, and bridges that rise and fall five feet in space of a few yards.
With all that walking, especially in the summer when temperatures regularly top 30 degrees celsius, it would seem a good idea to stop every now and again, pop into a shady bar, and have a drink and perhaps a restorative bite. Well, Venetians would agree and this is how cichéti a typically Venetian snack food came to be.
Have you ever dreamed the Italian dream? Waking up, let’s say in Florence, on a Saturday morning; taking a stroll to the local market to buy fresh produce; making fresh pasta with your own hands; having an aperitivo with friends before sitting down to enjoy the fruits of your culinary labours?
Last week, I was lucky enough to have been invited to live this experience in the capable hands of Eating Europe Food Tours and the Florence Food Studio at their cooking school in the authentic Santo Spirito quarter of the city. You may remember that last year I reviewed their excellent Other Side of Florence tour.
Summer is well and truly cooking in Italy, with temperatures temperatures of 28-38°C roasting the Italian people and anyone else brave enough to enter the Mediterranean kitchen. Now is the time to take advantage of the amazing variety of produce that the hot weather brings as well as to eat lighter, more refreshing meals as the weather suppresses your appetite. Here at La Madera we’re doing a lot of al fresco dining to take advantage of the evening breezes which roll down the mountainside after the sun has set. Here’s a little taste of what we’ve been eating.
It’s black summer truffle season here in the Tuscan Valtiberina and these alternative fruits of the forest are everywhere. Less pungent than in some other areas of Italy they are often served grated over pasta or grilled meat in abundance. There’s one restaurant in the village where the set menu looks like its own truffle festival with the antipasti, primi, and secondi all featuring this local treasure. I’ve yet to discover a dessert using black truffle—chocolate truffle is, of course, something quite different—but watch this space.
Last week I was invited by Eating Italy Food Tours to take part in their new guided tour, The Other Side of Florence. The tour covers two quarters of the Oltrarno area, San Frediano and Santo Spirito on the southern side of the river, and area not usually visited by tourists despite their proximity to the city centre. Most people cross the river only to visit the Pitti Palace, or Brancacci Chapel before returning to the bright lights of the northern side of the river. But in the Oltrarno area you find the real Florence: an area which has surprisingly managed to avoid gentrification to retain its character.