Archive for April, 2008

The search for George

Ciao Bloggisti!

Last week the fam and I went on a day trip to Lake Como, ostensibly to enjoy the fine spring weather in a beautiful setting. But what I didn’t tell my husband was that I was secretly hoping to bump into George Clooney. And no, it’s not what you think. Mine is a purely intellectual interest. I admire his filmmaking, love of Italy and political activism. Yeah. That’s it…..

 

Our first pit stop was for lunch in the town of Lierna (LC). We went to a restaurant called Crotto di Lierna. Typical country decor, very friendly service and attentive to kids and women who treat their yappy little dogs like kids. Yes, there was a customer who kept her dog in one of those chi-chi little carriers.  George would not have approved.

The restaurant specializes in grilled meats and pasta dishes. I have to say that I wasn’t that impressed with either although my husband quite enjoyed his gnocchi di zucca con bitto, rosmarino e pancetta (pumpkin gnocchi with bitto cheese, rosemary and bacon). 

For me, the highpoint was dessert. I ordered a cialda di mandorle con mousse ai tre cioccolati (almond wafer with three different types of chocolate mousse). Beautiful and delish! There was a scoop of white, dark and hazelnut chocolate mousse and the cialda was resting on a nice white and dark chocolate sauce. My daughter enjoyed nibbling the chocolate decoration on top of the mousse.

 

 

 

The prices at the Crotto were average but a bit too high considering the overall quality. I don’t know if I’d ever go back unless GC begged me to discuss politics over a glass of red wine and a steak.

 

Then we headed to the beautiful lakeside town of Varenna or as one website put it: “a corner of Heaven diped in the blue… a pearl set between lake and mountain, nursed by the breeze and kissed by the sun… a place at the limts of the time where modern services marry with its old notoriety, that touch every corner of the world.”  Diped in the blue? Nursed by the breeze and kissed by the sun? Old notoriety?!? Sounds more like an old hooker than a town. I love bad translations, don’t you?

 

 

 

We spent the rest of the afternoon feeding the ducks, strolling and dodging the gazillion tourists. Mainly Milanese and American. Some of the women had that hungry look in their eye that they usually get during sales. They were sniffing out the place, desperate for a glimpse of GC. Their desperation was palpable. Mine, on the other hand, was well-concealed beneath my doting-mother-of-two guise.

While pretending to sightsee, the Canuck in me was thrilled to come across some maple trees in the square. But they weren’t like the ones back home. These ones had no leaves and were candelabra-shaped. Neat, eh?

 

 

 

By the end of the afternoon , the kids had reached their meltdown point so we decided to pack up and head home. It is with a heavy heart that I report that I was unsuccessful in my search for Mr. Nespresso. Alas, our date with destiny was not to be. Of course, this just means that I’ll have to find another excuse to head back to the lake this summer. What else…

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30 April 2008 at 12:35 pm 6 comments

Madamism and other random thoughts

Ciao Bloggisti

Since today is Monday and the first day back at work after a long weekend my brain is taking a bit longer to function. Add to that the fact that I accidentally set the clock one hour ahead and woke up at 5 am instead of 6. I got up as per usual and didn’t realize what time it was until almost an hour later. Arrrggggh!!!

 

Anyhoo, I know the following have nothing to do with Milan or Masala but here are the random, useless thoughts populating my brain at the moment:

 

The upsurge in “madamism”

I was watching tv yesterday while preparing dinner and I happened to catch Madonna’s new video. Now, I know girlfriend is nearing 50 and has a tighter ass than mine. Props to Madge for her discipline. But what the “masala” happened to her face?!? (see, I got some in there anyway, heh heh!) There was something about the woman that looked a bit “off”. I couldn’t really put my finger on it until I found this hilarious article in Cityrag.

She’s starting to look like Madam! That puppet scared the cr*p out of me whenever I saw her on Hollywood Squares in the 70s. Paul Lynde was much more comforting in comparison.

But apparently now madamism is the look du jour. Scary stuff. Madge, please don’t cross that botox/plastic surgery line. Stop before you end up like Mickey Rourke!!!! 

 

 Sexy ugly update

New addition to the Italian sexy-ugly list: Neri Marcorè . He doesn’t look that great in the picture but yesterday on his literary quiz show “Per Un Pugno di Libri” he was sporting some stubble and I have to admit he looked pretty darn hot. Plus he’s got that shy, self-deprecating thing about him. Nice!

New addition to the International sexy-ugly list: Noel Fielding. Just because I like his voice.

 

Paris countdown

Two more days, baby! So excited!!! I’ve already booked at a couple of good restaurants and my list of must-eat locales is growing longer (diet be damned!). Still haven’t packed though. Still haven’t found all my clothes in the mountains of clean laundry I have yet to sort out. Guess that means I’m forced to shop for some new duds while in Paris. Pauvre moi!

 

That’s all she wrote. Ciao!!!!

28 April 2008 at 6:51 pm 2 comments

Festa di Liberazione

Today, 25 April, is a national holiday here in Italy. It is the Anniversario della Liberazione (Liberation Day). It commemorates Italy’s liberation from German occupation during the Second World War. A true cause for celebration.

Since it’s also Friday and Disco 2000 time, here are a couple of freedom-themed tunes in honour of Liberazione:

Aretha Franklin’s Think (claymation style)

And Liberi Tutti by Turin-based synth rock band Subsonica

HAPPY LIBERATION DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

25 April 2008 at 10:17 am 3 comments

An ode to the city

Last year we moved to a small Northern Italian town surrounded by corn fields and rice paddies. Natural parks and rivers are minutes away. The population is just under 8,000 and everyone seems to know us. Feels like Stars Hollow sometimes. We can walk our kids to school and the cats roam freely around the block. Well, except for poor pudgy Sausage who got stuck in the fence the other day. We had to call the vet and fireman to set her free. It was quite the event in town!

I really do love it here and it’s a great place for my kids to grow up in BUT sometimes I get an itching for concrete and traffic that just overcomes me and I have to rush to Milan to get my fix. I guess you can say I’m a city girl at heart.

I was born in downtown Toronto and spent my first months of life there. Maybe I breathed in too many exhaust fumes back then that did something to my developing baby brain. Whatever it was, I think I’ve always felt an inexplicable connection to big cities. We later moved to the burbs where I spent most of my formative years but every time we would make our annual summer trek to the Ex, the sight of the CN Tower and skyscrapers fascinated me to no end. When I was a teenager, I would skip class just to walk down Yonge Street, “the longest street in the world” or hang out at the Eaton Centre, even if there was a perfectly fine mall nearby. And when I was old enough to travel on my own, I never felt more alive than when I was walking down the streets of Montreal, Mumbai, Paris, Madrid, New York, Rome and Poughkeepsie (ok, I’ve never actually been to Poughkeepsie but a girl can dream, can’t she?).

Some people go to the country to “recharge their batteries”. I go to the city to get my fill of energy. There’s something about the lights, the crowds, the colours, the anonymity, the hustle and bustle that make me feel at one with the universe. Yeah I know, I’m nuts!

In less than a week I’ll be in la ville lumière, Paris. Can’t wait!!! I’ll be posting lots of pictures and stories from there when I get back. Another place I’d love to visit again but won’t for a while is New York. For me, it is THE city par excellence. I love it and keep trying to find ways to get transferred there. For now, I dream and make do with looking at some of the best pictures of NYC I’ve ever seen on Blogjem. Frances’ photos make you feel as if you were really in Times Square or Central Park. And her black and white pics are spectacular.

She’s also the brains behind She Who Blogs, a collection of posts from female bloggers that I am proud to be a part of.

Finally, my ode to the city cannot be complete without a bit of music. Here’s the Jam, featuring the sexy-ugly Paul Weller, with “In the City”:

So, what’s your favourite city?  Where would you live if you had the chance?

24 April 2008 at 2:51 pm 5 comments

Bratty bambino goes spicy (sort of)

Take a picky Italian-born 4 year-old, add a mother who wants to get back to her Indian culinary roots, throw in a little curry powder and what do you get? “Ooooh spicy! Mommy, I don’t like SPICY!” Cut to one disappointed mommy turning on the stove to prepare her daughter’s favourite: pasta in bianco (plain pasta with butter).

I’ve been living in Italy for 12 years and while I absolutely love the food here, sometimes I crave a dish of my mom’s fiery beef curry or dosas or biriyani. And since Indians in Italy are few and far between, we don’t have a lot of friends from the old country we can mooch a meal off of nor are there many decent South Asians restaurants. So, I had to learn on my own, getting advice from my mom over the phone or studying her craft in person whenever we met up. I say craft because she can whip up an amazingly fresh, delicious and bum-burning dish with anything she happens to have in the fridge.

I’m embarrassed to say I couldn’t stand Indian food when I was a kid. Chef Boyardee was a culinary god in my eyes. Ronald McDonald? Better than Bocuse. It was only when I left home for university that I felt those first pangs of spicy longing. I would visit my parents’ friends in Montreal just to get that taste of home. Then a few years later when I was living in Paris, I mustered up enough courage to tentatively cook my first Indian meal. I cheated and used Patak’s curry pastes but my dishes were hits. I made some misses too but I gradually improved over the years and can now safely say that I can cook a proper Indian dinner… for adults. Kids are a whole ‘nother ball game.

As I’ve mentioned before, my daughter Bellie is as finicky as Morris the Cat. She is a sworn enemy of vegetables and actually threw up her dinner the other day because there was a microscopic piece of mushroom in her risotto. So you can imagine how difficult it’s been introducing curries and spices to her diet. I thought she would have been used to them from the womb but I was wrong. I really want her to get used to the tastes that I grew up with, to become familiar with the cuisine of her ancestors, because I believe food is a visceral way of getting in touch with your heritage.

So I tried a different tactic. I decided to take the tastes she already likes and morph them into Indian dishes. Bellie loves puff pastry and potatoes so my first experiment was a kid-friendly samosa. I improvised a lot because my son decided to wake up during my precious cooking time. But the samosas turned out surprisingly well and were easy to make.

Here’s the samosa recipe:

Ingredients:

4 medium potatoes, chopped into big cubes (I leave the skin on while cooking but it can be peeled beforehand, too)

250 gr mixed vegetables (peas, zucchini, carrots, beans or whatever is in season)

400 gr. can of chick peas

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 tsp of Mom’s special curry masala (made with 1 tbsp cumin seed, 4-5 cardamom pods and a 5 cm stick of cinnamon, ground to a fine powder in a spice mill)

1 tbsp lemon juice

pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

salt (to taste)

2 sheets of puff pastry (230 gr. each)

Place chopped potatoes in pot and add enough water to cover the potatoes. Add salt. Heat to boiling. About 7 minutes after the water starts boiling, add the mixed vegetables. Cook for a further 5 minutes, then add drained can of chick peas. Boil potato, veg and chick pea mixture for 2 minutes, then drain. Let cool for about 10 minutes then blend mixture (with a traditional or immersion blender) until ingredients become the consistency of mashed potatoes.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 180°C.

Heat oil on medium-low in a skillet. Add the curry masala and cayenne pepper (if you’re feeling daring!) and cook for 1 minute. Add the blended potato mixture to the skillet. Add lemon juice. Mix well. Add salt to taste. Cook for 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.

Cut puff pastry into 10cmx10cm squares. After the potato mixture has cooled down 10-15 minutes, place a tbsp in the middle of each pastry square. Dampen the edges of each square with water. Bring edges together to form a triangle shape, if possible. Place samosas in a parchment lined cookie sheet or baking pan and put in oven. Cook until golden, around 15-20 minutes.

As you can see from the picture below, my samosas didn’t look that perfect. But I can honestly say that both kids ate them up, vegetables, curry and all!

If you like this one I have my mom’s extra-spicy beef curry recipe waiting in the wings. But only if you ask nice! It’s an ancient Keralan secret.

Buon appetito!!

21 April 2008 at 11:04 pm 10 comments

Mellow Music

Ciao Bloggisti

It’s been a long, hard, rainy week. Don’t want to get into too many details but let me say that being a working mom is one of the toughest gigs on earth. Am exhausted! And I’ve been neglecting my blog too. Very sorry about that but this week I chose sleep over blogging. Don’t know how the rest of you bloggers do it.

So today I’m feeling a bit mellow. And I feel like listening to something quiet and relaxing. Something that will take me away like a Calgon bath. How about some Jeff Buckley?

And let’s not forget Lucio Battisti‘s “E Penso a Te“. Yes, it’s a bit depressing but there is a comedy moment after 2:27 after the hippies come out and start dancing rather awkwardly. Painful. But the song is great.

Hope you guys didn’t fall asleep.

Speaking of sleep, it’s past my bedtime.

Buonanotte e buon weekend.

18 April 2008 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

Have I Told You Lately That We Need To Go Out Sans Kids

Ciao Bloggisti!!!

Italian election? What election? Don’t know what you’re talking about. Hey, can we change the subject now? Thanks!

Last week a strange and supernatural phenomenon appeared unto me. But it wasn’t a poltergeist or a crop circle in the backyard. Nope, for the first time in eons, my husband and I went out on a date. Those of you without kids must be thinking, “Big fat deal!”. But anyone out there with little ones knows that having time alone with your significant other is as rare as Madonna making a decent movie (luv ya but please give it a rest, Madge!).

So, being the crafty wench that I am, at Christmas I gave Mimmo tickets to see Van Morrison, thus forcing us to spend a few hours together in good company and even better music. Since the concert was scheduled for April we had to wait a bit but it was worth it.

Last Thursday the hubster and I met up after work on a romantic Ferrovia dello Stato train headed for the even more romantic Bicocca neighbourhood of Milan. As you can see, it’s a rather cold and dreary place. Looks more Northern European than Northern Italian.

We stopped in a bar for one of my favourite things in the world: an aperitivo! Happy hour in Milan is great if you’re at the right bar. At this one, Sio Café in the heart of the Bicocca university campus, not only did we become girl-drink drunks, we stuffed ourselves silly at the buffet. There were two different types of ravioli, bruschetta, tomato and mozzarella salad, breaded scallops, crudités, couscous with beef stew, chicken wings, pizza, etc. My Cosmopolitan and margarita were so-so but the food more than made up for it.

Then we quickly made our way to the Arcimboldi Theatre for the concert. We had to make sure to get there on time because Van the Man is notorious for starting his concerts right on time and won’t let latecomers in while he’s singing. He also has a big digital clock onstage which the audience can’t see. It’s a time clock that counts down the minutes of his concert. Once he’s played for 90 min, that’s it. Concert over. He’s a crusty old man but what a talent!

Mr. Morrison came out on stage playing the sax, wearing a grey suit and fedora and accompanied by a tight 10-piece band. His voice hadn’t changed one bit and was as strong and distinctive as ever. He didn’t acknowledge the audience and shout out “Wasssup Milano!”, so that was a bit of a disappointment. But he did give us some fine music. He sang a couple of his hits (a swing version of Have I Told You Lately and Moondance, featuring a pretty mean fiddle). Van also did covers of Ray Charles’ I Can’t Stop Loving You and a Muddy Waters song. The man is a master multi-tasker and showed off his skill with the sax, harmonica, guitar (electric and Spanish) and the piano. Wow!

The audience was tame compared to the ones at the concerts I’ve been to in the past (Foo Fighters, Paul Weller, Disney on Ice). No one stood up and it was hard to even get anyone clapping to the tunes. But the average age was 50 so it was understandable. And the good thing is, they made Mimmo and I feel young again. Woo hoo!

True to form, exactly 90 minutes after they started Van and his band packed up and left. All in all it was a good night even if he could have interacted more with the fans. The mind-blowing picture below is from the concert. Yes, it’s terrible but it’s the only one we were able to take. If you squint real hard you can make out Van the Man breakdancing (another of his hidden talents).

We weren’t allowed to take pictures but I couldn’t help myself. I asked Mimmo to do it for me since he was in a better position. I assured him the flash was off. He clicked. The flash wasn’t off! I was desperately pushing buttons, trying to figure out how to turn the darn thing off when an usher came up to us and quietly but firmly told me to put the camera away. Mimmo was absolutely mortified!

But apart from that glitch our date was wonderful. We love our kids to death but it was so refreshing to have a night out by ourselves, not talking about poop and drool for a change.

How about you? Do you ever get a chance to go out without your kids? When was the last real date you went on and what did you do?

Ciao!

15 April 2008 at 10:35 pm 3 comments

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