Archive for September, 2008

Cinema, amore mio!

Ciao Bloggisti,

Today I was scanning CNN.com to get the scoop on McCain bailing on the campaign when lo and behold, I spotted a story that I just had to click on: Top Ten Italian Films

I’ve been an Italophile ever since I was a ragazzina and one of the things that stoked my passion was Italian cinema.  And no, it wasn’t those erotic comedies with Lino Banfi or Edwige Fenech that many a lonely teenage boy watched Saturday nights on Italcine (those of you from Toronto will know what I’m talking about). No, I’m talking about the good stuff. I’m talking about Giulietta Masina’s heartbreaking turn as Gelsomina in La Strada or the little boy holding his disgraced father’s hand at the end of The Bicycle Thief (Ladri di Biciclette). I even took two courses on Italian Cinema in my last year at McGill.  Completely self-indulgent but totally worth it! Watching those movies, which were a celebration of all that was wonderful and dreadful about il Bel Paese, made me love Italy even more and planted a little seed in my brain that ultimately led me to move here.

CNN’s Screening Room compiled a list of the top 10 Italian films with the help of Rome-based film critic Lee Marshall. He put together an interesting combination of old and new works. Here are his picks:

1. ‘La Strada’
(Federico Fellini, 1954)

“It’s about a loose couple of traveling circus performers who go around Italy juggling in the street. It’s also one of the greatest tragic love stories ever filmed.”

2.’The Conformist’
(Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)

“A technically, aesthetically and visually rich film, it announced the arrival of Bertolucci as a major director.”

3. ‘Ossessione’
(Luchino Visconti, 1943)

“A drifter gets a job in a remote service station and starts to fall in love with the owner’s wife; the pair plot to kill him. It is considered one of the first films of the Neo-Realism movement”

4. ‘L’Avventura’
(Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

“A woman disappears on a Mediterranean island and is never found, which becomes a metaphor for what Antonioni thought was missing in middle-class Italian society. ”

5. ‘A Fistful of Dollars’
(Sergio Leone, 1964)

“The film that announced the Spaghetti Western to the world. It also turned Clint Eastwood’s rugged face and narrowed eyes into an icon. ”

6. ‘The Battle of Algiers’
(Gillo Pontecorvo,1966)

“One of the first films made anywhere in the world about war; there weren’t any goodies or baddies, just roving cameras following the chaotic day-to-day bomb attacks.”

7. ‘Dear Diary’
(Nanni Moretti, 1993)

“Moretti is a film maverick who first emerged in the mid-1970s, whose films are always in some way autobiographical. He’s probably, the closest thing Italy has to Woody Allen, except his films have a more political slant. ”

8. ‘Cabiria’
(Giovanni Pastrone,1914)

“The Italian ‘The Birth of a Nation’ or ‘Metropolis’ — a great silent film that defined Italian silent cinema.”

9. “The Consequences of Love’
(Paolo Sorrentino, 2004)

“One of the best Italian films of the last 10 years. It’s an interesting take on the mafia film and an alternative love story.”

10. ‘Pane, amore e fantasia’
(Luigi Comencini, 1953)

“When we think of Italy, even in a slightly cliched way — spaghetti, sun and the whole cult of love, the feisty women and the men playing lotharios — this film just embodies that vibrant life force and energy. It’s a very funny romantic comedy.”

What do you think of the films in this list?  Have you seen any new Italian films that you’ve loved/hated? What are your Top 10 Italian films?

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25 September 2008 at 6:57 pm 3 comments

A little letter can do so much

Ciao Bloggisti,

And now for something completely serious. I don’t know if you’re all aware but September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.  We’ve all been affected by cancer in some way or another. At times it can seem insurmountable, that nothing can be done about it. But hope and solidarity has been known to move mountains. When I got this message from Michelle at Bleeding Espresso, I just had to post it here:

O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of Gina DePalma, author of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen and Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy, Jenn of The Leftover Queen, and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are asking you to donate to the:

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (via FirstGiving.org)

and then, out of the goodness of your hearts and to be eligible for the O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month Contest, please do the following:

1. Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato) and include this entire text box in the post;

OR

2. If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word about the event and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

AND

3. Then send your post url [along with a photo (100 x 100) if you’ve made a recipe] to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on September 30, 2008.

We will post a roundup and announce prize winners on October 3.

Prizes:

  • 1 Recipe Prize for best “O food” concoction: $50 gift certificate to Amazon;
  • 1 Awareness Prize for only publicizing event: Copy of Dolce Italiano cookbook.

———

From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:

  • Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
  • The American Cancer Society estimates that 21,650 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the U.S. in 2008 and about 15,520 women will die from the disease.
  • The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose. There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
  • In spite of this patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
  • When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.

Please donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
and help spread the word!

Thanks for taking the time to read this and please do what you can to help.

22 September 2008 at 10:47 pm 3 comments

Forza Pirlo!!

Ciao Bloggisti!

I don’t know if you heard but Andrea Pirlo, a midfielder for AC Milan (my team!!) and one of the best freekickers in the world, is injured. This week he tore the muscle in his right thigh during practice and now he might be out for two months. Ouch! After Milan’s less than stellar start to the season, that’s the last thing we needed. But he’s a fighter so I’m sure he’s going to come back sooner than expected. So I’m counting on all my Bloggisti pals to send some good wishes his way. Your good vibes have healing powers!

For those of you unfamiliar with Pirlo’s greatness, here’s a little clip I found. It’s in Japanese and involves free kicks, samurai wigs, “Sports Legend” wine and Whitney Houston. Don’t ask why. Just marvel at the man.

Forza Andrea!

And thanks to Pirlo’s #1 fan, Jessica at Italy Logue , for the heads up.

19 September 2008 at 10:28 pm 6 comments

The Bratty Bambino Loves Carbonara

Ciao Bloggisti

Do you have the September Blues? I kinda do. After a month of spending time with the family, on holiday and, most importantly, AWAY FROM WORK, it’s always a bit of a downer coming back to real life. And it’s especially hard for us parents. Back-to-school shopping drama, getting the kids used to going to bed before midnight, getting them up and out of the house on time and above all, finding the time to fix them a decent dinner that they’ll actually eat. After a gruelling day at the office and fighting traffic, sometimes I just don’t have the energy to come up with a recipe that will wow my tough crowd. So I fall back on an old standard: Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

It’s the ultimate no-brainer meal – so quick and easy to prepare. And the most important thing is that my bambini are crazy for it. Yes, I know it’s not a low-fat recipe but I found out a way to make it a little lighter without skimping on the taste. You see, most people think you have to add cream to a Carbonara to make it, well, creamy. But that’s not the case. If you add the ingredients in the right order, and especially, at the right time, you can have that wonderfully rich texture without calorie overload. It’s not a light dish by any means, but a little bacon once in a while never hurt anyone.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara Bratty-style

600 gr. spaghetti

150 gr pancetta (bacon), chopped into cubes

2 tbsp olive oil

4 eggs

1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padana cheese

salt and pepper to taste

(serves 6)

Directions:

Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water. In the meantime combine the eggs, salt and pepper in a bowl. Fry the pancetta in the olive oil until just golden.

When the pasta is al dente, drain and place in a serving bowl. Add the egg mixture immediately and mix well. Add the pancetta and oil. Mix well.

Add the cheese and toss well. Ecco! Creamy Carbonara without the cream!!

Do you have any no-brainer recipes you’d like to share? I sure hope so. I don’t know what to cook for dinner tomorrow!!

17 September 2008 at 10:47 pm 5 comments

Toronto’s Distillery District

Ciao Bloggisti!

Picture it: Toronto, August 2008.

I’m late for a very important date and to top it all off, I’m lost. I get off the bus and start walking east. All of a sudden I see a gateway leading to…. England? Looking at the cobblestone streets, the distinctive red bricks of the Victorian-era buildings and the noticable absence of cars, it seems as though I entered a time warp and stepped into Dickensian London. Instead, I’m in one of Toronto’s most unique neighbourhoods: the Distillery District.

The District’s old-world charm comes from the fact that it was once home to the Gooderham and Worts Distillery, founded in 1832 and the largest distillery in the British Empire by the 1860s. In the late 20th century, the Distillery’s operations came to a close and the area soon became a no-man’s land, surrounded by demolished buildings and vacant lots. But the Distillery’s buildings remained intact and “constitute the largest and best-preserved collection of Victorian Industrial Architecture in North America.” This made the area a big favourite with “Hollywood North” so it has often been used as a location for a number of major films, such as Chicago, X-Men, Cinderella Man and of course Brady Bunch in the White House.

A few years ago, the site was redeveloped and is now one of Toronto’s most fascinating tourist destinations. Its 40 plus buildings house art galleries, theatres, speciality shops, restaurants and cafés and what’s more, the spaces are never leased to franchises or chains. So if you’re in the area and are hankering for a Big Mac or Starbuck’s iced cappuccino, you’re outta luck!

I must say I was pleasantly surprised by my visit because even if I grew up in Toronto, I had no idea this District even existed. It truly was a hidden gem. And I just loved the relaxed vibe and slightly European feel of this pedestrian neighbourhood. There were a number of restaurants to choose from, such as the Boiler House and Perigee but we opted for the Mill St. Brew Pub, a microbrewery specializing in fresh organic beers, stouts and ales. They also served pub fare with a twist. I had a fancy shmancy meat loaf stuffed with asiago cheese and spinach and one of my friends ordered sweet potato fries. So delicious and gorgeous that I just had to take a picture!

I wish I had had enough time to discover more of the District, visit some artists’ studios and try the chocolates at Soma, but that will have to wait till my next visit to Toronto. And of course, you’re all invited!

Are there any hidden gems in your towns? What area would make a great movie location?

11 September 2008 at 1:08 am 3 comments

Separated at Birth?

Ciao Bloggisti,

You know, the first time I laid eyes on Sarah Palin, she just looked so familiar to me. But I couldn’t put my finger on it. Till now.

photobucket

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Uncanny, non? The woman in the second picture might be familiar to those of you living in Italy. Her name is Moira Orfei and she’s a “circus mom”. No she’s not a freak on display. She’s a member of the important Orfei circus family and was once considered a great beauty, by Fellini of all people. Now she’s famous for her beehive do and love of lipstick, just like Sarah Palin. Separated at birth, I tell ya!

6 September 2008 at 6:49 pm 2 comments

The Omnivore’s Hundred

Ciao Bloggisti!

I’m feeling a bit peckish. I think I ate too much when I was in Canada and my stomach has expanded. Damn you Food Court!! So now I’m hungry a lot. And when that happens I love going on luscious foodie blogs, like Jasmine’s Confessions of a Cardamom Addict. This week she posted about a cool list that I just had to share with you. It’s called the Omnivore’s Hundred and she got it from Andrew from the British blog Very Good Taste. Basically, it’s a list of the 100 foods “every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life”. It’s an eclectic and international round-up of delicacies, some of which are heavenly and others stomach-turning. I didn’t do too bad for a little girl from Scarborough. What about you? How much of the world have you eaten? I’d love to see your lists!

If you’re interested in taking part, here are the instructions:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

Here are my results for the VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare (I have had carpaccio a lot. Does that count?)
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari (my daughter loves it)
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi (my hubby’s fave)
15. Hot dog from a street cart (street meat is da best!)
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes

19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes (but the hubster planted tomatoes that were rotting in our fridge and those plants are now producing the most delicious pomodori ever!)
22. Fresh wild berries
23.
Foie gras (see my post on Paris)
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29.
Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (Had it on the pier in San Francisco. Yum!)
33. Salted lassi (the best way to cool down after eating a fiery curry)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39.
Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat

42. Whole insects
43. Phaal (am so tempted to try this one!)
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu (I’ll try everything once but I don’t want to risk my life!)
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (nowhere near as good as Tim Horton’s!)
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear

52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal (When I was 10 I could eat an entire meal. Now I can only manage Happy Meals!)
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (eating earth???)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (Well, I’ve eaten jackfruit. Does that count?)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
(Mmmm. Fried dough!)
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette (merçi Stéphanie!)
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini (just had one in Scarborough, of all places)
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky (Sold as Mikado here in Italy. So addictive)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef (would be a dream!)
86. Hare
87.
Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95.
Mole poblano (chocolate goes well with anything!)
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake (I’ve had snake-infused grappa though)

Ok, now it’s your turn!

5 September 2008 at 12:28 am 2 comments

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