Sunday, December 14, 2014

More Umbrian Dreams…Sigh.

  In reality, my dreams of late are better left in my head…
  But Johnny woke up this morning with Panicale firmly in his brain. He had been dreaming of life on the other side of the Atlantic.
  So, Johnny, this is for you, and all the rest of us who have been dreaming it was already Spring 2015. 
  You know who you are……

  This post is all about what Johnny and I wait all year for, believe it or not…..

Going to get firewood ….one of the first things we do.

Making sure this wonderful group of fluff is still  grazing the local hills…
Hi, guys!

Marveling in the local landscape.

  A weekly trip to the nearby outdoor market is a must, as well as something to look forward to.

What will we find this week?

Pretty much everything and anything….
I like finding odd kitchen stuff.

The clothes and plants come to you, in this part of the world.

Veggies, of course. Fava beans rule in Spring.

  Taking that first stroll to Bar Gallo is always a joy...

Just inside this portal, Bar Gallo!


Lovely Daniele working the evening shift.
Ciao, Daniele!

Johnny shares some photos of our home and garden
with Carla, a lifelong resident, and regular at Bar Gallo.

The teeniest theatre ever, and we love it.
Tonight, "Radio Garage Rock".

  The weather can be so nasty, so beautiful, so rainy, so gorgeous…it makes for some nice photo opportunities. 
  The drive to Castiglione del Lago is an easy fifteen minutes, and the views along the way can be stunning.

Castiglione del Lago, jutting out into Lago Trasimeno.

  On the road to Castiglione is a favorite place to stop for a snack, lunch, or just a glass of wine.
  There is no place quite like Michele & Co…….

Johnny can't resist the cheese plate here.
Who would?

I go for the savory pastries…
Who wouldn't?

  The day trips are always fun, and you never know what you will come across.

You're killing me.
Do you hear me?!!?
Yeah, I'll take it, please.

Just another parking place in Umbria.

We were stopped one day for over an hour to wait
for a major Italian bike race to zoom by….
It was fun.

Italians have a wacky sense of humor.

We love our annual boat trips to the islands on the lake.

We'll go two or three times each year.
It's so peaceful on the water...

Then there are the little jewels that we find out about. Places my Dad would refer to as:
"The tour buses don't make it down this road"….. sorts of places.
We are lucky to have spent time in Italy with Mom& Dad. They really taught us not to be afraid of going off (way off, most times) the beaten track. 

  A good example is this bar that serves pizza on some nights. But only some nights. And you better get there early, or make a reservation, because there are only a few tables, and everybody stays for awhile.
  The pizza here features super thin crust, my favorite.

What it lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in yummy pizza…..

…..see? We both totally cleaned our plates.

…plus, the house cat matches the floor.
What is not to LOVE?

Speaking of house kitties, lots of restaurants have them.
It's a nice change. They are always friendly, and often
find themselves asleep on Johnny's lap.

  I always seem to have my camera, so I can just grab a shot of whatever catches my eye.

A group of school kids in front of the Duomo in Orvieto.
Gives me all kinds of hope.

We drive by this row of Umbrella Pines all the time.

A great example of street art in Rome.

  We all can't wait for the day to day stuff, I guess. I know that's what Johnny and I pine for the most. These days the question of the moment is the ever classic:
  "What are we going to do first"?

  Well, I know we'll be checking in on our local friends….

  And taking drives nearby to paint the beautiful scenery….

  And we may just have to pour ourselves a nice glass of Umbrian "grechetto", mosey on down to the walls of town, and take in the sunset.
  Yeah, this all sounds pretty sweet just about now…..

Hey, see ya soon, Panicale.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Lunch At Piccino Cafe, Wine From DIG

  I do love my meals. 
  Sometimes this means a big old bowl of decadent popcorn in front of TV, sometimes this means a "big" night out… I love it all. Every last bite. 
  I have to say that my favorite meals are lunches out. What's not to love? Especially on a sunny day in the city. We are lucky to have lots of clients in San Francisco, so we get the chance to deliver paintings several times a year. As far as I'm concerned, this just means lunch out somewhere fun. 
  It's a fantastic perk, friends.

  We recently had to head up to SF, so we decided to check in on a favorite little area of ours known these days as Dogpatch. This neighborhood has had a buzz over the past few years, and is coming on strong. 

  The SF Museum Of Craft & Design is now open, there is an amazing cheese shop, artisinal ice cream store, a few restaurants, some nice design shops, and lots of galleries are opening up nearby, too. We originally discovered this area because of the small but mighty wine shop, DIG…more on that, below…

  Our favorite place for lunch is Piccino Cafe, which is co-owned by the wife of the gentleman who owns DIG. It's a family affair. We enjoy stopping for a bite to eat, then popping in next door to buy some hard to find Italian wines. Tough job, man.


  Piccino Cafe is light, airy, comfortable..there is an open kitchen, an "eat-at" bar, long communal tables, as well as cozy tables for 2.  If the day is nice, you can sit outside.

Living large at Piccino Cafe.

One happy, hungry gal...

  Walking in, you are warmly greeted as you find your seats. The wait staff is awesome.They are easygoing, make you feel at home, and they can answer any and all questions you might have about the menu.

Indoor dining room and bar, on the right.

The menu changes with the season.
Weekends feature a Brunch menu...

  After ordering some wine, I love to munch on the house made crackers, along with some olives. It's a perfect way to start a meal.  The crackers are so flavorful, with loads of seeds and an excellent crunch going on.
  We decided on sharing several dishes, as always, it seems…this day we started with a farro and broccoli rabe salad, along with a nice plate of burrata and seared polenta with arugula.

Olives, crackers and farro salad to share.

Farro is my pal. So are these crackers.

Burrata and polenta.
I dream of this dish. Regularly.
Who wouldn't?

The arugula adds just the right amount of peppery bite.
Need I say…the olive oil is the best.

  We let ourselves rest a bit before going into our next shared dishes…sipping a nice crisp Italian white, we just sit, enjoying the warmth of the sun in late fall. It's so good.

  I am certain that I have mentioned in here many times over, how much I love thin (very) crust pizza. I don't want to be bothered by a bunch of dough getting in the way of the flavors of the toppings. Plus, a thin crust can get a good char on it, which I really like.
  We ordered the "Funghi", roasted mushrooms with a stracchino cheese and garlic. Just the perfect amount of each item, with a good roasty flavor.

See how nice and thin the crust is?
All the better to taste the perfect combo of toppings, my dear.

  On another visit, west inside. We enjoyed olives and crackers again, as well as the Funghi pizza, but this time we also shared a salad of fregola with roasted carrots and beets, pistachios and a citrus/coriander dressing.
  I will order fregola, a small type of pasta which is sort of like couscous, anytime I see it on a menu. As long as it is vegetarian…This was a super tasty dish, and went well with the pizza.

I loved this.

My lunch on this visit. Yum.
I so enjoy roasted veg.

  After our lunch, we skipped next door too visit the wine shop, DIG. 

  I get their newsletter every week or two, and it just has me wishing that we lived in SF. They have regular tasting events, and it would be so fun to attend. Last time we were here, we bought several wines that are just so hard to find where we live. The owner, Wayne, is an expert on French and Italian wines. We go for the Italians, of course, and he carries quite a few Umbrian wines. 

  We like to see what he has, as it changes all the time. Wayne will ship, as well, but we love having an excuse to go in ourselves.

This is the Italian wall-o-wine.

Some very fine choices, certo!

  I appreciate that Wayne has such a great selection, and also a price range that we actually can fall into.
  He is the perfect host/teacher. Not the tiniest bit of pretension here. He is happy to just chat about France, Italy, the various regions…and wine, beautiful wine. He makes you so comfortable, and you can ask him the dorkiest questions, without feeling like a dufus. I love this place!

  Again, just wish we were closer….
  Then again, it could be dangerous!

Wayne, waxing poetic about French wines, on this visit.

  DIG is small, but it packs a good punch.

A very fun light fixture.

  DIG and Piccino are in a small complex, which also houses a nice women's boutique. The building is older, and has been restored wonderfully.

  You should head over to Dogpatch, next time you are in the city. It's easy to park(though I wonder for how long), and you can walk to so many fun little spots. It's an afternoon, for sure.
  Have fun!

  For information: