Saturday, June 9, 2018

Day Trip: Montefalco 2018

  Sitting here at work...on a Saturday in June...waiting for magic to happen...WAIT!
  My whole life is magic happening, dang it.
  Glad I got that one figured out.

  In truth, I am sitting here contemplating on whether or not to write this post I seem to be writing.  Good music mix going on in the gallery (my favorite 80's & 90's alt rock), not super busy, sun is almost shining. Life is a-ok, baby. 

  So, let's get it on with this post I'm contemplating.
  Whist in our beloved Umbria this past spring, we did much driving about, hither and dither and where not and what not. Most every trip out was a trip to somewhere that Johnny could paint. He knew he wanted to paint around the land just north of Montefalco, in that valley out there, so why not make a day out of it?
  We love that area, and one of our favorite places to have lunch is in Montefalco...the wonderful L'alchimistsa. Oh, yummy.
  Day trip!

  We started out pretty early, enjoying the beautiful drive, listening always... Italian Top 40 radio, just a pinch too always...We sing along at the top of our lungs, even though we have no idea what we are singing. Does not matter. It's fun. Plus, these stations also include a big dose of Top 40 hits from the States, so we can keep up with all that. Why? Don't ask me...just adds to the general goofiness, I guess.
  We do like to belt it out, I gotta say. The car is the place we really let go.

  We found a road that veered off to the right, one we'd never been on, and took it for a good mile or so. We came to a place that we could pull the car over, and there were views to be painted.
The beginning of a painting.

  Johnny let me know that he'd be in this place for a while, so I took a look around, spotted a small hill town down the way, and figured it could make for a good walk.
  It did.

The wee village of Torre del Colle, just calling my name...

  I'll admit, I was hoping for a small local caffe, so I could stop in for a sip of proseco, but it was closed. I really enjoyed walking the few streets, and the views out the other side were incredible.
  Here are a few shots I took just strolling around...

A sweet little borgo...really nice.
I think I saw just one person out and about, though.

  The views out over the valley on the other side were super. I told Johnny that we need to take a nice ride out that way next time, just to see what we can find.

See that little road on the left? I want to be on that road some day.

  I walked down a different route to get back to the car and Johnny, and I was so glad I did, because I wandered across several terra cotta sculptures just out in the fields below.

The way back to my baby.

I can't find any info on these delightful works of art...

This one was really cool, too...

Love it.

This was my favorite.

  We both had had a chance to work up an appetite, so off we went to L'Alchimista for another fab lunch. Man, I'm glad we made a was packed, inside and outside. We had asked to sit outside when I called, and the day was just right for it.

  We were early, so we enjoyed glass of wine while people watching in Montefalco's sweet piazza.

Nice to enjoy some sunshine.

That's L'Alchimista, in all her glory.
I love this building.

  I believe we have had lunch here every time we've visited Umbria, except last July. Too damn hot to even consider it. It really is, for us, a must do. The chef always has something interesting for vegetarians, the pasta is great and they have an enoteca, as well, so we can purchase wine to bring back to The Nut.
  Speaking of's a couple of happy ones.

  Geez, I'm trying to remember what we ordered. I used to always take notes (smart!), but have become a real flake lately!
  I know we shared two appetizers...

A selection of goat cheeses with roasted asparagus.

This was really interesting. It's an artichoke sformata(like a soufflé) with burrata
and tiny lentils that the area is famous for. The pink is a reduced sauce of tomato water.

Johnny opted for one of the daily specials.
Stongozzi, a traditional Umbria type of pasta, with fava beans and artichoke.
Springtime in Umbria!

  Ok, I have to just put this out there. I almost always order the same thing here. I'll get Johnny to order something adventurous that I want to 'try', but I always know what I want.
  The 'house special' lasagna. It changes, but it's always beyond good.

Yeah, it's all that.
Porcini, red cannara onions, and radicchio. So good, I crave it.
Note the crispy pecorino cheese on top. Yep.

  We were super excited that they had agretti on the menu. We like it so much, and we never see it here in our part of California. I'll buy it at the farmer's market there, and cook it at The Nut.
  I would equate it to seaweed in texture, but not flavor. It tastes green.

Usually it's blanched, then tossed with good olive oil, garlic and lemon.

Dessert? Why, yes, please.
Biscotti with a glass of 'passito', a dessert wine made from Sagrantino grapes.
Happy artist!

I went down Decadent Avenue.
It was a good trip.

That would be almond gelato with a warm chocolate sauce. Thin toffee bits for crunch.
I seem to remember this being pretty darn great.

  It's fun looking back on this day.

Heavenly landscape around Montefalco.

  I do believe it's time to start planning the next trip back, eh?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday Morning Before Work

  The sun sort of came out this morning...Glory Be! 
  I was wasting a little time between getting ready for work, and going to work.
  I figured, what the heck...I'll take a few more pictures of the ever changing garden, and maybe write a quick post today.


  First stop, a couple of Italian ceramic items in the kitchen I just had to share-

We bought these 14 years ago in Montelupo...
We were with Mom & Dad, and they were showing us some favorite spots.

A 'must take home' from the Venice Biennale, 2013.
This poster puts a big smile on my face.
Every morning.

  Next stop, the compost bins to do some kitchen scrap recycling. So, why not take this picture of the potting shed/bicycle house?
  My darling-est hubby in the world built it for me around twenty years ago.
  Bless his heart.

Mostly made from recycled wood that a contractor pal tossed our way.

  So what was happening in the garden this morning?

'John Cabot' rose. Once he lived in the ground, and was not doing so great, so he was cut way back
and put into a large container. He's happier now.

  In my last blog post, there are lots of garden shots, but I also wrote about harvesting and eating some of our Italian purple artichokes.
  Those that are still on the plants are being left to flower.  They look pretty amazing right now...
  Check out the thorny spine things they have! Man, do they let you know that they don't want to be messed with!

Great graphic design, Mother Nature!

A wee baby. Still a danger, though.
Spiky little thing.

They are like claws, man. Really dangerous claws.
Even the foliage is nasty. I've learned not to wear shorts around these bad boys.


Then there were just some little garden moments...

This succulent has finally taken hold.
I was starting to give up on glad I didn't.
I love it's 'spider web' look.

These are buds from a member of the onion family,
but more of the ornamental type. Bulbs I planted years ago.
They come up all over, and are really beautiful.
You'll see soon enough.

I just can't get enough of this pot-o-succulents!

  The succulents along the front walkway and sidewalk are out of control right now.
  I don't mind one bit.

I took (well, I stole...from a friend who wasn't looking) a small cutting of this lovely gal many years ago, and now she thrives in various areas of my garden.
I have passed her along many times to friends and neighbors.

  Also all along the front fence/sidewalk...these fine ladies, in all their prettiness.
  These make excellent arrangements, either alone or with grasses...anything.

They are getting in the way of passers by, so I started cutting some back this week. For bouquets, etc.

Kinda pretty, right?

  So that was my Friday morning before work.

Friday, May 18, 2018

An Evening In The Garden...

  Geez...I didn't think the garden could get any prettier than when we first got home a couple of weeks ago, but she's gone and done it...
  More roses, fuller maples and geraniums and all the shrubs are just bursting. 
  How delightful to gaze out from the back porch, or the kitchen window. Birds galore, enough sunshine (for now) to soak in the warmth, and color, color, color.

  So on our day off this week, we decided to putter around the yard, maybe do a little laundry...and grill a pizza. Why not?
  And while we were in the "deciding what to do" part of the day, we went ahead and harvested three artichokes to prepare 'Roman Style'.

  These are actually a variety of Italian 'carciofi' that I bought many years ago. They start out purple on the stalk, and I usually just let them flower. 
  There's still just a touch of lavender on the tips. 
  Note the 'spikes' on the chokes as well as the big leaves. I kid you not, these things could be used as weapons. I am so ready for the Zombie Apocalypse.

Picked and ready to clean.
Ouch. Double ouch.
   I know I've mentioned sneaking some herbs back to the states from the Umbrian fields, and this is why.
  Mentucchia is a wild herb that tastes like a cross between oregano and mint. It is an essential ingredient in true 'carciofi all Romana', so I just had to bring some home for my herb garden.

  The recipe calls for a good amount of the herb, as well as an even more than good amount of garlic. You can finely dice these two ingredients, along with parsley(I don't use parsley), and sort of stuff them into the cut and cleaned chokes. I just toss the herb and garlic into the water/oil/white wine mixture. Add the carefully cleaned chokes, and let them braise until soft. Then gently boil off half of the excess water, so you just have a gorgeous golden liquid to dip bread into...

  This was our first course on our night off. Notice the bowl of liquid gold on the left. We drizzle and dip our grilled bread that has also been rubbed with extra oil and garlic. We couldn't resist having extra bread, un-grilled, too...

Yep. That's pretty much heaven on a plate.
Don't forget to cook the cleaned stems, too!!

Mash all that soft, tasty goodness on that bread, man!
White wine is a nice beverage in this situation.

  Well, after gorging on 'carciofi all Romana', we started the charcoal up, I took some time to photograph the garden again. The light was just so nice, and there are more roses popping open.

David Austin rose "Tamara".
One of my favorites. Killer color combo,
I have to say.

Another David Austin rose, "English Garden"
She is one of the first I bought, almost twenty years ago, I guess.

Lemon Verbena, just to rub our hands in. 

These guys are loving their new digs.
They used to be in the old gallery garden.
I brought them home. The old gallery has been totally demolished.

I love,  just love my "Lady Banksia" rose.

'Constance Spry", again...

Sweet little "Penelope".
Another twenty year old in my garden.

  Back to grilling...
  Pizza. Margherita Pizza. 
  Is there any other? I mean really?

Maybe too thin?

Cooking fast!

Flip that baby!
I do like some char, as regular readers know...

Red, white and green.
So Italian!

I think that our grilled pizza is better than any pizza in town.
Right, Mr. J?