Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Last Night, Big Sighs....

  Though it seems like we've been gone a very long time, it's still tough to know we leave tomorrow. Off to Rome for a night, and then hop the big bird back to California.
  Mixed feelings, all around.
  I am anxious to get back into my work routine, finish off the year and get through the rest of the holidays...at the same time, I don't want to go back at all. Just when I begin to feel like I'm settling in here, it's time to go. Sigh. We are so lucky, to be sure. We'll return in a short three months.

  In the meantime, I can look back at some sweet moments from the past few days in our beloved Umbrian countryside...
  See you soon, Umbria!

My happy fellow, being, well...happy.
Relaxing at a favorite watering hole, of course.

Morning walks were few and far between, what with the short, chilly days of November.
Still, the days we did walk were lovely.

"Thanksgiving" with dear friends was a super treat...

Holiday cheer!

Lago di Chiusi was other-worldly in this pre-winter light.

Dreamy, and then some.

Autumn color at Lago Trasimeno.

Silver light on Lago Trasimeno...

Still trying to wrap my head around these two just cruising along free-style!

Our view of Panicale from the fields below.
Loved the autumn color, all around.

A group of pre-school kids holding together with a rope.
At the weekly market. Too damn cute!

More autumn beauty...

A little piece of heaven.

Mr. J and his major score at the recycle bins.

Perhaps the creepiest "Dumbo" float...ever.

Awesome pasta at a little side road truck stop.

Johnny's pasta...

The fields just starting to turn green with wheat.

Classic beauty.

Today. My feet with big leaves.

The Nut is clean, and ready for our return.

Tonight's sunset.
Ciao for now, dearest Umbria.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Il Gallo Nel Pozzo: November '17

  We try to have at least one meal at 'Il Gallo Nel Pozzo' in Panicale's sweet little piazza every time we stay here in Umbria. Each time we've eaten here, we have had a wonderful time...even once when we just popped in for dessert.
  Saturday night was no exception. 
  We were embarrassingly late for our reservation, and I felt awful...but Simone, the owner and front man, put us right at ease, and we settled down and relaxed into the evening.

 Simone Gallo is the son of Aldo and Daniele Gallo, who own Bar Gallo just across the piazza. It's a nice situation all around. Lorena, Simone's wife, runs the kitchen with the help of Gianmarco Costantino and Carlo Serio. It works for us.

  We sat down to take a look at the menu, and were brought a tasty little bite...
  Super thin and crispy bread with new olive oil infused with ginger. It was refreshing and unusual. I liked it very much. 

 Simone knows our favorite Umbrian white wine, which is Grechetto, and he chose a nice one for us
 This particular bottle came from the hills around Lago Trasimeno, so even better. It's a variety we have come to love, and we rarely see it back home in California.

   We each chose a starter, (vegetarian of course) and sat back to enjoy the tranquil scene while sipping our wine.

  My starter was just perfect...a seasoned pecorino flan with caramel pears and pistachios. Salty from the pecorino, with a nice sweetness from the pears. A wonderful combination. Great textures, too. The pistachios are special from Sicily,where Lorena comes from. When she visits family there, she brings back goodies to share.

The pomegranate bits were a nice touch, and the little green 'swipe' is pistachio cream.

  Johnny had polenta with a touch of rosemary, porcini mushrooms and gorgonzola. Also a beautiful presentation, with color from pomegranate and new season olive oil. This was almost like a lasagna, rich and creamy and full of flavor from the porcini and cheese.
  I'm glad we always share!

  Fortunately, the servings are not large...just the right amount for a starter, and so flavor forward. 

Ready for round two!


Blurry, but happy.
Kind of the story of my life.

  We really enjoyed sitting downstairs, where we could chat with Simone and Lorena when they had a moment. I love it when Lorena pops out to ask how we like everything...there is a bit of a language barrier, but enjoying good food transcends this situation, and we all have a good time.

  Next up, our main dishes of pasta with spinach on the side.

We love the way greens are served here. Simple, with lots
of good olive oil, salt and a touch of lemon. Sometimes a bit of chile, too,

  I ordered the 'umbricchelli', a thick hand rolled pasta... made in house, of course. This type of very simple pasta can be found throughout Italy, with different names. In Umbria, it's umbrichelli.
  On this night, it was served with a pesto of dried tomatoes from Sicily, on top of a fragrant leek cream sauce. 
  Fantastic...the pasta was perfectly al dente, the pesto rich and tangy...and I love anything with leeks. A very nice dish. 

Oh, yum.


  Johnny had a great dish, too...tagliolini, a thin pasta, with sautéed radicchio and Cannara red onion served on home made apple sauce.
 This dish would normally be served with pork sausage, which makes total sense, but Simone was just fine with letting us leave the sausage in the kitchen.

  It was a really tasty combination. The red onions are a regional specialty, and they have a nice sweetness to them. This played well with the bitterness of the radicchio. Deep flavors all around.
  The pasta itself was divine...great silkiness and a perfect bite.
  A great choice for a chilly autumn evening.

Yes, we did.

  While deciding on dessert(!), we spotted the painting of Panicle that Johnny gave Simone and Lorena last year...it was nice to see!

Just up the stairs...

  What we like about this place, is that the kitchen is creating modern versions of traditional fare. Always something interesting for vegetarians, too. It's a nice change.


I guess I have to quit writing.."we rarely order dessert"...because it would be a big fat lie. We have been really enjoying desserts for a couple of years now, I must say. Normally we split one (another big old lie, I'm afraid), but we went for two, because they both sounded too good to resist.


Dark chocolate tart with mandarin cream and a candied fig.
This was an intense bite..90% chocolate..very special, and almost like coffee in flavor.
I loved the mandarin cream sauce with it.


Chestnut cheese cake with salted caramel.
Need I say more? Soooooo good.
Cute presentation, too.


  We will look forward to returning again in the spring, which will offer a totally different menu. It's fun to be here in different seasons, just to experience the changing menus throughout the area.
  Thanks you, guys, we had a great dinner. As always...!

  If you find yourself in the area of Lago Trasimeno, make a point to enjoy lunch or dinner at:

  Il Gallo nel Pozzo

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Art In Venice: Jean Boghossian

  There is always too much to see, let alone take in, when tackling the Venice Biennale. This is our fifth time, and I sort of know what to expect.
  Expect the unexpected...
  This may mean seeing the most fabulous and interesting exhibition you have ever experienced, or it could mean viewing a work so disturbing, ridiculous, confusing, downright ugly, or just, well... blah. There is plenty of everything in between, too.
  I usually am quite taken by three or four shows that stick in my mind as my favorites. This year was no exception.
  Johnny and I often have very differing views on what we like/don't like/shrug off/hate.
  As it should be. He loves painting. I like whatever strikes my fancy. It makes for some very interesting discussions.
 I won't pretend to be any kind of expert art critic, as I have mentioned many times before. I just know what appeals to me, for various reasons. I encourage you to do your own research on any of the artists I discuss, if they strike your fancy, too.

  One of my faves this year was the Jean Boghossian show in the Armenian Pavilion. 
  We always like to see this venue, because the old palazzo and it's grounds are just beautiful. 

Inside the courtyard of the Palazzo Zenobia.

  I had never heard of the artist, Jean Boghossian, but we were curios.

  As someone that has dabbled in the wonderful ways of fire, the show had me from the get go.
 ( Johnny, not so much, but he was a good sport and gave me lots of time to wander through.)

  This artist is known for working in fire and smoke.
  LOVED it.

  I don't try to understand, I just go my gut reaction to the work. 

The first big room had this massive piece.
Below are burnt books, and the large verticals are torched resin.

Almost like calligraphy, in an odd three demential way.

  Next were several rooms with large scale canvases that had been burned and 'smoked'...no paint, per say. No brushes...just a blow torch and smoke.

At first look, I didn't realize what it was...

...but then I saw the actual burnt canvas. So cool.

  Some of the pieces were so soft and serene, considering all.

Just smoke.

Very slightly charred.

  It's always a trip to see such contemporary work in these old beautiful spaces.


These 'scrolls' were very cool. 

Some pigment tossed on and torched.

  These, below, had a plastic(?) layer that the artist torched, to add interesting texture and color.

  I have seen and love the work of Italian artist Alberto Burri, so it was no surprise to read that the President of the Burri Foundation was the curator of this show. Boghassian is much inspired by Burri.

Another piece with some obvious pigment. So fine.



  I have a couple more posts of favorites, and then a long perplexing(I just don't know what to think) post about the Damien Hirst extravaganza to come in the near future.

  If you like this artist, here's more:

 Jean Boghassian