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My Year in Italy!

Val D'Orcia - A secret garden of Magic!

Val D'Orcia - A secret garden of Magic!

Val d’Orcia - Well, it is in Tuscany but it isn’t a district you hear about a lot compared to say Siena or, well, Florence :). And yet, it is stunning as these photos attest. You would find it if you embarked on the scent of Montepulciano, Brunello do Montalcino or Rosso di Montalcino. Its the agrarian belt of the region with rolling hills like the rest of Tuscany but also very productive ones that grow primarily grains, legumes and beans. And, yes wine too! Val d’Orcian wines are not well-known outside the region but they are just as spectacular as the neighbors’!

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Venice - A Worthy Intrigue

Venice - A Worthy Intrigue

When I think of Venice, I think of a lady dressed in a flowy velvet dress with a black gold eye mask, walking down an alley looking back at you with mysterious smile and a sparkle in her eyes….. One makes an attempt to follow her. She laughs a tinkle and jumps onto a passing gondola and forever skips out of your reach even as you just make the landing where she was not a moment ago. Yet, her laughs echos and rings in your ear forever thence…. You never manage to catch or catch up with her and yet she will always be with you as a memory that always brings a smile and lifts you up!

I feels this about Venice today…. Truth be told, I visited Venice at the lowest point of my life.

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Sicilian Mackerel Pasta via Venice

Sicilian Mackerel Pasta via Venice

Oddly, you don't really hear a lot about food in Venice. Sure, the seafood is divine, being so freshly caught and well, it is Italy... So the bar is fairly high relatively speaking. Yet, very little is said of Venetian cuisine. By and large the general consensus is that everything is expensive and not quite the same value you get from other parts of Italy. Disregarding the economics, though, there are several lovely food experiences to be had.

Today, I want to share a dish l recreated back home from my trip to the city, where I had the best Sicilian food. A mackerel pasta with the distinctive Sicilian chilli flecked tomato sauce and with layers of flavors and surprises on the palate!

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Mushroom Carbonara

Mushroom Carbonara

If there is one thing I have learnt living in Italy for nearly a year and being in close contact with the original Italian food culture is that they are very protective of it and very very attached to the past and the old, traditional way of doing things. Which means, limited to zero tolerance to changing their beloved dishes.

The question in my mind is where is the line between innovation and tradition? When is it unnecessary to tinker with something that isn't broken and when is the need or desire?

Meanwhile, I present to you an ultimately blasphemous dish to you... Mushroom Carbonara. Which, is one, vegetarian and two has rosemary in it! Shhh! Yet, the mushrooms offer a earthy groundedness similar to what the guanciale would. If you are an orthodox Italian, I beseech you to try it before you turn your nose up at it. :)

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Emilia Romagna senza Parmiggiano!

Emilia Romagna senza Parmiggiano!

During that hike when I was in Castelnuovo dei Monti, I picked up some pepperoncino pecorino. Yes, that would be the influence for the quintessential American pepperjack cheese! Paired with Italian staples - cured pork (truffle sausage here), bread (Sardinian Pane Carasau, the flat bread typical of the region) it was a match made in heaven! Lunch then was a simple affair of quick cooked sauce tomatoes with a little hint of chilli, sliced sausage and then topped with steamed broccoli and shavings of pecorino with a side of the pane! 

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