Friday, July 29, 2011

Co-op Produce in Urban D.C.

All that was left for the photo was the label.
Have you ever tried fruit or veggies straight from a farm fresh co-op? Wow, it seems as if that doesn’t exist in cities anymore, so I was incredibly surprised to find farm fresh tomatoes from Lancaster Farm in PA at Whole Foods in D.C. They’re called “Organic Sungold Cherry Tomatoes” so they’re not as red as I’m used to, but don’t let that fool you into thinking they're not sweet and juicy. They are.

The reason you can’t see them in the photo next to this post is because I ate them too fast. In fact, I ate the whole box plain. But as much as I blah blah blah about them, you'll have to go check these out for yourself. And go while their still in season (these are local and don't come year round like the other produce we import)! Scarecrow Hill Organics Sungold Cherry Tomatoes. I know I’m getting these again.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sicilian Wine Tasting and Horseback Riding

Some of the best Italian wines come from Sicily, and one true highlight on my trip was visiting a local vineyard just outside Cefalu. I know I’m no wine expert, in fact, I only made it to the introductory class for the College Wine Tasting Society and never actually made it to the tasting stage. Still, I enjoy a glass or so of the finest Italian wines… who wouldn’t?

One of the organizers of the agency that rented us our apartment suggested we visit Abbazia Santa Anastasia, a rural vineyard near Cefalu that produces organic wines. The vineyard also offered a simple tasting of four traditional wines from Sicily, which we happily tried. The most famous of the four was Nero D’Avola – a deep red color with a berry taste. 

What made this event so memorable was not only the wine, but also how we got there...

The agency set up a horseback riding tour of the vineyard for us, so for a complete hour before wine tasting we trotted, cantered and galloped our way through rows and rows of organic grape vines. It was a beautiful scene and our guide, who spoke only a few words of English, was incredibly friendly and easy going. A true cowboy (he makes an appearance in the pictures below).

If you’re ever interested in this adventure, you can find the vineyard here and you can pair your trip with an hour or two of horseback riding through the hills with Lucciano +39 349 2636932.

But if you just can’t make it all the way to Sicily, Abbazia Santa Anastasia imports some of its wines to the U.S. via Happy tasting!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

New foods (to me) in Sicily

While pizza and pasta may be the most popular Italian foods outside of Italy, I discovered a number of delicious items in Sicily that I had never seen before. Below are a few of my favorites:

Pecorino Sicilliano – a hard cheese with a sharp aftertaste. Similar to Parmesan, but far better for sandwiches.
Arancini – a fried ball of rice filled with meat ragú and peas.

Cannoli – a flakey pastry filled with sweet ricotta. Our guidebook said this dessert was a true peacemaker for the mafia: “Put down the gun and take the cannoli.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

You Say Tomato, I Say Pomodoro

After spending a total of 10 days in Sicily, I learned that the fresh produce in Southern Europe is by far the best in the world, and not only that, but the "pomodoro" (tomato) is absolutely delicious and wonderfully cheap.

For most of our meals, John and I ate out at restaurants that we chose for their fantastic views over the Mediterranean sea. The food seemed to be delicious everywhere, whether you went to a small restaurant hidden in the winding streets of Palermo or on top of a cliff in the small town of Erice. 

We did have the option of cooking in two of our self-catering flats, which sounded like a great idea ahead of time, but in reality amounted to cooking a grand total of one meal. However without cooking we may not have really understood why the pomodoro is such a vital Italian ingredient -- the fruit is sweet, succulent, and amazingly inexpensive. At our grocery store we found a package of 12 ripe, just-off-the-vine tomatoes costing 95 cents. If only I could find a way to import Sicilian produce to the U.S.! I'd make a fortune and no doubt feed many happy bellies.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Culinary Tour of Sicily

My recent hiatus has been due to a two week culinary tour of Sicily, where I ate, drank and lapped up some of the finest Italian food I have ever had the pleasure of tasting. My boyfriend John and I visited the sites in the capital city of Palermo and in the two smaller beach towns of Cefalù and Castellammare del Golfo. While Sicily is home to miles of vineyards, ancient roman ruins and many members of the American Mafia, the island is also home to delicious produce and fresh Mediterranean seafood.

This culinary paradise was a great source of inspiration for me and therefore, I have decided to dedicate the next few posts to the delicious ingrediants and tastes that I experienced. Excuse my amateur photography, but here goes nothing...