culinary capers

We had an inkling, when we were planning our trip, that after a day in Rome seeing the sights and battling the throngs we would be ready to escape to the countryside. Consequently, we signed up for a cooking class and did just that. There were only four participants, the others were a lovely young couple from Melbourne, Ash and Mel. We were picked up at 8.30am by multi-talented driver and sous-chef, Roy, and enjoyed a very comfortable 45 minute ride to the medieval village of Mazzano Romano. There, we met our chef, Elisa, who guided us through the process of purchasing our ingredients. Firstly, to the macelleria where vegetarian Mel opted to wait outside.

Next was the green grocers, bursting with colourful, fresh produce.

The last stop was for cheeses and smallgoods, so much choice in one small shop.

12.shop

Sharing the load, we made our way along narrow cobbled streets, climbing higher into the village.

16.Mazzano Romano17.Mazzano Romano

Arriving at the apartment, built around 1300 AD, we wandered around in awe at the beautiful interior and breathtaking views.

29.neighbours

The kitchen awaited us, ready to create our culinary masterpieces

and the essential ingredient was poured.

34.pre-cooking

Michael’s first attempt at tossing salt in a pan was somewhat overzealous but with a little more tuition, he soon mastered the art.

We were shown some handy tips when it came to preparing vegetables, including an easy way to prevent eyes from streaming when chopping onions. Take a mouthful of water and hold it in your mouth while cutting the onion – no tears. I have it on good authority that it also works with a mouthful of beer! Michael was assigned the task of making the dark chocolate lava cake, I’m not sure how Elisa knew he would embrace the challenge with such gusto.

Meanwhile, Elisa shared her grandmother’s recipe for pizza dough using flour and sparkling water. Served with three different toppings – potato & rosemary, red onion and tomatoes with mozzarella – they were deliciously crisp.

Elisa had a great sense of humour and Michael didn’t mind being the fall guy. Presented with a pot of cooked tomatoes, he was asked to separate the skins and seeds and was much relieved to discover Elisa had a handy gizmo to do the job.

We learned how to make three kinds of pasta,

shaping the gnocchi on garganelli boards required a certain technique.

Rolling the pasta through the machine was more than a one person job.

We quickly produced enough pasta to cook

53.ravioli, fettucine & gnocchi

and Elisa impressed us with her presentation of the ricotta & spinach ravioli,

fettucine with tomato based sauce

57.fettucine

and gnocchi with pesto sauce.

58.gnocchi

We had prepared a salad to accompany the veal saltimbocca, savouring all courses with the obligatory bottle of vino.

We had just enough room for the exquisite chocolate lava cake, prepared with enthusiasm and cooked to perfection.

The time had come to wend our way to the car for a much quieter trip back to Rome. I hadn’t noticed this gorgeous little pink house on the way in, I wonder how many centuries it has guarded the village.

63.pink house

The Gorge

We recently crossed another item off the bucket list with a wonderful lunch at The Gorge Restaurant in Launceston. Located in the Cliff Grounds at Cataract Gorge, the building was constructed in 1896 as a tearooms, replacing the white refreshments tent that previously served picnickers.

1.The Gorge Restaurant

In the early 1970s, the Gorge Restaurant opened, being the first licensed alfresco dining area in Australia.

2.The Gorge Restaurant

The Victorian style gardens were showing signs of spring.

2a.Cherry blossom

We opted to dine inside, the relaxing ambience was most welcoming.

3.The Gorge Restaurant4.The Gorge Restaurant

Our window seat afforded lovely views over the garden and tree tops.

5.the view6.rhododendrons7.the view

We settled in with a refreshing Clover Hill sparkling rosé from the Tamar Valley

8.Clover Hill Non Vintage Rosè

while nature provided the entertainment.

9.sparrow

The extensive wine list was narrowed down to a Frogmore Creek 2016 Riesling, sustainably grown in the Coal River Valley. It proved to be the perfect choice.

The friendly waiter was very patient while we decided on our meals, there was so much to choose from. We were very happy with the Crispy Spiced Quail, red cabbage & gin slaw, cauliflower puree and maple bacon,

12.Crispy Spiced Quail

Braised Beef Cheek, Paris mash, thyme roasted baby carrots & lager jus

13.Braised Beef Cheek

and Tasmanian Bush Pepper Calamari, chilli & lime rice vermicelli, coriander & rocket.

14.Tasmanian Bush Pepper Calamari

We savoured the wine while the chairlift glided past the window, sometimes with a passenger, sometimes uninhabited, before ordering dessert.

15.chairlift

My Deconstructed Pumpkin Pie, candied pecans, ginger crumb & spiced cream had to be seen to be believed.

We shared tastings of the Warm Chocolate & Hazelnut Brownie, white chocolate parfait & raspberry coulis

19.Warm Chocolate & Hazelnut Brownie

and the Coconut Lime Tart with rhubarb & blue curacao sauce.

20.Coconut Lime Tart

We walked off some of our decadence returning to the car park, pausing on the suspension bridge to take in the stunning landscape.

21.Cataract Gorge upstream22.Cataract Gorge lower basin

It was difficult to focus on this magnificent cormorant enjoying the sunshine, the bridge was swaying not me.

23.cormorant

Central Market

There was one place I simply had to visit on a recent trip to Adelaide. My memories of the seemingly endless stalls of fresh produce, the tantalizing aromas and vibrant atmosphere had me yearning to return. Adelaide Central Market began in 1869 and until redevelopment in 1965 was known as City Market.

1.Central Market Photo courtesy of SA History Hub

Photo courtesy of SA History Hub

With the establishment of Chinatown in the 1980s came traditional Chinese archways guarded by lions, pagoda style roofs and lanterns decorating a street lined with Chinese restaurants and grocery stores.

Central Market has an interesting history but that’s another story. This is about food. Meeting my two accomplices at the southern paifang (Chinese archway), we embarked on our journey of discovery. Join us as we wend our way along each aisle to ensure we miss nothing.

10.fresh produce

The House of Health offers bulk wholefood from grains, lentils, beans, rice, flours, nuts, seeds and dried fruit to Chia, Cacao and Hemp Seeds.

For authentic Latvian and Baltic foods using traditional recipes, the Latvian Lunchroom has a quirky cosiness.

13.The Latvian Lunchroom

The wall opposite presents part of an exhibition entitled, ‘The Market Through Our Eyes’, by Little Picassos Art Studios. 400 artworks fill the walls throughout the market for four weeks, capturing the spirit of Adelaide Central Market through children’s eyes.

14.Little Picassos

A wide selection of nuts, dried fruits and confectionery waited at The Carousel Nut Bar

15.Carousel Nut Bar

and Michael’s fruit & veg…well, it speaks for itself.

Something Wild is Australia’s first indigenous native greens, native game and meat wholesaler.

They have collaborated with Adelaide Hills Distillery to produce the unique Green Ant Gin.

20a.Green Ant Gin

The Green Ants are known for their medicinal benefits and protein content among indigenous societies and are harvested in the Northern Territory by the Motlop family of the Larrakia people. We enquired as to the flavor of the ants and were presented with a sample to taste. The intense citrusy lime flavor was quite unique and not unpleasant, ants are something I had never contemplated eating.

21.green ants

The Olive Tree Food & Wine is the cellar door of the market, stocking South Australian wines, olives, marinated antipasto and extra virgin olive oil.

22.The Olive Tree Food & Wine

The Elephant in the Room couldn’t be ignored. The wines are sourced from the cool climate vineyards of the Limestone Coast region in south eastern South Australia, they are now on my shopping list.

23.Elephant in the Room

We were all smiles at Say Cheese, lingering a while to sample some of their local and imported cheeses.

The range of breads next door at Dough were boggling, I don’t know how we resisted the mouthwatering patisserie delicacies.

Even the simple egg looked enticing at the Happy Little Clucker.

Our cheese adoration came to the fore at The Smelly Cheese Shop,

the creamy Maison de la Truffe won my heart and my tastebuds. The Brie de Meaux style cheese is layered with fresh truffle pieces and tastes like heaven. I hope I can find it here in Tasmania.

38.The Smelly Cheese Shop

Jamface by Poh (some may remember Poh’s Kitchen on the TV) is an eclectic structure of reclaimed timber and mismatched windows. A popular stop for coffee or lunch in a relaxed atmosphere.

There was a huge variety to choose from at The Mettwurst Shop, all naturally smoked, nothing artificial and you can try before you buy.

We could have stayed at the market for hours, something new to discover at each stall.

Unfortunately, my baggage allowance and border control prevented me from purchasing goodies but I did get a little something from The Mushroom Man. After tasting mushrooms cooked in butter and tossed in Truffle and Black Garlic Salt, I couldn’t resist.

52.Truffle & Black Garlic Salt

I will return to Central Market one day, soon I hope.

Spirit Bar

We don’t tend to venture out in the evenings, especially in winter, unless the enticement of food and beverage is involved. Last Saturday was one such occasion, with the added incentive of superb entertainment.

3.street signage

Occupying the ground floor of a gorgeous old building in Burnie,

1.Spirit Bar

the Spirit Bar proudly serves only Tasmanian beer, cider, wine and spirits. There is a stunning array to choose from, Michael found his favourite.

1a.Quiet Cannon

The inclement weather kept us out of the courtyard,

2.courtyard

but on the other side of the front door

4.front door

the warm, comfortable ambience is inviting.

8.interior

10.interior

The menu offers a delicious selection to choose from for informal grazing.

The building was the first home to the Burnie branch of the Launceston Bank for Savings, the first Tasmanian savings bank, established in 1835. The bank then became Tasmania Bank and was eventually bought by the Commonwealth Bank. The Burnie branch opened in 1928, the photo from that day hangs on the wall

19.Launceston Bank 1928

next to the original bank vault door.

18.vault door

Michael regaled the appreciative audience for two hours, performing originals from The Tramp as well as covers.

Outside, the wet pavement provided the perfect background for inventive promotion.

24.pavement sign

There are no food photos to tempt you as I was otherwise occupied filming Michael’s stellar performance but I will leave you with some sound advice I discovered in the ladies’ loo.

23.sign in ladies' loo

To find out more about the Spirit Bar and their fabulous Tasmanian products, visit  https://www.facebook.com/SpiritBarTasmania/

Hotel Ranieri

Finding affordable accommodation in the centre of Rome isn’t easy. We were fortunate to be able to plan our trip well ahead and booked a wonderful hotel in the historic centre of the city. We had arranged airport transfer through the hotel and enjoyed a very comfortable ride, the driver kindly pointed out some of the sights along the way. Hotel Ranieri is set in a restored 19th century Umbertine palace on Via Venti Settembre.

1.Hotel Ranieri

The entrance is very inviting and almost hidden from the road by the beautiful orange trees lining the footpath.

2.entrance

The hotel has 47 rooms over five floors as well as some privately owned apartments. The staircase is magnificent, whether standing at reception looking up

3.staircase looking up

or on the fifth floor looking down.

4.staircase looking down

The tiny lift was just big enough for two adults with a suitcase each, certainly reminiscent of a bygone era.

5.lift

Our room was very comfortable and we could open a window onto a courtyard (five floors below), no need for the air conditioner. It was also surprisingly quiet, not what we expected on such a busy street.

7.room

Beyond the reception desk and an interesting work of art,

8.art

the lounge bar had a relaxed, intimate ambience, a very pleasant setting to partake of a beverage.

9.lounge bar

Breakfast was included in the room rate, and down the stairs to the basement

was a bright and airy breakfast room.

12.breakfast room

There was something for every taste, a great way to start the day.