Category Archives: Sipping Espresso

Thanksgiving in Italy

Can you believe that they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving here in Italy?!  They also don’t celebrate the Fourth of July, Memorial Day or Labor Day!  I know weird, right?!

Our Thanksgiving table is set
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays.  Of course I love the spirit of Christmas, the fun costumes of Halloween (another holiday that they don’t really celebrate), the fireworks of our Independence Day… but nothing can match the guilt-free ability to gorge on delicious food all…day…long!  And if that wasn’t good enough, you are then permitted… nah, encouraged to lay on your duff and watch football until it’s time to re-heat a plate of leftovers. Continue reading Thanksgiving in Italy

Vinegar and Ice Cream – A Delicious Combo!

It’s likely that you may think I’ve gone off my rocker.  Vinegar on a salad – of course.  Vinegar on french fries – sure.  But vinegar on ice cream?!  Greg, you must be crazy?!  I assure you, I am not (well, at least when it comes to this point).  Provided one very important detail is in play… that the vinegar used is aged balsamic vinegar from Modena.  This dark, delicious treat becomes sweet and thick (almost, syrupy) once it has been aged 12(+) or 25(+) years.

Old fashioned equipment used to make vinegar now stands as decoration

I have been a fan of all things vinegar for as long as I can remember.  Admittedly, a strange condiment choice (above ketchup or mayonnaise) – but the heart wants what the heart wants.  Although we use apple cider vinegar every single day, I have always been quite fond of balsamic vinegar.  Just the right amount can add the perfect hit of acid to round out a caprese salad.  However, I recently learned that I have become accustomed to eating the equivalent of a McDonald’s value meal when a readily available filet mignon was just around the corner.  But let’s back up and find out how I discovered this… Continue reading Vinegar and Ice Cream – A Delicious Combo!

Would You Like To Join Me For a Run?

I have a love-hate relationship with running.  I love the feeling of finishing a five or six mile run.  I hate the agony I get in my calves the next day.  I love pushing myself to run a distance further than I’ve ever run before.  I hate pushing myself through that first mile after foolishly taking four months off during the winter.  Currently, I’m learning to find a proper balance in my on-again off-again relationship with running.  Since living abroad, I’ve discovered a renewed commitment to running.  I am lucky enough to have some of the most amazing routes in my own backyard – a benefit that definitely keeps me on the trail a little longer.

“Please, come join me along my run”
Julia loves to join me on an occasional run

We have been really lucky with some wonderful weather this fall.  Just this morning, I went for a jog in shorts and a lightweight jacket.  I understand it’s a lot colder at home, so I would like to invite you to “come for a run with me”.  I have several routes that I take on a regular basis depending on how long, how far, or how much of a vertical climb I want.  Or sometimes, I’ll just go out and try to find something new. Continue reading Would You Like To Join Me For a Run?

An Unexpected Gem

Living in Italy grants us access to a lot of great restaurants.  We fully take advantage of that and eat at… a lot of great restaurants.  I recently read that 75% of the food in Italy is great and 25% of the food is exceptional.  I would agree with that – most meals leave you feeling completely satisfied and pleased with the overall experience.  But occasionally, you’ll find yourself “mmm’ing” and “aahhh’ing” with more delight than you intended to express aloud.

We can usually spot these exceptional places before we’ve walked in the door.  We may have heard about the joint from a friend or relative.  It’s possible I’ve read about it on the internet or a travel book.  Or sometimes, we just walk into a place and the intense amount of “old-world charm” smacks us in the face.  We’re greeted by a little nonna (grandma) who then scurries to the back to cook our meal – and we just know that we are in for a treat.  Since it is usually one of those three paths that lead to our exceptional meals, I had all but dismissed, Osteria da Clo’ Filomena when we made our reservation.  The reason for the swift dismissal, you ask?  Well, the restaurant was in our B&B, in a remote part of Emilia-Romagna, surrounded by nothing by small villages and towns.  I’m usually quick to dismiss restaurants in hotels anyway, with a few exceptions.  Furthermore, the place was empty.  I wasn’t surprised, because it would probably be a 20-30 minute drive for most patrons to arrive.  I assumed that the restaurant was in place, merely to service the guests of the hotel and therefore had to serve mediocre food (which, if you remember still falls into the 80% “great” category).

The Osteria at night – the outdoor patio is used in the spring
The ristorante opened in 1954

Continue reading An Unexpected Gem

Loosen Those Belt Buckles – Some Serious Eating Ahead

Before I’ve even written the first word of this post, my OCD brain is trying to figure out if this post should be categorized under the “Food” or the “Travel” sections of the blog.  I will be taking you along with us on our travel adventure to go eat some of Italy’s best food.  It’s quite the dilemma…

A selection of salumi (cold cuts), formaggi (cheese) and the cinghiale (boar) that gave his life to the cause

You may have read about part of our visit with Aunt Deb and Uncle S where we ventured into the wine region of Piemonte during the first portion of their visit.  Their two week sojourn in Italy included a mission to explore the best of what the country has to give.  It was no coincidence then, that their adventure had been neatly divided into three of the country’s best offerings.  Part I was Vino (wine).  Party II was Cibo (food) – the subject of today’s post.  Lastly, Part III was Storia (history).  Since they experienced the rich history of Pompeii and Venezia on their own, I will let them tell you all about it at their next dinner party.  I’ll simply report on the parts during which we were present… and luckily for us, we were present for a three day trip into Italy’s richest “food region”, Emilia-Romagna. Continue reading Loosen Those Belt Buckles – Some Serious Eating Ahead

Our Second Love – A Bunch of Old Grapes

Jennifer, Julia and I had a wonderful time when my Uncle S and Aunt Deborah came to visit us this past March.  That’s why we were thrilled when they mentioned that they would like to come back to Italy again this fall.  They wanted to do a bit of traveling and invited us to join them on their adventures, using our condo in Como as a “home base”.  They had sketched a rough itinerary and just wanted a little help filling in the blanks – assistance I was happy to give.  They knew that they wanted to spend some time with us here in Como, some time in Piemonte and Emilia-Romagna (two regions adjacent to our region of Lombardia) as well as a quick jaunt down to the historically significant city of Pompeii and another to Venezia.

S and Deborah standing near the divide of Lake Como

Jen and I share the responsibility of planning our trips – researching restaurants, activities and hotels.  But they’re usually in three or four day stints and one location at a time.  This time, I had to navigate through a two week itinerary, complete with activities, restaurants, hotel stays and all at new locations each day.  Putting the puzzle pieces of their trip together was a challenge not for the faint of heart.  Jen and I dug in, and by the time S and Deb landed in Milan, we had an itinerary that we were both proud of.  I think all of us agreed that it came together quite nicely.  Of course, the key ingredient was the company, mixed with a little food and wine! Continue reading Our Second Love – A Bunch of Old Grapes

Don’t Buy The Jarred Stuff!

I know this is Jen’s Kitchen, but I’m sorry to report that you’ve got me (Greg) writing this one. This area of the blog is Jen’s domain – but she was having trouble getting her writing juices going, so I offered to give her a hand (her timing in the kitchen may be pure perfection, but if I don’t get this post going, it’s sure to be over-cooked).
Jen shows of her tomatoes

I may not know a lot, but I have learned two things while living in Italy:

First, every home has two types of olive oil.  They all have the generic store bought one (that’s still delicious) for cooking and salads as well as the “special” olive oil that is pressed by someone’s nonno in some small town in the mountains somewhere… Continue reading Don’t Buy The Jarred Stuff!

Oktoberfest… What More Can I Say?!

The title says it all.  What commentary can I possibly add to a post who’s pictures tell the entire story?!  Normally, I envision my readers hanging on to my every word and each carefully crafted pun (I said that I “envision” it… I know it doesn’t really happen) – but this time, I think I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.  Of course, I do have to give some sort of framework around the pictures (hey, it is my blog, after all).

Crowds fill the streets during Oktoberfest 2013

You may have just read about Josh and Abby’s visit where we ate too much, indulged too much and just did… too much!  You know, the norm.  We were lucky enough to also have Dave and Jill drop in for part of their trip and join us again in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest.  We were excited to get to the party – but before we could drink our first liter of beer in Munich, we needed to get there.  There is no better way to travel through Europe than the train – and when you have an overnight-train option, it’s a win.  You get your “hotel room” for the night included in the cost of transportation.  But travelers be forewarned – the Ritz… It.  Is.  Not! Continue reading Oktoberfest… What More Can I Say?!

The Perfect Recipe – Great Friends, Food & Tons of Fun

Sometimes living abroad is hard.  Like when you miss a good friend’s wedding in upstate New York – an event that turned out to be the social gathering of the year (according to Facebook pictures and word of mouth). Thankfully Dave and Jill completely understood when we declined to come.  Or when one of your best friends tells you that he’s planning on “popping the question” via email, because there’s really no easier way.  Those are the types of conversations that should be reserved for a late night in a neighborhood bar, complete with lots of back pats and free rounds for the groom-to-be.  Thankfully, Josh was great about keeping me in the loop, sending us pictures of his wonderful proposal to Abby in Charlestown earlier this year (and even calling us via FaceTime shortly afterward).  So, yeah – living abroad can be hard when you miss these special moments in your friends and families lives.  However… when we’re able to host our friends and family here, we are always grateful for the experience abroad.

Abby, Josh, Jill, Dave, Jen and Julia

For that reason, we were absolutely thrilled when we heard that Josh and Abby were going to come visit us.  We coordinated the timing of their trip so that they would be visiting during a beautiful time of year and the start of Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany.  As soon as they booked their airfare, I reserved our train tickets to Munich, which I’ll write about in the upcoming post. Continue reading The Perfect Recipe – Great Friends, Food & Tons of Fun

Learn How To Make Grappa At Home

Before Jen blindsided me so many months ago with the suggestion that we move to Italy, I never thought I would know how to make grappa.  Honestly, I never thought that I would ever even like grappa!  But like so many other things I swore I’d never change about myself, living in Italy has transformed that part of me (keep an eye out for me sporting a “puffy” coat this winter – a style I hated when I first moved here and now think is the coolest thing to come of the runways of Milano).

A selection of grappa offered in a restaurant in Lago Maggiore
Grappa is an alcoholic beverage that is served in Italy as a digestivo (digestive) after a meal.  We have learned that Italians take the digestion of their meals very seriously and have structured the order of eating in such a specific way as to aid in the digestion.  A full blown Italian meal will include the following: Continue reading Learn How To Make Grappa At Home