Category Archives: Wine

And I Thought Italians Eat Big Meals!

Jen, Julia and I spent a few days exploring France – from the French Riviera (blog post HERE) to Côtes du Rhône (first blog post HERE).  I knew that the dining experience would be different than what we’ve grown accustomed to while living in Italy, but I think I underestimated just how different it would be.
I’ll point out a couple of the noticeable differences.  If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I have made many references to pranzo, or lunch.  While the literal definition is simply, lunch – it should be modified to be more along the lines of, large meal in which copious amounts of pasta are finished with meats and salads and where the act of gathering is as important as the meal.  Wine and grappa are a must.  Since lunch is usually the “big deal”, that means we partake in a very light dinner.  Whereas in France, dinner was the star meal of the day.  Although, many of our days in France we also had a big lunch, and so our stomachs questioned our brains when we sat down to a second coursed-out meal at dinner time.  Continue reading And I Thought Italians Eat Big Meals!

Trois Villages in Une Day

There once was a couple in France
Their kind invitation gave us a chance
To visit a wonderful land
And so a trip was planned
Soon it was wine we were drinking

And glasses we were clinking

Our good friends Michel and Shirley have a wonderful home in a small village in the Côtes du Rhône region of France.  They invited us to join them for a few days recently, an invitation we were happy to accept.  Google maps told me that the journey from our home to theirs was approximately six hours and so we decided a stopover at the beach for a night would break up the drive nicely (read about it HERE).  After a relaxing night in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, we headed north to Sablet, France so that we could savor an enjoyable visit with good friends.

Sablet, France

We arrived in Sablet as scheduled, late in the afternoon.  However, I had misplaced all the phone numbers to reach Michel and so I wasn’t quite sure exactly where to go upon arriving in the village.  Michel gave me specific instructions not to attempt a drive directly to his home.  “The roads are far too narrow – many cars scrape on either side.  Don’t attempt it – park at the local bakery and head by foot”.  I only had his home address plugged into the GPS and admittedly, I had the words of Barney Stinson ringing in my head “I shouldn’t attempt the drive… challenge ACCEPTED!”  After creeping up, up, up, slowly, slowly, slowly – I made it to their home.  Luckily I made it with all car paint intact – but it was close.  I had been far too cocky and got lucky – I literally had centimeters on either side of my car at times.  We found their home and discovered they were just out at the local market, preparing for our arrival. Continue reading Trois Villages in Une Day

What’s the French Riviera Without a Gold Yacht?

It’s been a long time since I completed a blog post.  So long, that for some reason – I’m a bit nervous (strange, my friends will tell you that I love to talk about myself).  So I’ve been procrastinating.  I have organized my DVD drawer.  I carefully tended to the plants (I’ve discovered I love gardening…in small doses).  And the past few days, I have been playing Mr. Mom while Jen is in California for work.  I have done just about everything to avoid writing on the blog for the past month… and the only thing I’ve come to realize is that I now have a mountain of work ahead of me.

A mountain in Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, not completely unlike my mountain of work

It’s not that I’ve just been procrastinating.  We’ve been busy.  I mean, very busy.  Albeit, busy doing more of the same (traveling, eating, drinking, etc.) – but still always experiencing something new.  So, please grant me the excuse of allowing the experience to get in the way of the blog – just this one time! In the coming days and weeks, you will hear of our wonderful trip to visit our good friends in France; the visit from Jen’s family and the upcoming visit with my parents.  I’ll toss in a few food posts and hopefully a feature on where we’ve been living (which has been in the pipeline since I started this blog).  So let’s get this party started… no more delays.  And so, it begins with a trip to France… Continue reading What’s the French Riviera Without a Gold Yacht?

The Tallest Man in Italy

I have no proof that when my sister, Michelle came to visit with her husband and daughter (David and Elsa) that he was the tallest man in all of Italy… but I’d say there’s a good shot!  When I picked them up at the airport, I simply looked for the tallest/shortest couple combo possible (he’s a hair over 6’8″ and she’s a modest 5’2″).  I spotted them instantly and helped them get some caffeine before taking them home for our big Italian lunch.
David, Elsa and Michelle – he’s crouching down to make it in the frame

Julia’s younger cousin, Elsa was her newest obsession and she had been excited all week leading up to their visit.  She would wake up every day and scroll to some of the video’s or pictures we had on our iPad and scream “ELSA!”  When the real thing walked (or rather, crawled) through the door – she was like a kid on Christmas.  She couldn’t stop hugging and kissing her.  Although, she had an awkward way of pulling her in by the neck – so much so that we dubbed Julia the, “Scranton Strangler” (you “Office” fans will get the reference).

The girls all reunited – Julia just wanted to kiss Elsa all the time
“Is my cousin trying to strangle me?!”

Michelle and David have a high-paced, action-packed lifestyle in Chicago and they were looking forward to a couple weeks of unplugging from their demanding jobs that they both do so well.  We were happy to accommodate and show them a slow-paced trip filled with lots of good food and wine.  We spent a couple days in the area, taking it easy.  We visited the local park with the girls, we walked around downtown Como, we drove through many of the smaller lake towns.  I showed David my favorite 5k loop and we went running together nearly every morning.  Michelle cracked up one day after her privacy was invaded by our little Julia, somewhere in the beginning stages of potty training.  She barged in and saw Michelle on the “potty” and declared to her, “Michelle… potty… YAHHH!” Continue reading The Tallest Man in Italy

Tornado Touches Down in Italy

On May 4, 2013 a tornado touched down in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.  A path of chaos was carved throughout the area best known for a city that inspired a processed meat in the US nowhere near an authentic representation of it’s namesake – Bologna.

One day prior, a different type of tornado touched down in the Lombardia region just north of Emilia-Romagna.  Our friends, Nathan and Danielle landed in Milan and a whirlwind of food, fun, wine was about to begin – our own path of chaos would be carved throughout northern Italy.

Our very good friends, Nathan and Danielle

I picked them up at the airport while Jen stayed home to prepare a proper welcome – an Italian pranzo (lunch) done right.  We greeted them with an aperitivo (an alcoholic beverage used to stimulate the appetite) and then began stuffing them with salami, prosciutto, lardo (cured meat – basically just pork fat thinly sliced), cheese and olives.  Then it was on to the pasta course, with a simple red sauce before our secondo, veal Milanese.  Next of course were the salads and then dessert – fresh fruit and pastries we bought that morning.  Plenty of wine flowed throughout the meal and we finished with grappa.  The only problem… our large lunch had an effect opposite of our intention to keep them awake and perky in order to stave off jet-lag.  They were both crying out for a nap, but we were merciless with our plans.  We whisked them to downtown Como, where we walked off lunch and eventually made our way to a bar for happy hour outdoors under the sun. Continue reading Tornado Touches Down in Italy

All Thing Are Just a Little Different… Part II

When we first moved here, we noticed that while many things are very much the same as the States… there are also many, many subtle (and not so subtle) differences.  Early on, I did a quick post about things being different HERE but I didn’t go into many of the specifics.

Now that we’ve been here a while, it makes sense to go a bit deeper.  You know, the kind of “hard-hitting journalism” you’ve come to expect here at Sipping Espresso.  For this post we’ve focused on some of the differences that we find particularly charming, beneficial or just plain better.  So here we go…

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RESTAURANTS

Let’s start with the food.  If you’ve been a follower of this blog for a while (or read more than one post), you’ll notice that many things here are cuisine related.  This in itself is something amazing, but not an entry.  Regarding food/eating, I’m referring to:

Get it while it’s hot!  In the States, it is polite to eat only when all the food has arrived at the table.  This means most of your dishes have been baking under a heat lamp anywhere from 5 – 10 minutes while your buddy-with-no-taste-bud’s extra well-done steak continues to char.  Here, the food arrives at the table just after it’s been cooked – and it’s meant to be enjoyed that way.  You can eat when the food arrives – in fact, people might think your pazzo (crazy) if you sit and let your food get cold.  Admittedly, this takes some getting used to – but it makes all the sense in the world.

Gnocci Castelmagno and Papparadelle Cinghiale
This dish would lose texture/flavor quickly if allowed to get cold

Continue reading All Thing Are Just a Little Different… Part II

Our Kitchen

The requests have been flooding in by the virtual truckload…

“Now that you live in Italy… what are you cooking?”

Well, we’re here to tell you two things:

1) Not a single person actually asked the aforementioned question (I just thought the subject might make a fun post).

2) Some things are not that different – some things are very different.

And since I’ve thrown myself headfirst into this “blogosphere” and haven’t posted in a couple days… I’m starting to feel like an addict without an outlet.  So here we go – we’re going to let you into our kitchen and show you our pantry and refrigerator.  You’ll be able to get a first-hand glimpse at what we’ve been eating (when we eat at home that is)!

OUR PANTRY (my favorite)

Pantry Overview

Continue reading Our Kitchen

Happy Hour – Although This One Was Unhappy!

What a wonderful tradition happy hour is!  A time when friends can gather and join in a few post-work drinks and perhaps a little nibble to eat.  We’ve always known happy hour to be a 5:00pm – 7:00pm (ish) time to partake in a few cocktails at a discounted price.

Caffè Mazzini – Our favorite Happy Hour in Como

We were pleased to find that the tradition of “happy hour” also exists in Italy and it’s even called the same thing (just imagine saying it with a funny little accent… drop the sound the “h” makes).  However, it’s a bit different here.

Instead of discounted drinks and food, you usually pay the same price for the drinks (which always tends to be low anyways… between $4 – $6) but get a big bonus.  ALL YOU CAN EAT heavy hors d’oeuvres – Italian style!!!  Imagine a bar full of pasta, pizza and other wonderful treats.  If you’re not to embarrassed to fill a plate – you can easily have enough for dinner. Continue reading Happy Hour – Although This One Was Unhappy!