We discovered Thierry (or The Chicken Man, as the kids called him) and his roast chickens the first morning in Cap d'Ail. They were AMAZING. Crisp, salty skin, tender flavorful meat. We bought them whole a couple of times to eat with the kids and also ate his chicken sandwiches, which came on a perfect baguette, sliced lengthwise, with potatoes (which cook in the drippings) and then slathered in some sort of spicy mayo sauce. Oh mah gah.
This dish here was one of my favorites of the whole trip. B and I hopped the train over to Nice one morning and looked in earnest for a non-touristy, non-kebab place to eat. We found a sweet little cafe filled with locals on their lunch breaks (always a good sign!) and ordered up this special: tuna tartare "nicoise style." Which basically meant with olives, chopped egg, tomato, lemon, olive oil. Sooooo delicious.
Same lunch: we ordered this mixed starter platter: fried zucchini blossom, marinated artichokes and beans and mushrooms, some bruschetta with roasted eggplant and a bunch of other goodies. Of course, we were drinking a bit of the house rosé.....when in Nice, right?
One night, we went up to Eze Village, which is one of those places I believe you must see in your lifetime. We went on our honeymoon and sat in this exact spot and drank champagne. The views will take your breath away (I guess this post is going to be filled with cliché and hyperbole, sorry!). Anyway, we didn't plan on ending up here this particular night and it is the fanciest place I have ever been AND we ate dinner in their opulent dining room ANNNNNND I was wearing a dress from Target (Calypso collection FTW!) I almost told B "No, we cannot go to Eze Village tonight because of what I'm wearing" but then I came to and went for it. And this champagne, well, it was mildly life-changing. So much so that B got home that night and called his dealer-bookie (I mean wine guy) and ordered us up a case. Which we had waiting on our doorstep when we got home. I love coming home from trips, don't you?
There was lots of sweet, sweet watermelon consumed on our balcony. I like this photo of C-Man digging in, juice dripping down his chin (and belly).
This is a beautiful tart with zucchini, caramelized onions, goat cheese and I'm honestly not sure what else. Our nanny (and friend, really!) Sasha had a friend living in Vence (about 45 minutes away) and she came down for a visit one day and ended up staying with us for 10 more (at our insistence). The kids adored Keira and she cooked stuff like this for us and painted the girls' toes and gave them piggy back rides and did cannon balls into the pool with them and colored for hours at a time with C-Man. Need I explain further?
This is something Sasha was making while we were in France. Her boyfriend is from Southern Italy so she has spent some considerable time there with his family (I try not to hold it against her too much). Anyway, they own a bar and it gets super hot as you can imagine and one of the things they do to keep cool and fuel their caffeine addiction is make the above drink. You basically put leftover espresso from the morning into a plastic bottle (we used an ordinary water bottle) with some sugar. Place in the freezer. In the afternoon, maybe after a big lunch and while the sun is beating down on you relentlessly, take the bottle out and shake like a mad woman. The result will be a perfectly slushy-sweet-bitter coffee treat. YUM.
I loved this salted butter. It was, of course, sweet creamy French butter but with crunchy flakes of sel de mer in it? Try spreading that on toasted fig and walnut bread every morning you are in France!I always eat the prettiest, fanciest yogurts when I am in Europe. It can't be helped.
And cheese. Lots of cheese. This was particularly soft, creamy and stinky so I took a picture. It was most excellent with that baguette (which had that crackly crust and light as air interior, you know what I'm talking about? why can't anyone here make something like that? anyone?)
One of our favorite dinners in France. No photos of the food, just this one of us slightly bleary-eyed from all the vin we just consumed (is that really six glasses in front of us?!). For dinner we shared a whole fish caught that morning in the Mediterranean.
Here is my attempt at a roasted fish dinner the next night. Turned out pretty well if I do say so myself!
We may or may not have had far too many cheese courses on the trip....this one put together by yours truly (and Sasha) at home.
We also may or may not have had more than our fair share of delicious champagne on the trip.A shot of one of our lovely dinners at home. I miss that balcony.
Our first meal in Italy. (We ditched the Switzerland part of the trip, which I was secretly thankful for, and headed straight to Italy from France.) We had hit that part of the drive that involved restless kids (one of whom was on the verge of getting car sick) and we needed to get out. Fast. No time to scout out places for lunch. B dropped us at a simple looking trattoria in Levanto (next to the Cinque Terre) that was full of people and went to park the car. I got the kids situated at a nice outdoor table and ordered for everyone. By the time B got to the table, this beautiful risotto al mare per due was there. All I can say is that Italy never disappoints. NEVER.
We arrived in Lucca later that day and our friends Bill and Cindy (and their kids) arrived just after us. The adults went to dinner that night at a place we found and loved last summer, Gli Orti. This here is a plate of summer figs and prosciutto. I do not know why prosciutto in Italy is so much better: it is so soft that it melts in your mouth. No chewiness. This plate was perfection.
A day or two later we went to Florence (which is going to require its own post....lots of adventure good and bad!) and had to take our friends to Il Latini. I know it is a tourist trap and Rachael Ray featured it on her show, but we love it and the atmosphere can't be beat. We ordered "family style" and the amount of food we consumed was borderline obscene. It was so very tasty too: ribolitta, pappa al pomodoro, 3 types of pasta, plus more...... As I said, obscene. I snapped this photo of JuJu taking a break after the antipasti. She's such a listener and observer. I adore that girl.
Oh yes, we had the cantucci and vin santo (this might be the first place I ever had the two together....years ago when I studied in Florence).
The fruit. What do they do to the fruit in Europe? It tastes as it should (and not a shiny pile of mealy mush thankyouverymuch). We ate lots of cherries and nectarines, as evidenced by this photo of Little E.
This year we found an amazing pizza place in Lucca (it was closed last year while we were there). Now, I have not been to the capital-of-all-things-pizza-Naples (husband has), but this was the best pizza I have ever had (husband was smitten as well). We ate here a lot.
This is what it is like to travel with dear friends who happen to love your kids. And vice versa. A million sets of hands and arms to help, snuggle, hug, etc. As it should be. I loved traveling with them.
No food in this photo, true, but this is the teeny, tiny pasticeria that sold us handmade gnocci. Isn't the floor beautiful? And isn't my girl sweet?
Big news: I discovered the best combination of gelato ever: pistachio and caffé (with a bit of peach on top). That is all.
That same little pizzeria sold what is called cecina....they translated it as a "chickpea cake." It is very simple: made from chickpea flour, olive oil, salt and water and then poured onto a large round cast iron skillet and then baked in a wood-fired oven. This was one of my top 5 favorite foods of the whole trip.
I almost didn't include these last 2 photos since the quality is so, I don't know, gross? But I decided I needed to tell you about Tordelli alla Lucchese. It's a classic dish served in almost all the restaurants in Lucca (and no doubt in homes as well). A meat-filled pasta with a meat ragu, but the most delicious one you might have ever eaten. It might have brought tears to your eyes. Very little (if any?) tomato, and melt-in-your-mouth pork, veal and beef. Oh yes, I would fly back there tonight just to have this again.And this soup here (again, you may choose to avert your eyes) is another Lucchese specialty: farro and bean soup. I'm crazy about farro in all forms (including this soup I make....although it is slightly different from the Lucchese version.) The soup was so simple and so utterly perfect and this fall I am going on a mission to replicate it. Will report back my findings.
Whew. OK, that took a long time to write up. Will try to show more photos and stuff soon. xo