Once upon a time in Texas, there was a girl with an appetite and a dream...


Come si dice "hoochie?"

Would you go to church dressed like this? Maybe Playboy has a new "Brides" issue...



You can take the girl out of Texas...

...but you best have a cold margarita waitin' for her when she comes to visit.

What I'm trying to say, is...I'm-a comin' home! Woohoo! I finally got my ticket and I'll be visiting the great state of Texas from March 5th to May 10th.

What this means for you, dear reader, is that I'll have a nice, warm computer at my disposal 24 hours a day. I just might start blogging again. I'll also be able to stalk all of my blog friends on a regular basis like a good girl.

I can't wait to see my sister's legendary belly. She has said that she is feeling some contractions already, but Misty, cross 'dem legs, girl. I'll be home in just one short week and I expect that baby to wait for me.

You know what the best part of it is? I'll be packing flimsy summery things which means MORE ROOM FOR SHOES! Isn't that fantastic?

You've been put on alert, Tex-Mex. Watch out, 'cause here I come.


Saturday Photo Scavenger Hunt: Soft

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Sorry for the repeat. I have no access to my database of pictures, so flowers it is! This photo is from an old post with not one but two--TWO recipes for fiori di zucca, or squash flowers. 'Tis not the season yet, but 'twill be before long for these yummy edibles. The best thing about the fiori is that when fried using the "pastetta," their crunchy exterior gives way to a warm, devastatingly soft interior.

Who's hungry?


Saturday Photo Scavenger Hunt: Antique


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This here turret is one of many of the Castello Maschio Angoino (its official name is Castel Nuovo). The castle was built in 1266.

If that ain't antique, then the Pope's a-sellin' the Pill.


Weekly Wino: February 16th

I have taken on a new and exciting project. Every week (more or less, you know me by now), I will tackle a wine D.O.C., D.O.C.G, or IGT that I have never tried, or don't remember trying, as the case may be. My sommelier class is on indefinite hold, so I've decided to take matters into my own hands. There's no time like the present, so let's start with this fun little jewel made just south of Napoli.

I've heard about this wine for quite some time. Although Marisa Cuomo may be more famous for her treatment of falanghina (which I have yet to try), I had a mean piece of meat waiting for me at dinner, so Furore Rosso it was. This is a blend of aglianico and piedirosso (piedirosso means "red feet," and this grape is locally called per'e'palummo, or dove's feet) and it carries the Costa d'Amalfi D.O.C. **

I must admit that upon trying Furore Rosso, I was surprised by the lack of tannins that I would normally expect from an aglianico-based wine. The fact that this wine was a young'n' (2005) had me waiting for the typical youthful aglianico tongue-lashing. Instead, I found a nose full of bright cherries, a bit of spice, and an ever-so-soft hint of tannins and youthful acidity.

There was a very tempting bowl of very dark, very fried eggplant on the table. I had my doubts about such a pairing, but this wine was perfect. So good that it also made another helping find its way into my mouth, followed by my thighs, but the trip was well funded by my pure excitement of this surprising symbiosis.

It wasn't until I went in search of the producer's website for a link that I found out why the profile spoke more of piedirosso than aglianico. Its proportions are 70% the former and 30% the latter. HA! My mouth didn't lie to me after all. I am, by now, used to the piedirossos of Ischia and Campania just a bit more north and the beautiful Costiera Amalfitana. As a family, this grape does carry a trademark (cherries! raspberries! pepper! spritz and sass!). Being mixed with just a bit of aglianico (instead of the other way around) it turned into a more a mature expression of itself, taking tannins from the aglianico, but never losing its inner child.

Marisa Cuomo produces a mere 4000 cases per year and the vineyards tenaciously cling to steep hillsides that enjoy a spectacular view of the sea (click here to enjoy the view yourselves). This wine is available in limited quantities in America and should cost around $20. Go find it, fry up some eggplant, and let the wine work its magic.

**Costa d'Amalfi D.O.C. Rosso allows a minimum of 40% piedirosso and a maximum of 60% aglianico and/or sciascinoso. There is a further allowance of "other" red grapes at a maximum of 40%.

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The End of the Affair

Call me silly if you must for being so irritated by such a trivial thing, but some things to me are sacred, and one of these things is food...good food, and quality products. This is one reason that I moved to Italy. I can regularly find the best produce IN THE WORLD and not have to commit my firstborn child to pay for it.

But today, I had a very unwelcome surprise. I wanted to make chocolate truffles. They are very simple and delicious, and because of this simplicity, they require good chocolate, good cream, and real butter. I found good chocolate. I found real butter. Now I must breathe, because this is where it gets ugly.

I am used to being appalled by certain things that I see here in Italy (littering, car seat-less babies, etc), but never would I ever have imagined that this feeling would be a reaction to something food-related.

I needed UNSWEETENED heavy cream. Guess what I found. I was given a box of sweetened cream. Please don't call me dramatic. The worst is yet to come.

Upon further inspection, I found that there was no cream in the cream. I found that it was made from vegetable fat and had more chemicals than a can of Aqua Net hairspray. This is where I should hear a gasp of horror from the audience. If you're not gasping quite horribly yet, just look at that label. Would you allow that into your body? Ew.

My fire was further fueled by the insistence that this was cream and it was to be whipped. "But I don't want to whip it," I said, "and if I did, I wouldn't whip that." It was useless to explain my recipe and that I wasn't even sure if chocolate would melt in this product or if it would just explode upon heating and murder me with toxic fumes. Had I tried to explain that I wanted to make a ganache, the wasted breath would have been enough to make me faint right there next to the cauliflower.

After trying 3 stores, I gave up. I walked back home with short, angry strides, trying to understand how such an atrocious product could be served lovingly to children in a country where quality food is a sacred, Italy-given right. I even asked a sweet old lady, only to be assured that she has always used that, and it's great for whipping.

You may call me picky, but for me, this is impossible and unacceptable and I would rather give give up chocolate for life than eat Hopla'. Italy is the uncontested epicenter of culinary integrity for me and today I suffered a bit of disappointment. This is not the kind behavior I would expect of my surrogate country.

Maybe I'll find some real cream tomorrow. If not, I will be forced to telekinetically pout away all the Hopla' in Naples, and no one will ever be forced to eat "vegetable fat product" again.

Now there's a happy ending.

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Le Palme

Winter palm...

...summer palm

(You may remember the summer one from a previous post, there are some other Ischia pictures if you want to see them.) It won't be long before that sun is peeking through fronds again, and I'll be right there to bask in it.



Italians Quoted #6

"Signorina, would you like to take my seat?"

-Very sweet, very old lady (the kind with a cane and a head scarf) on the bus offering me her seat. Can you believe that she offered me her seat? What does it take for a fragile elderly woman to offer her seat to another person fifty years her junior?

What can I say? It must have been the turkey neck...



The (Not-So) Weekly Wino: February 8th

I've always wanted to go to Friuli because it's a great wine producing region and it is home to one of the best prosciuttos (my love!) in the world, Prosciutto di San Daniele. I'll tell you about the trip and my foodie pilgrimage next week, but for now I want to talk about this here wine on left.
Friuli grows quite a few autochthonous wines (Tocai Friulano, Ribolla Gialla, Picolit, Verduzzo, Pignolo, Schioppettino, Refosco, Tazzelenghe, and another few that I'm sure to have let out), as well as international varietals to great success such as Merlot, Chardonnay, Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc etc. I'll post about Picolit and Schioppettino, and try to tell you about the region's D.O.C.s and D.O.C.G.s (as well as a Sauvignon Blanc that made me so excited to have taste buds) in the upcoming Winos.

Back to the Cabernet Franc...

Originally a French varietal with some of my favorites coming from the Loire Valley (please feel free to add to the list of its other homes), the vine has blossomed in Italy's northeast corner. I found that Cabernet Franc was served on tap in many simple osterie along with the native Tocai, so I knew better than to dismiss it as just-another-international-varietal-coming-to-take-over-the-natives. And this bottle was one of the cheaper ones, which made it quite attractive.

I wanted to take home at least 6 different wines and I completely disagree that I should have to spend more than 10 euro a bottle to have a successful meet-and-greet with the Friuliani. "Old vine this" and "single vineyard that" is the last step in the getting-to-know-you process for me, because I want to discover the truth about every wine I encounter. I want to meet the peasants before I dine with the royalty, for they are what represent the genuine flavor and simple life of the local culture. I want to see refosco naked before it gets all gussied like the others, get it?

I shall get right to the point dear, patient readers and suspend my metaphor freefall. This wine was fun. I'm on one of those things that starts with a "b" and ends with an "udget," and this one delivered. It had a light ruby color with red berry flavors, black pepper, and a very green note. This was a new experience for me in a red wine, and I couldn't get enough of it. It was maybe like fresh jalapeno, or bell pepper, or something leafy and herbal-ly. I'm sure there's someone out there who knows just what I am yapping about and can help me put a name on that taste.

You can see that this humble bottle generously gave more than its expected share of complexity at 5 euro and that is always a nice surprise. Anyway, who doesn't love a bargain?

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That's What I Get

It's been a while since anyone has landed on my blog by doing a Google search for anything other than Italian boobs and Dominic the donkey, but a couple of weeks ago someone found me by searching for this, word for word (and you can click on it):

neck looks like old turkey neck
Does a turkey have to be old to have turkey neck? I bet their second search was "ugly wrinkled neck looks like rotten flabby old dead turkey carcass neck," because the first search just wasn't specific enough. Imagine someone, late at night, feverishly pecking these words at the keyboard. It sounds like a fetish to me. I wouldn't be surprised.

Anyway, I didn't didn't think I had quite reached that point, but thanks anyway Google. Just as soon as I find my walker, I'll be in the back playing with my wattle.



Why I live in Ischia #4

Just the other day as I was finishing my lazy breakfast, I heard the resident rooster calling. I went outside to investigate.
The morning had been dreary, but just in front of me through the "window" on my balcony I noticed the sun finally penetrating those persistent clouds, low over the mountain. I came out of an open-mouthed stupor induced by the strangest light I've ever seen in time to get my camera so that I could share with you one special moment from my day.
The light had changed, but the image remained. I took a deep breath of cool island air and thanked the rooster for reminding me why I'm here.