Category Archives: Food & Restaurants

Happy Birthday Paul!

We had a sweet surprise waiting for him at home…with a secret ingredient.


Peanut butter chocolate chip bacon cookies.

We cooked, we sang, we ate…we celebrated. Hope it’s a great day PM.

Also involved in today’s birthday celebration: a finger painted masterpiece.

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Cooking with a crew

During Jill and Drew’s visit over Christmas, we took a cooking class along with friends Molly and Giuseppe. Paul was originally planning to join but due to a broken ankle (more on this later) he had to sit it out, literally. But that just meant more chocolate cake for me, er, the rest of us.

And don’t worry about Paul on this night; Shiyama our lovely housekeeper and nanny brought him dinner on a tray. A tray! Meanwhile, the rest of us were paying money to cook our own dinner…

It was actually really fun–and tasty.

Pasta with Roman style artichokes were first.

Plus a baked pumpkin dish and Roman chicken–one of my favorite ways to eat chicken prepared with peppers.

And cake. The funniest part about the cake was this: it’s the only time I’ve had a chocolate torte in Italy that was actually moist (aka delicious) but the instructor kept saying how it would be much better the following day when it had time to air out.

Oh well, Valeria really knew her stuff and I’d recommend her to anyone. In fact, here goes:

La mia Cucina di Casa

Via Germanico 197, 00192 Roma

+39 063216620 +39 063216620

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Italian coffee

Coffee is an art in Italy with as many different varieties as one can imagine, possibly more. Cappucino is the standard morning drink and pregnant ladies like me often opt for something with less punch: a latte macchiato. This is a glass of steamed milk “stained” with coffee, sometimes topped with a sprinkle of chocolate. (Not to be confused with a cafe macchiato which is the opposite: a shot of coffee with only the smallest hint of milk.)

A regular cafe latte is also a lovely morning treat. It’s a bigger glass with more milk and more coffee, more like a latte that one would order at Starbucks but don’t expect to get a “venti” anything in Italy. While the name is Italian (“twenty”, as in 20 ounces), giant cups of coffee are not. Neither is a large takeout container or a couch nestled in the coffee shop. Almost all coffee is consumed at the bar, standing. It’s a quick part of the day, usually repeated several times. It’s also considerably cheaper than a Starbucks run; usually about one euro.

If it’s not morning, it’s not common to order anything with milk. After 10 am it’s customary to simply get a cafe, a shot of espresso. If your stomach can’t take that kind of thing, which mine certainly can’t pregnant or not, you can plead your straniero status (“foreigner”) and just order a cafe latte. Leave a little tip to make up for it; besides, tipping is also more of an American custom than Italian, but certainly appreciated everywhere.


Filed under About Italy, Food & Restaurants, Italian culture

Going Greek

Just for fun, to usher in spring and to celebrate a friend’s baby on the way, we had a dinner party last week. The menu was Greek–anything goes except Italian for this kind of thing–and mostly supplied via  my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks. I know, it’s no surprise, but honestly her stuff is delicious every time. And if you’re having a party, that’s really all you want. And maybe wine.

We started with Easy Tzatziki with Toasted Pita Crisps, which were indeed pretty easy. But delicious! Loaded with cucumber, yogurt, lemon and dill, it’s not even bad for you. A rarity in the chip and dip department.

I won’t say that Phoebe helped prep exactly but she was there for sure.

The main course was a yogurt marinated chicken breast with tabbouleh. Fresh scallions, tomatoes, mint and parsley make this salad especially refreshing. And it’s made with bulgar! Again, healthy yet tasty. I think we’re on to something here

The dessert was actually English, a rhubarb fool with fresh whipped cream. I’ve never made one before, but I’m tickled that the name comes from the fact that it’s so easy, any fool can…

Oh, those Brits.

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Big lunch

Last weekend Dan and Amy organized a great lunch in the country. The ex-pat group made our way out to the restaurant for a sunny afternoon full of food, friends and fun. Wine on the table, kids running around, parents up and down. As Paul said its the kind of thing you associate with Italy and France, in the best way.

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Here’s to our own little foodlet

Foods Phoebe has eaten so far:

  • sweet potato
  • avocado
  • pear
  • apple
  • rice cereal
  • banana
  • yogurt (new!)

Foods Phoebe has loved so far:

  • see above

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Olive picking

Paul was in heaven. He finally got to pick olives in Italy.

We were there to help a friend and co-worker with his annual fall harvest. Along with Eric and Alex, we went to David’s home in the country (actually very close to Lake Albano) on a drizzly Sunday morning. The project was spearheaded by David’s elderly Italian father-in-law and avoided by his two tween-aged sons. Wet weather only allowed for a partial picking but the Americans were all-too-happy to be involved.

Then came lunch. When he invited us, David mentioned “something casual”, maybe some pasta. But Paul and I have heard this before. Grateful that we’d brought rich and gooey brownies, as tasty an American treat as any, we were served countless courses of fresh bread, cheese, soup, pasta, polenta, sausages, grilled steak–each dish made even more delicious with their homemade olive oil poured on top–then dessert, three cakes plus brownies.

Several hours and a little wine later, we packed up and headed home, fueled by dreams of an olive harvest of our own someday. At our country villa. Why not?


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Sweet potato success

At five and a half months, Phoebe’s dream has come true. She got to eat her first food. Sweet potatoes. We whipped out the special food processor/steamer combo — purchased on a trip to Paris last winter (anxious new parents?) — and lunch was served. Rave reviews.


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Roasted tomato basil soup

The first time I had this soup was in Amsterdam. Paul was there on business, I was there for pleasure.


Well, not necessarily this soup, but it was tomato soup like I’d never tasted. Thick, rich and best of all, with a dollop of creme fraiche hiding at the bottom of the bowl.

Then when I saw Ina Garten make this recipe I knew it had to be close–and it was.

Ingredients are simple: tomatoes, chicken stock, onions, garlic and basil, lots of fresh basil. The secret is roasting the tomatoes first, just to bring out the flavor.

tomatoesMeanwhile, this soup starts like most others with a couple of onions chopped and sauteed in butter.  Once the tomatoes are ready, combine everything together in a Dutch oven and simmer. I think I made it for about thirty minutes before getting antsy. Last, the whole thing gets blended, processed or pureed with one of those special hand blenders (which I received as a gift from Jen last year…but runs on American voltage so it’s in the “save for the States” cupboard for now.) In the meantime there’s plenty of soup to savor.

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

by Ina Garten


  • 3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 quart chicken stock or water


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.

More ideas from trusted kitchens elsewhere…


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Yes please!

oh? mmm one taste bite chomp yay


Filed under Food & Restaurants, Phoebe