Tagged: food and drink

Oscar Sunday and Movie Monday: Swept Away and Django Unchained

Jessica Chastain at 2012 Oscars.  She's awesome.

Jessica Chastain at 2012 Oscars in Alexander McQueen.  She’s awesome.

So the Oscars are this Sunday.  Oh yeah, another chance for Hollywood to congratulate itself.  Yessss* but also a good time to invite friends over, make food and drink.  Of course we watch the Red Carpet and talk to the TV and criticize the fashion choices.  And yes we print out Oscar ballots to add in some friendly competition.  I wish that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler were hosting but c’est la vie.  They chose Seth MacFarlane.  Hmm.  I’m sure he’ll be better than James Franco and Ann Hathaway.

I am not romantic about who wins and loses an Academy Award.  For a good laugh read this Oscar voter’s take on this year’s nominees from The Hollywood Reporter.  It does not disappoint.  I agree with him on a few things.  Maybe I’m an old curmudgeon.

I especially agree with him on “Django Unchained.”  For a brilliant breakdown read Jesse Williams‘ take.  I agree with him, a lot.

This brings me to a post I trashed.  It’s the first time I’ve done that.  I made it a goal not to be negative here and not to rant, too much.  In the end I decided that I should post it.  I watched two movies and had strong reactions to them, and to me, this warrants attention.

*There’s an article in the Atlantic about the study of extra vowels and elongation of words.  I am guiltyyyy and I like it!


It’s been awhile since I’ve been to the movies.  Since it’s Awards season it’s time to see how many of the movies that are nominated we can see.  I had no desire to see “Django Unchained” but bf wanted to see it since there was an Italian Western movie called “Django” from 1966.  The star of that movie, Franco Nero, has a cameo in “Django Unchained.”

I wasn’t excited by the previews for “Django Unchained” and by the second hour of the movie I was bored.  The first half establishes the how and why and has some nice moments for Christoph Waltz and Jamie Foxx but as it prodded on I kept looking at my watch.  I liked “Reservoir Dogs” and “Pulp Fiction.”  I even liked “Kill Bill” because the ladies got to exact revenge and chop up people, but I’m over the revenge stories, Quentin.  Can we try something else?  Can we also try to be a little less masturbatory with the monologues and unnecessary scenes?  I’m so glad you can craft a screenplay and an interesting scene but they’re not needed.

“Swept Away” is not an Oscar contender but it arrived via Netflix.  I knew of its existence because of the Guy Ritchie remake starring his then wife Madonna and the son of Giancarlo Giannini, Adriano.  I never saw it.  I did want to see “Swept Away.”  Now I wish that I could unsee it.  There are parts of the movie that are more disturbing than “Django Unchained.”  I sincerely dislike violence against your fellow human being.  Yes I watch it in movies, and even that makes me uncomfortable, but the calculated violence and manipulation in real life brings a lot of existential and religious questions to mind.

I did not enjoy watching Giancarlo Giannini’s character, the stereotypical Silician Gennarino,  verbally, mentally and physically abuse the haughty, rich Italian from the North, Raffaella, played by Mariangela Melato (Just a note, she recently died).  I understand why the Director Lina Wertmueller created the characters but I did not like them.  I’m not a fan of violence against women.  And if Raffaella has Stockholm Syndrome, well I sure hope she was faking it for survival.

The scenery was lovely and it made me want to jump on a boat and sail around the Mediterranean but the strange games played between rich and poor, man and woman do nothing for me.

One more day of eating in Rome

Trevi Fountain, Rome

Trevi Fountain, Rome

I was ready to move on from Rome but this morning as I flipped through my small notebook looking for details on something else I discovered I had nearly forgotten about our last day, New Year’s Day, in Rome.  It’s that J-O-B getting in the way again.

For the first time during our trip we slept in until 11:30 missing breakfast in the hotel and putting ourselves in a pickle.  We were hungry but what was open?  The lovely ladies at the front desk suggested a Sardinian place nearby so off we went to Perdingianu e Croccoriga.  I won’t torture you with the pictures.  I know that some of my food pictures have been less than fantastic (see the pork livers and wild boar from L’Asino d’Oro.  Taste much better than the pics!).   More

Fabulous New Year’s Eve in Rome with a little mayhem

View inside Glass Hostaria from the dining area on 2nd floor

View inside Glass Hostaria from the dining area on 2nd floor

Our dining splurge in Rome was spent on New Year’s Eve dinner at Glass Hostaria.  It was a lovely experience.  We sat down around 8:30 and they managed to pace the courses smoothly until midnight.  We chose Glass because they served cotechino and lentils at midnight one of two Italian New Year’s traditions that we participated in.  The other is wearing red underwear.  The food was complex but good and we left satisfied with mini panettones for breakfast.

Before I dive into the photos of food I wanted to mention this article in the NY Times, “Restaurants Turn Camera Shy”  about people taking photos of food.  It was rather amusing.  I love the idea of people standing on their chairs to get a good shot.  I also enjoy that there’s a class on how to take good pictures of your food.  If there’s a whole class devoted to it, it must be popular. More

Pizzarium and Campo de’Fiori

Pizza at Pizzarium, Foie gras with apples and something equally delicious

Pizza at Pizzarium, Foie gras with apples and something equally delicious

After Villa Farnesina it was time for lunch.  I wanted to go to Pizzarium.  Yes Pizzarium is closer to the Vatican than where we were in Trastevere but seeking out good food is always a fun adventure.  I’d heard a lot about the place so I was curious.  As you can see from the picture the crust is not thin.  It’s more substantial to support the crazy mix of ingredients Gabriele Bonci throws on top.  There is no place to sit so thank goodness La Mama left Rome that morning.  There are benches outside on the sidewalk.  We stood at the small metal counter inside which sits on top of the fridges that store beer and water.  There’s wine too.

Pizza at Pizzarium.  Ricotta, tomatoes and artichokes (or onions?) on the left.  Lotsa mortadella on the right

Pizza at Pizzarium. Ricotta, tomatoes and artichokes (or onions?) on the left. Lotsa mortadella on the right

As you walk into Pizzarium you will see the cashier on the left and the pizza beckoning in front of you.  The helpful people behind the counter will tell you the toppings but between all the combinations and my lack of Italian language skills I was lost.  We just pointed at what we wanted.  The pizza gal or guy will hold a pair of scissors over the pizza and you tell them how much you want.  The price is based on the weight.  Select two or three, the pizza people weigh your choices and print out a receipt which you take to the cashier.  In the meantime the pizza gets warmed up, if you choose.  Before handing you your tray of pizza they cut the big pieces into smaller, manageable pieces.   How quickly you eat the pizza and wait in line for more is entirely up to you.  We spent 50 euros, had 2 beers each and more delicious pizza than I’ve had in a while.  There were people walking in just buying bread.  I wish I would have bought some because that looked good too.  There’s also a selection of flours on sale.

Classic rice ball and spicy tomato stuff with ricotta and hazelnuts at Pizzarium

Classic rice ball and spicy tomato stuff with ricotta and hazelnuts at Pizzarium

Pizza with artichokes and cured ham of some sort at Pizzarium

Pizza with artichokes and cured ham of some sort at Pizzarium

Since it was a beautiful day we walked around some of the familiar sights: Campo de’Fiori and Piazza Navona.  There were some great looking vegetables in the Campo de’Fiori so I had to take pics and Piazza Navona still had the Christmas festival so those are here too.  If you want to see Bernini’s 2 fountains in Piazza Navona you can go to my earlier post here.  New Year’s Eve dinner is coming up!

I’ll have the Caravaggio. Or maybe the Lady Gaga

Caravaggio Sandwich at cafe in Rome

Caravaggio Sandwich at cafe in Rome

Our fourth day in Rome was packed with art and culture.  We visited (in this order):

-Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria (Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Theresa)

-Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, Cerasi Chapel (2 Caravaggios)

-Ara Pacis

-Galleria Borghese (Raphael!  Bernini!  Botticelli!  6 Caravaggios)

On our way to the Ara Pacis, before lunch, we passed by a cafe on Via del Corso that featured celebrity sandwiches.  It’s not the first time I’ve seen celebrity sandwiches in a deli but it was the last thing I’d expect to see in Rome.

L’Asino d’Oro, Rome

Pancetta with sage and vinegar, L'Asino d'Oro

Pancetta with sage and vinegar, L’Asino d’Oro

I believe in luck.  I often feel fortunate.  Eating dinner at L’Asino d’Oro our third night in Rome I felt fortunate to have discovered another fantastic restaurant.  Were the Gods and Goddesses of Food and Drink smiling down on me?  How did I manage to choose 3 places in a row that blew my mind in their masterful execution of what seemed like simple, straightforward dishes?  Would this streak continue?  (There were a few hiccups but overall yes).  I’m not exaggerating.  We ate another amazing meal.

If you’re in the mood for delicious food at an affordable price in Rome, then add L’Asino d’Oro to your list.  Located in the “quiet treasure” or “cool quarter” of Monti,  L’Asino d’Oro attracts couples, families and the older generation, people who like to eat well.  After our day at the Vatican Museum with a lackluster lunch and later the Galleria Doria Pamphilj (3 Caravaggios!) we were hungry so we each ordered an appetizer and an entrée.  We even had dessert which is something we try to skip (not because we don’t like it but if we drink wine then do we need the extra dessert calories?  Balance).

I started with the pancetta with sage and vinegar (baffo all salvia e aceto) pictured above.  I read that it was good. Who can resist an appetizer of bacon?  It wasn’t just bacon though.  It was the combination of pork with sage and vinegar that made it. More

Cesare al Casaletto, Rome

Tonarelli with baccala

Tonarelli with baccala at Cesare al Casaletto

If I lived in the Monteverde neighborhood of Rome I would eat at Cesare al Casaletto or L’Osteria di Monteverde once a week.  Cesare al Casaletto is another unassuming restaurant that delivers amazing food at a moderate price.  The other diners were families with kids, couples, young people, but no tourists!

During our trip bf’s mother joined us for three days which is advantageous come dinner time.  More people means more food can be tried!  We were ambitious with the appetizers: fried gnocchi with a cacio e pepe fonduta, fried squid and fried, boiled beef balls (I know this sounds weird but they were good, so good.  Maybe it’s better in Italian: polpette di bollito con pesto di basilico).

Fried gnocchi with cacio e pepe fonduta

Fried gnocchi with cacio e pepe fonduta

Fried gnocchi already sound indulgent but put them over a smooth, cheesy sauce, try one and you want eat them all.

Fried squid

Fried squid

Another fried item!  Usually we moderate the fried food intake but how can you resist these?  With just a little squeeze of lemon?  Ohhh yum!

Polpette di bollito con pesto di basilico (Fried balls of beef)

Polpette di bollito con pesto di basilico (Fried balls of beef)

Mmm…a fried, crispy orb of roasted beef with a basil pesto.  Cesare al Casaletto has a magic touch with fried food items.  These were every bit as tasty as the squid and gnocchi.  Thank goodness there were only three, one for each of us.  It didn’t matter though because we had stuffed ourselves with the other fritti.  When our entrees arrived I wanted to hide under the table.  Looking at my plate of tonarelli with baccala though I couldn’t resist trying it which led to me eating almost all of it.  My parents never forced me to be a member of the Clean Plate Club.  It was more like take what you can eat but if you can’t eat all of it we won’t be mad.  I wanted to eat all of my tonarelli to show how appreciative I was of the chef and restaurant but I had a feeling they knew.

Spaghetti with anchovy, garlic and oil

Spaghetti with anchovy, garlic and oil

Bf had the same problem eating his pasta.

Baccala Roman style with tomatoes, raisins and pine nuts

Baccala Roman style with tomatoes, raisins and pine nuts

This looked wonderful.  I didn’t want to ask bf’s mom for a bite.  We’re not close enough for that.  She loved it though.  This reminds me that as much as I love fish and seafood I didn’t have it in Rome.  There were plenty of opportunities but whenever I heard or read about the pasta dishes I couldn’t resist.  I haven’t had any pasta since I’ve been back, not because I’m afraid of it not being the same, but because my body needs a break from the carb fest.

L’Osteria di Monteverde, Rome. A must!

Knowing nothing about restaurants in Rome made the task of finding places for lunch or dinner overwhelming.  It’s easy to google Best Restaurants in Rome, but who to trust?  The most useful blog I found was Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome.  The best part is that she has an app called Eat Rome for iOs and Android which is absolutely worth $3.99.  Her list of go to restaurants is in alphabetical order but you can also search by price or neighborhood.  There are pictures of food to tempt you and a map to help you navigate which can be used offline.  Another useful blog was Parla Food.

Since we would be in Rome for 6 nights I wanted to find moderately priced restaurants for dinner and one splurge for New Year’s.  Reading through the Eat Rome app and googling my choices I made a list of potentials.  Since I was concerned about the city being really busy during the holidays, I booked New Year’s first and then the rest.  I may have been too cautious calling to make reservations about 2 weeks in advance.  Symptom of living in New York perhaps.

Our first evening was spent at the marvelous L’Osteria di Monteverde.

L'Osteria di Monteverde

L’Osteria di Monteverde

After a big breakfast, a jet-lagged trek through the highlights of Rome where we skipped lunch, I was hungry.  The menu revealed several things I wanted to eat but the most appealing was an 8 course tasting menu for 36 Euros, roughly $48, which also included water, bread and dessert.  I read it 3 times just to be sure I wasn’t seeing things.  I glanced at bf to see if he was still scanning the menu.   More

To pique your interest…

There’s a North American Institute of Swiss Watchmaking in Fort Worth, Texas!  The Moment Blog

Don’t have a boat but want to go sailing?  Join a trip on Intersail.

I love Henri Cole’s poems.  He’s in Paris and he blogs about it once in awhile.  New Yorker Blog

I haven’t been to Mission Chinese yet.  Wanna go?  NYMag.com

Alicia Keys covered the “Gummi Bears” theme on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon a week or so ago.  I loved that show!

The original:

Venice: Basilica di San Marco, Doge’s Palace & Al Covo

Everyone should visit Piazza San Marco and the Basilica di San Marco even if you hate tourists.  Embrace the madness of all the people and pigeons and marvel.  A few weeks ago Venice was hit by the worst acqua alte (high waters) in 22 years.  The city was reportedly flooded with 6 feet of water!  Incredible how the canals rise and the water takes over.  Pictures are here.

Piazza San Marco

The line into the Basilica di San Marco wasn’t too bad.  We went in the morning to avoid the crowds as much as possible.  Behind the altar is  the Pala d’Oro.  It’s studded with 2,000 emeralds, amethysts, sapphires, rubies, pearls and other gemstones.  Biblical figures are depicted in colorful enamel, or cloisonné.  St. Mark stands in the center as the saints, angels and Mary look to him.  It was started in 976 in Constantinople and Venetian goldsmiths embellished it in 1209.  It gives you a sense of wealth of Venice at one time.  When Napoleon needed to fund his wars he pillaged Venice for gold, silver, jewelry, paintings, everything, that’s how wealthy Venice was. More