Jun 182017
 
nothing to do with this post!

nothing to do with this post!

I am very close to closing and deleting my instagram accounts, the relentless stream of spamming ads has got to the point that it annoys and frustrates me way beyond the pleasure I get from seeing my friends photos.

I truly dont understand Facebook’s approach with encouraging and supporting spam on Instagram. Not only is it seemingly universally disliked by users, it spoils something that is so much a simple visual experience . I also dont understand why advertisers pay to spam users on Instagram – I am sure most people, like me, actually make a conscious decision to NOT buy any product that chooses to present as spam advertising on social media.

I would probably also delete my facebook accounts if it were not for the advantage of using our local community noticeboard which is a group running on FB. Without any local paper or other media here, it would be difficult to be without.

Its certainly one thing that makes twitter continue to be my social medium of choice, the lack of spam is a massive plus for twitter.

I guess I will have to think about whether I want to explore another platform for sharing images with friends and family, the most obvious is just to post them on twitter, another possibility is just to post more on this blog. I could also create a thread on our seekrit squirrel forum for the purpose of sharing images. Happy to hear other people’s thoughts on alternative image sharing social media.

 

Mar 192017
 
march-32

coral trout

after our big trip down to dudley island on saturday we spent most of the rest of our time at bawaka fishing the reefs outside port bradshaw in dave’s boat, and fishing the rockbars in the bay in mine. this led to a steady stream of quality table fish with red emporer, mackerel, coral trout, barrumundi cod and mangrove jack making up the main species caught.

on sunday i also took timmy, djaka, yarrangu, russell & kai across the bay in my boat to hunt maranydjalk (sting ray) and djindjalma (mud crab) – which led to a great feast that night! maranydjalk is one of our favourite seafoods when prepared the yolngu way and it was fantastic for dave, brian and caitie to be able to see the preparation and then discover the amazing taste of this delicacy of arnhem land.

of course no trip like this will be without its dramas, and my poor old leaky, battered and bashed tinny was the most likely candidate. so it proved to be when on the first day i tried to select reverse and the gear cable popped out thru its sheath and made reverse unselectable and likely to leave the boat inoperable as it got worse. having a diesel fitter, a mechanical fitter and an electrician…..made little difference! but bush mechanics 101 came to the rescue and we cut some lengths of fencing wire, bent them to the curve of the cable and taped them to the cable before finishing with cable ties. the repair did the trick and the bodged up cable will probably still be in the boat next time brian comes up!! Special thanks to caitie also, without her expertise with the ‘magic smoke’ we would have had no coffee machine, fans or lights due to some faults with the solar system.

march-50

bush mechanics

as usual with us food was a highlight of the week, but when mixed with the abundant wildlife, stunning environment, cultural wealth, brilliant weather and damn fine company it was truly an unforgettable week and one that we will all continue to reflect on and remember with much fondness.

So thanks firstly to timmy and the family for welcoming us to bawaka and treating us to a unique experience in this piece of paradise, thanks to brian and caitie for being the catalyst for this adventure, as well as being fabulous company and finally thanks to my best mate dave for all his help in making this trip a success.

I will finish up with one of my favourite images from the week, taken as we were presented with our plate of maranydjalk!

march-38

 

 

 

 

Mar 172017
 

march-7

my old mate, brian livingstone (livo), used to live here and relocated his family to yepoon in queensland some years ago. he pops back every couple of years for some fishing and to inflict serious and lasting damage on our livers. this time he brought his daughter caitie and settled in for 2 weeks. they stayed with my mate dave ‘butts’ butterworth – which helped prevent early onset cirrosis in my case.

brian also brought a wonderful present for me up on the plane, it was a total surprise, but i suspect dave was also involved! I was actually overwhelmed a bit, its a magnificent gift and will take pride of place at rick’s bar & grill.

march-51

our original plan had been to charter a boat for a few days and do a barra fishing trip, but it proved to be so expensive that we bought a small mercedes each instead and decided to spend 6 days camped down at paradise, a.k.a bawaka, we took both dave’s and my boats down and sal drove the troopy down.

we asked timmy to come down too, so we could get him out on the boats and also have him create a cultural education experience for our visitors. he came down on the friday and spent the weekend with us, also bringing djakapurra and yarrangu as well as djaka’s son russell who is a year older than kai.

march

caitie, sal, brian & dave

we had a few days in town before heading out, and brian, dave and I actually did a run down to bawaka to take some of the gear down and make sure all was ready for our visit. as usual the days were started at rick’s bar & grill with coffees and usually ended there with dinner!

friday morning we launched the boats at yirrkala and set off for bawaka while sal headed down by road, it was a perfect morning with glass off conditions and flat seas, i only stopped for about 45 seconds to catch a large mackeral for dinner!

the most exciting thing on the first night was the appearance of wititj, or the olive python as he frightened the life out of russell by slithering across the sand towards him as he sat beside the camp fire after dinner! it was well over 3m long and one of the biggest I have seen, after a bit of fumbling in the dark I managed to pick him up and relocate him into the swamp – well away from our beds!

as you can see our effort at camping more properly falls into the category of glamping – proven by the fact that we lugged dave’s espresso machine out there so we could have a proper start to the day with freshly roasted coffee from arnhem roastery!

saturday we decided the weather was perfect for a run down the coast towards the group of islands known as the three hummocks. timmy was very keen to visit an island which he is named after, he told me it was deadly island – which I couldnt find on the map, but as it turned out i had misheard him and it was actually dudley island! the yolngu name of the island is murrmurrgu, and timmy had never been there so it was a very emotional trip for him.

we followed the coast down and trolled around any likely looking islands or rocks and got a nice range of fish, and some unwanted ones like sal’s shark!

we stopped at one of the three hummocks for lunch, it was actually 2 islands joined by an amazing sand spit, and it wouldn’t have been hard to stop there for the rest of the day! it was totally protected by the other islands around it in every direction, the water was crystal clear and the sand was soft and clean.

when we arrived at murrmurrgu we discovered an even better beach if possible, it plunged straight down into deep water and was just an idyllic location, it was beautiful to see how emotionally affected timmy was by the chance to visit his island – and that alone made the whole week worthwhile just to be able to take him there. I dont think any of us will forget the experience for a long time.

that will do for part 1, i will try to put together a part 2 post later this weekend.

i did record a little video of timmy talking about his experience in visiting his namesake island for the first time,

Dec 262016
 

scooter

my dislike for xmas and all things related is well documented, but for those of you that dont know me well, i have a somewhat deserved reputation as the grinch, of bah humbug fame from the dr seuss’ book.

my workaround for this time of year, to avoid spoiling the whole time for myself and others, is to celebrate the festival of saturnalia – the original holiday celebrations of the ancient romans that was later ‘appropriated’ by the christians when they invented their fairy tales.

saturnalia lasted for up to 2 weeks from mid december thru to the 24th, it was a topsy-turvy holiday of feasting, drinking, singing in the street naked, clapping hands, gambling in public and making noise.

A character in Macrobius’s Saturnalia (an encyclopedic celebration of Roman culture written in the early fifth century) quotes from an unnamed priest of the god Saturn that, according to the god himself, during the Saturnalia “all things that are serious are barred”.

so happy saturnalia to all of you, may you enjoy a fun and frivilous festive season to end 2016!

my saturnalia to date has been consistent with “all things that are serious are barred”, i finished up work just before the start of the festival and have spent most of that time fishing and camping. the fishing has been tough, but here are a few photos from the last couple of weeks adventures

dave, kai and i spent a few days camped at bawaka, the plan had been to go down in dave’s boat and explore the surrounding coast & islands, but cyclone yvette created enough weather over here to convince us it was a better idea just to drive out and leave the boat at home.


we have now entered the feasting phase of the festival and the eve of the 23rd was a feast for our friend, dave, who has to work on the 25th, we were joined by sarah and a brief appearance by jeremy & leesi.the feast was based around the pork shoulder & chook I spent all day smoking slowly, accompanied by a yummy roast pumpkin salad sarah prepared, and was finished off with sal’s magnificent blueberry trifle.

the 24th was a day of recovery and then the culmination of our saturnalia was on the 25th, starting with the pagan gift giving ceremony. its actually a very interesting ceremony, the christians surplanted the key character with a bishop (later saint nicholas) when they appropriated it. originally the ceremony had quite a sinister side to it that was lost over time.

kai’s main present was the flash, pro-trick scooter in the opening image, hopefully he will get a lot of pleasure from it at the skate park. Sal scored a nice new rod & reel combo, hopefully it will add to the catch tally next time we are out fishing! I scored a nice traditional carbon steel asian style cleaver for the kitchen.

sunday afternoon jeremy and leesi arrived for our next bout of gluttony and excess! they had cooked a couple of chooks with a yummy non-bread stuffing, as well as bringing vegies and salad, we added large tiger prawns i had marinated in chilli, lime, mint and ginger, ham and leftovers from the friday feast.

after a long lunch we moved inside and watched the best, worst movie ever – the man from hong kong, an absolute classic aussie movie from 1975. we then had a crack at stuffing ourselves some more with cheeses, salamis and pickles laced with beer & wine before i insisted we all head down to the beach for a walk to get an appetite for dinner and stretch our legs a bit!

it proved to be a masterstroke and we were in fine fettle for a round or two of mojitos, a dinner of extensive leftovers, and the company of the kennedy family who joined us after john finished work. tommo brought along 2 magnificent desserts to add to the table and finish off the festivities on a sweet note.

thankfully its 12 months until we have to do this all again!

Nov 212016
 

mango-4

its that time of year, its stinking hot, the humidity is so high you could wring the air like a wet tee-shirt, everyone is slightly crazy – locally described as mango madness as the build up coincides with the ripening of the magnificent mango – and the false promise of welcome rain is teased with the rolling build up clouds and distant rumbles of thunder, alas it skirts around us through october, november and most of december.

so there is nothing to do but sneak around searching for the sweetest and best mango crops in town, each different season and year brings out the best in different trees, but this has been a bumper season all round and most trees are bending under the strain of some of the biggest crops of mangoes i can remember seeing. our own tree is prolific, filled with huge, sweet bowens. we fight a battle day and night defending our crop from marauding cockies in the day and stinking, squarking, fruit bats at night.

both drop the huge mangoes like depth charges on the roof of the back verandah, scaring the wits out of unsuspecting visitors and causing us to let forth a stream of cursing and swearing at the thieves!

then its into the kitchen to make huge batches of mango chutney, i just slice each side off the stone, scoop the flesh of the skin with a glass and then chop roughly.

mango-2

then its make up the chutney, loads of garlic, ginger, onion, spices, sugar, vinegar, limes, chilli, and today a fat old eggplant that was in the fridge. i boil that all gently for half an hour or so until its reduced down and then chuck the mango in.

mango-3

while the chutney is doing its thing its time to sterilize the jars and do a few taste tests to get the flavour balance on point.

after a couple of hours and about 4 beers the chutney is ready to bottle and time to start thinking of dishes to have with the chutney – i think a few curries might be in order this week!

mango-1

note the wooden sppon created by kai in his woodwork class, adds a little something special!

The rough form of my recipe for the mango chutney is along these lines,

8 mangoes

1 ½ cup sugar (1 cup brown ½ castor)

1 ½ cup vinegar

fish sauce

chiili

ginger

garlic

onion

cloves

star anise

cardomon seeds

mustard seeds

fenugreek seeds

cummin

garam masarla

2 limes

Chop up the garlic, ginger, onion and chilli and fry in large saucepan, add the rest of the spices, sugar and vinegar and chopped up limes and cook until the mix reduces about 25-30% and then add the chopped up mangoes and cook on a simmer until it all comes together nicely.

 

Nov 012016
 

home-10

a friend recently bought a weber smokey mountain cooker and i offered to describe the mods I had made to mine over the 9 years i have owned it. a couple of other friends chimed in with questions so i decided a blog post was warranted! so gilfer, here are the mods.

firstly i fitted castors to the feet so i could wheel it around, a simple and practical mod.

home-2

the next thing i found was that too much charcoal fell thru the grate. i harvest my own charcoal in the bush and its probably a bit smaller in chunks than what the store bought stuff was. i got hold of some 10mm square stainless steel mesh and used stainless tie wire to fix it to the bottom of the fire box.

home-4

i also made a divider which creates a hot area a bit over half of the firebox, and a cool zone a bit less than half. i also find this lets me run a lower temp when smoking, which particularly with fish is better. its just a drop in piece so i can remove it if i want the firebox full. grilling meat its better with the cool zone, i can move stuff on and off the full heat as required.

I also wanted to raise the fire box higher so that I could char grill steak and vegies etc properly on a cast iron grill, i just used some chunks of paver bricks and have never done anything more sophisticated!

home-3

the firebox sits on top of them and then i put the cast iron grill on top,

home-6

this one i got from the US, but they no longer ship to australia, as you can see its nearly at the end of its life! i found a replacement one at bbq’s galore,

home-7

here is the packaging, its to suit an 18″ kamado joe.

home-8

i also made a stainless steel wire mesh which i use for smoking fish and grilling smaller items like prawns,

home-5

recently I also replaced the thermometer, the standard ones are not very accurate, for smoking in particular this is critical, these tel-tru ones from the US are the bomb, you can order them here, http://radarhillsmokers.com.au

home-1

finally, a couple of people have asked me what i smoke with, i now exclusively use paperbark, we have a large tree in the backyard and the flavour is amazing, i soak ‘balls’ of scrunched up bark in a bucket of water and put them on the coals, if the temp starts to run away from me i lay sheets over the top of the firebox to control it.

home-9

happy roasting peeps, i hope the smokey mountain cooker gives you as much joy as mine has over the 9 years – and a constant stream of amazing food. we are about to tuck into roo topside steaks and field mushrooms i have just grilled on ours!

Sep 242016
 
car-1-2

flying home

that was the view out the window, nearly 12 months ago as we flew home from europe via singapore. its hard to believe nearly a year has passed – nearly as long as we were away for – since we returned home.

i have been very lax with the blog and our lives have instead been largely documented on instagram! i thought i best try a post to see if i could remember how i compile a post!

the last 6 months has been a revolving door of friends staying with us, jeremy & leesi from NZ via bali, tetsj from japan, carl from germany, michiel, boki & dali from the netherlands, ricardo & susana  from portugal via the netherlands, peter phipps and his son surya from melbourne via garma, kade, annie & the boys from melbourne via garma, phil o’brien, territory legend and elisa guittet, fabulous french actress and singer!

rick’s bar and grill has been busy, many wonderful meals with fantastic friends, vicarious travel for us and plenty of good wine and cold beer!

 

we are back on our own for the moment, and while its nice to have the house to ourselves I suspect the novelty will soon wear off and we will be looking forward to our next lot of visitors!

well i seem to have worked out how to create galleries and otherwise format a blog post so i will leave you with a few more pics and a promise to update a bit more frequently!

 

Oct 072015
 
pomos sunset from the roof

pomos sunset from the roof

pomos is a tiny little village on the NW coast of cyprus, towards the border with the turkish occupied northern part of cyprus. no one much comes and stays here – and even they are not here at the butt end of summer.

our apartment looks out over the mediterranean, the meltemi blows freshly thru the windows and cools the baking sun a little, the roof is the perfect observatory for the fiery sunsets and the noise of the waves washing up the rocky beaches lulls one to sleep.

there is not much here, a sea food taverna at the boat harbour, a couple of souvalaki joints, a little general store and a cafe with resident backgammon players is about it.

pomos-11

backgammon at the pomos cafe

it suits us entirely well, we can relax away from any tourists, the water is warm for a daily swim, the neighbours have become firm friends and we take turns at cooking! starlo cooked us a fantastic meal of keftaides with pasta and salad and i cooked a butterfly lamb leg on the char grill another night.

she also gave us a loaf of freshly baked bread the other morning with some haloumi she had also made herself, it was the yummiest haloumi i have ever had, it was made with some fresh mint which gave it an amazing flavour.

the owner of the cafe was preparing courgette flower dolmades when i popped in for my daily cypriot coffee this afternoon, of course I had to try the already finished tomato dolmade!

the guy at the taverna at the boat harbour, who also happens to own the apartment we are staying in, gave me 2 bottles of wine and 3 fish when i dropped by to see him this morning.

the village is surrounded by steep hills covered in wild pine and cedar forests, apparently home to the cypriot wild goat that is their national symbol – although we are yet to see one.

its the perfect spot to finish up our gap year adventure, a couple of lazy weeks before returning to reality, sun baking, swimming, chatting with the locals, eating, drinking and walking.

Oct 062015
 
the view from our balcony in larnaca

the view from our balcony in larnaca

so we have reached our final destination for the year, cyprus. we tossed up whether to break the trip up on the way home with a cople of weeks in bali or to finish up this side of the world in cyprus.

the intent was similar – somewhere how to start adjusting for the buildup at home, somewhere we could lay round and do nothing for the last couple of weeks and somewhere with good food!

in the end we settled on cyprus, we are much more likely to pop over to bali from home than we are to find ourselves back this side of the planet anytime soon!

we flew into larnaca from athens and had one night in a lovely little boutique hotel overlooking the church in the old city. the next day we picked up a hire car and drove 200kms to a remote village on the NW coast of cyrpus called pomos where we are going to spend the rest of our time.

Oct 052015
 
in the pool!

in the pool!

this is the final instalment in the ios series of posts – even though its a week since we left greece for cyprus – its taken me that long to catch up!

jade is 11, the same age as kai, and she was also staying with her family at the island house. brett, or ‘nashy’ as he is known on the island is her cousin (i think!), and he owns one of the night clubs on ios. quite a large group of his family had flown to ios to visit and they were all staying with us at the island house.

jade and kai hit it off like life long friends, they could both talk for australia in the olympics – i am not sure who won but it was a good contest! they both share very confident and outgoing personalities so they fell into a happy friendship very easily.

most of their time was spent together in the pool, although we took jade for a morning of water sports with joe, and they had great fun being towed behind the ski boat on various inflatable rides.

i think it was a relief for both families that they became such good friends – it made it easier for all of us as they entertained themselves most of the time!

 

Oct 012015
 
pathos-7

the infinity pool at sunset, pathos

“ˈpāˌTHäs – a quality that evokes pity or sadness.” – nup, not happening for me!

after our epic boat trip, chelsea & joe took us to the incredible pathos beach bar, but pity or sadness was definitely not on the menu.

even with the images its hard to impress upon you the scale of this enterprise, its immense, its expensive of a whole diferent scale, its imposing, its beautiful, its sypathetic to the landscape while creating a envoronment all of its own.

the club is owned by a multi-billionaire greek-american who fell in love with ios and bought up much of the waterfront on the island and then simultaneously started developing ridiculously expensive clubs, bars, restaurants and accomodation – most of it looks to be running at a massive loss but i doubt he gives a damn.

pathos is certainly the crowning jewel, its on a scale bigger than anything else and overlooks his mansion built on the island in front.

there is a story in that mansion alone, he tried to build a causeway across the small channel between the island and the mainland but the locals stopped him – so he bought every single thing in by barge! that alone would have added millions to the cost ot the construction.

all his ventures share names of emotions, the restaurant/bar at mylopotas beach is called free, but pathos is, despite its name, a place of joy and pleasure. its the place to view the sunset on ios, the infinity pool is sublime, the endless sculptures entertain and the funky music soothes your soul as you sip on your cocktail of choice.

after enjoying our cocktails we headed down on to the beach to koumpara seafood restaurant for a very traditional greek taverna style dinner. the perfect way to finish a massive day!

Oct 012015
 
zah zah the cutest gurl in Ios!

zah zah the cutest gurl in Ios!

obviously with joe & chelsea running a water sports business on ios, a boat trip was simply a given. it took a bit of juggling to organise, there were the days after big nights which seemed a bit silly. there was also the odd windy or cloudy day, and other days where we had other activities arranged.

as it turned out i settled on last friday and it was the best day of our stay, so we loaded up the boat and headed off for a day of exploring, snorkelling and bumming around on the beach.

without waffling on too much it was just one of those days, so much what we love doing at home, a day out on the water, great friends, good food, a few beers and plenty of sun & salt!

it was a pleasant change not to be the skipper for a change, so i could really relax into the day. there is not much point in me banging on about what a magic day out it was, so i will just let the photos speak for themselves.

thanks chelsea & joe for a fabulous day!

(the last 3 pics are not actually from the boat trip, just random shots of zara being cute!)

Sep 302015
 
looking back down into the port.

looking back down into the port.

damn, now we are in cyprus and i have posted no updates on our visit to chelsea, joe & zara on Ios! now i will have to bang out a couple of posts over the next few days to catch up.

too much lying in the sun and flopping about in the pool has a price to pay it seems!

so we arrived from the port of piraeus near athens into the port of Ios and were promptly picked up by frangoulis from our hotel, the island house. he gave us a quick rundown on the lay of the land as we wound our way up the hill out of the port, across the top of the island thru the old village of choras, and down into mylopotas beach where chels & joe live.

we had the first 4 or 5 days at the main part of the hotel where the pool is, in a very beautiful and well appointed apartment, it’s balcony was just beside the pool and it was gorgeous and comfortable. due to prior bookings dimitria had to move us down nearer the beach, to their other building for the rest of our stay.

It was still very nice and comfortable, just missed the pool outside the door! but then again the beach was 80m closer!

most days we would catch the bus up to chora or down to the port for lunch and or dinner, there were also some nice tavernas on the foreshore in mylopotas beach, including the beautiful drakos where we dined our first night there with chelsea, joe and zah zah.

Sep 182015
 
flower stall, utrecht

flower stall, utrecht

i have been very slack since we left the netherlands – probably due to the move to a greek island and my propensity for lying in the sun doing nothing! – so this is a catch up post on our second week in apledoorn.

the highlight to the week was porbably a visit to the aboriginal art museum in utrecht (AAMU), to see the exhibition, de kracht van hout – the power of wood. the museum has a very impressive collection of bark paintings and carvings from north east arnhem land. various smaller galleries and museums had collections of aboriginal art but with budget cutbacks a decision was made to consolidate the collections in utrecht.

the collection was very strong in works from our area and also around mangingrida and outside of the really large and important collections like the british museum, would be one of the best in europe. they also have a collection of yidaki that formed part of this exhibition and michiel had leant them quite a number of very significant pieces from his personal collection for the exhibition.

so we had a couple of hours with the guide, who was certainly passionate and knowledgable about the art and I was able to make a few contributions to the presentation with some specific knowledge about certain pieces. this was followed by michiel presenting a talk about the yidaki and give some great information about the instruments to the interested group. (mainly students of his.)

after this blast of culture we then retired to the comfort of a nearby belgian beer house for lunch before wandering around the very beautiful city of utrecht.

the week finished off with a couple of great meals, a traditional saturday night at michiel and boke’s which is savoury and sweet pancakes and on our last night, coq au vin – which michiel cooked up as consolation for our failure to make it to france this trip!

sad goodbyes were said before we headed off to the airport to fly to athens – somewhat tempered by the knowledge that we will all catch up in january when they come to stay with us again!

Sep 122015
 
apledoorn-3

michiel at salon 1813, apledooorn

we have been in apledoorn in the netherlands for nearly 2 weeks now. we are staying with michiel, boke and their son, dali. michiel is another yidaki friend, he has stayed a few times with us over the years and you may have seen him pop up in blogs in the past. we hadn’t met boke and dali before so that was always going to be a highlight of our visit.

we flew up from zürich to amsterdam and then caught the train out to apledoorn, michiel lives about 10 minutes from the center of town in a lovely little village with a good shopping center and lots of pretty parks around.

we have had a very relaxed stay, not really doing anything too adventurous! a highlight for me was a visit to a massive food and chef’s supply warehouse nearby called hanos, it supplies a lot of the restaurant trade in this part of the netherlands and michiel has an account there. it had every type of food you can imagine there, from all over europe. i was like a kid in a candy store!! we bought some fantastic fresh mussels – €1.50 for 2kg, as well as salamis, cheeses and other bits and pieces. the size of the warehouse was incredible.

we also did a visit to the zoo, it is renowned for its primate collection and we saw bonono’s, orang utans and the gorilla feeding, it was fascinating and very well organised with most of the monkeys able to mix with the visitors to the zoo and all the fencing hidden from sight so it felt like a real wildlife experience.

one of the things michiel had promised us was some herring, netherlands style, which is basically a whole, raw herring eaten with a bit of raw onion – deliscious if a little challenging to eat with any semblence of style!

we also were lucky enough to be in town for the 10th annual apledoorn beer festival so we got to taste a great range of local and belgium beers during the afternoon!

as always we have enjoyed lots of yummy meals together, and with the weather less than ideal for much outdoor activity its been nice to cook up some good food to have with the large range of beer we have been working through! plenty of tasty belgium beers available in the supermarket as well as the local ones. today michiel had a gig on the other side of the netherlands so boke took sal and i to an area covered with a carpet of beautiful purple heather where we walked thru the heather over the hills, it was a little late in the season so the bloom had nearly finished but it was still impressive.

we then had lunch in zutphen, a very pretty and old town that dates back to early middle ages and has some magnificent buildings and a really nice feel to it. we have just a couple more days before we fly down to athens and catch the ferry out to ios to stay with chelsea and joe and meet their beautiful baby daughter zara.

 

Sep 042015
 
last supper

last supper

so our week in piemonte has come to an end, we had a last supper with thomas and his family, it was a tribute to the italian cuisine and started with zuccini flowers deepfried in a light batter and topped with an anchovie. we followed this with the classic pasta con vongale and then a risotto con tre formaggi. ida and thomas made classic lemon tart with a soft meringue topping.

now its back to zürich in the car and then an overnight with christian and claudia before flying to amsterdam and catching the train to apeldoorn to spend some time with michiel, boki and dali.

finally some random leftover images!

 

 

Sep 022015
 
barolo-11

barolo vineyards

arguably one of the top 5 wine growing districts of the world is the region in piemonte known as barolo, centered around the town of the same name and famous for their nebbiolo grapes.

the zone of production extends into the communes of barolo, castiglione falletto, serralunga d’alba and parts of the communes of cherasco, diano d’alba, grinzane cavour, la aorra, monforte d’alba, novello, roddi, verduno, all in the province of cuneo, south-west of alba. although production codes have always stipulated that vineyards must be located on hillsides, the most recent revision of the production code released in 2010 goes further, categorically excluding valley floors, humid and flat areas, areas without sufficient sunlight, and areas with full-on northern exposures.

barolo is often described as having the aromas of tarand roses, and the wines are noted for their ability to age and usually take on a rust red tinge as they mature. barolo needs to be aged for at least thirty-eight months after the harvest before release, of which at least eighteen months must be in wood. when subjected to aging of at least five years before release, the wine can be labeled a riserva.

thomas invited sal and i along to one of his visits to the producers, we came to the home of ferdinando principiano to taste his barolo’s as well as some of his other wines. his wife, belen was the one to look after us as ferdinando had decided this was the day he had to harvest the grapes for his dosset or dolcetto wine as the sugar in the grapes had reached the specific level for harvest. their home is in the beautiful village of monforte d’alba and their plots spread around the barolo zone.

we sampled a sparkling wine, an extra brut rose made from 100% barbera grapes. a lovely dry, crisp, mineral wine with a nice acidity.

we followed that with a rivera di monfort, a classic barolo, leathery nose, lots of tannin very dry and a big long enduring mouthfeel and aftertaste. we thought it was magnificent and grabbed a box of them!

the next wine was their premium barolo, the boscareto, a classical barolo, very elegant and completely balanced – i actually didnt enjoy it as much as the rivera.

we finished up with a dessert wine, a muscato that was less sweet than i expected, big, round, lucious, rich and fruity with raisins and prunes. most winemakers in the region harvest the grapes and then dry them on racks with hay in the attics to get the intensity and dessert wine style from the grapes, ferdinando leaves the grapes on the vines, but cuts the stem of the bunch from the vine in august and then leaves the grapes in the sun and breeze to develop through to octomer when he harvests them. the wine then has 3 years in oak before bottling. we also took a box of this wine!

Sep 022015
 
breakfast

breakfast

as i sat on the warm stone wall at our villa having my breakfast of freshly picked tomatoes and figs with rocket, salami, prosciutto and a couple of different cheeses, bathed in the warm mediterranean sun, a wave of intense happiness washed over me. in that moment i never wanted to have breakfast anywhere else, nor for that matter have anything else for breakfast.

but as i reflected further on the feeling the situation and food evoked in me i realised that happiness is experiential and momentary. expecting that we will feel the same intensity and height of emotion if we just keep doing whatever it is that brought the feeling on is futile.

it also made me think about the inverse – if i were to try to ‘trap’ that momentary and experiential feeling of intense happiness by moving to italy and living in a village in piemonte while eating my breakfast in the warm sun each morning – i would not have all the experiences in my current life at home that are can create equally intense responses – fresh mudcrab with hot bread and lime mayonaisse, or catching a tuna in the bay at dawn, or swimming at a beach on an arnhem land island…..

so there are two simple conclusions from this, remembering that happiness is not a linear and permanent emotion, its dynamic and its momentary. secondly, when not travelling, when at home, in the routine of life in work and familiarity, try to concentrate on and acknowledge the moments of intense happiness within that familiarity and routine – eating a barra i have caught that morning with friends and a nice bottle of white is a really special and wonderful moment – just like my italian breakfast.

Aug 302015
 
 il giardinetto

il giardinetto

of course food and italia are synonymous, you cant travel far here without passing another bar, cafe, pizzeria or restaurant and while we have had the luxury of our own michelin starred chef, thomas cooking at the villa, (with the odd contribution from me and his sister in law, celene.) we have made the effort to try a couple of the piemontese restaurants.

sal and i popped over to il giardinetto in the neighbouring village of sessame a few nights ago, it was a degustion menu so we had no idea what was coming out, francesco, one of the sisters who owns the restaurant was an accomplished maitre de and assisted us competently with matching wines from piemonte and particularly barolo, to the dishes.

first we had a loazzolo sparkling white as an aperitif and then the antipasti of simple local proschiutto and salamis followed by anchovies cooked in olive oil with garlic poached in milk on char grilled red capsicum. next up was tiny meatballs on olive oil and vinegar cooked with sage and garlic.

then aubergine dusted in egg and breadcrumbs and fried, topped with ham, passata & mozzarella and baked in the oven.

final starter was an onion flan, onion cooked in milk with a pasta base, baked and drizzled with olive oil.

then we moved to the pasta, i had a black truffle tagliatelle and sal had a meat ravioli with a sage butter sauce.

our mains were a traditional piemonte roast beef cooked in barbaresco with seasonal vegetables while sal had oven baked rabbit with fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables.

at this point we had to be rolled out of the restaurant and craned onto a small truck to take us back to our villa! much as we wanted we could not possibly fit dessert in.

on friday night sal and I headed off to a restaurant I had discovered by serendipity, i was researching soething else entirely on the web and came across a comment about this restaurant suggesting it was a hidden gem, situated in the small village on top of the hill at cartosio about 20km from bistagno. it is simply called restorante cacchiatori.

ristorante cacchiatori

ristorante cacchiatori

it is a hair raising drive to get there – along a single lane goat track that winds its way along the spine of the ridge that essentially joins the two villages, the views are breathtaking, the driving exhilarating and luckily most of the time there are no other cars on the road.

the restaurant itself is situated in a lovely old home in the village and run by a husband and wife team, it didnt quite have the ambiance of  il giardinetto but the quality of the food was a step up.

also the servings were much smaller which meant we got through all the courses and even partook of a little dessert!

from my notes,

firt up was beef cappacchio with fresh wild pocini mushrooms,

then roasted capsicum with anchovie fillet drizzled with olive oil

followed by fried zucchini flower dipped in egg & breadcrumbs stuffed with minced meat seasonal vegetables & herbs
pie of seasonal vegetables no pastry or pasta, parmigiana and breadcrumbs on top baked in oven
fresh herb omelette, that completed the ‘firsts’
handmade pasta with rabbit – mine with fresh tomato, garlic & herb
chicken cacciatore
beef fillet with porccini
peach &  raspberry gelati, i had mint panacotta

 

so that concludes my commentary on our two meals out while in piemonte, both very enjoyable, but ristorante cacchiatori takes the prize overall!

Aug 292015
 
all the cheeses, smelly, old & mouldy!

all the cheeses, smelly, old & mouldy!

acqui terme was another town we discovered driving around the piemonte country side, known for its hot springs – including a very hot fountain in the central piazza – we were lucky enough to arrive by chance on market day. we spent a couple of hours wandering around, stocked up on some yummy goodies from an amazing cheese store and had a pleasant lunch in the piazza at a pizzaria.

the architecture was quite impressive and the town had a very laid back yet cosmopolitan feel to it. i am sure we will be back for another visit before we depart!