Friday, July 25, 2008

Chocolate Martinis in the Big Apple

Flying over NYC, recently, I decided that when
the occasion called for it - I was only going to order Chocolate Martinis.

With plans for an upcoming episode on the history of cocktails I wanted do a little research. I know how that must sound . . . but, wait . . .listen! I was dedicating myself to the research [for ya'll] and quite frankly, I came back pretty well informed! For the life of me, though, I don't know what I did with my notes.

My research began at the lounge at the Renaissance Hotel in White Plains, New York. You know . . . now that I'm thinking about it, my research actually began with two Bloody Marys on the plane trip up! And even though this blog isn't about tomatoes this might be a good time to share news about another new blog, Tomato Patty. . . http://www.tomatopatty.blogspot.com/.

Do ya'll mind if I take a break here? I'm going to go mix up a batch of Chocolate Martinis.

Ok, I'm back. . . anyway, as we sat there in the glow of the candlelight [at the Renaissance] our waitress made a fuss over shaking my Chocolate Martini tableside and pouring it into a tall martini glass laced with chocolate. Nice touch.

Oh, here's my notes . . . I conducted my research in the hotel lounge . . . twice! And, let's see. . .several times at the Davenport Club in New Rochelle . . and finally at Ruby's Bistro and Oyster Bar in Rye, where I expertly paired my Chocolate Martini with a Lobster Roll that actually tasted like genuine lobster!

Satisfied that I could create the perfect Chocolate Martini back in Atlanta I called it quits.

My findings . . . hmmm . . .

I never met a Chocolate Martini I didn't like.


Home At Last! Chocolate Martinis for 2

4 oz premium Vodka

¼ oz Godiva Chocolate Liqueur

¼ oz Kahlua

¼ oz white crème de cocoa

½ oz 2% milk

Pour ingredients into a shaker. Stir until cold. Place martini in the freezer while you prepare two martini glasses by drizzling each glass with chocolate syrup.

Strain cold Chocolate Martinis into glasses and serve.

Yeah, baby!





Sunday, July 20, 2008

Home At Last! travels this week to Thomasville, Georgia,
home of Sweet Grass Dairy.

Award-winning artisan cheese-makers,
Jeremy and Jessica Little share their passion for the most delectable cow and goat cheeses available in America today!

Available in specialty markets and wine shops
across the America, Sweet Grass Dairy has recently added
convenient online ordering. Your artisan cheeses arrive
beautifully packaged and carefully packed to ensure freshness!

Aah . . .life's simple pleasures!

A lovely plate filled with fresh fruit, Majool Dates and a simple Toffee Pear Galette. Try this simple galette with a simple cheese board from Sweet Grass Dairy, add a sparkling rose Cava and you’ve got a party!


Toffee Pear Galette

Cut Puff Pastry into 3" rounds.
Spread Dulce De Leche Caramel
within 1/2 inch of outer perimeter.

Slice a halved, cored pear into slices about 1/8 inch thick
Slice pear thinly-allowing for gentle fanning of pear.
Place pear half on top of caramel.

Create a simple egg wash and brush over galette.
Bake in preheated 400 degree oven
for ten minutes or until golden.
Serve with fresh fruit, Thomasville Tome & a sparking rose Cava!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Discovering Italy

In June of 1999, I was invited to review a Bed and Breakfast at Villa San Pietro in Montichiari, Italy, in the Lombardy Region of Northern Italy. Fueled by memories of exotic family travels I was anxious to create the same kind of romantic memories with my husband, Ron. We marveled at our good fortune and eagerly agreed.

From Frankfurt, Germany we made our way south towards Switzerland. With a heightened sense of excitement, we were eager for adventure. We giggled every time we saw another sign pointing the way to Italy.

One sign, in particular, stood out! Gotthard Pass With my rusty German, I offered my interpretation to Ron. “I think if we turn here-we will totally pass around the Swiss Alps!"

And so began our slow, arduous climb over the Swiss Alps. The narrow pass was jammed with holiday travelers and tour buses. Traffic slowed to a crawl, dangling us over ravines covered in snow.

Climbing over 6900 feet at a snail’s pace I witnessed every glorious waterfall and chiseled snow-covered rock. White-knuckled I snapped photo after photo, thinking I was capturing a once in a life-time event! Wrong! I never could remember what that sign meant! After several trips and several errors in memory, we agreed that we would only look for signs with pictures of tunnels!

We arrived in Lugano,Italy, more Swiss than Italian! But I needed a glass of wine and it was technically Italy! Remember now, we were “newbies” back then! I had to wait until 7pm. In Italy, restaurants don’t serve dinner until 7 pm. I was tempted to sit at our outdoor café-sipping wine until 7 pm. I had plenty to do. I was already imagining a T-shirt that read. . .”I survived the Swiss Alps!”

Situated on Lake Lugano, which is actually in the southern tip of Switzerland, Lugano is a charming gateway to Italy. We checked into a modern American-style hotel for the night. After settling in, we walked the neighborhood, strolling into a local market, enjoying the sights and smells.

Our journey to Montichiari continued the next morning after a robust morning coffee at the local McDonalds. There are some unexpected conveniences through out Europe that make everything comfortable and familiar. We continued across the Autostrade headed southeast until we came to the roundabout marking our destination. We arrived in the ancient village of Montichiari-only to realize I had left my contact information at the hotel.

Sure that I could find the information on the web I inquired about a cyber-café (?!) We were directed to The Hotel Elephant. The young hotel clerk took it upon himself to deliver us safely to the café. He flew out of the hotel, jumped on his Vespa, and straight out of a foreign film we chased after our young guide, flying through the ancient walled streets of Montichiari, arriving winded at the cyber-café. After rounds of coffee and beer for the entire café, Ron and I finally bid our new friends a fond farewell and made our way to the massive entry gate to Villa San Pietro Bed and Breakfast.

Our host, Anna Ducroz, greeted us warmly at the entry to the inn. Anna and Jacques Ducroz operated an American-style Bed and Breakfast and hoped that a glowing review would encourage other Americans to visit their village.

Villa San Pietro is Anna’s 400-year old family estate, divided into several large apartments, housing several generations of Anna’s family.

We entered the compound through a lovely courtyard garden fragrant from delicate pink roses, making our way along worn brick paths laid out in a beautiful basket weave pattern. Anna escorted us through the gardens and past a wicker-filled loggia with typical Italian arches and stately travertine columns.

We were invited to drop off our luggage and rejoin them for a brief tour of the apartment reserved for the guests of the Bed and Breakfast. There were four or five guestrooms as well as some common areas and small shared kitchen. A brief tour of the apartment revealed remarkable18th century frescoes being lovingly restored. As restorations have continued over the years frescoes were uncovered from the 16th century, detailing life in the village 500 years ago.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent in the shade of the loggia. The Ducroz family was hospitable and gracious and eager to share their lives in their beautiful Italian village.
Later in the evening Anna’s mother treated us to a wonderful regional dinner of stewed chicken, followed by tiny glasses of homemade Limoncello, a delicious family recipe.

Jacques Ducroz, a former captain in the French Foreign Legion, was a charming, attentive host and shared exciting tales of life in the legion. It was an enchanted evening with a gracious Italian family.

After a lovely evening with Anna’s family, we made our way back to our large tiled guestroom with a beautiful antique bed. We marveled at our private bath with walk-in tiled shower, stocked with fluffy towels and plenty of Anna’s wonderful toiletries and shampoos. We enjoyed a good night’s sleep, followed by a lazy breakfast served outside our apartment, in the sunny courtyard.
As our visit to Villa San Pietro drew to an end, Anna directed us to the village antiques fair, taking place in the town center. We enjoyed the slow pace of the weekend and found a few baubles to remind of us of our first visit.

It was a perfect first experience. long enough to get the lay of the land and to understand that there would be many return visits to Italy! Please visit Anna and Jacques website for more on The Villa San Pietro Bed and Breakfast at http://www.abedandbreakfastinitaly.com/

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Home At Last! has a new look!

Earlier this month my new website for Home At Last! With Patty Gironda went live. (www.HomeAtLast.net)

There was a flurry of emails from friends and associates congratulating me on the new look, the exciting line of products and general well wishes!

Happily for me, there were also a lot questions about the slideshow of Tuscany. Is this your village? Do you know the people in the pictures? Is it as romantic as you hear? Yes, yes, and yes!! Tuscans are generous, passionate people. Their love of good food, fabulous cheeses and fine wines is apparent in every village, market and social gathering!

Open-air markets through-out Tuscany offer the freshest produce and seafood, regional cheeses, smoky-cured meats and sausages, porchetta (roasted pig) and fried polenta and olive oils. Restaurants through-out the region specialize in seasonal dishes that include truffles, wild boar, pears, and super-Tuscan wines. It's a feast for the senses!

The anticipation of entering a town square filled with stalls of glorious Tuscan specialties causes my knees to weaken and is only remedied with a hot, frothy cup of cappuccino enjoyed at a local coffee bar. Due cappuccini, per favor!

I hope you will take a moment to visit the new site. Be sure to check out the Summer Special from our friends at Villa LaGrotta, in lovely San Guistino Valdarno. Claudia, the manager, was featured on Home At Last! and cooked a beautiful meal for our audience. You can download or print her recipe for Turkey Stuffed with Mortadella in my Recipe Section.