Thirst for Wine

Blood red, purple, white, daintily rose, prickly sparkling, I am a vampire for Italian wine. From the steep sloping mountain vineyards of the Aosta Valley, down through the coastal plains of the Adriatic all the way to the volcanic terrain of Mt. Etna and Vesuvius....Etna Rosso, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Torrette, Orvieto Classico. Dense, rich and jammy or severely tannic clinging to the gums and palate with that certain telling bite.Vino, just by itself or with some glorious stinking cheese!

GUSTO INFINITO...Gourmet Cooking Week in the Marche

Gourmet Cooking Week in the charming historic hilltop town of Recanati, birth place of one of Italy's most famous poets, Giacomo Leopardi.

This fabulous cooking holiday will be held from the 23rd to the 30th of October 2010.

The price is $2200 per person for the whole week, based on accommodation in a superior double room, single occupancy at the current rate of exchange. A room for double occupancy would be $3400 for 2 course participants. Another available option would be: double occupancy where one person does not participate in the course for $3000 (although all meals for the non-participant are included). We can also offer Italian language lessons for a "non-cooking" companion which would be at the $3400 rate.
Absolutely everything besides airfare is included: transport from/to Ancona airport,
7 nights accommodation at a highly acclaimed 4 star Hotel, all food & drink (during activities, including wine and water with meals), local transportation, visits to an olive mill and markets, cultural activities and 6 days of cooking school with renowned chef Franco Taruschio.

The menu and schedule has not been finalized yet. Below is the previous schedule for May 2010.


Arrive at Ancona airport and transfer to the hotel in hotel minibus

Upon arrival you will be welcomed with a yummy glass of Spritz Veneziana followed by


Home-made bresaola with shaved fennel and artichokes in oil
Tagliolini con barba di frate e prosciutto
Parmesan ice cream with strawberries and balsamic vinegar

After lunch take time to get acquainted with this beautiful historic town..the shops open at 4:30! Map of the town provided.

6:00 Anyone wishing to assist the cooking of dinner is welcome!


Puntarella salad with anchovies and parmesan shavings
Porchetta with potatoes tocchetti and cicoria strascinati
Spumoni amaretto
Coffee - digestivo


8:00-9:00 BREAKFAST

9:00AM Lesson

11:00AM Crescente with prosciutto di Carpegna + glass of Prosecco


Piemontese peppers
Abbacchio (lamb)
Fennel giudea
Potatoes and parmesan gratin
Marsala semifreddo

7:00PM Lesson followed by


Fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozarella and ricotta
Vincisgrassi (baked pasta with porcini mushrooms, prosciutto, parmesan and truffles. Very umami!
Baked peaches stuffed with amaretti and almonds


8:00-9:00 BREAKFAST

9:00 Lesson

11:00 Crostini with Maro + glass of Prosecco

Demonstration of pasta making by local lady
Prosciutto with pear and coriander
Assaggio of cappelletti in brodo
Tagliolini with asparagus
Terrina di ricotta

Afternoon free

7:00PM Lesson followed by


Goat cheese crostini with rocket, pear in red wine, agresto and toasted pine kernels
Pollo in potacchio (chicken)
Fave in porchetta (broadbeans)
Strawberries and mascarpone gratin



8:30 Leave for Porto Recanati to buy fresh caught fish from fishing boats on beach and from fish markets for evening meal.
Visit open food vegetable market to buy produce for evening meal

12:00 Light LUNCH at Nenetta Porto Recanati

Afternoon visit to the extraordinary Basilica di Loreto followed by a masterclass with Claudio at a top local Confectioner

7:00 Lesson followed by


Pannocchia (mantis prawns)
Brodetto (fish stew) with bruschetta
Misticanza (wild herb salad)
Honey and brandy ice cream


8:00-9:00 BBREAKFAST

9:00 Lesson

11:00 Olives Ascolani with glass of Prosecco


Cured anchovies
Gamberoni with campofilone pasta and balsamic dressing
Red mullet Anconetana
Barba di frate
Plum torte

Afternoon visit to Gabrielloni to see how olive oil is made and olive oil tasting
Visit to Sirolo and Porto Nuovo

DINNER at a seaside restaurant



9:00 Lesson

11:00 Crostini with chicken livers and sapa - glass of wine or Prosecco


Carciofi in tegame alla romana (artichokes baked with mint)
Potato gnocchi with duck sauce
Spuma di cioccolato con lamponi (chocolate mousse torte with raspberries)


7:00 Lesson followed by


Zuppa di passatelli con gamberi
Quail stuffed with fig, pancetta and grappa
Peas with prosciutto/ salad
Polenta chips
Torta della nonna


8:00-9:00 BREAKFAST

9:00 Lesson

11:00 Crescia di formaggio (cheese bread) with ciauscolo/salame


Asparagi con uova e pancetta
Tonno umbriaco (drunken tuna)
Erbe di campo
Cantuccini with local sweet wine
Fresh fruit…cherries etc.


Visit the Tod’s/Prada outlets for shoes, bags, clothes.

Stop in beautiful Macerata for some shopping?

DINNER in an agriturismo (to be determined)


Departure for Airport

Bar at the hotel in Recanati

This photograph gives you an idea of the atmosphere at the hotel we will stay in for the cooking week mentioned below

Hotel Parsifal in Ravello...

Hotel Parsifal is housed in a 13th century convent built by the friars of the Order of Saint Augustine. Around 1948 it was converted into a hotel and now its 17 rooms, bar and restaurant are run by the Mansi Family, headed notably by Antonio Mansi,who is the sort of hotelier one reads about but rarely has the good fortune to encounter.

As a child, Antonio had worked alongside his father, manager of the Parsifal restaurant at that time. After finishing high school, he moved to Switzerland to attend the Hosta Hotel Management School in Leysin. Antonio then worked for several large hotel chains and finally landed himself the prestigious position of Food and Beverage Manager at the world-renowned Danieli in Venice...Meanwhile his family was constantly trying to find ways to lure him back home!
...but he held out saying he would only return under very specific circumstances .. if he could run his own business! And then one day in 1999, as fate would have it, the Parsifal became available...a place he had always harbored a deep affection for, a place of fond childhood memories.

Antonio jumped at the opportunity, left Venice and returned home to Ravello...

Today, 10 years later, and after some ups and downs, the Parsifal is undergoing a major upgrade....the rooms are being refurbished and there are plans for a pool. Furnishings, while mainly in the local style; Neapolitain dark wood armoires, antique wrought iron beds and multi-colored Vietri tile floors, also include pleasing tributes to Antonio's time in Venice.....Murano glass chandeliers and wall sconces. Some of the rooms have terraces, other balconies. All are painted white and have coved ceilings.. and then there are the views....from some of the rooms and from the gem of a courtyard planted with flowers and trees.

Speaking of views, from the Raffaele Restaurant and Cloister Bar you can breathe in the spectacular coastal panorama while indulging in classical Mediterranean fare. The emphasis is on local dishes prepared with a dash of originality. I had the opportunity to dine there on a couple of occasions, once starving, really late while the kitchen was closing...happy to let the chef whip up something quickly for me..a delicious black olive pasta that totally hit the mark! The service nothing but gentilissimo!! In fact Antonio and his family Leonardo, Luciano, Raffaele, Lena and Marirossi (sorry if I left anyone out) are so welcoming that you feel like part of the family.
This is the secret of the Parsifal and what sets it apart from other hotels in Ravello...the personal touch, attentiveness and graciousness...
Hopefully I will be able to return in October. I can never stand to be away from the Costiera Amalfitana for too long....

Villa Lina

Way back when, in the 80's, I spent a few days at the Villa Lina, a ramshackle estate located somewhere to the north of Rome near the Lago di Vico in the heart of Etruria. Only an hour or so from Umbria and Tuscany this place was the summer headquarters of renowned architect Robert Mangurian and his entourage (mainly architecture students from top architecture schools)who stayed there while measuring Hadrian's Villa. It was a pretty groovy scene set over a period of several summers. Each year new students arrived and Robert and his girlfriend Marianne set them different tasks....
The bedrooms while far from luxurious had in some cases retained beautiful architectural details and the odd antique armoire here and there or maybe a wrought iron bed. Overall though it spoke of student hostel especially the attic I slept in with 5 other people,beds sharing floor space with bicycle parts and oil cans.
One of the best things about being there was meal times. Two local women came in to cook for the group and they were unbelievably talented and easy going...seemingly effortlessly they threw together huge platters of grilled meat(rabbit,sausage, quail) along with gleaming grilled eggplants sott'olio,zucchini with fragrant mint, artichoke hearts, stuffed tomatoes and zucchini blossoms,fantastic salads using local greens that I had never seen before that had no equivalent in English and bread straight from wood fire ovens of local bakers. Every meal came with pasta and the array of sauces was endless....
Well, since those days I had rarely given the Villa a thought..until last week...I received an email from an old friend (we had met there in 198...?).The email was titled "Remember?" and a link was I went there immediately and wow!!!it is pretty amazing. The link to the Villa Lina site is on the left hand side of my blog towards the bottom....see what you think.

RECANATI at Full Moon (luna piena)

France Specialist of the Month

June has been a busy month...

I was just selected as Certified France Specialist of the month of the French Government Tourist Office...YYYYYYYYYEEEEEEE

I was also chosen as a Bon Appetit magazine culinary tourism specialist travel agent but have yet to receive anything from them!

Click on the France Guide link in the links section (bottom left of the page)to see
the mini interview with me talking about the certification program and Travelicious and French things in general....


Last night I drove across town to UCLA at the ungodly hour of 6 to do what you might ask. It surprised even me that I would act so out of character..unless of course for a worthy cause. David Szanto was giving a talk about the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Italy. In charge of Outreach and Communication, this Montreal dweller and graduate of the University, introduced the evening with a talk about the history of Slow Food,whose goals are to safeguard local food customs, to promote food that is good clean and fair (to the consumers, producers and to the environment) and to remember that food is also pleasure. There are many definitions of gastronomy depending on your cultural filtre, but the root is gaster=stomach, nomos= word (law). This university teaches the connection between food and society, economy culture and politics. Its graduates are groomed to be leaders in changing the food world for the better, safeguard the environment and build food system sustainability...There are two campuses of this University, one in Pollenzo in Piemonte and the other in Colorno in the Emilia -Romagna, both regions with a very developed food culture.The building that the schools are housed in are beautiful and historical, the main campus in Pollenza dates back to the day of Carlo Alberto of Savoy. It not only houses the school but also a gastronomic restaurant a 4 star inn and the wine archives. There are various coursed available to students form 3 year degree course to 1 year master all sounded exquisitely fascinating and
at the end of it I was ready to leave here and embark on a new adventure...the link in case you are interested is