Thursday, September 15, 2011

So What's UP?

Apparently, not my blog.  After more than a month of nothing, I have decided to call this quits.  I'm sure that all of my followers (2) are relieved to know that they will no longer have to look for something new only to be disappointed that there is nothing new.

Blogging was fun!  I started chef wannaB as a learning tool for me during culinary school.  Writing about what you do helped me remember what I had learned.  It made me feel witty, somewhat smart and people gave me compliments even when you know that you're not that smart or witty and your  importance depends on the time of day.  Like feeding time for our dogs.

My chef wannaB life is still going even if it is at a slower pace.  I'm doing some private chef gigs and larger catering jobs with my school chum Nancy.  Cooking for friends and Chris is still fun.  I check out all the Food Sections of our local Newspapers and still subscribe to Bon Appetite.  I have found a new source of food enjoyment on KCET, our local PBS station.  Three days a week they broadcast shows that run the gamut from Italian to BBQ to Thai food.  No commercials and no celebrity chefs, just good info.  And, I have my own 600 Sq Ft garden to select the freshest produce you can find.

So thanks for hanging in there with me and all the kind words.  I'm on Facebook and that old fashion thing called email.  (

Write me a note or befriend me and we'll still be connected.

Addio per ora i miei amici,

chef wannaB

Monday, August 8, 2011

Your Intimate Dining 2

I did another "Your Intimate Dining" gig over the weekend.  This was a Crepe affair. Savory crepe manicotti were stuffed with fennel sausage, spinach and mixed with ricotta and parmesan cheese and a cheesy savory bechamel.  Topped with homemade marinara sauce.

For dessert, we made crepes with sweetened mascarpone and baby chocolate chips topped with a cherry and meyer lemon compote.  The 'we' part was having the guests participate in the dessert crepe making.  Much laughter and well made crepes resulted in a great time for the guests, myself and Chris.  (my most capable assistant)

Preceding the dinner was a Caprese appetizer with a Smoked Salmon Bruschetta.

Many thanks to my hosts, Chuck and Toddy, and their very fun guests.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Your Intimate Dining

I got started yesterday.  While talking with friends at a concert in the park I was hired to cook a meal for her dad and family.  "My dad really likes fish and crackers, so I thought instead of going to Fish Company we would hire you".  My very first solo paid gig.  Fish is an interesting fare.  Sustainable fish is all the rage, but farmed fish is raised with questionable upbringing.  Steroids, antibiotics often mentioned as their steady diet.  But, I digress.

The kicker was the addition of smoked BBQ'd Baby Back Ribs to this menu.  The great news was slowed cooked items are easy to do ahead and then fire up at the last minute.  "My dad loves Smoked Salmon served with crackers," also a do ahead item.  The only cooked-on-site item was Halibut poached in a lemon and wine sauce and the sweet potato fries.

The 5 courses and wine parings brought to you by yours truly.

Smoked Copper River Salmon with Wasabi Aioli - Byron Pinot Noir
Mixed Garden Fresh Salad with in a Tarragon and Lemon Oil Vinaigrette - Byron Chardonnay
Poached Halibut in a Lemon and Wine Poaching Sauce with Garden Fresh Green Beans  - Ferrari Carano Fume Blanc
Smoked BBQ'd Baby Back Ribs with Sweet Potato Fries - Louis Jadot Beaujolais
Russian Cream with a Mixed Berry Coulis and Macadamia Nut Chocolate Cookie - Port

It was great fun and as I experienced in Italy, good food brought out over a longer period of time creates time for fun conversation.  The dining experience took well over two hours and based on comments, all had a good time.

They even liked the food.

Thanks to my assistant Chris.  She helped out a lot.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

An overdue update.

Robert Irving from Restaurant Impossible

Went as an extra on his show today.  I can't tell too much as to what happened, but I have a new respect for this guy.

That's me with, from left to right, my daughter Erin, Nancy, a school chum in the middle and her friend Sharon.

Also, my website is coming along.  I hope to have it up and running by the end of July.  I'll keep you posted.   Its listed under:  

Still waiting on the Yacht to pass the Coast Guard inspection, which will possibly lead to a job as the chef on the 92 footer.   Part time, but the pay is good.

The Garden is going nuts.  More zucchini than I wanted.  But the tomatoes are now starting to come in and the herbs are doing fantastic.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Paying Gig!

I worked with fellow alum Nancy on a Graduation Party.  Eight hours of prep and a nine hour day for the party.  Nice people at the party and lots of referrals coming our way.

Me and Nancy
All Cold Dishes

How Does My Garden Grow

After working two days prepping for the catering event, I had a chance to stop by the plot last evening to check out the veggies.  Wow!   Stuff grows fast.  Thought I'd share some before and after photo's.


After One Month
Nothing like getting back to the land.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Some of you may remember before "Gilligan's Island," Maynard G. Crebs (aka Bob Denver) was the beatnik buddy of "Dobie Gillis".

If I'm spouting names you have no recollection of, you can stop reading now.  

Maynard was lazy, philosophical and the prequel to the hippie generation that showed up about 7 years later.  He had one word that would make him go nutz.  Well, I'm just about to embark on that word that has escaped me for 2 1/2 years.

Catering a gig in Palos Verdes for 70 folks celebrating a high school graduation starts today with two days of prep and working the party on Saturday.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Harvest Begins, sort of

Yesterday, Chris picked our first vegetable from The Garden.  It was a somewhat mis-shaped zucchini.   Now I'm not complaining about the shape, or the fact that after hours of labor, I didn't get to pick the first vegetable.  I was there early that morning and it wasn't as big as it shows.  In 8 hours it grew about an inch.   If allowed to grow too big, they become woody tasting and tough.

There will be so much more coming our way, I'll be giving alot of it to friends and fellow gardners.  I have tomatoes coming, tomatillos, and yellow squash.  The beans are about 6 inches tall now and I have already picked some chives and lemon thyme.  Plus, we have already received summer squash, two zucchinis, green beans and a bunch of beets from neighboring gardens.  And, I have given up some seeds of heirloom pumpkins I brought back from Casperia, Italy to two neighbors.

One picked zucchini does not make a harvest.  But, its a start.

And there was one!

Friday, June 10, 2011

It Hertz to drive in Italy

Since being back from Italy, we have been noticing charges to my American Express card,  one in May and another in June.
Italiano.  Seeking explanation after alerting AE that there are fraudulent charges being attached to my card, we called Hertz.  Seems that these charges are traffic violations that are caught on film and then forwarded to Hertz to pay.  Who in-turn charged me.  $110 to be precise.

Driving in Italy is already a violation to sensible motoring.  But I couldn't tell you what the hell I did that wasn't in the spirit of driving like an Italian.  One in Milan, the worlds worst city to have a vehicle that isn't attached to a rail and one in Florence.  The one in Florence I believe was because we drove down a pedestrian only street with permission from the local police.  They couldn't get me to my hotel without having to drive down this road.  It may be a ruse to acquire funds for road improvement, that goes right into the pocket of local officials.  It's the Italian way.  Gotta love them guys.

Driving in Italy, the gift that keeps on giving.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Romanesco Natalino

This is so huge.  I don't usually get all wigged out over vegetable seeds.  But, Broccoli, not just Broccoli, Romanesco Natalino. or Roman Broccoli from Conad arrived today and it is the best.  Paola, my chef from Italy, grew these and we picked them from her garden and made wonderful dishes with this simple vegetable.  Our new friends Steve and Denise Haerr from Spoleto, Italy by way of Temecula, Ca. were kind enough to send these all the way to the USA.

The directions are all in Italian, but how hard can putting seeds in the ground be?

Grazie a voi, miei buoni amici
 Steve e Denise.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The "Garden"

Saturday, the "Garden" held elections for their board postions.  Everyone gathered under a gazebo and got to vote.  Very democratic.  Only thing, nobody other than current board members ran.  The president did step down and a new person took over her role.  Nobody ran against him.  Then the Q&A time came.  It was the most entertaining 30 minutes you could imagine.   Gripes, thank yous, shout downs, stand ups, and a lawsuit were all discussed intently and with purpose.  Oh, one lady wanted everyone to go organic.  I thought that was the standard.  Seems it isn't.  Even she got shouted at.  Then everyone got up and went back to gardening.  The outgoing president came over to my plot and commented on how nice my garden looked.  Then she told me my netting wasn't being held up with garden implements.  "I used 99 cent plate racks as they work perfectly for propping up netting."  If I don't change it, I'll get a write-up.  Three write ups and your out, sort of like baseball.

So the result of all this is this; gardening is not democratic...if you get up to speak, be prepared to get shouted at...and if you file a lawsuit against the "Garden," you are considered a stinker, more than manurer on a hot day.

Finally, organic is what is found in the grocery store and costs more money.  Not to be confused with going organic in the "Garden".
Gazebo in background, scene of the election. Netting over the orange bucket, illegal.

Me and my Organic Garden

Thursday, June 2, 2011

BARK for ME!

Spent the better part of the afternoon at the campus of UCI with Maggie and other fine folks from BARK (Beach Animals Reading with Kids) Students of any age seem to like the presence of dogs on their campus.  We even got free pizza.  We were there to benefit an on-campus Mental Health booth.  What could be better for your mental health than a dog lick?
BARK in mass

Bella with Linda and Maggie and me

O yah!

Color Coordinated.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Remembering Why

Memorial Day for me is like a new beginning.  A new summer to look forward too.  Erin, soon to be off at school to paddle her outrigger.  Chris and I playing golf on Sundays.  It is all good.

Don't forget why we take a day to celebrate, to remember.  To the countless thousands who made the supreme sacrifice to allow us to continue on in our freedoms, to BBQ, to worship, to play, to love, to laugh and to be free, thank you will never be enough.  But, its all we have today.

A real thank you would be to end all wars.  Can you imagine?

Almost Long Beach Gothic

So I'm three weeks into this garden and I'm having a blast.  Already got a notice from the garden police for securing my fence posts to the wood border.  A no-no according to the by-laws.  I guess I need to read those one day.  Planted the obligatory tomatoes, squash and beans.  I also planted a Tomatillo plant will now plant some white onions, Serrano chiles and Cilantro and I'll have my own salsa garden going.  I planted two Artichoke plants and by the looks of the many Artichoke plants inside other gardens, they should do well.  In fact, some have so many of these thistle plants they let them go to flower.  Hey, they have a share table, pick the damn things and share them.

Just missing Chris for our Gothic picture.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Pomp and Circumstance

Saturday was it!!  I walked, had my name called.  Graduated with High Honors and Perfect Attendance from Le Cordon Bleu.  Got to see my chef educators and tell them all about Italy.  (they were envious)
Got to hug classmates, friends and family.  All the things I haven't done for me since 1967.  It was glorious!  How can a stupid song make you misty eyed?  How can hearing your name called make you feel on top of the world?

I don't know but it sure did.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Fishy Decision

Is farmed or wild salmon healthier for you?

An interesting article I found on Yahoo regarding the pros and cons of consuming Salmon.  Be it farmed or caught wild, consuming salmon has omega 3 which is good for your heart.  I choose wild because there is no added coloring that is present in farmed, which I find a bit disturbing.  However, farmed salmon from the good old USA is very regulated and is inspected unlike fish from Chile or Asian countries.  Read the label and it tells you the country of origin.

The article also states that eating too much salmon is not good for you.  I didn't know that.
Hope you enjoy the article and you can pick your wild coho or Atlantic farmed raised salmon based on knowledge, which is always a good way to make decisions.

Buon Apetito

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Its the End of the world as we know it...I'm Graduating!

With apologies to R.E.M.,
Saturday, May 21, is the day I get my diploma from Le Cordon Bleu.  Starting the day before my 61st birthday last year and finishing up one year and 3 days later, I am now a Certified Culinarian.  The timing is perfect.  According to biblical scholar, Harold Camping from Family Radio Worldwide, the Rapture will take those who are worthy to heaven and the rest of us heathens will be wiped out via earthquakes, floods and fires.  This is also occurs on May 21.  Seems to me a few of these things are already taking place.  Anyway, I'll have my diploma in hand when the Rapture happens at 10 PM.

And, even though we are having late rains here in Long Beach, it's not enough rain to have to worry about flooding.  Plus the rain would be great for my garden, if I had anything in the ground.  Alas, the rain has delayed the tilling of the soil and put a hold on my planting.  I'm glad my culinary career didn't start out this way.

So if the Rapture happens, then planting won't be a concern.  If it doesn't, I can start my new career as urban farmer and expertly cook the fruits of my labor for you all.  Either way, if it's the end of the world as we know it...I'll feel fine!

Monday, May 16, 2011

I'm Back Pretending to be a Gardner

So I've been off-line awhile just kicking it and getting in Chris' hair.   We got a call back from the Long Beach Community Garden Association that a plot had finally come open after a three month wait.  We went Saturday to their orientation and got a list of rules that would choke a scarecrow.  Then we were assigned our plots.  It's a 20X30 plot of dirt that allows you to grow just about anything except thorned berry plants and cannabis.  All organic is encouraged, but no spraying of pesticides is tolerated and no poisons for the many critters that invade the garden from the very nearby Nature Center about 100 yards to the west.   Trapping and protection by fencing is the way you have to go.  Snap traps for vermin is OK.

Using their recommended soil amendments, I wheeled 12 wheel-barrel loads of free manure about 100 yards one way to my plot.  For $20 bucks, they will roto-till the plot and then its ready for planting.

20X30 plot of dirt
After soil amendments and 12 loads of manure

It's not Italy, but the veggies should be great.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Meat Glue...Yikes!

I'm not sure if this goes on in the USA, but if I was a betting man, I would not bet against it.  At Le Cordon Bleu, we were told over and over again, "Know your purveyor!" Stick with Choice or Prime meats, at least you know what you're paying for.  'Select Meats' might just mean what it says, selecting pieces of meat and glueing them together.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Blessing of the animals fills L.A.'s Olvera Street

Blessing of the animals fills L.A.'s Olvera Street

Festival of San Antonio celebrated here in Los Angeles. I took part in the same celebration in Casperia, Italy in January of this year. They even bless the tractors as the beasts of burden have been replaced by FIAT and John Deere. But they fired off fireworks and scared all the animals.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Put that Career on Hold...Maybe

My job interview and subsequent bribe of chocolate covered orange peels went for naught.  The yacht club apparently is looking for someone with more experience.  Funny, I probably have more experience than half of the applicants.  Combined!  It's called age;  just not in a professional kitchen.  As it turned out, after explaining to our friends Kathy, Bill, Toddy and Chuck, my Friday nights along with weekends would be no more.  They all told me "You're not going to take that job are you?"  Well, I guess not.  Friends and Friday night poker have a strangle hold on my culinary career.

Here is an idea.  Prepped gourmet meals that you buy and pick up on your way home from where ever.  Portion control with organic foods that include a starter, main entrĂ©e and a small dessert.  How much would you pay for that?  Twelve bucks a meal?  Twenty bucks for a meal for two?  Just an idea that one of Chris' friends is currently doing.  I'm going to see how she packages these and maybe do the same type of thing.

Would you buy something like this, say twice a week?

Let me know.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My Journey - Your Journey

I was asked my opinion of one time cooking classes versus the expense of going to a culinary school?

Culinary schools are expensive.  Learning about the culinary world is fascinating and it opens many avenues for people to explore.  Its about the why's of cooking that a culinary education teaches.  My last chef instructor said it best, "The hispanics who never went to a culinary school who cook in restaurants will cook circles around a culinary graduate.  But, they don't know the why's about the tasks they do. They are shown the task and they repeat it."  Grilling a pork chop is easy, understanding how to use that pork to make Thai cuisine is not.

Cooking classes are fun.  Learning how to make a sauce or how to make bread are fun things to learn.  And, at $75 a pop, not too expensive.  However, they don't build on a foundation.  You are shown how to do a task and you repeat what you are taught, much like the untrained hispanic cooks in restaurants.  My journey in culinary started there, in cooking classes.  No pun intended, it was a layer in the onion that exposed me to wanting to learn  more.  I wanted more of the "why's" answered.

A great book to read to get this perspective is "Medium Raw" by Anthony Bourdain.  One of the chapters, "So you wanna be a Chef", explores just this question.  (note, I had my title of chef wannaB long before I read this book).  It gives great examples and insights about this and many more culinary tidbits.

So my opinion about cooking classes is; take them.  If that's what you want, take the classes.  But ask questions.  Just don't keep nodding to what your told to do.  Talk to the chef instructors after class.  Get the why's!  Get their insight on this seemingly simple question.

I hope Your Journey will be as fun as My Journey.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Sunday, Chris and I went to a new Farmers Market just a stones throw away from our house.  It's there every Sunday.  It wasn't there before I went to Italy.  These markets are fun and can have some amazing food, snacks, vegetables, honey and 100 other assorted items.  I read an article in "bon appetit" about roasting root vegetables.  I got radishes, golden beets and Yukon gold potatoes and roasted them with a free range chicken.  Tossed in a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and enjoyed them ever so much.

Sunday Dinner
We also went for a late breakfast at the Village Cafe.  It's a local hangout that could easily be on Drive-ins, Diners and Dives.  It was packed as usual with about 12 people waiting outside for a table.  I went in and the counter was empty.  I could not believe my eyes.  Nobody wanted to sit at the counter.  Lucky for us.  I guess some folks don't want to see how their food is cooked.  Well, I do.  We conversed with the cooks and watched them do magic with eggs, fried potatoes and breakfast meats.  It's not rocket science, but great to watch.

If ever that opportunity presents itself to you, I recommend you seat yourself at the counter and enjoy the show.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Looking for the next Journey

Yesterday I went to a job interview.  It was a very, very strange to do this.  When I left Arrowhead Water, I tried for 16 months to get a job interviews in logistics or warehouse management.  I had one interview in all that time.  You get out of practice.  When culinary school came along I told myself, "This is just for me, I'm not going to work in the industry".  Well, never say never.  I won't know the result for a few days.  The Executive Chef was very young,  but I could feel he had a very good grasp of what he wanted to do at the galley he oversaw.  I say galley as he is the chef at a private yacht club here in Long Beach.   I took some chocolate covered candied orange peels I had made and gave to him to try.  That's something you really can't do looking for a job in a warehouse.  Some may call it a bribe, I prefer to call it a resume.

If you ever decide to go to culinary school or work in the culinary industry, you should know two things.  One, it is very hard work and two, it pays next to nothing to start.  Paying $25K to $50K to go to school to start out making $10 or $12 bucks an hour is something they tell you before you start school.  So why do it?

People gotta eat!  And, you get to meet people like Tyler or work at a private yacht club.  Not everything is about money.  Sometimes, its about finding the next journey.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Getting Pissed and Taxes

Got our taxes done today and then talked to our accountant for about an hour on, what else, cooking.  Seems he likes to cook, but has troubles with a few of the mother sauces.  Like Hollandaise for example.  Well, I could have told him that Hollandaise is a bitch of a sauce to make and besides its full of just about everything that's bad for you.  But, then he told me he likes everything that is classically French, like butter, cream, eggs and fat.  Why have a tablespoon when a pint is so much better, he said.  When I said that Europeans usually take hours to eat and really only have one big meal per day, he kind of scoffed and said, "if I don't have the dinner check in my hand in 45 minutes, I go nuts."  Very typical for most Americans.  The lengthy meals and just the one big meal per day is the one of the reasons most Europeans are not obese.   Plus fast food in Europe is not as big as it is here.  At least not yet.

Speaking of fast food;
Last night I watched Food Inc.  If you have not seen this documentary film or read Fast Food Nation, then I would say you need to watch the movie or read the book.  Maybe not do both however.  You will then be really pissed off like I was when I did both.   Every chapter of Fast Food Nation made be more angry than the previous one.  But I couldn't put it down.  Food Inc. is not a great movie.  But, it conveys the message very well.  Companies like Cargil, Nestle, Swift and McDonalds control what you and I eat.  They buy up any competition.  They control how workers are trained and paid.  Controlling how food factories (NOT FARMS) must raise their stock. How they are made to upgrade these factories that continually keep them in debt and in line for the companies purpose.   How E-coli viruses, once very rare, are now widespread and the culprits go unpunished because the people who oversee the food industry in Washington have come from the same industry that they are paid to oversee.  Then do nothing to the offenders.   It really was unsettling and it made me angry.

So, I was pissed off but I did get a refund.  The American Way!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Pork Belly and Jackson Brown

Chris and I purchased tickets to see Jackson Brown in an acoustic performance here in L.B.  We went to one of our favorite restaurants, Delius, before hand and I had Crispy Pork Belly.  Now if you never have tried this somewhat disgusting sounding dish, I can only say you are missing out on one of the truly wonderful tastes in all of culinary.  Asian in its influence, the tidbits of pork melt in your mouth.  Having just read "The Last Chinese Chef" while in Italy, Asian cooks seem to relish how fat plays on the tongue.  Next time out, give it a try.   I promise you won't be disappointed.  Delius does a great job of pairing it with scorched hot peppers, cucumbers and a honey glaze...Sweet, spicy and umami.  Three of the five taste senses all in one dish.  Mmmmmm!

Oh, Jackson Brown was good.  I have to admit, what was billed as an intimate evening with Jackson Brown became a yell fest with concert goers screaming out songs for him to sing and then yelling and whistling during the song to hear their own loud, shrilled voice in an otherwise quite setting.  Not what I had hoped for.

Guess I'm getting old.  I like to hear the music at concerts, not rude concert goers.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Retirement for Donna & St Paddy's Day

Last week, my good friend Donna retired after 35+ years at Arrowhead (now Nestle) Water.  We worked together for many years but my last two years we traveled and worked closely to ghether learning and doing SAP training.  Two great things about working with Donna were these; she loved to eat great food and she loved to drink good wine.  Maybe not in that order, but you get the drift.  Me going to culinary school and writing about it was like her going to wine appreciation school, and...drinking the wine.  Her party was at the venerable steak house called Dal Rae's in Whittier, Ca.  An old-school place with red naugahyde booths and great martini's.   Filet with peppercorns, huge baked potato and green beans actually cooked perfectly.  Donna's husband, also named Tom, works for Chimney Rock Winery in Napa and brought the wine.  Also on the menu were two other items, a Baked Sea Bass and a Salmon dish.  I always find it curious when people order seafood at a steak place and visa versa.  Why?

Saturday night was the Orange Country Fire Authority's annual St. Patrick's Day party featuring their Pipe and Drum Corp.  Four other pipes and drummers from Cleveland, Boston, NY and Tacoma, Wa, plus Irish Dancers and Finnians Irish Rock Band.  All we needed was Bono to show up.  Corn Beef and Cabbage plus free beer supplied by (what-else?) Firehouse Brewery.  Lets see, bagpipes, free food (with a donation), drums, dancing, music and free alcohol.  A firefighter's dream come true.  Had their been a fire in the kitchen, it would have been nirvana for them brave and fun people.

Mi familia.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm Baaack!

Ok, as things pop up that are culinary related, I will relay them on to you all.  During my externship, we are asked to fill out a survey regarding Le Cordon Bleu.  Here are the two questions they asked.

1. How likely are you to recommend attending Le Cordon Bleu to a friend or colleague? 

(0=Not at all likely; 10=Extremely likely) 10 and 9 are good scores > I gave it a 5

2. What is the most important reason why you gave this score?  > There were several, but most of my response concerned what I seemed a lack of maintaining professional standards with students who missed class, didn't follow instruction and were disruptive in class.  If you read any of my class time blogs, you may remember the burned pot incident.  I also felt that getting students thru the program, i.e., completion percentage was the culprit behind some of the latitude given to those and it sort of pissed me off that it was allowed to go on.  Since I asked to be contacted regarding my answer, I went up to Hollywood campus and spoke with Chef Storms, the dean up there.  

He agreed with me.  All  except for the completion percentage thing.  He denied that.  What a shock!  So it was sort of a wasted trip. But, it was good to see Chef's Brown and Toomey, two of my former instructors.  They were excited that I had gone to Italy and wanted to know was I going to move there.   That's up to Chris. (no)

Coincidentally, I also received that same question (#1) from a former co-worker who left Arrowhead and is moving to Seattle to attend a culinary school.   I recommended Le Cordon Bleu over Art Institute of Culinary.  It's less expensive.

I rode the train up to Hollywood.  For old times sake.  Its even a bit more scary later in the morning than I remember.  Plus, being out of chef uniform, I was just a civilian on the metro.  Zuben Mehda was receiving his Star on the Walk of Fame.  Always something going on in Hollywood.

Friday, February 25, 2011

I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane (John Denver)

"It's 5 AM, I'm ready to go.  My bags are packed, they're by the door.  The shuttle doesn't get here for another 90 minutes."  It doesn't rhyme, but I never claimed to be a song writer.

Chris and I will be winging it back to the good old USA while you sleep.  We leave at 9:45 AM our time, 12:45 AM your time and get home tonight around 8.  I'm not sure if this blog will continue.  The journey has been fantastic, responses have been great to read.  But, I'm not sure how much more of me any of you can stand to read about. 

So if this is it, I can live with it.  A new journey awaits.  When that one gets rolling, I'll see if you want to come along on that one too.

Ciao Italy,  ciao to Paola and Franco.  My intrepid classmate Julie, thanks for being here.  To all of you who read this blog, thanks.  To my family, your support made it possible.  To Chris, I love you.

Thank You

Thursday, Vatican City.
Our B&B is located on the Vatican side of the Tiber River.   Early Thursday morning, we walked to what we thought was the Castle San  Angelo.  Turns out it was the Palazzo di Giustizia, which is a great looking building, but not the castle we were looking for.  In fact it's the city jail.  A few inquieries later, we headed to Plazza St. Pietro or St Peters Square.  Which we did find.  It has the tallest building in Rome and kinda hard to miss.  I guess I could describe St. Peters Square, but if you have ever followed the Pope, then you already know it.  Big Square, large Eqyptian Obelisk in the center.  Once inside, you just sort of walk in a wonderment that is the Catholic religion. 
     From there we went to the Musei Vaticani.  A long walk up a hill, being hounded by people wanting you to pay for their tour of the museum.   We resisted!  The Sistine Chapel is there.  Michelangelo did a few paintings there.  I will just say it was absolutely the most breathtaking place I have ever been.  And that was before I got to the chapel.   The Sistine is the Popes private chapel.  It's where the College of Cardinals vote on who the next pope will be.   Black smoke, no decision.  White smoke, he's elected!
The only thing coming close to the number of rooms of antiquities are the number of book shops wanting to sell you pope stuff.

Friday, Roman Ruins Day.
 We went backwards according to the recommendation of most guide books.   We started at the Panetheon.  The best preserved interior that was Rome.  Not piliaged for it's marble, it is a wonderful monument to what was Rome.  Then we headed to the Foro Romano.  The town center of ancient Rome.  Julius Ceasear lived there and  was buried there.  Mark Anthony said, "I come to bury Ceasear, not praise him", there.  According to Shakespere!  Temples, baths and arches dot the landscape, along with rubble that you have to imagine was in place during the 1000 years of the Roman Empire.   Lastly, I took Chris to the Colosseum.  The face that is ancient Rome.  The echos of this great place cry out. 

To finish off our tour of the ancient city, we went to a small church called San Pietro in Vincoli.  (St. Peters-in-Chains).   Built to house the chains that held St. Peter, it also holds another statue done by Michelangelo, Moses.  Looking nothing like Charleton Heston, it is non-the-less spectacular to see.  I lit a candle for my mom there.  It is my last day here in Italy.  It is because of her I am here today. 

Thanks Mom!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

And then there was Roma!

Wednesday was travel day.  We left our Spoleto hosts, Steve and Denise, and headed to Rome.  Unlike to Hannibal, Spoleto was a fine host of a city to us.  Ciao, grazie you guys.

I made it to the city in fine fashion and then the fun started.  Teem, in his usual calm voice, guided us to our B&B.  He said we had arrived, but there was no place to be found.  A small market, Tobacco Shop, bank and a few large doors.  While I double parked, Chris was able to locate the B&B behind one of the large doors.  Luggage dropped, I headed back to Park Borgesse to drop off the car.  Three circles around a construction area, I finally made it to Hertz.   The gas guy didn't fill my tank and I had to pay an additional 30 euros or go back out and fill up.  I paid.  Took the metro back to the B&B and then Chris and I headed out to return the TomTom to Paola's daughters place via the metro.  This was going too smoothly.  Got to her apt and the receptionist was gone until Saturday.  Crap!  Got inside the locked gate and followed a delivery guy into the complex.  Found her apt and dropped off our semi-trusted guide and left him hanging on her door.  Seemed a crule fate for Teem, but I was done driving.  Yea!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Trevi Fountain
By now it was late afternoon, so we headed off to the Trevi Fountain to cast our coins in over our heads, ensuring a return to Roma.  As long as I don't have to drive here, I'll gladly come back.  Walked a ways, found an old church that was rebuild in the 1600's and saw art work from 1546 from a guy named Ricci.  Hey, that's how my name is pronounced here. Walked a bit further to the Monument Victor Emmanuel at the Piazza Venezia.  The over the top monument to Italys first King celebrating the 50th anniversary of the country's unification in 1870.  The people of Rome hate this Alter of the Nation.   According to Rick Steves guide book, it's thought of as a wedding cake, dentures or the typewriter monument.  Check it out and see if you don't agree.

Victor Emmanuel Monument
Bought some bread, cheese, salami and wine that the old guy from the market opened for us and we had dinner in our room.  Thursday, Vatican City.  Friday, Roman ruins.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Where the History Comes From

We left Venice around 10:30 yesterday and made our way down the eastern coast of Italy on our way to Spoleto to stay two days with Steve and Denise.  The trip is about 6 hours on two lane roads and small highways.  The eastern coast dotted with small towns, working cities and not much else.  Fano, has a few resort type hotels on the Adriactic Sea, but in the winter they don't do much business.  Ravenna has a transitional history of Roman to barbarian to Byzantine to medieval influences.  In 402 AD, the Roman emperor moved the capital here as the barbarian hords were descending on Rome.  In 476, the Goths from Hungrey conquered the city, thus ending 1,000 years of the Roman Empire.  In 540 the Byzentine's conquered the Goths thus reuniting Italy.

The town of Spoleto was responsible for stopping Hannibal from going into Rome.  After defeating the Roman Army near Cartona, he was marching onward to Rome.  Fierce resistence from Spoleto forced Hannibal to stop his southern march.  Legend here is hot oil from the bell tower here in the city is said to have burned Hannibal.  Only legend though.   The Romans went on to defeat the Carthagenians in a battle at Carthage.  Ending the second tunic war in Rome's favor.

Denise and Chris
Today Chris and I along with the Haerr's visited Trevi.  The Olio Captial capital according to the sign we saw.  I will say the lunch at Ristorante Osteria la Vecchia Posta was excellent.  Denise had grilled pecorino cheese drizzled with Umbrian honey.  It was fantastic.  I asked to meet the chef, who was a young girl from the Czech Republic with no formal culinary training who was very delightful and spoke very good english.

Chef Anna and me

Out trip ended with us stopping to film a herd of sheep walking through an olive grove.  A great day with Steve and Denise.

A walking sheep herder with his dogs