Food and More Food

That headline makes me feel like I'm the Little Caesar's pizza guy. I opted against this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, although it makes me feel like a slacker. I had even decided to make individual pies in my brulee dishes, with a ginger cookie crust, a sweetened cream topping and a sprinkle of ginger cookie crumbs. But the more I thought about. I didn't want to clean up my food processor, grinding up those cookies. And I really, really don't like foods mixed. Each to its own side of the plate. So I just couldn't motivate myself to make the Florida Pie, which put a key lime filling on top of a coconut cream filling. It just went against my sensibilities and tastes. Plus, I'd forgotten to buy cream. So instead, I decided on a run down of my Sicilian Adventure (with a side of Amsterdam). That I just now was able to get around to this post shows how still deeply depressed I am to be back, a month later. "Just look at your pictures, you still have the memories" my dad said. Not quite the same, but I guess it will have to do. Especially the memories of the food. Normally when I travel, I go armed with lists, where Rachael Ray went on $40 a day, any place that's been highlighted on the Best of Gourmet, Food & Wine, Budget Travel, or any other magazine or website I can get my hands on. 

These lists are cross-referenced, with those garnering the most mentions by each source climbing higher and higher up the list. Then, before heading out each day, I review the list, see which restaurants are in the vicinity of that day's sights, and make a plan to visit. This works on short trips, like when my husband and I went to Monterey, California two years ago. The only other time it worked was when I dragged my sister around Rome last year trying to find San Crispino gelato near the Trevi Fountain. Usually, we just end up winging it, which is what we did in Amsterdam and Sicily this past March. This worked out fine in Amsterdam, as I had more of an idea of the types of food I wanted, as opposed to specific places. For instance, I totally wanted pannenkoeken, pancakes. On our way back from visiting the Anne Frank House, we passed Pancakes (they get excited for you with that exclamation point). The Dutch pancakes are thin and crepe like. I got lemon. My husband got the American stack, with bacon (as did many of the men in the restaurant, American or not). The bacon was stacked on the syrup-laden pancakes. Which is odd, but then not, if you like maple smoked bacon.

Our last night in Amsterdam (were there only 2 full days) we wanderd and found a Nepalese restaurant. On vacation we try to eat food we can't get at home, and Nepalese fit the bill, I'd never even seen a Nepalese restaurant in the states, and I've lived in some pretty big cities. My husband got mis mas mosas, a Nepalese ravioli, some were filled with potatoes, some ground lamb and a third were filled with vegetables. I got a rice, black-eyed peas and ground lamb mixture, that was different from what I'd make at home only in the spices used to flavor the lamb. Unfortunately the menu didn't say what those spices were. Sicily was where I had the greatest idea of what I wanted. First order of business was a cannoli, which I bought within three hours of arriving (the first two being spent driving ourselves from the airport to our villa and finding our way into town). It was light and creamy, with a not-too-crispy shell. In two words, marvelously delicious. No trip to Italy is complete without gelato. In the town where we stayed was a gelateria called Artik Bar. It was the Baskin Robbins of gelateria, it must have had at least 40 flavors, and each cup was topped with a mini cone that matched the gelato color. I had green apple one day and cinnamon another. My husband stuck with fragola, strawberry, because "I know what I like." One day we spent in Mondello, a seaside town on the outskirs of Palermo. We wanted seafood. My husband got a pasta with shrimp. The head on nature didn't freak him out, because they came off easily. This was in sharp contrast to the next evening's dinner of fried shrimp, where the shrimp were fried with heads and shells on - my husband was so angry at how little meat he could get from the shells that he was tossing them onto the plate provided, dangerously close to throwing them in my lap (to be fair, we'd sat in the car 10 hours that day trying to get up close to Mt. Etna, so he was hungry and exhausted).

In Mondello I ordered gnocchi with mixed seafood. Gnocchi are my absolute favorite Italian dish. It's not available at any restaurant in Juneau, and while I could make it myself, my husband doesn't enjoy it so I don't expend the effort. This didn't disappoint (although this was our 10th of 12 days in Sicily, and we were a bit tired of pasta, impossible as I thought that would be). One of our final meals in Sicily was a simple buffalo mozzarella and tomato pizza, pulled fresh from the wood burning oven. It was the best tasting pizza I think I've ever had, with the little tomatoes roasted to bring out their sweetness combined with the creaminess of the buffalo mozzarella. I was glad my husband wasn't so hungry that night, because it meant breakfast and lunch for me the next day. We ate in a lot at our villa and took advantage of the fresh meats and produce, artichokes, potatoes, broccolini and fresh made sausage. My husband ate two croissants for breakfast every day, plain, with chocolate, vanilla cream and with marmelade (the latter his favorite), and ate another baguette and a half each evening. I sampled pasta con le sarde, pasta with sardines, a signature Sicilian dish (glad I tried it, but not for me), swordfish rolls and smoked swordfish. When we came home the food was so boring, and my husband still pines for his daily baguette from the local panificio. Last Friday, though, I did bring a bit of our adventure home, I made fettucini carbonara, ala Mario Batali, a dish my husband ate two days in a row at a little cafeteria we found in the next town over from our villa. I think this may become our new Friday night tradition.