Sunday, March 29

Twoeth By Land ~ Discover Monte Nerone


Let me introduce you to Pieter of Piobbico, he is a passionate seasoned trekker, ready to share the secrets of Monte Nerone with you!

“A little more than a year ago I decided that I had to invent something to share the beauties of this area where I am living now for a couple of years. Just a couple of walks on the Monte Nerone, a mountain in my back yard that reaches up to 1525 m ( 5000 ft) left such a marvelous impression that I wanted to share the experience with everybody.”




Pieter recommends heading out on a whole day of trekking (about 7-8 hours), he is convinced that if you want to “taste the mountain you must spend the whole day there - with a nice lunch, panoramic views and the waterfalls.”

Shorter trips (more in the 2.5 - 3 hour range), family-friendly & custom treks are available as well. He rarely measures in distance, only in the hours it takes to complete the hike.
Don’t worry - he speaks your language - whichever language that may be: Dutch, English & Italian!



Who would enjoy a guided trek?
Pieter smiles, “Everyone who likes a challenge, something a little more difficult - steep & narrow, down & up, gravel & mud.”

Equipment
Hiking shoes are mandatory - not sneakers. This is for your safety so you don’t turn your ankle. Waterproof is important as well since we cross streams & rivers.

Hydration
We bring at least 2 litres of water per person. I like to start at the spring in Piobbico so everyone can fill their water bottles. Or if we need it, Sylvia will arrive with more water. We stop often to eat & drink for small breaks. It is good to snack along the way.

Interesting Finds
Pieter once found a very large cow bone on Monte Montiego - seriously, this thing was HUGE - about 1/2 meter - I’ve seen it. He also discovered a fossil of a beautiful little seashell on Mt. Nerone. Not to mention the beautiful wild & rare flowers. (All these pictures were taken by Pieter on his hikes) The true find on these hikes is the peace & quiet & the beautiful unspoiled scenery!

Why Hike Here
Pieter explains with passion why he chose this beautiful region to share with others - “It’s uncontaminated nature, it’s rare to cross others, normally you are the only one on the paths for the whole day. The whole year round, it is just fabulous, just yourself & a few others. There is a low impact on nature here - I rarely see plastic bottles & garbage littering the trails, they are very well-kept.


Favorite Spot
Pieter’s favorite spot is one of the most difficult spots to reach - Balza Forata (literally..piece of rock that springs or jumps out of the mountain OR the hole in the rock). “The views are amazing, it is not easy to reach with nice hiking to get there. It’s very rewarding when you arrive. You just can’t imagine that hundreds and hundreds of others have done that very same climb before you - especially when you are the only one there now.”


Details
It’s a steal! Only 25 Euro a person for the whole day! If you want - throw in a yummy lunch for another 12 Euro - so for under 40 Euro I can have a guided hike on Mt. Nerone & lunch?! That’s totally worth it!

For more on trekking with Pieter, to book a hike, view gorgeous pictures of his treks, blog & more - visit his site:
http://www.nerone-trekking.it

Friday, March 27

New Podcast Up - Cyclists, Grilled Meats & Medieval Castles!

This weeks podcast is my favorite so far! A delightful interview with 3 British cyclists making their way coast to coast on bike - for the first time! They've all got a great sense of humor & I love the accent! Plus more stories of daily life, grilled meats & more!

Grab a glass of wine & take a listen - click here!

Here's a few pics of the 3 brave brits - Dan, Dan & Peter
(where's the performance layer?!)

They thought it would be best to start by walking the bikes for the first bit!

They share with us how they "trained, researched & prepared" in the non-traditional sense for the ride. Listen!
We'll post a follow up of their story soon!

Tuesday, March 24

Frontone

A few photos from our evening in Frontone ~ (a tiny fortified village about 35 minutes from us)

perfect town for a lazy evening stroll



Castle in Frontone


Endless views from the castle are stunning at sunset.



where to eat - Taverna della Rocca

Meat Fest '09

Our buddy Craig (an American expat living a chiroprators dream in Rotterdam) was in town & we were checking out local events for the weekend & came across a festival that literally translated to "the pleasure of meat."  Well what can I say, we were inspired! We decided to create our own Meat Fest '09 & knew the perfect spot for dinner.


Tucked away in the ancient cantina & stables of the castle in Frontone a handful of local Italian women really know how to work a grill! Taverna della Rocca (tavern of the rock) is essentially a meat lovers paradise & grill house - they serve up a simple menu of grilled meats - need I say more...Oh! I will - meat & homemade crescia (or piadina or flat bread) which is just awesome - lard, flour, salt, eggs - that's it! But you know its gonna be good when the first ingredient is lard!


We were lucky to be seated in the grill room with the big fireplace & right smack in the mix of all the action! The place is huge with massive arches, stone walls & antiques mismatched hanging from the walls are on display.  We we all hypnotized by the fire, the way they worked the grill, the amount of meat being fired up.... and how the hell many crescie (flat breads) has that woman grilled up!!   (This had become a topic of the table taking random guess as the dinner grew longer - she got to be up to a hundred by now...)  So I finally asked one of the ladies how many crescia do you make a night, "not many" she shrugged off - "I asked, but how many is that? Tonight for example?"...."Oh about 400, not many. For big holidays like Ferragosto or Lunedi di Pasqua more like 1200-1300." -WOW!


They have 2 grills going - one for the flat bread & the other for the meat. You can have your choice of steak, lamb, sausages, pork chops, rabbit in the style of porchetta, sausages or mixed grill.  We all ordered & then for good measure threw in an extra order of what else but ... sausages -  why not?! This IS Meat Fest 'o9! A simple antipasti plate arrives of fresh hot-off the grill flat bread, assorted cured meats, cheese & sauteed cabbage, potatoes & pancetta. Check and check - more meat!

Hours later, our bellies filled to the brim we waddled our way out (not before we dusted off a little dessert for good measure) and made our way home! All this (antipasti, meats, potatoes, dessert, vino, caffe) our very own Meat Fest for only 20 Euro a person!


Taverna della Rocca in Frontone (near Cagli)
Via Giacomo Leopardi, 20 
61040 Frontone (PU)
phone: 0721.78218

Thursday, March 19

Gourmet Connection Culinary Spotlight on Chef Jason

Jason was recently interviewed by MyGourmetConnection.com - a foodlovers guide & kitchen wisdom for their Culinary Spotlight! Here's a snippet of the interview below:

La Tavola Marche is a culinary wonderland tucked away in Le Marche, Italy - a beautiful and undisturbed region in the center of the country bordering on the Adriatic Sea and the Appenine Mountains. La Tavola Marche warmly welcomes guests year round for a culinary experience unlike any other. A stay at La Tavola Marche can include trips to the local markets, sight-seeing, cooking lessons and the most memorable meals of your life.

Keep reading for Chef Jason's thoughts on culinary life in Le Marche.

For travelers planning a trip to Italy, what do you recommend as the must-have Italian "specialty" food?

The great thing about Italy is that it is so regional, so travel a town or two over, and they will have their own recipes that vary greatly - especially the great divide of the north and south - using butter vs. olive oil.

First off you must have fresh pasta. It is nothing like the dry pasta we would eat in the States; it is light, soft and you can truly taste the difference.

One of my absolute favorites of our area is Porchetta - a whole de-boned pig, stuffed with salt, pepper, garlic, wild fennel and slow roasted in a wood oven. It's delicious and normally served on a panini. Here's a little secret: ask for the crosta or the crunchy skin and you will not be disappointed!

Another great dish to try, if you are here in the right season, is fried squash blossoms. They are dunked in a thin batter and fried in olive oil, sprinkled in salt - the sweet flowers have a perfect crunch and are wonderfully delicate, perfect with a glass of white wine on an early summer evening.

Many Americans have a perception of Italian food that is very different from what they will find when they visit Italy. In your experience, what's the biggest misconception travelers have about Italian food?

To me, Italian food in the States conjures thought of heavy pasta smothered in sauces, or veal marsala with mushrooms piled up over the top. Italian food is MUCH lighter and more delicate than what you will find in the United States with very few ingredients - just olive oil, salt and herbs, for the most part.

A perfect example is lasagna - brings to mind a towering wet square of thick pasta, ricotta cheese and drowned in a meat and tomato sauce. Whereas here it has usually no more than 3 layers of thin hand-rolled pasta and is either white or red.

White using a b├ęchamel combined with porcini mushrooms and a sprinkling of ground sausage enriched with a dusting of Parmesan cheese. Or the red version, with just enough of tomato sauce, a bit of meat (here, in the foothills of the Apennines mountains, boar is a popular choice) and again the sprinkling of Parmesan. It normally does not stand more than 1-1/2" high and is surprisingly delicate both in the red and white forms.

I've never seen pasta fazul, chicken parm or alfredo sauce, which littered every Italian menu in New York, on a single menu here.

Most of what you see in American Italian restaurants are adaptations of what is served here in Italy. You will find fresh pasta, dressed very lightly in sauce, not swimming in a heavy tomato base like we are used to in the States, or grilled meat served simply with sea salt and a lemon wedge, paired perfectly with roasted potatoes.

I was very surprised at how different "Italian food" is here versus in the States. I think the main difference is that here they serve and eat local seasonal dishes, simply prepared letting the ingredients themselves be the stars.


To read more q&a click here for the article in its entirety!

Wednesday, March 18

The #1 MUST Have Book for Italy

Anyone who is traveling to Italy - foodie or not - this is the #1 recommended book by La Tavola Marche that you MUST pack!!

The Marling Menu - Master for Italy

This slim little booklet breaks down the Italian menu, course by course & explains not only the dish & what's in it, but sometimes its origin as well. I know its no fun to look like a tourist - but this book is worth it - because now you can order in confidence. Sometimes there are menu items some of you may want to avoid - brains, horse or tripe for example or other things you may be craving but just don't know how to ask for it.

Order it now online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your favorite bookstore today!

For more on dining out in Italy & use of this great guide - click here - to listen to our podcast!!

New Look!

I was totally inspired by Ciao Down's Blog & their 'housekeeping' so I followed suit & did the same. After a little over a year of bloggin' I think it was about time!

Tuesday, March 17

Eat Like a Roman Legion - Farro & Leek Soup

Farro is an ancient grain, the original grain from which all others derive.  Farro has been eaten & cultivated in Italy for centuries most notably by the Roman Legion! The Romans ate farro to give them strength as they marched across the Western World & would arrive with a full belly & battle ready thanks to this hearty grain!

Farro is like spelt, but has a firm chewy texture. You should be able to find it at an Italian shop, health food store or speciality shop. We are lucky to find locally grown farro right here in Le Marche! (If you can't find farro - spelt or barley should work)

This recipe has only a few ingredients but is full of flavor and a great first course, not to mention super easy to make!

Farro & Leek Soup
Minestra di Farro e Porri

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, white parts only, sliced
1 1/2 cups pearl farro
6 1/4 cups meat stock **Please do not use bullion (or stock) cubes for this! There are only a few ingredients & they should be of the highest quality possible.
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
salt & pepper


Heat the oil in a pan, add the leeks and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until golden brown.  
Add the farro, pour in the stock, season with salt and simmer over low heat for 1 1/2 hours or until the farro is tender.  
Season with pepper. 
Ladle the soup into bowls or a soup tureen and sprinkle with Parmesan & drizzle with good quality extra virgin olive oil.

Saturday, March 14

Giro d'Italia 2009, Lance + Mountains + Piobbico = Priceless!!

First things first - Lance is heading to our neck of the woods & we couldn't be more excited, let's just say not surprisingly he is the talk of the town!!!

Lance Armstrong will be biking through our little piccolo Piobbico and we will be there rootin' him on for sure!!

They have released the race map for the 2009 Giro d' Italia - the 100th bike race through bella Italia starting in Venice & ending in Rome covering 3,395.5km through the mountains & countryside (not to mention hitting Austria & France).
This year it passes through Aqualagna & Piobbico as they head up to Monte Nerone & Monte Petrano in what is being called "longer (229 km) and harder (4700m of climbing) than originaly speculated & confirmed for May 25th!!


A great web site to keep up to date with all the official happenings, in English, is http://www.steephill.tv/giro-d-italia/

These guys are insane! I just watched a fly-by tour of their route & its crazy! Check it out here

Are you looking for a place to stay close to the action? Need last-minute accommodations for the festivities in Le Marche? Book Now at La Tavola Marche Agriturismo - just a few km from Piobbico, Urbania & Urbino in the shadow of Monte Nerone & Monte Petrano - a perfect place to stay for a night or 2 while following the festivities!

If you can make it to the route, where ever that may be - DO IT! It's a party to remember, maybe I'll see you there!!



Friday, March 13

Blogn' & Podn' Baby!

We're podcastn' now! Listen in - check out podbean.com's streaming audio of our life in Le Marche! Click here to listen to our 1st podcast!!

Oops! Did I Say THAT?!


Just yesterday we were in the packed grocery store & ran into our neighbors & their young children. I  began telling a very animated story about car problems we’ve been having - I was really rolling here - thinking damn! I’m getting good at speaking Italian, conjucating everything properly, I think they are following everything I’m saying!  Then to really drive the story home, I said - “And Jason yelled...” let’s just say that I compared the Madonna to a pig - the most dangerous blasphamia possible and essentially translated into what would be the combo of mother f’er, c’ sucker - only on a biblical level!


I didn’t just say it - I really projected it through the store - everyone turned, my neighbors turned bright red (but with smiles). Silence fell upon the meat department where we were standing, all eyes on the crazy young American with the potty mouth! Jackie cracked up & said, “what you just said is not beautiful.”  But what?! I was confused, I’ve heard it before - Dottore Gaggi says it all the time, hell, I’ve even heard my neighbors standing next to me say it! 


But, yes, as Jason pointed out - they use these curses in the yard, at home, in the car - not in a crowded grocery store in front of  the kids (who by the way were the only ones around us that didn’t seem to be fazed!)


As we ducked into an empty isle to re-group I apologized & said - “would it have been better if I used a different swear word, for example...?” What is wrong with me, why can’t I drop it? Now I’m swearing again & they are just cracking up -they reply, “yes, that one would be better, but it’s still not beautiful (non bello)!”


We abandoned our cart & left the store in shame.  This is classic Ashley - with my foot in my mouth! Sometimes I need to remember that curse words in Italy, while seeming a bit more comical - comparing religious figures to farm animals for example are nonetheless as negative in their conotations & meaning as our good old American swear words - let’s just say lesson learned!

Thursday, March 5

Flyin' High in the Tuscan Sky

Just over the hills from us & into Tuscany, in the tiny town of Montisi you can experience Italy like no other, flying high in the sky - hot air ballooning over the Tuscan hills!


We did this on our honeymoon & keep thinking its time to go back!
So I figured I'd relive the memories & share it here.

It was late April & we arrived around 6 am we had no idea what to expect. We barely slept the night before with the excitment to come & totally nervous we'd sleep through our alarm. Upon arrival at the stone house of Robert & Liz we could see our adventure literally laid out on the grass before us....there it was - the balloon!


This was one of the coolest things ever - not only watching, but helping blow up the balloon!


After we were filled with hot air we lifted up, not knowing when or where we'd touch down again.


Our friend Robert Etherington pilots the balloon & gives a lovely tour of the towns as you float over top! His wife Liz races about in their on land, looking for a place for us to land. Up in the sky we'd don't have a care in the world. The hills are vibrant green, we see a family of wild boar heading into dense woods, a flock of sheep scatter as we graze their fields and we marvel at our shadow left on the land below....



Once we found the spot to land Jason jumped out to test the ground - would it be a good landing spot...oopse! not here - jump back in quick! Flashes of Dorothy & The Wizard of Oz run through my head! Robert is the great Oz for sure!

(Jason has to hold on with all his might to keep us from floating away)
After another attempt we have found our spot to land & devour a champagne breakfast in a field of sheep ~ can it get any better than this!


To book your unforgettable ride: Ballooning in Tuscany
Montisi & Ballooning in Tuscany is a 2 hour drive from our agriturismo & cooking school.

Tuesday, March 3

Carnevale Continues....

In a few tiny towns across Italy they continue to celebrate carnevale, with the festivities ending this weekend. We just so happened to be in luck because our neighboring town of Apecchio keeps on partying long after Fat Tuesday!

A gorgeous sunny day in Apecchio


This guy in particular was hysterical offering up homemade vin santo & rambling on & on, cracking himself up - we had no idea what he was saying & neither did anyone else (since he spoke in dialect & is from Naples) - but one thing is for sure, he was having a great time and he kept us all laughing!

We were at one particular party during all the carnevale festivities we were posted up at the food table - Jason was convinced they were asking eachother who are the fat American's who wouldn't stop eating? Ummm.. that would us! But isn't that why it's called fat Tuesday?!


Speaking of fat...one of my favorite traditions we've heard about is that the kids would go door to door (halloween style) and instead of filling their bags with sweets they filled them with meats! Seriously! Kids would be given pieces of fat or pork lard, an egg or a piece of sausage! Now that's a tradition I could really get on board with!


Lots of great costumes from the cute little princesses to the spooky & silly and almost all homemade!

But for what it's worth the winner for me:Francesco Fusciani as a toilet, complete with toilet bowl brush was just hysterical!

The parade made its way through town & every few 'blocks' would stop & party in the street with the music pumpin (random 90's tunes - especially Shania Twain's "That Don't Impress Me Much" was on loop!), candy would be thrown from the floats for the kids & glasses of red wine passed around for us big kids! (Some towns toss flowers, oranges or even truffles into the crowd.)


And of course it wouldn't be a proper festival in Apecchio without the self-proclaimed drunk band!

Now we've gotta plan our costumes for next year....

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