March 9, 2015



It takes a while for me to settle in. It isn't so much the unpacking but the putting things away in their proper order. I never thought that I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but I even felt it necessary to rearrange the books in the book shelf.

So, although we are all settled now, I can truly say, with a tiny bit of shame, that other than putting the apartment in order, we have pretty much only been going out to lunch and an occasional dinner. Oh, and I’ve been cooking at home.

The top picture is our winter garden view. The gardner was just here tilling the soil and I suspect that before we know it the covers will come off of the lilies and we will have some roses. I only throw in that picture to make up for the fact that at the rest will be food.


Our first meal was at Franchescovini, Borgo dei Greci 7r, Fabio, the young owner, filled us in on all of the neighborhood changes. The economy has not been kind to Florence. But we were there to eat so we started by sharing the Tuscan pasta specialty, Pici which is a rolled spaghetti. It was in a simple but perfect tomato sauce. I had the chicken with truffle sauce and Arnie had the filet with balsamic vinegar sauce. It was a wonderful welcome home.


We were lucky to score a table at a favorite, Vini Vecchi Sapore, via dei Magazine, 3. It is usually necessary to have a reservation, even this early. That is frustrating to the Florentine regulars who hold court there with Mario, the owner, who just recently gave up his post at the salad making station. It is frustrating to returning customers as well but we know the drill, get there before 12:45 or make a reservation. We had the most amazing pasta with pancetta and sautéed cavolo nero (Tuscan black kale) olive oil and butter. How could something so simple taste so amazing? Every component was perfect. I then had the roasted Guinea fowl with a fennel gratin, and Arnie had the Peposo, Tuscan peppery beef stew. Perfection.


Another all time favorite is Belcore, via dell’Albero, 30, Everything there is perfection. Unfortunately, they don't do lunch anymore, except Easter, so we had to go to dinner. Abdel is an unbelievably generous host. Everyone is started with a complimentary glass of Prosecco followed by an amuse bouche. We usually share an appetizer, first course and dessert and get our own entree. Not this time. Abdel insisted that in addition to the salmon shuffle on a bed of avocado that we ordered, we must have the braised beef tongue. They were both marvelous. Then we shared the tortellini stuffed with braised pork shank. I had the fish of the day crusted with pistachio and Arnie had the Peopso stew again, this time with a side of poached pear. We ordered the poached pear and creme anglaise and also got the meringue dessert. Then there were the cookies, and the after dinner wine and the after dinner grappa. Good Lord. How did we ever get to sleep that night!


A new favorite from last year is Zibibbo 2.0, via delle Seggiole, 14r, It is similar to Belcore without all of the free stuff. It is a lovely space and it is open for lunch. On our first visit we each had a first course, shared a pasta and each had an entree and shared a dessert. That seems reasonable doesn't it?

Arnie started with the octopus salad and I had the creamed cod stacked with roasted red peppers. We weren't going to have a pasta but how could we pass up the tortellini filled with salmon served with lemon cream? I had the sea bass on a bed of fennel and Arnie had the shrimp with a calamari and squid ink flan. I said it was good. Then for dessert we shared a chocolate boudino, a cross between a cake and a pudding. Dessert does come with a complimentary glass of the dessert wine, Zibibbo. Also, we got a 50% discount for being repeat customers since the waitress remembered us from last year. Actually, anyone who goes on line and signs up can get the 50% discount lunch card. What a deal!

Im not patient enough to tell you EVERYTHING that we ate. That seems a little over-the top, but you can click on the link below and see the gallery of February Feasts.


Some of the highlights were the cannolo at Lo Skipper, Buratta and Cavolo Nero crostini at Cipolla Rossa, chestnut gnocchi at La Maremma, Goose breast carpaccio at Antico Fattore, the steamed octopus appetizer at da Lino.


And, of course, among the very best was every meal we had at home.

Here are the rest of the pictures of our February Feasts

March 2, 2015



Just a few days before our departure, on a beautiful Southern California day, Arnie asked why we were leaving Del Mar. More on that later.

As many of you know we are still playing the “Frequent Flyer” game. That means that we collect lots of miles (mostly on British Air because they have a direct flight from San Diego to London) and try against all odds to turn the miles into free business class tickets to Italy. However, the odds of scoring those elusive free business class tickets are marginally better than winning the Mega-lottery. This year we were winners. We won because we got an incredibly helpful British Air employee on the phone, Susan Elliott. I had already unsuccessfully trolled the British Air site for hours looking for seats from almost anywhere in the US to anywhere in Italy. She came up with 2 business class tickets from LA to Pisa. One hiccup still unresolved is that we are in Economy Plus on the way home. Another hiccup was the early departure, February 16.

So, on a beautiful February day we left home at 11:15 am, 5 hours before our departure time for the 1hr 45min drive (according to Google Map) to the LA airport. But, being a drive to LA, it took 2 1/2 hrs.

There was another reason we left with plenty of time to spare, other than the traffic. I’ve been having an issue with my old knees that lead me to request a wheelchair (I fell at the gym, cortisone injections, knee brace, blah, blah). So, once arriving at the airport, we were whisked through security and taken to the BA lounge which was lovely (both being whisked and the lounge). We had enough time for a hot meal, alcohol —yes, they provide a free hot meal and free quality alcohol—then whisked to the plane.

Here’s another perk of asking for a wheelchair, it automatically gave us the ability have reserved seats without having to pay extra and we got to go upstairs on our Airbus 380. BA does not include a reserved seat assignment in the price of a ticket, even if you pay cash, piggish, I know. If you are cheapskates, like us, you must wait till 24 hrs before take off to get your seat assignment for free. So, we lucked out because of my old knees. That's pretty much where the perks stopped.


We had nice business class seats and we also had a bathroom bigger than our Powder Room at home. I know it seems kind of gross to take a picture of an airplane bathroom but this was really nice.

The flight to London was uneventful, other than the fact that I couldn't sleep for more than 3 of the 11 hrs. The wheelchair perk in London was different than in LA. In London we had to wait for EVERY disabled person to gather in 4 separate little trolley cars of 6 people each. (Yes, I felt a little embarrassed being the youngest by about 20 yrs, but then, everyone must have thought that Arnie was the disabled one, right?) We rode in our little train of trolleys into the bowels of Heathrow (level -4 on the elevator) for what was at least 20 minutes before emerging up to street level and reaching the luggage.

We had to make our way on our own to the Sofitel airport hotel, after getting lost and walking twice as long as necessary. That did in my poor old knees.


I must have looked like I felt because the sympathetic desk clerk made me “Guest of the Day.” Yeah, a prize! Sadly, we didn't get to enjoy the spa or the free breakfast, but the room upgrade and the strawberries were nice!


It was a little past noon so, after downing 800mg of Motrin, we were ready to seek out food. We returned to the airport, taking the much shorter direct path, to eat at Carlucci’s restaurant which was surprisingly good for airport food. Maybe it was the general exhaustion, or the bottle of wine, but we enjoyed our risotto and rolled braised beef.

The next day we were off to Pisa. I must say that BA in London does not treat its wheelchair passengers as well as they do in LA. We waited for a wheelchair in the little “Disabled” area for 30 min before we gave up. The agent told us, and a few other, that it would be faster if we just took a wheelchair on our own. Arnie wasn't about to do that so we walked, fortunately, not far. But, it took 40 min to get through security. By the time we got to the BA lounge I was ready for more than breakfast, I wanted a drink! The Heathrow lounge is not nearly as nice as the LA lounge. But we were soon off to Pisa, and the tickets were free.


It was an beautiful day to fly.


An incredible day to fly.


After 2 short hours, a few glasses of wine and a snack of prosciutto and cheese, we were in Pisa.

Our driver Sergio was there to greet us and, as has been our custom for the past 8 yrs., he gave us a bottle of wine and I gave him biscotti that I made at home and schlepped across the Atlantic for him.

Then, at last, we were in our second home.


This is why we left Del Mar.

April 11, 2014

Skai's Birthday Dinner


Our Palazzo Pals, Beverly & Gianni Gossen, hosted our next meal in honor of Skai’s birthday (which was in February). We don’t need much of an excuse to have a communal meal. It is always a treat to go to their apartment. Aside from Beverly being a fabulous cook, the Gossen’s apartment has the best view and we always have great photo ops to share with friends and family.


Here are Skai and Janis Krisans.


And, in a nice turn of events, I handed my camera over to Janis for a rare picture of me.


I provided the appetizers for this meal. Fortunately, there was some broccoli puree left over from our cooking lesson. I also made crostini with lardo from Dario Cecchini, a bit of piggy fat heaven. Throw in a few slices of salumi and some cheese and you have a great appetizer table.


The main event was rabbit stuffed with artichoke purchased from the same butcher who earlier provided our stuffed and rolled pork roast. It was, of course, cooked to perfection.


Skai hiked out to a great bakery near the Piti Palace and dinner was born.


The evening view is sometimes better than the daytime view. This night was no exception. And, we had an extra treat of an event happening on the steps of the cathedral of Santa Croce that provided beautiful background music for our evening.

Here is the video of our random exposure to beauty

For all of the picture go to

March 28, 2014

Cooking With Emily


We have met several wonderful Florentine friends through our Palazzo Pal Beverly. Madeleine and Don, who live in Florence full time, and Linda and Steve, who spend 6 months of the year here, are among them. Where does Emily come in? She is Madeleine’s niece who has worked as a cook at several restaurants in Florence. We had a “Ladies Lunch” at her current restaurant and decided that it would be fun to have a cooking lesson to learn some of the recipes that she has learned while working here. Linda has the biggest kitchen so she was nominated to host the event. As usual, Linda set a beautiful table in her gorgeous Florentine home.

I shot a video since, as you will hear in the background, some of the ladies were more interested in the social aspect and not the educational aspect of our morning together. We didn’t get actual recipes, more ingredient lists and techniques. The demonstration consisted of broccoli crostini as appetizers, meatballs in caper sauce as the main course and apple crostata for dessert.


For the crostini cook the broccoli until just soft, set aside, reserve some of the cooking liquid. In a sauté pan sauté garlic in oil until brown. Stay attentive since it will go from brown to burnt in a heart beat. Add red pepper flakes then chopped anchovies or anchovy paste. Add the broccoli and sauté for 5 min. Set aside. When everything is cool add a bit of riced (mashed) potato, ricotta, salt, pepper and puree with an emersion blender. Toast the bread. Put pureed broccoli on bread. Sprinkle with salt.


Linda was generous enough to provide freshly made pasta that she purchased on a recent trip to Bergamo. Casoncelli, are a bit like ravioli filled with ground meat, Parmesan, bread crumbs, eggs and a little amaretto biscuits, raisins and pear.
They were served in a brown butter and sage sauce. It was a special treat since they are not available in Florence, and, they were delicious.

The star of the show was the meatballs in caper sauce but I never got a still shot so you will have to look at the video to see how fabulous they are. We started with the caper sauce. Melt lots of butter in a sauté pan. Add sliced garlic while the butter is melting, then add olive oil. Cook until the garlic is brown but not the butter. Stay attentive as the garlic will go from brown to burned in a heart beat and the butter will turn from golden to black quickly as well. Add chopped anchovies or anchovy paste. Heat gently. Add chopped sage then add capers. Set aside to await the meatballs

For the meatballs soak a small amount of bread in milk to soften. Place the meat in a bowl large enough to fit all ingredients. Squeeze the milk out of the bread and add bread to the meat. The secret ingredient was the addition of one riced (mashed) potato. Then the usual suspects of parmesan cheese, 1 egg, rind of 1/2 lemon, sage, salt & pepper were added. Mix with your hands. If the mixture is too dry add some water. If it is too wet add dried breadcrumbs. Allow to rest in refrigerator.

Shape the meatballs then roll in flour. Deep frying is the recommended method, however, they can be pan sautéed or baked. Don’t cook them all the way through since they will be cooked a bit in the caper sauce. Add the partially cooked meatballs to the caper sauce. Gently heat through.


The apple crostata for dessert was amazing and amazingly simple. For the dough mix flour, butter and salt together. Add enough ice water to bring the dough together. Knead a few times then wrap in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 30 min. You could use any pie dough recipe. Here is an Ina Garten recipe

Pare, quarter and core apples. Thinly slice each quarter but keep together in a bunch to be laid in the dough together. (watch the video)

Roll out the dough in an uneven rustic shape. Place the dough on parchment paper on a baking tray. Paint the dough with melted butter. Place the apples, kept together in their quarters on the dough. Combine sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle on apples. Fold dough up around the apples. Paint dough with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake.


The husbands arrived close to 1PM and patiently (or not) waited in the living room while we played in the kitchen.


After eating the broccoli crostini, followed by the pasta we moved onto the meatballs served with asparagus mixed with Talllegio cheese and a side salad. Linda and Steve , the ever hospitable hosts, opened their magnum of Il Borro that was signed by Salvatore Ferragamo. The Ferragamos own the winery. We ended with the perfect crostata.

Then we waddled home for a long afternoon nap.

For the video go to

For all of the pictures go to

To check out the Ferragamo Il Borro winery and villas for rent go to

March 21, 2014

Pilgrimage to Panzano


With the gang all here it was time to take our annual pilgrimage to Panzano to the Antica Maceleria Cecchini ( It really is so easy to get there. The bus takes about an hour, driving through the beautiful Chianti countryside and costs $10 round trip. We don’t have to worry about a designated driver or getting lost. We are dropped off a few feet from the butcher shop and the fun begins.


If you have never read my blog before Dario Cecchini is the butcher, and he puts out a beautiful free spread in the butcher shop that really makes lunch in his upstairs restaurant unnecessary, assuming that one is a sane person and does not over-eat and drink on a regular basis.


We, of course, have a drink and some treats while we shop and then go upstairs for lunch. We buy much of what he serves at the restaurant to bring home. Our shopping bag always includes lots of his special salt; his mustards; his pork braised in vin santo wine; his roasted pork; his beef stew; his pate; and, last but not least, his lardo (that’s straight up pig fat). We forgot to pre-order his sausage and so we must return another day.


Arnie usually has the 8 oz. all beef hamburger served with beautiful roasted potatoes. The waiter has a pre-printed check list for ordering, and under the hamburgers 3 options are listed: “the way it should be”, “medium”, “over-done”. Arnie always has it “the way it should be”.


I have the full meal which is a taste of everything. It includes steak tartare, meatloaf, braised pork, and roasted pork. I share so everyone gets a taste. Need I even mention that there is wine?


We have never taken advantage of the opportunity, but one can have anything cooked from the butcher shop below. I believe one of those giant roasts was being prepared for just 2 people. Maybe next time.


Another reason to like the restaurant is the staff. Everyone seems happy and anxious that the customers are happy.


So, after our fill of everything, we waddled to the bus stop and soaked in the beauty of the countryside while leaving the driving to another.

What a life!

For more pictures you can go to

March 2015

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