Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 26, 2014

Some spring snow

Our run of gorgeous spring weather came to an end a couple of days ago. We have had some much cooler weather, rain and snow on the mountains around us. I love a bit of snow so I headed towards Montefegatesi so see what I could see.

It was a bleak day, but I was soon rewarded by the sight of Prato Fiorito with a snowy covering.

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As I drove higher on the road towards Montefegatesi it was clear that spring had been put on the back burner for a while. Everything looked desolate and cold.

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I’ll come up in a couple of weeks and show you a completely different scene. These trees will all be green and gorgeous.

Prato Fiorito looks pretty spectacular in any season and in any weather.

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…and on the other side of the ridge.

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I drove on to Montefegatesi and down the other road via Monti di Villa, Pieve di Monti di Villa and Granaiola.

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I think it is very beautiful, but I am ready for spring. I have just planted a weeping cherry at Casa Debbio and I don’t want it to get cold.

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Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 23, 2014

Wild asparagus risotto

Now that spring is here there is lots of delicious new season food in the markets in Bagni di Lucca. I found some wild asparagus, the long thin spears that appear in spring on the mountain sides, and just had to buy it…perfect for asparagus risotto.

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The spears can be slightly bitter so I blanched them in salted, boiling water for a minute or 2.

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Drain and refresh the asparagus with cold water and cut into bite sized pieces.

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Chop the onions roughly.

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In a frypan over medium heat melt butter, add olive oil and gently fry the onions.

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Add a cup of arborio rice and stir to coat with the oil and butter.

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Add hot stock a bit at a time and stir until it is absorbed before adding more. You will need about a litre of stock for this amount of rice.

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Add the asparagus just before the rice is cooked al dente. It should still be firm to the bite, not mushy.

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Turn off the heat and add some grated Parmesan cheese and stir through.

Eat…this is enough to 2.

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I served it with a salad of valeriana and tomatoes tossed in olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

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Wild asparagus…another reason to love spring.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 20, 2014

A gorgeous new shop in Lucca

I was very disappointed when one of my favourite shops in Lucca closed down last year. It was the very beautiful In Villa in Via Vittoria Veneto. The elegant owner had delightful selection of things for your home, baby wear and gifts.

I am pleased to say something equally lovely has appeared in its place. The newly opened Per Vinca by husband and wife team, Michelangelo and Claudia, is full of gorgeous furniture, homewares and gifts…take a look.

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I wish there was a baby in the family so I could buy these tiny booties.

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Michelangelo and Claudia produce much of the stock in their nearby factory just outside the walls of Lucca.

Per Vinca in Via Vittorio Veneto 35.

Ph…0583 493031
Email…pervincarredamentocity@gmail.com

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 18, 2014

Eat in Siberia

We had an amazing Christmas dinner at a beautiful restaurant in Saariselka in Finnish Lapland. The restaurant was called Siberia. We asked the owner why he chose the name. He told us a group of friends pulled a letter each from a bowl and the restaurant would be named whatever came out…Siberia.

We made our way through the snow to Siberia.

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The restaurant is very elegant and includes a cafe for delicious cake and coffee and a small shop selling Finnish designs.

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…and now to the food.

Amuse bouche…duck confit and brioche.

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Course 1…Duck liver brûlée with apple compote.

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Course 2…Sugar salted trout from Lake Inari with chive puree and lemon gel.

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Course 3…White fish from Lake Inari with blanched vegetables, cauliflower puree and vanilla beurre blanc.

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Course 4…King crab soup.

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Course 5…Reindeer fillet with potatoes pont neuf, chanterelles, parsnip puree and port wine sauce.

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Pre dessert taste.

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Course 6…Dark chocolate cake with white chocolate sorbet with blueberries.

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Course 7…Cheeses with honeydew,watermelon and vanilla tomato compote.

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All courses were delicious, I couldn’t pick a favourite. It was a great night, the service was friendly and efficient and the owner, Juha Mehtajarvi, made a few visits to the table to tell us about the food. His philosophy is…use free roaming meat and only wild fish, ingredients must be local and as fresh as possible and each dish must be stylishly presented. He kindly posed for a photo with us. He is second from the left.

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I know it is a long way to go for dinner, but if you happen to be in the area, drop in to Siberia for a treat.

www.ravintolasiberia.fi

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 16, 2014

Almost spring at Casa Debbio

The warm sunny weather is continuing and things are growing at Casa Debbio.

Yesterday was a bit hazy.

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The hazelnut trees on the terraces are beginning to sprout.

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There is a carpet of blue flowers under some of the trees.

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The wild daffodils are looking gorgeous.

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The bulbs I planted have shown their faces.

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These red shoots belong to my peony…I can’t wait to see that bloom.

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The paths are lined with primulas, violets and hellebores.

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Work starts tomorrow on the new garden beds behind the house and along the path to the spring.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 14, 2014

Almost spring in Lucca

One of the fun things about writing a blog is the people you meet along the way. Today I went to Lucca to meet Stephanie and Paul who follow the blog and have come to spend a month in this lovely Tuscan town.

It was a gorgeous day in Lucca, the sun shone and it was delightfully warm, so we had a stroll through the streets before having lunch at Paris Boheme.

Spring is less than a week away, but it seems to have come a bit early this year. The magnolia blooms have almost finished in Corso Garibaldi when they should be about to start.

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The trees on the walls are still bare, but there are tiny buds beginning to appear.

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Some of the trees in the botanical gardens are already well on the way to turning green.

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I don’t know what this one is, but it has the most amazing root system.

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Wild flowers are growing in the sunshine.

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Camellia trees are laden with gorgeous flowers.

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The next few weeks are going to be wonderful, spring is an exciting time of the year with new growth appearing every day. I hope the weather stays dry and warm. We have had a very wet winter and everyone is quite tired of it.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 12, 2014

A host of golden daffodils

I don’t think this is what Wordsworth had in mind when he wrote about delightful daffodils, but I was happy to find on my arrival in Bagni di Lucca that the daffodils on my tiny balcony have appeared.

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Aren’t they gorgeous? Spring is on its way, the magnolias are in bloom and I can see a faint tinge of green on some of the trees.

Today I will plant the pansies on my balcony and on the bridge…there will be photos soon.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 9, 2014

Back in the northern hemisphere

I am in Helsinki on my way back to Italy. I love this city, and it has turned on some gorgeous weather for me.

There was horizontal sleet for my arrival and walk to the hotel, but that soon gave way to glorious sunshine and bright blue sky.

The beautiful Tuomiokirkko shone brightly in the sun.

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The gold on the Russian church positively sparkled.

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The stone men at the station have been cleaned and polished.

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The naked blacksmiths are still hard at work.

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Birds are patiently waiting for spring.

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My favourite moose is on the lookout for spring too.

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It can’t be far away.

I will be back in Bagni di Lucca soon…in time to plant my pansies.

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 6, 2014

Falling Back to Earth

Falling Back to Earth is one of the most dramatic exhibitions to be held at GoMA, the Gallery of Modern Art in Brisbane.

Cai Guo-Qiang’s large scale installations and explosion events have made him one of the most innovative figures in contemporary art. Falling Back to Earth is the artist’s first solo exhibition and is exclusive to GoMA.

The 2 photos below are postcards of “Heritage” and “Head On“. These exhibitions were too big for me to get good photos. I will show you bits in a moment.

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Heritage” is an installation of 99 replicas of animals from around the world, gathered together to drink from a single waterhole. It is based on an image that came to Cai Guo-Qiang after visiting North Stradbroke Island. This pristine environment embodies Cai’s perception of the ‘last paradise’, far from the cares and conflicts of the rest of the world, and his utopian vision is conveyed with an almost reverential solemnity.

A single drip falls from above to create a tiny ripple on the perfect surface of the water.

The installation fills the huge room and visitors are invited to walk behind the animals. Children and adults were enthralled on the day I visited.

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Like “Heritage”, “Head On” is made up of 99 replica animals. A graceful vertical loop of wolves hurl themselves into the air, only to hit a glass wall before returning to the beginning.

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Eucalyptus is a magnificent native eucalypt which was earmarked for clearing for an urban community development. Cai invites the viewers to look closely at the tree: to ponder it’s varied and changing colours, shapes and textures, and to imagine its past.

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As usual the interactive area for children is excellent. The children create their own objects – a boat, a tree or an animal – which echo the symbols of Cai’s work.

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The exhibition continues until 11th May 2014…don’t miss it!

qagoma.qld.gov.au/cai

Posted by: Debra Kolkka | March 5, 2014

The best pizza?

I have had lots of pizza experience and I think I may have recently had the best one ever…and it wasn’t in Italy. Tinderbox Kitchen is the new restaurant by P J McMillan in James St, Fortitude Valley in Brisbane.

P J’s other restaurant, Harveys, is a favourite of mine and now I will be torn between that and Tinderbox. The new restaurant is built around an enormous wood fired pizza oven and it is from here the wonderful pizza emerged.

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It is called the Tinderbox and has a topping of prawns, tomato, zucchini,mozzarella and basil…too delicious for words, but the best part of the pizza is the base. It is thin, crunchy and chewy with excellent flavour.

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I shared one with a friend and we had side orders of farro salad and kipfler potatoes, also delicious.

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I would suggest a trip to Tinderbox very soon to try the pizza…and I would love to hear about your favourite pizza.

www.thetinderbox.com.au

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