Posts Tagged ‘espresso’

T is for…

TIBERIUS’ PALACE!

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that we’d had an eventful evening. And I wasn’t lying. It started with a simple look through our guidebooks for restaurant recommendations. We read a write up for a place called Savardina da Edoardo which sounded pretty good. It was everything I look for in an Italian restaurant when romanticising about my ideal place to eat. The review said things like ‘set among the orange and lemon groves’ and ‘family-run’ and ‘welcoming atmosphere’ and ‘fantastic service.’ It also said it would be the perfect place to stop for lunch or dinner when trekking up to see the Villa Jovis.

This sent us on a search to find out what the Villa Jovis was. It is the name of the Roman emperor Tiberius’ palace on Capri. He moved there ten years before his death, for fear of being assassinated if he stayed in Rome, as had happened to Augustus before him. He ruled the Roman Empire from Capri, through a network of fires and smoke signals to convey his orders which seems, to me, an inconvenient way of doing things. But who am I to pass comment on the most successful empire the world has ever seen?

And so, the scene was set. We would hike up to Tiberius’ Palace, the Villa Jovis, in the early evening then come half way back down the hill, to the Trattoria Savardina where we would have dinner, then finish the walk back to our hotel at a leisurely pace.

Off we went, at about 7pm, so a little later than planned but Danda found out that Chelsea were playing football so he stayed in the hotel to watch it. We walked up the steep steep hill, looking to the top of the hill, excited to go and see these two thousand year old ruins of the emperor’s palace.

image
I wanted to stand at the edge, looking out over the Bay of Naples and imagine being the emperor. I wanted to imagine living on top of the steep unforgiving cliff edges, called Tiberius’ Leap, as Tiberius forced people to throw themselves off it if they had displeased him.

As we worked our way further up, we realised that this is where the local Capresi people live. The town and shopping area had once been fisherman’s villages but has now been given over to pleasure seeking tourists and the locals have headed up into the hills. We passed a school, working farms, lemon tree groves – all the signs of village life in Italy.

image

We rounded a corner and suddenly, as the light was fading in the sky, everything was tinged with the beautiful colours of the setting sun.

image

image

We kept on heading up. We could see the Villa Jovis complex up ahead of us but it was still a fair walk. We got our groove on and sped up. As we passed a couple in the street and stopped to work out how much further it was, the young man asked if we spoke English then said, ‘Villa Jovis?’ We nodded vigorously and pointed to check if we were heading in the right direction.

Then he said, easily and casually, as though the information were no big deal, ‘It’s closed.’

We stopped, unsure if maybe ‘closed’ might be the Italian word for ‘open.’

‘But you can go up this path,’ he said, pointing into the dense trees to our right, ‘And come to some safety bars and you can see the best view in Capri.’

With nothing to do but trust him, we clambered up off the path and into the trees, the light fading fast, and crept along the edge until we came to the view point.

image

And it was glorious. We were so high up and the whole of the island spread out below us and we thought, with wonder, of how such a small place had brought us such joy.

image

After a little while, we were getting hungry so we headed back down to the path and along the road called Via Lo Capo, to look for our restaurant, to ease the disappointment of not making it to the Villa Jovis.

We went up, we went down, we went around and in and out and about and eventually asked a lady passing by, to show us the way to the trattoria. I was ready for the lemon groves and the family-run and the welcoming atmosphere.

We did find it in the end. Look.

image

And in case, like me, you are thinking it is not what it looks like, then let me tell you, I tried the handle and no, it definitely was not open. So both things we had come up the hill for were closed.

After navigating the hills back down with some difficulty, we had dinner in the Aurora restaurant which we had seen with good reviews (the likes of Mariah and Beyonce have eaten here) and we didn’t regret it. It was the most beautiful food I have eaten in a long time.

image

The pre-dinner nibbles.

image

Aubergine stuffed with mozzarella

image

Insalata Caprese

image

Pasta with zucchini flowers and parmesan

image

Tiramisu and espresso, the dessert of champions

image

Post dinner nibbles

It was the perfect end to an unexpected evening. The palace and restaurant were closed but the viewpoint and alternative dining were more than fabulous!

R is for…

R&R!

That’s right. Danda and I are leaving these wintery shores (well, not exactly wintery, it’s quite nice and sunny in England now) for warmer climes abroad (my weather app says there’ll be cloud but I’m hoping otherwise).

Yes, we’re off to Italy. To the beautiful island of Capri. To the coast. To the sea. To the pizzas of Naples. To the ash-preserved ruins of Pompeii. To the volcanic heights of Vesuvius. To the colossal sights of Capua. To the porcini mushrooms and fresh asparagus of the street markets. To the truffle laden plates of pasta. To the bowls piled high with homemade icecream. To the strong palate-cleansing espressos. To the mountains and the blue skies and bays of the Amalfi coast.

Off we go! Here’s hoping my phone works over there!

image

An evening in Venice

Well, not exactly. But it sounded good, didn’t it? Did you think I was about to tell you that I’d gone all the way to Venice just for the evening?…. Ah, if only.

What actually happened was that I went to Covent Garden, to a restaurant called Polpo. Now, the more astute amongst you will be thinking, I’ve heard that name before, didn’t she mention that a while ago?

Well, yes I did. To celebrate having done 200 posts, I cooked a big Italian feast with all the recipes taken from Polpo’s cookbook which, by the way, is the most beautiful cookbook I have ever seen and the recipes are so simple, only about four ingredients in most things, but so delicious. Since having the cookbook, I have been meaning to go to the restaurant. Finally, last night, my friend and I decided it was time to go.

After a bit of faffing around in Hammersmith station trying to get onto the same platform and figure out which train to get and then walking an extremely long way around, we made it to the restaurant. It was long and thin and in the middle, there was a bar where people perched, with plates of different cicheti (which, I think, means starters) nibbling and chitchatting on tall stools. Behind this, was an area with lots of small tables. We were seated against the back wall by a lady who’s smile remained in place all night, despite my requests for recipes from the kitchen, which must have been a bit annoying and slowed her down.

The menu was a paper place mat and I recognised so much of it from the cookbook that I already felt like I was in a familiar place. The Smiths and Goldfrapp played somewhere in the distance and gave me a good feeling about the evening.

We ordered four small plates of food to share for our starters and mains and, unfortunately, my photographs came out either too dark to see or lurid yellowy from my flash. So just bear with the bad lighting on these photos please.

image
An aubergine and parmesan wrap

image
Spicy pork and fennel meatballs (these were really good)

image
Flank steak with rocket and white truffle cream (this was the recipe I requested from the waitress, it was lovely)

We also had a bruscetta with ricotta, proscuitto and artichoke which we stuffed in our faces so fast that I forgot to photograph it. It was really really good though. Maybe my favourite thing, along with the steak and truffle cream.

For desert, I had a panna cotta with rhubarb and pistachio…

image

… and my friend had a tiramisu.

Both were tasty and served in a small glass, so just the right size after all the other bits had filled us up. My only sticking point with my panna cotta was that I had a small teaspoon when I really wanted a huge soup spoon, to be able to eat it faster. I also had an alfogato di caffe (I think I’ve spelt that wrong), which is an espresso with a ball of vanilla ice cream in it. It’s a very Venetian thing, apparently. So I got one, in my ongoing attempt to become an Italian coffee-lover. I was unsure whether I was supposed to drink the espresso then eat the ice cream afterward or wait for the ice cream to melt, therefore sweetening the coffee then eat the whole thing with a spoon. I went for a bit of both but I’ve definitely got quite a way to go before mastering the technique. When I go to Venice (one day) I will make sure I have it sorted.

Afterward, we got something called chocolate salami, which I have made before at home. It was tasty when I made it so we ordered some of that as well as all the other things we were having for desert.

image
It is essentially a fridge set chocolate biscuit, with lots of things crushed up and mixed into it. It was quite a bit saltier than mine, so was slightly at odds with where we were in our meal. We were on sweet and we were happy there. Then suddenly salty came along. It was nice but probably needed something else with it. It would have been nice dipped in coffee, to warm it slightly and make the chocolate a bit melty and added a little edge to it with the coffee taste. Well, anyway, I know for next time.

All in all, we were very happy with this trip. It also wasn’t that expensive, given how many different things we ate. I was pleased to see that the fame from the book hadn’t turned them into an expensive once-a-year type of place.

The people at the next table started chatting to us at one point about what the chocolate salami was and what we had eaten and what we recommended for deserts. It’s nice that way. It has an informal feel to it. The waitress checked in on us regularly, was happy to get into conversation about the truffle cream and how great the cookbook was. And the high seats at the bar, where people ate small plates of antipasti with glasses of wine or vin santo, were constantly full. I imagine it’s an ideal place to perch if you’re dining alone or just looking for something small and tasty after a long day at work. Very nice indeed.

Thumbs up for Polpo, just how I wanted it to be after loving the cookbook so much.

Things I have said to famous people whilst making coffee for them

Simon Callow

Now you must bear in mind when reading this, that I had not had a television since leaving home when I was 18 and had not really been absorbing anything I did watch, even then. This is attested to by the fact that I have no idea whether I have watched loads of really classic films that I’m guessing I probably did watch at some point in my childhood. That is my defence.

This incident happened about six years later, when working in a little coffee kiosk in a train station.

A man came in one day and got an espresso and an orange juice. His face looked really familiar. When he left, I asked the others if they recognised him. One was Portuguese and the other Polish and they hadn’t recognised him at all. I’m not sure how well he is known outside the English speaking world but neither knew his face.

The next day he came in and I decided to be brave and asked him.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to sound over familiar but I recognise you from somewhere and I can’t think where. Are you off TV?”

Yes. I said that. Those exact words – “off TV.” Are you off TV? Like some chav who can’t speak properly. Me. I said that. To Simon Callow.

Simon.

Callow.

What an insult.

He good-naturedly said, “Well, some of the things I’ve been in have been shown on television, yes.”

After he left, a poster on the station wall caught my eye. A poster for a pantomime showing at the nearby theatre. The man was on the poster! I quickly googled his name on my phone and realised, with a sinking feeling, that it had been Simon Callow. The famous Shakespearean theatre actor, Simon Callow. Yes, him.

And I’d asked him if he was “off TV.”

The next time he came in, I apologised and he was lovely and gracious about it, obviously. He asked my name and every time he came in, most days for the next few weeks, he always popped his head round to where I was tucked away making coffee and said, “Hello,Laura.”

Thank goodness he was so nice about it!

Gita from Eastenders

This one is from the same coffee job. A lady had been in every day for a few days and I had a real feeling that I knew her, or had known her, from my childhood in Liverpool. Now Liverpool isn’t the whitest place in the world but in comparison with London’s ethnic make-up, you just do notice people of different ethnicity a bit more because there are fewer of them.

This lady obviously had an Indian background and a slight Indian accent and, for some reason, my first thought was of my Maths teacher at school, who was also of Indian origin but had a Liverpudlian accent. So the picture didn’t match exactly but I couldn’t think of anyone else Indian I had known during my childhood. Other ethnicities, yes, but not Indian.

But she was really familiar so I knew I knew her somehow.

“Hi, I hope you don’t think I’m being rude but I feel like I know you somehow. Did you ever live in Liverpool, I grew up there. Have you taught before?”

“No, I’ve never lived there. I was an actress about ten years ago though. You might have seen me in something?…”

It started to dawn on me and my face started turning red.

“I was in Eastenders. My character was called Gita.”

And there it was. That was how I knew her. My mum used to watch Eastenders so I’d been peripherally aware of her via TV. And then, years later, I’d seen a face that I knew from my childhood and asked her if she used to be my Maths teacher! What a let down for someone who spent a significant amount of her life doing a job she presumably loved, being recognised at the time and being in a well established television series which has won awards. Then you go for coffee ten years later and someone says, “Did you used to be my teacher?”

Big fat fail by Laura. Oops!

Pre-Christmas lunching

Yesterday, Danda and I decided we would have fancy lunch as a kind of pre-Christmas lunchy thing. It was amazing, obviously. I was also trying out the dress I had bought for Christmas day, to see if it was possibly too outrageous as it has bright pink on it. The weather was quite grubby but we had a nice view of the river….

image

…and the Festive Lunch menu promised to be fantastic…

image

I chose the other option to Danda on each course so we had one of everything. A sore throat threatened to ruin the occasion so I got a fresh mint tea, which helped things.

image

It was also very pretty to look at, so I was happy.

Before starting, we were brought some freshly baked bread and butter and a small thingy in a glass that was parmesan custard, butternut mousse and pine nut sprinkles….

image

My starter was the mackerel tartare and fresh mackerel with cucumber and apple which was surprisingly light. Mackerel is usually quite a strong flavour, I guess because it is often smoked. But this was quite mild and didn’t drown out the other tastes at all.

image

Danda’s starter was a chestnut soup with a warm duck’s egg and glazed wild mushrooms. The duck’s egg had a lovely rich flavour, far stronger than a hen’s egg.

image

My main was a risotto with parmesan mousse, mushrooms and garlic crisps which, by the way, were amazing. The whole thing had hints of sweetness throughout, which surprised me, as I’m not big on sweet tastes in a savoury meal but this was lovely.

image

Danda’s main was pheasant with mashed potato, baby carrots and a crostini with pig’s trotter. The crostini was so tasty, despite its rather unattractive description.

image

By the time we got to dessert, I was on the wrong side of stuffed but soldiered through, ordering the trifle with vanilla biscuits…

image

….while Danda ordered the warm eccles cake with cheese, walnuts and chicory on the side

image

Post-lunch, we had espressos…

image

…and were brought a dish of sweeties…

image

The macaroon was vanilla and mince pie flavour! It was fabulous. All in all, it was a lovely getting-ready-for-Christmas lunch. It was also my last day off until Christmas Day so it was nice to dress up and pretend to be a laaaaady for a while.

Later in the evening, a neighbour had invited everyone over for mulled wine and mince pies so I ended the evening nibbling my way through the offerings and discussing whether the world would end the following day. Which, by the way, is today. I hope I live to write another post!

What happened when I tried to fix the coffee machine

Yesterday, in work, a customer mentioned that the coffee tasted a bit different recently and that they had preferred it how it used to taste. I had a little think on the problem and thought it might be to do with the grind of the coffee. So I reset the grinder, made an espresso and tasted it, reset it again, made an espresso, tasted it. It went on like so until it reached a point I was happy with. To understand what happened to me during this time, let’s get inside my head, which sounded something like this.

“This coffee does taste different. Ok. I’ll change the grind just a little bit. O, there’s a coffee order. I hope they like it. Right, it’s a latte. Done. Let me run myself a coffee. Ummmm. I think it still needs tweaking. O, a customer. Hi! HI! HELLO! What can I get for you? God, I’m really shouting. Reign it in a bit, Laura. They’ve ordered a coffee. I’ll change the grind a little bit again and make myself one at the same time. Sip, sip, it’s still not great. Ok, more customers, loads of them. The coffee’s kicking in. HI! CAN I HELP ANYONE? A SANDWICH? YEP, WHICH ONE? OK. AND WHICH BREAD? ALRIGHT, TAKE A SEAT AND I’LL BRING IT TO YOU! Try to bring it down a few decibels, Laura. Take the order to the kitchen. I’VE GOT A SANDWICH ORDER FOR IN! HE’S ON TABLE 2! Woah, no need to shout. But I can’t help it. I’m still worried about the coffee. Let me try to finish fixing it. Everything’s happening quite quickly now. Another espresso, run it and drink it. O, a customer. HIHOWCANIHELPYOUYESOFCOURSEYOUCANHAVEACAPPUCCINOREGULARORLARGEANYSUGARS? Why are people looking at me funny? God, I’m so efficient right now. I am super coffee machine fixer. Has there ever been anyone as speedy and amazing as me? HERE’SYOURCOFFEELARGECAPPUCCINOWITHONESUGARTHANKSHAVEAGREATDAY! Gosh, my eyes feel really wide and staring. Another customer. HIWHATCANIGETFORYOU?ABREAKFASTYESWHATBREADWOULDYOULIKEFORYOURTOAST?ANDACOFFEEYESANAMERICANOOKI’LLBRINGITOVERTOYOU! Wow, time’s moving fast. O goodness, and now it’s sloooowingggg riiiiight down. My limbs are all really sluggish. I was supposed to leave work at 4pm and I’m still dawdling around in the kitchen at 4.15pm doing not much. Knackered.
image

Damn that coffee machine…..”

Coffee (the sequel)

A little while ago, I wrote a post about coffee. About how I had tried, and failed, over the years, to like coffee. I’d worked with it for ages. I knew exactly how to steam the milk and run the coffee so that it might appear more tasty. But none of it had worked. I was quite definitely a tea drinker.

So then we went to Rome, where I made a concerted effort to fit in with the locals and stand at espresso bars sipping on a granita or getting straight in there with a ristretto (not sure about spelling, it means a really short, really strong espresso). And actually, I think it worked. The coffee tasted different there. I’m not sure if there’s something different about the way they roast their beans or whatever, but it’s different. It didn’t make me too hyper. It was bitter, but the coffee taste itself was the overriding memory I have.

image

Back in England, I’ve found that the coffee is more bitter. That’s the overriding taste, so that only if I’m really concentrating, can I taste the actual coffee in the background somewhere.

So I thought I’d seize the moment, on arriving back from Rome and start drinking espresso. I’ve been having one a day, mid morning ish. I have it quite short, about half the size of a standard espresso, with nothing in. No milk or sugar.

What fun! I’m so Italian! Look at me everyone! Look! Look! Watch me drink coffee like a grown up! Look, I’m one of you guys, a grown up. Look!

I’ll admit now, it was mostly for show, my self-imposed coffee habit.

image

So then, I started getting headaches. Dammit. I found out, through various experiments, that if I drink shedloads of water beforehand and make sure I have some food in my tummy, then I’m ok. If, however, I drink it before I drink water or eat anything, then I start to talk very fast for a while, before suddenly feeling tired and getting a bit headachey.

The headaches seem to have passed now, although I am tired a lot. This could be many things, not the coffee. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep last night (although sometimes I do get enough sleep but I still feel tired), maybe I’m partaking in lots of exhausting activity (not really)…..

image

I’m not sure. As a newcomer to the world of coffee, I’m unfamiliar with the initiation ceremony. Is this how it goes? Headaches first, then the tiredness, then what….?

Is this the normal route to developing a coffee habit? Can any coffee drinkers out there tell me what to expect next?

Or should I stop now? Stop now while I’m just at tiredness? I mean, it’s not like I even notice when I don’t drink them. As I say, it’s all for show. I’m a bit too lazy to have any kind of actual addiction to coffee.

I should probably just let it go now, hey?

image