31 May 2014

The big dish

Since winter, we had been suffering from poor TV reception. It became so frustrating that we invited the local TV company to have a look at our equipment and connection. They advised that our old equipment had perished and that the satellite for British TV had been moved. We needed to replace our equipment and realign it with the satellite's new position. We asked them to do the work as soon as possible and they returned within days with a van full of TV reception gear. We also took the opportunity to install a second dish which would give us Italian TV. So now we have clear, high definition TV reception from two countries...perfect for learning Italian and watching the Giro d'Italia as well as relaxing!



30 May 2014

First crop

Our cherry trees, kindly planted by our precious friends while we were working in Australia and Papua New Guinea, are giving their first (small) crop! And arent they just perfect!?


Homemade birdbath

I have always wanted a birdbath but am having trouble finding one in Italy. However, during my foragings through our rubbish in the fienile, I found an old rusty wok! The wok is thick and heavy so I have placed it on an old pot plant stand, put a few rocks in it and filled it with water. We hope that it will keep all the little living things in our garden happy (birds, butterflies, lizards, etc). I now have a renewed respect for our rubbish.


29 May 2014

A messy fienile

Today I started to clean out the rubbish that is stored (hidden?) in our fienile. We will never progress on the renovation of this building unless it is reasonably presentable for obtaining quotes. I managed to organise and clean up a fair bit...but you wouldn't know it from the before and after photos below.





28 May 2014

Our asparagus is peeking out

A few weeks ago, I posted that Stu had planted (buried?) our asparagus roots and that we now had to wait for action. We actually didn't expect anything to happen at all so when we saw a few little "asparagi" poking through the soil surface this week we were overjoyed!


27 May 2014


The lavender is just starting to emerge! The different types around the house are stretching to the sun and forming little buds. Yesterday we visited our friends' lavender patch which looks like a warm green cushion with bluey purple velvet stripes.


26 May 2014

Making sure it moves

Some of our dinner guests from the other night arrived with small plants for my garden. One is a multi-coloured flowery creeper that my parents have in their garden and that I have always loved. Another has a pretty but delicate leaf and long stems topped with orchid-like yellow and red flowers. The last one is grass, a special grass with furry red tips. I remember looking at it and thinking: "Grass?". That is, until the lady giving it to me said "I love watching grass move in the breeze". I didn't think much about her words at the time but they have remained with me. So much so that I have now become obsessed with watching my grass moving! I planted it in the middle of the garden to ensure maximum movement and now spy out windows and creep around corners of the house just to make sure it is moving!





25 May 2014

Art on plates

During our recent trip to Lago Maggiore, I fell in love with ceramic artwork. Italy offers a very wide selection of hand painted Maiolica ceramics but I especially love the work of Carlesso which demonstrates a deep love of nature.

Maiolica is a type of white pottery dating from the Rennaissance.

Antonio Carlesso worked as a decorator at various ceramic manufacturers in the Venetian town of Nove (VI) Italy. After World War II, he opened a workshop called "Carlesso Pottery" where he made ceramics and furniture for the table.

In 1992 he left the reins of the family business to his son Roger who has a different style to Antonio. Since Antonio's death a few years ago, his pieces have become collectables.

I purchased a medium sized plate in yellow/orange tones for the kitchen wall and live in hope that I can buy a large plate in pink/red tones for the dining room wall...



La cucina della Cath's Cache

After our wonderful experience at the Michelin 2 star restaurant near Lago Maggiore, I decided to conduct my own 5 star experience! Stu was a very able waiter, assisting me to "plate up" and deliver to my very elegant dining table!

Here's my menu...

Aperitivi: A selection of bites (cottage cheese and olives wrapped in brescaiola; smoked salmon, cottage cheese and capers on crackers)

Entree: Fava beans in three formats (broad beans, fava beans, husks sauteed in oil and garlic) served on a disc of creamy polenta with a caramelised onion sauce

Main: Beef olives served with scalloped potatoes and pea mash

Cheeses: A selection of cheeses (pecorino pepato, pecorino sardo, robbiola, brie) served with honey and cugna

Dessert: Sticky date and walnut pudding served with butterscotch sauce, soft whipped cream and a shard of chocolate

Coffee served with Cath's homemade grappa infusion





22 May 2014

Too much

Our group of happy friends had enjoyed a lovely few days of laughter and intimacy and spent today at the beautifully picturesque town of Orta San Giulio...but I realised that the holiday had been too much for two of them when I saw one with his arms around a bronze "artist" and the other walking a blown up "cow"...





21 May 2014

An afternoon of fine dining

We arrived with empty stomachs. We were seated at a table at the window in a section of the dining room that overhung the lake. We were initially distracted by the view...until it started. That is, the dining experience. Firstly, we were given something to commence the meal. These somethings were a selection of flavourful mouthfuls and included black ink cuttlefish gnocchi, grilled fish with rosemary zabaglione, juliet of vegetables with olive oil froth, cheese grissini wrapped in prosciutto crudo and grissini soup. These tasty morsels were washed down with fruity spumante. Next, hot and cold stones were delivered to the table. The hot stone carried 6 different types of homemade bread. The cold stone carried a soft butter which came from a valley in Switzerland and looked and tasted more like whipped cream. The entree of soft cheese flan was so light that we wondered why it hadn't melted on the plate, soaked up the shards of celeriac or mingled with the blueberry and mostarda sauces. The pasta course was an imaginative deconstructed carbonara. Once the elements had been delivered to our table, we had before us a dish of swirled tagliatelle speckled with crispy prosciutto and topped with a shard of crispy prosciutto and half a traditional egg carton in which sat a perfectly topped egg containing a creamy yolk sauce and a shard of fried parmesan. We poured the contents of the egg over our pasta and crushed the shard over the top. This piece of art was washed down with a 2007 nebbiolo from Boca. The main course was a deconstructed vitello tonnato which comprised of a perfectly pink slice of veal, a tuna mousse and a johannesbeeren sauce. This traditional Piemontese specialty with a twist was enjoyed with a 2000 nebbiolo from Ghemme which was arguably the best wine I have ever tasted. For dessert half of us received a tasting plate consisting of morsels including hazelnut cream, lime and ricotta cake, raspberry mousse, tiramisu, chocolate pastry twist and a miniature mojito. The other half received a plate which carried a cross of salted caramel sauce onto which the waiters dropped a white chocolate ball. With the crash of the egg came an explosion of colour which transformed the plate into a piece of avant garde art. The colour included caramelised banana icecream, dehydrated and fresh raspberries, pepita seeds and the salted caramel sauce. As with all good meals in Italy, we finished this 4 hour event with a rich and smooth coffee...and as with all good Michelin 2 star meals, it was delivered by multiple kitchen and floor staff with flair and panache and explained to us in fine detail and with great pride...










A morning of clarity, history and art

A clear sky welcomed us into the new day and made a walk by the lake irresistible. We were rewarded for our efforts by a splash of warm glow on the coloured buildings and still waters of Mergozzo. After a cappuccino and a croissant we drove into Stresa and took a local ferry to Isola Bella. The boat gave us a good view of the palazzo's gardens, including the statues that decorate it and the roses that adorn it. We spent two hours wandering through the old town and being distracted by the many small shops selling colourful Italian pottery and glass from Murano. Although I resisted the pottery, I purchased two Murano glass rings only to finally succumb to the pottery temptation back in Stresa where I dug deep to buy a hand painted plate for my kitchen wall.






20 May 2014

A Belle Epoch experience

We have pulled ourselves away from our piece of paradise for a few days of abandoned pleasure at the Italian lakes with our friends. Yesterday was spent strolling around Stresa and Mergozzo, then dropping into one restaurant for lunch and two more to meet the owners who are friends of our friends. It was not too difficult to accept their offers of prosecco, homemade bread and air dried meats and dinner was certainly unnecessary after a day of continuous dining. Tomorrow we will venture out on Lago Maggiore to Isola Bella and spend a few hours at the island's palazzo and formal garden before returning to Mergozzo to enjoy a tasting experience at one of the restaurants from today, a Michelin 2 star establishment. But that's tomorrow. Tonight I watch the dark shapes of mountains on the other side of the lake and listen to the geese chattering on the shore.