Monday, May 31, 2010

Products I Love: Marvis

Oh how I love Marvis Classic Strong Mint toothpaste. Perhaps it is the texture, or the fresh, long-lasting peppermint flavor? Or, more likely, the great packaging? This tube is so pretty you want to leave it out on the counter! Even the cap is a work of art ... Either way, I love it. Marvis is made in Italy and comes in five flavors: Ginger Mint, Jasmine Mint, Paradise Fruit Mint, Aquatic Mint, and my favorite, Classic Mint. I have seen Marvis sold in the States in trendy shops like Anthropology for around $10 a tube. But here in Rome it costs less than $3 - time to stock up! Anybody need some??


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Markets: Porta Portese

I returned to the Porta Portese market yesterday. I was on a mission to reunite the vintage metal chocolate mold elves/Santas I separated last week, remember? I jostled my way through the crowds and was happy to find these guys still available:

I found one big Santa, a small Santa (with a bag of gifts slug over his shoulder and a doll in his hand), and there was another mold of a rabbit pulling a cart filled with eggs. But the Santa riding the burrow was gone. sniff. The man running the stall told me that he could get some more of these molds and bring them to Porta Portese on the last Sunday in June. Hmmm. (Well, I suppose it would be rude if I didn't swing by and check them out... ) As it turns out these little guys are highly collectible and can fetch a premium sum. Vintage molds were made prior to WWII and many were melted down for the war effort. Who knew? By the way, that Santa on the burrow, the one that got away? I saw him listed online for $225! sigh.

OK. guess what I found next? (Lauren, this one is for you):
Why the fascination with sets of little mounted antlers? I have NO idea. Perhaps it started when I saw the amazing dining room of J. Crew head designer, Jenna Lyons, in Domino magazine:

Guess I was Inspired. I recently saw a bunch of little antlers for sale at the monthly Antique Market in Bologna, but they were just too expensive. So, I was thrilled when the vendor at Porta Portese offered these antlers for price I could live with. While I loved them all, I decided on just the middle pair, above (they are marked 1897 - cool!) Although, things really do look better in multiples .... Stay tuned to see how I incorporate these into Chez Schultz.

Can you guess what I wanted in this spread below? While the old wine pulls were tempting, what I really loved here were the two old, hand clips. Unfortunately this was the same vendor who wanted 50 euro for the great biscotti tin I saw last week .... he wanted 35 euro each for these clips. Walk away.

Some other interesting things I saw: old Ray Ban sunglasses. These are very trendy right now. You can easily put new lenses in these vintage frames....

I also liked this old windup Jibby, and cool collection of old metal racing cars.

Finally, I spotted something in this spread below that I thought would be perfect for my good friend Peter Wong. Wonder if he can guess what it is? He will have to wait until his birthday to find out!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Shop Found! Bottega del Rame

Last week I visited the beautiful hill town of Montepulciano. Yes, I was in search of good wine - the Rosso di Montepulciano is one of my favorites. And of course, I was also looking for good food - the ravioli at E Lucevan le Stelle, is as unforgettable as the incredible view from their terrace overlooking the Val d'Orcia. But my main mission in Montepulciano was to buy a copper saucepan; not any copper saucepan, mind you, but one that was lovingly hand crafted by Cesare Mazzetti at the Bottega del Rame. "What??!" you say ... well, let me explain:

The first time I saw the Bottega del Rame, stocked floor to ceiling with gleaming copper cookware, I felt as if I had just stumbled into Aladdin's cave. I was in love. I wanted to buy something - anything from this store, it was all so beautiful! But in the end, after touching everything, I left empty handed.

When I got home I did some research and discovered that the proprietor, Cesare Mazzetti, is somewhat famous. He is a third-generation coppersmith; celebrity chefs in New York buy his pans; CNN and the BBC have both interviewed him; he has even made a copper plaque for the Pope ... There is a great deal of tradition, artistry, and love behind every piece of copper in that shop. A few months later I read an interview with Cesare in Saveur where he discussed the benefits of cooking with copper. Basically it is all about high and uniform heat transmission. Unlike the lighter, cheaper "modern" stainless-steel pans that "aggressively" cook (food often sticks and burns to hot spots in the pan) the even heat distribution of copper means more uniform cooking, and you can cook at lower temperatures ("heat wraps and caresses foods.") Cooking with copper is actually easier! SOLD. I knew I needed to go back some day. And I did.

The second time I saw the Bottega del Rame, it was in the winter and it was closed! (Heartbroken, I consoled myself with a few glasses of rosso and a fantastic lunch.) But on my descent back down the steep hill from Montepulciano's main piazza I heard the ting ting ting of metal being hammered ... and it was coming from here:

That's right - the sign says ramaio - coppersmith! I could only imagine what treasures awaited inside. (At the very least there would be some cool rusty metal things in there. Loves.) As it turned out, I could not have imagined what was in store. I peered through the dirty window like some sort of half-crazed, copper-stalker, and the man who was working inside motioned me to come in. I did! And I was never heard from again. Kidding.

Cesare introduced himself and spent the next 45 minutes showing me and a few of my students, his tools (many, including a beautiful flower stamp, were his grandfathers tools dating from the 1850's), telling me the history of the shop and his family, and demonstrating the art of copper crafting. He even showed us the small museum he was assembling, dedicated to the copper craft and his family's role.

He also made all the girls in the group a gift - a small leaf made of copper ... and I received a copper disk decorated with flower stamps and my initials so that I would remember my visit. As if I would ever forget! (I found out later that he does this type of thing for quite a few people, but that knowledge did not tarnish my experience.) That disk was the only piece of copper I left with that day. But I knew I would go back. And I did.

So, the last time I saw the Bottega del Rame I was successful in actually purchasing a pan! First, I visited Cesare in the workshop and then I paid a visit to his wife who runs the Bottega. I bought my saucepan and had it shipped back to Seattle. It is so beautiful - a work of art with a great history. And I cannot wait to cook with it either!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What's in the basket?

My haul from Agriturismo Seliano:

*large jar of "La Bella Baronessa" peach jam,
*and a small jar of her fig jam
*bufala butter (i ate one whole bar on the bus back. kidding.)
*quarter-slice of caciocavallo cheese
*soaps made from bufala milk and olive oil

Everything is grown and produced right there on the farm!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bufala 101

Can one ever have too much bufala? I think NOT! Lasagna layered with ground bufalo and mozzarella di bufala; bufalo meatballs with a side of over roasted potatoes and peppers; simple tasty balls of fresh mozzarella di bufala; flaky puff pastry filled with ricotta di bufala; stewed bufalo with sweet peppers; bread slathered with creamy, rich bufala butter ... we ate it all and it was delicious!

Did you know that le bufale of southern Italy were brought over by Alexander the Great? (well, not Alexander personally, but his crew.) This is one of many theories on how the Asian water buffalo (bufala) arrived on Italian shores. This particular animal thrives in southern Italy because buffalo do well in hot weather, and, unlike the standard cow, they like marshy wet conditions. They are very robust. Ettore Bellilli told us on our tour that one bufala produces 20 liters of milk per day for 270 days out of the year (a standard cow produces 50 liters - who knew?!) Bufala milk is pure white, where cows milk is creamy white, almost yellow. Because of its higher fat count it actually takes less bufala milk to make cheese than cows milk. And the cheese tastes better!

(picture taken by Jennifer Wilkin)

What else makes the cheese better? Happy buffalo! Ettore said that because the buffalo are black in color, they get very hot. To cool them down, they built a large piscina for the buffalo on the farm to replicate a watering hole. The buffalo are always found hanging out in there in the summer and since the pool went in the buffalo have had higher milk production. In the winter months sprinklers above the buffalo stalls keep them cool and wet. What is better than a muddy bath for a bufala? Nothing. The mud helps keep them cool and also protects them from mosquitoes and other insects. (Perhaps the ancients should have tried this before abandoning malarial Paestum.)

After learning all about the life of le bufale we got to see the actual mozzarella being made: here the curds have been separated from the liquid whey (which will be used to make ricotta):

Then the curds are put into a big vat, hot water is added to soften it, and they are stirred and stirred...
... and stirred until the curd become elastic and looks like one big lump of white taffy being pulled (pasta filata).
Then the pasta filata is either put into a shaping machine (as in the case below) or shaped by hand into balls and plunked into cold water. The mozzarella is then packed into plastic bags filled with this water, boxed up, labeled and shipped, in this case, to various Italian destinations. (The cheese made at this particular factory is not pasteurized and therefore cannot be sold in the states. It is ideally eaten within 3 days of being made and should never be refrigerated.)

Some of the mozzarella is taken in back to a large smoker and smoked over hay. The smell is divine. Oh and did I mention that they also make and sell bufala gelato? And bufala milk soap! Yessir! The wonders of bufala never cease to amaze me.

Oh and the Greek temples in Paestum were pretty cool too ...

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Paradise Found! Paestum

I am heading to one of my favorite places in Italy tomorrow - the Agriturismo Seliano in Paestum.
The Bellilli family have been running this farm and sprawling guest house for over 15 years. Awarded the noble title of Baron in 1806, the Bellilli also have the distinction of being one of the largest producers of mozzarella di bufala in Italy. SO, not only will we be strolling the lovely grounds of the Seliano, admiring the collection of fragrant roses and fruit trees in the gardens, perhaps even taking a dip in the large swimming pool, sharing 3 wonderful, homemade meals with the other intrepid guests (with whom we will exchange nods of congratulations for the good fortune that delivered us all to such a haven of delicious quiet and relaxation) ... BUT we will also visit Paestum's stunning 6th century BC, Greek temples:

And last, but certainly not least, we will get to tour the family's mozzarella factory, see the products being made by hand, and get to meet lots of these happy gals:

I can hardly wait!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Around the Campo: Knife Sharpening Guy

I spend half of the year living and working in Rome, Italy. (I know, life is tough.) And my extreme good fortune is compounded by the fact that my apartment is located right on the beautiful Campo de' Fiori, one of the most picturesque and entertaining places in Rome. During the day the Campo is a huge open-air market - fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, spices, jams and jellies, olive oils, and yes, flowers, are artfully arranged beneath rows and rows of large market umbrellas. It is colorful. It is alive. It is loud. Vendors hawking their wares, the chattering din of tourists, the street musicians and singers ... but I love it. Living on the Campo is like having a front row seat to a live theatre performance every single day. And there are so many interesting characters on this stage ... I hope to introduce you to few of them ... or at least show you a few of them, as in the case today.

Early this morning, directly below my window, a man in the Campo was sharpening knives on his bike. Yes! sharpening knives while riding a bike. (Well, the bike was stationary, but still.) This man has turned an old bicycle into a knife sharpening machine - take a look:

This man obviously has skills and does a bang up business as evidenced by the stacks of knives, scissors, files etc. that are awaiting sharpening, and the crowds of Campo merchants who flocked out the minute he arrived. But he did not like tourists taking his picture - you can see him shoo'ing them off in a few places in the video. (Little did he know that I was filming directly above!) He is a regular fixture in the Campo and Jennifer tells me there are 2 other men who have similar sharpening bikes. What I wouldn't give to have one of these guys ride up to my house in Seattle!


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Markets: Porta Portese

The flea market at Porta Portese in Rome is somewhat of a Sunday morning tradition for me. It is the largest flea market in Rome and you never know what you will find there - hundreds of vendors are selling just about anything and everything one could imagine. There is plenty of junk that looks like it was salvaged out of a dumpster, but there are also plenty of antiques and collectibles in the mix too.

Perhaps it is the thrill of the hunt, the lure of that unexpected find that gets me out of bed and out onto the deserted Roman streets at 8 am. Today I was not disappointed - this spread was the first I saw that really got my heart racing ...

This guy had a really great assortment - coffee grinders, corkscrews, old metal tins, a great old kitchen scale (which, in hindsight i should have bought! See it in the upper right?) But what really caught my eye were the antique metal chocolate molds:

They were mostly Easter themed - look at all those rabbits! a rabbit in a car, rabbits pulling carts filled with eggs, one little rabbit just sitting there ... also a cute hen on a nest. There were also a bunch of weird elves (when i got home and looked these up online I found out they were actually old-timey Santa's. Der.) Now, you may wonder, do I fancy myself a chocolate maker? Do I know any one who makes their own chocolates? NO. But I had to have them anyway. I made the deal and brought those babies home. Stay tuned to see how they clean up! (Will probably have to go back for those Santa-elves I left behind, next week. See the one riding the donkey?)

Among the rusty metal delights I found some of my favorite ceramics from Vietri sul Mare - 6 pasta plates with a colorful sea-inspired theme. I wanted these, but could not get a good price (He wanted 20 euro for one! I know that you can buy them new for around 5 euro each.) Oh well, do I really need more ceramics?! Maybe next time!

Another item that I desperately wanted but couldn't haggle a decent price was this old biscotti tin with an image of St. Peters. Loves. But 50 euro?! Walk away.

These heads were kind of creepy but cool too...especially in a bunch.

Moving on, I found these amazing pomegranate candle holders at another table. They were extremely heavy, and while I love all things pomegranate, I resisted.

And this porcelain lamp just needs a little love and a new shade:

Crucifixes anyone? Like I said, you can find just about anything at the Porta Portese. I can hardly wait to see what I will find next week!LS.


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