Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Amalfi Coast

I was so in awe of my new home on the farm that I failed to realize that I sleep, eat and work beside the Amalfi Coast, one of the most stunning and elitist coast lines in the world. Thanks to our in-house/front of house Belgium charmer Nicolas my day off turned into a long windy road of wonderment, scenic beauty, lavish living, Fish and LEMONS! Having tired of Buffalo meat, I was craving Fish. He suggested we go to his “friends” Restaurant in Amalfi and make a day of it. Um…ok!

We parked atop the overly popular town of Positano for my first view of the famously oversized lemons before journeying by foot down through the town towards the resorts. The streets crammed with tourists in search of local Sundresses, Granita and perhaps a vacationing celebrity. My trusty guide and friend pointed to hotels voted the best in the world (check it: www.ilsanpietro.it/english.htm, www.sirenuse.it/Eng/Home.asp) and suggested we move on. We had fish to eat, hills to tackle and besides we left our speedos in the car ;)

From there we delved deeper into the curvature (did I just use that word) and found ourselves in the city of Amalfi in close proximity to where we would soon dine. On the coast families hungry for a glimpse of the sun settled for pebbly beaches while local shops advertised not only their famous Lemoncello, but also pasta in a myriad of shapes and sizes and local ceramics. Fact is we make our own Limoncello on the farm and I plate each dish with amazing ceramics, it was fish I was craving.

Nicolas greeted the gentleman at our culinary destination and in rural southern Italian explained that I was a chef and interested in spending time in the kitchen. So part two of the day unfolded. Before each dish I was brought into the kitchen and explained the full details of preparation for each course they chose for us.

We began with an Antipasti Misti, by far the best dish of the meal. Baccala lighted bathed in lemon rested atop Arugula. Mozzarella was sandwiched between Anchovies and lightly fried. Shrimp, boiled and chilled were smothered in a spicy mayonnaise. Smoked Salmon beautifully ballooned around Arugula while more (familiar) fried goodness kept it all company.

I was anxious to see how they would approach their Spaghetti Vongole but found their approach to be overzealous. White wine, Clam juice, Provolone, Pesto and Zucchini all found their way into the dish negating the taste of the sea and natural juices from the clams (prepared earlier in the day). IF I were to use Pesto, I would do it sans Parmesan. I am not strict about the “no cheese in anything fish rule”, but in this case the Provolone (added when the heat was turned off) in addition to Pesto was simply too busy. Still, I was flattered that they would show off their techniques and this trip is as much about learning what not do as it is bowing to every recipe I am privy to either making or eating.

Next we had a Swordfish Pasta, even busier than the dish which preceded it. Capers, Anchovies, Zucchini, Parsley, Tomatoes, Peppers, Brandy, Shrimp stock, Aqua de Mare and finally Swordfish found their way into this overly salted, colorful yet busy dish. I smirked slightly, strangely relieved that not every dish I would eat while in Italy would be of perfection which is humbling if anything.

Our final stop as we circled the coast back to our quaint farm was Ravella, by far the most luxurious and peaceful town I saw. Whereas Positano outwardly (and perhaps crassly) flaunted its hotels, Ravella’s streets were beautifully deserted; its 5 Star +L hotels aligned stunningly atop the hills. As we sneaked into one of their gardens I realized the continuity in the research I had been doing for Johnnie Walker prior to leaving. I am still transfixed by how people seek pleasure and the lifestyle choices they make. Indeed when I am ready to marry and want the PERFECT setting, I shall return.

Till then, arrivederci Amalfi and grazie mille to the wondferful Nicolas for his guidance.


Margaret said...

Reading this one I really feel like I'm right there chatting with you... can really hear your voice, makes me miss you...

So happy to see the beautiful world you're surrounded by, as well as the food!

Skye said...

The Amalfi Coast is my favorite place in the world. I'm getting jealous and hungry, sitting here in Brooklyn, reading your posts from the last few weeks. Glad to see you're having such an amazing summer. Miss you here...