Archive for November, 2008

Vicenza -The City of Palladio

 

Andrea Palladio- the great architect

Andrea Palladio- the great architect

Miss Eydie can hardly believe her good luck…we are performing in the town of Costabissara, Italy, but have been deposited in a hotel in the town of Vicenza, which is nearby.Vicenza is best known for being the home of one of Italy’s greatest architects,Andrea Palladio and people come from all over the world to view his villas,churches and other buildings. In May of 2006, my group,consisting of Alan Pasqua, Darek Oles and Steve Hass, performed at the magnificent Teatro Olimpico here in Vicenza. We shared the bill with my dear friends Fred Hersch  and Norma Winstone. This theatre was one of Andrea Palladio’s last commissions as an architect and I believe some of the stage sets were designed after his death. These elaborate stage sets of street scenes are set in back of a raked stage and perspective- wise, give the audience the uncanny feeling they are in another time and watching an outdoor performance. The ceiling is painted a sky blue and suggests an open sky.I knew I wanted to visit this place again ,esp. the garden surrounding the theatre with its stone statues of muses and gods of music.

 

           But first…lunch. After my 60 Euro plate of tagliatelle with white truffles in Milan, (worth every lira by the way) Miss Eydie was running low on per diem. A simple lunch was in order and I walked into town at the beginning of the afternoon. It’s a wonderful challenge to find a place to eat in a strange town by “vibe.” Sometimes you can tell by the graphics the restaurant uses for its signs, also the type of decor is a clue..and of course the menu is a dead giveaway. Wandering around the winding, cobblestoned streets of the old town, I finally found what I was looking for – an unassuming trattoria called “Tira Tardi” on a side street near the Basilica. The menu showed some raw fish dishes and a nice selection of pastas. There are no customers in the joint,there is rap music playing from the kitchen,the lone waiter is warm and friendly and the place is very elegant and tasteful, so I seat myself. Suddenly, like magic, everything changes once it clear I am there to eat.

The waiter’s ties his tie in a tight Windsor knot.

The Sinatra goes on the CD player.

The candle is lit.

I order a plain green salad.

A cart is wheeled over with a huge bowl of fresh.local greens. I think “O my God..its gonna be like a tableside Caesar in Vegas.” Frank starts the opening lines of “The Tender Trap.” 

“Signora,do you want freshly ground sea salt,pepper, olio d’oliva, balsamico? I assent to everything. A simple green salad has become a shared ceremony. The waiter adds each ingredient, and then as tenderly as one might handle a child ( if the child were leaves of radicchio from Treviso), he gently tosses and mixes the salad. It’s placed in front of me with great aplomb…and I taste. It is simply delicious.

All the pesce crudo dishes sound fantastic, but my next move is to order some pasta. In the interests of both health and yumminess, I notice a wheat spaghetti on the menu and order it. It comes with a huge fresh, whole scallop on top, another huge scampi and loads of fresh tomato and (be still my heart) fresh porcini. Gone…in like 2 seconds.

 

Spaghettini Kamut w/ Scampi, Scallop, Tomato & Porcini

Spaghettini Kamut w/ Scampi, Scallop, Tomato & Porcini

 

 

       I make an executive decision to opt out of dessert and coffee so I can sit and dream in a cafe overlooking the buildings of Palladio. Any attempt at moderation or abstention is thwarted.if you say, “no dessert please,” they bring out a plate with 4 or 5 diamond slices of house made chocolates: flavors like pepperoncino, pure vanilla, liquirizia.

     If you say,”just a check please,” or anything resembling “il conto per favore,” there appears a glass of local grappa in addition to the bill.

      You can’t win :-)

I do move on to the cafe and after my macchiato in the shadow of the 2 columns designed by Palladio, I head to the best gelato place in Vicenza,where I have a ginger gelato….cold, creamy and yet with a small bit of tingle and heat from the ginger. There are some wonderful flavors there: cioccolata con lavande e rosmarino, lampone (fresh raspberry) fior de latte, zabaglione with egg and Marsala

 

The Best Gelato In Town

The Best Gelato In Town

Savoring my gelato I stroll all over this lovely town, ending up at the Teatro Olimpico. Sitting in the garden, surrounded by stone muses, I feel grateful for my life as a singer and inspired by the classic expressions of line and space I have seen on my walk through Vicenza. It makes me think about tonight’s performance and how those lines,proportions and spaces can be used in song.

 

Statue in the Olimpico Gardens

Statue in the Olimpico Gardens

I honor you O Muse

Till next time…on to Scandinavia

 

It’s Martini Time Somewhere,

Miss Eydie Gourmet

 

 

 

 

                                                                                              .

Spaghettini Kamut w/ Scampi, Scallop, Tomato & Porcini
 

Miss Eydie Visits The Land Of Naked Marble Boys

“The most learned men have been questioned as to the nature of this tuber and after 2000 years of argument and discussion, their answer is the same as it was on the first day: we do not know. The truffles themselves have been interrogated and have answered simply…. EAT US AND PRAISE THE LORD.” Alexandre Dumas

Milano – I knew I only had a relatively short time in Italy in which to sample the bounty of the season, which to me, means pumpkin, chestnuts, fresh game, wild mushrooms, Tuscan kale, chicory, beets, pears, winter squashs, and the glittering diamond in the crown of Autumn…Tartufo Bianco D’Alba. This truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean fungi of the genus “tuber,” and yes, this elusive tuber needs to be sniffed out by pigs and dogs trained for the purpose..Then at last, after being cleaned, polished and sliced paper thin by a special truffle slicer, it can be savored  by singers everywhere.

Truffle Set

Truffle Set

 

            Arriving in MIlano in the early afternoon, I immediately made a reservation at a small trattoria which was recommended to me by the woman who interviewed me about the upcoming Italian Transfer concerts. Al Materel  specializes in local Milanese cuisine, a cozy eatery with a warm atmosphere. Two of my traveling compadres were in attendance and we were rarin’ to go. Opening the evening’s show was a 2004 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano,one of oldest and most well-known of Italian wines.It’s primary grape varietal is Sangiovese and it’s from the hilly region around Siena, which would technically make it from Tuscany…..but we were in no mood to stay catholic to the concept of Lombardian singularity. The rest of the meal was a true Milan fest. Il Dottore ordered the Veal Milanese, a dish often butchered in lesser establishments in the US. In a way, this is the Italian version of a good wienerschnitzel -some high quality veal, pounded thin-then I believe the controversy begins…do you dip in flour first and then the egg batter,then the crumbs…or should it be the other way around?? Any way you slice it, this veal was sublime, just served with a wedge of fresh lemon.

 

Our third companion ordered Osso Buco ,a braised veal shank complete with the marrow,and  the traditional accompaniment of risotto Milanese. It was on Miss Eydie’s very first trip to Milan, where she found herself by a stroke of good fortune at a restaurant called Gualtiero Marchesi, where I had the most extravagant risotto imaginable. The saffron colored creamy rice was topped with a square of edible gold.I had never seen anything so over the top in my life as of that point. The only other thing I remember about that dinner was that at the conclusion, as a gift, we were given a bottle of a lurid colored house – made liquer, which I wrapped inside my luggage….and where it promptly exploded on the next flight, staining most of my clothes, indelibly.

       But getting back to my original and pure purpose… i awaited my order of fresh tagliatelle with a giddy joy. (or was it the wine…the jet lag?) Speaking of white truffles, again it was Alexandre Dumas who said, “They can, on certain occasions make women more tender and men more lovable.” Hell, yeah.

       Finally the moment arrives…and the penetrating, faintly garlicky perfume precedes the dish being placed before me. The pasta is curled up over itself, swathed in a delicate coat of butter and cheese and over the top of the dish, a generous covering of paper-thin slices of the prized truffle. In a culinary swoon, I take the first bite. The pasta “bites back.”  The creaminess provides a background color for the earthy, forward flavor of the truffles. I admire their marbled interior with it’s fragile ivory veins. When I’m home, my little bit of luxury involves a small pour of white truffle oil over pasta, vegetables, risotto-but this is my yearly splurge for the real thing-the exalted fungus. Authenticity is what makes something fully and genuinely what it is -whether a person, a style of music or a cuisine. Something is authentic because it can draw on its original authority to make it unquestionably what it is…no fakes, no imitation. I feel that with every bite.

 

 

 

First Entry… Napa

Napa

The last hurrah of the summer: the final gigs. I’ve been excited for months that we are performing at the Napa County Fair, in the heart of the California wine country and a food nerd’s paradise. The gig itself turns out to be less than delightful, not because of the audience certainly, but because of the promoter’s less-than-exemplary hospitality. I don’t know this at the time of course, but this is why I am leaving a day early to ma ke sure I get my dose of what this beautiful part of California can offer to The Insatiable Singer.

Of course, my alarm doesn’t go off, and I get that dreaded phone call, “The car is downstairs.” Luckily years of practice have prepared me for this very moment where I gather up my things while I am still unconscious, unplug the appliances, take out the garbage, change the phone messages, splash water on my face, and fly out through the door to the airport.

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