27 August 2006

Baita with a Bella View

In my attempt to find my way around the net and learn about what blogging is (sometimes I think it means flogging a subject)and how to make our web and our area found by people that I think would like to find us if they only could find us. In this quest I have found an amazing group of food bloggers. Fantastic food photos, recipes, ideas and friendly interesting chat. A thoroughly fasinating and inspiring circle of serious foodies. I have been avoiding commenting or making any contact on their sites(but I will)as I already have enough distractions from me getting the things I need to get done at the moment, as opposed to checking out the things that I find interesting and fun on the web in my journey to discovery. They seem to be a wealth of information not only on food, but photography, blog syndication and subscription and all the things I need to know but still have to learn. The web is an easy distraction, so many interesting avenues so little time.
Anyway, on one of their blogs the author is celebrating the month of August with a cookbook by Valentina Harris, "Recipes from an Italian Terrace". And somewhere in her blog she states(Cream Puffs In Venice)
"Wanted: A large Italian terrace graced with copious amounts of flowers and a breathtaking view. The terrace should feature an enormous table with seating for all my blogger friends. An open bar stocked with chilled Prosecco and San Pellegrino is a must. Please contact Cream Puff if you are in possession of such a terrace and are willing to sell. Cream Puff will pay any price!"

WEll, we're not in Tuscany and I don't have a picture of our enourmous table with a view, but I do have a picture of our mountain view here in the Olympic Italian Alps and our place with a patio that might fit some of your friends, the rest need to go up to the bar-b-que area where everyone will fit in. We do have copious amounts of flowers, and the bar can easily be arranged and we'd love to sell you on a visit with all of your friends. You don't have to spend your life savings to visit with us. We hope to have our demonstration kitchen done next summer, so there would be room for all to cook up some fabulous creations. Right now, we specialize in small groups 6-8 and customize cooking seminars for the group, some with market trips or local wine pairings. I can guarantee that our prices are a bit more affordable than Villa Valentina, but we're a different place, people and style. I would also say that Valentina Harris is a very dynamic personalilty and former BBC chef and author of over 30 cookbooks, that you will enjoy very much if you do take one of her courses. I met her at one of her previous locations thru a mutual friend that worked with her and that friend had been instrumental in my working as a cook for an Englsih art school in Tuscany. (Centro d'Arte Verrocchio)(They are usually looking for a cook every summer for 5 months if you have a desire to cook in Italy)

Give it a think and give us a shout. Better yet, make a reservation, we'd love to customize something for you and share an northern Italian Alps cooking experience with you!

26 August 2006

Plums Galore

When I first started working in Europe a few years back, my first surprise came as I ate my first tomato in the Slovenian hotel that would be my home for the next 5 months, was that it was good! Really good. I had dreamed of eating tomatos like that since I was a kid growing up in Southern Illinois and we had so many "big boy and girl" tomatos that we had one whole refrigerator on our screened in back porch that was dedicated to just holding all those juicy tomatos on hand for eating like apples on a hot August day. Living in the high altitude of the Colorado Rockies for many years left me yearning for those days of fruits and vegetables that were so good raw or lightly cooked of days gone by. It has always been one of my most favorite ways of enjoying fruits and vegetables, as themselves, unadorned or modestly so. now of course there is a trend to get back to that in America and I think that rural america has never stayed too far away form the fresh foods served at home, but living at over 9,000ft made garedening a real challenge and the farmers market of the summer a long anticipated opening.

What a revelation to continue on my journey here in Europe and find that fresh food is more of a given than not and to discover the variety and diversity of fruits and vegetables of my youth and a few that I was unfamiliar with. Starting out in Tuscany my first summer there I was amazed by the diversty of color, size and flavour of all the powdery colored plums. So luciously tempting they were and thoroughly satisfiying. The figs were another delight worth waiting the whole summer for. But right now here in Piedmont, we are in the midst of the bountiful harvest of fruit , fruit, and more fruit. The heavily laden plum trees are giving them up to a more than willing audience. We've been making thick jam and plum cakes and crisps to make the heart sing, if not for just the sight of all those colored jewels. Mmmm

18 August 2006

August Festivities

August is a fun filled time here in the Chisone valley. Since many of the neighboring countries are all on holiday as well around the 15th of August, you find a variety of celebrations and recreations put on in most mountain villages. The fortress of Fenestrelle is a symbol of the province of Torino and our valley's main historical attraction. With it's nearly 4,000 stairs snaking up the mountain side, it's an impressive sight. It took over 125 years to build and never really was used for the main purpose it was originally meant for, protection, althought is was used as a prison for a number of years. Now it is quite a source of interest and during the month of August many activities are planned around the fort, concerts and recreations of the historical battles and what daily life was like in those days. It's a worthwhile time to visit the fort. There is a military uiform in the bottom of the fort that is open year round and in nearby Pragelato up the road they also have a costume museum of customary local dress. Well worth a visit as well. It sits at the base of the 2006 Olympic ski jump that made you hold your breath to see the jumpers take to flight. Now they are able to jump in the summer on the man made surface. Amazing.

15 August 2006


Ferragosto is the 15th August or Assumption Day,(the day the Virgin Mary was assumed into Heaven), and is the most important summer holiday in Italy. It is a time that all Italians who can, will get out of the cities and head for either the coast or the hills and it marks the height of the summer holiday season in Italy.
But not always.
The first 'feriae Augusti' originated in 18BC when the Emperor of the same name instituted a public holiday for what is now the start of the month of August. 10 years later the period was renamed Augustus in his honor and became the 8th month of the calendar.
These days it's also an occasion for a festive meal, and for many it is an occasion to get together with friends and enjoy a fine meal. We went for a hike up the mountain with old and new friends for a picnic. It was a bit overcast and cooler than usual, but the weather at least held for the picnic. Then later on we celebrated the occasion with a bit of afternoon coffee, tea and sweets. La Dolce Vita! It doesn't have to be a holiday or an occasion to enjoy an afternoon respite here at Bella Baita. Now I need to get out and pick some blackberries as they are coming on strong now. I look forward to a blackberry tart, cobbler or brioche. Hmmmmm.....

09 August 2006

High in the Italian Alps or Stalking the Wild Genepy

One of my all time favorite days, is to explore the high country of any mountainous region. It's even more exciting when it's in your back yard and it helps to put the pieces of the puzzle of the mysterious maps of the region together. Having pored over and over said maps, now the picture snaps into focus. Yesterdays outing was one such day with Fabrizio and his father, Dante. Higher and higher we went to be able to see up close and personal several of the peaks that we look at daily from a distance from our balcony. We could see many peaks in France and the glaciers of Alpe d'Huez, Val Germanasca, and even the Po river plains with Rocca di Cavour stuck out in the middle looking like a bit of a bump. We were on a misson to find the elusive Genepy plant in the wild that I have not only heard so much about, but have tasted a few varieties of as it is the local mountain firewater and hut drink of choice. I've seen pictures, heard stories, seen the dried plant from some of the local producers like our friends the Bernards, who have been making Genepy for over 100 years in his family. (www.barathier.it) We even have a few plants in our garden that we bought a couple of years ago when we found it being sold in our local market.

And yet, I had yet to see it in the wild. And if I had been left ot my own devices, I don't think that I would have ever found it in the wild. Thanks to my intrepid mountain men, I bagged a picture of it in the wild. It's not much to look at and I certainly kept my digital hot clicking away with the many other alpine varieties of much more colorful flowers, but the mystique of the male genepy plant took us up and away where the air is thin and changeable. It was a great day. The reward and finishing touch of the day was stopping by the high country cheese diary and buying a bit of the local berge,(mountain cheese) called Toma. A taste of alpine meadows from cows grazing at their leizure. I can almost hear the gentle clanging of their various sized bells and the marmots barking and tumbling rocks from where the small herd of chamois above us scrambled to get further up and one small bleating of the youngest not being able to keep up; all in the taste of that Toma.
Ah, the taste of the high country....

07 August 2006

The Motor Wolves from Parma

Don't fancy riding up our road on a bicycle?
Neither do some of our guests, but the ones on motorbikes enjoy the curves up and down.
On my bicycle I prefer the downhill. These friends from Parma found us a welcome stop on their way to France. You might too.
French border view from our balcony
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