Friday, October 11, 2019

Friday 5ive- Catching Up

The Friday 5ive is a weekly blog post about five things that caught my attention that week. The last few posts have been about our trip to Italy, so I've got some catching up to do.

1) Our annual team trip to the San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy was in September. This year, we had a outing to see the Broadway Ain't Too Proud to Beg, about the R&B group The Temptations. It was a fantastic show! If you've ever seen The Jersey Boys, you must see Ain't Too Proud To Beg. There's so much about the evolution of the Temptations that I didn't know. Members came and went, drug abuse, dissension in the ranks about the direction of the group, it's all here. You'll know most of songs (and want to sing them, but please don't do that during the show) and the choreography is phenomenal. It was a thumbs-up from all seven of us. You can get more information and tickets here.

2) We had another guest visit us and we took the tour of Old St. Patrick's Cathedral in Little Italy. It was so interesting, our tour guide Mike was great.  We got to go upstairs and see behind the massive pipe organ that has over 2600 pipes. It is massive! The highlight of the tour is going into the catacombs where several bishops and wealthy patrons are buried. The tomb that caught my eye was for Countess Annie Leary, a wealthy heiress who, when she died in 1919, donated a great deal of her money to the Archdiocese of New York, including $200,000 to build the sacristy at the new St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Ave. She was supposed to be buried in a vault there, but for some reason it didn't happen.  She had fabulous parties at her Fifth Avenue townhouse and was reported to be a hoarder. There is a story in the New York Times about her here, I'm going to try to find a book about her. Tickets for the tour can be found here.
The catacombs

The view of Old St. Patrick's from the choir balcony

3) We took our visitor to Sant Ambroeus to get some gelato after dinner and when we came out of the restaurant, I spied Billy Joel sitting on a bench outside. If I had know he was there, we would have bought him a gelato too.
Billy Joel

4) Singer/actress/dynamo Kristin Chenoweth visited the Barnes & Noble Upper East Side to promote her new CD For The Girls. She was interviewed by Frank Dilello from NY1, and then signed copies of the CD. She talked about choosing the songs for the CD (so many had to be cut), the time when seven-year-old Ariana Grande came backstage when Kristin was in Wicked on Broadway (and now Ariana does a fabulous duet of Lesley Gore's You Don't Own Me on the CD), and how her father told her she forgot to wear pants on the cover of the CD. I play For The Girls constantly, I love all the songs on it.

5) I've been reading a great deal since we got back from Italy, and one of the best books I read is J. Ryan Stradal's The Lager Queen of Minnesota, about a young woman raised by her grandmother who, when she is at odds with her life, ends up working in a small craft brewery and becomes, yes, The Lager Queen of Minnesota. It's got great characters, (sisters who have a lifelong falling out), a terrific Midwest setting, and Stradal is a fabulous writer. Read this book, I'll post a review soon.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Friday 5ive- The Five Best Food Items I Had in Italy

The Friday 5ive is a weekly post about five things that caught my attention. This week's post is about the five best foods I had on our trip to Italy.

1) On our first night in our first stop of Naples, we had dinner at the Sea Front Pasta Bar. We sat at a u-shaped bar surrounding the chefs making our meal. We had a three course pasta tasting menu, complete with wine pairings. Our first wine was a bright prosecco that made us very happy. The first pasta they made for us was my favorite of the three, a linguine with a very light lemon/olive oil sauce. It was perfection.

2) On day two in Naples, our guide Vincenzo took us to what he promised was the best gelato we'll have in Italy and I'll be darned, he was right.  If you go to Naples, you must stop in at Il Gelato Mennella. It's a tiny shop, but they have lots of interesting flavors, and I can highly recommend the pistachio. It was fabulous.

3) While researching restaurants at our second stop in Sorrento, La Locanda del Gusto had great reviews on TripAdvisor. A small restaurant, with just two dozen seats, the owner and only chef, Chef Carmen, ran a well-respected cooking school for years in Sorrento before opening up her own restaurant last year. We were all very happy with our entrees, including a Misto Salad, Lasagna, and my favorite, homemade gnocci that was light as a pillow in a silky tomato sauce. We went back for a second evening it was so good. Their house wine was fantastic too.

4) We moved on to the small town of Montalcino in Tuscany. Our traveling companions had been to the town many times, and took us to an authentic little old restaurant, Osteria di Porta al Cassero. It was filled with townspeople as opposed to tourists, and we were made to feel very much at home. We started with a lovely Brunello wine, and I ordered the Cinghiale, a specialty of the house. It's a wild boar stew over polenta. I'd never had wild boar and it wasn't gamey at all, rather it melted in your mouth. I made a good choice!

Cinghiale over polenta

5) Last year when we went to Florence, we ate at a terrific restaurant, Antico Ristora di Cambi. No one there really spoke English, and our poor waitress acted out the entire menu that was in Italian. They must have gotten a lot of English-speakers from their great TripAdvisor reviews because this year when we returned, we had the same darling waitress, but she spoke more English and the menu was in Italian and English. We sat near the prep area and watched the owner prepare the charcuterie platters, including cutting the proscuitto right off the leg. We ordered the specialty, Bistecca di Florentina. When my husband tried to order it medium, our waitress shook her head and said "No". They just sear the beef on each side briefly, and then it's brought to your table. They gave us a smaller piece and it was the best beef we have ever had. They serve it on a platter with a side of salt, just the way I like it.

This post is part of Beth Fish Reads' Weekend Cooking.  If you have anything related to food, cookbook reviews, novel or non-fiction book reviews, recipes, movie reviews, etc., head over to Beth Fish Reads and add your post. Or, if you want to read food related posts, head over to read what some interesting people have to say about food.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Two under-the radar books

If you liked watching TV’s Parks and Recreation for the description of small-town government, Nina Bocci’s latest novel, On The Corner of Love and Hate is perfect for you.  
Emma Peroni works in the economic development office of her small town in Pennsylvania. Emma’s dad is the popular mayor of the town, and now ready to leave politics and enjoy retirement. He would like to see Emma’s coworker, handsome, charismatic Cooper, run for mayor, and he asks Emma to help Cooper win the election, just as she had done for her ol’ dad.
The problem is that Emma is not a fan of Cooper’s. They have known each other since high school, and Emma feels that Cooper tries to skate by on his charm. She has been picking up his slack at work while Cooper has been courting the voters, and she has no desire to help Cooper even more.
Being from a small community also means the dating pool is smaller than in a big city, and Emma’s love life is less successful than her work life. Her mother would like her to date someone nice (like Cooper), and Emma’s recent dates haven’t exactly been winners, but Cooper is catnip to all women and that does not appeal to Emma. But when Cooper appears to be involved in a scandal, Emma has to come to the rescue.
On The Corner of Love and Hate is a delightful, sweet story, with characters who seem like people from your own small town.
Now that school is back in session, Laurie Gelman’s You’ve Been Volunteered (her sequel to Class Mom) is a timely September read. Jen Dixon has three children, two adult daughters and an elementary-aged son. Her best friend has moved away, and her husband is preoccupied with trying to expand his sporting goods store business.
Once again Jen has been asked to be room mother for her third-grade son’s class, and since she was so successful at that, she has also been asked to head up the volunteer program for safety monitors. As we all know, the better you are at a job, the more jobs you are given. Unfortunately this job is not as easy as class mom.
And once again, readers are treated to Jenn’s hilarious emails to parents about classroom activities, parent/teacher nights and what not to bring to the Halloween party. We delve more into Jen’s life, and I especially liked Jen’s interactions with her aging parents and her loving, supportive husband.
If you enjoy American Housewife on TV, You’ve Been Volunteered is a book for you.
BOOK: On the Corner of Love and Hate by Nina Bocci
PUBLISHER: Gallery Books
COST: Trade paperback, $16
LENGTH: 336 pages

BOOK: You’ve Been Volunteered by Laurie Gelman
PUBLISHER: Henry Holt & Co.
COST: Hardcover, $26
LENGTH: 268 pages