When Ivonne of "Cream Puffs in Venice", one of the fellow food bloggers I have had the joy to get to know personally already, asked me several weeks ago if I wanted to take part in a blogging event dedicated to a new book I did not hesitate a moment. Well, Vienna is not the hot spot and my humble blog not really widely known so I cannot consider myself as spoiled. Believe it or not, "Adventures of an Italian Food Lover, with recipes from 254 of my very best friends" by Faith Heller Willinger is the very first book I have ever been sent in order to review - but, behold, we are not supposed to write a review nor should we feature the recipe this time. Honestly, that's a pity since I would have loved to review it decently and there is nothing to fear about it at all - pretty good reading stuff for a foodie, and excellent for a foodie who is in love with Italy ! Even though the idea of connecting stories "down the memory lane" with recipes is not new this book does have a very individual approach, also thanks to the watercolors by Willinger's sister which partly also portrait her foodie friends (restaurant owners, winemakers, vendors, artisane producers etc.). I still don't know how many recipes I will be able to adopt from this book, but what I can say is that they are authentic and, very much Italian, all based on not too many but perfect ingredients. The only thing (oh my, is this now going to be a review ?) I really regret is the fact that the measurements are exclusively given in Imperial units. Has it been laid out "just" for the American market? The book would deserve more... However, I would love to travel the featured regions (Northern and Central Italy, Tuscany in particular, Southern Italy and the Islands) with this book in my hands.
Well, and I would not mind being Mrs. Heller Willinger in my next life ! Having lived in Florence for thirty years, having made friends with many of the most well-known people in the food business in Italy and, even better, counting them among her best friends, having so much inside knowledge as for the culinary inheritance and treasures of Italy, and - oh heaven! - touring all different parts of the Country of my Dreams frequently in order to chase new culinary adventures all the time ! In her new book she tells eloquently about many of those very special encounters. It has especially meant fun to me to discover stories dedicated to several personalities whom even I have got to know personally already, such as Cesare Ciaccone and the Verro family (Piemonte) and Carlo Cioni (at Da Delfina near Florence). And I can imagine that you can easily count them among your friends whenever you have the chance to come back again and again !
But back to the task. No review, no recipe (by the way, I opted for the spaghetti tart which you can see in the pics above, even though I think I still have to work over the recipe - or maybe did not follow it too exactly. Nevertheless it was well received today as a Sunday lunch). But a dedication. Or a memory ? Or, as Ivonne calls it, name somebody with whom you would like to share it... Well, no doubt about the fact that I would absolutely feel like associating this entry with my husband. Haven't we shared all those wonderful times - and so many fabulous dinners - in Italy (especially at the Verro family's "La Contea" in Neive), and knowing now that it will never be the same again (for those who are not familiar with this blog, he suffers from Morbus Parkinson in an advanced state). But I do forbid me to do so since I don't want to be too sentimental - oh yes, it's the here and now we live in. And life is still good. Thus I have very quickly made up my mind to mingle this no-review with a remarkable story - and encounter - that I have not told on this blog yet. So here comes my special dedication....
She was an essential part of theDiningRoom's inauguration, and beyond. She calls herself Auntly H in her blogs (check out her knitting blog here, and her and her husband's blog about their time in Vienna here) and let's stick to it in this respect. She already had started reading my blog before they started off for their 5 months in Vienna. But we only touched base after they had settled in already, and found out that they were almost around the corner. She - an architect from St.Paul/Minnesota, an artful knitter, a dog lover, a foodie and so much more - offered me her help ("I'm not bad with a broom and dustpan", she mailed to me) when the construction work was still going on. We also spent a remarkable (if I may say this as the hostess) girls' chatty evening (or rather half the night) together, joined just by a four pawed man whom she loved at first sight (well, her own beloved dog had to stay back home with her parents). And then somehow I accepted her offer to help out before and during the inauguration party and so she got an essential part of this event which meant so much to me. It would have never been the same without her ! It was stunning how two not-so-team-players could get along so perfectly during two busy days in the kitchen together. Needless to say that we made friends. Scroll down to the little photo collage where you can see Auntly H before and during the event (at serving joined by another friend, Maria), even teaching our winemaker how to fold napkins, and look at the wonderful stole (check out a very special story here) she knitted for me, inspired by the colours of theDiningRoom !
Auntly H, Gino and I, we do miss you. But we can imagine how happy your puppy boy is to have you back !
AND: it would have been so much fun the make/enjoy this spaghetti tart together. You would have laughed your head off if you had seen me flip it over and part of it landed on the counter of your dream kitchen.
Much love to all of you and a special hug for Auntly H,
angelika (and gino)
photos courtesy of Auntly H (2,3), Barbara Fuchshuber (6,7), my Mom (5).