Wednesday, May 25, 2016

THE Friday market, Ventimiglia, Italy...

I've been promising this post for awhile, and I know some of you are heading to the South of France and Italy this summer and are interested in visiting my favorite Friday Morning Market Mecca in Ventimiglia, Italy, so here are some of my tips on enjoying this outing. 

People come from far and near each Friday to stock up on the beautiful fresh produce, locally made cheeses and pastas, meats and fish and to find a bargain or two in the cashmere and leather stalls. Much of the produce is grown on the tiered sunny slopes of the Alps just above the town. In general, the quality of the food here is thought to be better than in France and the prices are much lower.

In addition to the massive indoor food court hundreds of vendors set up tents along the lungomare {seafront} where they sell a little bit of everything. There are a lot of lesser quality products, but you can also find some splendid items for a steal. There are lovely Italian cashmere pieces here including some that are factory overruns {don't snub the messy looking "bins", I bought a pair of cashmere lounging pants labeled for Saks Fifth Avenue for $40, that would have been $400. in NYC}. There are also great values on stylish leather goods that run the gamit in prices and quality. In addition you can find jewelry, 

kitchen accessories, lingerie, linens, shoes, socks, tee shirts, jeans, dresses, fur vests, jackets, etc. all in and amongst the palm trees. 

One of my favorite finds recently was sets of Carlo Bertelli Italian Hotel sheets loomed, labeled and packaged for Restoration Hardware. The timing was serendipitous, I had ordered some sheets for the apartment, getting ready for incoming guests, and had just been informed that my order had been cancelled for some reason. So, we ventured over to the Passeggiata Cavallotti where a man often brings in overruns from the Italian linen factories and I bought 3 sets of these beautiful sheets for the price of one set of the lesser quality sheets I was going to buy on line, he even gave me free pillow shams as a GWP!

This coastal town, near the French/ Italian border gets quite congested on market day, so I would advise taking the train to Statione Ventimiglia if you can, this is the first stop in Italy on the French train that runs along the Côte d'azur. 

View west from Ventimiglia, Italy to Cap Ferrat, France
This line comes from Cannes and and stops at towns along the way. When I board at our station in Eze I always try to get a 2nd floor seat facing out to the Med, though oftentimes I just end up standing because the train is so full. As a guideline, it takes less that 25 minutes get there from Eze, about 40 minutes from Nice and 1 hour  to 1 hour, 45 minutes from Cannes, depending on the number of stops along the way. As the train rambles through Cap d'ail, Roquebrune-Cap Martin, Monaco and Menton I'm always mesmerized by the views of this gorgeous coastline, including inviting beaches, wild open seas and intense rock formations.

When you arrive at Ventimiglia Statione, I recommend checking the schedule to figure out the return trains to target your departure time. It's much easier to buy a roundtrip ticket "aller~retour" in France, so you don't have to spend time buying a return ticket in Italy {more shopping time}. A one way ticket is call "aller~simple".

If you drive along the A8 you'll enjoy incredible high views of the Med, glimpses of the local farms terraced into the alps and this incredible rock structure on your way into town, but then you will have to find parking {in bocca al lupo}. There are a few public lots and street parking available.

Ventimiglia is a bigger, more commercial city than the smaller villages along the coast. The Piazza on the hill is the older part of town and is supposed to be quite charming. 

No matter how you arrive, I recommend stopping at the Gran Caffé de Paris {which feels very Italian despite it's name} for the best cappuccino in town. This will give you just the boost you need for the busy day ahead.

If you take the train, just walk out the doors from the station and go straight down the historic Via della Republica. The Gran Caffé is on the right at 2 Via della Republica. You can also find cash machines on this road. 

After coffee, you may want to walk across the street to the butcher, where they prepare the most beautiful meats that will allow you to make an easy, delicious dinner after a busy day at the market. I usually pick up meat, flowers and produce on my way back to the train, after shopping the open air stalls. I always love the Cosce di Polo from this butcher, chicken cut up and marinated in herbs and spices with olives, you can sauteé up in minutes and it is fresh, delicious and satisfying. Also, I order chicken breasts here and have them slice it and hammer it to make my favorite Chicken Picatta Splendido with ease. 

Continuing down the Via della Republica you'll see the large, covered food market. This market is open everyday, from 7 to 5 on Friday and Saturday and from 7 to 1 the rest of the week. I like to do a walk-thru to scope out what looks good amongst the plethora of fruits, vegetables, flowers, pastas and cheeses so I can start thinking about what I want to buy on my way back to the train.

Continue towards the sea to find the outdoor stalls that wind around the Giardini Pubblici {public garden} and stretch out along the lungomare {seafront}. I have some favorite places I like to stop for sandles, leather bags, cashmere, purses and jewelry but it would be nearly impossible to describe where it is these vendors usually set up. If there is anything in particular you want to find email me at and I'll try to direct you. But I think it's best to just wander around to see what catches your eye, there is a lot of junk, but also a lot of gems.

Now, let's get back to food!

If you get hungry, there are a number of seaside restaurants you can visit with pasta, pizzas, seafood and steaks. But I'm kind of smitten with a classic little panini place called Caffé Cavalier at 19 Via Roma just a few blocks away from the market. 

It feels like the pale green walls contrasting with shapely rich, red banquettes must have been the color scheme here for generations. 

The wide array of sandwiches they offer are made with delicious Italian meats, cheeses, vegetables and breads. 

Select the panini of your choice and they will grill it to perfection.

A crunchy and buttery crust will form on the exterior 

                                                         and the insides will be tender and warm.

Two of my favorites are the Napoli with tomatoes, mozzarella & basil and the Compagnolo made with prosciutto, tomatoes, cheese & tapenade.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Eggplant Parmesan recipe....

My favorite meal on our trip to Venice was this delightful Melanzane alla Parmigiana I had at the quintessential Italian Ristorante Beccafico. My memories of that simple, satisfying dish inspired me to try to replicate it at home. 

Melanzane alla Parmigiana at Ristorante Beccafico, Venice, Italy

I made this Eggplant Parmesan recipe from Bon Appétit, with a few modifications along the way and loved it. With the slices of fresh mozzarella {BA recommends tearing the cheese} and simple tomato sauce it turned out to be much more luscious than the lunch I recalled, but who can complain about a little more lusciousness in life? 

I love the simplicity of this recipe, the fact that it is baked and not fried, and that it doesn't require "sweating" the eggplant. Also, the added bonus of tender, sweet roasted garlic cloves really added to the finished product. 

This is a delectable vegetarian dish that would be satisfying for lunch or dinner; or you could even top it with a poached egg, sprinkle on some pinenuts and serve it for brunch. For additional ease, the sauce can be made a couple of days in advance and the eggplants can be baked the day before and stored in the refrigerator. 

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe 
from Bon Appétite 


  • ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves, 2 finely chopped, 8 whole
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 28-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 medium or 8 small eggplants (about 4 lb.), halved lengthwise
  • 8 sprigs oregano
  •  cups coarse fresh breadcrumbs
  • 12 oz. fresh mozzarella, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 3 oz. Parmesan, finely grated (about ¾ cup)
  • fresh chopped parsley to taste


  • Heat ¼ cup oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 6–8 minutes. Add chopped garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until beginning to darken, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, crushing them with your hands as you add them; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, partially covered, mashing tomatoes occasionally, until slightly thickened, 15–20 minutes. Set tomato sauce aside.
  • Preheat oven to 400°. Using a vegetable peeler, remove skin from rounded side of each eggplant half, leaving a 1” strip of skin around the cut edges. Divide eggplants, oregano sprigs, whole garlic cloves, and ½ cup oil between 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Turn eggplants to coat with oil; season with salt and pepper and place cut side down. 
  • Cover baking sheets tightly with foil and bake until eggplants are very soft, 40–45 minutes.
  • Toss breadcrumbs and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil in a medium bowl (I added in some fresh chopped parsley). Transfer eggplants, oregano, and garlic to 2 large shallow baking dishes, placing eggplants cut side up. Top eggplants with tomato sauce and mozzarella, 

then sprinkle with breadcrumbs and Parmesan. 

Bake until mozzarella is bubbling and breadcrumbs are golden, 25–30 minutes.

Buon Appetito!

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Let's get lost in Venice....

We arrived in Venice with an agenda, for sure, to find lighting for the pied~á~Eze

 Navigating our way through the narrow winding walkways, over bridges and through the plazas proved to be quite a challenge, but even when lost I was constantly struck by the stunning beauty and charm of this legendary island. 

If you go to Venice, be sure to travel light, because it can be quite a hike to get to your hotel. When we finally got to the fabulous RH Collection Hotel we were rewarded with incredible views of The Grand Canal from the balcony.

But we didn't have much time to linger. We hopped in a water taxi right away and headed to Isola di Murano

Taking in the views along the way. 

We hit the island running and saw an abundance of amazing glass. We also passed a lot of shops filled with junky glass, the imported sort. I had heard that Murano can be quite the tourist trap and that visitors needed to beware of glass that isn't actually made in Murano, but once you get there, it's not difficult to distinguish between the pieces made on island and those that came in from foreign lands. 

We accomplished our mission: we found some key pieces for our pad and the contacts we need for future purchases; and I can't wait to go back to Venice to get lost all over again.