Aglio e Scalogno

Aglio e Scalogno
Aglio e Scalogno: Garlic and Shallots at the Christmas Market in Florence

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Bottle Pocket - Better Than the Wineskin? Maybe!

Check this out! Are you always afraid that your wine or olive oil is going to break in your luggage? I've managed to bring home all sorts of bottled goodies without having them break, but I'm always on the look-out for an easier way. Well, last year, I blogged about the "Wine Skin," (,

. There is now another product on the market: the Bottle Pocket. It looks great for packing home that precious wine or olive oil ! I still might bring my paper wine tubes (similar to the one in this picture, though I get mine at the local "Tuesday Morning" discount store.) I've found that the combination of bubble wrap and the strong paper tubes really works. The Bottle Pocket adds another layer of protection - if the bottle should break, the Bottle Pocket will contain the leak. Hope this helps. Happy Traveling!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Truffle Trivia

Do you know all the differences between white and black truffles? between summer and winter truffles? Do you know how much you should pay for each kind?

Check back in mid-October for a post on "truffle trivia."

The information comes direct to you from the "people in the know," the chefs of "Il Tartufo," which means "The Truffle," a lovely historic restaurant in the heart of Umbria and one of the places where we hold our La Contadina cooking classes. Remember to come back and check out the blog!

pere al vino UPDATE

OK, you have GOT to try this! I made canned pears two ways yesterday - with ruby port wine and with pear brandy. Both ways are intoxicatingly delicious. I wish I had enough to ship a jar to everyone who reads this blog. You only add 1 tbsp. of the liquor to each 8 oz. jar, while the rest is packed with the sliced, lightly-cooked pears and the sugar syrup. Indescribable.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

View our latest Press Release:

Announcing the new "My Private Italy" tour! Mid December 2009

Announcing our new “My Private Italy” tour, mid December 2009.

We have developed a new itinerary featuring some of the places highlighted in Steve’s film, “My Private Italy,” and we’ve also included some old favorites from the “Postcards from Italy” tour itinerary. Plus, there are a few surprises included that we just can’t mention ‘til we get there!

We are planning to stay in Lucca, Tuscany for the 1st part of the tour, with day visits to the Cinque Terre (5 villages clinging to the cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, and famous for their pesto and their wine), to Firenze (Florence), a major art and cultural city in Italy, and to Santa Luce, a darling hilltop village. Lucca, founded by the Romans, was later encircled by a series of pink-brick ramparts (construction began in 1544), which are now a favorite place atop which both locals and tourists like to stroll, gazing down into the city and out over the surrounding mountains. It's a lovely place to stay for 4 nights, and you will have some free time to explore Lucca on your own and find some souvenirs and do some Christmas shopping :-)

Santa Luce and the Cinque Terre are featured in Steve's film, "My Private Italy." A copy of this film is available on DVD to those interested in booking the tour. Just send us an email and provide your mailing address.

Starting this tour in Pisa also affords us the opportunity to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa before we head to Lucca - an added bonus not to be underestimated. You can see a picture of me on top of the Leaning Tower on a blog post below. Climbing the marble steps once climbed by Galileo is a very powerful experience.

Then we head to Spoleto, Umbria for the last few nights of our tour. Spoleto is where we have our fabulous cooking class (it is SO much FUN!). Spoleto is a hilltop town in Umbria that boasts fabulous restaurants and a lot of Roman sites (an ancient "teatro," or theater, and the famous "Bridge of the Towers," which began as a Roman aquaduct. That's also where my favorite ceramics shop is located. I plan to buy a few more coffee cups this time - the perfect spot for Christmas gift shopping.

Spoleto, by the way, is featured in another of Steve's films, "Postcards from Italy."

Following our precious time in Spoleto, we transfer to Rome and our tour concludes upon our arrival at the airport, about noontime. Some tour guests like to stay on at the end of the tour and explore more of Rome on their own for a day or two. I always stay myself for a day or two to do some shopping (my favorite bookstore is there!) and exploring. There is still so much to see!

This tour includes a wine tasting, the cooking class, all transportation including airport pick up and drop off, all breakfasts, and either lunch or dinner (more dinners than lunches), and wine with dinner. Tour starts in Pisa and ends in Rome. Let me know what you think! Cost is 2300 Euros, plus airfare (which is about 1/2 the usual cost right now!).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

New Tours Scheduled!

We are announcing a December 2009 tour as well as a spring 2010 tour to Italia! Dates will be released soon. With these super low airfares, we just can't resist planning some new tours to our favorite destination. Check out for more information in the coming weeks, and also note that the La Contadina website will have a fresh look soon. We are revamping and updating the website to better serve your needs!!

New Venice Film Clip from Steve McCurdy

Please view this recently produced short clip on Venice, Italy, by Steve McCurdy. You'll be buying a plane ticket shortly thereafter!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

pere al vino, and so much more!

Hi everyone,

It's early fall, and it's the season to break out my copy of, "Conservare frutta e verdura," a book in Italian (of course) about preserving your garden's harvest by canning, drying, etc. I stumbled across a "pere al vino" recipe last night, and it's one I've got to try with all the pears that are dropping from my pear tree. Basically, you quarter the pears, core them, soak them in sugary water and lemon juice, then cook them in red wine before canning them. Yum! If they turn out well, I'll let you know and post the "ricette."

I also just received, "The Complete Book of Garlic," a huge volume containing - you guessed it - everything you want to know about growing, harvesting, tasting, and cooking with garlic. I've ordered 4 new kinds to grow next year, including "Italian Purple" and "Lorz Italian." I'll let you know how they taste!

Hope everyone has enjoyed the summer!!
PS Sept 21: I just received my 20'-long fruit tree fruit picker and a cool harvesting bag. I feel like a real orchardist now :-)

Don't Just Dream It - Do It ! Let us take you on a tour of a lifetime!

Don't Just Dream It - Do It !   Let us take you on a tour of a lifetime!
L to R: Marybeth, Giuliana (owner/founder) Steve (filmmaker)

Giuliana, owner of La Contadina Travels and Tours

Giuliana, owner of La Contadina Travels and Tours
Giuliana, on the right, leading a tour in Umbria

Steven Robert McCurdy, documentary filmmaker and my fellow tour guide

Steven Robert McCurdy, documentary filmmaker and my fellow tour guide
Steve taking a self-portrait in Italy

Another self-portrait of Steve, who is co-leading the tour with me

Another self-portrait of Steve, who is co-leading the tour with me

Italian Club of Salt Lake

If you're in Utah or coming for a visit and are interested in events related to Italian culture, music, or food, check the Italian Club of Salt Lake (ICSL) website for information: .

The ICSL also offers wonderful Italian language classes in a fun and comfortable setting at Raw Bean Cafe', at 611 South West Temple (great access off I-15). I'm the coordinator of the classes as well as a student, and believe me, the classes are great!