When I last trod the cobblestones of central and southern Italy in 2009, I thought my days of strenuous touring were over. I also thought I had retired the purple daypack I had been using since 1992, but there it was, stashed away, serendipitously awaiting the miraculous offer of yet another pilgrimage.
Katie Duffy, owner-operator of Cambria’s Buona Ventura custom travel services, contacted me with an offer I could not refuse. Would I join her on a 10-day trip through northern Italy, Switzerland and Germany? Would I? Watch my dust as I grabbed my passport and aforesaid purple day pack, and arranged to get to LAX, to join up with 10 other pilgrims.
Katie had spent a year arranging for us to view the Shroud of Turin (rarely on display since the Middle
Ages) at the same time the villagers of Oberammergau in Bavaria were presenting their five-hour Passion Play. The latter is done every 10 years since the Middle Ages in thanksgiving for their deliverance from the plague.
Midway, we stopped in Milan to view da Vinci’s Last Supper, with many other opportunities to celebrate daily Mass at various Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque churches and shrines. The entire experience was a miracle of profundity.
And, yes, we enjoyed a great variety of cuisine, including a memorable entrée at a tratorria in the main plaza of Turin—veal braised in a red wine sauce with bouquet garni, finished with a rich demi-glace, and sweet pickled cippolini onions caramelized in the same sauce.
We also drove through the lovely canton of Ticino in a sub-Alpine valley of Switzerland, from whence many of Cambria’s early-day Swiss Italian resident families emigrated, also sampling various gelatos at Lake Como.
Back home, I enjoyed Ellie Brown’s moussaka at her Greek dinner, traveled over the hill for a Russian concert benefiting Mission San Miguel, and then to seventh annual Paella Festival in Templeton. Chef Jeffrey Scott treated us to a unique fusion of
Spanish and Asian flavors— small paella croquettas dredged in Panko crumbs, deep fried and then dressed with an aoli infused with Oriental citrus and a puree of bright green peas. Muy delicioso!
It was like old home week when Dallas Bolt greeted me from behind his vast pan of spicy paella. Several of us from Santa Rosa Church had spent a lively afternoon at his Tenth Street Basque Cafe in San Miguel last spring, for a full luncheon he specially prepared for us. Now Bolt served his spicy chicken and sausage paella under the big trees in Templeton’s park on the mild summery day, made even tastier with the enticing aromas of many pans being cooked on-site.
I was thrilled to receive a copy of his cookbook just released, with the intriguing title of “Never Cook Bacon Naked,” and have been delighted with the variety of recipes as well as his chatty Cook’s Notes. The book is available for about $20 dollars at the café as well as on Amazon.com.(Go to
www.tenthstreetbasquecafe.comfor more.) With his permission, please try these warm tapas (little snacks) with your red wine:
4 medium unpeeled Russet potatoes
1 large sweet potato
2 tblsp. cooking oil
1-1/2 tblsp. paprika
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. coarse black pepper
1 tsp. salt
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/2 cup mayonnaise
4 tsp. chopped garlic
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash the potatoes and peel the sweet potato. Cut all into bite-sized pieces, and place into a shallow baking dish; stir in the oil. Mix the spices well, sprinkle over the potatoes and toss until well-coated. Cover and bake about 1-3/4 hours.
Remove from the oven and mix in the mayonnaise and garlic. Turn onto a platter and serve hot as a side dish or Tapas. Dallas uses whichever potatoes are in season at the peak of their flavor, but you must always use the sweet potatoes, “for the creaminess that only they can bring to the table.” I used some small blue spuds for added color.