Thursday, December 3, 2015

Wild Mushroom, Cheese and Sausage Tart

         I have sung the praises of The East End Mushroom Company more than once.  I have the greatest affection for Jane Maguire and John Quigley who have put heart and soul into their company.  They now offer shiitake, maitake and blue oyster mushrooms grown right in their ‘farm’ in Cutchogue, NY.  And they very often ‘import’ other seasonal varieties for the “Mushroom Capital of the World”, Kennett Square, PA. These include more exotics like Velvet Pioppinis, White/Brown Beeches, along with more familiar Creminis and Portobellos. Their mushrooms are so good, I constantly keep an eye out for any recipe requiring mushrooms just so I can use them.  Now they’ve started selling dried mushrooms. Go to their website, and see how you can buy their mushrooms.  They make a great gift for all the cooks on your list.  Or save them for yourself.  Then you can come home and make this tart, of my own invention, I am happy to say, with their terrific mushrooms. Wild Mushroom, Cheese and Sausage Tart.  You can cut the finished in quarters and serve it for lunch or a light supper. Or you can cut it into two-inch squares and make a perfect hors d’oeuvre for holiday entertaining.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Day Fifteen of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Que c'est triste Venise

         The last port of call on Viking Star’s Mediterranean Odyssey was Venice.  Beautiful Venezia, La Serenissima, so-called because the once all-powerful city state was referred to in Italian as the Most Serene Republic of Venice or Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia. No matter how many times I have been there, the city fascinates me, captivates me and entrances me in a way no other place on earth does.  But always in Venice, beneath its breathtaking beauty, there is a hint of melancholy.  And this trip was no different.  Except here part of the sadness was that this was indeed the end of our amazing voyage.        
Viking Star at anchor off Monte Carlo 
I cannot remember any ship with a more devoted and extraordinary crew.  There is simply nothing that they cannot do for you.  They come from all over the world and they are universally gracious and kind.   I interviewed their leaders and it becomes crystal clear that the ship lives by the motto “Happy Crew, Happy Ship”.  It was thrilling to know that Viking Ocean, registered in Norway, with its corporate headquarters in
My favorite bartender, Dejan
from Montenegro
Switzerland, abides by labor laws that are unheard of on other lines.  There are, I was told, 1000 applications for each position on board.  There’s a test taken to assure compatibility with Viking’s ideals.  The crew are well cared-for and therefore they care for the passengers.  It’s hard to express how much I will miss them. 
My friends Mary (l.) and Esther Lee (r.)
flanking an unknown man wearing my
shirt and sweater.
Then there are the on-board friendships that are made. Some will last the cruise, some will go on far after it is over.  So this last day in Venice is a chance to say goodbye.  And fortunately, Viking Ocean doesn’t ceremoniously drop you on the dock.  There’s the better part of a day to explore the city and come back home to the ship for your farewells and disembarkation the next day.
         No matter how many times I’ve been to Venice, there is always more to explore.  Viking offers any number of excursions for first time visitors to the city.  But I chose Hidden Venice.  In all honesty, the most hidden thing about the tour was that Venice, perpetually mobbed by tourists, was hidden by throngs of people. Our arrival on a glorious Saturday did not help.  Our guide was a wildly amusing older man but the sights were mostly very familiar. Only his monologue was original.   But I was with two great new friends
My favorite waiter, I Ketat, on
of 60 Balinese crewmembers
with whom I had been laughing out loud since Sailaway in Barcelona.  So it hardly mattered when, at the end of the tour,  when we’d gone off to have one last Aperol Spritz, we managed to miss our group vaporetto back to the ship and had to self-navigate, which turned out to be a perfect way to enjoy one last glorious sunset.
         With Charles Azvanour’s “Que c’est triste Venise” (How sad is Venice) playing in my mind, I packed my bags, had one last glorious dinner of ‘Fegato alla Venezia’  (Calf’s Liver Venetian-style) and slipped off to sleep dreaming about the final chapter in my glorious trip: A reunion in Milano with my entire Italian family: The La Ferla-Minciotti-Amatruda clan all together in one glorious place.

Charles Azvanour’s Lyrics to “Que c’est triste Venise”

Que c'est triste Venise
Au temps des amours mortes
Que c'est triste Venise
Quand on ne s'aime plus
On cherche encore des mots
Mais l'ennui les emporte
On voudrait bien pleurer
Mais on ne le peut plus
Que c'est triste Venise
Lorsque les barcaroles
Ne viennent souligner
Que les silences creux
Et que le coeur se serre
En voyant les gondoles
Abriter le bonheur
Des couples amoureux