May Newsletter from Rome and Ferentino

Today I have been sitting confirming all my restaurant reservations for the Istanbul group. We leave next Friday and already my mouth is watering as I think of the splendid meals awaiting us. In Istanbul all the great culinary influences can be seen and we do a gastronomic tour of Turkey without changing hotel. We can even enjoy the succulent specialities of Hatay province, near Syria, at Antiochia  restaurant without safety worries and hazardous travel. In this case it is certainly better to arrive, rather than travel hopefully. I am an indefatigable traveler but I have no time for the Taoist saying “The journey is the reward.”

The weather has been very changeable and we have had blistering hot days alternated with rain and very chilly evenings. When I came to Ferentino last weekend I had to put on the central heating for a few hours as the thick stone walls hold the winter chill. I bless this in July and August but I do hate the col

I seem to have eaten out more than usual as I was asked to do an olive oil tasting at a dinner at Aroma, Palazzo Manfredis’s restaurant which has the Colosseum as a backdrop, and to give a talk about the menu at Viva Voce in the new Villa Agrippina. This is Don Alfonso’s new place in Rome and the menu contained many of my favourites from the Amalfi Coast.  In Ferentino I took friends to the old windmill La Mola at Morolo and to Amadeo at Trattoria Consolare, just opposite my house. When I decided to spend some time in Ferentino there was no restaurant in the historic centre but now there is this excellent place on my doorstep. Both restaurants are worth a day’s outing from Rome.

The spring vegetables are filling the market stalls and the artichokes are still good as Italy seems to have discovered a way to stretch the seasons. This means we can still enjoy making Vignarola for another week or so. I am giving the recipe at the end for those who don’t know it.

I have been spending a lot of time organizing a two-week complete immersion course for ten young chefs from the Yemen. It has taken much time to try and get the visas but it is now looking hopeful. A friend, or someone I believed to be a friend, suggested I went to the Yemen instead. I looked up the UK Foreign Office advice and learned that kidnapping and murder were quite common and that they were advising all British nationals to leave the country as they could not offer any consular assistance since they had withdrawn most of their staff. I made an irate phone call to my ‘friend’ but he swears he had no idea it was so dangerous. Should I believe him, I wonder ?

You will notice I make no mention of the political situation here in Italy. It is all beyond belief unless you have been living here as long as I have. Many years ago, before the euro, both Italy and the UK had financial problems. A British journalist called the countries ‘the two sick men of Europe’. He went on to say that in the UK the situation was serious but not grave, while in Italy the situation was grave but not serious. I was reminded of that last week when we had a public holiday on April 25 th and another on May 1st. Most Romans seemed to take a ponte (bridge) and enjoyed an extra holiday with no qualms. It is another instance of the distant ‘them’ while, when I talk about food it becomes ‘we’!

Schools and Gourmet Adventures

There is still space for Symi in June, and Puglia at the lovely hotel. Don Ferrante, in October.

Next year I am planning Sicily and Marrakech. Please let me know if you might be interested.



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