Eating Out Is Not All It’s Cooked Up To Be…

Pasta....

Pasta….

I expect many of you will disagree with this post but having had a summer of too many restaurant meals I have been giving some thought to this area of our lives.

I love food, there is no doubt about that and we have a huge number of places to choose from to eat here in Italy and on the whole it’s not too expensive. What it is though is mostly variations on a theme. Antipasti, (cold meats, cheese, olives etc.,) Primo (pasta dishes) Secondo (meat or fish) Contorni (sides, salads, veg, potatoes etc.,) and dolci (desserts). The meals are humungous and it takes about three hours to get through them. We, that is The Man and I have come to the conclusion that if we eat out in Italy we want to do it at lunchtime so that by the time we go to bed the food has had time to be partly digested. If we eat out in the evening then invariably we can’t sleep and suffer from indigestion. I know we’re getting on a bit but that’s not necessarily the problem.

Apart from the lack of variety in the Italian restaurants there are very few if any other types of restaurant other than Italian in this area. Fine if you’re on holiday but when you live here? We need a little more choice and I did find something different in October…

I’m not a lover of burgers and American food but we had visitors who I took for a walk along the seashore at Grottamare one lunchtime. Neither of my guests wanted to eat seafood and most of the restaurants by the sea serve predominantly fish. I remembered I’d see something about an American Food place opening in San Benedetto only a few kilometres down the road. A quick phone call (thank you India) and off we went. It was brilliant. What a change it made to eat something different. I feared it would be quasi American with pasta definitely showing somewhere on the menu but no, Caesar Salad, burgers (real), pancakes, maple syrup, (yum) American Cheesecake, it was like being in New York and I was frantically texting my daughter in Brooklyn, I don’t think she could understand why I was so excited.

The White Bakery

The White Bakery

I really enjoyed my lunch and felt it was worth every cent…

Recently, last week in fact, we went to the UK. The choice was huge, Italian, English, French, Thai, Indian, Moroccon, Mexican and that was just in Lyme Regis! (joke). I suffered from indigestion nearly everyday, a full stomach, a few pounds heavier and an empty wallet by the end of the trip.

In Bristol we had; a disappointing curry (3/10), fish and chips, very good (9/10) it was in the top 100 fish&chip shops in the UK. One lunch was taken at the Waterfront, watery soup, salty mussels and not so good fish pie (4/10)

In Bournemouth a fish restaurant we went to was very good (8/10) but quite pricey and afterwards we decided they were trying to be too fussy and less fancy would have been preferable. A bit of indigestion kicked in around 11pm. We did have a fantastic breakfast though in our hotel, a Full English (10/10) from which we are deprived here and although I cook it at home, the bacon is not right, the sausages just not the same and baked beans are about 2.50 euro a tin!

Not only do I love food, I love cooking and have come to the conclusion that eating at home is actually much better than eating out at a restaurant. Years ago, eating out or getting a takeaway (only pizza takeaway here) was a special treat and now it has become the norm for many people. At home I can conjure up most things, I bring over spices from the UK so that we can have Thai curries, I make shepherd’s pie, roast dinners (with all the trimmings and lashings of gravy), soups and fish dishes. I also cook pasta. The Man loves my cooking, it doesn’t cost us much and we don’t get indigestion!

I’m not dissing all restaurants and I’m not saying I never want to go to any again. I love meeting up with friends and going out. But, I have to say that it’s mostly better if you meet up at someone’s house and take a dish or two. Sharing is caring. Also you get to speak to everyone that way. When you are at a big table and go out to dinner you can only really converse with your immediate neighbours. I think a romantic dinner in a restaurant is a great thing to do on a special occasion, except on Valentine’s night when they hike the prices up everywhere.

My favourite restaurants locally.

I Piceni (romantic dinner) Fab desserts.

Dessert I Piceni

Dessert I Piceni

Mamma Rosa’s (family and friends) Nutella pizza anyone?

Parco Galeano (family and friends) good homemade bread gets thumbs up.

Re Squarchio (family and friends, or romantic for two) quality cooking

Ristorante Roma (a must for Sunday lunch…although you won’t get roast dinner!) Definitely a family favourite! (their site seems to be down at the moment so I’ll add a link later)

Best meal out this year was back in April in Taverna Del Lupo in Gubbio where we had the tastiest and most beautifully cooked lamb we’ve eaten since being in Italy. Oh and of course the wine is good and soooo much cheaper here.

Taverna Del Lupo Gubbio

Taverna Del Lupo Gubbio

Off to Thailand in December, I cannot wait to sample the food. Maybe I’ll change my mind about eating out?

I fly through the air with the greatest of ease…NOT

aeroplane

I paid a short visit to the UK last week to see some friends and family. Before I left I got in a panic because the forecast in Italy was not good, there was much talk of Cyclone Penelope, she was bringing bad storms with high winds, rain, thunder and lightening. I’m not the best flyer and panicked that the take off would be dramatic with the plane trying to fight its way off the ground, battling 60 mile and hour winds, bump all over the place and people would scream and shout and I would silently try to control the rapid beating of my heart, the sweaty palms and jelly legs with Yoga breathing; count slowly to four and breathe in through the nose and count slowly to four and breathe out through the mouth, or is it the other way round? Either way it doesn’t seem to calm me or slow the heartbeat, believe me I try it for every take-off and landing.

Before I left for the airport I emailed all my children, just in case…well just in case. They replied with suitable encouragement, ‘you’ll be okay Mum’…’the flight will be fine’…I put on my lucky bracelet and underwear, (yes lucky underwear), I’m not superstitious at all!

I collected my car from the garage – it went like a dream having had the bearings in the gearbox replaced – still no idea of cost though. As soon as I do know I’ll post on here. The weather was pretty dire as I drove to Ancona, and I was intent on observing every little change in the sky, watching the tree tops for the slightest change in movement showing the wind had eased and I imagined myself walking from the car-park to the terminal building getting soaked, cold and with the umbrella being more of a hindrance than a help. I was going to have to dump the umbrella before check-in as obviously it’s considered a lethal weapon and Ryanair would definitely not allow me to take it on board, I expect for a price I could have put it in the hold though. However, I didn’t need it, Yay!

I arrived at the carpark and found complete stillness in the air, very little cloud and no rain. Penelope had obviously decided to stick to the west coast of the country and move south enveloping Tuscany and Umbria, avoiding Le Marche altogether. It’s a mistake a lot of people make, they stick to the ‘other side’ thinking it’s better because it’s been a popular destination with holiday makers and ex-pats for long time. Sadly many people still don’t take the decision to investigate Le Marche with its hilltop villages, beaches and mountains. We have it all.

I do love living here but then I like to go back to the UK to visit friends and to see family, which means I HAVE to fly quite a few times a year. We have only driven back once but it costs more money and takes more time. The advantage of driving of course is that you can fill your car with goodies from England and drive them back. But then there’s always a friend to help with that. Thank you Hugh and Helen for taking me to the shops, I’m looking forward to the delivery next week. Thanks also to Jean and Steve for my stay in Manchester and visit to Hebden Bridge, a blog about that is to follow folks.

I got just as panicky before the return flight as the forecast was again horrendous with high winds, storms, people in Norfolk evacuating their homes,  the full malarkey. I experienced torrential rain hammering on the window of my bedroom and the rattling of shutters which, disturbed my night’s sleep and I awoke in a sweaty state of fear, because of the weather not because it was a trip with Ryanair. Luckily for me it must have blown itself out as the flight was again smooth and incident free. I really must get over my dread of flying, but I think it will stay with me forever. It began after a bad experience about 30 years ago landing at Hong Kong airport (the old one). The plane rocketed around all over the place, I was frozen with fear, my head pushed into the back of the seat in front and two, yes two gin and tonics, one in each hand held high. I couldn’t drink them.  My husband asked the hostess if they could give me something which they kindly did, unfortunately it didn’t work until we’d landed and I then fell asleep in the taxi, missing all the sights on the way to the hotel.  It didn’t help being told afterwards that Hong Kong airport had been on number 1 alert and I think we were the last plane to land before they battened everything down and closed the airport!

I’m not so scared that I can’t fly at all, I know I have to if I want to travel, but when I look around at my fellow passengers they always look so casual and relaxed…but… are they?