I hope you’re having fun!

Granseola e linguine
Birthday dinner: Granseola e linguine

It has been quite some time since we did a bit of socializing with the neighbors, so it was a surprise when the wife of one couple invited us to a restaurant birthday dinner. Her other half was turning the big – oops, maybe best not to share that here – and as far as birthdays go, the only part I care about is when the lights dim low and out comes cake and prosecco. Well these two did one better because they know the chef. Can you just imagine a gigantic plate coming at you with a spider crab on top? We each had one to ourselves.

Naturally the conversation turned to August vacations and my ears perked up when I heard the mention of Valencia. Spain has been on my travel destination list for the longest time, and according to birthday boy, Valencia’s climate is temperate year-round (it’s on the same longitude as Calabria in Italy). Lucky b*stards! My guess is that they’re drowning themselves in sangria at a seaside resort, but if it were us, the things in front of my lens would pretty much look like this. Please note: all flickr images licensed under creative commons.

Valencia’s flag by Paolo Sammicheli on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía, Valencia (Spain), HDR
Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia by Marc on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Valencia - cathedral - Capillo Santo Caliz
Holy Grail Chapel by Martijn ten Napel on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Churro stand, ValenciaValencia
Churro stand by Howard Batchelor | paella by Mauro Ventura on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Valencia - Mercat Central - seafood
Mercat Central by Martijn ten Napel on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, best viewed large

Right now it feels like fall season has arrived in the chestnut forest so I want to get through the rest of my hot weather recipe experiments before it’s too cold to bother. Hard to believe that in 3 days Christmas will be just 4 months away.

Summer has left the building.

There’s something about Alice

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Alice Zaslavsky

In the show she had zero fashion sense, wore 80’s style glasses, and was the craziest of the lucky Top 10 to make it to Italy. She also made reference to Nietzsche upon meeting italian chef Massimo Bottura, and was the only contestant carrying an italian phrase book in Rome.

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Alice Zaslavasky

She threw Jamie Oliver* in a judge’s face (see his reaction above) when he challenged that her antipasti was not enough to satisfy the italians for the village feast. D’oh! DID HE NOT READ her t-shirt? Veni, Vidi, Vici – I came, I saw, I conquered. Her antipasti was voted best dish by the italians. *Referring to Jamie’s simple yet flavor-packed style of great antipasti.

Alice ZaslavaskyBut regardless of how crazy and quirky Alice Zavlasky was in season 4 of Masterchef Australia, I was really impressed by her Squid Ink Gnocchi with Artichokes in the Rome-on-a-plate cooking challenge. I’ve never seen gnocchi al nero di seppia on any restaurant menu here, and google revealed only 1 italian blogger who had made black gnocchi BEFORE the episode aired. I’ve read all sorts of nasty on what cuisine-challenged viewers thought of the ‘little black rocks’, but I swear there’s nothing awful about squid ink in this dish. The soft gnocchi have a subtle hint of the sea that pairs well with the fried ‘chokes. A drizzle of lemon emulsion and the nutty, sweet-salty flavor of shaved parmigiano ties it all together unbelievably well. Squid ink is the new black!

Squid Ink Gnocchi with Deep Fried Artichokes and Bitter Lemon Emulsion