Summer in Norfolk and a long weekend in Italy

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The last week in August was mainly a week of fun for me; not a lot of work. Monday was a bank holiday so we were all off and I had Tuesday and Friday off. Wednesday and Thursday I worked from Norfolk and so had the evenings there at least.

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Monday was a gloriously sunny day so we went on a little trip to Holkham Hall with the children. First we spent some time in the lovely (and big) playground and then went for a little walk around the estate, stopping by the lake so we could all go on a little rowing adventure. So in we went, four adults, three children and a small dog all in the same rowing boat. It was such a lovely little outing and the perfect activity on a hot day. While the children and their parents stayed to have lunch my boyfriend’s mother and I drove to the golf club to have lunch with our boy, and also the proud winner of that weekend’s golf competition!

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After lunch we went down to the beach for a swim and drying off in the sun, before grabbing an ice cream on the way to the car.

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In the evening we toasted the winner with champagne and had a lovely dinner prepared partly by us all. Somebody did the food shopping, another took care of the wine, somebody manned the barbecue and yours truly contributed with a smoked paprika butter for the steak, potato salad, tomato salad and a green salad with avocado.

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The next day I had the day off so we made the most of it with a little road trip. Starting with crayfish baguettes in Brancaster Straithe because I had heard so much about them and then a little boat trip in Wells-next-the-Sea.

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It was really fun to see a working (and thriving) commercial harbour with boatload after boatload of fresh lobster and crab. Our little boat trip went out to one of the lovely beaches and back out again and it was so much being on the sea for a little while.

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After a lovely artisan ice cream we drove back to get ready for a dinner party. It started with rosé and blinis with smoked salmon and sour cream in the garden and then we moved inside for the rest of the evening. Another lovely evening!

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Wednesday I locked myself in a room during the day to work, but came out for lunch and of course in the evening. We had fresh crab with mayonnaise and salad for lunch and it was probably the best lunch that week! So yummy!

In the evening we had a little date night, just him and me, and went to The Jolly Sailor for pizzas and then to another pub for a drink afterwards. So nice with a chilled and cosy evening just the two of us.

On Thursday I worked during the day and in the evening we had lasagne for dinner, followed by meringues, berries and cream for pudding. Then it was time to say goodbye to lovely Norfolk and drive back to London as we were going away again early the next morning.

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On the Friday morning we flew to Milan, rented a car and drove to Piedmont where our friends were waiting for us.

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After some delays we arrived just in time for the wine tasting and basically started our stay by drinking four large glasses of lovely local wines. A good start indeed. After a very speedy shower and change of clothes, the whole group (we were here for a wedding!) had aperitivo outside, followed by a whole buffet of antipasti followed by pasta and pudding at the table. And the wine was flowing! Such a lovely evening toasting the happy couple and listening to Italian live music. Around midnight the day had caught up with us (we had about 4 hrs sleep the previous night plus all the travelling) so after a quick dip in the pool we went to bed and slept and slept.

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The next day (our friend’s wedding day!) started with a late breakfast and then we joined the others by the pool. We had lovely salads for lunch (caprese and ham and melon) and then I decided to practice my speech but I ended up tweaking it as well.

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Then it was time to get ready for the wedding and join everyone but the happy couple for bubbly and nibbles before we followed the cellist to the spot among the vines where the wedding ceremony would take place. It was such a beautiful wedding! Afterwards we walked back down to the hotel to toast the happy couple before we sat down for dinner.

It was a lovely and long wedding breakfast with great food, nice wines and lots of speeches, singing and games. Afterwards we watched the bride and groom cut the cake and have their first dance. Then the dancing continued until the early hours when most of the guests gathered by the pool for a swim before going to bed.

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The next day we had brunch at the hotel and after some more time by the pool we packed up and drove to Acqui Terme for lunch, at a place recommended by the sommelier at the hotel.

Next we stopped at some Roman ruins and made a few stops on the way to the airport.

Such a lovely week! It feels so much longer when you visit different places. And I loved that we got a little bit more of the gorgeous summer weather, both in Norfolk and of course, in Italy (where I definitely would expect it!).

 

Eataly, our saviour

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Our last day in Italy wasn’t fun at all food wise. It started fine with a nice breakfast at the hotel in Ravenna and we had a good drive back to Bologna as well, but then it went downhill from there. Sob.

We really wanted to have lunch at Casa Minghetti (the cute bar and restaurant where we had a pre-dinner drink on the Saturday), but they were closed. So we then walked to a restaurant Caroline got recommended by a friend, that according to Google was open, only to find another closed door. Most places were open the other holiday days, but for some reason everything was closed on Easter Monday.

So we walked back to the centre of town to find only a handful of restaurants open for business, serving the same amount of people as the other days when everything was open which of course resulted in full restaurants and massive queues. By this point we were both hangry and about to cry. So we had to decide between a shorter queue for a lighter meal (it seemes less popular) or longer queue for proper cooked food. In desperation we chose the former and went to Eataly (they have a restaurant in New York too, that you may have heard of) as they had lots of tables and a fairly short queue. We weren’t really in the mood for cheese and charkuterie, but as we sat down with it in front of us it was heaven. The mortadella was actually the best one I had during the whole trip!

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The charkuteries from left to right (top pic): mortadella, serrano, pancetta and salami and the cheese from left to right (above pic) were: a nice hard cheese I don’t know the name of, mozzarella, parmesan and dolcelatte.

After lunch our plan was to buy food we wanted to take home with us. We had eyed up courgette flowers at every greengrocer since our first day here but as they wilt quickly we wanted to buy them fresh on our last day. That back-fired as most the food shops were closed as well. What was going on?! In the end I managed to find parmesan, ricotta, salsiccia, erborinato cheese and asparagus to take home, but it was a real mission. Still quite happy with our efforts we drove to the airport only to find out that our flight was two hours delayed. No probs, we read magazines and enjoyed a glass of wine in the lounge. But there was no food, so after consulting an online map of the airport we thought we’d have dinner at one of the two restaurants after security.

Again, things back-fired. There was only one restaurant and one cafeteria after security but the restaurant was closed and the café didn’t really sell anything edible apart from two scary looking sandwiches, ice cream and snacks so we had another glass of wine and some parmesan snacks for dinner. Now, it’s almost funny how we could have such a bad food day in Italy of all places. But in the moment it wasn’t funny at all. I’ve never been so happy to come back to Heathrow and see an open M&S late at night!

The rest of our trip was absolutely fab, and luckily both Caroline and I react the same way to not getting fed, so at least we were in it together.

Eataly, Via Degli Orefici 19, 40126 Bologna, Italy

Dinner in Ravenna: Enoteca Ca’ de Ven

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After the lunch in Cierva, we drove to the city of Ravenna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site by the coast. We checked in to the hotel and walked around the town, which was quickly done, and then sat down outside on Pizza del Popolo for a drink (frankly, one has earned one after driving in Italy!).

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With our Aperol Spritz and prosecco we also received a basket of crisps and a plate full with different nibbles: pizza slices, toast, chicken nuggets and a ham sandwich cut into pieces. Quite random stuff, but I like the idea of receiving a snack with your drink.

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We then had dinner at Ca’ de Ven, a very large and popular rustic restaurant. There must have been well over a hundred people eating here when we arrived, so do book ahead.

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We really wanted to try the local speciality piadina, two flatbreads sandwiched with a filling in between and as this seemed to be a very popular place for it we asked the waiter to recommend a filling and we thoroughly enjoyed his recommendation of creamy cheese, ham and rocket. It was really nice but also very filling. I recommend sharing one like we did or have a whole one as a light meal.

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Then we, unsurprisingly, had a pasta each for our main course. My ravioli with asparagus was nice, but not fantastic, but it was nice to eat some vegetables after all the cheese I had for lunch.

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Caroline chose a very interesting pasta made with eggs, flour and breadcrumbs which created a coarser texture. It also came with asparagus, but also tomatoes and clams. It was nice and different.

The food here didn’t blow us away, but it seemed to be a very popular place, filled with locals and the piadina was great so I would recommend coming here if you find yourself in Ravenna.

Ca’ de Ven, Via Corrado Ricci 24, 48100 Ravenna, Italy

Lunch by the coast: Cruderia Al Porto, Cierva

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Our third day in the Emilia-Romagna area we drove to the coast for lunch. It seemed like all Italians had made the same plan for Easter Sunday as us, so it took us a good half an hour to even find a parking space about a 15 minute walk from the restaurarant. But it was a nice day for a walk so we didn’t mind.

We started our lunch with some thinly sliced raw fish (tuna, salmon, octopus and two types of white fish) served with a grassy olive oil and lemon juice – nice and fresh!

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Thinking of the lovely red prawns from the night before we decided to also share a red prawn tartar with endive, fried garlic and saffron. It was nice but sadly not as fantastic as we had hoped.

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The restaurant was full to the brim with guests, and the staff was very busy looking after all the guests, but between our starters and our main courses it took about 45 minutes. I honestly think they had forgotten about us, and as we were absolutely starving (the starters made us more hungry if anything) it was a long wait.

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My ravioli with burrata (inside the ravioli – such a brilliant idea!) with large prawns and the most amazing tomato sauce with both depth and sweetness, was well worth the wait. It was one of the best dishes I had during our trip and it was just fantastic. So wish I had the recipe so I could recreate it at home.

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Sadly Carolines squid ink pasta with squid and bottarga wasn’t as impressive. In fact, we couldn’t understand how it was produced in the same kitchen as my delicious ravioli.

OK, the actual pasta was well cooked and the squid was nice, but it lacked a lot in flavour and didn’t really come together as a dish. Such a shame!

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Even though we were (finally) full after our pasta dishes we couldn’t resist the mini tiramisus we saw carried around the restaurant on trays, and it was just a perfect ending to the meal. It was great in flavour but a little more crunchy than your regular tiramisu but I liked it!

I’m a bit ambivalent in my opinion of this restaurant; my ravioli was extraordinarily good and I really want to come back to eat it again, but at the same time I don’t think the other dishes we had quite measure up, but since they can produce that amazing ravioli I’m willing to give them another chance. They were incredibly busy, and the potential is there, I just wish that all the dishes were as good as the one I had.

Al Porto, Lungomare D’Annunzio 2 – 48015 Cervia Ra, Italy

Pasta Bolognese in Bologna!

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After our pre-dinner snacks on the Saturday evening we had dinner at Drogheria della Rosa, a very old school restaurant in Bologna. When we arrived, we were shown to our table and after ordering water and wine a starter arrived. We hadn’t seen a menu or ordered anything, and we soon realised they gave everyone the same antipasti, we just didn’t expect it. But the tender guinea fowl vegetables and delicious buffalo mozzarella was lovely. I would never have thought to try this combination myself, but it really worked; I guess you can have mozzarella with everything.

After finishing the starter the waitress came and told us about the menu that day. As I said, old school.

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One of my food goals for this trip  was of course to have a proper pasta Bolognese when I was visiting the very city it’s from, and this place seemed to be a good bet to have just that. And it was. The lovely tagliatelle was coated sparingly with sauce but the flavours were amazing. It was just right and I’m so glad I had it here. Caroline, who doesn’t even like Bolognese, enjoyed it too and that’s probably the best praise you can get!

Her pasta with artichokes was delicious too! Plenty of flavours, quite salty and just yummy. I definitely recommend a visit here when you’re in Bologna.

As expected we were more than full after all the food this evening, so we declined pudding and walked to a bar by the main square and enjoyed a glass of wine outside under the heaters.

Drogheria della Rosa, via Cartoleria 10, 40124 Bologna, Italy

Pre-dinner nibbles in Bologna

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On the Saturday in Bologna we went all out before dinner and had pre-dinner drinks and nibbles at three different places. There were so many things we wanted to eat and places to try and not enough time, so this was a good solution.

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We started with this little (yes, it was intended for one person but we shared it) charkuterie and cheese platter at Zerocinquantino Vino e Panino, and a glass of wine each. I love the fact that when you order ‘a glass of white wine’, the waiters ask if you want still or sparkling, as if it were water. I do like my sparkling wines though, and later this same evening Caroline introduced me to another Italian sparkling wine, besides prosecco;  franciacorta, with smaller bubbles. So nice!

On the platter we had mortadella, salami, serrano, a type of fresh cheese which I later identified as dolcelatte in a deli shop, a nice hard cheese and an amazing blue cheese called erborinato. Remember to try it when you’re in Italy! We also got to try the local tigelli bread which was nice but extremely filling.

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Next we stopped at a fishmongers on the same street, which sold fish and seafood ready to eat, like tartars, oysters, red prawns etc. And wine. But we just had some seafood. We both love the raw red prawns so had a plate of those each. They’re so sweet and juicy and absolutely delicious raw!

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We also tried a oyster each, I can’t remember what type or where it was from but it was really nice. The fresh shellfish was a great palate cleanser before our actual dinner though; we actually felt less full after the prawns than when we came into the shop.

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We had time for another quick stop before dinner so when we walked past  Casa Minghetti with it’s popular outside seating we decided to go inside for a glass of wine. Even though the restaurant (inside and outside) was full to the brim with people the staff welcomed us in and gave us some space at the bar counter. The atmosphere here was great – really friendly with a mixture of different types of people, good music and friendly staff.

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The wine was nice, and the cocktails they made looked great too. We also got three different types of snacks with our drink. It’s another thing I like about Italy, you always get snacks with your drink.

Zerocinquantino Vino e Panino, Via Pescherie vecchie 3/e, Bologna

Fiskaffären kan jag tyvärr inte hitta namnet på, men den ligger på Via Pescherie Vechie, snett tvärsöver gatan från Zerocinquantino, mot Via Drapperie till. 

Casa Minghetti, Piazza Minghetti, 1A, 40124 Bologna, Italy

Franceschetta 58, Modena

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We rented a car on our second day in Bologna and I got a crash course in how the Italians drive, i.e. a bit crazy, but it was fun too.

The car took us to Modena, the city most famous for balsamic vinegar and the second best restaurant in the world right now; Osteria Francescana.

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We were sadly not lucky enough to nab one of the twelve tables there, despite being waitlisted for every meal, so I guess we’ll just have to come back. I would sooo like to try Massimo Bottura’s iconic cooking.

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But when I researched restaurants in Modena I discovered that chef Bottura has another restaurant in town; the much more low key Franceschetta 58, so that’s where we had lunch. They only serve a buffet for lunch, but it was very very good. I would have liked to try the a’la carte as well though, so I need to come back here one evening.

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The buffet had both a cold and a warm section. The cold section (above) contained charcuterie, parmesan, bread, salads and cakes for pudding.

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I tried most things from the cold buffet and everything was excellent. The charcuterie was very nice, just like the aged Parmesan. I also got to try proper ricotta (light years away from what we can buy in a packet at Waitrose), and it was mild but salty and very fluffy in texture. The salads were also very good and I especially enjoyed the one with bitter leaves, pears and crutons but also liked the one with farro, feta and courgette.

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The hot dishes the staff plated for us. We had the pasta as primi and then came back for the main courses.

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Both pasta dishes were amazing! The spaghetti hoops to the left (does anyone know the proper name for this pasta shape?) with speck, walnuts and endive was very earthy in flavour and very nice. But the orecchiette with salsiccia and tomato sauce was out of this world. I still dream about it; it was that good.

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The main courses were great too. I absolutely loved the beef stew with cream and mustard (top right) and the sweet roasted vegetables. The potato purée was heavenly creamy and the pork stew with an undefined bitter vegetable was nice too.

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There were two types of cake for pudding, one with chocolate and nuts that was rather dry in texture and not really my thing, but Caroline liked it. I preferred the other one with apple and pears.

If you find yourself in Modena I urge you to go here. It’s one of the best buffets I’ve ever had. And although it’s simple cooking and not extravagant in any way it’s done very very well. It’s also very good value for money; all of this gorgeous food only cost €17!

Franceschetta 58, Via Vignolese, 58, 41124 Modena, Italy