Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Family Reunion - Near Lucca in Tuscany, Italy

The main point of this trip to Europe was to have a family reunion. This was a rare opportunity to get the entire family together. Rory was starting many months of backpacking in Europe and further east; Liana is in London and may not be there much longer; Kent was available to come from Azerbaijan; and Gary was sufficiently recovered from his back operation to sit on an airplane long enough to get to Milan.

I decided I wanted to see Slovenia and accomplish a goal that I have had for many years, and that was to see the Lake Plitvice National Park (check out the blog post to see why). So I went about 10 days earlier than everyone else.

I found my flight by using Orbitz, and was able to fly Spokane-Venice return for $674, by booking in June. I could also have flown into Milan, Verona or Munich for the same price. Flying to Frankfurt, Paris or London was much more expensive.

Our reunion was held at a rental in northern Tuscany. I found the rental on a holiday rental website. By booking during the shoulder season, we were able to find a nice place, that slept 5, for just over $100CDN a night. I specifically looked for a place with a good kitchen as we planned to do a lot of cooking.

Kent requested a wood burning oven, and I was able to search for that on the above website. You can see more pictures of our rental here.

This is a picture of the kitchen, with marble countertops and sink, before the empty wine bottles began to accumulate....
These are bags of flour - 1kg only as big ones just weren't available. Note the bags labelled Manitoba.

Some bags are of flour specifically mixed for use in making pizza crust (the Farina Tipo 00), which is mainly soft wheat. It has much less gluten than hard wheat, which is the wheat used for bread. I much prefer the softer crust, and the crust is easier to make thin.

First you make a fire in the oven, well ahead of eating time. It must be reduced to hot coals, which are then pushed to the side, before it is ready for pizza. With plenty of flour on the underside of the pizza crust, you slide it onto a long paddle with an aluminum blade and then slide the pizza onto the base of the hot oven. Place the metal door in place, wait about 5 or so minutes, and take out a magnificent and tasty pizza! Kent had both the technique and the recipe mastered!! Best pizza ever!!

For more info about these oven, visit this amazing website: Forno Bravo. And if you decide to build or buy such an oven I would love to be invited over for pizza!
The white on top is buffalo mozzarella. Yes, its made from the milk of water buffalo. These animals produce a rich milk while eating low grade vegetation.

The cheese is very different from the firm, grateable mozzarella cheese we buy in Canadian stores. It is packed in water. Looks a little weird doesn't it? It melts beautifully. I wished I could have brought some home, but Customs regulations prohibit the import of cheese packed in liquid.

I was tempted to bring ricotta too, as it is far superior to that which we have available here, however I wasn't sure if it would be allowed.

However I was sure that Parmesan cheese would be allowed, so I did pick up quite a few packages of it, at a cost of one third of what we pay here.

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