We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Wednesday, December 8. 2021
One cool sort of place they have in Italian towns are Bar Pasticcerias. A "bar" in Italy basically means a coffee joint like small Starbucks, but a Bar Pasticceria means they are serious about pastries. Besides outdoor cafes for watching the scene, I love the old, atmospheric Bar Pasticcerias where they do the usual, but also serve "light" lunches like a big tray of miscellaneous norceria with cheeses, wine, beer, and even cocktails. Some have a good selection of single malts. That's a 1 hr+ lunch, and you never want dinner. I can't remember the name of our favorite place.
You get to watch the old guys going in to pick up some dessert and having a glass of wine or some grappa while waiting. Also, elderly women with packages coming in to pick up some dessert, and having a glass of wine while waiting. Civilized. A place like that in Greenwich Village or Soho would be busy and make a lot of money.
Below a nice shop for Italian stuff. Remember that shops close during midday, then stay open until 9 or later. And restaurants don't begin serving dinner until 8.
Monday, December 6. 2021
Thursday, November 18. 2021
The ideal of the garden was architectural with the water features which exist to today and are studied by landscape architects. Even the plantings were architectural. Bishops and Cardinals were rich in those days. I think the water features were inspired by the Arab gardens in Spain.
Wednesday, November 17. 2021
Lazio is the province of Rome. Drive north, and it is flatland agricultural until you get well into Tuscany where there are good hills for grapes or, sometimes, woodlands.
The Italians seem to have protected agricutural lands from sprawl. Also, they made industrial zones. Surely fascistic, but it makes for pleasant landscapes. Beside that, it seems to be that Italians are gregarious people who love to hang out in their towns and villages.
These are newly-plowed wheat fields. Some fields this size are planted with alfalfa to be plowed under for spring planting. Excellent roads, as I have mentioned. Fun driving. No speed limits, really.
Monday, November 15. 2021
Why does this hilltop village have so many towers? No earthquakes. Lots of towns, like Siena, knocked their towers down for safety.
I had some speck (cinghiale speck, in fact) for lunch with a beer. Italian speck is not German speck. It is some sort of norceria. It came with those cheese-stuffed crackers which were amazing but I have no idea what they were.
Sunday, November 14. 2021
A good supper in a cool cafe (Etruria) in Volterra. As usual, we showed up as the first customers at 7 but the place filled up at 8. It was chilly so we sat inside. No big COVID deal in Italy.
Our Primo: Gnocchi with a pumpkin and sausage sauce. Far tastier than the photo looks. I had a glass or two of Brunello:
Secondo: Roast Cinghiale with a dolceforte sauce (vinegar + chocolate) on a bed of fried polenta, with a cotorno of canellini beans in some tasty broth because they had no spinach that night. Spinach sauteed in oil and garlic is one of my favorites with a secondi, but the beans were just fine.
Go for a nighttime stroll after and get lost as usual. But this can be found. Go for the pistachio:
Tuesday, November 9. 2021
I learned the word sprezzatura from there.
You can drive out the causeway to the mountainous island Monte Argentario and visit the cool seaside villages of Porto Santo Stefano and Porto Ercole. They are about diving, sailing, and professional fishing. Also, duck and woodcock hunting, judging from some bumper stickers.
Excellent cafe on the waterfront in San Stefano. Good beer. Euroland does not pasteurize beer.
Fun pics, etc. below the fold -
Continue reading "Hanging out around Orbetello, with some food"
Thursday, November 4. 2021
Thing about the Italian life style is that most people do not work long hours. Whether in small towns or in cities, the passagiatta at around 5 or 6 pm is a ritual with kids, old folks and, of course, dogs on leashes. Delightful. After that, some wine or aperatifs in a cafe. Dinner begins, mostly, 8-9 pm. That's when restaurants fill up. Many do not open for dinner until 7:30 or 8. After dinnertime, lovers are all out in the piazzas while kids kick soccer balls around in the dark. Cool.
Night is the time to get out and about. No danger except from growling dogs. Everything stays open at night.
Being American, dinner at 8 seems late but I am a guy who likes to get to the gym at 5 AM so I like to get to my books at 9 pm. (Readers know I do not do TV or movies.)
Sunset over the lagoon in Orbetello, which is not really a foreign tourist place but some Brits seem to like it (more night pics below the fold):
More evening and nighttime photos below -
Continue reading "La dolce vita: Evening and nighttime in Italia"
Tuesday, November 2. 2021
Etruscans, as I view it, were proto-Romans. A fresco sample:
Monday, November 1. 2021
Best thing of all: it is truffle season. Every decent place to eat had at least one truffle item on the menu, and we brought home two truffle pecorinos for Thanksgiving. Our lovely place outside Montepulciano (Villa Poggiano) put up a chalk board of things they would arrange for you to do each day. One of them was truffle-hunting. (Among others were a cooking class, horseback riding along the back dirt roads, and a rental Ferrari for 4 hours).
I declined the truffle hunt because you have to pay but of course you don't get to keep the black truffles. Also, I do not trust myself with a Ferrari although I do enjoy driving around rural Tuscany (in daylight only). We did happen to see a truffle hunter with his dogs on one of our own back-country hikes on which we got happily lost. I always have a half-roll of toilet paper in the bottom of my Osprey daypack. Who does not?
An American honeymooning couple at our place did everything on the list during their stay. Ah, youth.
As we drove around southern Tuscany looking at various hill towns and things (MapQuest got us everywhere), we stopped by a Roman bath, Bagno Vignoni. We had a nice light lunch there, pecorino ravioli with black truffle. Roasted root veggies on the side. That's Italian! I doubt that you have ever seen so many truffle slices in the USA. Naturally, I had a glass of Vino Nobile de Montepulciano. Fine for the purpose and helpful for driving confidence.
A few more pics, and a truffle hunting vid below the fold -
Continue reading "Reposted: Tuscany in October, with truffles"
Saturday, September 25. 2021
We have a new record - 2 Maggie's Farmers arrived to join us from Los Angeles, which represents a new long-distance visit. Always pleased when our readers travel to join us.
Originally, I was worried nobody would make it. As it turns out, we had a hardy group of 10 people and we had a great day. Thank you to everyone who joined us, each of whom had a little bit extra to add to the commentary as we wound our way from Chelsea, through Greenwich Village, the East Village and down into the Lower East Side. MacDougal Street allowed us to work through a Beatnik/Rock and Roll section, which was followed by a series of Stanford White buildings, among a variety of other interesting and fun items like Edna St. Vincent Millay's townhouse, Commodore Vanderbilt's first Manhattan home (replaced by a more modern building), Triangle Shirtwaist Fire building, the Turkish and Russian Baths, and many other locations.
We had a great lunch and a few beers at McSorley's. As I was mapping and herding, I didn't take too many pictures. Bird Dog was, and I'm sure he will share them.
Thanks to our good friend, the Manhattan Contrarian, for purchasing some delicious muffins at Magnolia Bakery, which we all shared.
We missed many of our regulars, and hope you will join us in the Spring when do this again in 2022.
Thursday, May 20. 2021
"Black Mountain." It is a nation, a tiny one on the Adriatic.
Friends are taking their kids for a ten-day trip there, now that Europe is open. They want hill-hiking, seafood, and something different.
The Eurozone is desperate to get American tourists back. 10% of the Eurozone's GDP has been tourism, before COVID.
Saturday, May 1. 2021
Sicilian food traditions (a crazy mix of Arab, Greek, French, Spanish, etc) have lots of lemons, blood oranges, raisins, capers, pistachios, mint, eggplant, couscous, fennel, bottarga, and of course fresh seafood. Also, piglet. Also, especially, grilled octopus.
Re the cingihale stew - no, Romans never made that. They did not have potatoes until after Columbus.
And the chef who puts porcini with vongole? What? No. Procini are one of my favorite flavors, but with seafood?
Re the Mafia in Sicily - forget about it. They are a shadow government and they prevent crime in their own ways. It is a non-issue unless you have a business there.
Monday, March 22. 2021
Saturday, February 20. 2021
Pic is a Northern Italian classic: Veal Tonnato
When I grew up, "Italian food" meant various forms of wheat (no egg) pasta with red glop on top, and maybe meatballs or eggplant. That, plus pizza and Italian grinders. Also, Lasagna I guess, made from an American cookbook.
They don't make grinders in Italy, and their pizzas aren't any good in my view. (I gave up on them. American wood-cooked pizzas can be pretty good, though. Crust has to be half-burnt.)
This was because most of the Italian immigrants to America were from a poor southern Italy with Neapolitan food traditions. To tell the truth, I do not care too much for that stuff but I am willing to eat it if I am starving. I do like a good Pasta Fagiole but I can make the best one you have ever had, and I will have a Bolognese on Tagliatelle. Call me a food snob.
Our best Italian meals have been in Umbria, which is where Romans take dining expeditions by the busload - so they can drink and gorge on wild pig, and get a ride home. No good Italian food tastes wonderful without wine. If you're on the wagon, it's not so wonderful unless it includes truffles or Balsamic. They do not use much wine in their cooking because you are supposed to be sipping it as you eat. Wine is expected to be an accompaniment, blending in your mouth.
I had a fine Lasagna in Verona for lunch, in a sidewalk cafe near the Arena. No red sauce, heavy on the nutmeg which makes sense, given the history of being part of the Venetian Empire for a while. One Italian dish I really wanted to try in Italy was Vitello Tonnato - Veal with Tuna Sauce. Mrs. BD makes an excellent version, but somehow we missed it on our last trip. Also wanted to try their Chicken Liver with Balsamic, but missed that too. That's OK - food isn't everything - and we know some great Italian restaurants in NYC.
Italian Food Regional Cooking: Southern Italy
Italian Food Regional Cooking: Central Italy
Italian Food Regional Cooking: NorthWest Italy
Italian Food Regional Cooking: NorthEast Italy
Italian Food Regional Cooking: Sicily and Sardinia
Northern Italians eat very well, but are mostly skinny. It's the walking and the minimal pasta that does it. Low carbs.
Friday, February 12. 2021
Photo of our elegant dormitories at the school. $60/night - not bad for a living room with a chart table, kitchenette, and nice bedroom plus a spare bunk in the hall.
First thing, we can recommend them for all levels of seamanship education, from beginner to commercial Captain. Half of our classes were military guys and gals, and were from all over the US and Europe too.
The best thing about their classes is that half the time is spent in classroom, half on the water practicing with whatever size and type boat you want to master. They have the dormitory right at their own marina on Manatee Pocket, which was perfect. Classes are from 8 am to about 4 pm. You need to study for an hour or two after you go out somewhere fun for a seafood dinner.
Wish I had a pic of that lovely narrow lagoon, but I was usually too busy with boat handling to take a pic.
Yes, there are tricky paper exams but the practical water components are useful. Lots of boat traffic to deal with down on the intracoastal waterway in Florida.
A few observations about food, masks, etc below the fold, with a couple of pics.
Continue reading "Florida boating and seafood, with comments on masks, marina pubs etc."
Thursday, October 29. 2020
The town square in Jackson (for what it's worth, the town is Jackson and Jackson Hole is the surrounding region leading up to the Tetons), has entrances adorned with elk antler arches. Every year the Boy Scouts go to the elk refuge and collect antlers. The story of the elk is both interesting and contentious. They should just pass through but growth of the town has blocked migration routes, and a bad winter many years ago trapped them in the valley. So many died it was said you couldn't walk without stepping on them. Originally, a privately funded rescue was created and the elk were fed in the area. Now it is a National Refuge and they are fed there every winter. It is a mixed blessing...and one which has detractors on both sides. An unnatural state of affairs but a great tourist opportunity.
(more below the fold)
Continue reading "More Vacation Pics"
Just going to post a few pictures of my vacation, an off-season visit to Montana, Yellowstone, and the Grand Tetons. We had to leave 2 days early due to snow, but it was still one of the best trips we've had as a family. Lots of hiking. Lots of driving. Lots of steak. Flew into Bozeman, drove down through Red Lodge and stopped at Cody. Nice towns to visit. We had to skip Livingston, too much snow and the road condition reports were not good. The next day, the drive from Cody to Yellowstone is magnificent, and we did it in the snow, again. Pictures of our Yellowstone Welcome Wagon below. Saw Old Faithful (the boys were underwhelmed, but it did go off right at the time we were told it would).
Spent 2 days in Jackson, hiked the Tetons and met some moose. No squirrel. Definitely need to return and do more hiking there. Amphitheater Lake looks wonderful, and the hike to 9,000 feet isn't horrible.
Drove through Idaho, where we ran into a cattle drive in Rexburg, to West Yellowstone. A tourist town, but in the offseason it has a charm all its own. Spent another day hiking and taking pictures of geothermal activity, waterfalls, and ran into Wile E. Coyote on a short hike to Clear Lake (which is really quite green and smells like sulphur).
The weather in Yellowstone changes on a whim. We had fog, rain, clear skies and snow all in a 5 hour period. The first few snow storms were pretty mild. Unfortunately, the snow kept getting worse. When 4 inches fell, the park closed and a larger storm was on the way. So we changed the flights and headed home. It was the right decision. Bozeman got 10 inches on Saturday, and we would have had to drive in that snow...
Some pictures below the fold, more to follow...
Continue reading "My Vacation out West"
Sunday, September 27. 2020
Readers know that I believe in generous but not excessive tipping whether at Dunkin Donuts or at the Ritz-Carlton.
Why? Not only to show appreciation but to help out people in poorly-paid jobs. Food workers, hotel housekeepers, etc depend on tips to make ends meet.
Here are some suggestions: This Is How Much You Should Tip Hotel Housekeeping Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic
I think their suggestions are on the low side.
Wednesday, September 23. 2020
Stonington Borough (pop 929) is as boaty and salty a tiny village as can be found on the East Coast. It is also quaint as heck, almost to a fault. It's a popular summer getaway, right down the road from Westerly and Watch Hill, RI. Also, it has a sizeable retirement population because there is so much to do around there.
Its rock coast has only a postage stamp-sized beach. There is one very pleasant inn, and a yacht club.
Nice boat - a Hunt 33. Mrs. BD wants it.
A bunch more pics below the fold -
Continue reading "Pics from Stonington, CT"
Sunday, July 19. 2020
Not a retirement type of person, but Mrs. BD wants a new boat (I thought I had had enuf boats in my life to worry about already, but I love boats. Love farms too, but I like hiking and working the most. Yeah, I likes me a bit of hunting too.
She likes the custom Hunts. She likes the trawlers too.
This wonderful adventurous couple downsized their trawler to make it trailer-able, and go all around the country - and especially Canada - exploring and having fun times. Trawler Trailer Life. Carpe Diem.
Yes, their home base is Florida, but they seem to not spend much time there.
If forced to retire, what would you do for fun and excitement while awaiting the Grim Reaper?
Sunday, July 12. 2020
No need to bring a car. Bring bikes, or just rent bikes.
Plenty of fun turn-of the century Queen Anne Revival (aka "Victorian") architecture. The island has an interesting history.
Photo below is from the town dock. Block Island is a popular sailing and boating destination.
Wednesday, July 1. 2020
Webinars can be hit or miss. The New York Adventure Club, due to the obvious difficulties of getting out these days, have some on offer. I took in one on Five Points that was excellent, and there is one on July 21 about the Brooklyn Bridge that I have signed up for. $10 isn't too much, I guess, though I'd rather do tours on foot (boy I miss the Urban Hike and I hope we can pull one off in the Fall...I was thinking of focusing on movie locations this time).
If you're interested in spending an hour and learning about NYC's history, here's a great way to do it. Just click the link and see what they have to offer.
Monday, June 29. 2020
A richly illustrated full-color guide to the unique plants, wildlife, and environments of Cape Cod and the other nearby “Outer Lands” that face the Atlantic Ocean
OK, we are Cape Codders, and thus biased. But if you know of any getaway place so good for salt air and piney smell, sailing, fishing, hunting (deer, duck and pheasant), gardening (long growing season on the ocean), biking, hiking, dining on day-fresh seafood and Wellfleet Oysters, tell me about it.
Besides that, there is no rich people flavor like Palm Beach, the Islands, Spring Lake, Watch Hill, and the Hamptons. Them folks we have on the outer Cape are very low-profile. It's a Maserati and Porsche-free zone, but you have to deal with "F-Trump" bumper stickers. Whatever. It's a free country, thank God.
I never get invited to Hamptons parties anyway.
Just no skiing on the Cape, but not too far from it. Beautifully desolate and wet in winter, of course, without any real snow but them's the breaks. You can get out and shoot a duck for supper.
Sunday, June 21. 2020
It's been decades since we spent time on the Cape in June, mainly because our annual family weeks are in August. This was a Father's Day gift.
June is better. Too early for swimming, but perfect for the outdoor fun that August is too warm for. No skeeters. Also, few vacationers. The birding is better in August, with all of the travellers heading down from the north. Still, Eagles and Ospreys and nesting herons. Nothing special except the Terrapins digging their eggs and the fox trying to find their nests for breakfast eggs.
We opted for a marsh-side cottage on Lieutenant Island, a quiet corner which is only accessible during lower tides.
More pics etc below the fold -
Continue reading "Cape Cod in June, with a few photos"
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