Friday, June 29, 2007

Last "coming"

A quick word to let everyone know that Gill arrived safe and sound from Amsterdam (via London) at about 7:00 p.m., just in time for dinner in the garden - lovely. We three - Wanda, Gill, and I - have all day and evening tomorrow (lots of food, for sure) - Wanda departs on Sunday. And i cannot believe I have less than a week left. Lots to tell between now and then. Buona notte.

To market, to market...

Yes, I've been here before and now I've been here for more than three weeks and today was the first time I went to Rialto Market to actually shop. Come on, I waited 'til Wanda got here. Gill arrives later today so there was no better excuse to shop for ingredients for a home-cooked dinner, which we three will enjoy in the garden this evening. I will take photos and post them.

The "official" market is a covered pavilion of fishmongers (I've posted a photo from across the canal to the left of this post) and numerous fruit and vegetable stands adjacent. It operates from Tuesday through Saturday from (roughly) 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and it's best, obviously, to get there early. There are also specialty meat, poultry, and cheese shops in close proximity. First, we spocked it all out and then were happy to find that just a few steps away Drogheria Moscari was already open. I'm told there used to be dozens of these kinds of shop in Venice; this is the only one left. They sell hundreds of different wines, spices, nuts, fruit mustards, sauces, jams, a foodie's dream store. We had a ball there and they were very, very nice. I've put a photo of one of their windows down below. At the market, we got all the fixings for a big pupu platter, a big salad, fresh herbs for the pasta and some fruit. Glorious food!

Home again, home again, jiggity jig...time to think about prepping dinner.

Women rule...continued

I have met, chatted with, and "done business" with five notable women here, four in one day - yesterday. I'm guessing they are all in their 30s and 40s and all in business for themselves. A treat to experience in still male business-dominated Italy.

On Murano, after looking at I don't know how many glass studios I met Roberta (I'm sorry I don't know her last name) at her new shop, Manin 56. Of everything I looked at in all those studios, I chose one of her original designs as my big splurge purchase of this trip - six gorgeous glasses. Many of you will have the pleasure of drinking from them shortly. She was very, very proud to tell me about this new venture of hers.

First up yesterday, Serena Viavello who has just purchased a very beautiful shop specializing in silk clothing, shoes, and handbags by several designers. She, too, proudly talked about her new business. (Yes, I bought a pair of shoes, so sue me.)

Mariangela Penzo has no confectioners in her family history but the film "Chocolat" awakened a passion in her that she has pursued since. She went to school in France and two-and-a-half years ago opened VizioVirtu and it is already generally acknowledged as Venice's finest chocolate shop. She and her shop have received a great deal of media coverage, a subject that always interests me. And Juliette Binoche, the star of "Chocolat," attended the opening. Although she doesn't speak much English, she was very gracious and we, obviously, had much common ground. It was the second time I'd been to her shop, her chocolates are divine and I shall doubtless visit again before I leave.

A funky little shop called Novecento filled with antiques, curiosities, one-of-a-kind items, caught my attention on a long walk home. The owner is Nicoletta (again, no last name, sorry) and she was busy re-arranging displays and fretting about how disorganized she is. She is a tall beauty and I was happy to chat with her - she had MANY questions about Hawai'i - and to make a few small purchases. She could not find her scotch tape dispenser which caused her great anxiety. I tried to reassure her that it was fine, nothing really needed to be wrapped and she seemed so grateful she gave me a little discount on my purchases and also gave me as a gift a beautiful, handmade Venetian fabric bag with silk lining which is specifically used to carry bread. I left feeling I had made an acquaintance I might someday be able to renew.

And finally, Claudia Canestrelli who owns and operates a perfectly charming antique shop that I have passed several times a day since I've been here. She is the third generation owner of the shop (her grandfather and mother before her) and we talked about how difficult it is to keep small family businesses alive and well in this day and age. She has two sisters who are not interested in antiques and a 12-year-old daughter who she hopes will be. She spoke about how Venice has changed and is changing and the terms she used are ones that we use all the time to describe what is happening in our own Islands.

Alora. Women do rule, si?

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Women rule...

...even in Venice. I've posted a link with this same title about Venice's first-ever woman gondolieri...I've got a terrific post about some fantastic women I've met here - but it's time for dinner and my eyes need a rest. Will get this up as quickly as I can, if not tonight, tomorrow for sure. For now, enjoy Alexandra's story...

Caution - Student Driver

You know how you feel when you see those words on the back of a car traveling along Ka'ahumanu Avenue? Well, imagine being on a vaporetto in the middle of the Grand Canal where there are no lanes, no rules, no fear. We had that experience coming back from Murano earlier in the week. At first, it was a little disconcerting - the guy needed two, three, four tries to pull into the first couple of stops. But he finally got into his groove and by the time we reached Dorsoduro, he was able to make it in one go. I must say everyone, Venetians especially, was very forgiving and sympathetic - hey, the only way to learn is to do it, right? - and cheered for him when he finally got it down. Bravo!

More art, more food, more food, more art, more, more, more

Are you so tired of reading about art and food, food and art, food and art, art and food?

I'll be brief - Wanda went to an exhibit of Sargent's landscapes of Venice yesterday morning at Museo Correr (in Piazza San Marco) while I made my way to Ca' Pesaro which houses the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Oriental Art (their term). I loved the modern collection - focus on the turn of the century up to the 1960s/70s, heavy on Venetians with some great work by other European painters and sculptors. Another joyful Calder, a Klimt, a couple of Mattisses, one fantastic Bonnard (a much overlooked impressionist whom I happen to like very much), and a Vedova in a completely different style than the others I've seen here.

The "Oriental"
art is one nobleman's collection and to be frank, it's poorly displayed and there's just too much of it - weaponry, fabrics, ceramics and porcelain, more weaponry - to really be able to take it all in, especially in a reasonable amount of time. I did enjoy the huge assortment of netsuke.

On to food. We had reservations at Naranzaria, a hip little place in the same area as Bancogiro. It was Marcia's last night in Venice and we were so looking forward to dining outside. But there was that thunderstorm I mentioned yesterday but the food was so good and, as I also mentioned, the light after the rain stopped was so magical, inside was okay. Just off the Rialto market is a small campo of very hip restaurants with young chefs/owners reminiscent of NYC's Meatpacking District when IT was first dotted with hip restaurants with young chefs/owners. Fun, very fun.

'Nuff ready...I've got a couple of other things I want to write about which I'll do in separate posts.


The early bird...

...gets a close-up view of how wine and beer is delivered to the cafe at Ca' Pesaro, the Modern and Asian art musuem. By boat (duh!), obviously. The museum is conveniently located on a tiny canal (or rio as they are called) so the boat pulls right up to the "guardrail," one guy gets out and climbs over it - in this case the older of the two, late 40s I'd say, incredibly handsome and with a very strong upper body. The younger - early 20s I'd say, "husky" - stays on the boat and TOSSES full cases of bottles of wine and bottled beer to the other who stacks them on the handcart. TOSSES! And they can smoke and talk on their cell phones while they do it. I wold have liked to have taken photos or even a little video but it's considered rude so you'll just have to take my word for it.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Little things

We had a thunder/lightning storm earlier this evening - so cool! We couldn't dine outside as we'd planned but the light after the storm passed 'til well after 10:00 p.m. was so beautiful eating indoors was hardly a sacrifice. (Of course, I didn't have my camera - sorry.) A great dinner, by the way, at Narazaria near the Rialto market. More about that tomorrow along with the "day in art."

Here's a nice little story. As much as I love dining out, I love getting a glimpse into the kitchen even more. We had dinner at Alle Testiere again last evening and the desserts were so remarkable, especially the panna cotta, I was sure they must have a pastry chef I'd like to meet. When I asked, the owner laughed and told me the kitchen was too small. The restaurant is tiny - 24 seats and a service bar. I asked if I could see the kitchen. He laughed again and told me to go right ahead. The chef was standing in the doorway, the sous chef was working the cold station. The chef was standing in the doorway 'cause there's barely enough room for two bodies in the kitchen. "The tour," said Chef in broken English with a smile. It cannot be more than 30 or 40 square feet. My friend and excellent chef Joyce Solis always says, "If you can cook, you can cook anywhere on any equipment." Last night, I realized (again) how true that really is. Alle Testiere puts out exceptional food, two full seatings, five nights a week. Great things often emerge from small spaces.

Okay, enough of the cookies - a new photo of a typical little Venetian canal.

On the run

Quickly, this morning, 'cause there's more art to be seen and more food to be eaten...

Marcia got back to Venice on Monday after a week in Paris and a road trip through Southern France and Italy. She's happy to be back and we're happy to have her. We all three dined at a Agli Alboretti Monday evening. Gorgeous garden setting, innovative (a la Ferran Adria-ish) menu, stunning tabletops (glassware, plates, cutlery), snoooooooty staff, and food that was good but uneven. We still had a good time.

More Biennale installations yesterday - Aotearoa (a second time for me, first for Wanda), Portuagal (Wanda's heritage), and Singapore housed just across the Accademia Bridge in the magnificent Instituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti. The work is by four impressive Singaporan artists and the direct contrast to the style of the building making it even more interesting for viewers.

Back to Cantinone Gia Schiavi for more of their amazing cichetti and then a restful afternoon (see Chris, I CAN far niente!).

We went back to Alle Testiere for our second visit - even better than the first and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Along the way, Marcia snagged the best shoes seen in Venice so far.

I'm leaving the photo of the cookies up...for obvious reasons!


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Clear as glass

Another little neighbor island jaunt yesterday - this time to Murano, known around the world for it's stunning glass. It is what one would expect - charming in its residential neighborhoods, fornace (furnace) chimneys competing with church steeples for domination of the sky, main thoroughfares filled with day-tripping tourists looking for "genuine" Murano glass souvenirs. Among the kitsch, there are designer showrooms with works of art both utilitarian and purely ornamental. Many of these designers come from glass-making families that go back centuries with names like Vennini and Seguso.

The Museo del Vetro (Glass Museum) is definitely worth a visit with examples of glass-making dating from the 1st Century A.D. to the present. Can you imagine paper thin drinking cups and toilette bottles surviving - many intact - for more than 2000 years?! Absolutely incredible. Examples of every technique and every technological advance fill the showcases - all very nicely displayed. I am partial to contemporary design and so lingered in the final sala which has a rich selection of work from the mid-20th Century on; many pieces were displayed in past Biennale. I've posted a link to the museum site.

Interestingly, my best little experience on Murano came not in a glass factory but at a very different kind of oven. On our way into the center of town Wanda had noticed a incredibly delicious shop window filled with big, homemade, typical Venetian baked goods. On our way back to the vaporetto - very hot and dog-tired - she insisted we stop for meringue as big as your head and assorted other goodies. The tutu at the counter was darling and as we turned to leave, I saw a gentleman - obviously her husband - standing in the doorway to the paneterria (bakery). He must have noticed my keen interest because he invited me to the "inner sanctum." A spotlessly clean, well-equipped, obviously very well-used bakery and I was in heaven - Chef Cheech, I wish you had been here! His name is Signore Marcato and he has manned his ovens for 51 years. His father before him and his father before him were bakers, too. And now his son is the one who comes in at the crack of dawn. I asked for a job, really, I did. He laughed and laughed and then said we could switch places - he'd come and bake in Hawai'i and I could stay and bake in Murano. Sounds like a plan to me. Signore's absolutely delicious handiwork to the left; the Baker and Bella down below with the rest of the photos.


Monday, June 25, 2007

A couple from Colorado walks into a bar...

...actually, they were already in the bar, Harry's Bar. For those unfamiliar, Harry's Bar is famous for being Ernest Hemingway's hangout in Venice, for inventing that delicious drink known as the Bellini (white peach nectar blended with Prosecco - Italy's sparkling wine), and for being, well, Harry's. It's just one of those places. It's owned an operated by the Cipriani family, Italian restaurateurs/hoteliers with properties around the world. It is a "must-stop" on millions of tourists' lists every year. I can only imagine how weary the white-jacketed waiters/bartenders must be of answering every inane question asked and dealing with, frankly, every attention-deprived jerk who makes a bigger jerk of himself at Harry's. So for every charming story - see "...three girls walk into a bar" posted ten days or so ago - there is one of these.

A middle-aged couple from Colorado who have done some traveling, not particularly savvy or worldly, taking a gazillion photos (it's a small bar, folks), telling the waiter stories in which he has less than zero interest. His name is "Harry" - what a coincidence, it's such an odd name, after all - and "he looks just like Hemingway" - according to his lovely wife, so shouldn't the drinks be "on the house?" She wants a Bellini (of course she does!) and he wants a martini which the two of them describe to the waiter for, I swear this is true, at least three or four minutes to be absolutely SURE it's made just the way he likes it. And no, the drinks, signora, are not on the house, the waiter chuckles sweetly. We were seated TABLES AWAY on the OTHER SIDE OF THE BAR from this pair so how do I know all this?? I know all this because this woman's voice could be heard by all except perhaps a few hearing impaired people at the vaporetto stop down the Riva.

A lovely British couple had the misfortune of being seated next to Mr. and Mrs. Colorado and were immediately engaged in a conversation about travel, baseball, soccer, the Queen, Hemingway, Bellinis, the history of Harry's, and on and on and on, all at this same extraordinary decibel level. The waiters/bartenders at Harry's have to contend with people poking their videocameras in, walking in and walking out after looking at the menu, and various and sundry other "Harry's Violations." But once you're a paying customer, you are treated as a paying customer. And so there was no way any of the white-jacketed ones were going to do anything about this woman. Believe me, several of them and I exchanged eye rolls. You have no idea - or maybe most of you do have some idea - of how much I wanted to go over to her and very nicely say:

"Ma'am, this bar is filled with people who are on their honeymoon, have saved for years for this trip, who come to escape the crowds outside and have a quiet drink. You have managed to single-handedly ruin that experience for everyone here. YOU are one of the reasons Americans are so poorly thought of around the globe. Enjoy your Bellini."

P.S. So as not to leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth about Harry's Bar - which truly is one of the delights of Venice - I've put up a photo of our Bellinis down with the other photos. Salute!

Sunday in the garden at the Guggenheim

First let me say it is not as easy as one would think to find a cappuccino on Sunday morning. But we prevailed. And then gathered with the rest of the crowd outside the gates of the Peggy Guggenheim Collection waiting for them to swing open. I had visited this marvelous collection in 2005 and was anxious to go back for a second look. I was delighted and also disappointed.

A formidable collection of 20th Century art is housed in a beautiful palazzo on the Grand Canal that was Peggy Guggenheim's home here as well as spilling over into another building separated from the main house by a fantastic sculpture garden, probably my favorite part of the property. (The photo at the left is the first piece you encounter and I've put up a link to the collection's official website.)

I love the artists represented in this collection - Picasso, Braque, Kandinsky, Klee, Mondrian, Magritte, Jackson Pollack - and am particularly drawn to the sculptors. "Maiastra" and "Bird in Space" by Constantin Brancusi are simply breathtaking. Giacometti and Marini are here, too. And the Alexander Calder mobiles are positively joyous. I was very much looking forward to seeing again the incredible headboard he created for Guggenheim. This is where the disappointment set it.

It is Biennale time and so the palazzo, which last time I was here was very obviously a home with an art collection in it, has been turned over to two installations, one
by Matthew Barney, the other by Joseph Beuys - collectively called "all in the present must be transformed." Both Wanda and I were completely baffled by them even after having read all the literature and frankly, we didn't like them enough to work at it any harder.

There was delight, though, in two other small Biennale-related installations - a magnificent sculpture by Anish Kapoor, the second I've seen here and I shall learn more about this artist, and a series of monotypes by Emilio Vadova, a favorite son who died just last year.

Later in the afternoon, Wanda's first vaporetto ride and a walk - along with the throngs - through Piazza San Marco and the Basilica itself. And yes, Harry's again. Hey, this is Wanda's first trip to Venice and as you know, a Bellini at Harry's is required. I have another Harry's story for you, not nearly so charming as the first. I'll post it soon.

Today we are off on a little "neighbor island" adventure to the glass island of Murano.


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Mangia, mangia

Quickly, before we leave on today's excursion, I though, you should see one of Chris' photos. This is one of the home-cooked dinners we had in our garden. Spaghetti and meatballs, insalata caprese, and, of course, a nice bottle of Soave (from the region). "From the region" is very important...

All's well that ends well...

Wanda arrived safe and sound - exactly 24 hours after she was due here. To her immense credit, she had a smile on her face and was immediately taken with Venice. No residual effects from her very, very, very long journey.

She unpacked, we took a stroll/tour through the 'hood - including a long walk on the Zattere to the market to stock up on Prosecco (2.90 Euro - about $4.00 - for GOOD Prosecco) and then on to a lovely and quite innovative dinner.

Lineadombra is at the very end of the Zattere closest to our apt. We dined leisurely on the terrace, and I'm so happy to have been able to introduce her to this wonderful city in this way.

By the way, a correction - she has indeed been overseas - many time to Britain. It is her first trip to "the continent" and a non-English speaking country.

We have a busy day planned - so ciao ciao