Fiat finally arrives in the US and this weekend I finally get to test drive la macchina del mio sogno (the car of my dreams), the new Fiat Cinquecento. The dream makers were April and Boris from Northside Fiat in Indianapolis. I drove a Bianco Perla 500 Cabrio(convertible) with a tessuto grigio/avorio (gray/ivory) interior. I think this car was made “expressly” for me. The 500c’s multi-positional power cloth top roof retracted as quickly as a perfectly pulled shot of espresso. So much so that I got to thinking about what the 500 would look like in a dark roasted brown. At the Fiat USA web site you can build your own 500, choosing roofs, interiors, wheels, accessories and graphics including a red, white and green body side stripe decal for hard-core Italianophiles. I clicked on the color choices and a wash of espresso brown filled in the image. Very nice but I clicked again, this time on mocha latte which made the car look good enough to eat or drink or . . . well the car is just so much darn fun. Reviews describe the car as one of “emotional design and rational appeal with a high level of standard features and personalization options”. I would add that the Fiat 500, the first car I drove in Italy, in performance and design did not disappoint in the US .
Mosquitoes, zanzari in Italian, are very active during the summer and early fall and can be bothersome especially when one gets into your room at night buzzing in your ear. Many accommodations have no screens or are open to the air and this has caused me to voice a rare complaint about traveling in Italy, yelling in frustration“la camera è piena di zanzare”, my room is full of mosquitoes! In the past there were only two choices on how to get rid of the buzz, physical barriers and chemical barriers. Pack a mosquito net or bring a good mosquito repellant to avoid a puntura (bite) and an anti-histamine gel to avoid swelling. That is until now.
Researchers in Sao Paulo, Brazil have been studying the use of coffee grounds as alternative to chemical repellents. They found that about 4 spoonfuls of used coffee grounds dissolved in a 250 ml of water killed 100% of aquatic mosquito larvae. According to researchers to get the benefit of coffee as a mosquito repellent you need to drink it strong and black and you need to drink a lot of it. Timing is also important. Drink as much coffee as you can before you go out so levels are high in your bloodstream. It seems that zanzara tigre or the tiger mosquito doesn’t like the bitterness of coffee. Apparently there is some truth to this because there are reports of a large, rich, chocolaty coffee widely consumed by those traveling through the Mosquito Coast in the jungles of Central America.
So go ahead, bite me. This is a challenge to all Italian mosquitos. I want to see if that doppio espresso I had after dinner keeps me from getting bitten. Come to think of it most of my Italian family and friends don’t complain as much about mosquitoes as I do.
It seems so wrong but it’s so right, using espresso as an ingredient in a steakhouse rub. Who am I to disagree with celebrity chef Bobbie Flay and Eating Well Magazine . Both mention coffee as a great way to start or end your day . . . at the grill. It seems that the dark and toasty undertones from the coffee pair well with steak. The signature coffee rub (fresh-ground coffee, porcini mushrooms, garlic, lemon zest, black pepper, rosemary, oregano, thyme, kosher salt and sugar) from Ristorante We, a Tuscan inspired Chicago Steakhouse, makes the rub just right for me. A simplier version from the Eating Well web site mixes
- 1/2 cup finely ground coffee (I would use an espresso roast)
- 1/4 cup coarsely ground pepper
- 3 tablespoon(s) kosher salt
Measure out 2 tablespoons and rub evenly onto 1 1/2 pounds (6 servings) of meat just before grilling.
The Cooking Channel’s Ellie Krieger uses chili powder, brown sugar and mustard for a cowboy twist. I think I’ll bring this recipe with me the next time I’m in Italy. I want to visit the Maremma in southwestern Tuscany, a region of Italy where the butteri (Italian cowboys) still roam, ropin’, riding and eating a classic Tuscan bistecca.
My travels in Italy make me long for vineyards, wine . . . and handcrafted beer. Although most people don’t think of Italy as being famous for birra, I’ve come to know better. From my very first trip, our Italian family indoctrinated me into the fine art of drinking beer in Italy. German beer that is. This was back in 1999 and according to my cousin Roberto, a good German beer from the Trentino -Alto Adige Sud-Tirol and a wine from Piemonte were what to drink.
After that I came to appreciate birra and when traveling in Italy I was always on the lookout for birrifici, Italian microbreweries that make handcrafted beer. In the States I’m always on the lookout for Italian inspired beer. So when I heard that the Round Barn Winery was offering a tasting of a beer made with espresso and chocolate at their annual Red, White and Brews Fest, I jumped at the chance to taste their Cocoa Stout .
RBW is a unique winery/distillery/brewery located in the town of Baroda where award-winning Michigan wines and microbrews can be tasted in a round barn. Very cool. I liked their Cocoa Stout so much that a sample glass resulted in buying a 6 pack. With a visual contrast of black and tan (reminiscent of Guinness) and notes of bittersweet chocolate (they use Ghirardelli), it had a luxurious yet full-bodied flavor that was very appealing. The chocolate notes and sweet finish make it a perfect after dinner beer. RBW recommends serving it as a float with vanilla ice cream. I could see using this beer to make a classic Italian affogato replacing espresso with the Cocoa Stout. Vanilla gelato “drowning” in Cocoa Stout, that would be a new world twist on a classic Italian dessert.
In honor of the 4th of July and our love for espresso aka coffee, here’s this years favorite patriotic cup of coffee pic from Keens Organic Coffee News who posts the following quote from Alexander Pope about coffee and American politics “Coffee which makes the politician wise/Who looks at all the world with half-shut eyes.”