Monday, April 19, 2010

The Truth About Horse Drawn Carriages

The so-called "botticelle" that is, the Roman horse-drawn carriages are not a tradition of transport for people, but represent a degeneration of what was their original meaning and purpose. In fact, the "Botticelli" owe their name to the barrels: the carriage pulled by animals in 1800’s was used solely for transporting goods, and barrels in this case. There was never a "tradition" of tourist transport, therefore, as misleadingly one wants to make the tourist believe.

Nowadays there is no need to justify the use of animals for transport or freight, let alone people. Tourists can have, in Rome in 2009, many means of locomotion, extremely comfortable, fast, with accessories for every need, and far cheaper than the carriage. As well as transportation that does not cause suffering to horses.

Horses are obviously subject to a state of continuous suffering, being forced against their will to haul extremely heavy loads every day (more than one ton, the empty carriage weighs 800 kg ...). The working conditions are inhumane and the animal is brought along fast roads (like the Tiber) where the proximity of cars, speed and the roar of traffic so terrific, with the serious consequence of accidents, often fatal, while the horses are often forced to travel on uphill on cobblestone pavement which is slippery and uneven. These cobblestones, known as Sam Pietrini creates further discomfort when a horse is forced to stand on them without movement, often for many hours. The conditions worsen in summer when the hot sun makes the effort even more unbearable. And yet, the drivers pay no attention to laws, nor are laws enforced.

In times past, the horses traveled on isolated and relatively quiet roads in Rome. Today, the crazy traffic, chaos, smog, the sounds of horns, the speed of vehicles and scooters whizzing close to the carriages, etc. .. make this means of transport absolutely unfit to the conditions of congestion in the city. The carriage is so configured a practice that is deeply anachronistic and certainly cruel to horses, and is thus there is no longer any reason for them to exist today.

The drivers are only interested in making the most profit from this activity and therefore do not care the in the least about the well-being of the animal. The horse is forced to work in unbearable conditions some prohibited under the current regulations (Article 46 of the Rules of the City of Rome for the Protection of Animals)but are frequently observed that the maximum number of passengers is never observed, that the ban of working horses from 1pm to 4pm in the summer season is regularly violated, as well as to not go uphill, not to go at a trot, not to work more than 6 hours per day, etc. .. The carriage drivers also are not subject, like other workers (traders, taxi drivers, etc ...) to any official price list, being able to make money at will and come to ask even $ 300 per trip, all while not paying taxes to the state as there are no price regulations or receipts.

Two fatalities occurred at close range, one in June and November 20 2008, are clear indicators of a condition that is not very sustainable, and cannot last, if not continue to jeopardize the safety of people and horses. The risk factor for accidents is too high and stems from the incompatibility between the nature of these fearful animals, and the state of congestion of the streets of Rome.
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Friday, April 9, 2010

Puglia Monti: Artichoke Heaven

Puglia Monti

     Puglia Monti is a quaint little place in Monti, very close to the Roman Forum.  The owner and chef is Emanuele Dicuonzo who is from Puglia, hence,  the name Puglia Monti.  I have to admit that although I am vegan, I tend to avoid restaraunts in Rome that are specifically vegan or vegetarian.  I do so because my experience has been that these places have a huge emphasis on veganism, and not the actual food, so they do a lot of mock recipes and overuse seitan, and they are often very overpriced.  Puglia Monti is a vegetarian place in the heart of Rome that specializes in regional dishes from Puglia, but the food speaks for itself.  I ate the best food I have ever had in Rome hereWe went to Puglia Monti for lunch on “Little Easter,” the Monday after Easter.  I wanted to get there while artichokes were still in season.  A few weeks earlier I had dinner at Puglia Monti and had the best artichokes I have had in my life.  
Emmanuale truly embraces the word chef .  He creates masterpieces from simple ingredients, which is the true heart of the Italian kitchen.  He is trying to showcase the best of the pugliaese kitchen, without using animal carcasses, which is the tendency in the Roman kitchen.  In Rome, it seems they make up for lack of flavor or creativity by overusing animal products.  After all, what is the excuse most people use for not being vegan?  It tastes so good.  The traditional Mediterranean diet is not full of animal fats and proteins: 
According to Dr Walter Willett of Harvard University's School of Public Health in the mid1990s:    The traditional Mediterranean diet diet is based on,  food patterns typical of Crete, much of the rest of Greece, and southern Italy in the early 1960s, this diet, in addition to "regular physical activity," emphasizes "abundant plant foods, fresh fruit as the typical daily dessert, olive oil as the principal source of fat”

 At Puglia Monti, the food is of another world.  Serious attention has been paid to every detail.   The food is fresh, the flavors simple, the presentation is modern and minimal.  It is a tiny place, with the capacity to hold maybe 20 people for lunch or dinner.  The wine list is 100% wine from Puglia.  The host is also a sommelier like us, and he is working on a degree in oenology.  He speaks perfect English, so if you have trouble reading the menu, he can help. 

      I came for the carciofi, and I left more than satisfied.  I have never before had artichokes this delicious in Rome, the city known for artichokes.  

We ordered a bottle of Cacc'e Mmitte di Lucera which is a DOC from the province of Foggia.  The principle grape is Troia.  It was a decent wine that was ruby red, earthy, honest, and warm.  It had a great minerality, but die to it's position in the south, it lacked a good acidity.  

For my starter I ordered Spiedini di Carciofi e Mandarini con Insalata di Finocchio, Pangrattato e Pesto delle Tremiti-Artichoke and Mandarin Skewers on a bed of roasted Fennel Salad, Bread Crumbs and Pesto of Tremiti
It was out of this world.  Everything was perfectly cooked, the vegetables were still crisp.  The mandarin was slightly caramelized, it was heaven.  The bread crumbs gave it a lovely texture, almost like cane sugar because it had set in with the caramelized mandarin.  The entire creation was perfectly balanced.  It was evenly sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and mineral with each bite.  The plate was also very well presented.

For my primo I ordered: Ravioli Ripieni di Carciofi su Crema di Fave Secche e Menta- Artichoke stuffed Ravioli with a Cream of Fave Beans and Mint

This was the great surprise of the evening.  I would love to know how he was able to manage to make stuffed ravioli using a pasta recipe without eggs(usually a binder) and yet the pasta was rich, homemade, and did not break.  It was actually delicious.  The dish was so creamy, I was in gastronomic heaven.  The filling was also a surprise.  I expected the usual bitterness to accompany the artichoke, but instead found that it was very complex, sapid, savory, nutty, and only slightly bitter.  This was a marvelous recipe.  I wish I at least had the recipe for the pasta.  


For my main I ordered:

Variazione di Carciofi-Mixed Artichokes
1.  Carciofi alla Giudia-Jewish style artichoke, or,  fried artichoke flower
2.  Carciofi alla Romana-Roman artichoke or, Artichoke Stewed with Garlic and Mint
3.  Carciofi sottaceto-Pickled Artichoke
4.  Carciofi alla Brace-Grilled Artichoke
5.  Carciofi Fritti-Breaded and Fried Artichoke

Everything was cooked to perfection.  Nothing was overly greasy, the fried artichokes were not dripping in oil as has been my experience in other parts of Rome, and the pickled artichoke were crispy, fresh, and had a well balanced flavor.  They were not overly acidic.

For dessert:  Tortino al Forno con Frangipane e Mele su mosto cotto-Small oven baked Apple pie with baked apples.  

I have noticed a lack of photos of ME when we go out.

I can't wait to go back, I hope it will be soon, and when artichokes are still in season!

Puglia Monti
Via Urbana 104
Rione Monti, Roma

Antiqua Tours

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wolfberger: Vin D'Alsace

      I am quite impressed, with the new interest in wine in San Diego.  We went to a wine bar called The Wine Lover .   It was a lovely place, and I will definitely go back. 

My choice was an Alsace Gewurztraminer.  Try saying that 3x…
Alsace France
Vin D’Alsace

    This wine was gorgeous.   It had a bouquet of roses and magnolia in bloom, but from a distance.  Not overpowering, like magnolia can be on a hot and humid day, but a hint.  The wine was sharing a secret, or seducing me with this intoxicating perfume.  On the palate it was slightly oily in texture, dry but fruity, with a long after taste.  It tasted of dried mangoes, hint of vanilla, and rose water.   This wine reminded me of Pablo Neruda love poems to his wife.  Romantic, well balanced, in harmony with a woman's taste, but not sickly sweet or overly romantic.  I enjoyed it immensely. 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Pappardelle alle Lepre di Seitan=Ribbon Pasta with Seitan Hare Sauce

Pappardelle alle Lepre di Seitan=Ribbon Pasta with Seitan Hare Sauce 

Last night I came home from a long day of work hoping that the house would be clean, the table set, and dinner served.  The day before I had to haul myself all over Rome with drippy nasty pink eye, and 2 days into it, I was absolutely exhausted.  I was at the Vatican.  Not only was I at the Vatican, which even in good times tests my patience, it is Holy Week.  The busiest week of the year in Roman tourism, and it was not a pretty sight, I can assure you.  I sent Ettore a message with a list of ingredients, hoping that my later SMS messages  saying I would be late would inspire him to turn up the burners and cook my favorite meal, Pappardelle all Lepre.  This is MY Vegan Chicken Soup for the Tired Soul.  Whenever I feel like I may have a Crohn's flare-up, I feel tired and worn out, or I just want something warm and yummy, I make this.  Chicken soup is disgusting, but I suppose it refers to comfort food that makes you feel better when you are sick.  When I first became vegetarian I thought I would still eat this dish on special occasions, but I couldn’t stomach it.  In Italian, Lepre are hare, wild rabbits.  Even when I ate this dish I never actually liked the meat, I just liked the flavor of the sauce, and I finally learned how to replicate it in a non cruel way with a lot of practice.  I personally don’t need the texture of Seitan for this dish to be appealing, so the Seitan part of the recipe is really not necessary.  This dish is also simple to make, so, even though I arrived home late last night and the table was empty, the burners cold, and the man in bed with the dogs, I managed to whip this up in about 45 minutes.  


2 500g(15oz) cans of whole Roma tomatoes
1 vegan boullion cube
4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon dried rosemary, OR two sprigs fresh rsoemary
1 teaspoon dried whole red calabrian hot peppers
1/2 cup of white vinegar( I like to used filtered apple cider)
1/4 cup olive oil
5-6 1 inch long thin strips of Seitan for texture (optional)
Egg free Ribbon Pasta for 4 people, OR  egg free Fettucine
Tools:  Mortar and Pestle for crushing and grinding


In a large deep dished pan, pour olive oil and whole tomatoes and add two cans of water from the tomato cans, turn burner on high.
Put the garlic, rosemary, red pepper, and vinegar in the mortar and pestle and grind everything for about 2 minutes.  You don't want to make a paste but you want the mixture to be chunky.  When it is chunky, mix it in, mix until the sauce starts to boil, and then turn down to a low to medium heat.  Let the sauce simmer for at least 45 minutes, stirring it every 5 minutes or so and occasionally using a masher to mash the whole tomatoes.  The longer you cook the sauce the more concentrated it becomes, but also more flavorful.   If you feel it is getting to dry, add 1/4 cup water and continue to simmer for at least 45 minutes.  If you are using the Seitan, you'll want to through the strips in when you start to boil the water, so they don't break up too much.

While the sauce is simmering you can make your vegan Pecorino.  I have tried all the vegan parmigiano recipes on earth, but I experimented a bit and whipped up a lovely cheesy sprinkle for pasta, to replace the pecorino (sheep cheese) on top..  Even my cheese loving husband loves it.    I suppose this could last in the fridge for about a week, but I eat it up in about a day!    Since vegans sometimes have issues with B12, why not use a fortified Nutritional Yeast here, like Red Star.  My dogs and cats LOVE this "Almondzano."  As a bonus, it keeps ticks and fleas away!


200 g of blanched almonds
1 teaspoon agar agar POWDER
1/2 tablespoon Celtic sea salt (NEVER table salt, not even cheap sea salt from the grocer)
1 tablespoon Nutritional Yeast


Place everything into a food processor and blend until it is totally smooth with no chunks.  I process at least 5 minutes, but I also have a cheap ass food processor.  :)

I put this into a left over jar that I can close and store it in the fridge.  IKEA jars are also good. 

Now, back to the Pasta...

So the sauce has been simmering for at least 45 minutes, and you have been smelling all the amazing aromas of from the rosemary and vinegar, the tomatoes are no longer acid and the sauce is an aromatic is time to boil your water.  In a large pot bring water to boil, add Celtic Sea Salt, or even the flavorful Himalayan salt(it's pink) and throw in your pasta, make enough for leftovers, because this dish is DELICIOUS fried up i the pan the next day.  It sort of reminds me of Thai food, as it is Aromatic, comforting, spicy, exotic, and tastes even better the next day.  

When Pasta comes to a boil drain, and put pasta back in pot, pour sauce over the  pasta and stir everything together and add some Almondzano while mixing.  Serve it in large Pasta bowls, and have a very quiet meal.  Nobody will talk because the dish is THAT delish!  Make sure to leave a small bowl of Almondzano on the table in case some people may want a more "cheesy" pasta.  

Buon Appetitto!!