Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cesenatico Beach - Where the Italians Go

I would definitely recommend Cesenatico Beach to anyone who wants to enjoy a very quaint little Italian town on the seaside. Cesenatico is in the region of Emilia Romagna and province of Forli' Cesena.

Why Cesenatico? Because it has two very different parts to it. One is the beachside which is modern and very accomodating to visitors. They have gone to great lengths to make sure visitors have everything they need and beyond. It has all the comforts. The beach is mostly private in the sense you have to pay to rent chairs, umbrella etc but we found it to be very affordable considering the vip treatment. It is lively but not chaotic. Very nice. The sea is not the cleanest in Italy and there are definitely beaches that have more pristine waters.

The second part of Cesenatico is the old colorful town near the port called port canale where all the beautiful restored boats are on display. Although Cesenatico is small and rustic, it still offers so many wonderful trattorias, boutiques, cafe's, gelatteria's.  The old town which has been completely restored and boasts avenues of pastel colored buildings and a museum port with old restored boats is fantastic. In fact, we stayed at a boutique hotel right alongside the port called  "Casa12" ( A very charming b&b that makes you feel like you are sleeping in an art deco museum.


Monday, May 23, 2011


Even after all these years of living in Italy, I still am awestruck when I think of the relationship Italians have with food. We spent the weekend at the beach in Cesenatico, a lovely place that I highly recommend to anyone who wants to spend some time at the beach in the Romagna area. Italians love to eat. It is their birthright to not only eat, but to eat well.

I am always amazed how everything comes to a standstill between 1 and 3 pm. I noticed that all the people and children who were in the water were suddenly gone. The beach chairs empty.  Basically what was alive and jumping suddenly turned into a seaside ghost town. I asked my husband if the people came out of the water because the water is too cold. He said "no, they left but now are over there" as he pointed towards the bar / restaurant. What I saw was crowds of people pushing their way to order no, not a sandwich but a full on sit down seafood meal with all the works: wine, bread, olive oil, etc. I was amazed. "You mean they are going to eat all that food and then go back to the beach??" I asked. And sure enough they did right after their espresso.

So what did we do? Well when in Rome..... We helped ourselves to an amazing sit down lunch and washed it down with the owners own homemade wine he offered us to welcome "i nuovi toscani" to their beachside. Then an espresso and back to the beach. Not bad, not bad at all.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


My neighbors make have their own olive groves and make their own olive oil. I realized quickly why some olive oils are so expensive. It takes days and days to hand pick each olive, making sure it never touches the ground. There are large nets used to catch the olives. The weather has to be just right and the olive has to be ready for picking. Not too early and not too late. Here are some fotos I snapped from my kitchen window. Next year I will be lending a hand....

Friday, May 6, 2011

How To Select The Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil

With a plethora of extra virgin olive oils available nowadays both at your local grocery store and online, there is no wonder that there is a lot of confusion when choosing the best olive oil to purchase. Surely price is one factor in deciding which olive oil to purchase. But  there are many many more factors that should lead you to making the right purchase.

Let me take a step back to explain what I have learned about the health benefits of using quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO). According to the Olive Oil Source, " Well-documented by numerous studies around the world, the many health benefits of olive oil make it one of the most indispensable ingredients of a healthy diet. Naturally packed with monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants, not only can a good extra virgin olive oil lower your risk of heart disease and cancer, research has shown that it also provides a wide range of anti-inflammatory benefits that can positively impact illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and asthma. Even the FDA suggests that replacing just two tablespoons of saturated fat with extra virgin olive oil in your daily diet can have measurable positive effects."

Quality EVOO is good for you because it reduces bad cholesterol levels and raises good cholesterol levels.  Quality EVOO "provides a high content of antioxidants, like polyphenols, vitamins E & K, chlorophyll and carotenoids. Antioxidants are key to strengthening the immune system and protecting the body from the damaging effects of free-radical molecules."  Furthermore it contains anti inflammatory agents.

EVOO is the purest of all the olive oils, is made without the use of chemicals or excessive heat and meets some organoleptic standards. It offers a minimum guarantee of quality. But not all EVOO are equal.  The less processing is involved in making olive oil, the greater the health benefits and the better the EVOO. The health benefits depend on how the oil was made, when olives were picked, how the oil was stored and many many more factors.

"The chemical characteristics of extra virgin olive oil (as with all vegetable oils) give an indication of the care with which it was made and stored: how the fruit was grown, transported and harvested, how it was milled into oil, and how the oil was packaged and bottled."  There are also many different flavors of olive oil but typically the more robust (pungent) the flavor, the greater number of antioxidants.

There are many olive oils available. The best being of Extra Virgin Olive Oil meaning it is of the purest form. Of these however there are the winners and the losers and many many in between. Extra virgin olive oils nowadays come from Italy, France, Spain, United States, Turkey, Greece.  Of the oils available not all of the producers have high standards and follow regulations to make the highest quality oils. In fact, many in order to offer the lowest priced oil sell old olive oil which has been sitting either in their warehouse or a distributors warehouse for months and even years on end. Others to cut corners may use a mixture of olives from different areas or regions that offer a cheaper harvest.  Some olive mills may pick their olives and then have them sitting on their mill floor for days or weeks before processing, collecting all sorts of mildew. The best oil is processed the same day of picking. Oil should be bottled right before delivery. Processing times should be very short.

With so much junk on the shelves, the best advice I can give someone who is purchasing olive oil is to read all the labels. Remember that just because an oil has an Italian name does not mean it is made in Italy. Even if the label reads Produced in Italy does not mean the olives are Italian. Also there is a great difference between oils produced in different regions in Italy for instance. Some olive  trees render a larger quantity of oil because the olive itself has more water content. This larger quantity available drives down the price for particular regions of Italy. Tuscan and Umbrian olives typically render less oil and therefore are more premium priced.

If the price is surprisingly low compared to the assortment, you are probably not getting a good deal but getting a lower quality product. Olive oil is expensive to produce and if it is being produced correctly, abiding to the highest standards, chances are you will have to pay for that.

What you can do when purchasing olive oil:
-make sure you read the labels and know what you are getting. Just because the oil is called "Tuscan Reserve" does not mean it is from Tuscany. Also even though it says Made in Italy does not always mean the olives are Italian. It may mean it was bottled in Italy but the olives are from Turkey.

-Is Italian olive oil the best? I  cannot say that it is or it is not. I know that the olive oil I use is the best because I know where it comes from and I know how it is made. I know the health qualities it has.

-Read the label to know when the oil was harvested. The best oil is the newest. There should also be an expiration date on the bottle.  You should not be paying a premium price for last year's harvest.

-When you can, purchase smaller bottles because the more times the bottle is opened, the more the oil is contaminated by air and loses its qualities both in flavor and health benefits.

-Never purchase plastic bottles;plastic kills the oil.

-The darker the glass bottle, the better, try not to purchase clear bottles. Olive oil needs to avoid heat or heat sources and clear bottles allow heat to enter.

-Where in the store are the bottles kept? Make sure they are not on top shelves near the lights.
-Unfiltered is not bad for you, instead it means that less processing was used and therefore it is of the purest form.

I am fortunate I know because I can pinpoint exactly where the olive oil I use comes from. My olive oil is an artisan olive oil and comes directly from the manufacturer I personally know.  I know what high standards the manufacture has. I have taken part in the harvest of the oil. I have visited the mill. I know even where the actual olive groves are that my oil came from. I know we cannot all be so fortunate. Afterall I live in what is known as "la patria dell'olio" or home of the olive oil.  I cringe however at seeing so many EVOO that are available and that are not of quality.

For information on how you can purchase the quality Tuscan extra virgin olive oil I use, please contact me or send me a comment via my blog.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Simple Slow Food in Umbria Italy

Local food artisans provide simple meals to attendees of "Coloriamo i Cieli" Kite Festival in Castiglione del Lago, Umbria. Here "Fagiolini di Trasimeno," Pecorino Toscano, Bruschetta, Fava beans and local homemade wine.

 Porchetta anyone?
 Local cheeses, jams, oil and wine.

Selling locally made chocolate in Umbria.

Tips On Using & Preserving Olive Oil

My new found best friend is Italian extra virgin olive oil. Once you have tasted the best, it is really difficult to accept the rest. I am serious. I am becoming a connoisseur of olive oil and had no idea that bottle of oil that I had been using everyday contains such important qualitites.  Not all extra virgin olive oils however have these qualities. Only the higest quality extra virgin olive oil contains the largest number of polyphenols or antioxidants.   And even if you have the highest quality extra virgin olive oil, you can literally destroy its good properties with the wrong use or preservation. 

The enemy of olive oil is heat and light. That is why it is a good idea to purchase olive oil that is in either tins or dark glass bottles. Never never purchase or store olive oil in plastic. Plastic will kill it and destroy those antioxidants not to mention what it does to the flavor in general. The absolute best place for storing olive oil is in stainless steel containers but not many of us have the space or access to these, so the second best is in tins or dark glass bottles.

Keep your olive oil away from sunlight, heat from stove top range, any source of heat or light. Store in cool, dark area.

The best olive oil is the newest or "olio nuovo". It is the opposite of wine. If you can, it is best to purchase the newest or latest harvest of olive oil. This is because it contains the best qualities for flavor and health benefits.