Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Someone please help me. I cannot stop eating prosciutto.

Before I moved to Italy, I ate prosciutto once in a while. Lately, I can't get enough of it's salty goodness.

It's strange because my overall meat consumption has declined since the move. I rarely eat read meat (no more In-n-Out Burgers or burgers from AMMO) and chicken is a once in a blue moon thing. However, like my San Carlo chips issue earlier (which I finally got over) I'm now obsessed with prosciutto.

What foods are you "obsessed" with?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rome's Auditorium Parco Della Musica a must for lovers of music and/or architecture.

I finally made it up to this concert hall located north of Villa Borghese Park. One of my friends works there and got us tickets for the Wayne Shorter Quartet concert last weekend. Saturday night I went to see Cuban singer Omara Portuondo.

The hall opened in 2002 was and designed by world famous (and sometimes controversial) Italian architect Renzo Piano. It is beautiful and strange looking. I will take more photos of the structure when I return during the day time.

I can see why it's one of the most popular concert halls in the world. The acoustics are AMAZING. Seriously outrageously so.

I love jazz but Wayne Shorter is on a whole different level. The first two pieces went completely over my head. I was with two hard core jazz heads and after the concert we were trying to figure what the heck happened. While the music was very esoteric I appreciated the musicianship.

It's interesting to me how jazz, a true American art form, is more popular in Europe and Asia than in the United States, why is that?

Omara Portuondo is 79. She was born in Havana. Her mother was from a wealthy Spanish family and created a scandal when she ran off and married a black professional baseball player.

She has been performing for over 60 years. Her popularity in the States increased after she was featured in the film/CD Buena Vista Social Club. Several of the members have died and she dedicated a song to Ibrahim Ferrer.

Her show was one of the best concerts I've been to in a long time. The hall was packed. Portuondo's voice is still strong and her range is incredible. Her band was phenomenal. It was nice to see her highlight these young talented Cuban musicians. Two surprise guests, Italian musicians Joe Barbieri & Gino Evangelista joined her for one number.

The crowd was on their feet for several of the upbeat numbers. Portuondo was visible moved during the extended standing ovation.

I was on a high the rest of the weekend. Portuondo is touring Europe this spring. If you get a chance to catch a show please do.

Outside the main hall.

I'm not sure what a "math festival" is but it seemed to be popular with children.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Flashback Friday – Eddie Murphy/Rick James - "Party All The Time"

Really no words are necessary for this "classic".

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A great new blog for food lovers living or visiting Rome

The very talented Jessica at RomePhotoBlog pointed me in the direction the following blog:

Food in Rome

I see some favorites on there. Buon Appetito!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

David Brent's special dance for a special person,

Today is my sister's birthday. Since I cannot be with her to share in the festivities I felt this lovely video from THE OFFICE (the original UK version) could convey my birthday wishes.

Have fun today sis. Happy Birthday. Aught!!

The video

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

HBO's THE WIRE Airing in Italy

Okay I know I'm a little late to the party on this one. I tried to watch The Wire during the third season but having missed the first two I couldn't get into it.

Now it just started airing on here on cable. The Italian Tag is, "America In Five Acts". The critically acclaimed show ran for five years on HBO. Each year they focused on a different facet of Baltimore. First up the drug trade, later the ports, city government & the bureaucracy, the school system/education and the media.

Now I get the hype. This show is excellent. Well written, excellent complex characters and at times it's very funny. What is happening in parts of Baltimore is a cancer in American society. You don't have to live in the inner city for the problems there to impact you. The cancer is growing and we are losing an entire generation of young men.

One of my former bosses used to teach in the Baltimore school system. The stories she told us broke our hearts. This is unacceptable for a rich country that loves to tell other countries what to do, and where the Hannitys of the world say "It's the greatest country in the world". Really? For who?

David Simon the creator of the show is a former police reporter. He also worked on the HBO mini-series THE CORNER, which was depressing as hell. He was a writer on NBC's HOMICIDE which was based on his non-fiction book. He had quite a few creative issues with them. They thought the show was too pessimistic at times.

I was trying to figure why this show hits me in the gut. I think it's seeing young kids trapped in this world. If your schools are horrible, nobody in your neighborhood seems to have a job and the area looks like Beirut how do you succeed? Is anyone surprised at the level of crime and dysfunction? How did this happen?

I thought the following was interesting...from wikipedia:

Simon described the second season as a meditation on the death of work and the betrayal of the American working class.…"[I]t is a deliberate argument that unencumbered capitalism is not a substitute for social policy; that on its own, without a social compact, raw capitalism is destined to serve the few at the expense of the many."

He added that season 3 "reflects on the nature of reform and reformers, and whether there is any possibility that political processes, long calcified, can mitigate against the forces currently arrayed against individuals." The third season is also an allegory that draws explicit parallels between the War in Iraq and the national drug prohibition, which in Simon's view has failed in its aims and become a war against America's underclass.

This is portrayed by Major Colvin, imparting to Carver his view that policing has been allowed to become a war and thus will never succeed in its aims.

Writer Ed Burns, who worked as a public school teacher after retiring from the Baltimore police force shortly before going to work with Simon, has called education the theme of the fourth season. Rather than focusing solely on the school system, the fourth season looks at schools as a porous part of the community that are affected by problems outside of their boundaries.

Burns states that education comes from many sources other than schools and that children can be educated by other means, including contact with the drug dealers they work for. Burns and Simon see the theme as an opportunity to explore how individuals end up like the show's criminal characters, and to dramatize the theory that hard work is not always justly rewarded.

I know since the "war" began our jails have been filling up but I agree that things have not improved. I don't know how we win this war. As long as there is demand, somebody is going to supply it.

On a completely shallow note, Idris Elba and Dominic West are fione. Both play Americans but are from the UK.

Any WIRE fans out there? Love to hear your thoughts (or on the drug war in general)...please watch spoilers. I'm only in the middle of the first season.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ocean Views + Spaghetti Con Vongole (with clams) = An Amazing Lunch

Yesterday one of my Italian girlfriends drove out to Ostia for lunch. We went to dar Zagaia ar buco located at Capocotta.

It was PACKED. They don't take reservations. It was worth the wait for an outdoor table.

One of my favorite dishes is Spaghetti con Vongole. When it's done right there are few things on earth that are better.

Everything was delicious but they are known for the Spaghetti con Vongole.

Warning, this is not a place to go to if you are in a hurry. I believe the owner is 80 or so and used to be a fisherman. Now his family runs the restaurant. It's not fancy and the wait staff is surly. Or maybe it just seemed that way to me because I don't speak Roman dialect.

We were there for almost three hours and the lunch crowd didn't start clearing out until around 4:30. I cannot imagine how crowded this place must be during a summer weekend.

At first when we heard it was an hour wait we couldn't believe it. We were starving. After the meal we were glad we stayed. We enjoyed the food, the wine and the view. It was a great day.

I will definitely return.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Flashback Friday – Birthday Edition - Rush "Tom Sawyer"

Today is my brother's birthday (aught!), Sunday is my dad's and next week is my sister's. Phew. March was a busy birthday month in our house.

This song so reminds me of growing up in the 'burbs and hearing Rush, Led Zeppelin etc.

My brother went to Howard University and lived off campus his last two years.

One day he was chilling in his apartment, playing an eclectic range of music. In between Led tracks a neighbor knocked on his front door. He asked my brother if everything was okay. My brother was puzzled until the guy said "I heard that music." ha

A couple years ago I was having lunch with a talent manager who is black and grew up in Beverly Hills. He told me once he was driving down the street blaring "Tom Sawyer". A car blaring rap pulled up and the driver of that car looked at the manager like he was nuts.

Sigh, music is music.

This song has one of the best drum parts ever. Neil Peart is up there with Jon Bonham.

Have great weekend.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

President Obama's Picks for March Madness

Yes it's that glorious time of year again...the NCAA tournament, aka March Madness. I see Syracuse (where I went to college) is a number 3 seed. Hopefully they will make it out of the first round. The Big East, which Syracuse is a part of has the most teams in this year's tournament.

ESPN asked the President to send in his picks. UNC? hmmm. It seems they are the favorite to win it all.

On EPSN's website they have his officially bracket. I think today is the last day you can fill out your own. This video of him filling out his brackets is pretty funny.

Go Orange!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What’s Cooking Wednesday – Pasta Rustica with Chicken Sausage and Three Cheeses

For more WCW recipes check out Shan's Place.

This the perfect thing to make on a chilly night. It tastes even better the next day. I found this recipe in a Williams-Sonoma catalog. Usually I'm not a fan of chicken or turkey sausage but this recipe is full of flavor.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 lb. chicken or turkey sausage, casings removed
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper chile flakes
1 can (28 oz.) tomatoes in puree, tomatoes coarsely chopped and puree reserved
Salt to taste
1 lb. penne pasta
1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

In a large dutch oven/heavy sauce pan over medium heat, warm oil. And onion and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add sausage and cook, breaking it up into bite-sized pieces, until no longer pink, about 6 minutes.

Stir in basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Add tomatoes with puree and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer stirring occasionally, until thickened, 10-12 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Preheat over to 350F. Lightly oil a baking dish. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Salt water, cook pasta until barely al dente. Drain.

In a large bowl, toss pasta with sauce, ricotta and fontina. Spread in the baking dish and sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Bake until cheeses are melted and tips of pasta are crusty, about 30 minutes.

Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Serve hot. Serves 6-8.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Okibà Mozzarella Bar Comes to Campo de Fiori.

Okibà means "here it is" in Neapolitan dialect. The first Okibà opened in Rome four years ago.

The extremely popular restaurant in Los Angeles, Mozza, was "inspired" by Obikà as were several other high profile restaurants in the States after their owners visited the Rome restaurant.

Now the owner, Naples native Silvio Ursini, is expanding. There's already one in Milan and another recently opened in New York City. Here is the article from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/17/dining/17mozza.html?_r=1

I've only been to the one in Milan but I'm excited to check this place out.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Flashback Friday – Corinne Bailey Rae "I'd Like to"

Love Corinne's voice and this video.

This is first week in months that it's been sunny everyday. As I worked out in the park this morning this song came on my iPod and reminded me of hiking in Runyon Canyon back in Los Angeles.

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

AS Roma vs Arsenal

The game that wouldn't end.

SKY is running a special where all subscribers get SKY SPORT and SKY CINEMA for free for three months. I have to admit I've enjoyed watching NCAA basketball and other sports on the American channel ESPN. Of course my soccer watching has increased.

Roma outplayed Arsenal and won the game but penalty kicks decided who would go to the next round. Roma lost the penalty round. Grrrr.

I didn't realize at first there was a penalty round. When the game finally ended I was excited Roma won then noticed they were setting up for kicks. What the heck? The teams had each won one game. Got it.

All the players were exhausted. Poverina Roma, maybe next year they will win the European Champion League.

photo Corriere dello Sport.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Did Poste Italiane Go On Strike Without Telling Anyone?

Yesterday morning I received a call from Telecom Italia (the phone company). I told the nice lady who was speaking very quickly that I was happy with Telecom Italia and didn't need any new services. Clearly I didn't understand her because she said a colleague who spoke English would call me later.

It turns out they were calling me because I had an overdue bill. I never received the bill (they come every two months). The Telecom representative told me a bunch of customers have said the same thing.

I wonder where that bill is I also wonder where is the package from my friend in Los Angeles that had Travelers Cheques (they have not been cashed, she checked) and Swedish Fish in them? My package of Moo Cards from London never showed up. What these things have in common is they should have arrived the week before or after Christmas.

I knew my good luck with Poste Italiane would run out. Oh well it lasted over eight months. Maybe the missing mail will show up this summer.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rihanna and Chris working on a duet? Why?

I have avoided posting about them as every time I would write something I would get upset.

This whole situation is sad. The only positive thing is young people are talking about domestic violence. We have a long way to go however, as many of Chris Brown's young fans (mostly girls) blame Rihanna.

I assume they have not read the police report or seen photos of her injuries. I don't think it's okay for anyone, man or woman to put their hands on someone. Let's say for the sake of argument she hit him first. The injuries she had were not from self-defense. He beat the crap out of her. It was vicious and clearly he has some major issues.

I really cannot wrap my head around beating up someone you care about like this. I'm lucky in that I have never, nor have any of my friends or family members been in an abusive relationship. Abuse like this is not usually a one time kind of thing.

Many people have asked, why is she going back to him...she's rich, she has options. Maybe she feels guilty, like if she does broke up with him, she would be to blame for his career being over.

I'm not sure if his career will suffer. If Chris Brown had treated a pit bull that way he'd probably be in more trouble.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Fontana dell'Acqua on Gianicolo Hill

I took these photos a few months ago. This huge fountain is visible from Trastevere and other parts of the city. It was built in the 1600s with the basin being added in 1690 by Carlo Fontana (really).

This pool of fresh water is from an ancient aqueduct built in AD 109. Don't think about taking a dip though. There are armed men and women with machines guns standing around. Security is pretty heavy due to all the embassies in the area.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Flashback Friday –Cherelle & Alexander O'Neal - Saturday Luv

What happened to Cherelle? She had a bunch of hits in the late '80s/early '90s. "Everything I Miss At Home" was the jam.

Regarding this video, I have one very important question...what the heck is Alexander wearing? It's like a combo between a tracksuit and a tuxedo. A traxedo?

Have a great weekend.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Rush is the "intellectual head" of the GOP? Oh dear.

Where are the moderate Republicans? Why are they letting these crazy people take over their party? My Republicans friends have no idea what happened to their party and most of my Independent friends are not interested in anything the GOP has to say.

I guess some would think as a registered Democrat I should be happy. Well I'm happy if the far-right element of the GOP is exposed but in a democracy we need to have a strong two party system. We need choices. It's not good if one party controls everything. Look what happened during the last eight years in the States and what's happening now in Italy (the PDL is a mess).

Rush only cares about Rush. It's sad that Steele who really is supposed to be the head of the party had to apologize for speaking the truth. I think Steele doesn't have any real power and this little episode proved it. Poor Steete doesn't realize he is nothing but window dressing. Good luck with that gig brother man. Don't even get me started on Jindal.

Rush keeps saying he wants Obama to fail. Of course we should hold the president, regardless of party, accountable. But for Rush to sit there and say he rather see the new president fail instead of I don't know, help the country get out of this mess which went down on the GOP's watch speaks volumes. All these GOPers talking smack, what are their solutions? Are we better off today than eight years ago. Uhm no. Clinton may have had some personal issues but let's not forget when he left office we had a surplus. He entered office facing a deficit left by who, Bush and Reagan.

I think the Timothy Egan article from the New York Time sums up neatly the dire situation the GOP finds itself in.

March 4, 2009, 10:00 PM
Fears of a Clown
Once upon a time, you could drive to the most remote reaches of the United States and escape Rush Limbaugh. But from the Mogollon Mountains of New Mexico to the Badlands of South Dakota, where only the delicious twang of a country tune or the high-pitched pleadings of a lone lunatic came over the AM dial, there is now the Mighty El Rushbo.

As someone who spends a lot of time on the road, I used to find Limbaugh to be an obnoxious but entertaining companion, his eruptions more reliable than Old Faithful. But now that Limbaugh has become something else — the face of the Republican Party, by a White House that has played him brilliantly — he has been transformed into car-wreck-quality spectacle, at once scary and sad.


The sweaty, swollen man in the black, half-buttoned shirt who ranted for nearly 90 minutes Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference. He reiterated his desire to see the president of his country fail. He misstated the Constitution’s intent while accusing President Obama of “bastardizing” the document. He made fun of one man’s service in Vietnam, to laughter.

David Letterman compared him to an Eastern European gangster. But he looked more like a bouncer at a strip club who spent all his tips on one bad outfit. And for the Republican Party, Limbaugh has become very much a vice.

Smarter Republicans know he is not good for them. As the conservative writer David Frum said recently, “If you’re a talk radio host and you have five million who listen and there are 50 million who hate you, you make a nice living. If you’re a Republican party, you’re marginalized.”

Polling has found Limbaugh, a self-described prescription-drug addict who sees America from a private jet, to be nearly as unpopular as Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who damned America in the way that Limbaugh has now damned the nation’s newly elected leader. But Republicans just can’t quit him. So even poor Michael Steele, the nominal head of the Republican Party who dared to criticize him, had to grovel and crawl back to the feet of Limbaugh.

Some expected more mettle from Steele. After all, this rare African-American Republican won his post after defeating a candidate who submitted the parody song from Limbaugh’s show: “Barack the Magic Negro.”

Race is an obsession with Limbaugh, one of the threads I noticed on those long drives on country roads.

When Colin Powell endorsed Obama during the campaign, Limbaugh said it was entirely because of race. After the election, Powell said the way for the party, which has been his home, to regain its footing was to say the Republican Party must stop “shouting at the world.”

In 2003, Limbaugh said quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated because the media wanted a black to succeed. Over the next six years, McNabb threw for nearly 150 touchdowns and went to a Super Bowl.

And Limbaugh launched the current battle when he said of Obama: “We are being told that … we have to bend over, grab the ankles, bend over forward, backward, whichever, because his father was black, because this is the first black president.”

Translation: submit sexually to a black man because “someone” is telling us all to. Who? Which leaders of the Democratic Party have made such a claim? Which opinion-makers? But therein lies the main tactic of Limbaugh, an old demagogue technique: create a straw man, then tear it down. The latest example was Saturday, when Limbaugh presented himself as the defender of capitalism, liberty and unfettered free markets. Obama, he has said since, is waging a “war on capitalism.”

There is a war, all right. We are witnessing the worst debacle of unfettered capitalism in our lifetime brought on by — you got it, capitalism at its worse. It cannibalized itself. Government, sad to say, had nothing to do with it — except for criminal neglect of oversight.

Now that government has been forced to the rescue, just who is insisting on taxpayer bailouts? Who is in line for handouts? Who is saying that only government can save capitalism? The very leaders of unregulated markets who injected this poison into the economy, the very plutocrats that Limbaugh celebrates.

And, of course, let us never forget that the bailouts of banks and insurance companies were initiated by the Republican president Limbaugh defended for eight years.

Of late, Limbaugh has wondered why he has trouble with women. His base is white, male, Republican — people the party has to stop pandering to if it hopes to govern soon.

It’s little wonder that the thrice-married Limbaugh, who uses “femi-Nazi,” “info-babe” and “PMSNBC” (Get it? The network is full of women suffering pre-menstrual cramps, ha-ha), among his monikers for women, can’t get a date with that demographic.

For Democrats, this is all going to plan. It was James Carville and associates who first cooked up associating Limbaugh with the opposition, as Politico reported. Then on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said Limbaugh was the “voice and the intellectual force and energy behind the Republican Party.”

Limbaugh played his role, ever the fool. A brave Republican could have challenged him, could have had a “have you no shame” moment with him, giving the party some other identity, some spine. Instead, they caved — from Steele, to the leaders in the House, Eric Cantor and Mike Pence, to Gov. Bobby Jindal, who would be ridiculed by Limbaugh for his real first name, Piyush, were he a Democrat.

You could almost hear their teeth clattering in fear of the all-powerful talk radio wacko, the denier of global warming, the man who said Bill Clinton’s economic policies would fail just before an unprecedented run of prosperity.

But Limbaugh has a fear of his own. If people see him purely as an “entertainer,” as Steele suggested, he will be exposed for what he is: a clown with a very large audience.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

What’s Cooking Wednesday – Tracey's Lemon Mushroom Chicken

Please visit Shan's place for more recipes

One of my sister's best friends Tracey made this dish for my sister's bridal shower. It's was a big hit. It's easy and it's one of those dishes that can be fancy or just perfect for a casual dinner. The key is to used the highest quality ingredients you can.

Approx. 1 lb thinly sliced chicken breasts
1 cup flour
1 tsp salt
black pepper
1 stick butter
1 lemon
8 oz sliced mushrooms
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 - 1/2 dry white wine

Combine salt, pepper and flour in a ziploc bag. Add the chicken, seal and shake to coat the chicken in the flour mixture.

Saute the garlic in 1/2 butter then add the chicken. Saute 2-3 minutes per side or until cooked through.

Remove to a plate and squeeze lemon juice over the chicken. When you have finished cooking all the chicken and the rest of the butter and deglaze the plan, then add the mushrooms. Cook for a few minutes, add the rest of the juice from the lemon. Simmer again for about 5 minutes and then add the wine.

Return chicken to the pan. Simmer for another 3 minutes and serve.

I usually add a parley sprig for decoration and serve this with rosemary roasted potatoes.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Good-bye Domino Magazine

Sunday was a sad, sad day. I read the last issue of one of my favorite magazines.

Domino was the funky, more accessible (price-wise) version of another favorite, Elle Decor. Subscriptions were doing well but ad sales were down as they are with most magazines in this horrible economy.

A friend just gave me a subscription for my birthday and now this. Tears.

I had to give away most of my back issues when I moved overseas so I was glad there was a Domino.com. Unfortunately, that is shutting down too.

There are websites like Apartment Therapy and Decor8 that are fantastic but I love magazines. It's not the same reading things online.

Domino had great layouts and I would flag things I liked for my house that I haven't bought yet. I will miss it.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Piazza Farnese On A Spring-Like Day

It was gorgeous out this past Saturday. The outdoor tables at cafes were packed. Unfortunately, it’s supposed to rain all week.

Another one of my favorite fountains. There are two of these in Piazza Farnese. The lily is the symbol of the Farnese family and the large tubs came from the ancient Baths of Caracalla. The Baths were complete in AD 217 and were in use for over 300 years until the invading Goths destroyed the aqueducts.