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culinary concierge, blog

ViaMedina is a culinary concierge service providing private chefs, cooking lessons, exclusive events, and interactive food and wine tours.

Fire it Up! Guanciale Fresca

Summer is here, and especially in Italy that means finding new and creative ways to not have to use your oven so that you stand a chance of surviving the searing heat of the season. Plus, while Italy might not have the same tradition of grilling and barbecuing as the United States, there are still plenty of ways to get your cook on outside and make it a pretty spectacular event. 

It's still fairly commonplace for homes in Italy to have an outdoor cooking area, and many include a wood fired oven. That's right, it is really just that idyllic around here that people have pizza ovens in their backyards that they can just fire up and do some incredible cooking with. Yes friends, everything you've heard is true and yes, you are entitled to the jealousy raging in your belly. 

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Dum Vivimus Vivamus. While we Live, Let us Live Well.

My mother's birthday is 11 June. This year, 11 June was also the day that our dear friend Nikki got married and where I was given the honour of performing their ceremony. Hell, our cats turned two years old on 11 June. It was a day for celebration. I wanted to say so much to my mother, but I only found the time to give her a short phone call. But her voice on the other end of the line was light, filled with her contentment and the lightness of years that I can only hope are growing lighter on her shoulders. Mom, I thought of you all day, and all night.

 

But when we woke up the next day, we got news that in Orlando, Florida, 49 people had been killed by a man who had stormed a club and held them hostage in one more act of hatred and violence. One more person for whom we will have to find a reason to explain his acts and whose ancestry will in some way become proof positive that what he is, and what he has done is some way an invasion of a foreign presence in what was once a great America. Somehow with a social media feed that was marred in tragedy, I would not bring myself to celebrate my mother's birthday, because I could not risk being told that I was trivializing such sadness by not focusing on it. And I couldn't do that to my mother.

 

You see, as the years go by and my distance grows I feel even deeper inside of me and know that I will always be American, and I learn

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Gorgonzola, Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ok I know, there are a lot of gimmicks out there these days, and every one is serving the next weird combination in a mason jar or on a shovel or something so I would understand if you'd dismiss this recipe as another bit of hipster whimsy. Lord knows that when i first dreamt up the idea i thought of them as gimmicky, and it took me years to actually give it a real chance. But the more I made them and the more I've developed the recipe I think they're not only delicious but a really interesting bit of culinary logic.

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Sagra Season: A Primer

Ah, Italia. The drama of the ruins, the majesty of its great cities; the art, the architecture, the beauty...

Wait, wait. 

While all of that is true and important and life changing, it's very surely not the whole story of what makes Italy what it is. Chiefly of course because that description is missing the most important pastime in the country: food. Italy without food is like the ocean without fish; glorious and wonderful and awe inspiring but lifeless.

But of course, everyone knows this right? Everyone's got a checklist: eat a cacio e pepe in Campo Fiori or a Margherita in Marechiaro, a tortellini in Bologna and then die happy. But that's just scratching the surface of the food culture here. 

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Traditional dishes of Tuscania

Our adopted home of Tuscania is about 80km north of Rome and 30km south of Tuscany, in an area known alternatively as Tuscia, Maremma, or that stuff you pass as you leave Rome to go to Florence.  As such the culinary roots of the area are an extensive tangle of Roman specialities like pasta (cacio e pepe, amatriciana and our favourite mystery, carbonara) combined with some of the canonical Tuscan dishes like cacciatore, acquacotta and porchetta. There are also some pretty incredible offal and organ dishes within this library that, while not for everyone, are still a really worthwhile thing to try out. 

For a little town there's a lot to choose from, and recipes will very according from one family to another. And trust us, this is in no way a definitive list; we'll keep adding as we go and if anyone has a dish that is a must, we'd love to hear from you. 

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The First Annual ViaMedina Easter in Tuscania Roundup!

For most of us, Christmas is really the star of the yearly holiday show: besides the obvious draw of presents, it's got the kind of participatory appeal that really manages to catch on, and just enough crossover between Christianity and popular culture so that those celebrating from the sidelines really do feel connected to the starters on the field. It's a time of ugly sweaters and big dinners, and for most a mass or even two. 

Easter on the other hand, is another thing altogether. In my family in New York it was the time that our most profound guilt complexes came out for air, expunged as it were by the intrepid Lent sacrifices that usually involved us having to give up something awesome for a time period and not quite knowing why. Sure, there was some fine eating to be had particularly in the form of macaroni pie or timballo, a maelstrom of long pasta and lard (though now its Crisco) that we would eat on Easter Saturday before the obligatory Easter Ham. 

The thing is, Easter as a commercial holiday is sort of a hard sell; sure, the bunnies and eggs are great and they probably test well with kids (well, unless they are these bunnies) but there is always a looming sense of sacrifice that hangs over Easter. It's an important holiday, to be sure, because its full of a distant kind of repentance that makes us feel ever so slightly guilty tucking into that giant ham roast or our third chocolate bunny. 

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