Shop and Live Mediterranean

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Travel Talk: Destination -Sardinia Island

If you're looking to visit an exotic tropical location, that also yields many a millenia of Mediterranean culture, art and tradition - a fantastic meal and great wine, then the Romanesque Island of Sardinia must go to the top of your list. History describes the island as a Phoenecian colony that was conquered and colonized by the Romans during the First Punic war in 238BC. The history of Sardinia as a human settlement dates backs thousands of years. Archaelogical evidence of human existence is represented by the numerous dwellings called nuraghe.

The beaches here are incredible. However, with the vast amount of immaculately preserved cultural and historical record of their rich and so well preserved traditions, an ample amount of time should be dedicated to 'exploration' and discovery' of the island. In the capital city of Cagliari, make to sure to visit these historical bases.

Raccolta di Cere Anatomiche Cagliari
Creepy, anatomically-correct wax models line the halls of the Raccolta di Cere Anatomiche, and their insides are on display for all the world to see. Models are carefully cross-sectioned to reveal the hidden intricacies of the human body. The interesting displays combine science with macbre entertainment.
Address: Piazza dell'Indipendenza 7
Cagliari CA Italy
Te.l: (o11) +39 (0) 70 6757627

National Picture Gallery of Cagliari (Pinacoteca Nazionale di Cagliari)
Cagliari's Pinacoteca Nazionale's collection focuses on Sardinian art from the 15th to the 17th century. Four works by Sardinia's premiere artist, Pietro Cavaro, are a highlight. Other items of interest include a fascinating collection of 14th century Spanish-Arab pottery and a look at the history of Sardinian weaponry.
Address: Piazza Arsenale
Cagliari CA Italy 09124
Tel: (011) +39 (0) 70 674054

Museo Archeologico Nazionale
Ancient Sardinia was once populated by a civilization known as the
Nuragici, who left behind several artifacts, including curious towers known as nuraghes, scattered accross the island. Some of the most intriguing pieces left behind are housed safely in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale. Look for bronzetti, carved bronze statues it's said date back as far as 5000 BC.
Address: Piazza Arsenale
Cagliari CA Italy
(011) +39 (0) 70 684000


Saturday, July 24, 2010

History Log: The Execution of Mata Hari - 1917

The Ode to'la femme fatale' which this blog honors as one of the, if not the greatest manipulator of fine fabric and clothing to compliment the soft lines of the feminine form to intrigue and excite the enemy, the allie, both or neither... ssshhh.

Mata Hari was the stage name Dutch-born Margaretha Zelle took when she became one of Paris' most popular exotic dancers on the eve of World War I. Although details of her past are sketchy, it is believed that she was born in the Netherlands in 1876 and married a Dutch Army officer 21 years her senior when she was 18. She quickly bore him two children and followed him when he was assigned to Java in 1897. The marriage proved rocky. The couple returned to the Netherlands in 1902 with their daughter (their other child, a son, had died mysteriously in Java). Margaretha's husband obtained a divorce and retained custody of his daughter.

Margaretha then made her way to Paris where she reinvented herself as a Mata Hari Indian temple dancer thoroughly trained in the erotic dances of the East. She took on the name Mata Hari and was soon luring audiences in the thousands as she performed in Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Madrid and other European capitals. She also attracted a number of highly-placed, aristocratic lovers willing to reward her handsomely for the pleasure of her company.

With the outbreak of World War I, Mata Hari's cross-border liaisons with German political and military figures came to the attention of the French secret police and she was placed under surveillance. Brought in for questioning, the French reportedly induced her to travel to neutral Spain in order to develop relationships with the German naval and army attaches in Madrid and report any intelligence back to Paris. In the murky world of the spy, however, the French suspected her of being a double agent. In February 1917 Mata Hari returned to Paris and was immediately arrested; charged with being a German spy. Her trial in July revealed some damning evidence that the dancer was unable to adequately explain. She was convicted and sentenced to death.

In the early-morning hours of October 15, Mata Hari was awakened and taken by car from her Paris prison cell to an army barracks on the city's outskirts where she was to meet her fate.

"I am ready."

Henry Wales was a British reporter who covered the execution. We join his story as Mata Hari is awakened in the early morning of October 15. She had made a direct appeal to the French president for clemency and was expectantly awaiting his reply:

"The first intimation she received that her plea had been denied was when she was led at daybreak from her cell in the Saint-Lazare prison to a waiting automobile and then rushed to the barracks where the firing squad awaited her.

Never once had the iron will of the beautiful woman failed her. Father Arbaux, accompanied by two sisters of charity, Captain Bouchardon, and Maitre Clunet, her lawyer, entered her cell, where she was still sleeping - a calm, untroubled sleep, it was remarked by the turnkeys and trusties.

The sisters gently shook her. She arose and was told that her hour had come.

'May I write two letters?' was all she asked.

Consent was given immediately by Captain Bouchardon, and pen, ink, paper, and envelopes were given to her.

She seated herself at the edge of the bed and wrote the letters with feverish haste. She handed them over to the custody of her lawyer.

Then she drew on her stockings, black, silken, filmy things, grotesque in the circumstances. She placed her high-heeled slippers on her feet and tied the silken ribbons over her insteps.

She arose and took the long black velvet cloak, edged around the bottom with fur and with a huge square fur collar hanging down the back, from a hook over the head of her bed. She placed this cloak over the heavy silk kimono which she had been wearing over her nightdress.

Her wealth of black hair was still coiled about her head in braids. She put on a large, flapping black felt hat with a black silk ribbon and bow. Slowly and indifferently, it seemed, she pulled on a pair of black kid gloves. Then she said calmly:

'I am ready.'

The party slowly filed out of her cell to the waiting automobile.

The car sped through the heart of the sleeping city. It was scarcely half-past five in the morning and the sun was not yet fully up.

Clear across Paris the car whirled to the Caserne de Vincennes, the barracks of the old fort which the Germans stormed in 1870.

The troops were already drawn up for the execution. The twelve Zouaves, forming the firing squad, stood in line, their rifles at ease. A subofficer stood behind them, sword drawn.

The automobile stopped, and the party descended, Mata Hari last. The party walked straight to the spot, where a little hummock of earth reared itself seven or eight feet high and afforded a background for such bullets as might miss the human target.

As Father Arbaux spoke with the condemned woman, a French officer approached, carrying a white cloth.

'The blindfold,' he whispered to the nuns who stood there and handed it to them.

'Must I wear that?' asked Mata Hari, turning to her lawyer, as her eyes glimpsed the blindfold.

Maitre Clunet turned interrogatively to the French officer.

'If Madame prefers not, it makes no difference,' replied the officer, hurriedly turning away. .

Mata Hari was not bound and she was not blindfolded. She stood gazing steadfastly at her executioners, when the priest, the nuns, and her lawyer stepped away from her.

The officer in command of the firing squad, who had been watching his men like a hawk that none might examine his rifle and try to find out whether he was destined to fire the blank cartridge which was in the breech of one rifle, seemed relieved that the business would soon be over.

A sharp, crackling command and the file of twelve men assumed rigid positions at attention. Another command, and their rifles were at their shoulders; each man gazed down his barrel at the breast of the women which was the target.

She did not move a muscle.

The underofficer in charge had moved to a position where from the corners of their eyes they could see him. His sword was extended in the air.

It dropped. The sun - by this time up - flashed on the burnished blade as it described an arc in falling. Simultaneously the sound of the volley rang out. Flame and a tiny puff of greyish smoke issued from the muzzle of each rifle. Automatically the men dropped their arms.

At the report Mata Hari fell. She did not die as actors and moving picture stars would have us believe that people die when they are shot. She did not throw up her hands nor did she plunge straight forward or straight back.

Instead she seemed to collapse. Slowly, inertly, she settled to her knees, her head up always, and without the slightest change of expression on her face. For the fraction of a second it seemed she tottered there, on her knees, gazing directly at those who had taken her life. Then she fell backward, bending at the waist, with her legs doubled up beneath her. She lay prone, motionless, with her face turned towards the sky.

A non-commissioned officer, who accompanied a lieutenant, drew his revolver from the big, black holster strapped about his waist. Bending over, he placed the muzzle of the revolver almost - but not quite - against the left temple of the spy. He pulled the trigger, and the bullet tore into the brain of the woman.

Mata Hari was surely dead."

"The Execution of Mata Hari, 1917," EyeWitness to History, (2005).

Monday, June 15, 2009

How About a Nice Curry, and Do Put That Left Hand Away

Although many consider curry dishes, or 'curries', to have originated in, and is exclusive of India, and Indian cooking, the truth is that 'curries' stem from a number of Asian countries including India, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Essentially a curry is of a spicy demeanor, but depending on the of spices and herbs used determine the flavor, and vary rom country to country. The true objective of curries is to create a dish with a pleasant and satisfying balance of flavor and sensual intrigue until the next meal.

In Indian cooking, for example, this contrast is demonstrated in the difference between the hot vindaloo and Madras curries and the mild kormas. Generally speaking, commonly used base spices and herbs include coriander, cumin, cardamom and tumeric.

Recently, traditional curry has taken a turn, or a return, as we have it, to a time when editions of it were reserved only for royalty and their most noble guests. Just this month, London eatery, the Bombay Brasserie, owned by Taj Hotels, based in Mumbai, announced a fabulous culinary creation by the name of 'Samundari Khazana' in time to tribute to the DVD release of Oscar-winning film 'Slumdog Millionaire'. The price for the curried delicacy, a cool $2000. Not really too bad if you split it up 'family style'.

According to media reports, the dish is a combination, and (presumably a) careful balance of Beluga Caviar, sea snails, a whole lobster and slices of edible gold. Andy Morris of GQ Magazine comments, 'No dish, no matter whether it's coated in precious metal or has so many lobsters it looks like 'Aquaman's breakfast, can justify such vast expense. The problem is it cheapens the restaurant experience: in a hotly contested field, the Brasserie is one of the best Indian restaurants in London but by including such a preposterous item on the menu, they risk overshadowing the good work they do in the kitchen.'

Well, that's one opinion...

In response, Chef Prahlad Hegde proposes, 'There are still people out there with money to spend and this curry is a real experience. "The idea is from a basic Indian recipe I got from my
Mum but we are using the finest ingredients in the world." Hegde said. "The fish and seafood is marinated in chilli and tamarind paste, then I'm going to slice truffle over the top to give it a nutty flavour." Hagde added.

And that's another perspective...

Personally, I'm of the mind that food should be intriguing and not to be limited to price factors, such as one would do with any form of art. And being the gracious host that I am, I would be the one picking up the tab. So simply enjoy your meal.

Best of everything,

Friday, May 29, 2009

How To Out Do Your Best Friend's Wedding

As we approach the breezy carefree month of June we can admire that certain number of fortunate women will be realizing their dream of walking, sashaying, floating, or even jumping over a broom, on their way down the aisle on their fabulous wedding day. Yes, on this magnificent day everything from the ceremony to the photos to the preliminary limo ride to the unbelievable reception flows along without a hitch. However, no one could begin to imagine the amount of time and planning that has actually gone into the event (not to mention, the stress, but on many a friendship, and family tie or two. Gee, what makes those brides tick)?

By far, the most popular time for having weddings is between the months of May and August. Rightfully so - summer weddings are the most ideal; due to the warm weather, outdoor ceremonies are reasonably plausible, brides have the choice of shorter sleeve, or even sleeveless gowns, the period of daylight is longer so children can readily join in on the fun, flowers are in bloom... So many reasons to choose this pleasant easy season. Aside from the ceremony itself, it is the after wedding Celebration, or Reception, that announces to the stock of friends and family that the couple has officially embarked onto a life long adventure (and at this point it would indeed be the intent). The Reception, too, whether, it be presented in the form of a sit down dinner, a cocktail party setting, or just a big ol' free for all, is a way that the bride will be remembered and considered as a hostess. Well, at least to those people who care about that type of thing, ahem.

Here are some ideas that I have come across that I believe could be incorporated into most any affair that is one to talked about for years to come. Of course, each suggested scenario should be preceded by a formal cocktail hour replete with true French Champagne, authentic Russian Vodka to accompany a pleasing seafood and in season vegetable crudites spread that includes premium caviar, fine domestic roe, and bottarga. Allez!

French Accents:
'...Stations during the cocktail hour should be filled with elaborate platters for your guests to sample: pork and chicken liver pâtés; crudités; onion and goat cheese tartlets; Roquefort; leek, chèvre and walnut tortes; and French cheeses with baguettes. Try a mixed-green salad with olives and a tarragon-Dijon vinaigrette, plus cassoulet — a pork, white bean, sausage and tomato stew — and coq au vin with potato gratin for an elegant entree. Or, instead, experiment with Parisian bistro fare and serve steak frites, mussels mariniere and tuna niçoise.'

Italian Accents:
'...Sharing and passing antipasti, such as fried zucchini flowers, grilled octopus, Italian cured ice and whet the whistle. Pass on typical rolls and butter for short vases filled with tall breadsticks, rustic Italian breads and olive oil for dipping. Buono then likes to serve individual second and third courses, such as a trio of pastas — think lobster ravioli, angel hair in basil pesto and cavatelli in marinara — and entrees like lamb with rosemary and broccoli rabe or rabbit cacciatore.'

East Indian Accents:
'...A buffet offering cumin-grilled chicken with lentils and coriander chutney, fennel and spinach samosas served with a cooling yogurt dip, tandoori chicken and vegetable curry with pumpkin seeds and golden raisins are great examples of this spicy cuisine. “Indian breads are fun and delicious, and a station of lacha paratha, chapati and naan served with accompaniments like mango chutney and tamarind onion relish are always a hit,"
Source: Donna O’Brien, owner and creative director of Beautiful Blooms in Philadelphia

Elegant Oregon Wedding Caterers
Crave Caterers:
Catering by Bo:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Good News for Yacht Owners

Just when you were thinking of firing your accountant comes a fantastic break. On May 6th, 2009, the government successfully reinstated, Article 2 of the Financial Regional Act. The approval of the Act effectively cancels the regulation known as the “luxury tax. This a fabulous development for all those owning, or thinking to buy expensive second homes, private yachts and/or aircrafts. For those who like to travel in style can continue to stay at the most lavish hotels and resorts much more peacefully now. Isn't that just the best news anyone has heard this year? Here are a few of my picks for top line products to add to your 'got to get list':

Charter Princess Mariana
Price: 125 000 000 EUR/175000 USD
This impressive six decks yacht has been built to accommodate just 12 permanent guests and is therefore extremely spacious. One of the most exceptional areas aboard PRINCESS MARIANA is the Beach Club. When the helicopter not aboard, the helipad becomes a golf driving range with a giant screen portraying a host of well-known courses. Having recently completed a 12 million dollar refit, the consideration to the smallest detail is unparalleled, elevating her to a higher standard of mega yacht. e.html

Villa in Sardinia, Italy

Newly constructed, detached villa of approx 200sqm with swimming pool near Porto Cervo just 1km from the beach, on Sardinias north east coast. The villa is situated in a commanding hillside location, on the famous Costa Smeralda, with spectacular sea views over the Pevero bay.
Luxury touches have also been added with an installed sauna and Jacuzzi. Outside is a large, covered veranda, perfect for dining ‘Al Fresco whilst enjoying the stunning views, swimming pool, well tended lawns and parking space.
Price: $1,823,780

The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren

The Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren is inspired by the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR of 1955, based on the W196 F1 car, yet named after the road-going 300SL Gullwing. On 4 April 2008, Mercedes announced they will cease production of the SLR. The last of the coupes rolled off the production line at the end of 2007 and the roadster version is due to be discontinued in early 2009.
MSRP: $495,000 - $495,000
Invoice: $460,350 - $460,350
MPG: 12 City / 16 Hwy
(Can we all agree that the mileage
pretty terrible for this car, oh well..).

Sales info:

What good news this is. However, throughout this discussion I've had the feeling that I'm forgetting to say something. Gee, I wonder what it could be? Oh, yes, of course. Did I mention that this law only applies to legal residents of Sardinia, Italy? For the rest of you Richie Richs, good luck.

Vive le R&R,

Monday, May 11, 2009

Why Must Anchovies Get All The Glory

While reading through Wikipedia looking for an adequate description of bottarga, this is what I get:

"In Italy, it is best-known in Sicilian and Sardinian cuisine; its culinary properties can be compared to those of dry anchovies, though it is much more expensive. Bottarga is often served with lemon juice as an appetizer or used in pasta ishes. In Lebanon it is served sliced, where each slice is covered with a piece of raw garlic and the whole is immersed in olive oil then eaten with flat bread."

Anchovies! Nothing against them - quite possibly the most revolting, accidental comestible on the planet. Alright, maybe I got a little carried away, but I'm sure I would not be the first fine food junkie to beg to differ with that perspective. Now, here's a bit of the skivvy on anchovies. Back around the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, in the days before refrigerators and the Internet, the only way fishermen could preserve their rather scant catches of fish; chiefly anchovy, sardine and eel, was 'salting'. Bottarga, in the other hand, was much more rare due to its own complex process of preservation.

As exporting their catches was a means of income for the fishermen, preserving all that was caught was imperative, Basically the only way to do this was immediately drench the fish in a vat of salt or brine. Weather permitting, the fish was also spread out in the sun to dry. Bottarga, conversely, though also an export commodity in many Mediterranean sea ports, was acknowledged, even by nobility for its strength enhancing qualities. So, I would say, it had a definite purpose, unlike the common everyday anchovy. Further, the means of processing it required a much more sophisticated procedure.

As opposed to being a salty addition to a Caesar salad or just ruining a perfectly good pizza, bottarga truly encompasses the natural flavor of the sea, for it is never salted. It is indeed hand massaged to perfection. Dare I say more on the subject.

Recently, bottarga is becoming more and more accessible to American pallettes. At this point, the item is fairly expensive, such as is caviar in general, but suppliers are working hard to maintain affordable pricing in order to properly introduce it within American markets.

With that, I rest my case.

Smooth sailing,

Friday, May 1, 2009

Harrods of London - 'Omnia Omnibus Ubique'

Harrods Department Store located in London, UK was established by Charles Henry Harrod, originally in 1834 as a grocery and tea wholesale firm. In 1849, Harrod obtained a small shop in the district of Knightsbridge, which incidentally remains the site of the current store. Harrod’s son Charles, impressively built the business into a thriving operation selling medicines, perfumes, stationery, fruits, and veggies. Harrod's rapidly expanded and soon acquired nearby adjoining buildings, and employed one hundred people by 1880.* In a near tragic turn of events, a fire destroyed the store, in 1883. However, the Harrods managed to fill and deliver all of their customer orders by the Christmas season and effectively proved their worth as exceptional purveyors of fine goods to the British public. To date, the emporium continues to thrives as a mainstay of British elegance and class. Through out the years it has changed hands officially twice;first acquired by the House of Fraser in the late 1940s and later by Egyptian Industrialists, Mohammed and Ali Al Fayed in the 1980's.

Harrod's Department Store is impressively immense to say the least with its over 300 departments impeccably situated over a span of seven floors. The expansive emporium sells all the items one would expect to find in an upscale department store from clothing, to jewelry, china, toys, and wedding fare. Additionally, the store has a pet shop with a wide range of domestic and moderately exotic animals for sale. Among the most celebrated departments is that of the aptly named 'Food Hall'. Available here is a virtually endless array of the most gracious of delicacies including fine rare cheeses, charcutarie, chocolates, Ewe, and pastries galore. Of course the finest in luxury gourmet items are offered with a price tag to match. Within the alimentary shoppe, one can also find a number of regular grocery items that cost no more than the Safeway supermarket down the road. For travelers to London, this historic British institution is a definite 'must see'.

Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7XL. Tel: 020 7730 1234. Knightsbridge Tube. Open Mon-Sat 10am-8pm; Sun 12 noon-6pm

Travel happy