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21 March 2007

oh, the honeymoon

polenta, sausage and pasta sauce II

We thought we knew where we were going on our honeymoon.

Honeymoon. The sound of it alone makes me feel a little glowy, like the pale-yellow sunset out the window as I write. After nearly four decades of being on this earth, I had nearly given up hope of meeting that man of my dreams. Now, not only have I met him, and have been living with him for eight months, but also he exceeds my dreams. We eat well, we have our health, and we regard every day as a laughing adventure. We are deliberately planning a low-key, goofy wedding, surrounded by people we love and enormously good food. It won’t cost much — we found the navy-blue blazer he wants to wear on that day at a rummage sale, for five dollars. Neither one of us stands on ceremony or walks through life with that many expectations. Why would we need an elaborate honeymoon?

Well, call me a girl, but I still want a honeymoon with him. Call him a girl, but the Chef still wants a honeymoon with me. We live well, but we both work hard. Two days off together, with no work to do, is a rare vacation. There are always stories to write, menus to plan, food to buy, emails to answer, and phone calls to return. He’s a chef — they may work harder than any professional I know. And I’m a freelance writer now, without a regular paycheck. There is always work to do.

The thought of ten days together, doing nothing but eating and walking and laughing and other honeymoon activities? Oh, yeah.

So, early on, we decided where to go. At first, we thought of Ireland. He’s an Ahern — as one of the readers of this blog put it recently, “He has a bit of the Paddy in him.” Oh yes. James is of Welsh derivation, apparently, but I’ve a good chunk of the Irish in me too. He has never been to Ireland. I went for a week, with Sharon, bouncing along the green fields in a little green rental car. I’d go back in a heartbeat. But Ireland without a Guinness? Oh.

Besides, we really want to go somewhere where we will eat well and be inspired. Of course, we would be inspired in Ireland, but the food? Well, food — it seemed to me on my visit — is not the primary sensory pleasure of the place.

We bandied about ideas, but then we both thought of it: road trip. Feet up on the dashboard, windows open, music going loud, and the wind in our hair as we sing. The thought of it made us both giggle, immediately. But where? We decided to follow the trail of great food. Then, it arrived, the idea that latched onto us for months. Seattle to Portland, one day to stuff as many meals as we could stretch into us. A jaunt over to the ocean, where we could fall asleep with the roar of the waves, and take picnics on the sand and lay in the sunlight for hours. Driving down the coast, the immensity to our right, music flying out the window. Into California, where we would tour the wine country, end up in Napa Valley, and eat at the French Laundry. After a bit, we’d wriggle over to San Francisco, eat at Zuni Café, meet up with food blogger friends, and end our trip in Berkeley with the meal at Chez Panisse I have always imagined.

We knew we would spend the entire drive up I-5, heading home, reminiscing about every bite.

Perfect, right? The Chef dreams of the perfect demi-glace, and I am endlessly happy with discovering new foods. Friends, good food, great wine, the ocean, driving while laughing, and eating at two of the best restaurants in the world — that’s a honeymoon.

We started researching places to stay. We started saving every penny we could. We planned ahead to plead with friends and acquaintances to help us get reservations. We had a plan.

That’s the funny thing about plans. They sometimes just go astray.

Really, I blame Jamie Oliver. I’ve been overly happy about the man for years now, and his enthusiasms and recipes have inspired me innumerable times. However, before I met the Chef, I wondered: is Jamie really that good? Maybe I’m just a naïve girl home cook, who likes a male chef who looks like he’d make me laugh. But when I started showing Jamie to the Chef, I realized I had been right all along. In our house, watching Jamie Oliver dvds is referred to as “crack.” The Chef confirmed it: that Jamie Oliver knows what he’s doing. Watching Oliver’s Twist isn’t a light diversion around here, because the Chef is always inspired and goes into work mode. (Thank goodness for South Park and SVU.)

So really, it’s Jamie Oliver’s fault that we changed our plans. The Chef bought me a copy of Jamie’s Italy for Christmas. Seduced by the photographs in sun-washed colors, I started making meals from it nearly every night. His radicchio and arugula salad is going to be with us every spring, for years. His caprese salad photograph inspired me to tear off pieces of fresh mozzarella with my fingers from now on, instead of neatly slicing it. One night, the Chef made us a version of Jamie’s hunter’s chicken stew, spontaneously. It tasted so redolent of the earth and tomatoes and sunlight in the dead of winter that we were both astonished. The Chef put his own version of it on his menu the next month. There was sausage carbonara, salt cod soup, sage and anchovy fritters, and a magnificent sausage and green lentils with tomato salsa.

Seriously, you should purchase this book.

Every morning, as I dipped into its pages, I read passages to the Chef as he tried to read the paper. “Since I’ve been a teenager, I’ve been totally besotted by the love, passion, and verve for food, family, and life itself that just about all Italian people have, no matter where they’re from or how rich or poor they might be.” Ten minutes later, I would nudge the poor Chef as we lay in bed, and interrupt his sports-page moment. “Honey, listen to this, ‘I wanted to find the food of the real Italy — not the place that conjures up images of olive groves and lemons — and to celebrate the recipes from the people I met along the way, from fishermen to family bakers, from the street full of mamas making fresh pasta to all those taking part in the local pasta competition in the town square. I wanted to experience for myself the spirit of Italy that makes cooking and eating absolutely central of family life, whichever part of the country you find yourself in.'” And then the Chef would look at me, and the photograph of what I planned to make us for dinner that night, and he would throw the covers back and climb out of bed. He had to make us breakfast, that minute.

It’s a dangerous book.

We both agreed. Someday, we would go to Italy.

Italy kept creeping into our lives. A friend of a friend who came into town. Friends at the restaurant for New Year’s Eve celebration, and one of them told us how much she loved the area of Italy where she grew up, Abruzzo. After I turned in the book, I turned back to reading. The first book I raced through was Eat Pray Love (I cannot recommend it enough), where Elizabeth Gilbert spends the first third of the year in Rome. I read more of that to the Chef in bed than I had Jamie’s Italy. The cover of one month’s Gourmet and a NY Times Wednesday food section arrived and seemed to leer at us, enticing us to come closer. Italian sausages and bottles of wine and lovely cheeses started sneaking into our home.

One evening, while I was still working on the book, I was editing a description of a meal I ate in Florence, the one weekend I visited the country. I shouldn’t tell you too much about it now — the story made it to the final draft — but suffice it to say that it involves a thunderstorm on the piazza in front of the Uffizi, the statue of Zeus staring down at me, and an unexpected plate of fresh smoked mozzarella. As I re-read it, I nearly started to cry. The experience was direct, and simple, and all about the ingredients. Writing it made me want to go to Italy, that minute.

Finally, our dear friend Merida (whom I have referred to on this site for years as my dear friend, but that pronoun is no longer true), came over one Sunday for movies and morir sonando. She was flipping through Jamie’s Italy, and we were espousing its glories. We were all oohing and ahhing again. Merida — in her infinite wisdom — looked up at us and said, “Why don’t you just go to Italy for your honeymoon?”

Oh. Somehow, it had never occurred to us.

Well, there’s the money. We don’t have that much. And there are the passports to renew and the clichés to overcome and the language barrier. But mostly, it’s the money. The Chef and the writer? We’re rich in living, not in cash.

But, Merida said the clincher: “Look, you two are hoping to have kids soon. Road trips? You can do those with kids. But a trip to Europe? Once you have the kids, that’s going to be on hold for awhile. And how often do you have a honeymoon? Go.”

And so, we looked at each other. Something felt released. We both smiled, and then giggled. “Of course,” we said. “Let’s do it. Let’s go to Italy.” We hugged each other, and then we hugged Merida. Sometimes, in life, you have to take leaps, and make decisions that don’t feel rational on the surface, but resonate underneath.

And just this morning, we started laughing, on our drive to the restaurant, remembering. The Chef’s restaurant, Impromptu, changes its food focus every three months. The cuisine he was creating when we first met? Italy. This is why, in one of his first emails to me, he told me that he had to do some research on Tuscany that night. Feeling emboldened by our first kiss the day before, I made some suggestions to the Chef:

“Tuscany? Don't forget -- chestnut honey on pecorino. It's unbelievably good. Just a little drizzle. There's also smoked buffalo mozzarella. Spinach gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce. Fava beans sauteed in olive oil, with truffles. Pappa alla pomodoro. Chicken breast stuffed with fresh ricotta, ribbons of basil, and sun-dried tomatoes. Caprese salad. How about chianti ice cream?”

This is why the first food the Chef ever fed me was white beans braised in great olive oil and rosemary. The first time I ate dinner at his restaurant, he fed me Italian food.

There it is — Italy for our honeymoon.

However, it turns out that deciding to go has been the easiest part. Right now, we are hounded by a desperate question.

What part of Italy should we visit?

We know one thing only — we want to go to Rome. After reading Eat Pray Love, I have to walk those streets with the Chef. Our friend Francoise insists that Rome is her favorite city in the world. And the Chef? Well, he was an altar boy when he was young. Of course, we have to visit the Vatican.

Okay, that’s two or three days of the honeymoon. But where do we go next?

You see, it seems that everyone who has gone to Italy has fallen in love with the area he or she visited. Judy told us, “Go to Sicily. There are stands with fresh mozzarella by the roadside.” And I could tell by her face as she re-lived the memory that this had been one of the best trips of her life. Nina said, “Bologna. The best meal I have ever eaten was there. I even have the business card from that restaurant still. I’ll give it to you. Bologna.” Okay, put that on the itinerary. The man I hired as my accountant, when he heard our story, said, “You have to go to Emilia-Romagna. Here, borrow my copy of this book.” And he ran into his kitchen and dug out his copy of The Splendid Table, which he put into my hands proudly, as though he were handing over a bible. I read it for ten minutes and added Parma, Modena, and Reggio to the list. Anna grew up in the Dolomites, and she insisted we had to visit.

We both started growing a little dizzy.

But wait! There’s Naples, where pizza as we know it was born. (The Chef insists, however, that pizza was actually invented in Greece. “It was,” he just told me. “The Italians just put red sauce on it.”) Certainly the Chef needs a slice of real Neopalitan pizza. Maybe there is even a pizzeria making rice-crust pizza for me. Italians, as I understand it, have a higher incidence of diagnosed celiacs in their culture than does the US, and a much more advanced understanding of how to cook great food gluten-free than almost anywhere else in the world. Paradoxically, I might be safer in the land of pizza and pasta than other regions of the world.

You see, that’s all we really want. We want to eat. We want to eat the best tomatoes in the world (many people have assured us that’s in San Marzano). We want to eat sardines and mussels fresh from the ocean. We want to eat gelato every day. We want fat lemons, warmed in the sun. (Sorrento.) We want to drink truly great espressos. We want great cheeses and creamy risottos and crispy polenta and just-caught poultry and meals in tiny little trattorias and restaurants that only the locals know about. We want to eat well and memorably.

Some people go to Italy for the art. I’ve stood in front of the David, by myself, for half an hour, and I am satisfied with that. Some people are suggesting we go to Venice and ride in gondolas, or go to the island of Capri, for the romance. I’m sure that both places are stunning, but our romance takes place over a plate. We want to avoid the tourist spots, as much as possible. We want to live like Italians for ten days. We want to eat Italy.

Is that Sardinia? The Cinqueterre? Umbria? Siena? Padua? Bari? Puglia? Positano? Portofino?


We have some time to make up our minds. We have decided, sanely, to enjoy our wedding and all our friends and family visiting, in a spacious manner. We’re going to be married in July. We’re going on our honeymoon in September, after the tourist season has ended (and just before the book tour). This will also give us some more time to save money for the trip. (If people want to give us gifts for the wedding, we are hoping they will want to contribute to the honeymoon instead.) This might be the trip of our lifetime, and we want to do it right.

But still, we need your help. Does anyone out there have suggestions? Where have you eaten well in Italy? What have been some of the most memorable meals? If you have been reading this site for awhile, you probably know us pretty well. Where would we enjoy our time most?

We thank you, in advance, for your kindness.

And if nothing else, we can promise you this: we will come back with photographs, stories, and glorious new recipes inspired by our time there. You can count on it — we will be sharing them with you.

Crispy polenta with fennel sausage and tomato sauce

polenta, sausage, and pasta sauce

While we have been pondering where to put our feet on Italian soil, we have been cooking. The Chef made dishes for me nearly every night for weeks, when I was finishing the book. He came home after an eleven-hour work day to stand in front of the stove and cook again. But once I turned in the last draft (for the moment), I started standing in front of the stove instead. Since we decided to go to Italy, it has been polenta and pasta sauce galore around here.

This dish is the culmination of all those experiments. The Chef taught me how to make polenta well, much better than I had been making. Tomato sauce from canned tomatoes isn’t nearly as brilliant as the sauces made from fresh tomatoes, but the taste is a teasing reminder in the dead of winter. And sausages, in little irregular-shaped patties, are much easier to make than you might imagine.

Last week, when I made this all for dinner, the Chef stood in the kitchen, eating and groaning at the same time. He didn’t stop chewing and scooping more food into his mouth for awhile. When he did finally come up for air, he looked at me with avid hunger and adoration in his eyes, and said: “Baby, this is good.”

Sometimes, that’s all I need.

Fennel sausage

1 pound ground pork (the best and freshest available)
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
¼ cup fennel tops (those leafy greens at the top of the white bulb), minced
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped fine
½ yellow onion, fine diced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Mix all the ingredients into the ground pork. Put your hands in the pork and really mix it all in. Set the bowl full of sausage meat into the refrigerator and let it marinate for at least two hours before cooking.

When you are ready to cook the sausages, preheat the oven to 450°. Put a skillet on high heat. Shape the sausage meat into small balls —perhaps two inches across — and pat them each down to make small patties. When the pan has come to its full heat, put in a tablespoon of canola oil. When the oil runs around the pan easily, like water, add the sausage patties. Cook them on high heat for three to four minutes, or until they are browned. When they have browned on the first side, flip over the sausage patties and immediately put the skillet into the hot oven. Allow the sausages to cook until they have reached an internal temperature of 160°. They should be sizzling and enticing at this point. Pull them from the oven.

Crispy polenta

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ yellow onion, small diced
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1 3/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup polenta
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/3 cup grated parmesan or Asiago cheese

Set a saucepan on medium-high heat. When it has come to heat, add the oil. When the oil has become hot, add the diced onion and cook it for a few moments, stirring occasionally. When the onion starts to soften and release its smell, add the rosemary and garlic to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally to avoid burning. Within five minutes, everything will start to smell wonderfully redolent.

Add the milk and water to the onion and herbs. Stir. Allow the liquid to come to a boil. Immediately add the polenta and stir it all together, turning down the heat to medium to medium-low. When the polenta has thickened, and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan (the time will vary, depending on the kind of polenta you are using), pull the pan from the heat. Add the salt and pepper, as well as the cheese. Stir it all in. Immediately pour the polenta into a casserole dish or roasting pan. Use a rubber spatula to spread the polenta out evenly, about one inch thick. Put the polenta into the refrigerator to chill, for at least two hours.

When you are ready to cook the polenta, preheat the oven to 450°. (If you are making this entire dish, you will do this simultaneously with the sausages.) Cut the polenta into thick wedges or triangles. Bring a skillet to heat, and then add a tablespoon of olive oil or canola oil. When the oil has come to heat, add the polenta wedges to the skillet. Cook the polenta for three to four minutes, or until the underside has browned. Turn over the wedges. Cook the polenta on the other side for two minutes, and then immediately transfer the skillet to the hot oven. Cook for about five minutes, or until the inside of the polenta has reached its heat.

Tomato sauce

1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 small, dried red chile, seeds removed and chopped
1 small nub ginger (about one-inch long), peeled and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
28-ounce can whole tomatoes (try San Marzano tomatoes)
splash red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Put a large saucepan on a burner, on medium to medium-low heat. When the pan has come to heat, pour in a glug of olive oil. When it has heated, add the chopped onion, the garlic, and the chile. Cook them for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. When the onions have softened, and the garlic smells warm, add the fresh herbs and ginger. Cook for a few moments more, until the herbs have released their smell. Chop the tomatoes and add the chopped tomatoes, plus the juice from the can, into the saucepan. Turn down the heat to low and let the tomato mixture simmer for at least twenty minutes.

Put the tomato sauce into the blender and puree it all together. Season with salt, pepper, and a splash of red wine vinegar. Taste. Perhaps add a bit more, until it tastes perfect to you.

Return the sauce to the saucepan and let it simmer again. Add a glug of good olive oil, and taste again.

Now, to put it all together….

Ladle a small portion of the tomato sauce onto a plate.

Place a wedge or two of the crispy polenta on top.

Throw some sausage patties around it.

Sprinkle some drops of your best-quality olive oil on top. Add some fresh mozzarella, if you wish, as well as some shredded parmesan. Top with fresh herbs.



At 2:04 AM, Blogger Pille said...

Italy sounds like a wonderful honeymoon destination - well chosen!! I'd go to the Southern Italy and Tuscany. And Rome of course:) However, I'd stay away from Naples, as the place scares me with its chaos, hectic activity, constant noise etc (I've been there thrice). The pizza was good, however, but I'd personally want something calmer and more relaxing for such special holiday..

At 2:18 AM, Blogger Rachel Evans said...

I went there for junior year abroad when I lived in Rome and the Amalfi Coast for my honeymoon six years later. I've traveled extensively within Italy so I can understand your being overwhelmed. It's a tough decision. This is my favorite country on earth. I would suggest for your first joint venture, you should stick to the classics, not the touristy spots necessarily, but the classics. Tuscany, Rome, the Amalfi Coast (oh GOD the Amalfi Coast). These will get you some amazing meals and vistas to boot (seriously, great food exists everywhere. You're not going to be disappointed no matter where you go). Renting a car will help you feel you are getting the "authentic" experience as you can stop at small hamlets along the way. This is especially true for Tuscany where a gem lurks around every corner (Siena is my favorite Italian city, hands down, BTW). Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain and make a vow to return later.

As for going GF, I would be VERY surprised to find GF versions of Italian favorites. They are nothing if not traditional about their food. One poor vegetarian I lived with during my experience had a very difficult time getting them to understand "senza carne" as a culinary philosophy. I would be interested to find out if a celiacs advocacy group exists over there. Maybe you could get some names of people to contact when you get there who could help direct you better. I always found having a name in my pocket before I went led me to some wonderful experiences I would not have had otherwise anyway.

If you simply cannot restrict yourselves to the classic destinations, put a bunch of names in a hat and draw...five. Or four. Or eight. Sheesh. This IS tough.

P.S. A great blog to read on the Amalfi Coast is "The Life I Chose..." written by a British expat who moved to Positano

It both inspires me and keeps me from selling my house and dragging my family with me as I move in with her. She definitely gives a warts-and-all take on it, but it's still remarkably seductive. Good luck!

And, I enjoy your blog very much even though I can eat gluten all day long. Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials.

At 2:52 AM, Blogger Anne said...

Ok - this dish sounds sensational! And I agree - Jamie's Italy is a very nice book. I have no suggestions though - but I know you will have a very lovely honeymoon, no matter where you go :)

At 4:09 AM, Blogger ASMO said...

Italy for honeymoon? I couldn't agree more: we went for 5 days to Florence after our wedding! And now, I'd love to go to Le Marche and Puglia. For inspiration, I recommend a great little novel called the Food or Love by Anthoney Cappella. A Cyrano de Bergerac inspired story that will leave you very hungry indeed. Buon apetito!

At 4:12 AM, Blogger Deborah Dowd said...

While not appropriate for a honeymoon (where Egyptain cotton sheets are a necessity!), a great way to get away is to go camping. We go to the Blue Ridge mounains, where no cell phones reach and the focus is on one another, nature and the food... could there be anything better? At our age, we need an airbed, but we still camp in a tent. There is nothing better than snuggling under a sleeping bag (in our case, kids are involved)giggling or reading stories by flashlight.... God, maybe I am getting old!

At 5:42 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Shauna...I just discovered your blog and I have absolutely devoured it this week. I was diagnosed with celiac 10 years ago...and was told I would outgrow it. Which I thought I had, until I started having many mysterious medical ailments and visiting Dr. after Dr. with no diagnosis. I took myself off of gluten again and am feeling much better. I am starting culinary school in August! Your stories and recipies are wonderful...thank you. Oh...enjoy your honeymoon to Italy!

At 6:24 AM, Blogger Sabine said...

hi shauna,
i live here in austria - i am sure you know vienna - and spent many holidays in italy, since it is a neighboring state of austria.

i am sure your honeymoon will be great. italy is fabulous. and you are right. it is not easy where to go. but i recommend you strongly not to go to the cinque terre for food. italian food is great almost everywhere - but not in the cinque terre. there are to many tourists in this small place. the landscape itself and the small towns of the cinque terre are beautiful.

I notice now that i can’t make a spezial recommendation for just a single spot. It’s impossible – i’m sorry. I think you have to come more than one time. Reals gourmets recommend the region „emilia romagna“ – prosciutto from parma for example is from this region. Or the vinegar Balsamico – from Modena. And it’s not that expensive than the Tuscany. Tuscany is beautiful. But expensive and also so much tourists in September.

Venice has a special flair – but go there for example in november or februar. At this time Venice is like an old mystic theater … supported by the misty air.

If something very special comes to my mind – places to stay overnight … i will let you know.
Ah… for Venice you should read the book Watermark by Joseph Brodsky.

Wish you a beautiful time!

At 8:05 AM, Blogger mary said...

I lived in Rome for nine months a few years back, and travelled all over Italy (and probably gained 10 pounds from the deliciousness). It's good that you have Bologna and Naples on your list (not everyone loves Naples, though I did--it is dirty, loud, vibrant, and home to some of the most fantastic food in the world). One of my most memorable meals in Italy was a white bean stew drizzled with freshly pressed olive oil on cool spring day at a vineyard in a hill town in Tuscany (there are dozens of similar vineyards in the region, some of these places let you stay overnight--I'd highly recommend that). Go to Umbria for truffles (the fungal kind) and chocolate: Assisi, Gubbio, Perugia or Norcia are all so lovely. In Rome, go to L'Orso Ottanta near Piazza Navona for an impressive antipasti spread. (These are all, roughly, between Bologna and Naples.) There is, of course, far more to Italy than you can take in in one trip. Don't try to fit it all in. Pick a few places and drink them in and love them and promise yourself you'll go back again. September is an ideal time to be there. Have a great time!

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I just had to comment after reading this...I've been reading your blog for a while, and got genuinely excited when I read your honeymoon plans...especially because Italy is where I'm going for my Honeymoon in two months. If you want some ideas, here is what we are doing: starting in Piedmont, visit some great wineries in Barolo, Alba, and Asti then move onto to Emilia-Romagna and eat our way through Modena, Parma, and Bologna. We're going in May, so if I find any hidden foodie gems, I'll pass it along. I do suggest looking into agriturismo, where you can stay in a B&B on a working vineyard, then eat, drink, and eat some more.

Have fun planning...that's one of the best parts. One final suggestion (and you probably know this): try not to do too much in one's your honeymoon, pick one or two regions and stick with it. No need to spend the entire honeymoon running around trying to catch the next train to somewhere. I only say this because originally, my plans were a lot more elaborate than Piedmont and Emilia Romagna and my fiance had to reel me back to earth and reality.

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Beautiful post...unfortunately, I have no suggestions!

At 9:02 AM, Blogger Gaile said...

I've never been to italy, but as I was reading I had an idea - it might be too late, but maybe you could find someone who wants to come to seattle and you could to a home swap with them. Then you'd have free lodging, a homebase with a kitchen, and you could travel around at will. I've only heard great things from people who've done the house trade thing. And this post? makes me want to stop being a vegetarian for just one meal.. :-)

At 9:05 AM, Blogger chris said...

Your friend is right--go to Italy now, roadtrip with kids later. As someone with a twin nursing as I type (one-handed), I'll live vicariously through people like you.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger Samatakah said...

We were going to go to Italy for our honeymoon in 2003 - fly into Milan (which we were assured is smaller and simpler to get through than customs at the Rome airport), take the train to Rome, and also a trip to Pompeii (I have always been fascinated by the volcano). We planned to eat our way through, too.

We didn't get there because I was in a car wreck that had me out of work for six weeks and my boss wouldn't let me take off again. Have some Italian honeymoon for us, too! Please!!

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Kim Vallee said...

First of all, Congratulations to you and the Chef! Early fall and mid spring are the best time to visit Europe. My honeymoon was in Portugal in September and it was wonderful. Gorgeous whether but not too hot and less crowded.

I never been to Italy yet, me and my husband are talking about it. I have a friend, an excellent cook that went to Italy a few years ago. I'll ask him for his suggestions on budget traveling and get back to you.

In the meantime, I got something to inspire you. A Canadian TV show called David Rocco's Dolce Vita is a mix between a cooking show and a guide to the genuine Italian lifestyle. David is as charming and passionate but cuter than our favorite Jamie Oliver. You can find useful stuff on his Web site like restaurants in Florence (a gorgeous city), Rome, Sicily and Amalfi. His authentic Italian recipes are available on its Web site. For a little bit of day dreaming, visit, I am sure you like it.

At 10:07 AM, Blogger Mrs. G.F. said...

Hi Shauna..your honeymoon plan sounds fantastic. My husband and I did a similar thing in the countryside of was very memorable!

I found a link for you, I had come across it awhile ago, and saved it. Someday I want to go to Italy with my husband, and see where my grandparents came from, and maybe meet my mother's cousins..anyway.

At the link below, this is an Italian man that has celiac, and makes his own pasta, and rents out one room in his home for guests. Only one.

The review starts, "Gluten free pasta. Fresh, homemade gluten free pasta. Fresh, homemade gluten free pasta tossed in home grown olive oil, garlic and chilli. And that's just for starters.

This coeliac's heaven was what greeted us for dinner on the first night of our stay at Fabio Massimo's gluten free guesthouse on Lake Garda in northern Italy."

here it is:

At 10:09 AM, Blogger Laura in Pgh said...

Hi Shauna - First of all, when I saw the picture of your meal -- i thought to myself ... if she doesn't post the recipe for this I'll cry. It looks fabulous and I plan to try it tomorrow. Secondly, I read "Eat, Pray, Love" last month, on your recommendation and just loved it. It's one of those books you just feel like crying when you're finished, because you feel like you've lost a friend ... sad b/c there's no more to read and you feel so connected to the writer. Hard to describe the feeling, but I know you will understand what I mean. =)
Third of all, go to Italy on your honeymoon!! Rome is simply amazing. Good food, culture -- It's my favorite! Skip Venice - it's too touristy and those gondola rides cost a fortune! We actually took one of the large boats that take people from dock to dock along the canal for about $10, and it was great! Your plans so far sound perfect ...
I am reading a book called, "A Thousand Days in Tuscany," by Marlene de Blasi, that I discoverd at the library while searching for cookbooks. It's wonderful -- right up your alley, I think. Thank you again Shauna for the wonderful post!

At 10:31 AM, Blogger Juliet said...

I've always loved Italy - without being there it seems like the place where I've always meant to actually live. I have a feeling you'll love wherever you go.

But I thought you might like to know the origin of the word "honeymoon." It actually comes from the old Celtic tradition of naming the moon cycles. It's the name for the full moon in June. Way back when, people would marry around that full moon and have some time where it would be just the two of them. And the full moon cycle was called "honey moon" because that was the time when they'd collect the honey and begin preparation for making mead which would be consumed in December around Yule time. So the term eventually was used to describe the time when newly married people would spend some relaxing time getting to "know" each other.

Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials!

At 10:36 AM, Blogger Mer-Bear said...

Italy sounds like an amazing place to honeymoon. My hubby and I haven't been there, but we did head to France about two years ago (with me having CD). If you want to live like an Italian for a week, I have one recommendation. Pick your area of the country and rent a little house or apartment to serve as home base. You'll get your own kitchen, which for celiacs and cooks alike is a very good thing. You'll be able to go to the local markets and bring things 'home' and whip something up together. You'll be able to find amazing Schar GF pasta at the pharmacies too. Renting a little cottage or apartment to 'home base' out of also tends to be a little less expensive than renting hotels. It does keep you tied down closer to one spot - but day trips around the country side in a rental car would be amazing too!

I've heard great things about being able to eat GF in Italy. From the use of fresh ingredients which makes dining out easier to the availability of GF food at the pharmacies. And honestly, italian food isn't just about pasta and pizza, right? Ah, risotto, polenta... Now I'm dying to go :-)

If you'd like any recommendations about how to find those short term vacation rentals, let me know. I've used a couple sites with great results over the years. Congratulations and ENJOY your honeymoon!!

At 10:59 AM, Blogger Rachael Narins said...

Oh honey! What a perfect choice! Italy is divine. I could go on for days. I think Cinque Terra is lovely, (pesto! seafood!) as is all of the Tuscan area...but my heart lies in two extreme places...Lake Como up in the north (and home of more rice than pasta, so good for a girl avoiding gluten) - soaring mountains, incredible lake - and at the very, very tip of Puglia (thats the heel of the boot) the town of Gagliano del Capo - rustic coastline like nothing you have seen...(home of polenta, so also nice and noodle-free)...

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Rachael Narins said...

And devour Dante. His prose makes Florence come alive.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Lucie said...

I have always wanted to visit Italy, like you, for the food! I'm wheat & lactose intolerant (among about 15 other things, including tomatoes, sniff, sniff) so I can't wait to hear about your culinary discoveries. When I do make it there I don't think I'll be able to restrain myself from having a thin, crispy pizza, smeared with tomato and milky, melted mozzarella. I'll deal with it!

At 1:20 PM, Blogger Becky said...

Don't know if you want to make the trip down to Sicily or not, but (besides Rome, which I loved) Sicily was the highlight of my trip to Italy. First, it's a great place to wander around in, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style. (Etna was amazing, and the hike up to Taormina was exhilerating.)

BUT. Oh, the food. It might have been in Palermo or maybe Taormina (which we hiked up the mountain to get to) where I had an otherwise nondescript stuffed eggplant with some sort of tomato sauce that unexpectedly turned out to be the most delicious meal of my life... I don't even know what was in that tomato sauce but I still fantasize about that meal, 4 years later.

In Venice and other places in Tuscany, sometimes I felt like we were only seeing a recreation of Americans' vision of Italy--like business and restaurant owners found that all they needed to do to attract tourists was just to make their places look Italian.

In contrast, Sicily seemed like the real thing. Sitting outside eating dinner at 9 pm, neighborhood kids running around and Sicilians talking and laughing on their balconies above.... I just felt the perfect combination of calm and exhilerated the whole time I was there.

The overnight train ride down to Messina, though? Miserable.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

If you can swing it, the lake cities are beautiful! I think less crowded as well. We went in late September and the weather was perfect. Driving in Italy is definitely an adventure!!!

At 1:52 PM, Blogger Les said...

Possibly a dumb question, but you mentioned cheese in the recipe (...pull the pan from the heat. Add the salt and pepper, as well as the cheese. Stir it all...) for the polenta, but it wasn't listed in the ingredients. How much and what kind? I can't wait to make this for my husband!

At 2:04 PM, Blogger s'kat said...

I just came back from Italy in October- girl, you have come to the right decision!!

I'm pretty sure that wherever you go, you'll be happy. Just go.

FWIW, I posted titled/captioned pictures of my trip overseas, which you can see here:

The captions include addresses, contact information, web sites, etc for the places I visited/stayed/ate.

Have fun, you crazy kids!!

At 2:05 PM, Blogger s'kat said...

(You don't need to publish this, but I wanted to add that it may be easier to look at the photos in 'detail' as opposed to 'thumbnail' view.)

At 2:16 PM, Blogger GS said...

Verona - it is a while since I went there but it was special, romantic, cultured and beautiful. As the mythical home of Romeo and Juliet it certainly has a honeymoon ring to it too.

But really, where ever you go it will be fabulous.

At 2:59 PM, Blogger Lucy said...

Rome, for sure. Sienna if you can. Avoid Umbria, though Assissi is magnificent (you'll have to dodge all the religious nutters).

We've been watching Jamie Oliver's new television series (apparently Australia is the 'test' for the show's success) about his own organic garden which is quite something to behold. The same, beautiful recipes, but a little simpler than some of his Italian stuff. It's my new 'crack'!

At 3:08 PM, Blogger Mia said...

Italy is so amazing, I lived there for 7 months in college and haven't gotten back there since, and it makes me so sad. It is the best European country ever. I LOVE Tuscany, and I think the best food in Italy was at a restaurant called "Oasi La Foce." My family and I went there several times and couldn't get enough. We stayed in a villa (I know, sounds nuts) at a place called La Foce, which has an amazing background story and is actually not as outrageous in price as you might think. For our family of 5 it was far cheaper than a hotel...anyway, you really can't go wrong with Naples, Cinque Terra or the Amalfi Coast, all of which are also amazing. Good luck planning!!

At 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wherever you go, marvelous food will abound. Don't think of it as having to choose. Think of it as "we'll do these 2-3 regions this trip" Then return in a couple years and do a few more regions.

And no worries about travel with kids. My friend has been all over the world, on a budget, from the time she was a newlywed, through today -- with kids 3yr, 2yr, -- and under a year in tow. Kids don't keep you from travel abroad.

Italy's a great choice for the gluten-free. Italy has one of the highest rates of diagnosed Celiac's -- 1 in 250 people. It's something they mandatory test every child for during their regular exams.

In Italy, people will completely, totally understand gluten-free, and be able to accomodate you. Oddly, Ireland, your 1st choice has the 2nd highest rate of CD -- 1 in 300. So they also are good about accomodating gluten-free folk.

At 5:17 PM, Blogger Jaspreet said...

How exciting! You should read the book 1001 Days in Venice. I cannot remember the author's name, but she is a cookbook writer. There are recipes and many food references. Also, I would be honored to contribute to your honeymoon. Please let me know how.

At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unbelieveable! is my reaction to your recent blog entry. I leave for Italy in less than two weeks. A very spur of the moment trip, minimally planned. I was recently offered (yes, I accepted) a new position with another employer. Tomorrow (Friday) is my last day at my old job. As part of my negotiations, I was able to create 3 weeks of free time in between jobs. My "person" convinced me to escape with him and go somewhere, anywhere, and Italy was chosen. We fly in and out Milan, and at present have only booked two nights at a new hotel once featured in Food & Wine and Travel & Leisure (Alle Meraviglie). From there we will travel to Rome (our most southern destination) working our way back to the north via Florence. My companion has been to Italy many times and assures me the "off-the-beaten-path" is the best. We shall follow our nose, and the advice of the "locals", language permitting. I shall let you know........
Sidebar: I read your site regularly, of recent, only though. My Grandmother has been quite ill since the summer, and over the past 5 or so years has unexplained seizures. Tests were done for EVERYTHING, and finally it was determined that she has celiac disease. Her entire life she has suffered from migranes. As a young women (early 20's) she lost her teeth from bleeding gums and disease...with all I've learned this somehow relates back to her intolerance of gluten. Who knew? I feel sad that only now in her 80's she is finally discovering the cause of her lifelong pain and discomfort. I send her your recipies, and my Grandfather cooks for her. She is better now, but will never recover fully, time is just not on her side. I add this bit to let you know, how your site has touched many more than you can imagine. Bless you and thank you. bb

At 6:18 AM, Blogger Liz said...

I've been to Italy and Florence is wonderful.

An Italian-inspired dessert suggestion is prosecco granita with mint (globe basil (the spicy one with the tiny leaves) is also really good in this dessert).

At 9:49 AM, Blogger Sea said...

Your dish looks wonderful. Although I'm happy to not eat meat, I am even now thinking about what I could substitute for the sausage. Hmm..

Italy holds a special place in my heart because my DH proposed to me in Rome, in front of the Trevi fountain. :) We had been traveling in Europe for two weeks after New Years... budget, college student style, and had such a wonderful time.

I am not an expert but I have three "favorites"-

Tapas hopping in Venice, going from bar to bar getting just a little bite of this and a little bite of that. Yum!

Having the best cappucino of my life near the Pantheon at (I think) the Tazzo d'oro Casa del Cafe.

Chocolate gelato in Florence.

If I see any gluten free guides to Italy, I will be sure to let you know. Although of course, it's too bad you won't be coming to my area (San Fran bay), I know you'll have a wonderful time in Italy. And, if you go at the right time, tickets to Europe can be cheaper than flying within the states... so Go for it!

Best wishes and congrats on a fabulous plan,
Sea (the book of yum girl)

At 11:25 AM, Blogger Liz said...

Why not a cruise? Let someone else pick the destinations, they're all great!

At 11:33 AM, Blogger Chanterelle said...

Italy for your honeymoon, yes, yes yes! Just a few rambling thoughts:

Probably your first decision is whether or not to rent a car. You can have a fabulous stay in the cities, but some of the best food finds are in the countryside. Remember, the Slow Food movement started in Italy.

Emilia-Romagna is considered the breadbasket of Italy -- which may not be the best thing on a gluten-free diet, but oh my, the food was divine. Bologna is its capital, but as Sabine mentions Parma and Modena have great food, too.

Rome is jaw-droppingly magnificent but I think it might be a more frenetic choice than some. Just as a guess Northern Italy might be better for a gluten-free diet--more rice specialties, for instance.

If you do rent a car you might look into finding an agritourismo accomodation -- usually farmhouse B&B or apartments, and by nature food oriented. I've stayed at Villa Gardello outside of Modena and they make EVERYTHING (some visitors report being able to hang out in the kitchen). November when I was there was not the best time to visit but September is harvest time!

See if you can find a *sagra* -- basically, a village-wide festival around a single foodstuff. is a good place to research accommodations and other practicalities. eGullet has very good info about the best restaurants, especially obscure non-touristy ones.

My favorite area is the Veneto, just because I love Venice, and the Palladian architecture of the countryside. On my last trip I rented a studio apt. in Venice for a week (cheaper than a hotel AND it had a kitchen) just to be able to cook the amazing seafood from the Rialto market and I would do that again in a heartbeat! There's really nothing to do but stroll around, get lost, be stunned by the beauty indoors and out, and eat. There are good restaurants but you should do your research and reserve at the best ones, and avoid the ubiquitous tourist traps. Plenty of good online recommendations, though. I have a friend, a former caterer, who returns there to the same apt. rental every year. And in the Veneto, outside of Vicenza, I found the most amazing locavore restaurant...oh, and Venice has TERRIBLE bread ;-)

Carless, you could elect to stay more cheaply in Verona or Padua and make daytrips by train. Then there's Vicenza, Asolo... Oh, you will have such a wonderful time!

At 11:42 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Italy is totally easy to do gluten-free. Pasta in most restaurants is considered a course rather than a main entre, so just skip that course!

Look for agritourismos (like b'n'bs on farms), they are fantastic:
What a great experience, and seems like something you and Danny would enjoy very much...

At 6:22 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Shauna,

I discovered your site at about 4am this morning. Up with a tummy ache, and suspecting I may have celic, I was looking around the internet for more information. So, I read and read on your site. And then I came to the honeymoon entry.
I recently spent a year and a half in Italy on a grant to document elderly women and their cooking. Their lives, stories, food, connection to the land. I spent time in about 10 regions, so while I don't know all of the country, I have some sense of which places are inspiring and heart-warming for foodies.
I love many parts of Italy, but would have to say that if I were to go there on my honeymoon, I would spend time in the south. Probably start in Rome, rent a car, drive down, stopping in Naples or along the Amalfi coast (beautiful but very touristy), perhaps Paestum (incredible greek ruins, and buffalo mozzarella capital of the world it seems), then go to Calabria (near Tropea I know a beautiful family that runs an agritourism, and is almost totally self-sufficient). From there, a trip to Sicily is really easy (you can see the Sicilian islands across the ocean from the place in Calabria). In Sicily, I most loved Palermo and also Ustica (a small volcanic island off the coast from Palermo, known for it's beautiful little lentils.)
Anyways, I am happy to give you more details and contacts of places to stay if you are interested in any of this. One other thing: definately buy the english version of Slow Food's Osteria d'Italia before you go. It lists all of the affordable, traditional, local eateries around the country. Invaluable.

Warm wishes,

At 12:21 AM, Blogger Tassiegal said...

Lucky thing! I love italy. May I suggest Chianti Black Rooster Tours? Dario (the owner) has written a book about the Chianti region of Italy, and I know he incorporates food into his tours. . His book is called Under the Tuscan sun which is really quite funny.

At 7:44 AM, Blogger Happy Homemaker said...

What a great place for a honeymoon!

Thanks for the recipe. Looks like it will be on next month's menu. May take me a while to hunt down fennel

At 10:28 AM, Blogger danikaw said...

Your trip will be wonderful! How much time to do you have? I've been several times and there IS so much to see. I agree with prior comments that it would be best to pick a couple regions and stick to them. I also think it's best to stay away from the main touristy areas (i.e. Venice and Florence). My best experiences in Italy have been in relatively unheard of places like Trani and Matera (Southern Italy). I also love Sicily although it's not the easiest place to get to. Siracusa is beautiful and I ate the best swordfish ever there. Orvieto (an hour or so north of Rome) is also a sweet place and I believe a major center for the Slow Food movement over there.

Personally, I would NOT go to the Amalfi coast or Naples. I don't think either is very representative and not worth the effort of getting to. Driving the Amalfi coast is not for the faint of heart. September will be lovely, though still quite crowded. A LOT better than August, though!

Enjoy and can't wait to hear where you decide to go.

At 3:05 PM, Blogger Jenni said...

You are going to have a fantastic time in Italy for your honeymoon, and I'm sure you will be able to eat GF and eat nothing but the most delicious of items.
All the recipes you put up look and sound phenomenal. I can't wait till I have my own kitchen starting this summer so I can test out the recipes you post!!

At 6:19 PM, Blogger Mindy said...

Italy is grand.

I hosteled alone through Italy for a month after my college graduation last may.

I give a hurrah for the South. I had adventures wherever I went but I want to go back to Naples and I definitely want to go back to the Aeolian Islands. From Naples you can take an overnight ferry to them and from Sicily they are just hour or so hydrofoil(little fast ferries)ride from the coast.

Google Stromboli and Salina. Stomboli is an active volcano that has the most amazing little town with truly fabulous food and wonderful people. Stromboli only has about 500 year-round residents!

You can hike the volcano! You go with a guide and its a pretty ease pace, still a hard hike, but worth it in the end as you can see volcanic plumes from the edge of the crater on the top of an island in the Meditterainian.

I stayed in a guest house, look for guest houses, for 30 euro a night, much cheaper than any hotel and not much more expensive than hostels I stayed in. I breakfasted on a sunlit terrace for 4 mornings, drinking the biggest best cappuccino every morning made for me by the same gentle Italian man.
The most amazing thing I tasted there was fresh, soft provolone cheese I had procured from the city market, that I ate for a snack during my hike on the volcano.

Salina was also gorgeous. I rode a vespa all around the 26 miles of island and stopped at a ristorante where I had a salad that had warm potatoes that creamed upon my tongue...
Also check out Ferarra, and Trieste, and Calabria for more off-the-beaten track places, that in my experience had the MOST amazing food.
Italy is grand. Go.

At 6:51 PM, Blogger Kris said...

I just wanted to say thank you for sharing these recipes. Your blog is just wonderful and makes GF living a bit easier. My 6 year old was diagnosed with Celiac about 2 months ago. At first I focused on all of the things she couldn't have. Whenever I went shopping I was always very sad thinking of all she would be missing out on. But all of your recipes look so wonderful and I really appreciate you helping me focus on all of the good things she CAN have now. Thank you again for sharing all of this!

At 7:56 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you everyone. This astounds us both. I can't say we're less overwhelmed by the choices after reading all these comments! However, we are feeling beautifully connected to the world.

We have been joking that we're going to start a spread sheet with all the places and names now!

I love the echo I hear throughout all these: choose two or three areas at the most; slow down; go to authentic restaurants; stay on a farm; you can't go wrong with anywhere in Italy. That is our way: slow and noticing. We don't want to rush and feel like we checking items off a list. Instead, we just want to live.

We'll let you know where we decide to go. But let me tell you, all these comments (and the many emails!) will be with us as we make our decisions.

For those of you who have said you like to contribute to our honeymoon fund? Oh my goodness. Thank you. We are honored and humbled. If you truly would like to, then drop me an email. We'll send you the link to the registry.

But truly, this is not required! Your presence in our lives is palpable.

We are so grateful.

At 8:13 PM, Blogger Stef said...

We stayed at a beautiful place somewhere between Tuscany and Umbria -- -- the owner is gracious and the caretakers are awesome! and i think it's a great place for a honeymoon -- you can cook for yourselves, it's in a small town but still close enough to the touristy spots if you want to go....

stef at noodlesandrice and bakingdelights

At 8:28 AM, Blogger katygirl said...

Hi there! I've been reading your lovely blog here for a while now. I was diagnosed with celiac 10 years ago, and am always so thrilled to "meet" someone else whose life has been transformed by simple dietary alteration.

The reason I'm "delurking" now is to tell you that I found Italy to be celiac heaven. Delicious risotto around every corner, vegetables prepared simply and spectacularly with no need for wheaty addition, and although I'm a vegetarian, there seemed to be an abundance of wonderful meat dishes too. And the cheeses, oh my lord, the cheeses. I spent every afternoon with a cup of the best coffee I've ever tasted and a plate of "formaggi misti" - mixed cheeses so good you want to kiss the cows responsible.

I visited Rome and Florence and had a layover in Genoa. Rome is beyond description - equal parts astounding history and modern vivacity. You will love it.

Best wishes in everything to come.


At 8:39 AM, Blogger Allie said...

I had to throw in my two cents here. Italy is one of my most favorite places to travel to (besides New Zealand, completely different trip there).

Talk about the greatest place to eat.

I lived in Florence for 5 months and traveled alot - although I mainly stayed in the areas surrounding Florence because it was so wonderful.

The great thing about Florence is it's central location, and it's easy to get to Rome on the train in just a few hours. I might fly into one city and out of the other.

Lets talk about Florence. I lived there before the diagnosis... but let me recommend 2 amazing restaurants: Aqua al Due, and Il Latini. I believe Il Latini has gained in popularity since I was there 4 years ago - but it's great. They only do 2 seatings a night - you wait on line & they serve chianti - and then you get seated, and they just start bringing food out. No menus. It's only about 35 euros per person, and it's excellent!

Also - I've found, any restaurant that is somewhat buried or hidden behind the over-trodden cobblestones, is probably great. Anything too close to a tourist trap is going to be more pricey, and not as good. You probably would have thought that, but just in case.

My favorite trips right outside of Florence - day trip to San Gimingano - where you can sit on one of the tower ruins, enjoying fresh pecorino and a glass of Vernaccia -- this is a San Gimingano specialty, and you can also get Vernaccia gelato!

Very close by is Sienna which is a gorgeous town. Another favorite location is Lucca - one of the only remaining walled cities in Tuscany. It's so beautiful here and not as crazy/busy as Florence or Sienna.

A great spot is the island of Elba. You take a train to a ferry, which ends up costing about 15 euros - then head to the Island (where Napolean was exiled) - take a car to the other side of the island, and relax on this "tuscan" (although you won't believe you're still in tuscany) paradise. The food here is great - lots of seafood, wonderfully relaxing - crystal blue water to swim in, and very quiet. You may not have time for this place, but it's fantastic, and so cheap & easy...

Cinqueterra is also great - skip Pisa.

And finally - there's the Chianti region, or heaven.

All of the little towns here - Montepulciano, Montalcino, Greve -- Amazing. Not too many tourists - rent a car and go here - people are amazing, and the wine is unbelievable!

Writing too much... email me if you have any questions!

At 1:20 PM, Blogger Catherine said...

I lived in Florence and worked in Rome. They are both must sees. All of the other advice you've gotten so far is great - amalfi coast, the little tuscan towns. I would just like to add Verona to the list. The outdoor opera in the Arena is an unrivaled experience. It's such a beautiful charming small town and I had the best polenta I can remember there.

At 2:36 PM, Blogger heidi said...

I am so amazingly excited for the two of you heading to Italy - a foodie heaven. While teaching there a few years back I hadn't really begun refining my tastes yet and did not eat out very much. However, I did enjoy home cooked meals by my Italian "Momma" (the housekeeper whose residence was attached to the school I worked and lived in). When I went travelling I always had folks to stay with thanks to my ESL teaching days back in Canada and they gave me huge spreads of home cooked food too. I gained 15 pounds! Needless to say, wherever you go I am sure you will have an amazing time. After all, you'll be together!

I do have to add my two cents for good reads that will get you even more excited for your trip. Frances Mayes wrote her (Italian)memoirs in "Under the Tuscan Sun" and "Bella Tuscany". These are two works which will make you want to uproot yourself and move to Europe!

At 6:23 PM, Blogger Jen said...

Shauna -
You mention the gifts that people have given you, but I want to say thank you for the one you have given me!
I have always loved to cook (I am also the type that has a tendency to just throw things together) but became perplexed when it can to cooking gluten-free. My mother and aunt were both diagnosed as being intolerant to wheat (just short of a celiac diagnosis) in recent years and I had become frustrated with the "basicness" of a lot of the recipes out there and thus an inability to cook for two people that are rather important to me.

Then I stumbled upon your wonderful writings when searching for new Irish soda bread recipes(just a wee bit o' Irish in girl with the name O'Leary)! Thank you so much for making cooking for the ones I love seem possible again! Not to mention me in the future since it seems to be running in the family.

I can't wait to try all of your recipes and I know two members of my family who will be getting your book for Christmas!

Thank you so much!

At 6:56 AM, Blogger laceybediz said...

The first time I went to Italy I was vegan and had a traditional slow food meal at Suzanna's B&B in Chianti. It lasted 8 hours and was filled with food and joy. Suzanna is true hostess and fabulous cook, whom catered to my vegan needs-- all 6 courses!! If you are in Chianti and want a fabulous, authentic meal with a woman who will take care of your allergy-- I can send you her e-mail (I don't have it at the moment-- but can get it!)

When I found out I was wheat intolerant, I was concerned about returning to Italy-- but I saw more rice pasta there than anywhere else in Europe!! Viva Italia!!!

At 4:39 PM, Blogger Nini said...

I have been reading your blog for a while now and I must say you are an inspiration to me. I am an aspiring writer as well and an amateur chef, although my specialty is comfort foods...

Recently my mom went to Italy and brought me back some of the most wonderful pasta I have tried since going gluten free 4 years ago. Bi-Aglut and Dr. Schar brands... she found the gluten free foods in the pharmacies there and was amazed at the selection of gluten free foods.

Enjoy your honeymoon! I'm jealous!

At 8:41 PM, Blogger Shauna said...

Thank you again, everyone. I'm taking everyone's suggestions, and starting to hone in. It looks like a toss-up among Tuscany, Umbria, Emilia-Romagna, and Piedmont. Oh, and Naples.

It's not decided yet, but we are circling, excited, all the while knowing that wherever we go, we will be wonderfully happy.

Thank you for everything that you have written here. Your words infuse my days.

At 6:18 PM, Blogger miss tango said...

The best pizza I had was in a campground south of Naples! The owners have pizzaria that delivers.
I had pizza all over Italy, but everything else paled in comparison. This area is famous for mozzarella. They make a pretty amazing eggplant parmagiana as well.
Camping Sant'Antonio

Via Marina d'Equa, 20-21 - Fraz. Seiano - 80069 Vico Equense ( NA ) Tel. 081/8028570 - 081/8028576

At 5:38 AM, Blogger Astrid said...

I think all the place you have nominated are weel to know better the italian food.

Each of them has something special.
I think you should start from Portofino
, is a very romantic place. Try to eat to Puny on piazzetta, to Da Ou Batti, ask the scampi specialitie.

Very good one!

At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Honeymoon Registry said...

I went to Rome for my Honeymoon, and I am a very strict Vegan! My husband was a bit worried - that I wouldn't eat for the whole holiday - but it was amazing, after a little research, we found the most amazing places to eat, and its such a beautiful honeymoon destination. I'd like to do it all over again!


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