Friday, August 14, 2009

April 21, 2000 - From the original Chocolate Diaries


A quick note about Mothers's Day: Don't forget that 99% of Mothers love chocolate! Sunday, May 14th is only 2 weeks away!

You can place orders now to be sent to arrive just before May 14th.

First we would like to share a really nice story written by Chris Sherman in the St Petersburg Times. The link is: If it takes a couple of minutes to download, be patient! it's a story you are sure to enjoy. We thank Chris for writing such an interesting and accurate story that honors Pierre for his talent and hard work. Also, look at the mouth watering photos by Reggie Grant.

Chris told us about a group called Slow Food. You can find their web site at This is an idea worth reading about.

We were fortunate to be able to make a quick trip to Italy in March. The daughter of some good friends? of ours decided to be married in Amalfi. We thought this was a great idea, and were delighted to be invited!

John Steinbeck wrote: "Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn't quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone." (Harper's Bazaar, May 1953 )
We arrived in Rome and drove to Positano through Sorrento on the coast road. The road twists and winds as it clings to the side of the mountain. We had seen photos, but you must go to see something like this for yourself. We had made reservations at La Fenice Bed & Breakfast. We found it in the Karen Brown Guide to B & B's in Italy. You can also look it up on their website This was a perfect place for us to use as our "home" on the Amalfi Coast. Our hosts, Constantino and Angela Mandara, were charming, and made us feel right at home.
The village of Positano is filled with interesting shops and places to eat. We spent many pleasant hours walking and exploring. We also visited Amalfi and Ravello, and found them to be equally picturesque. The rehearsal dinner was at Cumpa Cosimo (Tel 089 857156) in Ravello, where we feasted on grilled vegetables, followed by seven sorts of heavenly, homemade pasta. Unfortunately, we did not have the stamina to continue eating. Was it jet-lag or the Chianti, or just too much pasta? Whatever the cause, we felt stuffed--and tomorrow was the wedding feast!

The wedding was at the hotel Santa Caterina in Amalfi. This is a stunning property located on the coast just outside of town. We arrived early in order to spend some time discovering Amalfi before heading to the hotel. There were displays of uova di Pasqua (chocolate Easter eggs) everywhere. They range in sizes from 10 grams to 8 kilos (nearly 18 pounds!). Most are made by industrial chocolate makers and of milk chocolate. We found the best chocolate in Italy to be a bar called Novi, made by Elah DuFour. It was 72% cacao with a smooth texture, but not equal to the bars of chocolate we find in France. But, this time chocolate was not our focus. We were in Italy to enjoy pasta, risotto and the vegetables and seafood from the area---and any dish or pastry made with lemon!

Lemon trees grow on terraces all over the mountainsides. It is amazing to see these trees full of lemons---on narrow ledges, clinging to the side of every mountain. When we were there the trees were shrouded in black netting to protect them and the fruit from frost and hail. They remove the netting after Easter each year. The importance of lemons is evident is so many dishes. We had a risotto made with lemon in Capri that was so good that we asked the owner to explain to us just how it was made. He said that it was a simple risotto (can risotto be simple?) made with lemon juice, lemon zest, a little bit of white wine and a walnut sized piece of butter added at the last moment. We knew that this would be a dish worth trying to make at home!
The wedding was wonderful, the bride absolutely beautiful and the wedding feast---well, it was just fabulous! There was risotto with shrimps, scialatielli---a pasta speciality of the area, baked sea bass with lemon sauce, salad, fresh fruit and a beautiful lemon wedding cake and Limoncello---a tart, refreshing lemon liquor made locally, served ice cold. What a wonderful way to start married life!

The next day we drove with our friends to Sorrento to take the hyrofoil boat to the Island of Capri. We took a taxi to Anacapri, and had "Charlie the Singing Taxi Driver". As we climbed the coast road Charlie aka Carlo sang several of his favorite arias from Italian opera. Sometimes a high note required both of his hands to be in the air for emphasis, which made for a very exciting ride! It was also romantic. You definitely want to ask for Charlie's taxi.

In Anacapri, a special place to visit is the Villa San Michele. The present villa, was built beginning in 1906 by a Swedish doctor named Axel Munthe on the ruins of a villa that belonged to the Roman emperor Tiberius. The view from the upper terrace of the villa is picture perfect.
The town of Capri is also charming. We found a pastry called Caprilu that was a delightful mixture of lemon and almond. A dozen came back with us in a zip-lock bag. A small snack to help with re-entry, you know.

One last note on a wonderful little restaurant we found located on the road above Positano, called Donna Rosa Il Ristorante. (Tel/Fax 089 811806). It is a family restaurant, with the mother and one sister in the kitchen and the other sister and father in the dining room. The drive is on a small winding road, but it is so worth the effort! We had a delightful dinner with wine, a seafood pasta, salad and coffee for under $20 each! The atmosphere, service and décor were charming also.
OK. So, we could ramble on forever about the delights of the Amalfi Coast, but we will restrain and close this issue of The Chocolate Diaries. Arrivederci!

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