Holiday and Travel Show

bri_logoTravellers will be lining up and be told where to go at the Holiday and Travel Show, Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23rd March from 10 til 4pm in Brisbane.

The Show will showcase the best holiday destinations, travel packages and offers available to the Brisbanites. Guests will enjoy travel films and special talk rooms where experts will reveal their secret tips on discovering the most desired places around the world.

My very own Tours to Sicily and Spain will also be showcased and people who visit me can be take full advantage of my special offer of $1000 off per couple when booking directing through me.

I will also be entertaining thousands of travellers for FREE on the Food and Wine stage on Saturday 22nd, at 12.30noon, 1.30pm and 2.30pm.
Please drop by my Pure Food Cooking Tours stand, or come say Hi while I’m on stage!

I can’t wait to see you there!

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Catania and “La Pescheria” markets

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This stunning tour of Eastern Sicily offers you the opportunity to not only discover the islands of the Aeolian, and the rich lands surrounding the famous Mount Etna, but also to journey to some of the most beautiful historical provinces of Sicily being Catania, Syracusa, Ragusa, including the towns of chocolate-loving Modica and the island of Ortigia.

We welcome you to Catania which is, after Palermo, the lively and second largest city in Sicily. We enter into Sicily’s age-old history, rich in unique archaeological sites and monuments, with one of the more famous being the Villa Romana del Casale. We indulge in the surrounding historical towns that showcase timeless crafts such as hand-painted ceramics, dine on regional artisan products created using proprietary and specialized techniques, and spend evenings dining with newfound friends and locals. You will experience the triumphant shouts of the Siciliani, and a spectacular array of vibrant colours of spices, seafoods, and seasonal fruit and vegetables as we wander through the iconic food markets of these areas. You’ll be thrilled to see the local produce displayed as if they were works of art instead of mere merchandise for sale, and you will relish the tempting morsels offered by locals to sample.

We welcome you to Sicily and the busy airport of Catania. Our beautiful Hotel is an elegant palace recently restored, located on the Steps by Alessi. Set like a jewel, between Via Etnea and Via Crociferi and in the heart baroque of the historical center of Catania. You will have time to relax or wander around the hotel admiring the terrace with sweeping views across the historic centre of Catania overlooking the roof tops of the late Sicilian Baroque style.

We head into the historic centre of Catania for a tour on foot visiting “La Pescheria” markets with an atmosphere that has remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of years and noted especially for the fresh seafood where we can witness the colourful behaviour of local fishermen selling the mornings catch. Here you will also find all sorts of wonderful fruits, vegetables, meats and deli items as local pick up their daily shop. We continue our tour to Catania’s stunning Cathedral where the cities patron Saint, Sant’ Agata and precious treasures are kept and we wander through the Piazza Duomo where the heart of Catania beats and the city’s symbol monument: the fountain with the Elephant stands. This is a lava-stone statue that dates back to the Roman era, mounted on a more modern structure by Vaccarini from the eighteenth century. Legend goes that this animal became the city symbol because in ancient times pigmy elephants lived in this place, that protected the city’s inhabitants by chasing away fierce animals.

We meet for lunch giving you the rest of the afternoon and evening to wander this beautiful city, do a spot of shopping or rest in the hotel. We meet in the evening for dinner at one of the local restaurants and spend over night in Catania.

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Piazza Armerina – Villa Romana di Casale – Caltagirone

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The beautiful medieval town of Piazza Armerina located south on a hill not far from the town of Enna in the heart of Sicily. Piazza Armerina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site was conquered by the Arabs in 861. With its dark cobbled streets and Baroque monuments displayed amidst grand Norman and Gothic architecture and 17th century palazzos, it was made world famous as a destination since the discovery of the Villa Romana del Casale one of the finest examples of Roman mosaics made by African craftsmen. The villa is one of the most luxurious of its kind. It is especially noteworthy for the richness and quality of the mosaics which decorate almost every room; they are the finest mosaics anywhere in the Roman world. We lunch at one of the local restaurants in the Piazza sampling this areas specialties such as almond wine, cheese and meats then continue our bus tour to Caltagirone one of the most lively Baroque towns in central Sicily.

Caltagirone, known in Italy as “The city of Sicilian ceramics” due to its thousand-year-old tradition. The name itself – Caltagirone – derives from an Arabic word meaning the Castle or Fortress of the vases.

Here you are free to wander through the many artisan workshops, do a spot of shopping, visit the Regional Museum of Ceramics and to work off lunch you may like to tackle the 142-step monumental Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte, built from 1608 in the old part of the town. The peculiarity is that each step is decorated with different hand-decorated ceramics, using styles and figures derived from the millennial tradition of pottery making.

One of the highlights of Sicily for the lovers of art and sculpture are the stunning ceramics. Ceramics are available all over Sicily although two of the most famous places that you will visit on Pure Food Wine and Cooing Tours of Sicily are Caltagirone in Eastern Sicily and Sant Stefano di Camastra in western Sicily. Local production of functional pottery in Sicily started as early as the 2nd century BC, thanks to the abundance of clay in the area. There are many different styles and techniques that you will find throughout Sicily thanks to the influences of the Romans, then the Greeks, the Arabs, the Spanish and the Normans, each providing new elements of creativity to the local ceramic production, making it one of the most distinctive in Italy. Sant Stefano de Camastra is a town that pays homage to ceramics with coloured painted panels in the squares, tiles on the floors of the stores, house street numbers, street signs and even in furniture. The features and difference between the two towns ceramic styles are evident in the colours, shapes, forms and patterns.

Caltagirone is definitely worth visiting as it is full of beautiful buildings, baroque churches and protected by the UNESCO World heritage program. This little town part of the Eastern Sicily tour is one of the most lively Baroque towns in central Sicily and is as “The city of Sicilian ceramics” due to its thousand-year-old tradition. The name itself derives from an Arabic word meaning the Castle or Fortress of the vases.

Caltagirone ceramics have been used for centuries to decorate parks and churches, streets and squares and this you can see throughout the small picturesque town. A sight that you must experience and challenge yourself to walk to the top is the 142 step monumental Staircase of Santa Maria del Monte. Each step is decorated with different hand-decorated ceramics, using styles and figures derived from the millennial tradition of pottery making.

The highlight of these ceramics is the Maiolica, typically a head with Moorish features painted in different colours and displaying symbols and stories from history also inclusing fruits, flowers and vines.

A story says that around 1100 AD, when Sicily was ruled by the Moors, a beautiful girl was living in seclusion and spent her days cultivating flowers on her balcony. One day a young Moor passing by saw her, decided he had to have her and entered the house so to declare his love. The young girl, surprised by such a gesture, reciprocated him, but just when she got to know him he had to return to where he came from, to his wife and children, she waited for the night to come and as he fell asleep she cut off his head and used it as a vase for her flowers and put it on her balcony displaying it to everyone. This way his love was forever hers. Since then, flowers grew lush in the vase and the neighbours, envious, built vases shaped like a Moor’s head.

All about Cheese

“Age is something that doesn’t matter unless you are cheese”

On my September 2013 tour of Eastern Sicily, I with the assistance of our wonderful chef Massimo showcased a great selection of local Sicilian cheeses which we enjoyed with a selection of Sicilian wines. The thrill for me was seeing everyone’s expression when we arrived and were confronted with a table full of cheese, we were like mice in a cheese shop! I have listed the cheeses we enjoyed and a little bit of information on each so if you come across them in your travels, you will know what you are eating. Buon appetito!

rszPecorino-Siciliano-and-Piacentinu-Ennese-1The name “Pecorino” from the Latin “pecus” meaning sheep, back to the sheep’s milk it is definitely one of the oldest cheeses dating back to Sumerian Mesopotamia where a pastor randomly invented the technique of production. The taste is crisp and grainy flavor with a very spicy. Pecorino is a term used to define one of the older styles of cheeses made from unpasteurized sheep’s milk. It is a protected origin, DOP, made everywhere in Sicily but using different styles of cheese making. In the area of Mt Etna, they make the cheese in a flatter style of wheel with raw sheep milk and leaving it to mature for about 2 years, becoming firm and granular with age. Farmer love to have their sheep grazing on the wild mountain herbs as they impart a particular kind of flavour. Commonly Pecorino is flavoured with black pepper, chili or basil although some more unique flavourings include, pistachio, saffron, capers and orange.

Pecorino is one of most widely used, sharper cheeses used in Sicily and has aromas of fresh, floral and spicy or fruity and spicy, especially if mature. It usually will have a strong smell of sheep’s milk and hay and because of the hard texture and sharp & salty flavour, Pecorino is an excellent cheese grated over pasta dishes, salads and mixing with other cheeses to create a sharp flavour in gratin dishes and stuffings.

Piacentinu Ennese is a very important cheese from the year of around 1090. This is a sheep’s milk cheese exclusively produced in the Enna Province in Sicily. Legend says that King Roger was looking for ingredients to cure depression for his wife, some local cheese makers said that saffron was good for depression and made this cheese for the queen. Its name takes origins from the dialect word “piacenti” that means” cheese that is liked”. This is a full fat, raw or heat treated sheep’s milk cheese usually aged for 60 days, it has a beautiful mild flavour with amazing flavours, its bright yellow distinctive colouring uses both the raw milk of red-faced ewes and local picked saffron. The saffron gives the cheese a rich, golden colour with aromatic flavours, slightly sweet and a compact paste that is lightly holed. The saffron has to be picked at a certain time when the flower is not complete and the farmers wake before sun rise to pick between two to three thousand saffron flowers!

rszLuna-Piena-2Luna Piena- This cheese is so local that it was really difficult finding information on it. It is covered in a light mould with a soft mild flavour made in the area of Ragusa in the mountains about 900mt above sea level on the Eastern Coast of Sicily.

rszTuma-Persa-3Tuma Persa is a very old style of cheese with its recipe having been almost lost for 100 years until it was rediscovered again by cheese maker Salvatore Passalaqua who found the old artisanal recipe in a house just outside of Palermo. Now Salvatore is the sole producer of Tuma Persa or “Lost Cheese,” producing it in Castranova di Sicilia near Palermo in Sicily. Tuma Persa is extremely flavourful, but not salty. Made from raw cow’s milk, it has an earthy taste with a sharp finish. The rind is coated with crushed peppercorn, which further adds to its complex flavor. Tuma Persa is best enjoyed by itself or with Sicilian Caponnata. And it’s wonderful paired with indigenous Sicilian wines such as Nero d’Avola, Syrah, Malvasia from Lipari and Passito from Pantelleria.

Ragusano Dop tipical sicilian – Ragusano is a stringy‐textured cheese, produced with raw whole cow’s milk, coming from cows that forage in the aromatic pastures of the Iblei Mountains that lie between Siracusa and Ragusa. The Ragusano Dop is one of the oldest cheeses produced in Sicily. They are evidence of the presence of Ragusano DOP in Sicily history starting as early as 1500, The cheese is still homemade by little family dairies included in the farm where the cows are reared and its production is limited to seasons when the Ibleo pastures are very lush. This is protected by DOP made in one region with one type of cow and can only be made in this area.

The flavour of Ragusano Dop is aromatic, slightly spicy with a very pleasant taste. It tends to be aromatic and sweet when the cheese is young and becomes more and more pungent by the extension of the period of maturation. The production of Ragusano DOP follows an ancient tradition where the milk of one or more milking’s is left to clot, promoting the development of the natural microflora. The curd is then reduced into small pieces using the “iaruozzu”, a wooden pole that ends with a disk. The Ragusa-caciocavallo cheese ferments for 24 hours before the cheese is placed in hot water then stretched, calling it -pasta filata. It is then matured for 1 ½ years hung in two balls over what can be described like a saddle.

rszFiore-Sicano-5Fiore Sicano – A flat round cheese with a greyish native mould produced between the regions of Palermo and Agrigento in the Sicani mountains. The birth of the Fiore Sicano cheese is accompanied by a very unique legend and wonderful story of a cheese maker who failed to work the milk properly, starting with something like a “tuma” fresh stretched cheese, he formed it into a round and not wanting to throw it away left it to mature, story says near fruits. The cheese maker noticed that the cheese was producing a mould, thinking that the Tuma had gone bad he decided to throw it away, although noticing the white soft cheese that came out of the centre. The natural moulds that characterize the native flower Sicano give the cheese a slightly acidic taste although the delicate aroma of cream and milk gives it a sweet after taste which softens the initial acidity. Flower Sicano is still produced according to ancient tradition, with typical wooden tools. Cow’s milk from two milkings is left to coagulate for about an hour in a wood casks called “chiscuni” The curd is broken twice: the first using a light technique, the second with force, until the granules are reduced to the size of a grain of rice. Then the curd is separated from the whey and is collected in forms. After twenty-four hours, the cheese is immersed in brine. Seasoning is added at the last stage of the production process and can last for sixty days or twenty months. This cheese like many of the others matches extremely well to the wines of the Sicilian land, and wines such as Grecanico and Nerello Mascalese.

“Formaggio Ubriaco” (drunk cheese) di nero d’Avola – This is a sharp cow milk cheese aged for 6 months on its own, then for an extra 5 months in wine barrels with the Sicilian Nero d’Avola a deeply coloured, full-bodied, distinctly tannic wine. Nero d’Avola essentially is an indigenous grape variety to the region of Sicily, where it has been cultivated for centuries. The name is thought to be a contraction of two words (“Calea” and “Aulisi”) which, in the Sicilian dialect, mean “grape from Avola” (Avola being the name of a Sicilian town). This is also a stretch curd cheese sometimes also aged with the other Sicilian grape, Zibbibo . The creamy richness of the cheese marries well with the distinct flavour and aroma of the wine, which varies according to the preferences of the cheese maker. This cheese is enjoyed when served with potatoes, partnered with polenta and or mushrooms. These goats cheeses are from the Province of Agrigento and are made from a specific breed of goat with the milk being similar to that of human milk – good for people who diabetic, or with an allergy to cows milk and also very good for children.

rszCaprino-Della-Razza-Girentana-a-crosta-Fiorita-7Caprino Della Razza Girentana a crosta Fiorita – The origins of this cheese dates back to the eleventh century BC. This Sicilian goat cheese is unique in their kind, produced between the Nebrodi and the Madonie regions in Sicily. The milk is obtained from goats and Maltese Girgentana that feed exclusively on wild herbs and plants, which are present in inaccessible areas and thus difficult to reach. This diet gives the cheese its unique taste. The fatty acids and aging of the cheese give the cheese its characteristic odour and sharp flavour , sour initially and later herbaceous pleasing to the palate.

rszRubbia-8Rubbia- these are a softer, velvety and creamier style of cheese with an edible rind. White and clean in flavour with a delicious simple style, this is an elegant version of the traditional soft cheese from the valleys of Brescia. Made from cow’s milk and aged for about 30 days, it has the typical shape almost like a taleggio and with the ripening tends to completely “cremificare”.

rszCalricciosi-9Calricciosi soft balls of goats cheese coated in a variety of either spices, herbs or seeds, a delicate flavour with those gorgeous hues of a fresh goats chevre here in the images are three different types of coatings. peppe verde – rolled in green peppercorn semi di Papavero – rolled in poppy seed pistachio e erba cipollina – rolled with green chives and pistachio.

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Infogliato Ficu- a delicious soft goats cheese infused with the flavour of fig as it is wrapped and left in fresh fig leaves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4,3,2,1… Blast Off!

PFCW_logoToday is the day!! We are finally here with the launch of my Pure Food Wine and Cooking Tours website. We hope that the site is more user friendly and allows you to plan your next overseas holiday with me. With the launch of the NEW Pure Food Wine and Cooking Tours site I have a range of personally escorted tours to Sicily, Greece and Puglia. There are a selection of even more tours for you to choose from that are locally guided Group and Private tours designed by me.

No matter what your taste for travel, I have planned, every step of your world culinary journey to be unique and more than just a food tour, my tours are a life experience not to forget.

So look through the pages, start salivating, start planning and let me guide you through your next world journey.