Robin Williams – for me he was the voice of my times


I sometimes don’t do news – it’s so depressing, often boring, frequently silly. So somehow I didn’t know that the world lost Robin Williams until the morning. And it hit me hard. Very hard.

He was just 3 years younger than me – effectively a contemporary. His humor was our humor – we laughed at Mork and Mindy because going into space was something we all dreamed of doing. I remember when Russia looked like it might win the space race – and laughing at Mork was our way of laughing at Russia. And just like his role in Moscow on the Hudson – he captures what we’re afraid of – and makes it funny. Looking back – maybe we shouldn’t have been afraid – but Robin was there for us when we were.

Vietnam was our war – and Good Morning, Vietnam was how I wanted to think of it after the fact. Crazy, nuts, but with real people trying hard to do the right thing – and maybe not winning even a battle. But trying.

I can’t hear it’s a Beautiful World without Robin’s face flashing into my head – so strong is the association between Robin and my history and that movie. And he doesn’t even appear when that song plays.

I didn’t see every movie he made – but I was at Sundance in 2009 when he briefly stopped in to chat about his newest movie – World’s Greatest Dad. In some kind of not very funny world loop – it’s about a father whose son kills himself.

Reach out – right now – and hug someone you love. It’s the best way of celebrating his life and his memory.

Signing off for now – The Soup Lady

The Quest – Hot new TV Show or Boring Also Ran?


Quick guess – if I’m writing about it – it’s hot! The Quest has been described by a local wit as the Amazing Race with a +3 broadsword – and that’s not a bad description. But it is so much more than that – and thus well worth watching.

I suppose it helps if you are a re-enactor, because this is definitely about what it should be like to play Dungeon and Dragons for real.

The concept is complex and that’s part of what makes it a must watch for me!

Apparently a group of bored people who had worked on Lord of the Rings and simply had way, way too much time on their hands (the credits are on the web – I’m not repeating them) decided it would be totally too much fun to create a fantasy world, fill it full of actors and cameras – and then invite 12 innocent, but experienced with re-enacting, people to come and play. Amazingly the

The 12 newbies – dubbed Paladins which shows a lack of comprehension of what that term should mean – arrive and are greeted by the Grand Vizier, the Queen, and a host of other people who play the roles of guards, alarm clocks (I love the guy who goes around banging on the doors every morning), or village inhabitants. There are also “The Fates” who are given the responsibility of meting out punishment for a lack of success by banishing Paladins one by one until there remains but one true hero.

It’s hard to say right now what that one true hero is going to face – but given the bits and pieces of amazing costume design that they’ve showed us – it’s not going to be pretty.

So – it’s a reality show with a story line – or it’s a televised Dungeon and Dragons game with some people in the ‘know’ and other people hoping that they can survive. The Paladins so far have displayed a remarkable willingness to ‘believe’ – and that definitely makes the entire thing even more interesting. Here are normal people parachuted into this world where everyone around them stays in character. And they must best challenges and form alliances – and do all the other things that reality contestants must do – while the story evolves around them.

To quickly sum up the first 2 shows – in hopes you’ll turn in for the third show – (runs Thursday on ABC and a ton of cable channels – 8:00 EST, 7:00 Central) -

1) The contestants arrive – are greeted by the fates – explained the rules – and slowly changed from 20th century garb to faintly medieval with fantasy overtone garb.

2) They run thru the ‘forest’, are chased by a monster, and eventually arrive at a castle where they are thrown into jail to wait for the Grand Vizier to greet them.

3) They are escorted to their lodgings – pair off and relax. In #2 and #3 there is time for each person to introduce themselves to the group.

4) They get ‘training’ clothes – so they are now completely ‘in’ the period. Things look much better when everyone is dressed in period – re-enactors know this from experience! You believe more when you are dressed right.

5) The first ‘test’ is a training exercise where they must aim huge crossbows up and over a brush ‘wall’ to ‘kill’ straw men on the far side. Note that so far the ‘tests’ have been fantasy period appropriate – another cool thing. It’s like Survivor when it first started – the tests fit the times! Bonnie is chosen as the ‘top’ – and kneels convincingly at the feet of the ‘trainer’ to get her badge. Cool. The 3 people in the team with the lowest scores must ‘face’ the fates.

6) If I had a complaint – and of course I’d tell you if I did – it’s the Fates. The group marches to the hall of the Fates – 3 beautiful women who are stern in expression. They announce that the person to be banished will be determined in 2 steps. Step 1 – a contest – the winner is exempt. Step 2 – the remaining paladins vote off the ‘loser’. This is where I have a problem. Allowing the paladins to choose who goes and who stays is going to quickly degenerate into a test of Alliances. Not value, not skill – but alliances. Bummer. But that is from someone who would probably always get voted off the island. (me)

7) The next day there is another ‘exercise’ – this one a jousting mock-up with the Paladins on horseback forced to fire arrows, throw spears, hit jousting targets, and smash a skull. Cool – and seriously hard to do, even if they do hold the horse steady while you shoot the arrows. The loser is the best horse-woman in the field – quickly voted off the island. We are now down 2 women – so what started off as a field of 5 guys and 7 women is now 5 and 5.

8) Now the plot thickens. The Paladins meet the Queen earlier in the day, and are pleased to realize that she is very much on their side. Asking the people of the ‘world’ to make sure the Paladins are comfortable. She even comes out to watch the exercise and jousting tournament – and she joins them for dinner after the meeting with the Fates. At dinner – she is suddenly poisoned quite convincingly!

Cool.

I can’t wait for next week just to see what devilish stunt they will pull out of their fantasy hats!

Signing off – the Soup Lady.

 

 

 

Napoleon’s Elba – More Dancing, More Food, More Fun – Part 2


To catch up – do read Part 1 of our Elba Weekend first – but to quickly recap – we were invited to be part of a grand ball held in Napoleon’s Honor on Elba – the 200th anniversary of his first ball there. An opportunity we just couldn’t miss! So we didn’t. We went with full period dress – expecting to have a ball – and a ball we had.

The weekend started well – First up – period theatre attended by Paulina Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister who visited him on the island. She is ‘played’ to perfection by Irina Mishanina a lovely Russian lady with more changes of clothes than I have birds in my yard. Glorious, stately, and very nice. I’m pleased we had a chance to get to know her.

The theatre building was built under the orders of Napoleon, and finished just one month before his daring flight back to France. I can’t say that the performances were worth writing about – but Ben, our very British host who is currently living in Italy, did his best to explain audience behavior during the period. As we are seated in a box seat – we are allowed to visit other boxes – Victor even went to greet Paulina, but got too embarrassed to say anything to her! There is much flirting, waving of fans, and catcalls from the ‘floor’, particularly if one of the men in a box takes off his waistcoat. Simply not done!

After the theatre we had a light dinner (lack of seats was hard on old legs – but I scored one of the 5 tables for 4 that were provided – and we quickly became a group of 8) – and then 2 hours of period dancing under the stars. While onlookers could have joined us – they didn’t. Everyone dancing – and there were almost 155 of us – all period appropriately dressed. Victor was definitely the most dashing in his Marin de la Garde outfit. There were a smattering of other soldiers, many well-dressed ladies, and lots of music, laughter, and fun.

Saturday started early with us getting on a bus to tour the very tiny island. We visited Napoleon’s ‘summer’ house – built-in just 3 months. Perched high on a hill overlooking the main town of Elba, it was small, compact – and hot. Very, very, hot. I was relieved when we were summoned back to the bus for the ride to lunch.

Lunch was a period picnic – sailcloth spread on the ground in a lovely home on a far corner of the island. This was the location, and the house where Napoleon, ever the showman, spent his first night on Elba. He wanted to make a grand entrance into the main city – and needed to ‘freshen’ up after the fairly long voyage. Rumor has it that he spent his last night on Elba there as well.

We sipped champagne, chatted about this and that, waved our fans, and generally relaxed in the shade. My favorite part – meeting other guests! People came from everywhere to attend the event – including Austria, Australia, England, France, Germany. Malta, Russia, and Canada. Ok – we were the only 4 from Canada – out of the 155 – but hey – we looked good.

Back to the hotel for naps (I went swimming), a lovely but too quick dinner, and then to the Grand Ball. Held in the Ballroom of Napoleon’s ‘Palazzo’ turned museum – it was a tiny space for such a large number of guests. This was compounded by the fact that at the last-minute – the organizers were informed that the huge late night dinner spread could not be placed in the Museum proper, but had to go in 1/3 of the already small ballroom. But never mind – we were there to dance, and dance we would.

Many of the women sported trains – some longer than others – so watch your feet was pretty much the rule. The musicians were talented, the dance master tried his best to remind us of the steps required, and the company was simply too much fun. Even though I wore my ball gown, I frequently danced as a man – which just means to the left of the ladies – the steps being exactly the same. Given the heat – I’m glad I wore my silk dress. Victor as usually looked dashing – but found the heat pretty oppressive (two layers of heavy wool over his cotton shirt) and took frequent breaks.

During one of which he danced with ‘Paulina’ at the bequest of the photographer. You can check out the pictures all over Facebook – I think everyone but me got a photo!

Try following this link for pictures: https://mbasic.facebook.com/profile.php?v=timeline&timecutoff=1378867100&page=6&sectionLoadingID=m_timeline_loading_div_1420099199_1388563200_8_6&timeend=1420099199&timestart=1388563200&tm=AQAWkKRvhRVUpz66&id=126463247927&_rdr

I danced every dance – Victor and I admired the work required to create all the food, and I slugged down water. At some point during the evening there was a thunderstorm to end all thunderstorms – which occasioned much oohing and ahhing. Lucky for us -we grabbed a taxi home just as the dance ended – otherwise we’d have been soaked and wool takes a really long time to dry! Others were less lucky – either they walked ‘home’ in the rain – or had to wait over 2 hours for a taxi. Timing is everything.

Sunday morning dawned bright and clear – as if the thunderstorm had never happened.  Our hotel provided breakfast – and while it wasn’t the most amazing feast – the coffee was delicious, and I was able to get 2, 3 ever 4 cappuccinos! And most fun – other people we’d met were also eating breakfast there – so we had pleasant company.

The plan on Sunday was to sail on ‘La Grace’ – a completely wonderful new boat designed to look exactly like a 200-year-old sailboat. 2 masts, tons of sails, and hemp lines running everywhere and a crew of at least 2 dozen seamen – we’re talking serious sailboat.

There are 3 sailings to choose from – I convince Victor to sign up for the last – late afternoon sailing. You are more likely to have a breeze, the sky is likely to be glorious, and most importantly – there are likely to be fewer takers – so more chance to take a turn at the helm.

Arduina and Michel take the multiple sailings seriously – including acting the part of parents saying good-bye from the dock as a younger couple wave madly from on-board!

We arrive on the dock about 30 minutes before time to sail – to an adoring crowd keen to get pictures with the gloriously dressed men and women. Who knew I’d married a peacock? Well Victor was definitely the hit of the parade. Literally everyone was keen to be photographed with the brave solider – and of course the solider was pretty keen to pose. I helped by holding on to purses, umbrellas, and light jackets while their owners snapped away to their heart’s content.

Eventually we wave good-bye to our adoring fans and are ‘piped’ on board to be greeted by the captain. We cast off – ‘motor’ around to the center of the harbor – and then – raise the sails and sail off into the sunset. A nice breeze gives us a solid headway – and we pose for picture after picture. I do get my chance at the helm, Victor gets to pose holding the lines – and we even get to watch some of the braver re-enactors climb to crows nest. Not sure I’d try that – definitely not in my dress.

A fight breaks out between 2 of the crew members – to the delight of the guests. Words, Knives, and Swords fly – and the winner is declared. I’m a bit surprised that the captain didn’t call both fighters to task – but then again – this isn’t really 1814!

All good things – including great weekends – must end. And we sail back into the harbor to a welcoming crowd of onlookers. Our group of 6 makes our way – in period dress – to a near-by fish restaurant to relax, de-compress – and enjoy more delicious food. And of course – after dinner – there’s a must stop at an ice-cream parlor. I did mention that the ice cream on Elba is outstanding.

Tomorrow it’s a reverse of our trip in – but with more luggage since 2 of our friends decide to join us in our car for the 2.5-hour trip to Florence. A wonderful weekend with great friends, fine food, super dancing – and tons of fun.

I loved Elba. Probably will never go back – there’s just much else to see in the world – but I’m glad I got to visit this tiny island. And I totally understand why Napoleon was really glad to leave!

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Napoleon’s Elba – Flash of the Past – Part 1


Elba – tiny Island – big place in History!

In 1814 Napoleon abdicated as Emperor of France, and accepted being the Emperor of Elba – a tiny island just off the coast of Italy. When he arrived – he described Elba as a village of fisherman – and set out to ‘modernize’ it. He had a home turned into a ‘Palazzo’, he had a theatre built, he built a summer home in just 3 months, he even smuggled Marie Walewska onto the island for a quick romantic visit.

And it is known that he gave grand balls.

Fast-forward 200 years – and a group of English Country Dancers from Florence (believe it or not – the kind of dancing done in French Society during the 1er Empire) decide to hold the first ball in Napoleon’s ballroom in 200 years. And we’re invited.

How could Victor and I miss such an opportunity?

And to make it a weekend worth the travel time – not only would there be the grand ball – there would also be a public dance featuring all the people willing to dance on a outdoor plaza at the foot of Napoleon’s home. There would be a dance workshop – a period picnic in the place that Napoleon spent his first (and last) nights on Elba – a visit to Napoleon’s country home, a mid-night period-correct swim, and a chance to take a 2 hour sail on the “La Grace” – a wooden sailing ship the same size as the one Napoleon used to escape from Elba in 1815.

So – we figured – hey – we’re going to Montmirail two weeks before (check out my blog – re-enacting 101) – let’s extend the trip to include the weekend in Elba. We made the best decision ever – we invited our dance master friends, Arduina and Michel to maybe join us. They agreed. And because they are dance masters – they also decide it would be a good idea to practice the dances in advance.

So – while still in Montreal 2 other couples joined us for the practice sessions, followed by a period appropriate dinner party. Great start to a fab holiday, no? The dance practices were fun – dinner was amazing. Turns out that Stephan’s family makes their own smoked salmon – and he arrives, fish in hand – with a slicer. Best Salmon ever. Meal ends with a period correct Croque-en-Bouche. But enough about a dinner party – this blog is about Elba.

Ok – so – first Montmirail, then Venice, then Nice, then Elba. To get to Elba, you must take a ferry – and I love boats. Getting on was a piece of cake, even with a car. Nice being off-season. Anyway – on, lovely ride, off. Find the hotel. Done, Done, and All Done.

Since the first dance practice was that night, we ate quickly and then walked up and up and up. Elba is a hilly little island – and Napoleon picked the top of the highest hill in the biggest town to make his ‘home’. And we were having dance practice near-by.

Coolest thing – Victor immediately meets someone he knows! The official Waterloo (and this event) photographer – who recognized Victor as the person whose photo he used for the ad for Waterloo 2010. Way cool, eh?

Dance practice is fun – a bit hot, but fun. Good thing we’d practiced. It made us look like some of the better dancers – always nice to feel superior. On the walk back we find a ‘closing’ ice cream parlor that agrees to stay open just long enough to sell the 4 of us some Gellato and Sorbetto. Italian ice cream is awesomely good. I’m just saying.

Friday we spent the day relaxing – checking out the stone beach, reading, and generally just moving slow. Then at 4:00pm we got dressed (Period Correct of course) – and started the weekend event.

Quick comment on dress – Men of this period wore waistcoats, vests, stockings, and ornate watches, neck scarves. Or they wore their uniforms if they were soldiers. Women wore Empire wasted (regency period) gowns – different gowns during different parts of the day. I only have 3 dresses with me – my silk ball gown, plus 2 lighter cotton dresses for Friday, during the day on Saturday, and Sunday. I have a parasol, gloves, and appropriate jewelry. I do not have a wig – which is a shame since most women are wearing either hairpieces or full wigs to get the right effect.

And a comment on numbers – there are 155 dancers – about 2/3 women, 1/3 men. So often the women must dance the ‘male’ role. This results in some pretty funny multi-lingual adventures – We form circles for example, alternating man – woman. But if there are two women, is the ‘male’ on the right side? The dance master goes from person to person identifying their role. Man, Woman, Man, Woman, Man, ????..

—- My adventure continues tomorrow —

 

Signing off for now – The Soup Lady!

World’s Best Mini Garden


Ok – maybe not World’s best – but definitely Montreal Island’s Best….

Wonder where the Hobbit Hole goes? MontrealMadame.com

Wonder where the Hobbit Hole goes? MontrealMadame.com

I adore landscaping – particularly landscaping that combines fun, beauty and great design inspiration! So imagine my surprise when I realized that one of the tiny gardens I most often drive past has had a complete redesign to make it one of my all time favorites!

The location of the mini-garden in questions is a park in Dorval – at the intersection of Fenelon Boulevard and Dawson Avenue. The cool thing is that if you are taking Dawson – you drive straight into the garden!

And this is not a garden – it’s a hobbit hole – with an Ent sitting nearby admiring his toes. There are mushroom trees – a walkway to the round door of the hobbit hole – in fact the only thing missing is Bilbo Baggins.

To create the Ent – the designer has taken a tree – and given it eyes, hands, a mouth, legs and arms. But it’s not just a ‘boring’ Ent – it’s a living breathing Ent. I particularly like the way flowers twine around his arm.

Ent beside a Hobbit Hole in Dorval Garden, Quebec - MontrealMadame.com

Ent beside a Hobbit Hole in Dorval Garden, Quebec – MontrealMadame.com

To the right of the hobbit hole are these majorly glorious mushroom trees sporting bright green leaves.

I’m not alone in admiring this beautiful garden – in addition to admiring my pictures – check it out on-line.

Dorval’s Hobbit Garden is definitely worth the drive by – if not the stop and take pictures! And say hi to the Ent when you visit!

Bright Green Mushroom trees near the Hobbit Hole in Dorval Gardens, Quebec - MontrealMadame.com

Bright Green Mushroom trees near the Hobbit Hole in Dorval Gardens, Quebec – MontrealMadame.com

How much does a shack on the beach cost?


Interesting question.

I’m always looking at real estate – there’s something about a home for sale sign that just tingles my nerve endings.

Why are the selling, is the furniture nice, what does the other side of the house look like? How long has it been on the market? Are there more houses for sale this year or last year?

In Maine – on the beach – most signs are ‘for sale’ – they are ‘for rent’. People buy homes, use them for 2 or 3 or 4 weeks – then rent them out. Or – people buy multiple properties and run the rentals like a business. Or – there are companies that list rentals – and do all the work – you just collect what they send you at the end of the summer.

We are staying in the middle category. Frank Sr. was the original owner, Frank Jr. and his sister now ‘run’ the business – we rented just one of his several homes – a 4 bedroom tiny shack across the street from the entrance to one of my favorite sections of Wells Beach. There’s a life guard stand that is manned (well this year – womanned) most days – and at high tide – there’s so little beach left that most people use that time as ‘break’.

But there are trade-offs. Yes the house has less than 1000 square feet – yes the bedrooms are so small that they have no closets (which I think means they can’t be called bedrooms), and yes there is just one tiny bathroom. But – there’s a washer and dryer – a full kitchen – both a front and a back porch (you need both to track the sun) – and as mentioned earlier – we’re right across from the entrance to the beach. Easy to nip back for bathroom and lunch breaks.

For this glamor – we pay $1400 a week. By Maine Beach standards – it’s about average – maybe low average since the house is so tiny. We could get a smaller place for less – and a larger place for more – but this one suits our needs, and our holiday schedule.

That said – I toured someone else’s digs – and now I’m seriously jealous.

I’ve been in other places of course – but never one that appealed to me the way this one did.

It’s called WinkinPaw – why – I don’t know. It’s located on the ‘wrong’ side of the road (ie: not on the beach side) – further south than us – on Moody Beach. Moody in that section is just beach. No tide pools, no rocks, no stones, no shells – and no lifeguard. Just miles of Maine sand in both directions. This makes it easy to walk and swim of course – but cuts down on the play and castle building opportunities that a more rocky – Maine-like – beach offers.

On the other hand – it has real sand at the very top where the high tide doesn’t quite reach – soft and fluffy even. Nice.

The house is a bit further from the entrance than our shack – and is clearly not a beach shack. There are 4 bedrooms (well – 3 bedrooms and a curtained off kids area) on the first floor – and upstairs is the living space. A huge open area of living, dining and giant kitchen. There’s a full bathroom on the first floor – and a 1/2 bath on the 2nd floor. There’s even a hot and cold shower outside for rinsing off beach sand – But this isn’t the reason for my envy.

Nope – I’m about the view. And the view is amazing. There’s a porch that wraps around 3/4 of the house – so full front porch with views thru the houses in front to the ocean, a side porch, and a back porch with 180 degree views of the marsh. And the marsh is a wonderful sight. Full of birds, and kayakers, and waving cat tails and meandering water ways that curve and twist in a relentless search for the open ocean. I couldn’t believe the view. Stunning. I want that.

Good think that the Pink Lady doesn’t care about views! She’s about how close are we to the beach – and in that regard – our shack wins.

What does a palace cost? One that is not on the ocean? $3400 a week. Makes you wonder what 4 bedrooms ON THE BEACH might run, eh? Serious dent in pocketbook money I’m guessing.

Oh well – better 2 weeks than one – but I’d still love that view….

Signing off – The Soup Lady and her companion – the Pink Terrier

What is a Maine holiday worth to you?


For years my family and I have been going to Wells Beach, Maine for our annual lobster, chow’da, and ocean fix. I’ve come with my husband alone, I’ve come with my entire family (and there are a lot of us). I’ve come when my kids were small – I’ve come when my kids were grown and their kids were small.

Right now I’m here with just one grand-daughter – Sophie. She’s 7 – and we’re totally into her time schedule. Wake and start the day when she does (which is around 9:30 am – but don’t tell her parents – I think I’m supposed to wake her earlier), eat, go to the beach, practice reading (I’m teaching her to read English), eat, go to the beach, practice reading, play dominos (she’s killer at that), and read stories and go to bed.

Occasionally there’s a bath in there – and occasionally – like today – we have to break down and use the car to go get some food.

Our needs – as you can imagine – are pretty simple. We’re walking distance from the Well’s Lobster Pound – which sells amazingly good clam chow’da. They have lobster too – but we just like to admire them swimming in the tanks. We’re really all about the chow’da. I happen to love sauting veggies in butter (yes – real butter – my ateries will survive) – so I have a tiny bit of chow’da and mostly veggies. Sophie loves the chow’da.

So – chow’da and fruit and corn on the cob if we can find it are pretty much the staples of our diet – when we’re not on the beach of course.

Last night we broke down and visited the Scoop Deck for ice cream. Huge portions – even the kiddie size is insane – and a zillion flavors. Of course I only get pistachio and Sohpie likes either Cotton Candy or maybe Bubble Gum. Which is better than it used to be when her flavor was color selected – PINK of course.

We spent yesterday doing our favorite thing  – exploring the tide pools near our shack. Us and about 50 other kids (ranging in age from 3 years to over 80) clambered over and on the rocks and into the pools. Sophie’s bucket contained a tiny lobster, 4 star fish, and a huge (at least hand sized) crab. There were also a selection of smaller objects – most of them still alive after being man-handled by probably 20 kids on their way into her bucket.

The rule is – nothing that was ever alive goes to the house. You do have to be firm on this – rocks are ok – even dead lobsters are a no-no.

Plan for today – replacing my dead aero bed, get food for dinner (we’ve cleaned out the house), and beach, beach, beach!

Signing off – the Soup Lady and the lady in Pink (what can I say – Sophie is still in her pink phase)

My Aero Bed just died


Ok – so maybe a funeral is not in order – but I still have to figure out what to do with the dead body.

It’s not funny.

I’ve enjoyed this aero bed for years – and now – in the midst of my annual Maine vacation – it decides to die.

I woke up this morning sleeping on a balloon. No kidding. The maze of pathways that channel the air in the Aero Bed to keep it flat and bed like must have given way – and I was lying in the middle of a wall of puffed up bed-clothes.

Extremely uncomfortable – let me tell you.

At first I thought the bed had a slow leak, and my lying on hard surface meant I had to inflate it some more. So I stupidly did that – which just dramatically increased the balloon effect.

Once I was awake enough to appreciate the horror of what lay beneath and beside me and above my head and below my feet – I managed to swim my way out of the bed and turned to survey the damage.

It’s like a massive whale lying where my bed used to be.

And guess what – you can’t get the air out either. It’s stuck in there.

What am I going to do with the body….

Signing off in complete puzzlement – the soup lady

Eating Fancy – Rome – Part 3


If you are late coming to this blog – check out Eating Fancy – Rome – Parts 1 and 2. The following restaurants were my all time favorites – and without spoiling anything – well worth the price they charged.

Tied for top prize (I prefer one, my husband the other) are All’Oro and Open Colanna.

First All-Oro. We were recommended by the Sommalier at Open Colanna – and in later conversation, it turned out that he had worked there when they were in their smaller previous location. For the past 4 years – they have been located in the First Art Hotel – and the style and decor is strictly high-end Italian modern. Elegant, sophisticated, and supremely simple. Napkins were rolled into long tubes at the table, matching the vertical long tubes that held a single flower. Spot lights gave each table a feeling of privacy, although the space was actually completely open. There were about 12 tables in total, 7 of which were occupied. So like at Il Pagliaccio and at Open Colanna – the staff outnumbered the dinners. I kept wondering how they make money.

At All’Oro – the tasting menu was unique. Instead of a special menu – you got to choose your options off the regular menu – and I suspect they then split the standard fair into 2 dishes – one per person. In any case – the portions, even for a tasting menu, were tiny. That said – they were stunning.

My absolute favorites were the 2 ‘pasta’ offerings – both of which were inverted. Instead of putting the pasta in a sauce – they put the sauce in the pasta! You put the pasta in your mouth, and chewed. The flavors of the sauces, in perfect serving size, burst into your mouth. I have no idea how this was accomplished – but the result awesome. I absolutely loved the result – but the appearance and the flavors. Delicious and Surprising. Highly technical, but well conceived and beautifully executed.

For the main meal we opted for the suckling pig – 2 ways. Again, the portion size was tiny, but the flavors were intense. One portion was pork belly, intensely seasoned and cleverly sliced so that the fat was crisp and the meat/fat was juicy and tender. The other was a piece of pork that had been immersion cooked for over 14 hours. Wonderful.

Unlike many restaurants where the chefs either ignore the customers – or chat up only the ones that they know well – at All’Oro the chef came out several times to chat up several tables – including us! He explained that he and his wife have been running his own restaurant and got his star 5 years ago. 4 years ago, he was invited to move to this space in the Hotel – where he cooks not only from the fine dining room, but for the roof top terrace restaurant – open only when conditions permit. He even offered to take us up there – I’d have loved to see it. So All’Oro definitely rates high in my book – I don’t think I’ll soon forget either the pork dish – or those amazing ravioli’s!

Last – and definitely worth a visit – is Open Colanna. We ate 2 meals there – the first was lunch. at 16 Euro per person for all you can eat – it was probably the best bargain we enjoyed the entire time we were in Europe. There was a huge spread, each dish more delicious than the last. I loved the chicken in Turmeric Sauce – and they served tiny cups of tiramusu that explained why this dessert is featured on so many Italian restaurants. Needless to say – the place was packed. It a huge ‘open’ space – surrounded on 3 sides and the top with glass. The effect is a sun washed terrace – Italian modern design.

We loved lunch so much – the next day we walked back to get a reservation for dinner!

At dinner – the main dining area is closed, and the upper floor (hidden from view during the day) becomes the dinning room. There are only about 12 tables – and of these only 6 were occupied. With a wait staff of 4 – and an unknown number of kitchen staff – it was like having a personal dinner party.

The airy space – sun lit when we arrived, and gradually darkening as the sun set – was magical. You felt like you were floating among the buildings on every side. While not the over-the-top romantic feeling of Mirabelle – you still felt cared for and about. The wait staff had time to chat – to discuss the meal, to be sure your meal was memorable.

No – the chef did not make an appearance – I’m pretty sure he wasn’t there – but his sous-chefs did a wonderful job of following his directions.

As is expected, there was an amuse, a multi-course tasting menu, and this time there was a wine tasting menu as well. But it was free-form – the sommeiler opting for bottles he felt would compliment what we were going to be eating. The tasting menu featured much larger portions than the ones at All’Oro – which might be why my husband rated Open higher. They also served a variation on ravioli filled with sauce – this time the pasta were tiny hand-made Pyramids. Very neat. The main course was also suckling pig – a much larger portion of course. The meat was extremely tender, but in my opinion, not nearly as tasty as the version served at All’Oro. My only complaint – and this was a problem of my own making – on the menu at Open there was a souffle. This is one of my favorite desserts – and we asked that it be served. However, the dessert on the tasting menu was a chocolate fancy that according to the sommelier/Matre d’ was a prize winner. We allowed him to convince us to go with that option and while tasty – I missed having the souffle. Next time – I stand my ground. Souffle it will be!

So that’s the score. Open Colanna and All’Oro in first place, third place goes to Il Pagliaccio, and last and most forgettable (but a to die for view) – Mirabella.

Signing off – The Soup Lady

Eating Fancy – Rome – Part 2


Part One of this blog talked about the Mirabele – 1 Michelin Star, high points for location and Romance – nice music too – and a not so hot score for the food.

Next up on my list was Il Pagliaccio. This was a 2 star restaurant – tiny, tiny, tiny and stuck in a back street of Rome so challenging to find that our taxi driver had to use her GPS. Surprisingly to me – the door was locked when we arrived. But clearly the host was keeping an eye out – before I could recover from my surprise, the door was opened. We confirmed that we had a reservation – and were ushered in. There were at most 8 tables. And I never saw one flip. So quite the difference from the packed and a bit frantic atmosphere of the Mirabelle.

Like the Mirabelle – we opted for the 10 course tasting menu. Unlike the Mirabelle – there was no matching wine tasting. The sommelier helped my husband select a white wine by the glass, and a red that he felt would go with most of the courses. We were quite disappointed by this – going with most isn’t really quite good enough at this price range.

Again there was a napkin service, this time it happened before we were served a delicious green pea soup amuse that was divine. The courses were interesting – but hard to remember because the main server’s english was so heavily accented, we couldn’t understand him. I was impressed by the continuous simultaneous service – a nice touch. My impression in thinking back on the meal was good – interesting – but not stunning. I love it when a chef makes a dish for me that astounds me – that didn’t happen here. No cause for complaint – just nothing so outstanding I’d try to tell you about it.

I felt that the kitchen here was superior to that of the Mirabelle – but the restaurant lost points for location and view. I’m not sorry we tried it – but I wouldn’t rush back.

Signing off for now – The Soup Lady