Rosa Jackson's Edible Adventures

Sunday, 23 November, 2008

November on the Italian Riviera

Molino dei Guisi

Sorry for the recent silence, but as you can see from these pictures I've been *busy*.

Diving board

Earlier this week we celebrated Philippe's birthday by returning to Oneglia, on the Italian riviera. This time we stayed at Molino dei Guisi, part of an ingenious consortium of female-run bed and breakfasts in Liguria. Their aim is not just to attract more guests but to promote the region with guided tours, cooking classes and tastings of olive oil, wine and other local products.

Molino dei Giusi is tricky to find the first time so we followed the affable Roberto, who takes care of the house and garden, up a narrow lane among the olive trees and villas. Roberto whizzed along in his black-and-white Smart car while we struggled with some of the hairpin turns, cringing each time we had to squeeze past another car. Our reward was a view over glistening olive groves to the sea, and a bottle of cloudy, green-tinted oil from the property that had been pressed just the day before.

Molino dei Guisi view

"Help yourselves to vegetables from the garden," said the owner Lorena, leading us down to a series of well-tended terraces. Oranges and lemons dangled like Christmas ornaments against the stone walls, and silvery branches were heavy with the next batch of violet-green taggiasca olives. She had also thoughtfully left us an apricot tart which became Philippe's birthday cake.

Birthday tart

Like many people we are a little more budget-conscious these days, so we drove into Oneglia and had a simple meal of farinata (a chickpea pancake identical to Niçoise socca, except that here it contained green onions), chunky peasant soup, and salad topped with slivers of smoked tuna - all for around 20 euros including a carafe of rough-and-ready table wine. The next day we splurged just a little more at a restaurant recommended to us by Loulou, one of our favorite farmers at the Cours Saleya market. He had drawn a little map to help us find Restaurant Aurelia on the seaside road between Arma di Taggia and Imperia.

"It looks like nothing," he said. "You would never stop there."

Fish ravioli
Frittura mista

Indeed, stopping is a problem as the parking lot is on the opposite side of the road and pedestrians cross this blind corner at their own risk. I would risk my life again, though - and again and again and again - for the homemade seafood ravioli, tagliatelle with a Mediterranean sauce of tomatoes, capers, olives and fish, and the incredible frittura mista, an array of fish fresh off the boat, simply dipped in flour and fried.

Vegetable garden

We were feeling a little heavy as we emerged from the restaurant but that didn't stop me from insisting on visiting the big Conad supermarket, where I stocked up on flour, polenta, pasta and bags of mixed grains and pulses for making soup, a brilliant invention. Back at the villa, I ventured into the vegetable garden during an unexpected rainshower to select some ingredients for soup and salad that night. With my hood on I got a weird look from the gardener, who nonetheless dug out a crisp fennel bulb for me. I'd forgotten the pleasure of being able to pick just a handful of this and a handful of that; if I had my own garden, I realized, I would cook quite differently. My basket filled up with fennel, leek, butter lettuce, rocket, a few chard leaves and a handful of flat leaf parsley.

Children's bar

After a stroll through the hill town of Cervo, we headed back into Oneglia for a negroni at the liveliest bar on the port. Only in Italy would a stylish bar also have a fully equipped mini-lounge for children. (Sam was on a school trip in the mountains, so didn't get a chance to enjoy it.)

The earlier taggiasca olives are picked the more peppery the oil they produce, and our late dinner of vegetable garden soup and salad liberally drizzled with fresh oil could not have been more satisfying. In the morning I texted Lorena asking if I could have another bottle of oil and like magic Roberto appeared on his scooter a few minutes later to fulfill my request.

Molino dei Guisi terrace

After a final coffee on the terrace we were ready to say "ciao" - knowing that this small paradise is just an hour from home.

Tags: Restaurants, Travel

Comments

6 comment(s) on this page. Add your own comment below.

Sunday, 23 November, 2008 9:06pm [ 1 ]

I am in love with the Riviera di Fiori. A few years ago I was at a conference in Arma di Taggia and vowed that someday I would find a way to spend my winters there. Here in Estonia I work with the local organic restaurant- the first in the country. We have the same objectives - extending the awareness of carefully grown and raised local food stuffs. Lucky, lucky you to be so close to such a wonderful place.

teryll
Monday, 24 November, 2008 6:56pm [ 2 ]

I'm really trying not to despise you too much Rosa, but with such gorgeous landscape photos and edible pics, it's hard not to. ;) Despise is usually just a cover up for immense jealousy. Should I ever make it to Italy, I think this is where I need to stay!

Monday, 24 November, 2008 10:14pm [ 3 ]

Martha, I do realize how lucky I am. But Estonia is a place that I would love to visit - I hope to eat in your restaurant someday!

Teryll, I know it's cruel of me. If it makes you feel better, it did rain for half a day!

Eileen
Monday, 1 December, 2008 3:57pm [ 4 ]

Lovely. I could while away the hours on that terrace.

Jim Breithaupt
Wednesday, 17 December, 2008 9:18pm [ 5 ]

Do they need a pool boy?

Rosa
Thursday, 18 December, 2008 10:19am [ 6 ]

Eileen, it's very easy to forget that the rest of the world exists while you're on that terrace!

Well, Jim, Roberto seemed pretty happy with his job but maybe he needs some summer help!

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