ICI Day 41 – Bread Creations with Chef Nicola

Chef Nicola was back in the kitchen with us today demonstrating the art of sculpting display pieces out of various bread dough. He also described how chefs make these creations for culinary competitions where everything they use must be edible, including the glue used to keep things in place. Ever try making a glue stick out of sugar? That’s the level these chefs work at. And Chef Nicola has won many a first place at these competitions. Just a look at his work (which was hurried today and composed of items we made as students) and you can tell he is a master.

One funny story Chef John told us was about a competition where Chef Nicola had mad this beautiful aquarium scene. At the competition he did not want to add the fish until the end (keeping it a secret). When asked about the fish, he relented and went to his van to get them and realized that he had forgotten them! But no worries, Chef Nicola still placed third with just the perfection of the aquarium scene.

Our final menu development for the course will be a large buffet where we will be expected to include our own bread sculpture creation – should be fun.


ICI Day 15 – Wine Tasting and Pairing – Whites

Another beautiful sunrise this morning.

Today we learned about dessert wines and pairing. Just so much to learn!





ICI Day 14 – A Day Off

After two weeks of intense learning, we had a free day. In spite of time to sleep in, I still woke up early. The sea and sunrise are different every day – and I never tire of them.

Spent the day walking and exploring with a little nap in the afternoon.

ICI Day 13 – Agriturismo Winery Visit

After a short market visit in the morning, we boarded the bus for our trip today to a winery that is also an agritourismo. But Chef is always full of surprises as we realized when the bus stopped at Paola Bar-Pasticceria-Gelateria for a mid morning aperitivo. Traditionally, the aperitivo is before dinner between 6 and 7 pm and includes a pre-dinner drink, salty snacks and other meats, cheeses and savory snacks. For our mid morning aperitivo, we were served Prosecco and dishes of savory pastries. All very delicious. 

With a nice little Prosecco buzz and enough snacks in our bellies to tide us over until our late lunch, we began the last part of our day’s journey. The winery is a bit off the beaten path. A few turn arounds (not that easy for a large bus) later our driver found the road leading to the winery. Much like the hotel where our school is located, the winery sat on top of the hill. Thank goodness our bus driver is very skilled – up and up we went on a narrow dirt road only to encounter a dump truck trying to come down the hill. Some gasping and OMGs ensued, but the dump truck driver backed his way to a clearing farther up the hill so we could pass.

We stepped off the bus to a spectacular view of the vineyard, an old monastery in ruins, and the blue sea beyond. Scents of almond flowers and simmering bolita wafted through the air. And what better greeting than by two happy bouncy puppies? I say puppies because they were just so adorable and wanted to play and frolic. This guy kept hanging out under the table hoping for things to drop.

Anthony the proprietor  greeted all of us as old friends. Naturally effusive and gregarious, Anthony was an engaging and entertaining host. His property includes the vineyard, winery, and a small bed and breakfast. When we arrived, he had been simmering a pig (bolito) all morning in a huge vat and his staff were making sausages. A long table was set on the terrace with breathtaking views of the vineyard and the sea beyond. A feast of freshly baked bread, house made cheese, lemon infused olive oil, sausages and pitchers of their signature red wine straight out of the tap awaited us.

We ate and drank and enjoyed fun conversations learning about Anthony and the transformation of the property from nothing to the wonderfully serene mountaintop retreat that it has become. Anthony’s goal is to produce award winning noble wines and he is well on his way. From the succulent food, the robust and velvety wine, the sheep grazing on the hillside, the fragrant flowering almond tree, the warming hearth fire in the restaurant kitchen, the rooftop terrace with the breathtaking views, to the Italian opera serenading us – the experience was a delight to all the senses. Anthony told us one his greatest pleasures is to enjoy his morning coffee out on the terrace in the quiet stillness of the morning. And in that gorgeous setting, I could see myself doing the same.

Maybe it was the free flowing wine. Or the Italian opera, or the magnificent views, or the warm and embracing personality of our host. Whatever it was, many of us felt strong emotions to the beauty of the place stir within us. It was difficult to say goodbye to our new friend and get back on the bus. Most definitely a place I would like to visit again.



ICI Day 12 – Exam Day!

For exam day we were given two hours to make specialty rolls. risotto parmigiano, simple tomato sauce and fresh pasta to make Pasta al Aglio e Olio Neopolitan (pasta with garlic, olive oil and tomato sauce). This image is chef demonstrating the sauté for Pasta al Aglio e Olio. Mine was not quite so perfect..

ICI Day 11 – Creative Breads with Chef Nicola

Today Chef Nicola showed us many new specialty breads. I think everyone’s favorite were the mozzarella bread popsicles.

But then the pumpkin bread and hot dogs wrapped in bread dough on a stick were a hit too!




ICI Day 10 – Regional Cuisine + Desserts (part 2)

Fun with fire in the kitchen. Flaming the sugar topping on Caramelized Ricotta Semifreddo.

Today we learned things on a very large spectrum – from cleaning inky cuttle fish to making tiramisu, wild strawberry spumone and almond cookies back around to cleaning and cooking more fish.

Somehow it all worked.


ICI Day 9 – Regional Cuisine + Desserts (part 1)

A lot of dishes today. Chef was very busy…

Linguine con Finoccio e Botarga

Radiotore con Caudlifiore ScamorzaAffuicata Pomodorini

Paperadelle with Wild Boar Ragu



Chocolate mousse with white chocolate crumble and White chocolate mousse with white chocolate crumble

Risotto con Zucca e Salsicci (Pumpkin Sausage Risotto)

Cingmale e Polenta (Wild Boar on Soft Polenta)

Pasta Carbonara

Fish Tris: Spaghetti ala Calamari, Gambberone, Olio Cottura

Red Mullet with Artichoke

Wild Strawberry Spumoni

More pics from the day…

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ICI Day 8 – Wine Tasting Reds

We tasted some beautiful red wines today. The Amarone was my favorite. Full body, nice red fruit and tannin – very smooth. We learned that there is a specific vocabulary  and method to rating wines besides developing a discernment for the various flavors in the wine. Chef walked us through how he evaluates wines and we made notes on our scoresheets. The Amorone scored very high on everyone’s sheet.

We also had a chicken salad with shaved black truffles and the pheasant we boned out yesterday with creamed potatoes. Then we had a free afternoon to sleep off the early afternoon wine consumption. Another very good day indeed.


ICI Day 7 – Cultural Travel to Siciliy

After a very long (about 4 hours) bus ride including the ferry, we finally arrived in Taormina Sicily. The view of Mount Etna was just breathtaking with such a clear blue sky behind the snow capped volcano. Then we had a few hours to wander through the town and do some shopping. The afternoon was capped with a delicious meal at a local restaurant featuring Pasta ala Norma..