May 092018
 

Forget churches—try the lagoon with a view.  A trip on the Eolo reveals a side of [Venice] few tourists ever see. . . . It’s a fascinating exploration of local history and folklore, gourmet cooking lessons in the galley and romantic meals on deck. —Rachel Spencer, Financial Times

While we make plans to launch our 2018 harvest tours of the Venetian lagoon, host Mauro Stoppa has been busy getting the Eolo ready for the sail. Anyone who has hung around marinas knows that that means having your boat in dry-dock for barnacle scraping, repair and maintenance after the previous sailing season’s wear and tear. In our case, it means serious, loving restoration. Not only is this historic fishing boat an antique, it’s also Mauro’s pride, joy, and floating home. It transports our guests on a discovery of a most private and relatively unknown Venice that few besides native Venetians experience. Because we’re all about slow travel, slow food, and an insider’s Italy, we thought you’d like to see what happens in our off-season.

The Eolo and her crew on our last sail, autumn 2017. Photo: Nathan Hoyt/Forktales 2017

The Eolo in dry-dock.

The work begins.

Marine carpenters at their ancient trade.

New gunwales.

Paint removed and wood rot repaired on the hull.

We won’t say “good as new” because she just might be better than new. Glide away with us for a “slow” journey in and around Venice unlike any other you’ll find. September 15-21, 2018 (PS Two spots are still available on our June 2-8 tour). Price and itinerary details below. Video of the Eolo under sail here.

With Mauro on board, last autumn. Photo: Nathan Hoyt/Forktales 2017

With some of our guests on our recent autumn, tour. Photo: Nathan Hoyt/Forktales 2017

2018 VENICE BY BOAT

Culinary Sailing Cruises of Venice and its Lagoon

June 2-8 and September 15-21, 2018

Itinerary

Day 1 — Meet on the island of Certosa a 3 p.m. (to be confirmed once we know each person’s travel details). Transfer by private water taxi to Mazzorbo and the Venissa Hotel, a former convent and wine estate on its own bucolic island, top-rated by The New York Times, Michelin, and Travel + Leisure. After settling into our rooms, meet our native guide for a walking tour of Mazzorbo and Burano, two enchanting islands joined together by a pedestrian bridge. Overnight and a splendid dinner at the Venissa.

Day 2 — After breakfast, Mauro meets us at the front door of the Venissa and we board the Eolo. Our first stop is the National Archeological Museum of Altino on the site of the original settlement of Venice. Private tour of the museum, a repository of relics and artifacts related to the history of Venice and its lagoon. Return to the Eolo for lunch, followed by a visit and guided tour of the island of Torcello, where subsequent foundations of Venice were laid 1,000 years ago. Reboard and shove off for Cavallino and the historic Locanda delle Porte 1632, once Venice’s customs house. Dinner in a private, typical “bilancia” or “trabuch,” a historic fisherman’s hut suspended over the water. The seafood served is the owner’s catch of the day. Overnight at the locanda.

Day 3 — After breakfast, board the Eolo and head for the southern lagoon and the island of Lazzaretto Nuovo, where all ships, their cargo and passengers were quarantined during the times of the bubonic plague before being permitted entry to the main island of Venice. Guided tour by archeologists working on the excavation. Our next stop is Mazzorbo, a charming village on the Lido. Settle into our hotel accommodations at Ca’ Alberti, a restored 14th century villa. Meet for dinner at a typical trattoria near our hotel.

Day 4 — Breakfast at Ca’ Alberti, then reboard the Eolo. Sail for the island of Valle Zappa, a unique bird and wildlife sanctuary and the site of a spectacular villa in the Austrian style. From here we are privy to the most beautiful views of the lagoon. Guided visit followed by lunch at anchor. Transfer by private water taxi to Venice proper at about 5 p.m. Arrive at Palazzo Morosini degli Spezieri. Explore Venice and eat dinner on your own.

Days 5-7 — Remain in Venice proper with accommodations at Palazzo Morosini degli Spezieri. Breakfast before Laura Sabbadin, our native guide, collects us for unique walking tours of the famous sites, fascinating backstreets, and hidden treasures unknown to most tourists.

Day 6 — Farewell dinner in Venice with Mauro, Julia and all guests.

Day 7 —Breakfast at our hotel and guest departures from there.

Rates and Particulars:

  • 4,600 Euros per person including accommodations as detailed, breakfasts, lunches and dinners as described, private visits as per itinerary, all entrance fees, cooking lessons on board the Eolo, the service of your tour guide(s). Rates based on double occupancy; 20% more for single occupancy.
  • 10% deposit upon reservation, refunded if the minimum of 6 guests is not reached.
  • 40% upon confirmation, the balance 30 days before departure.
  • Minimum 6 guests. Maximum, 10 guests.

Not Included

  • Flights, travel insurance, items of personal expenditure (e.g. telephone calls, laundry etc.), discretionary gratuities to boatmen and guides, government levies or taxes introduced after publication of this program (May 9, 2018).
  • Please note that if circumstances beyond our control necessitate some alteration to the itinerary shown, you will be notified of any such changes as soon as possible.

Contact: For information and reservations: Write to Mauro Stoppa at the following email address info@cruisingvenice.com or email me with any questions you might have.

May 072018
 

Dear Hungry Reader,

Because so many of you have written to me to ask for stories and recipes that were first published in the now defunct Zester Daily (sadly gone the way of so many other high quality food publications), I’ll be posting them here. Subscribe to my blog (on this page, upper right) if you haven’t already and little by little, they’ll all come your way.

Sincerely,

Julia

Illustration Copyright Laura Cornell 1981 for The Discriminating Diner, my weekly restaurant review and food column in the 1980s for Suburbia Today, a Gannett publication.

You can always judge the quality of a cook or a restaurant by roast chicken.

So wrote Julia Child in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It was a bold statement, but it reflected a certain historic reverence for the fowl, which in France has historically been considered “the best of all birds covered by the name of poultry,” as 20th-century French culinary authority André Simon put it in his A Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy. Even my mother, a fine Italian cook, raved about the delicious roast chicken in France. After visiting our relations in Paris, she would speculate about what it was that made the chicken so tasty and delicate. The poultry for sale in butcher shops there were plump without being fatty, their flesh pink, not yellow. Try as she would, she couldn’t reproduce the same results with the commodity chickens (“machine-made,” as they were known in our family) she faced back home in New York.

Illustration Copyright Laura Cornell, 1981 for Julia della Croce’s Discriminating Diner column a 1980s Gannett publication.

Illustration Copyright Laura Cornell 1981 for The Discriminating Diner, my weekly restaurant review and food column in the 1980s for Suburbia Today, a Gannett publication.The first secret of the famous roast chickens of France concerns their feed and rearing. Take the famous poulet Bresse, a “controlled” breed that is considered the most flavorful in the world. The birds roam freely, happily pecking and scratching in the grass, their foraged food supplemented with milk and corn. These prime specimens carry their own official appellation d’origine contrôlée, a set of regulations that guarantees their authenticity, much like wine. In the past, to acquire chickens of similar quality here in the States, you needed to know a good local farmer or raise them yourself; today, however, wholesome poultry has become commonplace in American markets, and I am convinced that anyone who starts out with a well-fed, free-range bird can duplicate the delicious poulet rôti.

Illustration Copyright Laura Cornell, 1981 for Julia della Croce’s Discriminating Diner column a 1980s Gannett publication.

The other secret to roast chicken is the size and freshness of the bird, along with a few roasting techniques that are traditionally practiced by French home cooks and professionals alike. “Too small a bird does not roast well in the oven because its flesh is cooked before its skin has time to turn the expected appetizing golden color,” French chef and teacher Madeleine Kamman explained in her authoritative The Making of a Cook. On the other hand, a bird weighing larger than three to four pounds takes longer to cook through to the bone, by which time the breast is overcooked. Most chefs concur that a six-month bird weighing in at four pounds, the smallest in the so-named “roaster” category, is ideal. At that weight, the bird has more meat on it than younger, so-called “fryers,” and it is still tender.

As for roasting, I learned the method early on at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School, which taught classic French cuisine. Years later, when Italian cooking became all the rage, I would spend many happy hours teaching there, but when I first met Peter, I was a young food writer with an assignment to write an instructive article on proper roasting techniques. When I called him with some questions, he invited me to sit in on a class he taught devoted entirely to roasting chicken. The results were a revelation, and even now, I can say that the chicken I ate that evening was one of the most delicious I have ever tasted: crusty-skinned and juicy. Even the breast, which I usually avoid, was moist and tasty, saturated with the flavors of butter and tarragon. I was initiated. The recipe became a keeper in my otherwise largely Italian repertoire.

The classic, straight oven-roasting method involves starting at a fairly high temperature to sear and brown the skin, then lowering the heat to cook the meat through. The technique follows, unaltered over the years save for a few tweaks — the most important being pre-salting and then air-chilling the bird before cooking, a simple step that keeps the moisture in and results in astonishing flavor and crispy skin.

One of my motives for this writing this story is to bring to light the whimsical watercolors by Laura Cornell, the first drafts of several different illustrations she came up with for my original story in 1981. Because the art director decided to use a different illustration for the piece, they are published here for the first time.

Illustration Copyright Laura Cornell, 1981 for Julia della Croce’s Discriminating Diner column a 1980s Gannett publication.

French-Roast Chicken with Herbs, Garlic and Pan Gravy

Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus 8-48 hours for chilling

Cooking Time: approximately 1 hr, 15  minutes

Total Time: about 2 hours

Yield: serves 6

One of the most important roasting tricks is to select a pan that will prevent the bird from steaming rather than roasting. It should be just large enough to fit the bird easily, no larger. For a 4-pounder, the appropriate size is 8 x 11 inches, and no more than 2 inches high, fitted with a V-rack that will cradle the bird and elevate it above the sides of the pan. The trick to keeping it moist and juicy during roasting is to truss the chicken well, plumping it up and manipulating it into a snug ball before securing it with kitchen twine. See Golden rules for poulet rôti, below,  for essential cook’s tips.

4 large cloves garlic

3 tablespoons soft unsalted butter, plus additional melted butter or good olive oil for basting

1 4-pound free-range chicken

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 bunch fresh tarragon sprigs; alternatively, rosemary or thyme if you prefer

3-4 teaspoons kosher salt

Suggested equipment: 8 x 11 x 2-inch baking pan, V-rack to fit the pan, instant-read meat thermometer, cotton kitchen twine

  1. Grate one garlic clove finely, preferably with a microplane grater, and blend it with the soft butter. Holding the chicken over a sink, drain any liquid out of the cavity and remove any giblets. Use paper towels to blot the chicken well inside and out until it is absolutely dry (no need to wash it). Remove excess fat from the chicken, taking care not to tear the skin. Sprinkle the cavity lightly with salt and pepper and slip in the remaining garlic cloves and some of the herb sprigs of your choice. Gently and carefully separate the skin from the flesh of the breast and thighs without tearing, using your fingers or the rounded end of a wooden spoon. With your fingers, insert the garlic butter into the pockets, smearing as much of the flesh as you can. Push in the remaining herb. Rub the inside of the neck cavity with any garlic butter that remains. Sprinkle kosher salt and pepper on the skin, covering all surfaces. Transfer the bird, breast side up, to a rack on a platter to allow air circulation and chill, loosely covered with a thin cotton dish towel, for 8 to 48 hours.
  2. Before cooking, bring the bird to room temperature for 1 hour. Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F (425 degrees F convection) for at least 20 minutes. Preheat the roasting pan.
  3. Make sure that the skin is completely dry. Truss the chicken using cotton kitchen twine, drawing the legs close to the breast to plump up the bird, and tying the ankles together securely. Tuck the wings under the back; alternatively, pass string around its girth and tie the wings securely. Brush melted butter or olive oil on the entire surface of the bird and place it breast-up on a cold oiled V-rack in the pre-heated roasting pan.
  4. Slide the pan onto the middle oven rack, legs facing the oven rear where the temperature is hotter. Roast for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F (350 degrees F for convection) Turn the bird on one side and baste with butter [or olive oil]. Return it to the oven and roast for 20 minutes. Then repeat the procedure for the other side, roasting for 20 minutes more. Take the chicken out to check the internal temperature, inserting the instant-read thermometer into the thigh at the thickest part, away from the bone. It should register at 170 degrees F.  If it is not cooked through, flip the bird on its back and return it to the oven for 5-minute increments until it reaches the right temperature. It should be a uniform golden color with crisp, taut skin. Transfer the bird to a carving board with a gutter that will capture its juices. Remove the strings and let it rest for 30 minutes in a warm place.
  5. While the bird is resting, make the gravy. Use a wooden spoon to dislodge any bits of meat stuck to the bottom of the roasting pan. Add 3-4 tablespoons water to the drippings. Warm the roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Simmer to reduce the liquid to about 1/2 cup, then pour through a fine mesh strainer. Separate the grease from the natural juices using a spoon or a fat separator. Check for seasoning.
  6. When the bird has rested, detach the wings and legs at the joints. Use a very sharp carving knife to cut the breast into thin slices. Arrange all nicely on a warm platter. Discard the herbs in the cavity. Add any juices that have collected during carving to the gravy you have made. Pour a little of the gravy over the carved chicken and pass the rest at the table.

Golden rules for poulet rôti:

Preparing the bird:

  • To keep the juices in, truss the bird using cotton kitchen twine, tying the ankles together and drawing them close to the breast.
  • You can either tuck the wings under the back or tie a string around the girth to fasten them.

The roasting pan and other equipment:

  • To prevent the bird from steaming rather than roasting, select a pan not more than 2 inches deep. The pan shape and size should be just large enough to fit the bird easily and no larger. For a 4-pound bird, it should be 8×11 inches fitted with a V-rack that elevates the bird above the sides of the pan.
  • An alternative to a rack is to elevate the chicken on a single layer of thickly sliced carrots and onions (or lemon slices, if you like).
  • Fowl takes on the flavor of all the other ingredients in the roasting pan. Carrots and onions are the classic aromatics. If the vegetables are permitted to burn (which is likely if the pan is too large for the bird), the roast will take on their bitterness.
  • Use a good meat thermometer to test doneness. Cheap ones lose their accuracy after a few uses.
  • If you make stuffing, bake it in a separate buttered dish.

Turning and basting:

  • While everyone would probably agree that the best way to ensure a juicy bird with crisp skin is to spit-roast it, turning and basting in the home oven simulates the rotisserie principle. Use melted butter, good olive oil or a mixture of the two for basting, not broth — it makes the skin flabby.
  • Each time you remove the bird from the oven to turn and baste, shut the oven door immediately. Even a minute with the door open will throw off the temperature and cooking time.
  • Allow the chicken to rest 20-30 minutes before carving. This helps the bird to retain its juices; instead of immediately running out at the point of a knife, they will retreat into the tissues of the bird and stay there.
Dec 232017
 
Holiday Greetings from Julia & Mauro

Dear Hungry Readers and Lovely Eolo Guests, If you’ve wondered why you haven’t heard from me recently, I’ve been immersed in a big book project this year (stay tuned for senstional images from all over Italy). In the meantime, my sailing tours of Venice and its exquisite lagoon, done in tandem with Venetian host Mauro Stoppa on his historic sailboat, continued in spring and autumn. Here’s a photo taken on deck in September as we glided past one of the hundreds of islands enclosed in this little sea, so pristine and still—a side of La Serenissima that so few people, natives and visitors alike, ever see. Additional posts […more…]

Jul 162017
 
Christie's Loves Our Sailing and Culinary Tour of Venice—Still Openings in September!

Christie’s came on board just a few days after our recent May sailing and culinary tour of Venice and its lagoon and did this story on our salty host and his historic boat. We have a few spots left on our upcoming September 16-22, 2017 cruise. And plenty of room in June 2-8 and September 15-21, 2018 (maximum, 10 people). Here’s the Christie’s story—apologies for the fuzzy images, but I think you’ll get the idea. Join us! Details here.

May 012017
 
Forget About Pasta, Pizza, and Smiles: Meet La Nuova Cucina Italiana

Back in the day when nouvelle cuisine was firing up the new chefs of Europe, I wrote in the introduction to my first cookbook, published in 1986, that Italy, a country that has complained about the excesses of French cooking since the 16th century, would never succumb to it. Take, as an example, the words of Gerolamo Zanetti, a 16th century Venetian, which are still uttered by modern Italians: French cooks have ruined Venetian stomachs with so [many] sauces, broths, extracts… in every dish… meat and fish transformed to such a point that they are scarcely recognizable by the time they get to the […more…]

Feb 182017
 
Learning by the Book with Wine Legend Kevin Zraly

I know relatively little about wine. I was once ashamed of saying so in light of forty years as a food writer—but that changed recently when I admitted as much to world-renowned wine educator, Kevin Zraly. “It’s not surprising,” he said, adding that the same is true for most chefs he knows, and vice versa for wine authorities. As he writes in the introduction to his newly re-issued best-selling Windows on the World Complete Wine Course, “Studying wine isn’t merely learning about a beverage but also understanding the history, language, culture, and traditions of the people and countries where each […more…]

Feb 152017
 
Venice by Boat Culinary Tour: New 2017 & 2018 Dates

“I want people to see the lagoon as I see it. So many people come to Venice and never really understand what is out here.” —Mauro Stoppa, host of the Eolo As recommended by The New York Times, Saveur, Elle, The Herald Tribune, Travel & Leisure, Condé Nast Traveler, The Guardian, Tatler, The Daily Meal, Marie Claire, Gente Viaggi, Meridiani, Yacht Digest, Gala, Côté Sud, and other prominent publications. Join our remarkable culinary tour of the city built on water and its lagoon islands. Our May 2017 tour is fully booked, but we are now offering these new dates: 2017 September 16-22 2018 June […more…]

Jan 282017
 
Venice Culinary Tour, September 16-22: Itinerary

Last Call! On May 15, 2017, our vessel, the Eolo, will shove off for a singular culinary and cultural tour of Venice and its lesser known islands. She is one of the few remaining purpose-built, flat-bottom boats left that were designed during the time of the doges to navigate this fabled city of 100 islands and 150 canals. Here is our itinerary, offering our guests an intimate experience for cruising by day, and first-rate accommodations in historic inns and hotels at night. We invite you to come on board for three days of island hopping, followed by three days of immersion in Venice […more…]

Jan 232017
 
Sail, Eat, Sleep Venice: Preview Our Video Now

Our culinary tour this Spring will take you to the undiscovered side of Venice that the typical traveler rarely sees. Even if you’ve been there before, you’ve probably never experienced this “most secretive of cities,” to quote author Victor Hazan, who with his wife, Marcella, ran a cooking school there for many years. That’s because it is a city of more than 100 small islands in a lagoon separated from the Adriatic Sea that cannot be reached by foot, but only by canals. To experience Venice behind its touristic facade, you have to get on a boat built to navigate the shallow waters […more…]

Jan 232017
 

We’re some four months away from my upcoming culinary tour to Italy, immersion in Venice and its lagoon. For those of you who are new to my blog, my new venture will take you to the undiscovered side of Venice that the typical tourist never sees. Even if you’ve been there before, you’ve probably never experienced this “most secretive of cities,” to quote author Victor Hazan, who with his wife, Marcella, ran a cooking school there for many years. That’s because it is a city built on more than 100 small islands in a lagoon separated from the Adriatic Sea that cannot […more…]