Sunday, July 22, 2012

Our Luncheon for Queen Sonja


Her Majesty the Queen of Norway is a keen gardener. A few weeks ago she contacted us with a request to visit our garden on the 18th of July. It was during her summer holiday on the royal yacht, which was docked in Livorno for the Queen's Tuscan garden tour with a few old friends and royal staff.

This is Queen Sonja snapping a picture of the fountain at the Umbraculum here in Massa Macinaia. That's Peter Curzon, who organized the visit, with Gil, in green pants, and Ann Bauer, formerly with the United Nations, one of the Queen's closest friends.

The garden tour was divided into two parts, one bit before lunch and the other afterwards. This is where we all gathered, in the grotto, for an aperitivo at about 1:30 PM, mid-visit.

It was a brilliantly sunny day, as always here in Lucca in the summer, and so we staged the luncheon in the cool shade of the loggia. There were twelve of us, the Queen, members of her entourage, Jane and Lance Hattat, and Gil and me.

The tables were decorated with green crab apples, which the Queen very much admired, snapping several photographs of the centerpiece.

This is where the Queen sat, to my right.

Upon departure we exchanged gifts. We gave her a copy of our book, Un Giardino a Lucca, and she presented us with this exquisite package.

There was a card inside the box—note that the lining of the envelope is of the same motif as the royal wrapping paper above.

It was a Norwegian pewter bowl by Askdoll Brug, a copy of a 1780 original, hand engraved with the Queen's initial "S" and the royal coronet.

Afterwards, she signed our guestbook before she was driven off to Livorno and the Royal Yacht, HNoMY Norge, with its awaiting Norwegian Navy crew of 71.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A Lucca Restaurant


I've been coming here for more than thirty years, but the restaurant has been active for four generations. Perhaps the graphics are new and some decorative touches but what's on the plate is what has always been on the plate since the very first meals were served here all those years ago.

This is our table in the warmer months, just outside the front door and under a high pergola of wisteria.

But weather not permitting the inside is welcoming and warm.

I took this picture a few months ago when the fava beans were in season, typically served with fresh local pecorino cheese.

Once you're installed at you immaculately covered table of crisp white linen you're served these wonderful pockets of fried dough.

My first course this July Sunday was gli nudi of ricotta and spinach with butter and sage leaves.

And the wine? Buonamico from Montecarlo, Lucca.

Stoccafisso in umido, stewed salt cod, with polenta.

This is the extraordinary roasted rabbit with fennel sticks.

With a side dish of eggplant alla parmigiana.

Two flavors of Pappa Grappa ice cream from Massa Macinaia, pistachio and cinnamon upon a cialda from Montecatini.

A history of La Cecca in photographs.

And our host today, Giuseppe, grandson of Francesca Baldassari, the restaurant's founder.

Saturday, July 14, 2012