Food Musings

A Winnipeg blog about the joy of preparing food for loved ones and the shared joy that travel & dining brings to life.

Tuscany Trip Report-Day Two



Our first glance of the blue Tuscan sky through our bathroom “window”


and a view of our terrace in the daylight.


After breakfast in our hotel we took the same route that we had walked in the dark the previous evening




arriving at the town square.


This is the handsome man with whom I spent the time of my life in Tuscany.


One of our first stops was the wine store in case we needed a night cap in our room.


After depositing the wine safely in our room, we wandered down Viale G. Verde passed the various spas by which the community became famous.



We knew from our research that Montecatini was divided into two communities-Montecatini Ferme where we were staying and Montecatini Alto that we could see high above us. We guessed that there was a route by road but we were tourists and opted to do tackle the journey by the vintage Funicular which was kind of like a slanted trolley car.


This as the gorgeous view of Montecatini Ferme from Montecatini Alto.


Almost upon disembarking we spotted this tribute to a loved one. Did someone have a funicular accident?


We had to climb straight up to the town square.


This lovely spot awaited us.


Before we decided which restaurant to have lunch in, we had a little snoop around.


There were flowers everywhere.


As well as historic buildings.





We were most fascinated with the every day life of the residents.


I would have dearly loved to have purchased something here but we waited until near the end of our stay to decide what to buy once we had a chance to window shop.


The restaurants put out baskets of their ingredients to lure you in.


This lady sat all by herself at one restaurant, never ate or drank anything and her expression never changed. I think that she might have been ordered to sit there and to not make any (more?) trouble.


My first taste of house wine-I was in heaven. We drank the house wine at each and every place we stopped-it was about being economical but also to compare and contrast tastes and flavour profiles.


I choose this unappetizing looking lunch as my selection-Tuscan Crostini sounds innocent enough but had a pungent, heavy taste. I had struck out at my first time at to bat.


D on the other hand loved his grilled cheese sandwich.


All the patrons sat outside that day but I peaked in to see what the interior was like.


I would have loved to have visited again on a rainy or chilly day but we still had so many restaurant meals ahead of us.

Kath’s quote: “A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” – John Steinbeck


Love never fails.

I found this little bus shelter the square.

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Whenever I am asked which Winnipeg restaurant is my favourite-the answer is always Segovia Tapas Bar (484 Stradbrook Avenue just west of Osborne St. in the River & Osborne neighbourhood of Fort Rouge). We first visited the year that Adam Donnelly and Carolina Konrad opened the tapas restaurant and return as often as we can. The trouble is, there are so many great restaurants in this city, we don’t get to visit as often as we would like. Our kids, on the other hand, visit often, especially our eldest daughter. She loves their patio and that it is completely wheelchair accessible. Before you go, you need to decide whether or not you are comfortable sharing a number of small plates with your dinner mates. We love tapas as you get to sample a variety of dishes without filling up on only a couple of tastes.

On this occasion I was dining with girlfriends and celebrating my birthday.


We started with one of my old favourites-Patatas Bravas ($7)*. This typical Spanish dish of fried potatoes is usually topped with a spicy tomato sauce or aioli, Segovia offers both in a circular design on the delectable fries.


Next up were Fried Beets adorned with Cashew Dukkha (Egyptian sauce) and Berbere (Ethiopian spice) Aioli ($10).


I love Beef Tartare ($15) but one of our group was hesitant to try the dish of minced raw beef. Our delightful server, knowing that it was my birthday, brought the dish as a gift to the table. We made a believer out of our hesitant friend and were delighted with the cold, sleek taste.


Another friend is a fried chicken lover so we chose Segovia’s version. Not your typical fried chicken; these were chicken morsels with some lovely heat that were offset by a Spicy Lime Dressing and Parsley Salad ($15).


I love salty/sweet combinations, so the next dish was my favourite of the evening- Whipped Feta drizzled with pistachios and honey was absolutely divine.


The piece de resistance were the mascarpone stuffed Medjool dates ($2 each) indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa. They were drizzled with Canadian maple syrup and topped with California pistachios to produce an international taste sensation.

Segovia is open daily (except Tuesdays) at 5 pm and close at 12 midnight on Friday and Saturday and 11 pm other days. They offer evening dinner menu only but a second restaurant by the same owners is Clementine (not yet visited) at 123 Princess St. It is open during the day for breakfast and lunch. Segovia is accessible to persons with mobility issues. There is a metered surface lot across the street, evening street parking available and a small lot to the rear of the building.

* A couple of Canstar readers asked me to include prices in my bi-weekly column but the editors declined. This was the version I submitted before that decision was made.

Segovia Tapas Bar and Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kath’s quote: Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.” –MFK Fisher


Love never fails.

Tuscany Trip Report – Daily Breakfast at the Hotel Puccini



We wandered down to Hotel Puccini’s dining room with a number of other travelers that we suspected were on the same Gate One package as us. Not a particularly chummy group, we all nodded hellos but pretty much stuck to ourselves. We picked a particular table and then had breakfast at the same one all week long.


Having travelled to Italy previously, we knew that “breakfast” was more like a Canadian “brunch” with a wide selection of pastries, cheeses, meats, egg dishes and dessert! Omelets were sliced into pinwheels as illustrated above. There were always hard boiled eggs to enjoy as well.


We were partial to the Italian cheeses and fresh tomatoes.


Although untested, the coffee cakes and fruit galettes looked tasty and plentiful.


On most days I repeated my favourites-a café au lait, cheeses, meats and the crustiest brown bread ever. Fresh fruit was not plentiful but juices and preserved fruit was. On our final day, the delightful server who took care of us all week, made a “real” café au lait from the machine in the bar rather than the automatic dispenser in the dining room. It was a little gesture but an indication of how willing the Italians were to share their hospitality and make us feel very special.


This was how the hotel management persuaded you from lugging your key with you when you were sight-seeing. We left ours at the front desk and provided a daily opportunity to chat with the warm front desk staff.

Kath’s quote: “Amor non conosce travaglio – Love never tires”. -Unknown


Love never fails.


La Cantina del Toscano DOC



Before we headed to Tuscany, I did some research and had seen that a local recommended a couple of his favourite restaurants in the town of Montecatini where we were staying. La Cantina del Toscano DOC was one of the two. We then found out from Patrizia the owner of Hotel Puccini that La Cantina was within walking distance of our hotel. Little did we know at that time that we would fall instantly in love with the food and our server Francesco and that we would return almost every evening of our stay.

Dinner that evening started with a bread basket and plenty of good quality olive oil for dipping.


I was over the moon with my selection of pasta with seafood, tomatoes and fresh basil.


D was delighted with his choice of noodles with clams and mint.


I am not sure why it struck us to also order pizzas to go, but we did. Mine was this gorgeous creation with thinly sliced eggplant and cheese.


D’s was even tastier topped with sausage, ham, oregano and stracchino cheese. There was a fridge in our room so we repackaged them and placed them in there.

Kath’s quotes: “Five tender apricots in a blue bowl, a brief and exact promise of things to come.” ― Frances Mayes, In Tuscany    

TSR Watermark - 5666

Love never fails.

Pollo al Mattone


Pollo al Mattone is a method for grilling chicken under a brick to keep it juicy and crisp. Both the Tuscans and the Romans claim to have invented the method. The weight of the brick presses the meat into the grill for faster, more even cooking. It also works as a cover for the meat, keeping it moist. In Italy, pollo al mattone is often cooked over a wood fire.



Pollo al Mattone
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Tuscan
  • two heavy bricks, terra cotta are best
  • aluminum foil
  • 1 whole fryer chicken
  • fresh herbs like basil, oregano, flat-leafed parsley, to taste
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • salt and pepper
  1. wash & dry two bricks
  2. wrap bricks in aluminum foil
  3. using a butcher's knife or large kitchen shears, cut the chicken along one side of the backbone
  4. remove the back bone entirely if desired (we left intact)
  5. open the chicken and lay it flat like a book
  6. lift the skin away for the flesh or make small cuts on breast & thighs
  7. push the garlic and fresh herbs under the skin to look like photo above
  8. liberally salt & pepper chicken
  9. preheat barbeque to approx. medium
  10. heat the bricks in a closed barbeque
  11. place chicken skin side down onto grill
  12. using hand protection, place hot bricks over chicken covering as much surface as possible
  13. close lid and let chicken cook 22 -25 minutes without disturbing
  14. remove bricks
  15. using hand protection, grab legs and flip the chicken so the skin side is up
  16. place the bricks on top again
  17. close lid
  18. cook again for 12-15 minutes without disturbing until exposed skin is starting to brown
  19. repeat above action and flip one last time
  20. cook another 5-10 minutes until skin is starting to crisp and internal thigh temperature is 175 degrees
  21. transfer chicken to platter and let rest 10 minutes before serving

I enjoyed this dish twice in one week. The first was the evening of my Mom’s Celebration of Life. I had driven back out to the lake from the city. Girlfriends of 35 years were staying with me that week. Nance handed me a glass of wine and Mary pulled the chicken off the grill to sit. What would I do without my friends?


Later that same week with Beep, Boo and the Frenchman joining us on the weekend, D tried his hand at the same recipe.


We had assembled in the gazebo as it looked as if it might rain. When the sky darkened we had to light candles to illuminate our meal. We didn’t mind a bit.


This was the finished product: chicken and ribs, new potatoes, squash and zucchini. Delicious food, cozy spot, good wine and family. Life is good.

Kath’s quote: “You know when you come across one of those empty shell people, and you think “What the hell happened to you?” Well there came a time in each one of those lives where they are standing at a crossroads… someplace where they had to decide whether to turn left or right. This is no time to be a chicken-shit, Frances“. -Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun


Love never fails.


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