Slowly getting back into our regular pattern, we heated a Spanakopita from Trader Joe’s for $2.25 per serve.
Although we normally do The Country Deli on a Thursday night, for simplicity we decided to swap it to tonight. We got our normal order of one Entree and supplementing with extra Eggs, for $18.68 per serve.
Most of April was, as has been our usual, pretty quiet and the Foodies didn’t venture out much. Until April 25th when we headed for a vacation in Italy. Because that is so unusual, the Italy days are excluded. Our typical evening meal out on the trip averaged around $55.00.
The averages for this month were all over the place, but within our range of “normal”. We did have more lunch take-out than typical.
Lunch prepared at home $2.07 ($2.51 in Mar 22)
Lunch eaten or purchased outside the home: $9.43 ($10.33)
Dinner eaten at home: $5.433 ($5,43)
Dinner prepared in a restaurant $20.99 ($14.81)
The variation is usually small month to month.
Our most expensive meal of the month (again) was The Country Deli for $27.44 per serve, because we each had a meal.
This month, lunches at home cost 22% of the cost of eating lunches prepared outside the home. Our evening meals prepared in the home are also 22% of the cost of take-out meals.
Had we purchased every lunch and prepared none it would have cost us $282.90 per person in April. We actually spent $43.55 for lunches at home plus $18.85 for lunches purchased or eaten out: $159.21 per person in total.
If every evening meal cost us the same as our average this month, it would be $629.70. We actually spent $95.40 for dinners at home and $41.98 for our two dinners from a restaurant, or $137.38 per person in total, excluding the Italy trip.
We saved about $453 per person by preparing almost all our meals at home and we have a lot more control over what we eat.
While the Foodies were able to keep up with the blog during the first couple of days of our Italy trip, we became too busy enjoying Italy, and some amazing food, to keep up.
Two of the highlights have already been mentioned: the Rare Roast Beef with Infused Flavors of the Mediterranean with Salad from Ristorante Algabbiano on the shore near St Mark’s Square; and Mandy Stanton’s Deconstructed Paella. (See the last two days’ entries.)
But honestly, we did not have a bad meal the entire trip. Mandy prepared a feast for every breakfast with Prosciutto, Parmesan or other cheeses, fresh fruit and a different preparation of eggs every morning. We ate well. Even our “after site seeing, before dinner” snacks were extraordinary.
Everything was shopped locally, or surprisingly, at an AutoGrill. Host Chuck Fazio (Chuck@ChuckFazio.com) had effused about the “truck stop” AutoGrills and rightly so. They were amazing. We had some excellent meals from there. For example, Brie and Prosciutto in one and Bresaola, Parmigiano Reggiano, with Salad. (Bresaola is a cured Beef similar to Prosciutto.) The wine selection at an AutoGrill is usually better than most small Liquor stores! Plus comically oversize packs of everything from Chips to Popcorn to Lollypops! They are very unlike any truck stop you’ve been to in the USA.
We were surprised to find that, as well as more traditional Pizza, there was a lot of unexpected combinations to be found, even with Pioneer Woman-style Arugula on top. We definitely enjoyed some non-traditional examples, including a Seafood Pizza that included both Clams and Mussels in their shells!
On Burano (near Venice) we shared two seafood platters – one grilled, one fried – that perfectly hit the mark between being a light meal, having variety and being full of flavor. One of the better waitstaff recommendations.
Upon arrival at our Farmhouse in Campora (near Parma) we enjoyed a table laden with local Parmesan, Prosciutto and wine, along with a Potato Torte and Prosciutto Wrapped Melon that we very much enjoyed in the most amazing surrounding.
During our stay there, we visited a local Parmesan Factory run by two cheesemakers making six Parmesan Wheels a day, every day of the year. We had special dispensation to dine at a local ‘members only’ club where the Foodies enjoyed authentic dishes including Rabbit.
At the family run Prosciutto factory, we learnt that there were only five members processing a couple of dozen Ham Legs a day, but there was hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of aging Prosciutto at different stages during the process. Some of the best food we had were the simple Prosciutto sandwich they served us at the end of the tour, with Prosecco of course! Both Bread and Prosciutto were excellent.
Mandy continued to cook amazing meals, and this pasta dish was heavy with Bacon, Salami and Mushrooms, but also memorable because we enjoyed it on the terrace of our 10 bedroom Villa overlooking Florence, even looking down at the runway for Florence airport.
While touring the Tuscan countryside, Chuck guided us to a roadside Burger Truck, where we had a luscious, juicy Burger, with Red Wine Caramelized Onions, and an interesting Aoli.
While in Florence we celebrated Chuck’s birthday at Trattoria I Ricchi, and the restaurant had an excellent Steak with Truffle on a bed of Arugula, that Foodie Philip and Foodie Greg was envious of, as he chose the same Steak, but with roast vegetables.
The next night we celebrated the birthday of another of our travel companions at Lo Streetoio, where the Foodies both had a very excellent Duck Breast as their main course, while Foodie Philip had an okay Steak Tartar, that needed more seasoning.
On the road from Florence to the Amalfi Coast for our next adventure, we stopped at another Chuck’s recommendation- a roadside Porchetta Truck. The bread was crusty and tasty and the Porchetta filling balanced the flavor of the Pork perfectly with the seasoning of the Porchetta.
The final noteworthy meal was on our final ‘real’ night on our way back from a most enjoyable day on Capri. We stopped in Sorrento after our boat dropped us off, and the Foodie chose the Black Pork from the menu at La Cazzarola Trattoria. Having assured ourselves that it was the Pig, not the meat, that was black, we ordered. (In Italian, there is not the distinction between the live animal and the meat.)
The Pork was the best we’ve had! Cooked perfectly the Pork was flavorsome and moist in a way it rarely is in the USA. The “Black” Pig is a heritage breed, from before it became “the other white meat,” so the meat is marbled with fat which moistens it as you eat.
When every meal is excellent, these are the stand outs from our two week trip. And if you’re thinking of going to Italy take Chuck’s advice and don’t go in Summer. Take my advice and go with Chuck’s Italy. Chuck can be contacted at Chuck@ChuckFazio.com. It is our best vacation ever.
Our day started with a full breakfast prepared by one of our tour hosts that started with a Yoghurt and Fresh Fruit cup, followed by a full cooked breakfast of Ham, Scrambled Eggs, Toast, Avocado, Orange, and I’m sure there was more! The Foodies ate heartily even though we don’t normally eat breakfast, but this was so good.
After the fabulous breakfast, Mandy – the cook in our little tour – put together an excellent deconstructed Paella with Polenta at the foundation, with Shrimp, Sausage, Olives, etc in a very tasty Tomato-based Sauce. It was followed by a dessert of Gelato with Fresh Fruit. It was at least as good a meal as any restaurant.
We missed our planned lunch on the shores of Lake Garda, so we ended up at a “truck stop” where we had some very excellent food. The Foodies shared a Speck and Brie hot sandwich, for $3.95 per serve. Not only was our sandwich excellent, but everything our group ate was not just “good for a truck stop,” but really excellent food, period.
If our late lunch set the bar fairly high, our dinner moved it even higher. After an extended walk from our Venice apartment on the Grand Canal, to San Marco where we ended up at Ristorante Algabbiano, one of the many harbor-side restaurants, but one our guide had been to before.
Foodie Greg had the Scallop Risssot with Lemon and Saffron, which was very good. Foodie Philip had a house speciality that was very rare Roast Beef with a sauce that in Italian said “was infused with the flavors of the Mediterranean” (while in English it detailed the Garlic, Thyme, Rosemary…). By itself the Roast Beef was very good, but the Mediterranean Sauce was transformative. The Beef became a totally different flavor profile.
It turns out it is a family owned restaurant and the recipe was from our waiter’s grandmother. Unfortunately he declined to share the recipe, but we hope to get back again for another chance to have this exceptionally good dish.
With wine and appetizers etc, it was (coincidentally) $56.50 per serve.
There was a “breakfast” on the flight but it was inedibly bad.
We went to a local restaurant close to our apartment in Milan where Foodie Philip had a Lemon and Prosecco Rissoto while Foodie Greg had a Crispy Octopus on Black Rice. Both were very good for an average, with wine of US$56.50 each.
At Los Angeles International Airport we grabbed a Roast Beef and Cheese sandwich for an outrageous $7.00 per serve. It wasn’t particularly good.
The “Chicken” option for the in-flight meal was variable. The Chicken and Mashed Potato were okay, but the vegetable that was with it, was inedibly bad. The salad had the KLM limit of one Cherry Tomato with the rest being Iceberg Lettuce! A very ordinary meal included in the air fare.