Inviting a Calabrian friend to dinner certainly raises the culinary bar, but inviting them for pizza? I might not have been so brave had it not been for a new Italian providores that opened down the street.
I returned home with fresh Stracciatella, Mascarpone , Prosciutto, and Rocket; all flown in from Italy the day before. If my Calabrian guest wasn’t enough to inspire perfection , then the currency conversion on imported goods with the Ruble at a 5 year low was probably all the more motivating.
Sal had promised me a private lesson which turned out to be one of the best cooking lessons I’ve ever had. The good news was, my dough and sauce recipes were given the tick of approval, but what really takes a pizza to a whole new level, is the way they’re rolled and cooked. Sal’s tip is to roll the dough into a circle, then press the base with your fingertips to perfect the shape. The second tip is to partially cook the base with the tomato sauce, then take it out and assemble the toppings before returning it to the oven for the second stage of cooking.
Sal working his magic in my kitchen.
One of our pizzas
Jamie, aka Willie Wonka
Not only did I cook pizza for an Italian, but I also made Tiramisu for a Nestle chocolate expert; Moscow’s Willie Wonker, Jamie Geddes. Thankfully I had a box of his chocolates to serve with coffee.
My gorgeous friend Amy called yesterday to say she had a spare ticket for La Traviata; not just any seat I might add, front row and centre stage at Moscow’s incredible Stanislavski Theatre. Mmm…. what to do? Sit at home alone and reheat yesterday’s bowl of borsch, or put on some lipstick?
With some fierce pushing and shoving, I was shoulder rolled into a wagon on the Moscow Metro at peak hour. Not the most elegant way to arrive at the opera, but I got there none the less.
Of course Verdi is enough to lull anyone into a state of bliss, but this performance was truly amazing. Maria Pahar was incredible as Violetta as was Sergei Balashov as Alfred, but to add to the perfection, the set design and costumes were out of this world. Hats off to Set and Costume Designer, Vladimir Arefiev and Production Director Alexander Titel who created a visual spectacular with giant Perspex boxes resembling square snow domes that transformed the stage from the window’s of luxury stores to voids of fluttering red confetti. The female chorus in act one sat upon black balls; red stiletto shod feet astride cellos, strung with red strings. How they found so many women with such incredible legs AND voices is a mystery to me, but there was a touch of Baz Luhrmann about it; beautifully provocative and cheeky.
Equally, the fine work of Principal Chorus Master Stanislav Lykovm, and the impressively bouffanted Musical Director, Felix Korobov made the performance first class.
If there were any unwilling attendees snoring in their seats, the surprise Erotic dance show, incorporated into the scene of Flora’s Parisian party in Act II, was clearly enough to arouse not just the mind. My guess was Night Flight on nearby Tverskaya Ulitsa may have been down a few waitresses last night.
And they say opera is just for toffs!
I opted to walk home, not a short walk in the cold, but I was buoyed along with the sound of Brindisi in my head.
The frozen pond near our apartment was empty but for two lovers, skating hand in hand in the moon light.
I smiled as I passed them; a very apt end to a very romantic night.
Each year, some of Moscow’s greatest artists generously donate a painting for the Diema’s Dream charity auctions, which take place in both Moscow and London.
For the past 12 months, I’ve been working with some very talented ladies to coordinate a monthly tour of these artist’s studios, in order to give something back to them, and in turn ,support the vital work of this wonderful Charity.
Diema’s Dream was established in 1998 to provide financial, medical, and educational support for both physically and mentally disabled children in Russia. The charities goal is to support changes in society and legislation, in order to create social and medical support programs. Importantly, this allows parents to raise their children at home rather than in institutions.
Diema’s supports Charity House, a Russian non-governmental organization (NGO) in Moscow; the first, and only one of its kind in Russia. The Moscow City government considers their work with disabled orphans to be a model for orphanage reform. Unfortunately, a lack of funding has made it impossible for the government to apply the Charity House standards of child care to other orphanages.
Diema’s also supports the Association of Down’s Syndrome (ADS) program in Moscow.
In order to fully understand the reason this charity exists, you need to read this overview, taken from the charities website. This is vital work, and I’m proud to play a very small part in supporting such a wonderful group of people.
Mary Dudley engaged in charitable work at orphanages in Moscow, Russia while she was a resident from 1994 to 1997. During this time, she met a charming little boy named Diema at baby orphanage #17. Although Diema has hydrocephalous and is paralyzed from the waist down, his intelligence and sense of humor were the qualities Mary first noticed about him. During her many visits to the orphanage, Mary often spent time holding and playing with Diema.
When Diema turned 5, he was transferred to an asylum for older children. Although Mary tried to discover Diema’s whereabouts, she was unable to obtain any information from the State. Through hearsay, Mary learned that Diema might be living at one of the worst asylums in Moscow. Heartbroken and refused permission by authorities to visit Diema, Mary was convinced that Diema would not survive long in this “death” house.
Unbeknownst to Mary during her search for Diema, a secret film had been made documenting the horrendous living conditions in this orphanage. The film was shown in several countries in Europe and, as a result, the orphanage was closed. Leonid Mogilevsky, a Russian with a heart for disabled children, lobbied the government for permission to participate in caring for these children. Due to the tremendous outpouring of support in response to the airing of the film, funds were raised to temporarily support Leonid’s program.
A Turning Point
By word of mouth, Mary learned of a man who might know of Diema’s whereabouts. That man’s name was Leonid Mogilevsky, and Mary was soon to discover that Diema was not only still alive, but was safe and sound under Leonid’s watchful care.
Discovery, Reflection, and Reality
Diema was one of the “lucky” children to have been saved from certain death in one of Moscow’s most brutal asylums. In finding Diema, Mary also discovered the selfless man working within the orphanage system to change the future for all Russia’s disabled children.
After Mary left Moscow, she found she could not leave the welfare of these children behind. Leonid and his volunteers, through their selfless and diligent efforts, with limited funding and many obstacles, were trying to save “one child at a time.” Mary knew that she had to help.
Diema’s Dream Foundation is the direct result of Mary Dudley’s decision to join Leonid in his efforts to restore dignity and promise to the disabled children of Russia. Diema’s Dream Foundation was established in order to help launch Leonid Mogilevsky’s pivotal orphanage-reform program. This program exists in order to change society’s view of disabled children, to improve the conditions under which these children live, and, most importantly, to save these children from certain death. Diema’s Dream became a reality in 1998 and continues to raise funds to provide financial, medical, and educational, support for both physically and mentally disabled children in Russia.
I adore an enterprise that ‘walks the talk’ with passion and integrity. Our little local is just that.
A member of the Rutland and Lincolnshire Slow Food Convivium, they take pride in the origin and preparation of their produce. Our Sunday lunch was certainly proof of that- melt in the mouth roast pork, with Yorkshire pudding, steamed local vegetables, crispy roast potatoes and home made apple sauce. The service was superb; genuinely friendly and efficient-in my book, exactly what’s required for a family lunch with a few wrigglers at the table ( well in our case, just one).
All charcuterie is produced in house, with either local, wild or free range animals. Breads, pastries and biscuits are baked in house daily and made from stone ground organic flour from the Whissendine Mill. You name it, they produce it; all stocks, chutneys, dripping, relishes, sauces, ice creams and mustards are produced in this fantastic little kitchen.
What’s more, produce can be ordered online, or direct from their list of local farms who supply them.
What a fabulous local. We can walk there via the local bridleways, which is even more reason to partake in a drink or two with lunch; the wine list is great (I highly recommend the Italian Primitivo) .
I’m back at our cottage on the 13th and on my way, I’ll be collecting this little bag of goodies:
2 loaves of local organic bread
Cold Smoked Rutland Trout; fillets from either Rutland Water or Eyebrook Reservoir brined in honey, brown sugar, brandy, salt and spices, then smoked for 8 hrs over oak and cherry wood.
Smoked Stamford Cider & Mustard Roast Ham. Cooked for 8 hours in a mixture of Stamford cider, brown sugar and house mustard.
A dozen or so slices of cured and air dried Bresoala for picnics
A dozen free range eggs….
And a little tub of Elderflower sorbet for after dinner by the fire.
My beautiful little companion, Mariah Canary sang her last aria some time before I arrived home on Tuesday.
There will be no encores. After 3 lovely years, this Spring just won’t be the same without her.
This was her favorite piece; she loved Liszt. Listen to it and imagine the beautiful accompaniment of a little yellow canary.
This week, we had the pleasure of visiting our gorgeous Moscow friends, Charlotte and Ed Baring, at their beautiful UK property Ardington House in Oxfordshire. Have a look at the site and you see why I’m still in awe of Charlotte’s gifts when it comes to renovating grand old homes with good taste and elegance. If you’re in need of a stunning venue for a function or a wedding, the good news is its available for hire! You can contact Ardington House via the link below.