Monday, September 17, 2007

The Italian Invasion...Chapter Four

The lead-up to the Christmas/New Year season had been a busy one at the resort and therefore a busy time for me organising the many and various functions, The Sunday before Christmas Day the owners of the resort hosted a party for their lawyers, accountants, business associates and the like. For the day, I decorated the large, main function room and the al fresco area alongside in different themes, depicting the foods of the countries. One section was set up to reflect a French patisserie, another thrilled and teased offering Italian delights (not Andrea), particularly foods from Emilia-Romagna, the region from where Andrea hailed. I did pick his brains and passed the authentic information on to the chefs. Emilia-Romagna’s guilty secret is the invention of ravioli, tagliatelle and tortellini. Lasagne can be added to that list of guilty pleasures, too! And who can leave out the rich, tasty rag├╣ otherwise known as Bolognese sauce? In Emilia is the city of Parma, world-renowned for its proscuitto or Parma ham, and, of course, having given its name to parmesan cheese. And cop this coppa comes from this region, too, not to mention Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena, aka real balsamic vinegar which is created with love, skill and patience. Patience, because true balsamic vinegar made from Trebbiano grapes comes into being over a period of at least twelve years. .Modena also is well-known to us all for generously giving us the magnificent maestro, Luciano Pavarotti. So when you raise a glass of Sangiovese, a ruby-red wine from the Emilia-Romagna region, don’t forget to toast the region’s generous gifts.

The bounty of local seafood graced an area decorated with fish nets, large clam shells, glass buoys, even a small dinghy graced the tables offering guests a wide variety of fresh seafood delicacies. Next to the seafood display a wooden buffet-hutch and country-style dining tables offered typical Aussie tucker such as lamingtons, pavlovas, mini-meat pies, bite-size sweet corn fritters with a mango-chilli dipping sauce, hot damper, bowls of tropical fruit salad, Neenish tarts and lemon meringue pies. With lots of sweet talking and fulfilled promises of promoting his work, I coerced a Cairns furniture-maker to loan the resort, free of charge, some of its wares for the day. It was quite a spectacular and grandiose exercise getting the furniture to and from the resort, but it was worthwhile for all of those concerned!

Outside on the paved courtyards, shaded by dense, verdant palms, the area had been transformed into a miniature Thailand. Thai Airlines had been very generous when I asked them for decorative pieces and large, glossy posters. Colourful paper umbrellas competed with the beauty of the lush tropical foliage surrounding the function room and resort pool. The quantity of tropical flowers and orchids Ramada hired fortnightly from a local nursery to decorate the foyer and lobby etc., was increased for the day to add to the Thai theme. Samples of Thai food were on offer as guests wandered from theme to theme.

The plant nursery came to the aid of the party, not only in supplying the orchids and tropical flowers but also in supplying halved, empty, wooden wine barrels, some of which I lined with hay and filled with red wine. Others were lined with thick, heavy-duty plastic sheeting, filled with ice to keep the champagne and white wines cold. Beer was kept icy-cold in large ice-filled eskies strategically dotted around the function area.

I even roped Andrea in for the day, to be paid on casual rates, to help man the eskies. Fritz, the food and beverage manager, kindly agreed to him working for the day. It not only earned Andrea some cash, but it gave him invaluable experience in a small area of Australian hospitality and tourism.

The “powers-that-be” were very happy with their Christmas party as were the invited guest. It had been a very successful event.

By the time, Boxing Day, arrived I gratefully grabbed it by both hands and held on tightly, as it was to be my only day off from a couple of weeks prior to Christmas until after New Year. A “No Vacancy” sign, together with “Gone Fishin” and “Do No Disturb” signs were put up on the front and back doors of my townhouse. Andrea took over the reins, not allowing me to lift a finger all day. Late in the afternoon, we strolled the beach hand in hand. A most pleasant surprise awaited me when we reached the southern end of the beach. Andrea insisted we sit awhile on the low sand dunes under She-Oak trees, between the beach and vacant parkland to the rear. Unknown to me when I was taking a nap earlier in the afternoon, he had driven down to the parkland and hidden an eskie filled with ice, champagne, cheese, olives, salami, cherries, apricots and crackers. In a well-sealed container were a couple of crunchy bread rolls. Andrea, like most Italians, if not all Italians, loved bread. Bread became a staple in my household, more than it had ever been. Hardly a meal went by without bread as a main part of it. About the only time, Andrea didn’t eat bread was with a meal of pasta.

You can imagine my surprise, when he arrived back to where I was sitting, with an eskie in his arms! I was agog as he opened its lid and took out a bottle of champagne. He laughed at the look on my face as he handed me two glass flutes. That was probably one of the most thoughtful, romantic gestures anyone has ever done for me.

With only the mellow, calming sounds of the waves gently lapping the shore and the birds calling their final farewells as they wended their way home at day’s end, Andrea and I could have been the only people left in the world that afternoon.

To be continued...


  1. Hi Lee,

    "The powers that be," better had been happy it sounds like you went all out.

    I love itallian food, and I love to go to a real good Itallion restaurant. I have an excellent Lasagne recipe that a friend gave me.

    And that Andrea sounds like a "special treat" himself;)


  2. He was a "special treat", I knew that wouldn't last forever. :)

    I did put a lot into organising that Christmas was my job, being Functions and Conference Co-ordinator, but I enjoyed planning it and setting it all up...and then working the function. It was a good sense of satisfaction at the end of the day.

    Thanks for your comment, Janice. :)

  3. Ahhh, how wonderfully romantic.

  4. was, CD! :)

  5. Great post with a well deserved treat for the finale Lee. A thoughtful fellow as well as all his other attributes! Luckily for my daughter she married her Italian but he's from Piemonte.


  6. Thanks, jmb...nice to hear from you. Aha! You have an Italian in the family...good for you! :)

  7. Little wonder the “powers-that-be” were happy with that Christmas party as just reading about the fine food and magnificent settings increased my appetite and made my feel hungry, even though I have just finished tea. !!

    I look forward to more of the “Gone Fishing” and “Do No Disturb” subsequent events as your story unfolds.

    Best wishes

  8. Hey there, Lindsay...I'm pleased you're enjoying my reminiscences...thanks. :)

  9. A perfect party with a very PERFECT ENDING.

    What a haggler? Sounds like you could get the last slice of bread from a starving man.

    Now Fess up what did you promise them for the use of the furniture, plants etc etc?

  10. Hi Lady Di...all I promised them was good exposure...of their products. I asked them for lots of business cards and brochures...and had them (the cards and brochures, not the cabinet-makers!) sitting on the sideboard throughout the day...(there were a lot of wealthy people at the party) and I also set up an area on the Front Desk for their business cards. They were willing to display their craftsmanship..."word of mouth" is the best form of advertising.

    About 200 people or so attended the party, so it was not a bad "captive" audience. Cairns was going through a major growth spurt at the time and there was a lot of building of new homes, apartments and resorts going on, so tradesmen would take any opportunity to advertise their expertise in the market.

    You're almost as evil as I am, Lady Di with those wicked thoughts!!! ;)

  11. Hi Lee ~~ Great Christmas planned festivities - you do them so well.
    What a lovely surprise at the end of that beach walk. All very romantic
    What a lot of pleasant memories you have. Thanks for your comments on my blog, glad you liked the wisteria.
    Take care, my friend, Love, Merle.

  12. What a mouth watering post. I just love Italian food. I lived next to a lovely Italian woman at one time. She gave me some great tips on improving my humble Spag Bol sauce.
    Thanks for visits I am very pleased to be back even though my connection is still spasmodic, I can cope.
    Cheers Margaret

  13. Howdy, Merle. In the words of an old song..."memories are made of this." :)

    Good to see you back on the blogging trail, Margaret. Welcome back. :)

  14. Great photos, Lee, and a great story. I think I'm falling in love with Andrea myself!

  15. Welsh...he's back in your territory, although on the mainland, up there in Emilia-Romagna! Is that you packing your bags that I can hear in the background? ;)

  16. Interesting story, tres romantic. Mouth-watering photos, too. Hi! Sorry I haven't been around much lately. I'll try to do better.:)

  17. great post again Lee. I think I'll have you cater something someday. Maybe my funeral or something. No, maybe blogstock. I want to be there when you do it.

  18. No worries,'s always good to hear from you when you are able to make it. :)

    Hey there Cliff...better that you be there! ;)

  19. I have sure enjoyed reading this all sounds so delicious and the romance - well - you wre one lucky lady!

  20. A little romance means a lot and goes a long way, Rebecca...I was very lucky, I know. It was a wonderful gesture and made my one day off so great. :)

  21. I love a romantic man...but have never had the to speak!

    What a wonderful surprise for you, Lee, especially as you had been working so hard.

    BTW, what's happened to "City Lights"? No pressure, just wondering...

  22. "City Lights" will be continued soon, Robyn...just having a little break from it...a stroll by the sea! ;)

  23. Hi again Lee ~~ Thanks for your comments, glad you enjoy the jokes etc.
    I hope you really enjoyed your leg of lamb!! It sounded nice with the herbs from your garden. Take care, Love, Merle.

  24. One learns a lot about food and drink just reading your blog here. Thanks for updating me on Polish vodkas.

    Sweet corn fritters. Okay, now that one I know because my wife makes them. But then dip them in mango chili sauce? I'll suggest it, but I doubt whether the missus has heard of that one.

  25. The lamb was great, thanks, Merle...I, of course, made a pig of myself eating the lamb! ;)

    Dave, below is a very simple recipe for Mango-chilli (chili) chutney/sauce. It will keep in the fridge for up to a week, but no longer. It's a quick and easy recipe that can be used for chicken, fish, prawns/shrimp etc., as well as the savoury fritters.

    I hope you like it. :)

    1 Mango, peeled and diced (drained canned mango slices can be used if fresh mango not available)
    ⅛ cup Red pepper/capsicum, diced
    ¼ tablespoon Ginger, minced (or crushed or powdered ginger)
    1 ounce Honey,
    ½ tablespoon Mint leaves, dry
    Hot chilli flakes, or crushed chilli or freshly diced, to taste

    Combine all the ingredients in a small pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 5 minute.

  26. A couple more recipes for you Dave to go with the one above. All are very simple to do.

    Mango Chilli Sauce: (Number 1)
    1 mango
    1/2tsp or so crushed garlic
    1 tbsp. chilli sauce
    1 tsp. lime Juice

    1. In a blender, puree mango & add all other ingredients.
    2. Season with salt.

    Mango-Chilli Sauce...Number 2.

    1 firm ripe mango, peeled and pitted
    2 Tb. fresh mint leaves, chopped (or 1 Tb. dried mint leaves)
    2-3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
    2 Tb. chili oil (or 1 jalapeno chili, seeded and roughly chopped)
    Half a lemon, juiced
    ½ t. lemon zest (grated skin of lemon)
    salt and pepper to taste

    Mix in blender, in order: mango, chili oil, garlic, lemon and zest, mint leaves
    Remove sauce from blender and add salt & Pepper to taste. Yield: 2 cups

    For a hotter sauce - add more chili oil and garlic.

  27. Thanks, Lee. I copied all the recipes you just gave here and forwarded them on to my wife.

    Hopefully I can get her to give them a try. (I'm not allowed in the kitchen for cooking purposes myself)

  28. Great, Dave. As I mentioned, drained, canned mango will suffice nicely. I hope you're allowed sometimes to don a barbecue apron! ;)

    I hope your good lady enjoys these. :)