Berlin Music Week, 6-12 Sep 2010

Berlin is known for its rich and lively music scene and with the first edition of Berlin Music Week just around the corner, music lovers and media alike will be taken away by the lively and diverse sounds of the many epic artists making their mark on stage. “Meet people, enjoy music, make connections,” says Berlin Music Week. That’s what this music festival is all about.

Including Popkomm 2010 and with 70 bands across three stages, music lovers will have a hard time deciding between their favourite artists who will clearly have to share stage time.

Artists to hit the stage include LCD Soundsystem, Hot Chip, Fatboy Slim, Fever Ray, Caribou, Peaches, Soulwax, Gang Of Four, Friday, 10 September Editors, Tricky, Edwyn Collins, Boys Noize, Neon Indian, The Morning Benders, Atari Teenage Riot, Robyn and much more.

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Wall Street Eats Italian

Eataly complex opens in New York as analysts and stockbrokers queue for jobs

NEW YORK – “Two young communications studies graduates came to see me in Turin. They were looking for a job. I told them I had nothing for them in Italy but was I opening a large complex in New York. A top-quality food store and seven restaurants. I needed people who could make mozzarella by hand. The job was theirs if they were willing to learn. The two jumped at the chance and they’ve been in Andria for the past two months”.
When they get to Manhattan, the young hopefuls will find what is still a huge construction site of Italian food on Fifth Avenue, as the opening day of Eataly USA on 31 August approaches. The huge, 6,000 square-metre space stands opposite the Flatiron, New York’s iconic early 20th-century skyscraper. According to Oscar Farinetti, a man disinclined to modesty, it will be “the most important place for Italian food anywhere in the world”. The Piedmontese businessman is best-known for his Unieuro electrical goods chain. Now in the wake of Eataly events in Italy and Japan, he has joined forces with America’s leading Italian chefs, Mario Batali and Joe and Lidia Bastianich, and the Sapers, two Jewish brothers from New York who abandoned Wall Street for the world of food.

Continue reading here

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La Roccia restaurant, Castro, Salento

A small corner of culinary heaven as seen by a new local, my friend Sinan, on his always awesome Sinanation blog.

Hotel La Roccia stands like a fortress on top of a bay that runs into the town of Castro. In the southern tip of Salento, approx. 1.5 hours away from Lecce, this town is a smaller version of the romantic Italy you are used to seeing in movies.

Secluded estates that reveal only their entrance gates line up around the rocky shoulders like a string of pearls. You take extra caution driving on a snake-like road built right next to a cliff that rolls into the Aegean Sea, but you still wish you had a convertible red Ferrari or a classic sports car to test your skills on such a memorable track.

Beyond its rough topography, Castro is built for peace and serenity.

I can’t say much about Hotel La Roccia, but I believe it could be an amazing hotel once given a good renovation and a modern vision. It has a great setup and a unique beach that comfortably stands on a narrow cliff running down to the crisp Aegean waters. The hotel’s seafood restaurant on the other hand has so much more to offer.

On a bright night where the moon dives into the Aegean, we take our seats outside at Ristorante La Roccia with Andrea. We wait impatiently for food, trying to avoid the undisturbed romantic scene that lacks the right partners.

Dinner starts with fantastic appetizers of muscles, tuna carpaccio and an octopus salad dressed up with celery and carrots.

The spaghetti with muscles and tomatoes here (prepared for two, modified a little by Andrea*) is simply the best I have ever eaten so far anywhere around the world. It is simple yet prepared just right to provide the best flavor out of all the ingredients that made up this unforgettable dish. Every bite gives a hint of an amazing olive oil, fresh tomato, parsley, muscle wrapped around pasta al dente. The main course, a sea bass oven-baked covered in salt, is equally impressive and prepared with the same vision. I demand that you save room for dessert and order the Panna Cotta and the warm apple cake served on top of a vanilla sauce.

I hope you make it to this place. I certainly want to go again.

* As standard, most restaurants will offer two versions of spaghetti with muscles: red or white (i.e. with or without tomato sauce); in reality, the best choice is neither. You should ask for bianca con qualche pomodorino spezzato (i.e. white with a few freshly chopped cherry tomatoes). This is how you’ll enjoy it better, this is how you’ll have it if you ever are at a table with me.

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SalentoandOut – Be a local in Salento

A few days ago, CityandOut launched its first satellite local site, SalentoandOut. Our aim is to provide maximum depth into Salento, the beautiful southern part of the Puglia region, in Italy. We are going to recommend you the best places to stay and visit, the best restaurants and wineries and everything that makes Salento an amazing experience. It will be personal and biased, partial and imperfect. Our aim is to tell you about the places we like and go to, not give you a dry directory of places. All the places we recommend we have visited personally or come highly recommended by people we trust and like. We are also working with a small number of selected locals to offer you discounts, special treats and other goodies so that you can remember about them and your stay in Salento.

Stay tuned while we grow the service but go to the site now and tell all your friends who may be planning a visit to Salento. You should come too.

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Casa dei Mercanti Town House, Piazza S. Oronzo, Lecce

I knew about Casa dei Mercanti and I had seen their website before but a few days ago I made an interesting and pleasant discovery. I met Franzi, the manager of the House and he showed me around the place and let me have a look at the 9 rooms (I should say suites) he manages bed & breakfast style. Let’s just say that the website doesn’t convey the beauty, style, cleanliness and quality of the place. You can think of Casa dei Mercanti more like a hotel than a b&b where all details are taken care of and top notch technology combined with great service make you feel at home.

Having heard and read many positive reviews about it and after seeing the rooms, I can’t help but recommend it here on SalentoandOut.

Don’t be fooled by the less than attractive building entrance. Casa dei Mercanti offers a beautiful and ideal accommodation for anybody wanting to visit Lecce and Salento. It’s situated right in the middle of Lecce’s old centre, in Piazza Sant’Oronzo, just a gay stone throw to the magnificent roman anphitheatre and a very lazy 2 minute stroll to the wonderful Santa Croce Basilica.

I met Angela and Stella, two of the girls who, together with Franzi, take care of guests and provide you with a quality service. I was pleasantly surprised by their friendliness and smiles, clear sign of good service.

Franzi and his team are always available for you to give you advice on what to see and do in Lecce and Salento; where to go on the beach depending on the wind; they’ll give you a city centre pass for your car, a very sought after and useful benefit also for locals.

Franzi and I have agreed to give SalentoandOut readers a 10% discount on stays at Casa dei Mercanti [here you’ll find their prices]. You can just present this voucher to them when you book your stay or tell them you found out about them on SalentoandOut.

I am sure you’ll enjoy your stay at Casa dei Mercanti a lot. We’d like to have your feedback here afterwards.
Piazza Sant’Oronzo, 44, Lecce; +39 0832 279819;; mappa

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La Dolce Vita! A City Geisha in Salento

My friend Julie, City Geisha by day and professional Ninja by night, recently came to Salento with her best friend Dion. The two ladies of leisure spent about a week down the heel of the Italian boot and went back home a few kilos heavier and with some stories to tell.

From Lecce to Gallipoli, from wineries to restaurants, from the hot beaches to the cheese making experience, here’s Julie’s photographic account of their adventure. For more interesting details, get in touch with her or ask me – I’ll spill the beans for a glass of wine or two…

Posted in Caprarica, Cavallino, Food and drinks, Gallipoli, Italy, Lecce, Salento | Leave a comment

Stuffing the chicks – Hostaria Arete’, Lecce

A few days ago, after a long day driving around Salento with Julie, Dion and Orso, wine tasting and mozzarella making, we decided to go and have dinner to Arete’. Hostaria Arete’ is a beautiful restored farmhouse converted into an equally beautiful retaurant. Although in winter, it is very cosy and romantic dining in front of the big fireplace, I prefer it in summertime when the tables are set outside under the inspiring veranda.

But, let’s not beat around the bush, you go to Arete’ for the meat, lots of it and some more.

I had been to Arete’ a couple of weeks earlier as well and finally mastered the menu’ – the secret is actually not to order the best and biggest cut, the Fiorentina or the Chianina cut – they are too big and in my opinion they don’t cook well and get cold very quickly while you eat them. Try instead the Angus which is equally tasty but without the bone and it cooks perfectly on the lavic stone they serve it on on the table and stays well warm until you finish it (if you can finish it). But I am getting ahead of myself…

Let me give you a few tips to make sure you enjoy your meal at Arete’:

1 – Don’t go on weekends if you can. Arete’ is very popular and you risk that your meal will run forever. On weekdays, there will still be a lot of people and a nice atmosphere but the waiters won’t be running like headless chickens.

2 – As I was saying above, try the Angus to enjoy one of their signature dishes. They serve it only half cooked on the table on a lavic stone and there you continue the cooking yourself. Get them to slice it for you before they serve it on the table. You’ll probably want to share it as it’s a 500gr steak.

3 – Ask for the salt before the beef arrives. I go mad in many restaurants when you have to wait for the salt and it arrives after the main course (it seems to be trendy these days not to have salt on the table). At Arete’ they have a selection of different types of flavoured salts, black, pink and other types. Whatever, regular salt would do the trick.

4 – Here I discovered Il Lemos, a very interesting red wine from Leone de Castris, one of the main winemakers in the region. Il Lemos is typical only in part as it’s a blend of Negroamaro and Primitivo (the two main local grapes) but also contains Merlot and Montepulciano. I think it’s a very good wine.

5 – Don’t stuff yourself with the antipasti. Julie and Dion made this mistake as they were eager to try all of them and could not resist to the wonderful burrata, the meatballs, the baked courgettes, the aubergines, the pittule, and so on (who cuold blame them). Order less than one plate of antipasti for every two people, trust me. Or you won’t enjoy your meat afterwards.

As main course, Julie and Dion wanted to taste both the home made pasta with tomato sauce, mini-meat balls and cacio ricotta (fresh salty grated cheese) and the fillet. They loved the food but they were so stuffed in the end they could not walk properly or make much sense in general. It happens in the land of Salento when you let the food and wine flow.

6 – Make sure you are in good company. This is the main rule when it comes to enjoying your meal.

7 – Leave some space in your stomach for the mini-croissants filled with nutella. I think this was the final blow to my two poor friends. But I am sure they don’t regret trying them.

So, anyway, I think Hostaria Arete’ is a very solid performer in the Salento food scene. When you visit Salento, get someone to take you there and take it all in. I am sure you’ll thank me even if you’ll need someone to carry you home afterwards.

Strada Provinciale Cavallino-Caprarica (Lecce); +39 337 826761;

Also see my friend Sinan’s photographic account of Arete’

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