Milan October 12- 15 2010

Overcast - cool -12-15 deg

Milan  - mostly we only pass through this city on our way further north to Mark's family town of Sondrio, but, we have a reason to spend a few days here this visit - we are catching up with our daughter who is attending the Bocconi University. We were of the understanding that she is studying here, but given her knowledge of local bars, restaurants and  shops we are unsure of how much study is happening! However it is good to have first hand knowledge of all the 'cool' places to go.

We eat at a local trattoria, Cantina della Vetra and  we feast on a selection of parma ham and breasola served with a pillow of fried pasta which resembles a roll. Opting for a simple risotto with a twist - my porcini risotto is cooked to perfection then pan fried resulting with a crunchy outside and perfectly creamy inside. The flavour rich with the porcini mushroom and parmesan cheese is intense. The menu in this homestyle tratorria is simple honest fare typical of the Italian cuisine - fresh seasonal porcini mushrooms.

Wandering around the city, you cannot help but be overwhelmed by the beauty of the architecture.  Having seen the Duomo several times before, I am still in awe of the structure and amazed at the beauty of this incredible landmark every time.  We are delighted to discover a Sicilian market tucked behind the main street and enjoy a freshly filled ricotta, plus a stop for another espresso - must be time for lunch?

Milan has a great tram system. Not quite sure how or where to purchase a ticket we just jumped on and off at our leisure - molto grazia Milano - we find our way to the Castello dating back to 1500. After a wander around the castle, our personal guide takes us for a gelato at possibly the best gelati store in Milan - Chocolat. As the name suggests there must be at least one or two varieties of chocolate gelato in this store -there were actually four chocolate varieties - chili chocolate, milk chocolate, dark 70% guarna and rum chocolate. So good is this gelati we visit again after dinner!

Milan is a beautiful city - filled with amazing history - helpful when you have first hand knowledge from a 'local', we wonder whether Nastassia will in fact come home - she loves this city.

Epernay, France - October 19/20

Champagne region approx 160 km from Paris
Cool 8-12 deg - sunny

This is our very first time  to the Champagne region in France, so forgive me for getting just a tinsy bit EXCITED!

I cannot believe how beautiful this little town in the middle of the champagne region is. Epernay is every thing and more than I imagined - tree lined streets - cobbled paths - fountains - little churches - just gorgeous and the best thing of all a street named "rue de Champagne", the avenue that is home to all of the best known champagne houses and runs the entire length of the town.

We stay in a delightful 12 room hotel, Hotel Jean Moet -, ideally located around 200 metres from the train station and around 20 metres from the Ave de Champagne. Perfect for our visits to the Moet Chandon and Pol Roger Champagne houses.

Thanks to our wine merchants in Brisbane we  have two private tours and tastings arranged, one to the each of these champagne houses. Both tours were quite different - Moet + Chandon is the largest  producer of champagne in the region with approximately 29 kilometres of underground chalk lined caves for the maturation of the champagne. Pol Roger is a slightly more boutique production, but both visits were absolutely unique.
Thanks to Matthieu Blanc from Pol Roger for such a wonderful informative tour. There are approximately 100 km of caves running underneath the region at a steady temperature of 10 degrees all of the year.The production line is quite complex and all champagnes are cellared for a minimum of three years before bottling. We are all in heaven and having an experience of a lifetime. The importance and significance of this region and the production of champagne is obvious  and understandable why the French are so protective of their unique product "Champagne".

We eat at a few local restaurants. We enjoyed a typical French meal at La Grillade Gourmande, with chef Christophe Bernard greeting all customers personally ,  I had a wonderful dish of quail and Foie gras - beautifully cooked. 

At any bar or restaurant you can choose up to 20 local champagnes by the glass and enjoy the experience at any time of the day - as we did!

Two days in Epernay - a wonderful experience but barely enough time. We didn't make it to Reims, the larger town , so we are planning our next visit now!

Tognini's catering at work

Togninis's catering hard at work!

A night in Tuscany

It was great to see lots of happy faces having fun and enjoying the Italian food at our recent Italian Wine Dinner.

Guest speaker, Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith, gave some great pointers on Italian wine which encouraged everyone to have just another glass.

Here is some of the night's action

T U S C A N Italian Wine Dinner

Join us for a night in Italy at Tognini's Trattoria, Spring Hill.

It's one of Mark and Narelle's favourite places and the menu reflects the cuisine of the region with the drama of a huge hunk of meal carved at the table for your delight!

Here's what to expect -

  • Entreé - Gnocchi alla Romana 
  • Main - Carne alla Florence - beef + pork w rosemary new potatoes, mixed green beans drizzled w warmed feta dressing 
  • Dessert - Baked baby apple w cinnamon fruits 
  • Finale - Selection of Tuscan cheeses 
  • Accompanied by regional Tuscan wines presented by Red + White

Date 7.00pm Friday 27 August 2010
Cost $95.00 per person
Venue Tognini’s Trattoria Spring Hill
Bookings 3831 5300,

Tognini's Spring Hill Trattoria opens

There’s more than a taste of Italy to be enjoyed at Tognini’s new Trattoria as Mark Tognini heads back to his Italian roots.

Inspired by Mark and Narelle's travels in Turin last year, the popular Spring Hill eatery on Turbot Street has been transformed with a makeover that focuses on the freshness of modern Italian style food.

Tognini’s Trattoria offers a new dine in experience with rustic Italian-style food focusing on small plates and an extensive cheese menu. The focus is savoury with lots of slow cooked items and the kitchen will be open from 7am to 9pm weekdays and Saturday and Sunday for breakfast and lunch from 8am until 3pm.

Friends, family, media and suppliers gathered to celebrate the opening with a few drinks and sample the new menu. The verdi -bellissimo!

Perfect lovers picnic on Valentines Day

What a combo – beautiful summer weather and

Valentines Day on a Sunday! It’s the perfect recipe for a lover’s picnic.

Tognini’s have a Valentines box for two hungry lovers that

makes a summer getaway picnic super easy and super tasty.

Their deli hamper is presented in a chill box complete with disposable glassware, plates and cutlery so it’s all systems go.

Inside is chicken breast, rabbit+ pistachio terrine or handmade pate, a fresh salad box, Australian brie and cheddar, olives and fresh bread. To finish there are heart shaped shortbread biscuits and a brownie or patty cake. Fresh fruit and mineral water will fill any gaps. Cost $95.

Add some extra sparkle with two champagne flutes and Australian sparkling Redbank Emily 750 ml ($25) or French Louis Bouillot 750 ml ($45) as an optional extra.

Orders to Tognini's Bistro Cafe Deli, Springhill Marketplace, Spring Hill - (07) 3831 5300 -, by Wednesday 10 February. Pick up Tognini’s Milton, Milton Centro Baroona Road, Milton on 14 February.

Brisbane’s best picnic spots

Handy – Roma Street Parklands

Cruisey bay view with a paddle – Redcliffe or Wellington Point

River view – Kangaroo Point Cliffs or under the Story Bridge

Bush view – Jolly’s Lookout, Mt Nebo