PIZZA!

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Time to talk PIZZA!!!!!!!!

Being a gal from New England comes with its guilty pleasures. Fluid public transport, diversity, culture, and loads of ethnic restaurants everywhere!!! INCREDIBLE pizza, in the tri-state area, is staple and quite well-known.  Check out these links….

Pepe’s Pizzeria, New Haven, CT

Sally’s Pizza, New Haven, CT

New Haven, Little Italy-Wooster Street

A huge influx of Italians came to America between 1880-1924 and I would say the majority landed in my neck of the woods.

Now back to BOISE………..

So I set my goal to find the best pizza I could possibly find in this town. It is imperative that I find a pizza place here!! I have recently posed the question to my local friends in hopes I could successfully find a pie that is at least 1/4 as good as what I grew up with. It’s imperative, otherwise I am left with the task of making my own (which is fine), but it would be nice to find a good spot here in town or in the surrounding area so that when my hard-core Italian family come to visit, I don’t disappoint! This is what a great pizza SHOULD look like–at least in my humble and hungry opinion http://www.thrillist.com/…/new-haven-pizza-guide-pepe-s-sal  —Crust on the thin side, crispy charcoal edges with softer dough on the inner parts, but NEVER SOGGY, bubbling with fresh mozzarella but not so much of the cheese that you can’t taste the ITALIAN homemade sauce that should cover the pizza evenly and have just enough EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL so that you can taste the fine balance of sauce and cheese to oil ratio and don’t forget the salt and flavors. So many parlors do not season their pizza and it’s so bland. I will say that Every single town/city/state/country (with the exception of Italy (and even then, I must say that New Haven still ranks #1 on my pizza list)—-I have had the same reaction from local residents ….

YOU HAVE TO GO TO “________” <—Insert name of Pizza Parlor here.—“THEY ARE THE BEST” But it’s rare that I agree. Not that I am the Pizza Police or anything……. But having said that only about 2 times in my entire existence as a Pizza loving gal, have I ever been even REMOTELY impressed by any other pizza besides my childhood staple that is well-known throughout the United States and proof of that lies in the endless articles and feuds involving other parlors in the fight for the title!!! Once I was slightly impressed by the big slice that I got at BROOKLYN PIZZA on PICO BLVD. in Los Angeles, and At another spot an old friend took me to but the name of the place evades me now  I was able to convince the chef at this place to leave his comfort zone and make us a white clam pie with garlic and oil and he agreed to do it and it wasn’t bad!! But, it still was not exactly what I was looking for.  When I mention a WHITE CLAM PIZZA to people who are NOT from Connecticut, Italy or the Tri-state area, they look at me as if I asked for their first-born child–and it’s pretty hilarious to see their face contort and their mouths turn down, but  when they taste it…………a new world opens up for them!

So my adventurous search began……..but I took a detour. I needed to stop downtown and visit my favorite candle shop. LIT & CO since I ran out of my favorite holiday scent Cinnamon and Balsam; Which is amazing by the way!! HOLIDAY YUMMINESS!! I highly suggest visiting her streamlined shop full of delicious soy based candles! The owner and I started up a conversation  and we discussed small business for a bit and then began talking about food; of course!!! I mentioned PIZZA and she suggested I go to Casanova Pizzeria on Vista Blvd.

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She said if I was looking for a GREAT PIZZA; that was the place to go. Of course, I sort of huffed a bit thinking….“Ya right–doubt it”-— Well, all I can say is my stomach is waiting in grateful anticipation of a WHITE, CLAM PIE full of garlic and Extra Virgin Olive oil and a touch of bacon. So needless to say, my search came to a screeching halt. I was stunned.  CLAM PIZZA IN BOISE?? Really?? AWESOME and Guess why???????  The owner is from CONNECTICUT!!!!!!!!!!!! He mentions NEW HAVEN in his introduction on his menu!!!!

So, I ordered my pie and as I looked around his restaurant and saw the CONNECTICUT HIGHWAY 1 sign tucked back into the corner of the bar area, I began to feel little homesick but then got excited to know that a little piece of my heritage and history is about 1 mile from my house and that made me smile and feel all warm inside. 

His pizza looks the part; SMELLS the part…and it tastes as close to the original as I could possibly as for!  I am now one happy I-talian!!!!

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First Autumn in Boise

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(My Pumpkin, Before the Carving)

It’s been over 2 weeks since the last time I posted anything to my blog and I do apologize from bottom of my heart!

It’s been a busy couple of weeks to say the least! I’ve been pretty occupied with getting adjusted to the city, fixing up the house, working out at the gym, networking, job searching, attending events, and of course discovering new venues and restaurants to enjoy and share with you! This post doesn’t include anything about wine or food this time around, but rather some awesome treats from other local businesses that have a different genre of wonderful products to offer.  I have also included some bits about my own little creations and collections as well.

As of late, I have become a bit obsessed with the antique and vintage markets around town! It’s a small city, so I am sure the majority of you have experienced the vast display of antiques and collectibles that they offer at the Antique World Mall on Overland and the other shops that dot the landscape in unexpected places like strip malls, but if you haven’t yet;  please do!  Like I mentioned in one of my previous posts….. I am in deep trouble!

I have already begun to rapidly accumulate a small collection of antique and vintage tea cups!
In my opinion, there is nothing quite like sipping a high-grade green tea out of 100-year-old vessel!

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I also got my hands on this little TEAL vintage 1980s telephone! FUN!  Isn’t this a great color??Telephone.jpg

This is my first Autumn in Boise and so far, so good! It’s been a very nostalgic experience thus far and a nice reminder of my earlier days living in rural Connecticut where the weather is quite similar.

I watched the beautiful tree in my back yard turn bright yellow and orange and then quickly drop its leaves in preparation for the cold weather to come! It’s exciting, different, and quite refreshing  to say the least and my lungs have never been happier!

backyardtree.jpgThis week was also “PUMPKIN CARVING” week for my close friends and their family and neighbors and although each year I try to carve something really creative that manifests itself from my own imagination; this year I decided to go with a pattern and cut my pumpkin from that.
Thank you little Vivienne for supplying your fun book full of great ideas!

This is the result of my pumpkin carving adventures!

Nikkis PumpkinEveryones pumpkins

This photo is the result of all of our carving efforts! Not too shabby!!!

Please stay tuned for more!

Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.
~George Eliot

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All Right’s Reserved ©Nikki Russo 2014
©Nikki Russo Photography 2014

Boise International Market

IranianbreadOh boy I’m in trouble.  Would you look at that bread?  Just look at it……………Holy Moly Cannoli and Halleluia is all I have to say!!!!

If this bread is any indication of what the new, BOISE INTERNATIONAL MARKET on Franklin Road is going to be like, then if any of you happen to have a membership at a gym that you are willing to sacrifice, then I’m your girl!

{{insert Chuckle}}

It doesn’t get much better than this when it comes to diversity and ethnic bliss.  Don’t get too excited about that bread though {{{sorry}}}…..only because I believe that since this market happened to be having their GRAND OPENING this past weekend and part of today (since two more shops were opening up),  the bread and treats MAY have been being distributed as a one time courtesy of the business owners. I am not sure, but I hope not because it was DELICIOUS!!!!

The complexity and layers of spices and the soft and doughy bread on the inside, was crunchy and full of texture on the outside and full of an egg custard I think…..(but I cannot be sure!)–One had cheese and you can’t go wrong with cheese!  Seriously…..I was in a food coma for a half hour.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Lori one of the owners and she was so sweet and super excited about opening what I HOPE will be a huge success! What an amazing addition to the neighborhood. After having lived in Los Angeles for so long, I got spoiled with all of the ethnic cuisine all around me and I hoped and prayed that Boise would be able to offer some of that…..and it looks promising.

I also visited the lovely tea shop inside the market called JOYFUL TEA.   They had a wonderful selection of black, oolong and green teas, and some great bulk herbal blends. They also offered some pretty tea pots and infusion tools, and the owners had a wonderful amount of knowledge and passion about their products. They also had a DARLING display of their own private collection of tea pots and antique tea cups. It was really special.
There are many other shops, that I perused and they offered anything from hand sewn purses, dresses, pounded rice, sauces, dried greens,  perfumes, jewelery, fresh, organic produce and coffee, and I am sure much more is to come. It is still in it’s infancy and I am sure with our support, these local shops will thrive!

I bumped into Channel 9 Tonight, and I am sure they got a good shot of the shop with a great story and they definitely got a shot of me from behind! God help them! 😉

Be sure to visit and support your local businesses!  BUY IDAHO!

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We need to give each other the space to grow, to be ourselves, to exercise our diversity. We need to give each other space so that we may both give and receive such beautiful things as ideas, openness, dignity, joy, healing, and inclusion.

~Max de Pree

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Goody Goody Gumdrops!

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Well I didn’t exactly have any gum drops while visiting the tantalizingly, sweet candy/ice cream shop called GOODY’S Soda Fountain and Candy Store located at 1502 N. 13th Street in the north end of Boise, but I did get my sweet tooth fix that day.

It is with great, child-like pleasure when I say that GOODY’S was one of the first places that my family and I visited when we first arrived in town and I’d like to thank The Fink family for introducing us to it. I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be somewhat of a regular there.

It was a beautiful, sunny day in Boise and as we strolled along the streets popping in and out of several charming and unique shops in the north end, we passed Goody’s. I could hear faint moans of joy coming from my entourage.

Everyone suddenly stopped in their tracks and we unanimously decided it was time for something sweet. 

What better way to begin my new adventure in a new town, than with a good old-fashioned ice cream cone with the people who I love!

First off, let me express just how lovely this little charmer of a sweets shop is.

It is located in the historic HYDE PARK neighborhood (which is super awesome!). The shop is housed in a little bungalow that was erected in 1910, which is right up my alley. I grew up in Connecticut (as I mentioned in my first post) and some of the houses there date back to the early 1600’s!!! Needless to say, I have always had a deep appreciation for antiquities; and have always loved being surrounded by that kind of history and this little darling of a shop is no exception.

Oh!…………..THE AROMA……….wafting from the ever swinging front door and into the hearts of all chocolate lovers alike.

It was like walking past a Parisian Chocolatier along the Champs Elysees (not exactly, but you get what I mean)— It beckons you….it calls out to you……Hello………………Hello…………….Bonjour………..Bonjour ………..
You know you want some chocolate……….you know you do!!  Come to me…………..

So we did.

We went in for the kill.  We lined up with all of the other adoring fans and got our fair share of the goods.

The ice cream was creamy, silky, full of delectable flavor and the perfect size; just enough to satisfy your sweet craving and walk away without feeling like someone would have to roll you out to your car.

I got the regular cone with a generous, round, delectable scoop of Rocky Road and It was simply divine!

The chocolates looked amazing too, but I could only manage the ice cream this time around, so I guess I am just going to have to go back again. Darn! Twist my arm.

Hey, if I can’t have Laduree’s chocolates from Paris then this is where you will surely find me if I need my chocolate fix.

This place is a keeper. Hope they will be there for 100 years!!!

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.”
Linda Grayson

Boise “BITES” the good one!

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Hi there!

Welcome to Boise!!!!  (Insert Smile Here)!

(Quick interuption)–

It was brought to my attention by my dear friend that this post is too long and I said: “NO it’s not!!!!” —but in the spirit of BLOGGINESS…… I would like to inform anyone who has A.D.D. or the attention span of a knat, to look away, quick, before you get too involved. Just kidding!!!! This is the first post and IT IS longer than I intend my future posts to be simply because I am introducing myself and my blog for the first time. I hope you will engage and read on……..

Ok….so where were we??

AH! YES!

Hi there!

Welcome to Boise!!!!  (Insert Smile Here)!

I have heard this expression so many lovely times since I moved here just a month ago, and it puts a smile on my face each and every time!!

After living in a city as large as Los Angeles for nearly a decade, my experience at times was not always void of some unpleasant circumstances or encounters. For example: I would be lucky and blessed to the gills if a person sharing a short elevator ride with me would dare to make eye contact or for that matter look up from their cell phone for a small second to acknowledge someone else was actually standing next to them and simply say hello. “Do I have 3 heads or something?” …. (I would ask myself)…..”I’m a friendly gal and approachable–for sure!”…. (I would confirm to myself)……..”Do I smell or something??”, (hee hee)…….(wondering to myself).
I finally came to the conclusion that in a city this big, and with so much to do and so much information coming at everyone, from every direction, all the time………well.…….sometimes  a simple hello was not on the top of the priority list for some.  It’s sad, but true. You are but a needle in haystack when living “The Big City Life.”
Sometimes, if I got the feeling to strike up a conversation or just simply say hello to a stranger, I was often met with a surprised look as if I was asking for their first born child! In my attempt to be social and engaging, I might get a mumble or grumble if I was lucky and then said person would speedily depart from the scene being strategic not to commit or start a dialogue. I guess it is somewhat of an epidemic these days since we all have infinite access to so much fangled technology and communications; so having said that, this behavior is not indigenous to Los Angeles; but there is a strong concentration of it there.
Don’t get me wrong, Los Angeles, is one hell of a city, full of incredible places to dine, drink, dance, and explore. Despite it’s somewhat abundant superficiality; there is also a very connected, spiritual, talented, savvy, fun-loving, open and intelligent group of the population that I truly love and appreciate. I made some of the best friends I will ever have in my life there and I am grateful for the opportunity to have lived in such a dynamic and beautiful city, but it was time to leave.
When I first got to Los Angeles I had made the decision to work for a medium sized real estate company in the illustrious City of Beverly Hills for a cool decade and although grateful for the knowledge that I gained, the experience that will always benefit me and the beautiful apartment that came with the job (that was ridiculously overpriced by the way), I have made a solid promise to myself to never EVER sacrifice my inner peace by working in that type of high stress environment for people who didn’t appreciate my dedication and worth.  I also promised myself that I would do work that contributed to society in a positive way (even if it was just to make someone smile and feel good)- VOID of greed driven bosses and the thanklessness that came with very, long hours of constant work that never seemed to end and to top it off; was no fun at all (all of my own doing–I KNOW, but thankfully we are all given more than one chance to get it right!) I promised myself that I would be sure to LOVE what I do from now on, even if it pays less.
This blog is a part of that deal I made with myself. I love to write and I am very excited to share my experiences while I explore this fresh, youthful city full of life!

Let me properly introduce myself. My name is Nikki. I’m an Italian-French-Canadian American transplant now living in Boise Idaho, and born and raised in a loud, fun, vivacious, kooky, household full of love and energy in the beautiful, coastal city of New Haven Connecticut.

I am a FOODIE, HOME CHEF, WINE LOVER/EDUCATOR, MUSICIAN, PHOTOGRAPHER, ARTIST & WRITER with A CURIOUS NATURE, A FEROCIOUS APPETITE FOR ANYTHING YUMMY and an ADVENTUROUS SOUL who appreciates all things CREATIVE.  

I will share with you my BOISE Food and Wine adventures here in this blog and I might even sneak in some bits about art, music or travel too,  so hold on to your horses! It’s going to be a fun ride!

I am excited about calling Boise (or Boy-See as the natives pronounce it) my new home. I have lived in many places throughout the nation and in many parts of Europe when I served in the U.S. Air Force. It’s funny, but for my first military base assignment, they gave me………….YOU GUESSED IT:  MOUNTAIN HOME IDAHO. I cried. I cried like a baby when I read that order. I didn’t even know where Mountain Home was to be honest!!! I desperately searched for a way out of my first base assignment!! I did find someone who was willing to do just that, so we switched and the rest is history. He went to Mountain Home instead (since it was closer to his family who lived in Washington State) and I marched my silly ass to Washington D.C.

I was happy.

I could take the train to visit my friends and family in Connecticut, so it was a good choice, and my life might have been REALLY different had I not switched assignments that day. As they say, everything happens as it “should” and I don’t regret one decision. Having said that, I NEVER thought that Idaho would be on the list of places I would ultimately land.  I never thought it would come up on my radar again…… but here I am; surrounded by the beauty of the high desert, with mountains all around me, the smell of fresh air, gorgeous rivers and lakes,  the feeling of community that was often times lacking in Los Angeles, and a sense of prosperity, growth and possibility.

Once I wrote (whilst scribbling in my personal journal) how I questioned whether there was “Room for Me” in Los Angeles. I questioned whether everything was “done” or “taken” in what I believed to be a very over-saturated market and wondered if there would ever be any way I would be able to make an impact or be heard or seen at all. I had some notoriety at times and I definitely made my mark in the social media arena with my photography efforts and my inspired scribblings, but I always felt so overwhelmed and ungrounded living there and that made it difficult for me to focus. I believe that Boise is a place where it will be possible for me and anyone else who is willing to give this sparkling city a second glance, a chance to prosper. People are nice here–REALLY NICE (which really helps and keeps the intimidation factor at bay!!) and maybe it’s because they are not scuttling for the last parking space at the grocery store, standing in line for a half hour to pay for a gallon of milk (which probably cost them $6.00), spending their last dollar on gasoline in hopes they have enough left over to buy dog food, or driving 4.1 miles only to discover it took them one hour to arrive at their destination. Needless to say, I am blessed that I do not to have those scenarios as part of my daily existence anymore, and I am really excited about being in a place where I can find my center again. I am eager to explore this awesome city……………….SO LET’S GET ON WITH IT!

Puissiez-vous avoir beaucoup de repas heureux ( et je ne parle pas de McDonald’s) – pleins de famille, les amis , le vin délicieux , la nourriture et bien sûr ; AMOUR !
May you have many happy meals (and I don’t mean from McDonald’s)- full of family, friends, delicious wine, food and of course; LOVE!
Bon Appetite and Salute to you!

 

Couldn’t Shout LAWDA for this Chowda! (in my best Boston accent of course!)

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Well it just so happens that I have one more thing to add today before the clock strikes 12:00 here in Boise Idaho and that is  of an experience I had just 3 days ago in the Basque area of Boise.

As most people who call Boise home, the Basque area of BODO (which is how they {WE} abbreviate Downtown Boise) has a very strong tie to the BASQUE region that encompasses a portion of the border of France and Spain in mainland Europe.  Idaho is home to one of the largest populations of Basques outside of Spain. Read up for yourself! It’s surprising yet, AMAZING AND COOL INDEED!

I read up about this fact before I moved here and I was really excited to explore this section of town. Us Italian Americans really have a hunkering for preserving and celebrating our heritage and cultural traditions (especially when it involves food and wine!!), and that carries over for me in that I am always interested in learning about the traditions and backgrounds of other ethnic groups, so naturally I was inclined to do my research and make it a priority to visit the area once I got settled in and started to explore the city. This past weekend was the moment that I got to experience it first hand and it was a pleasure.
I decided to visit the most centrally located area of the Basque Block in the north end and of course it wasn’t hard to spot. It’s a fairly small city so finding it was not a difficult task and when I did;  I noticed just how small the “region” was, yet significant in it’s own right not to mention super charming. Of course, there will always be one flagship restaurant that will hang their flag proudly and draw you in so that you may experience the epitome of what their tradition is all about.  I wasn’t disappointed when I found a cute little cozy spot on the corner of the street where I am sure sat many, many people in search of the Boise/Idahodian/Basque experience. It reminded me of Europe (A little bit). I was transported to the streets of a small European town where residents linger in cafes during the weekdays sipping aperitifs or coffee and drawing out long conversations in an effort to relax (or take a break from the mundane workday which I highly support!). There I sat at a beautiful little authentic Basque restaurant named; LEKU ONA  Of course, they are well known and have been there for years, but I didn’t know that, so I went inside because I wanted to experience the best of the Basque cuisine. Of course I asked for the most authentic of menu items so that I may eat the most authentic BASQUE food possible, but unfortunately I had to decline the beef tongue in favor of something a bit more unadventurous (shame on me!) so I ordered a sandwich comprised of some bread (obviously)–and it had some Swiss cheese and lamb which was fantastic . They have a modest menu for the lunch crowd, and happy hour options that looked tasty. They also had some very authentic and homegrown Basque feast options for their evening dinner gatherings. There was a big bar (which is always a big bonus)–and some people sitting at it, (even during the slower part of the afternoon (which is a good sign) and they seemed to be regulars too, (which is very good sign)– and then a friendly young gentleman (and who would soon be my waitress) finally approached me with a healthy hello and a smile. Everyone was sweet and friendly.  The food was fresh and to get to the point of my blog title {Finally}……..
I COULD NOT SCREAM LOWWWWWWWDA, for that CHOWDA!
Omg.
The young man who was assisting my waitress wasn’t kidding when he brought me my water and said that it was the best he had ever had. I have heard that saying a thousand times about many items on a menu, but it is rare that the comment meets up with the expectations that I have about the actual food. Being a native New Englander, it is sometimes tough for me to discover anything that even matches the caliber of the clam chowder they serve as a daily soup in the better parts of Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts. NO WAY JOSE’!!!!  No one can make this better than “US”. BUT alas,  I am mistaken. This clam chowder is seriously something to write home about but I am not going to give you any more details about it since I don’t want to spoil the fun or to hinder the dance that your taste buds will ultimately do once you try it for yourself, so please, go discover this yummy bowl of seafood bliss and tell em’ Nikki sent ya…..the chic from New England with the Pig Tails. 😉  ENJOY!
I shall end with this quote by Louis P. De Gouy,

“Clam chowder is one of those subjects, like politics or religion, that can never be discussed lightly.  Bring it up even incidentally, and all the innumerable factions of the clam bake regions raise their heads and begin to yammer.”

 The Soup Book (1949)

Bravo for them having the best location in the Basque neighborhood and an outside seating section to rave about. It’s a nice, peaceful, comfortable