Summer, Travel, Workshops

#GRADARAWORKSHOP MEMORIES

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[ Read Betty’s post here! Valentina’s post coming soon! ]

When the icy frost whitened the garden more than six months ago, it was hard for me to imagine that summer would be coming again… together with those days at the end of July which seemed far, far away. Let’s hold a workshop together – someone had said – and that sentence was enough to spur an endless row of ideas, e-mails, shared folders and dreams arising from the desire to create a chance to share, more than anything else.
With Valentina and Betty at my sides I could undertake something that was a new adventure for me and take the first step towards the very first workshop of my life. Continue Reading

Summer

1 YEAR OF THE FREAKY TABLE | GLUTEN-FREE COCONUT LAVENDER DARK CHOCOLATE MINI CAKE

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In this season of the year, even though I wake up early, the sun is already high up in the sky and a warm breeze moves my linen curtains bringing an intense scent from the blossomed lavender bushes in the garden.
I still remember when they were planted, when my Mom – wearing one of her long Bordeaux dresses – extracted from some earthen pots the little lavender plants which became big bushes within a few years, purple in the month of July. She had just come back from one of the best journeys of her life: a long exploration of Provence, through the little villages of Southern France and immense flowered landscapes. Continue Reading

Summer

Creamy yogurt and cherry syrup popsicles with dark chocolate and salted roasted almonds

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Guys, brief note before the post: the nominations of the Saveur Blog Awards 2016 are open! So, please if you like The Freaky Table, don’t forget to give it a vote!
Please nominate my blog in the “Best Photography” category or if you prefer in “Best New Voice” category. Every single person will support my blog, can make the difference… and something nice could happen! Vote here: http://www.saveur.com/blog-awards-2016-nominate by entering my url: www.zairazarotti.com

Even though the cherry tree was planted in my garden, it does not belong to me.
It belongs to earth, the earth we till asking the sun to be warm enough and the rain to be gentle enough to grow new fruit and vegetables each year.
The rain has fallen mercilessly turning the garden into a miniature lagoon. The grass has turned yellow and a few small canals have merged into a big one at the center of this imaginary Venice. Continue Reading

Summer

Passatelli, a recipe from the heart of Romagna + A two day workshop with Valentina announcement!

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The blank paper sheet I have before me is flashing in all its annoying brightness.
It had been waiting me for days… weeks, I should say. Sometimes I feel like I can’t restrain the words on this page because all I want say seems too much. Or too big for words? I don’t know.
Just when I think I’ve put a thought into focus, another one gets in between, wiping out the previous, dragging me into a messy whirlwind of loose ideas. So, I put this task off for another time, and replace my white sheet with the deep black of the backdrop I usually use for my shoots, waiting for my thoughts become evanescent, less sharp and perfect.
I delude myself into thinking that it might be easier, but it isn’t – especially when these thoughts are stuck in my mind, crisp as the marks of my footsteps in the dew-covered grass. Continue Reading

Summer

A history of Roots | Strawberry oatmeal vegan cookies

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“All of life is a coming home. Salesmen, secretaries, coal miners, beekeepers, sword swallowers, all of us.
All the restless hearts of the world, all trying to find a way home.
[Patch Adams – 1998 movie]

The scent of hot coffee when it comes out of the moka and the scent of home-made cookies when they come out of the oven are part of my idea of “home”.
Nevertheless, “home” is not only the place where I happen to live or the place where I feel I belong. It is a mixture of many more things and places.
I think of Venice as the city where I was born and where my family is deeply rooted.

Continue Reading

Travel

A DREAM JOURNEY INTO THE NETHERLANDS

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Coming back home after a travel is something like a little trauma for me.
Inevitably, I feel myself changed; the discoveries, the new places and people I’ve crossed on my path made me a new person. I go back retracing my steps, one after the other, trying to keep vivid all the details I have stolen with my eyes.
Back home I find everything exactly as I left it, except for the garden that now seems lusher. Everything has remained still since the moment I closed the door behind me to go and explore The Netherlands for the first time! Continue Reading

Spring

Something Green | Panna Cotta alle ortiche from my imaginary kitchen

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Just like any other story, this one also arises from sudden inspiration. A fleeting flash of light happening by chance and unexpectedly, like a storm catching you by surprise.
I’ve been more in Tuscany than in Venice lately, continuously moving up and down from lagoon mist to green Maremma hills, as I have always done since I was born. What makes me trace over and over my Tuscan steps – the same steps I took along the Medieval alleys of a small village to reach the kindergarten when I was a child – is that I have discovered a comfortable and silent dimension which makes me more receptive and inclined to creative fits of all kinds.
I don’t do anything, ideas simply arrive by surprise or by chance.

Continue Reading

Workshops

Food Photography & Styling Workshop July 22-24 | Gradara, Italy

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2 whole days of intimate, hands on lessons and examining what exactly makes an intriguing, beautiful story.
{register} email bettysliu07 [ at] gmail.com or hortuscuisine [at] gmail.com to reserve your spot. Email now to ensure your spot!


I’m so excited to be joining the talented, wonderful storytellers Betty Liu of Le jus d’Orange and Valentina of Hortus Cuisine for an intimate photography and styling workshop in the romantic, medieval village of Gradara in central Italy, right by the Adriatic sea. We’ll call this medieval village home for a few nights, a perfect, charming place to nurture creativity and learn together. Betty and Valentina are the masters of compelling storytelling – join us for an immersion in the stunning Italian countryside, experiencing local produce and cookingand mastering the art of food photography. We’ll feel the beating sun on our backs as we traverse the market. We’ll gaze out at the Adriatic sea along the secret beaches Valentina had discovered. We’ll feast on all the local produce and seafood there is, and experience traditional, authentic central Italian cuisine. Continue Reading

Spring

A story about plants & co. | Green fettuccine with nettles, truffle butter, sage and lemon

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[The lovely cuttingboard you’ll see is from Twelvedots, a young Croatian label run by couple Jelena and Nikola. Dishes and bowls are TheFreakyRaku pieces available in our SHOP.]

I was born in Venice, the wonderful city which seems to float between the water and the sky. A real privilege, for sure, but water is dangerous when you’re a child, especially if it is surrounded by stones and steps. You need to go on a treasure hunt to discover grass, gardens, plants. “Venice is the oldest artificial city of the world” my art history teacher used to say, and I think he was right. I was lucky to be able to alternate this “artificiality” with plenty of nature in its purest state, which I found somewhere else. That is why I could recognize different colors and elements since I was a child. I was lucky also because my Grandparents grew in the countryside and effortlessly transmitted the knowledge of all kinds of wild herbs to my Mom. That is probably why I am quite good at that, too. Continue Reading

Spring

The path of blossomed almond trees | “Biancomangiare” an almond milk pudding

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I can recognize the stones and count the steps down the old alley. The warm air surrounds me, changing its smell according to the wind; it is sweetish today. The little flowers are ready. I have been going up and down from the village endless times, since I was wearing yellow boots and the smile of a three-year-old child. When I grew older I took shortcuts through small and secret passages, which were hardly visible among the fields of prickly pears; each season they would disappear and I had to find another way down. It became usual for me to think that I would follow a certain direction, no matter if I found bushes, intricate brambles, cypresses and hidden nets on the way. Continue Reading