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I Fratellini Firenze

Dear Diva Readers,

You know I love fine wines and fine dining… but sometimes a “hole in the wall” can offer finer times than the grandest of restaurants.  My Antiques Diva Tour Guide in Italy, Susan P, introduced me to one of her favorite spaces & places in Florence – i Fratellini  on the Via dei Cimartori – this little spot is what the Italians call a true fiaschetteria a word derived from fiasco  which is Italian for a flask of wine.  And wine is what you’ll get when you dine – or shall I say drink – here, over 27 varieties make this the perfect stop for your inner diva (or divo)!

This little “restaurant” has a roll-down awning that makes the “restaurant” virtually disappears into a “hole in the wall” when closed, but when the awning is up and the boys are behind the counter this place is ready to rumble! Locals line up for lunch and gather in the street in in front of the shop, an impromptu party filled with laughter and miles of smiles and not to mention a darn good sandwich.

Combine a surprisingly good selection of wine available by the glass for pocket change with a gorgeous array of Italian Panini’s and you’ve got the recipe for success.  My favorite sandwich is the cinghiale piccante con caprino (spicy wild boar salami spread with creamy goat cheese), but here, regardless of the sandwich, you can’t go wrong!

As I lift my glass to yours to say good-bye, I’m reminded of a funny story. In Italian for an informal “cheers” you might raise your glass and say “Chin Chin”.  While the origins of this expression hark back to a time when peasants drank their wine out of wooden cups and would say “Chin Chin” to mimic the sound of glass wine glasses clinking, I was advised recently to use the more formal “Alla Salute” (or merely “Salute” as is more commonly used) when with my international friends.  Apparently “Chin Chin” is slang in Japanese for genitalia and so is prone to cause fits of laughter when in mixed circles!!! 

That said, rather than signing off “Chin, Chin” as I was planning, I think I’ll use a more formal farewell “Cent’anni”!  Here’s to us living to the ripe old of age of 100!

The Antiques Diva®
(with a little help from her Italian Diva colleague, Susan P)

La Rentree Giveaway with Paris Apartment iPhone Application

Dear Diva Readers,

All across Paris, store windows and restaurants are celebrating. “C’est La Rentree!” announces “It’s the Return” from vacation!

In Paris the entire city goes away for their summer “holiday” in August. As my husband works for a French company, we too take August for a month away. This year my darling niece visited us for her Grand Tour and August was awhirl with travel – trips to Paris, Prague and London book-ended nearly a month away in Italy visiting Tuscany, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice and Rome. You’ll be reading about our summer holidays over the next month as I catch up on my blogging, but today the French sentiment of “La Rentree” is my word-du-jour as I return to life post-vacation!

As I am always a fan of combining work with pleasure, I wanted to start this Fall Antiques Diva Season off with a special giveaway in conjunction with the fabulous Claudia Strasser, author of the beautiful Paris Apartment blog.

Claudia is a professional shopper, French flea market guide and author of The Paris Apartment: Romantic Decor on a Flea Market Budget. And she’s created something Diva Readers need to know about – an iPhone application called “Keys to the Fleas” the first in a series of mobile application guides for navigating the flea markets of the world.

This application for iPhones is an insider’s guide, written as a trade resource for flea market lovers. For those in the know, Paris is full of treasures. The key to finding them is knowing where and when to look, and with this iPhone application the information is just a click away. The app is a wealth of information for buyers, decorators, Francophiles and is the perfect companion for all travelers, from the armchair to those planning serious buying trips. It has everything you’ll need to shop like a pro and includes maps, shippers, Métro stops, bus routes, hours, and of course, local haunts where you can kick back and admire your treasures over a café au lait!

While you can order your “Keys to the Fleas” for only $1.99, this week we’re offering a special Antiques Diva – Paris Apartment Giveaway so that one of my fabulous readers can win their very own “Key’s To the Fleas”.
To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment telling why you love Paris. Next week on Wednesday 29 September I’ll put all the names in a hat and draw one winner!!!
Bonne Shopping,

The Antiques Diva™
(seen right with Claudia Strasser of Paris Apartment)

Guest Blog: Roving Reporter La Reine Explores the Hudson Valley


Another Exciting Guest Blog From La Reine!

Since there was not a Notre Dame home game this weekend, my husband The Big Guy (TBG) and I found ourselves at home in New York City instead of jetting off to our alma mater to fill our season ticket holder seats! This meant we had a whole free Sunday to occupy. My husband decided it was a good time to see and photograph the Northeast’s colorful Fall foliage. To see the best foliage in our tri-state area, The Weather Channel was recommending a trip to the Hudson Valley.

TBG asked me to arrange a scenic car trip for Sunday up the Hudson Valley…not more than 2 hours driving time from NYC. SCORE! The NY Times had recently run an article on spending an antiques weekend in the Hudson Valley. Naturally, as every good “antiquing diva” does, I had saved this article which meant we had a great scenic route to follow north. And then we had a different scenic route to follow back to NYC. And even better, I was loaded with shopping recommendations along the way.

We left NYC early after a Starbucks stop, and crossed the Hudson on the George Washington Bridge and went north along the gorgeous Palisades Parkway until we reached route 9W North. From there we took this local road, filled with scenery, restaurants and shops, and shockingly little traffic. After several impromptu pullovers for perfect scenic photo ops, we drove slowly through West Point, the US Military School, to enjoy the beautiful campus. Then we continued north through Hyde Park, home of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), and passed many antique stores and markets (not a very pretty town). Here we also drove past the FDR Home and Library, and the Vanderbilt home… we decided next time we’d spend more time in Hyde Park and enjoy both the antiquing and the cultural stops, but since we had another 60 miles to cover, we kept going.

We continued slowly up 9W until we came to Rhinebeck and Asher House Antiques. My heart started beating faster: this is my kind of store – loaded with French and English antiques, big and small, expensive and very affordable! As I always do, I started picking out things I already own, to get a sense of pricing for what I purchased while living in Europe, and what I’d have to pay to buy them in the US… thankfully I made good purchases while living in Europe! In the end we only purchased a few small items, an aged French terra cotta flower pot being my favorite. But, after we paid and were heading out, the owner said: “It’s almost 11:00, the antiques fair is opening”.

“Antiques Fair? What Antiques Fair?” I asked!

The Rhinebeck Antiques Fair was held October 11th and 12th 2008 at the Duchess County Fairgrounds in Rhinebeck…less than a mile up the road! Several other shoppers at Asher were on their way… they were just waiting until 11am for the Fair to open.

TBG and I were famished. Deciding to bypass the food court at the Fair, we opted instead to brunch at Calico, a cute little restaurant and patisserie located next door to Asher House. Since we were in CIA territory, we were anticipating many of the local restaurants would have CIA graduate chefs, and we were very pleased with Calico. I had smoked salmon and toast points with crème fraiche, onion and capers, TBG enjoyed a steak panini. Prior to being served we were treated with hot homemade yeast rolls. Throughout our meal we watched the locals practically buying out the pastry counter: we were too late to score the very popular chocolate chunk cookies, but we did buy a few oatmeal-with-raisin cookies for the car. The other pastries were tempting…but looked too sticky for a car ride.

Before we made it back to the car, we took a little walk around Rhinebeck: it’s a charming downtown filled with antiques shops, restaurants and boutiques. I stopped in Cesare + Lili, a women’s boutique, and now own a beautiful new cream sweater cape…I was chilled since it was much colder up north than in NYC! TBG found a pair of khakis on sale… a very pretty, walkable little downtown, we’ll be back!

With the back of our SUV rapidly filling up with bags, and not even being halfway along our route, we headed to the Rhinebeck Antiques Fair. Held entirely indoors, the Fair has a good mix of antiques and vintage, everything from furniture to Christmas ornaments to books to jewelry to dishware, leaning towards a country motif, but with plenty of goodies that even the most urban shopper would enjoy…in short, an antiquer’s heaven. And there were plenty of “mantiques” to distract TBG: he found a booth specializing in antique sports equipment, so found a sympathetic ear to discuss the tragic ND v UNC game the day before. We’re on the mailing list for this fair: the next date is sometime in the Spring, probably May. Check the website. That will be the perfect excuse to return to beautiful downtown Rhinebeck! One last stop: the food court. We had 2 very good, but expensive, cappuccinos to go!

Back in the car, continuing up 9W towards Hudson, another 60 miles north. Along the way, a few more Kodak moments and stops at a few garden centers to buy our fall gourds, pumpkins and mums. Finally, we reached Hudson. This main street is filled with antique and vintage stores and restaurants, but this is not a pretty town. It looks like it was a pretty town, and it could again be a pretty town, but the local Chamber of Commerce needs to put some thought and money into making Hudson a destination spot. We ended up buying only a book (Pierre Deux’s French Country: A Style and Source Book, 1984) at Hudson City Books on Warren, the main thoroughfare. We were both disappointed…I doubt we would make Hudson our destination in the future, although if we were in the neighborhood, we’d happily spend some time visiting the shops again.

Back in the car to NYC, this time taking the Taconic Parkway, again very scenic and shockingly car-free. In all, this perfect day of beautiful scenery, leisurely antique browsing, good food, and fabulous company took 11 hours, covering 230 miles. What a pleasant way to spend a gorgeous Sunday!

Ciao!
La Reine

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