Scrapbook from the Venice Film Festival (Contagion Premiere)

    Hello lovely readers! I’m just back from a delightfully laborious Labor Day weekend in Venice, Italy, where I was in attendance for the premiere of the excellent film, Contagion. It was just over 48 hours of jam-packed happenings and the food was sublime. Below is my little scrapbook.

    Happy back to school. Not.


    7:00 pm

    Another airport lounge ... on my way to Venice.

    11:38 pm

    I arrive starving and order a perfect Spaghetti Pomodoro at the Hotel Cipriani. (See bottom of the newsletter for the recipe.)

    Hotel Cipriani
    Hotel Cipriani & Palazzo Vendramin,
    Giudecca 10,
    30133 Venice
    +39 (041) 520 7744

    10:30 am

    Hair and makeup with Renato Campora and Emma Lovell.

    11:20 am

    I don’t feel ready.

    12:14 pm

    Holy boatload of paparazzi!

    A boat chase follows. Definitely a first.

    Laurence Fishburne steps in to block them.

    12:35 pm

    We head to the Casino on the Lido for a Press Conference on the movie. Our crazily talented director, Steven Soderbergh, arrives.

    12:40 pm

    Good morning to you, too ...

    1:00 - 2:00 pm

    Press conference and photo call: "Yes, this movie made us wash our hands more often."

    1:32 pm

    At the end there’s a stampede for photos and autographs that nearly knocks the table over. Calmare ragazzi!

    1:46 pm

    The jetlag is kicking in ... more makeup and then the photo call.

    1:50 pm

    My view, more or less.

    The top of our boat.

    2:00 pm

    Matt and I head to our next stop.

    Weirdly enough we end up on the same pier as the one at the end of The Talented Mr. Ripley.

    3:00 - 4:30 pm

    Matt and I chatting on our TV interviews that were held in Ca’Giustinian, a 15th century gothic Palazzo. I’m trying to keep a straight face but he keeps making me laugh. We have 12 six minute interviews back to back with a 1 minute break between each.

    4:36 pm

    That’s that … off to get ready for the premiere.

    7:00 pm

    The premiere is held at the Sala Grande.

    7:13 pm

    Fresh off the boat.


    These tough guys won’t let me greet the fans!

    9:45 pm

    The cast stands at the end of the movie. It’s my first time seeing it too.

    10:00 pm

    The candlelit dinner after the screening takes place at the Palazzo Pisani Moretta, which is beautifully decorated especially for the party.

    Hey guys, where is everybody?

    Me and one of the film’s producers, my old friend Ricky Strauss.

    10:30 am - 2:30 pm

    Press day #2 begins with 25 six minute TV interviews with Matt.

    2:30 pm - 3:45 pm

    In the afternoon it’s 5 roundtable interviews (15 minutes each) with the international press.

    12:30 pm

    Lunch break! I have amazing Fritto Misto followed by whole wheat spaghetti with Anchovy Sauce at the Grand Canal Restaurant at the Hotel Monaco (I asked for the recipe which is at the end of the newsletter). This is a really special place to eat.

    Grand Canal Restaurant
    Hotel Monaco
    San Marco, 1332
    30124 Venice, Italy
    +39 (041) 520 0211

    4:00 pm

    I have some free time at the end of the day to go exploring. We sneak out of the back of the hotel and ride down the canals to buy a friend a birthday gift.

    Bummed out gondolier.

    I stop by this amazing antiquarian jewelry shop, Bastianello Arte, which has some pretty spectacular pieces. Venice has been a center of jewelry making and trading for centuries and it’s a great place for a really special find.

    Bastianello Arte
    San Marco, 5041
    30124 Venice
    +39 (041) 5226751

    Just a few of the gorgeous jewels I saw. I need a sugardaddy ...

    8:30 pm

    I have a special dinner with a few close friends at the Terrazza Danieli on the top floor of the Hotel Danieli. It has a spectacular view of Venice.

    This is an incredible lobster salad with artichokes and purple potato puree we had, that was followed by a perfect pesto pasta with candied tomatoes and soft mozzarella—red, white and green to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Italian unification. (See below for recipes.)

    Terrazza Danieli
    Castello 4196
    Venice 30122
    +39 (041) 522 6480

    10:30 pm

    The weekend is over and I head back home on a boat to the airport.

    12:30 am

    My flight is delayed.

    3:30 am


    8:00 am

    School run. Ouch.

    From the Hotel Cipriani - Pasta al Pomodoro

    • 2 lbs mix of regular and cherry tomatoes peeled and roughly chopped. Make sure the tomatoes are as ripe as possible.
    • 2 white onions finely chopped
    • 1 peeled garlic clove
    • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 tbsp fresh unsalted butter
    • De Cecco Spaghetti
    • Parmigiano Reggiano
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • Basil

    1.Heat the oil in a casserole dish, add the garlic and brown slightly. When the garlic is golden remove it from the oil. Add the chopped onion and fresh butter and stir thoroughly. Cook until the onion is no longer shiny, then add the peeled tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook over mild heat for about thirty minutes.

    2.When the tomatoes are cooked, beat with a whisk in order to refine the tomato sauce, adjust the taste and keep warm.

    3.Cook the pasta “al dente” in a large pot of salted water, then drain it and add it to the tomato sauce. Add basil leaves torn by hand, a knob of fresh butter, and a generous sprinkling of grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Stir thoroughly and serve immediately, steaming hot.

    From the Grand Canal Restaurant at the Hotel Monaco - Bigoli in Salsa (Whole-wheat Spaghetti in a light Anchovy sauce)

    Serves 4

    • 300 gr. "bigoli" Whole-wheat Spaghetti
    • 500 gr. white onions
    • 350 gr. salted anchovies cleaned
    • 200 gr. extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 bay leaves (simmered)
    • black pepper to taste
    • 5/6 gr. wild fennel
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 40 gr. Parmesan cheese (optional)
    • 50 gr. butter

    1.To make the sauce, slowly braise the peeled and finely chopped onions in the oil together with the bay leaves and the black pepper for about 10 minutes. Add the cleaned and de-salted anchovies. Cook gently for another 15/20 minutes, or until the anchovies and onions have melted together into a creamy sauce.

    2.Cook the Bigoli in unsalted water until “al dente”. Season the bigoli with the sauce, butter, parmesan and wild fennel.

    From the Terrazza Danieli - Lobster salad with purple potato foam and Italian caviar (optional)

    I loved my meal at the Terrazza Danieli so much that I asked for the recipes. They’re a bit complicated (N2O anyone?) but they’re easy to adjust. I love knowing how they make spaghettini from scratch but you can always buy fresh pasta from your local shop, or use dry pasta from the grocery store.

    Serves 4

    • 1 L water
    • 2 stems of celery
    • 1 carrot
    • 1 onion
    • 250 ml white wine
    • salt, pepper
    • 1 lobster

    Place all ingredients except the lobster in a large saucepan. Bring to boil. Drop in the lobster and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove the lobster from the broth, remove its shell, and cut the tail in half, then in 2 cm medallions. Set aside.


    • Mixed loose leaf salad
    • Fresh mixed sprouts
    • Edible flowers

    Place all salad ingredients in a bowl and dress with vinaigrette made of 1 part lemon to 2 parts extra virgin olive oil. Set aside.

    Purple Potato Foam

    • 2 medium purple potatoes
    • Olive oil
    • Salt
    • Pepper

    Peel the potatoes and cut in half. Place in a saucepan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until cooked. Drain. Mash the potatoes together with a little olive oil and salt, pepper to taste. Place the mashed potatoes in a canister, close the canister and charge it with a N2O catridge. Set aside.


    • Salt
    • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
    • Fresh thyme
    • Fresh majoram

    Whisk all ingredients together to make a sauce.

    Pickled Artichokes

    • 500 ml water
    • 500 ml white wine vinegar
    • 2 artichokes from Sant’Erasmus

    Clean and trim artichokes removing tough outer leaves and its heart. Combine water and white wine vinegar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the artichokes and boil for 20 minutes or until just tender. Drain and cut into quarters.

    To decorate:

    • Black caviar (optional)
    • Maldon salt

    To assemble the salad, place the lobster pieces under a salamander or warming grill for 2 minutes. Arrange lobster pieces in the middle of the serving plates and dress with the sauce. Decorate each plate on one side with a shot of purple potato foam and garnish the foam with a teaspoon of black caviar. Place a handful of dressed salad on the other side of each plate and arrange the artichoke quarters over the salad. Complete the plates with a light sprinkling of Maldon salt.

    Red, White, and Green Spaghettini – 150th anniversary of Italy

    Serves 5


    • 280 gr. plain flour (00)
    • 80 gr. bran
    • 270 gr. egg yolk
    • 100 gr. water
    • 10 gr. extra virgin olive oil
    • 8 gr. salt

    Form a mound with the flour on your workbench, make a well in the middle and add the egg yolks (previously beaten together), water, extra virgin olive oil and salt, slowly incorporating all ingredients together with your fingers in circular movements.

    Once combined, knead the dough until is a smooth mass and then set aside for 30 minutes at room temperature.

    Roll out the pasta with a rolling pin (or use a pasta machine) until it is approximately a 3 mm thin sheet. Roll up the sheet of pasta on itself to form a cylindrical shape and cut into thin strips approximately 3 mm wide.


    • 500 gr. fresh basil leaves
    • 30 gr. fresh parsley
    • 150 gr. extra virgin olive oil
    • 20 gr. grated parmesan cheese
    • 5 gr. salt
    • 10 gr. pine nuts

    Quickly blanch the fresh basil leaves in hot water for 1 second and immediately cool them in a bowl full of water and ice cubes.

    Dry the leaves using a clean dish towel. Using a pestle and mortar, pound the dried leaves with all the other ingredients. Adjust salt to taste.

    Allow the pesto to rest overnight.


    • 500 gr. fresh basil leaves
    • 30 gr. fresh parsley
    • 150 gr. extra virgin olive oil
    • 20 gr. grated parmesan cheese
    • 5 gr. salt
    • 10 gr. pine nuts

    Halve the tomatoes and place them in a warmed pan with olive oil and a clove of garlic, then add some fresh basil leaves.

    Warm the pesto in a large separate pan.

    In the meantime, cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes or until the spaghettini are "al dente."

    Drain the spaghettini and place them in the pan with pesto until they’re completely covered with the sauce, being careful not to overheat.

    Turn off the heat and add a couple of spoons of sauce and garnish with fresh buffalo mozzarella.

    Goodbye Venice!

    The goop collection