Sunday, July 19, 2009


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

We just got back from a relaxing and delicious brunch at Tavern on France, 6740 France Ave. in Edina. 952-358-6100, This new place located directly across from Macy's at Southdale is the former Via Restaurant.

We happened to have dinner at the former "Via" one Sat. night late in March and you could count the full tables on one hand. It was a very sad sight to see. We learned during our dinner that it was going to be their last night open. so we spoke to the manager and started asking some questions. The story he told us, was that they just weren't able to make it as the upper end dining experience that they had hoped Via would be and that they were going to close for about 6 weeks and come back as something else.

And come back they did, true to his word they were open in about six weeks. Since I live in the neighborhood I watched as they built on a new patio and re-decorated. But most importantly they came out with a new menu that is really family friendly and more in line with what the area can support. Every time I drive by it on a beautiful day such as today the patio is full. And today was no exception.

After Mass, Bob and I wanted to go to brunch and he suggested that we see if Tavern on France was even open, and it was. Seats on the patio were available and since we are finally having a beautiful day we snapped a table up. The patio is lovely with a cooling water fall in the center, nice landscaping and beautiful flowers made for a nice setting. Our waitress came right out and explained the way brunch worked. $13.00 per person, and a full brunch are offered, beverages are extra and made to order omelets are ordered through the wait staff. A nice touch is carmel rolls baked in a small cast iron skillet brought to your table.

Now this brunch is not out-standing, but it was good. I really don't like buffets, and would rather choose from a menu, but they had a nice selection of scones, crossiants, eggs, sausage, bacon, cheesy hash browns, roast beef and a pancake bar. There also was a baked spaghetti dish and mashed potatoes and gravy and biscuts with gravy, which were all a bit to heavy for me at 10:00 a.m. The omelet that we ordered was wonderful, with mushrooms, asparagus, ham and cheddar cheese, we had decided to split it and in the future, I would order my own and for go some other things. There was some fruit on the buffet, but not much and after all it is summer and so many fruits are in season, that I would have liked to have seen more of that and maybe some granola and yogurt, but hey, it is a tavern.

All in all, I was very surprised at what a great experience it was. Next I want to try their "Happy Hour" which goes from 3-6:00 p.m and from 9:00pm to closing Mon-Fri. It may just become my new meeting place.

Anyway, it looks like the make-over paid off, now if they could just add a tree big enough to block out the big Macy's sign that you have to look at, it would be as perfect as you can get on France Ave.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Saturday, July 18, 2009



A couple of years ago my friend, Claudia, suggested that we join a CSA (community supported agriculture). She did all of the research on it and sent me information and after looking at several options and meeting the farmer we decided to go with Burning River Farm out of Frederic, Wi. 715-653-2245.

We are currently into our sixth delivery and I am always amazed at the wonderful vegetables we get each week in our share. Mike, delivers our crops to a home in Edina on Thurs. afternoons, which is just perfect for me, so that I have a nice variety of vegetables for the weekend. Since I share it with my friend, one of us goes and picks it up, brings it to my house and we divide the box up equally. I take a look at all of the pristine clean crops and decide what I am going to make with my share and what I need to pick up later at the store to round out our menus for the weekend.

The things I love about having a crop share are that I know I am helping a farmer, that I am eating locally and really well, and the different vegetables that I get every week, that I might not buy at the store, but that I have in my box and must use.

A couple of things that Mike has had in our share that I might not have purchased, but that have been really great are Kolh Rabi, which I served last week. I simply sliced this crunchy vegetable and dipped the end in some lime juice and then into chili powder, it was a nice, light and healthy tid-bit to add to an antipasti platter that I was making. Certainly not Italian, but was a nice addition to the meats and cheeses that I was serving.

The sweet onions, sugar snap peas, arugula that we have been getting in our portion are wonderful and tasty, the onions nice and clean, the peas super sweet and the arugula is nice and peppery and has been a great addition to salads. As I write this entry I have a dozen beets roasting in the oven, when peeled and cooled they will be sliced and used in a salad that I will make for dinner tonight. With the addition of freshly mixed lettuce, some goat cheese and toasted walnuts with a light vinaigrette, I will have the perfect summer salad.

If you do not belong to a CSA this year go to a Farmer's Market and speak to the local farmers about joining their group and start enjoying the bounty of summer produce that so many others are getting delivered weekly.

As soon as my beets are finished roasting, I am off to the Minneapolis Farmer's Market for some tomatoes for a Caprase salad I will make for dinner Sunday night. I will also be looking for some sweet, ripe peaches and big, juicy blueberries that I will make into a cobbler. I made one last week for a dinner party and it was gone in minutes. Served warm and with good vanilla ice-cream, we enjoyed the best summer dessert that anyone could ask for.

Buon appetito,

Carmela Tursi Hobbins

Monday, July 13, 2009


Greetings from Carmela's Cucina,

As you know I recently visited Savannah and while there, touring, eating in some great restaurants and even taking cooking classes, I met with the head of their Chamber of Commerce and we are working together to bring clients of Carmela's Cucina to this great southern city in the spring of 2010. Our trip will include a city tour, historic tours of some great southern homes, cooking classes and so much more. We are just beginning the planning, but I wanted to let each of you in on the good news. If you think that you might be interested in such a spring get-away, let me know and I will get you on our travel list. Just contact me at . This is going to be a great experience in one of our countries most wonderful cities. Watch this site for more information as I release it. Best news of all it is going to be a great way to get a jump on spring. Remember how cold and long last winter was? BRRRR!

Buon appetito.


Monday, July 6, 2009


Dear Friends,

As you may have noticed I took a break from blogging. But I am back at it again and anxious to resume our correspondence.

Since I wrote you last, we were on a fantastic trip to Hilton Island, South Carolina for a wedding and extended our trip a bit to include Savannah, Georgia.

My husband Bob, went to law school at NYU and his law school room-mate and his wife have been living in Savannah ever since. (I'm not going to tell you how long because you might be able to figure out exactly how old we all are!) Just let's say that it has been long enough to be very well connected to the South.

John and Barbie treated us royally in their beautiful, Isle of Hope home and I just can't wait to get back there again for another visit. Our stay included eating in some of Savannah's best restaurants a visit to Tybee Island and a cooking class with Chef Joe Randall, put together by Martha Nesbit a friend of John and Barbie's.

This where the story gets good. Martha writes recipes for Paula Deen. Lucky girl! I would love that gig. In Paula's newest cookbook Paula Dean and Friends Martha actually got two complete menus from my friend, Barbie, a great southern cook.

One night while we were having dinner in their home Barbie, made the best ever marinated tomatoes and we just fell in love with them. Well, over the weekend I just had to serve them to our guests at Little Flower Lodge and they loved them too. So I want to share the recipe with you. Now just let me warn you, these tomatoes got me lots of hugs and kisses, so you may get some of your own too.

And one more thing to make the tomatoes my own version, I gave them an Italian twist and changed up the ingredients a bit. No matter, use my recipe or go to Paula's cookbook and use Barbie's. Your family and friends are going to love you and you will be making these terrific tomatoes the rest of the summer.

Buon appetito,


Carmela's Marinated Tomatoes Italian Style

3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Place all of the above ingredients in a bowl and whisk together until well combined.

6-8 Roma tomatoes, washed, cored and cut into six wedges.

Place the tomatoes in a bowl and pour the marinade over the tomatoes. Toss gently to coat. Marinate for several hours or overnight. Bring to room-temperature before serving. Place tomatoes in a pretty glass bowl or pour over salad greens. Decorate with more fresh herbs.