Friday, March 21, 2014

Leisure (and yummy!) time

After recovering from jetlag and all the readjustments of daily living after my arrival in Tirana, as well as the resolutions of a few technical glitches and replacement of loads of batteries in my apartment after some months of idle use of its equipment, I really enjoyed leisure and relaxing time with some of my local friends this past weekend. 

Saturday lunch took place at an excellent restaurant renowned for the fresh fish it serves. The place can be reached after about 40 minutes drive from the capital. It’s located along the Adriatic seaside between the towns of Durres and Kavaja and I have been there a few times before.  Clams and a hot vegetable antipasto was followed by local handmade pasta (taccheri) “ai frutti di mare” (variety of small fish), while the main course was a huge ‘branzino’ baked with potatoes, cherry tomatoes and olives.   

It generously served all five of us, and, as usual in most restaurants in Albania, even if one may order a dessert, they automatically bring to the table (free of charge) a large platter of fresh, thinly cut, and beautifully arranged seasonal fruits.  Time goes by quickly when you are in good and relaxing company and I was redelivered home around 5:30pm, a rest time for everyone. This is when Albanians, even throughout the week, consume their main daily meal, and then take a break before the evening activities, which, for some, consist of a nice walk around town and meeting friends or relatives.

On Sunday, other friends of mine picked me up for another out of town ride. Tirana during the weekend empties out; its citizens escape to the country or the seashore that are easy to reach and are so close by. 

This time we went to the village of Pezë , in the outskirts of the capital, which played quite an historic role during during WWII and afterwards and was also the site of a conference.  My hosts remember the times of their youth when they were obliged, as school children, to attend an annual event here.  

Now the place has been restored by the heirs of the original, local owner into a splendid restaurant which is known for excellent meats.  When we arrived the large grounds were totally occupied by lots of families busily cooking and enjoying their own picnic.  It was difficult to find a parking space! 
We lunched indoors where the setting is very classy with big and elegantly furnished rooms and displays of mementos. This is a massive old residence with large fireplaces, where the fire was roaring!  

The owner greeted us at the door and escorted us to the reserved table. Here we had a variety of dishes, since my friends always want to introduce me to the places’ specialties. We started with ‘bruschetta’,  a deliciously fresh mixed salad, local type of soft cheese, with some antipasto, followed by an excellent ‘risotto’, and two courses of meat. 
The above special dish with an unappealing look, was absolutely a revelation of exceptional good taste (chunks of soft veal, in a particular blend sauce of tomatoes, yogurt and spices) that just melted in the mouth.  The main course was a filet mignon cooked to perfection (that needed no chewing and could be cut with a fork!), surrounded by excellent baked potatoes.  At the end the waiter offered a tray of available desserts and I pleaded for just a share of one!!  Everyone enjoyed the whole meal doused by a bottle of “Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo” Italian wine.  After an wonderful expresso we leisurely headed home…..!  

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