V is for Venice

With a spring vacation and a few busy weeks, it’s been almost a month since we’ve explored a new destination as a family, but today we got back into our routine with V is for Venice. I’m especially excited about Venice since not only is it one of my favourite places in the world, it’s also where we’re going in just 16 weeks from today! Venice will be our very first stop in our very first family trip to Europe and I can’t wait to explore the city with my kids. I also give it about a 50/50 chance of one of my preschoolers ending up in a canal at some point in the trip but that’s all part of the adventure.

For Venice week we started by reading a few of our kids books about Venice. One of our favourites is “Olivia goes to Venice”. It mixes hand drawn characters with beautiful pictures from the city and the strong willed Olivia reminds me a bit of my drama princess daughter. We also watched a few clips of travel videos from Venice. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of teaching the kids about Venice over the past few years because the kids kept recognizing various sights from the videos. (It really warms my heart to hear my daughter say, “Look Daddy, it’s the Bridge of Sighs!” as she watches.)

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We also showed the kids some of the pictures from our 2007 Italy trip as well as the souvenirs we picked up. The kids were fascinated by the glass fish bowl and were baffled about how the fish got inside.

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To plan my Venice meal, I turned to a book called, Venezia, Food and Dreams that my husband gave me for Christmas one year. It’s a beautiful book full of storied and pictures but the recipes were quite easy to follow. I mixed and matched bar snacks, appetizers and side dishes to make a meal I thought the family would like.

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I started with Polpette di Carno and Polpette di Tonno, small deep fried balls made with potato and either minced meat or tuna. They are usually served as pre-dinner snacks in bars, but I served them as a main course. I also made Risi e Bisi, a risotto with pancetta and peas and Peperonata, bell peppers sauteed with onions, olive oil and capers. Although these dishes would never be served together as a meal in Venice, they worked well together for us.

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I had intended to make Bellinis, the drink made famous by Harry’s Bar in Venice, when my husband got home to drink while I finished dinner, but I got a little busy with cooking and we ended up having the Bellinis with our supper. I made a kiddie version for the kids and my daughter loved her “peach smoothie” and was very annoyed that we wouldn’t share ours with her after she’d finished it.

And the verdict? The meat and tuna balls were delicious and they disappeared very quickly. The grownups really enjoyed the risotto but my son was a bit annoyed that someone had ruined perfectly good rice by putting vegetables in it. I was also surprised by the pepper dish. The capers really added an interesting flavour to the simple dish.

A few days earlier I had been given some real Italian lady finger cookies by a friend, so Tiramisu seemed like the obvious choice for dessert. When I served it up the kids ran to the table, all excited to dig in to something that looked so delicious. I felt kind of bad when I saw the looks on their faces when they realized that it contained coffee and mascarpone cheese and was only lightly sweetened. I think from the appearance they were expecting it to taste like ice cream cake. Oh well, my husband and I enjoyed ours and I dug out some cookies to placate the kids. And we enjoyed it with the white wine from the Veneto region that I had originally intended to have with dinner.

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So that was our day in Venice. I love to see that my kids are starting to show so much interest in my favourite city and our next big destination. I recently booked a hotel for our time in Venice this summer (doesn’t it look amazing?) and our next step is to start researching restaurants and sights. And maybe research travel life jackets for the kids as well!

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