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ed. note: Uniworld Sales Coordinator, Mario Herrera, recently returned from vacation in Italy, where he sailed on Uniworld’s Venice and the Gems of Northern Italy itinerary aboard the River Countess. Below is a recap of his trip.
I recently came back from the Venice and the Gems of Northern Italy river cruise on the River Countess. I went with my girlfriend, also a Uniworld employee, my sister, and a friend. It was our first time in Italy and we could not have asked for a better experience. I am happy we had the opportunity to visit Venice, Padua, Bologna, Ravenna, and Verona in such as relaxed way.
The River Countess was stunning, the staff was outstanding, the food was simply delicious, and our tours were perfectly planned with enough time to also explore on our own. We felt like royalty from the second we got off the plane!
Here are some highlights of our trip…
The décor on the River Countess is so original. These authentic hand-made masks by local artists, add to the feeling of being in Venice.
I appreciated being able to sail the lagoon and have this view of St. Mark’s Square from our stateroom.
The world famous gondolas in Venice!
This is on the Rialto Bridge over the Grand Canal; where we also bought authentic handmade Venetian masks. Great place to shop for souvenirs.
Taking the water taxi to the private opening of St. Mark’s Basilica was a great experience. It was convenient and it gave us a different view of Venice from the lagoon, everyone loved it.
Executive Chef Daniel showed us around the local market and actually picked out the ingredients for that evening’s dinner.
The staff was kind enough to put the World Cup games on the TV in the Captain’s Lounge. I did not miss any of the action during the cruise.
After our day excursions, it was nice to come back to the elegant River Countess and be greeted by the smiling staff with refreshments ready for us.
Just a few of the delicious dishes we had onboard. I loved them all!
The girls enjoyed having lunch in the sky lounge. It was a nice way to relax and have a light lunch.
After all the delicious food and gelato, we had to take the bikes from the ship and go on a ride in Polesella.
We took advantage of Bologna’s foods and flavors. It was great to be able to go on a walking tour of the markets and learn about the local foods.
The pasta-making demonstration in Bologna was an instructive experience. We were glad to taste authentic Bolognese pasta.
Me posing with Juliet in Verona — they say it is good luck!
A shot of the city of Verona and the Verona Arena, a functioning amphitheater built in Roman times.
Ravenna’s Basilica San Vitale was a highlight. Their mosaics are found everywhere in the city.
The private opening of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice was probably the most impressive tour during our cruise. It was such an intimate experience and it really allowed us to absorb every detail of the mosaics and Pala d’Oro.
I am glad I was able to check Venice off my bucket list, but I am happier that we were able to experience it in an organized and relaxed way. I will never forget the sights I visited, the food and drinks I had, and the people I met on the River Countess…
Great job by all the staff involved in this cruise and THANK YOU for making our vacation unforgettable!
For more information, please visit uniworld.com/italy.
Ingredients (4 servings)
2 rib steaks (l lb each)
1 large beef marrow
6 tbsp (100 g) butter
1/2 bottle Bordeaux wine
10 fl oz (30 cl) beef stock
1 bunch of parsley
1 tbsp flour
1. Remove the marrow from the bones and soak it in cold water for 45 minutes. Chop the parsley and shallots, that you have already peeled. Heat some butter in a pan. Put the steaks in the sizzling butter. Fry them for 4 minutes on each side. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook additionally according to your desire.
2. In the same pan, sweat the shallots in butter with some salt added. Pour in the stock and Bordeaux. Bring to a boil and reduce to half over strong fire.
3. Add to this sauce a walnut of butter and one teaspoon of flour. Stir gently with a wooden spoon. Slice the marrow in thin slices.
4. Lay the steaks on a plate. Add the marrow slices and pour on a little sauce. Powder with fresh ground pepper and sprinkle with parsley leaves.
Serve it without letting it cool down with French fries or sautéed potatoes.
The canelé de Bordeaux (aka cannelé bordelais) is a magical bakery confection, a cake with a rich custard interior enclosed by a thin caramelized shell. It’s a brilliant construction developed long ago by an anonymous Bordeaux cook, whose innovation has been subjected to 300 years of refinements.
Many recipes don’t carry a tale; the canelé carries many. One of the oldest refers to a convent in Bordeaux, where, before the French Revolution, the nuns prepared cakes called canalize made with donated egg yolks from local winemakers, who used only the whites to clarify their wines. Any records that might verify this were lost in the turbulent revolution, thus relegating the convent story to legend.
But the alternative tale may be even better: residents of Bordeaux, who lived along the docks, gleaned spilled low-protein flour from the loading areas, then used it to make sweets for poor children. The small canelé molds, fluted and made of copper or brass, were nestled in embers to be baked.
To fully understand the fabulous quality of a true canelé de Bordeaux, eat it out of hand as a snack, with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.
Recipe Canelé de Bordeaux
2 cups whole milk
2 tbsps unsalted butter, chilled
1 cup minus 2 tbspns confectioner’s sugar
pinch of salt
4 extra large egg yolks
1 tbsp dark rum
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1. Rinse a saucepan with cold water; add the milk; set over low heat; heat to 183°F
2. Place butter, flour, and salt in the bowl of a processor; pulse until combined. Scatter sugar on top; pulse once or twice to mix.
3. Add egg yolks; process until mixture begins to tighten.
4. With the motor running, quickly and steadily pour hot milk into batter; stop motor; strain through very fine sieve into clean container; press any congealed yolk through; stir in rum and vanilla extract; cool to room temperature; cover; refrigerate 24 to 48 hours.
5. About 6 to 7 hours before serving, lightly brush the interior of each copper mold with lightly warmed white oil; set on paper towels crown side up to avoid pooling of oil in crevices; set molds in the freezer at least 30 minutes before baking.
6. Heat oven to 400°F; SEE STEP 8 IF USING A CONVECTION OVEN.
7. Place chilled molds 1 1/2” apart on baking sheet; gently stir or shake batter; fill each mold almost to the top; place on lower oven rack; bake 1 3/4 to 2 hours, or until canelés are deep, deep brown in color, or if desired, almost black.
8. If using a convection oven, bake at 375°F for 1 hour, 15 minutes for deep, deep brown canelés.
9. Remove the molds from the oven. Unmold as quickly as possible. To unmold, use an oven mitt to grasp a hot mold; firmly rap the crown side against a hard surface to loosen the canelé; tip out onto a rack; cool to room temperature before serving (about 1 hour); repeat procedure with other canelés while they’re still hot (if any canelés resist, bake 5 to 10 minutes longer; OR if necessary, use a toothpick to loosen).