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Most of us remember where we were when we first experienced……

 

STAR WARS.

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For me it was at the Avco Cinemas in Westwood. It was 50 cents more than the other Westwood theater options but we were already drawn in by the force (*cough) of the previews, and so made the splurge.

Improves with Age

As much as I loved ‘A New Hope’ and eagerly awaited each subsequent stellar sequel, I only realized the rare excellence of film-making involved as I got older.

Gareth Edwards living his directing dream and it hits him, while sitting next to George Lucas on the set of Rogue One.

Gareth Edwards living his directing dream and it hits him, while sitting next to George Lucas on the set of Rogue One.

Worldwide Fandom

Last week, almost 40 years older (egads!) I joined two other life-long Star Wars fans, C.C. Chapman and Chris Bernholdt , for the extraordinary opportunity to attend Star Wars Celebration Europe, in London.   The generous invitation came through Verizon, and I said an emphatic Yes! to the inquiry about my Star Wars fan-ness.

Pre-dinner London meet-up with my Rogue One team.

Pre-dinner London meet-up with my Rogue One team.

Disclosure

Many of you know I am a brand ambassador for Verizon, after being a loyal customer for ten wireless years. This entails receiving various phones and tech products with no promise of positive reviews, only a commitment to try out various services and gadgetry as a casual consumer. I am an avid share-er and so share I do.

 

Toughest selfie to snap - R2's head barely fits!

Toughest selfie to snap – R2’s head barely fits!

Travel Pass

For this trip, I added onto my own iPhone for only $10 a day Verizon’s new Travel Pass plan that kept me connected with data, text and cell service the minute I landed in London until take-off.

It already fell down...

It already fell down…

(This same uninterrupted is only $2/day in neighboring Mexico and Canada.) Of course it helped me to share the excitement of the convention in the moment…even though many of you across the pond were asleep! ;)  Fellow travelers, you’re going to want to get this. Just call ahead of your trip and tell Verizon your expected travel dates, and voilà! Or Olé! Or Wunderbar! You get the idea.

So I’ll share here what you may have missed, and some more photos – almost all captured on my Samsung S7 – and details of the illustrious and cosmic event.

Dedicated Dress-up

I wasn’t really sure what to expect at SWCE, but soon recognized the fantastic atmosphere of Cosplay (costumed fans) and excited convention buzz that mirrored the renowned ComicCon convention held in my own downtown San Diego.

Cosplay couple

Cosplay couple

There goes Vader again with the saber.

There goes Vader again with the saber.

I've always wanted a ton ton. I guess these guys had the same idea..

I’ve always wanted a ton ton. I guess these guys had the same idea..

After settling in to bustling London, we made our way to the ExCel Exhibition hall and were welcomed by our Verizon hosts and a Disney representative who ceremoniously (OK, it only FELT momentous) bestowed us with our coveted V.I.P. credentials. Little did we know at the time, this little laminated badge would gain us entrée to front row center seats to several panels of Star Wars stars, including the Rogue One lead cast and a Mark Hamill Q&A. That would come later.

I've never even gotten into ComicCon - and now this!

I’ve never even gotten into ComicCon – and now this!

First Look Costumes and Producer Chat

First thing on Friday, before the hordes entered the hall, we were treated to a private viewing of the costuming for Rogue One, and guided through the details and inspirations for the characters and their specialized garb by fireball producer, Allison Shearmur and her trusted co-producer John Swartz. The villain in this Star Wars story, Director Krennic, wears predominantly white, including his dramatic cape, which Allison declared makes an “I think highly of myself” statement.

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The Rogue One costume line up.

The Rogue One costume line up.

Me and CC and Chris meeting producer Allison Shearmur and John Swartz while sneak-peaking the costumes for Rogue One.

Me and CC and Chris meeting producer Allison Shearmur and John Swartz while sneak-peaking the costumes for Rogue One.

Great attention is given to every aspect of a character’s costume, depending on if they stay mostly terrestrial or galactic; mobile versus stationary. It’s a grown-up kid’s dream world, transitioning from dressing collectible f igurines to outfitting big screen heroes and villains.

Chris has his own built in extend stick.

Chris has his own built in extend stick.

 

Me with producer Allison Shearmur in her cosmic frock!

Me with producer Allison Shearmur in her cosmic frock!

Allison emphasized that Rogue One is a father/daughter story, and also told us what not to expect: the presence of any Jedi in the film. The black armor of the Deathtroopers was imposing indeed, but it was the image of the classic Stormtroopers wading through crystalline waters on a brilliant beach in an obvious invasion that brought chills. We got a first look at a Shoretrooper specialized armor, as well.

These two producers were charming and enthusiastic in their sharing and giddy anticipation. I loved and commented on Allison’s planetary dress, and she actually took my card for my boutique. I hope she pops in when she’s in San Diego!

Hallowed Halls

After the exhibit opened up to the general public, we had some free time to explore the exhibit halls and play in life-sized sand speeders, plunk down pounds for souvenirs, or ponder the pain of procuring a Star Wars tattoo.

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Sweet. Tattoo art. Volunteers?

Sweet. Tattoo art. Volunteers?

Indulging in geekdom

Indulging in geekdom

 

Mark Hamill

 

Feeling very VIP!

Feeling very VIP!

Led to our seats in the very front row of the 4,000 seat theater, we were wide-eyed as we gazed up

at the big screen before us, and the solitary chair merely a dozen yards – if that! – facing us, awaiting the entrance of Mark Hamill of Luke Skywalker fame. He launched almost immediately into a Q&A from the audience, so as to allow as many eager fans the opportunity to engage with him. One sly fan conversationally inquired as to Rey’s last name….but didn’t catch him off guard, apparently. ;) He bemoaned the fact that his character was originally to be named Luke Starkiller, but as we’ve all come to love the Skywalker name, I think it was a more heroic moniker! He took questions from adolescents, seniors, Americans, Europeans and people from all over who had traveled to London and waited long hours to garner a spot at this event. I loved what he said about his own collection of toys and how their “worth” had somehow been diminished by being taken out of their packaging. “Toys should be played with.” Indeed!

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My Favorite Part – Everyone’s a Fan-Kid

The most significant benefit of these VIP seats came during the hoped-for-yet-still-surprise showing of the Rogue One trailer. We were introduced to the lead cast, writers and director, Gareth Edwards who exchanged healthy, albeit cautionary, banter about only those aspects of the film that were sanctioned to share. Just this small window into the actors and their characters already revealed a likely favorite for me, and I suspect for many: K-2SO, played by cheeky Alan Tudyk, is a character described by director Edwards to be “Chewbacca’s personality in a droid’s body.”

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2016071595164459Like a Kid Again

Clearly, it was the first time the cast was seeing the full Rogue One trailer, at least on the big screen, because once the house lights dimmed, they slid off of their chairs that were facing us and lay like giddy school kids on the stage floor, supported on elbows.

Ignore the overly HDR-d filthy Felicity Jones on the screen. Look below at the cast, hanging out on the floor gazing up, as enchanted as we were.

Ignore the overly HDR-d filthy Felicity Jones on the screen. Look below at the cast, hanging out on the floor gazing up, as enchanted as we were.

That’s why they call it movie magic. No one is immune. Not even the star players. And the 4,000 fans in the audience, some who waited up to 40 hours to ensure access, were not disappointed. The excitement was palpable before the trailer viewing, and the applause hit a crescendo during the standing ovation after.

Chills.

Chills.

Classified.

Classified.

Sensational Suuper Star (Wars) Selfie. (I love how the stormtroopers stay in character)

Sensational Suuper Star (Wars) Selfie. (I love how the stormtroopers stay in character)

My gratitude to Verizon also peaked here, as it really sunk in that this decades-long Star Wars fever has infused people worldwide, from many countries and cultures. And here I was, joining in the geekdom!  They shared some behind-the-scenes clips for our eyes only, and I got a poster, that I relinquished to my sister to placate her a bit about me getting to go!

Official Rogue One Star Wars Movie Poster

Official Rogue One Star Wars Movie Poster

 

Everyone has a soft spot for babies.

Everyone has a soft spot for babies.

December Seems So Far Far Away…

I’m excited for this newest generation of Star Wars fans for whom the Force has Awakened. (Forgive me :} ). I’ve never seen so many adolescent Reys running around.  I can just imagine this Halloween. And Rogue One clearly brings us a new heroine in Jyn Erso who will somehow collaborate with Leia to get her the death star plans.  It’s fun to speculate, but even more fun to spectate. I look so forward to doing just that in December, whether it’s a spot on the floor or in a comfy theater lounger.

Little Rey - her mother admonished her not to smile. She failed. :)

Little Rey – her mother admonished her not to smile. She failed. :)

 

Note: As part of my participation in Verizon’s ambassador program, flights and hotel for this London trip were covered. I paid for my personal line of service and the Travel Pass program overseas. All content, photos, opinions and impressions are my own. Thank you to everyone involved at Verizon for pulling together such a cosmically cool experience!

Bonus: London Sightseeing Photo Gallery (I meandered this diverse and historic city on foot and via iconic double-decker bus, and never lost connectivity to share snapshots or receive texts or emails from my staff running my store back home. Travel Pass allowed me the freedom and peace of mind to roam and share 5,488 miles and an Atlantic Ocean away.)

This magical mystical machine can be gawked at in the Hay's Galleria along the Queen's walk / Thames river.

This magical mystical machine can be gawked at in the Hay’s Galleria along the Queen’s walk / Thames river.

 

The London Shard is a newer architectural wonder of modern London.

The London Shard is a newer architectural wonder of modern London.

 

In the Kensington neighborhood, a colorful pub entrance.

In the Kensington neighborhood, a colorful pub entrance.

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It was a whirlwind week of almost too much Italian food….almost. ;)  Continuing on our intimate food tour, we sampled and savored prosciutto, culatello, authentic Parmigiano Reggiano, and an array of red wines. At times we were invited into the kitchens to sous (can that be a verb?) and learn first-hand secrets to the impassioned cooking of the Emilia Romagna region.  With an apron tied around your waist and your hands in fresh dough, the pace of a food tour slows to an easy cadence as you appreciate the techniques involved and continue to sip your wine as if to assist the absorption of culinary know-how.

The ever-present wine glass in Italy. At our dinner table at Ca' Matilde.

The ever-present wine glass in Italy. At our dinner table at Ca’ Matilde.

 

We spent an afternoon at Ca’ Matilde, a fine restaurant as well as bed and breakfast in the countryside of Emilia Romagna.

We dabbled in the kitchen of Ristorante Locanda and walked through the surrounding farmland at the golden hour, accompanied by the Innkeepers’ dog. After appetizers on the sunny veranda, we sat down to a many-course meal which included the delicious Erbazzone we had helped create.  It stood out for me enough to beg the recipe and I’m happy to report I successfully converted and translated the recipe sufficiently to make it at home back in the states!

I’ll list it first in its purest form, and then I’ll share my quantity conversions along with some – cough – shortcuts I took liberties with.  Hey, I’m a busy business owner. ;) And I suspect many of you have your plates full as well.  Pun intended.

By all means, go for the original authentic version and enjoy the wonderful, lovingly folded crust.  I know me.  And I know that a recipe may never come to fruition in my home if I plan on insisting on every the painstaking detail. So I went with puff pastry. :}

The veranda at Ca' Matilde

The veranda at Ca’ Matilde

photo

Golden hour at Ca’ Matilde

Original Autentico Erbazzone Recipe

Ingredients for the dough:

A culinary collage of the other dinner courses at Ristorante Locanda.

A culinary collage of the other dinner courses at Ristorante Locanda, Ca’ Matilde

250 grams of flour

50 grams of butter

olive oil

salt

Ingredients for the filling:

80 grams of chopped bacon

1 onion

100 grams of grated parmesan cheese

1 kg chard

1 egg

1 garlic clove

chopped parsley

black pepper

 

I paid my dough dues, in the kitchen at Ristorante Locanda, Ca' Matilde.

I paid my dough dues, in the kitchen at Ristorante Locanda, Ca’ Matilde. (with Chef Angelini and Deb Hopewell)

Preparation

Sieve the flour on a wooden board and place in the center softened butter in small pieces, a spoon of oil and salt.

Knead until you get a soft and smooth dough (eventually add some water). Let it rest for half an hour at room temperature covering with a napkin. Wash the chard and boil it in a little bit of salted water.

Drain, squeeze and chop it into big pieces. Put a little oil in a large Teflon pan with the whole garlic (that you’ll take out later), bacon, chopped green onions, and chards.

Let it sauté nicely so that the flavor comes out, then take the garlic out and add the chopped parsley.

Let it cook for a few more minutes and then take it off the fire. Add the egg, the parmesan cheese and some pepper, mixing very fast. Flatten the dough and make two discs: one that is the diameter of the baking pan and a second one wider.

Oil the baking pan and fill it with the larger disc. Fill with the filling made of chards and cover with the second disc. Seal the side very well and the press the dough with a fork. Spread the chopped bacon on the surface. Bake it at 180° for 45-50 minutes until the surface is of a nice golden brown color

Serve warm.

Bake at 350F

My Corrupted Simplified Amurkin Erbazzone Recipe

Selected short cut ingredients for my "quickie" version recipe.

Selected short cut ingredients for my “quickie” version recipe.

Dough substitute: Puff Pastry (I’m sure other pre-made doughs will work here)

Ingredients for the filling:

Olive oil

3-4 oz of chopped bacon (I used Pancetta and chopped no-nitrates bacon for a nice mix)

1 onion, chopped

1/4 pound or 3.5oz grated Parmesan cheese

2 1/4 pounds chard

1 egg

1 garlic clove (husked but not chopped)

chopped parsley (Italian flat leaf is best)

black pepper (freshly ground – I insist! :) )

 

Wash the chard and blanch it (boil it in a little bit of salted water). Drain, squeeze and chop it into big pieces. Put a little olive oil in a large Teflon pan with the whole garlic (that you’ll take out later), most of the bacon (reserve some to top it), chopped green onions, and chard.

Let it sauté on medium-high heat nicely (8-10 minutes) so that the flavor comes out, then take the garlic out and add the chopped parsley.

Vibrant color and equally vibrant flavor.

Vibrant color and equally vibrant flavor.

Cook for a few more minutes and then take it off the fire. Add the egg, the parmesan cheese and some pepper, mixing very fast. Separate and unfold the puff pastry dough and make two sections; one that is the size of the baking pan and a second one wider.

Ready to bake! (Well, it still gets Pancetta sprinkled on top)

Ready to bake! (Well, it still gets Pancetta sprinkled on top)

Oil the baking dish (glass or ceramic is best) and fill it with the larger section of dough. I used an 8″ x 8″ ceramic casserole dish but I think a 9″x11″ would be fine so long as you check for timing, as the cook time will likely reduce a bit. Fill with the sauteed chard mixture and cover with the second section of dough. Seal the side very well and the press the dough with a fork. Spread the chopped bacon on the surface. Bake it at 350° F  for 45-50 minutes until the surface is of a nice golden brown color.  Serve warm. (Reheat leftovers in an oven or toaster oven rather than a microwave which kills any bread or pastry)

Buon appetito!

Finished product! As yummy as it was easy.

Finished product! As yummy as it was easy.

This was an experimental recipe conversion and any tips or discoveries for improvement are welcome! Feel free to comment with your results and suggestions, and let me know if you ambitiously created the autentico version.

**I’m thrilled to share this Conversion CalculatorIt’s a must for any traveling foodie – or even a domestically adventurous chef seeking fresh ideas from “fern” countries. :)

If you liked this travel recipe post, check out these other offerings:

Travel Recipe: My Spanish Madre’s Gazpacho de Sevilla

Romancing Emilia Romagna – with a Big Bib!

By Popular Demand: My Coveted Fall Recipe for Baked Mini Pumpkins

I was invited to tour the Emilia Romagna region by the Emilia Romagna Tourism board with a small group on a food tour.  All experiences – and photos – are my own, unless I’m in them. :)

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