Sale Grosso – Is This Bologna’s Top Seafood Option?

Sale Grosso SpaghettiReports of the seafood demise in Bologna may have been Sale Grossly exaggerated.  You like it?  I thought of that line while shaving this morning, which is were I do most of my deep thinking.  Whenever I say that for some reason the usual reply is “You should think about growing a beard”.  With a beard not only I would not be mistaken for Russell Crow anymore, but I would also be single and unemployed.  My full time job involves solving software related issues and very often the solutions come to me when I shave.  It also helps me with the various daily First World Problems like figuring out where I left my iPhone, what to have for lunch, who really shot Jr, and why are my shoes wet.  Turns out the shoes were wet due to exhilarated excitement of some nieces and nephews playing hide and seek in the closet the night before.  Yes, they get excited and they pee in your shoes.

Also during shaving I normally devise the all important action plan of where we’ll be eating seafood on our next trip.  We normally find ourselves craving seafood at some point of any trip, especially in Italy, regardless of our proximity to the sea.  La Tellina in Sienna was a nice find last year, while Le Mani in Pasta in Rome was less successful but hit some marks.  In this case, I figured after a week of heaviness in Piedmont and ER, Bologna would be the place for seafood, and all signs pointed to Sale Grosso.  Hidden in some alley in the university area, and with some locals never even heard of it, the “hidden gem” cliche comes to mind.  In fact some locals even turned up their noses at the idea of eating seafood in Bologna

Sale Grosso Octopus

I don’t mean to set you up for another feast as it actually turned out to be a rather light lunch, at least for our vacation standards.  Burratina (Burrata) with Bottarga (salted dried tuna roe “sticks”), shockingly good, and grows on you as you are nibbling on it.  Bottarga is not something you normally see on NY menus.  The Burrata was oozing with richness and went very well with the salty dried tuna, and the olive oil used was especially noteworthy.  Octopus, simply grilled, tender and absolutely delicious, arrived with some of the best tasting grilled veggies we had on this trip.

Rolled breaded fish stuffed with raisins, pine nuts and other unidentified objects came with expertly cooked Broccoli Rabe and creamy tomato water. Perhaps the dish of the day, which included a very nice dinner later on.  Spaghetti with Seafood was perfectly al dented with generous amount of fresh shellfish and fish. This is what every basic Spaghetti with Seafood should taste like.

Sale Grosso Fish

Smiling, friendly owner, slightly overdressed for the occasion, unless we all were underdressed.  Wife who wasnt there is the brainchild of the Mediterranean inspired menu.  She’s from Bologna but with southern roots.  And the cook during lunch was from Puglia where some of the lunch dishes get their inspiration from.  Nice and comfortable room, popular with locals and nearby university students and staff.  Looked like we were the only tourists there.  While the lunch menu showed plenty of market freshness and creativity, during dinner things pick up a notch.  Check out Sale Grosso guys

Now if you excuse me I need to go shave in order to figure out what to wear tomorrow.  Ciao!

Italy 2014 1383-001Sale Grosso

 

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When in Barolo.. You do Grissini

Italy 2014 524Barolo, arguably Italy’s grandest, most celebrated wine, is produced in the magnificent Langhe Hills in Piedmont.  Visitors from all over the world flock to the Barolo zone, and the picturesque hamlet that bares its name to see where the magic is made.  You got the wine museum, cork museum, wine tasting galore in every corner, wine, wine and more wine everywhere you turn in the entire region.  You arrive through Barolo vineyards, leave through Barolo vineyards, and make wrong turns on purpose as you drive through more vineyards.  So naturally, here we are, flying 4000 miles from NYC to Barolo, risking our lives while maneuvering our little Fiat up and down mountains through regional roads built for smaller Fiats. All that for.. you guessed it… Breadsticks!

Italy 2014 527Before the trip I arranged to meet with Daniela Cravero, who along with her brother and son, operate an artisanal breadstick bakery, Fratelli Cravero, smack in the middle of the town of Barolo.  Its a tiny little village of 700, and something tells me the Craveros would be happy to teach anyone without any special appointments.  But before I begin to tell you about this little jewel, I need to explain the importance of breadsticks to Piedmont and Italy

The story begins just like many other food stories begin… with constipated leaders (Like David Ben Gurion leading to the invention of Israeli Couscous).  It started in 1675 with the young Victor Amadeus II from the House of Savoy who was suffering from all sorts of digestive ailments.  His mom asked the court physician if there’s anything he can do, and the physician recalling his own digestive issues as a A_young_Vittorio_Amedeo_II_of_Savoy_by_an_unknown_artistchild, remembered his mom feeding him some sort of cracker.  So he then asked the court baker (How do I get one of those – Craigslist?) to produce something similar that is fully baked and voila!  The breadstick is born, young Vito poops regularly and becomes king of Sicily, then king of Sardinia, winning some key battles.  You could say if not for breadsticks Italy would have been part of Austria today.  Another duke of Savoy was addicted to the stuff, not so much to eating it, but crushing them with his hands while watching opera.  Must have been extremely annoying to the season ticket holders right next to him.  Even Napoleon upon discovering Grissini, set up a special UPS service to ship them from Turin to Paris daily.

Italy 2014 279

These days, step inside La Torre in Cherasco (above) and the first thing you notice is not only a bouquet of Grissini with other bread occupying the entire side of your table, but the same setup on every empty table (empty because you are a tourist eating before everyone else, partly because you are terrified of your GPS and its pitch dark terrifying shortcuts).  No flower bouquet can compete with this welcome, or as yummy.  The same Grissini then follow you all over Piedmont tables and well into Emilia Romagna.  The tradition is as strong as a Barolo.  While here in America the closest we have to any sort of breadstick tradition is that of Olive Garden, who bastardized the breadstick just like we did with the Bologna, Alfredo sauce, and everything else Italian.

Italy 2014 525The process at Cravero, the areas only Grissini maker, starts early with the dough preparation.  The kneading, the mixing with hazelnuts, rosemary, hot peppers, or other carefully selected ingredients as the Craveros have been doing for the past 35 years.   We witnessed them prepare the bulky strips, applying the final touches to form the correct density to prevent any bubbles during the rise.  Then.. long lunch, coffee, manicure, nap Italian style, letting the dough rise and do its thing for four hours.  After that the dough is flattened and fed to a machine which produces the small strips which are then easily hand stretched before its bake time.  All that in front of drunk onlookers fresh from their wine tastings, peeking through the window.

Italy 2014 520 Italy 2014 521

Actually, there doesnt seem to be much rest for Daniela and the boys.  The store is not going to run itself, the exquisite truffles Daniela showed us, will not smell themselves, and there’s more baking to be done.  Traditional hazelnut cakes, cookies, “Floglie” crisps, and Tajarin pasta.  We were particularly fond of the crispy “Maize Biscuits” which we are still enjoying at home 3 weeks later.  Cant make it to Barolo?  You can find some of the products throughout Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Lombardy shops, and in popular local restaurants like Villa Tiboldi, and the Slow Food darling Consorzio in Turin.

The legend of the Grissini is alive and well, and the tradition can be felt in Barolo and throughout Piedmont.  Whether the story of young stud Amadeus and his determined mom is true or not, here’s to Grissini, and here’s to all the moms out there.

http://www.grissinicravero.com/en/

Courtesy of Cravero website

Courtesy of Cravero website

Italy 2014 531 Italy 2014 534 Italy 2014 529 Italy 2014 543

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Louro – Another Fun Option For the Village People

Louro - House Made Tortellini

November 17, 2014 Update:

Another fantastic meal at Louro a few nights ago.  The place hasn’t skipped a beat since it opened two years ago.  Sometimes you get caught up with all the sexy new openings and forgetting about the current neighborhood spots that continue to hit on all cylinders.  The place is packed every night seems like, with the ultra talented chef Santos still doing his thing.  In addition to the constantly rotating seasonal menus, Santos continues his Supper Club tradition with the popular Monday night theme dinners like “Lobster night”, “Breaking Bad”, and “Breaking Bald” for those villagers suffering from Frontal Baldness.  Ok, not really, but tonight they do have “White Man does Szechuan” which looks very interesting.

We tried a variety of items again including some of the old favorites, and on this night new favorites emerged.  Like the tremendously flavorful Kimchi Fried Rice (below) which comes sizzling hot loaded with calamari, mussels, shrimp, clams, and egg juice poured table side for you to mix in.  Plenty of pleasant heat and plenty of joy with this one.  More great flavors came out of a simple Lobster soup from its clean, well balanced broth.  And then came the Venison (below).  Two medallions expertly cooked, rare, just slightly seared on the outside.  Because venison is so tender and lean, cooking this more will result in eating two hockey pucks.  It came with some pasta (looked like Cavatelli) as part of a groovy smoked onion jus.  Only the why-so-bitter Broccoli Rabe stood in the way of perfection.

The chicken last time caused me to start seeing other chickens!  On other menus that is.  While this time the chicken was still juicy, tender, very nicely sauced and veggied (Yummy Yam and nicely cooked Brussels Sprouts), it was missing that perfectly crisped skin.  Still a very solid dish overall.  The Monkfish delicate tomato sauce and rice was replaced by a wintery bean cassoulet, and the Octopus Bolognese is still the same old hearty, rich Octopus Bolognese.  One of the staples on the menu along with the Piri Piri Shrimp

This is just about the most eclectic, fun, constantly changing menu I know.  Each dish is well crafted with great tasting sauces and veggies, and the missing “Sides” column almost feels refreshing, as you get plenty of “Sides” with each dish.  Choosing what to order from this menu is as complicated as choosing the manliest umbrella on a rainy day.  Do I go with the white circles, colorful polka dots, or black with pink piggies.  Why cant we have a black umbrella like normal families

Louro Kimchi Fried RiceLouro Venison

April 8th, 2013 Post:

My house smells of fish!  It smells of fish for the past week now. And get this..  we haven’t cooked any fish in the past 2 weeks and so don’t have the slightest idea where the smell is coming from.  Wish it would smell of curry or cumin instead.  Don’t get me wrong, I love fish, but I don’t want my house to smell like it.  Same goes for chicken soup.  When Mrs Ziggy starts making it early in the morning its as if a guest just came in, said hello, threw up, and immediately left without cleaning his mess.

What does it have to do with Louro?  Absolutely nothing.  I’m not even gonna make a clever transition with this like “we had to escape the house and go eat at Louro” because its not really true.  I’ve been planning this meal ever since I saw the Best Dishes of 2012 thread on Chowhound.  I just had to try that much talked about gnocchi dish since my family sort of became gnocchi junkies over the past few years.

5 month old Louro by David Santos is another great addition to the West Village dining scene.  At first glance inside I was a little surprised at the upscale diner look.  Booth tables right by a long bar.  It gets less diner-ish in the back however.  The food is sort of Portuguese, Italian, American and as usual we tried quite a few items.  Here’s a great, good and ugly breakdown.

The Great:

Piri Piri Shrimp – Really enjoyed them.  Not as good as Aldea’s preparation and similar dishes we’ve enjoyed in Portugal but cooked and seasoned very well nonetheless.  Not too spicy so the kids were able to enjoy as well.  Love anything Piri Piri

Louro - Piri Piri ShrimpOctopus Bolognese – So good.  All about the sauce.  Tiny bits of octopus and goose pancetta?  (sort of a Pancetta goose blend I suppose).  Anything would taste great with that sauce including car keys.  Thankfully the waitress convinced us to get more bread.

Monkfish – Delicate, perfectly textured and absolutely delicious. And with that light Portuguese tomato sauce and rice, YUMMO! I couldn’t stop eating it. Until I tasted…

Louro - Monkfish

Roast Chicken – Wow! I did not want to order it.  But wife and kids wanted to try and I’m glad I lost that argument.  I suppose I forgot that the Portuguese can crank out some delicious chickens.  Comes with a nice rye berry risotto and spinach, but that chicken was very flavorful and that skin was so perfectly crisped I could eat just that.Louro - Roast Chicken

The good:

Seafood fritters –  Enjoyed them.  Not bad at all.  Like those seafood beignets you get in New Orleans

Louro - Seafood fritters

House Made Tortellini (top) – Pleasant, light, filled with Nettles among other things.  Not very memorable but tasted good.

Striped Bass –  A popular dish here normally with a snapper instead.  Bok Choy, shiitake, coconut ginger broth. Very pleasant dish and well done.  Thank you baby Jesus for sending me a family that doesnt eat mushroomsLouro - Striped Bass

The Ugly:

Gnocchi Romana – Ahhh, the irony.  As often is the case the first thing I wanted to try was the least favorite.  I dont think its the same dish the chowhounders were raving about.  The cream sauce just tasted like a regular cream sauce to us (they call it permesan foam) and the gnocchi was semolina but had the texture of tiny breakfast potato cubes.  I just kept trying it just to see what I was missing until me and the kids finished the plate.

The menu OCD chef keeps changing the menu and it did not match the menu on their site at all.  Overall a very good meal and something to keep in mind when visiting the village. The wife much preferred the food here over future Michelin star Aska the day before.  Check out Louro readers.  Both of yous

Categories: New York City, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Locanda Mariella {Calestano} – The Perfect Meal

Locanda Mariella eggsWhy are we here?  How did we get here?  What exactly made Kim Kardashian famous?  When is an egg no longer an egg?  I feel like starting this one like Anthony Bourdain starts some of his shows, with deep, philosophical nonsensicalness that grabs your attention and never lets go… until commercials.  Its the perfect prelude to what’s to come, whether its “The best soup in the world” (Vietnam – last episode), “Best Duck Feet I ever had” (Beijing), or “Best Meal I ever had” (French Laundry).  Because somehow “The Perfect Meal” or “Best Egg Dish I ever had” would simply get lost in the shuffle of this blog if I dont start with a deep Kim Kardashian question.  Makes sense?  I thought so

Locanda Mariella OutsideWhat makes a perfect meal?  When you are hard-pressed to find any little detail that worked against your enjoyment of the meal.  From the food, the host, the wine, the room, the environment, there is absolutely nothing negative I can say about Locanda Mariella.  And while I usually ignore any imperfections in meals I greatly enjoy, its hard not to notice when everything goes right.  Sure someone may be bothered by its location, 1 hour south of Parma, in the North Apennine Mountains.  But to us the location just added to the fun and intrigue.  Especially considering it allowed us to visit the town of Felino, the home of “King of Salami” where the Italian version of Rick Steves tried to sell his entire Salumeria to us.  And on the way back, it was the magnificent Torrechiara castle which deserves its own post.Locanda Mariella - Strolghino and Cheese

Mariella is Slow Food at its finest.  In a way it reminded me of the one man show of Roberto in the village of Montisi, while the two got almost nothing in common except for their true Slow Foodness and that passion to deliver to you the finest ingredients available to them.  It almost felt like you are visiting a three Michelin star chef who retired in the mountains in the middle of nowhere and cooks to those brave and willing souls simple mountain food

Alloooora! At Mariella all this melodramatic stuff came from sampling just 5 dishes, with wine pairing and dessert, with each dish making me shake my head with hand gestures Andrew Zimmern style.  Mariella had a white truffle menu, black truffle menu, and a regular menu that included black truffle filled classics which we mostly took advantage of.  Did I use “Allora” there correctly?  Two hours into the meal I still did not have the heart to tell Mariella that we don’t speak Italian.  She explained every single detail of the meal in Italian. My entire Italian is solely based on menu Italian, so when I wanted to ask if the egg was baked at some point, I said “Umm.. Uovo..Al Forno?” Mrs Ziggy had a “Fish Called Wanda” moment, and now I occasionally have to speak Italian to herLocanda Mariella - Sformatino

Started with a very nice Strolghino salami with aged Parmigiano-Reggiano.  And continued with some of the staples on the menu, potato Sformatino with pumpkin cream, and polenta with cheese fondue and black truffles.  Both outstanding!  A great start aided by a fine Sauvignon Blanc/Gewürztraminer blend from Le Fate Furbe (Tuscany).  Mariella, I find out later from my host in Parma what I suspected all along, is a great sommelier

Two sunny side up eggs with black truffles would have been the best egg dish I ever ate even without the truffles.  It hits you like a smack in the face as soon as you taste the whites.  So rich, so creamy, so good I didn’t want to share.  I believe with my menu Italian understanding that she blends cheese instead of butter with the eggs.  A truly remarkable dish in every way, aided by black truffles which had more flavor than some whites we had on this trip. Gnochetti with light cream and black truffles, by far best Gnocchi of a few gnocchi dished we enjoyed on this trip.  Mariella matched a beautiful Nebbiolo with this course

Italy 2014 858

For the third course we shared another outstanding veal cheek with mashed potatoes (since we had polenta in the first course, she suggested mashed instead), along with a Voerzio Barolo 08.  I say “another cheek” as this was about the 4th of the trip.  Another thing we couldnt get enough of on this trip was Cachi (Perssimon).  We like eating it and we liked saying it.  Here it was a splendid chestnut mousse with a cachi purée, along with an excellent preserved sour cherries with ice cream

Simply Perfect!

Locanda Mariella - Polenta Locanda Mariella Beef cheeks Locanda Mariella Hezelnut cake Locanda Mariella Ice Cream Locanda Mariella road Locanda Mariella

 

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Emilia Romagna – The Final Leg

Italy 2014 1524

Moving on to the final leg.  Without kids, 10 days is just about all we can stretch it these days.  First leg is here, next here.  This one features mostly Bologna where we settled down for 3 nights

Day 8 – Traffic, Vignola, Balsamic, Modena, Traffic

Left our B&B in Parma and started the day with a bang, as in a crash on the highway resulting in a standstill for close to an hour.  We were lucky enough then to meet with our new friend from Vignola who showed us his hometown including the striking castle of Vignola which we had for ourselves pretty much.

Villa San Donnino, a balsamic vinegar producer was the next stop and this was a real eye opener.  Essentially we quickly realized that we knew nothing about Balsamic Vinegar, and the tedious process of making  “Traditional” vinegar.  The icing on the cake was sampling traditional balsamic with ice cream.

Modena, another beautiful walkable city was the next stop.  The famous Modena Duomo was everything we imagined and more thanks to the guidance of our friend.  But not quite as emotional as the church we went to next, the entrance to Osteria Francescana, considered top 5 in the world.  But the highlight for us this day was lunch at Hosteria Giusti, one of the toughest tables in Italy.  Drove to out last B&B in Bologna in more heavy traffic and all sorts of Hertz drop-off adventures.  An ok dinner at Osteria La Traviata

Italy 2014 1100 Italy 2014 1145 Italy 2014 1166 Italy 2014 1211

Day 9 – Bologna

We fell for Bologna fairly quickly.  The porticos, the door knobs, the people, the PORTICOS!   Everywhere you turn, porticos, porticos and more porticos all completely different.  We pretty much walked all over the historic center checking out the sites

Lunch was a good one at Sale Grosso, a newish popular seafood joint.  We try to make it to at least one seafood meal on every trip to Italy even in cities not particularly known for seafood.  Dinner was even better at Slow Food pick Osteria Bottega where we finally got  solid tasting of the local cuisine.

Italy 2014 1348 Italy 2014 1393 Italy 2014 1413 Italy 2014 1469Italy 2014 1383-001

Day 10 – Bologna

Started the day with a church and a special prayer for no earthquakes for the next 2 hours.  I dont ask for much.  We then climbed the the tower, Bologna’s symbol for magnificent views of the city.  Explored a bit more and settled for another long lunch at Via Serra outside of the center.  Our best meal in Bologna.  After that we just walked around, did some last minute food shopping in the area where Eataly is located and said goodbye.  Zero complaints about our B&B Antica Residenza d’Azeglio

Day 11 –  Fly home

Day 12 – Denial and Isolation

Day 13-15 – Depression

Day 16 – Calling in sick, feeding pigeons in the park

Italy 2014 1668 Italy 2014 1705 Italy 2014 1403 Italy 2014 1274 Italy 2014 1597Italy 2014 1687Italy 2014 1339Italy 2014 1349Italy 2014 1483

 

 

 

 

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Emilia Romagna – Little Miss Black Piggy

Italy 2014 868Moving on to the region I like to call Emilia Romagna, because that is what its called.  This is the middle leg of the trip, First leg is here, last still to come.  This is the most eclectic leg, featuring a variety of food filled fun…  Culatello, Prosciutto, Parma Cheese, Parma, castles, AT&T misadventures, wife finding out that all the shoes you packed have holes in them, and some of the underwear, mountains, black truffles, more great food including another “one of those meals”, and much more.

Day 5 – Cremona and Corte Pallavicina

We drove the two hours from our hotel in Piedmont to Cremona, a town (just outside ER) renowned for its Violin making.  Violins, violins and more violins everywhere you turn, workshops, Violin Museums, chocolates shapes like violins. A very interesting, clean, super bike friendly town.  As a New Yorker I was staring at old ladies riding bikes with great fascination in particular.  This could also be the home to the most underrated Duomo in Italy.  But all this fun came to a crushing halt after I called AT&T to upgrade my data service, only to have them disconnect everything completely.  Thankfully, I pre-programmed the GPS with most of the sites so we could get to the next destination.

Rest of the day was one of the highlights of the trip, Antica Corte Pallavicina where we spent the night.  The entire stay was like a dream, a very good one, and I will have a blog post when the time comes.  Corte Pallavicina is renowned for their Culatello, essentially prosciutto on crack, which can only be produced in that area in/near the town of Zibello.  Food lovers detour to visit their famous cellar featuring their black pig Culatello aged for Price Albert, Prince Charles, René Redzepi of Noma, Osteria Francescana in Modena and more.  Each one comes with a sticker who it belongs to.  We used their bikes to ride along the Po river, visited their famous black pigs, white cows, and had a wonderful dinner at their Michelin Starred restaurant, before a friend I met on Trip Advisor Forum joined us for the meetup we’ve been planning for a year

Italy 2014 648 Italy 2014 651 Italy 2014 743 Italy 2014 731

 

Day 6 – The cheese producer, the meal, the castle

I arranged an early morning visit to CiaoLatte in Noceto, one of many Parmigiano-Reggiano producers in the area.  For a mere 10 euros we got a tour and witnessed the entire process of cheese making, along with a tasting of some of their products.  This is a small family producer that is very popular with local schools partly due to the efforts of the mother who turned into a Liza Minnelli song and dance routine when she just met us and found out we are from NYC.  More on CiaoLatte later

We then visited the town of Felino, known for the Felino Salami, dubbed “King of Salami”.  We had a little Felino tasting at a small Salumeria by the Rick Steves of Salumi salesmen who tried to sell us his entire store.  We wanted to visit the salami museum in the nearby castle of Felino but it was closed.  Although the splendid views from that castle didnt make us feel too bad.

Lunch was probably the most memorable meal of the trip at Locanda Mariella in the mountains.  A culinary ecstasy by a Slow Food legend.  If you understand Slow Food and seek it in your travels to Italy, it doesnt get any better than this.  After lunch, the magnificent Castle of Torrechiara was the obvious choice smack in the middle between Mariella and our B&B.  Dinner at Ai Due Platani was good but pales in comparison to lunch and other meals on the trip.

Villino Di Porporano, our B&B for the next two nights did the trick and more.  Highly recommend it

Italy 2014 813 Italy 2014 846 Italy 2014 858

Day 7 – Parma

Spent an entire day touring Parma.  Visited the magnificent Duomo, Farnese theater and the attached museum where we couldnt for the life of us find the exit when we were done.  The stunning Teatro Regio was unfortunately closed due to the Verdi festival rehearsals.  Salumeria Garibaldi treated us to a nice light lunch at one of their 3 tables.  Then we explored the big park and the city outside of the historic center which we found equally as fascinating.  Dinner was a good one at the ancient Cocchi

More to come soon.  Going shoe shopping….

Italy 2014 1028 Italy 2014 953 Italy 2014 1047 Italy 2014 1001 Italy 2014 1071 Italy 2014 1077

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Piedmont in a (Hazel)Nutshell

Italy 2014 004“Err” thats what my scale said this morning, two days after we came back from Piedmont and Emilia Romagna.  So I tried again, and this time it said “One at the time”, followed by “Err”.  But I really dont feel like “Err”.  I feel like I ate very well, as in plenty of non processed, organic home cooking very well.  In fact, it was the greatest food trip of our young lives, and the first Italy trip where food and wine was the main focus.  The biggest tourist attraction on this trip was a statue of an oversized woman squeezing her breasts.  I will have much more about this trip, but meanwhile here’s a small recap of what we did in the Piedmont leg where we spent four days filled with wine, white truffles, onions, wrong turns, mushrooms, lakes, black truffles, vineyards, wrong turns after dark, and more white truffles.

Day 1 – Lago di Orta

45 minutes from Malpensa there’s this beautiful gem most Americans never heard of.  Lake Orta.  We stayed at Agriturismo il Cucchiaio di Legno 5 minutes from the lake, and the entire food itinerary this day surrounded the Agriturismo.  Starting with the picnic basket that we used on the picnic tables on the stunning Sacro Monte di Orta where the picture on top was taken.  Ending with a 10+ courser at their restaurant.  More to come on that too.  And in between the meals we explored the magical town of Orta San Giulio, where we bought Raffi, a small but deadly stinky truffle that we carried with us the entire trip, only to discover yesterday that Raffi tragically died

Italy 2014 110

Day 2 – Alba, Cherasco

One of the reasons for this trip is the Truffle Festival in Alba, a town renowned for its White Truffles and hazelnuts.  The entire town smells of Truffles and Nutella (this is the birthplace of Nutella).  But the big bonus on this day was the huge Saturday market where we indulged in chocolates which I regret not buying more.  Lunch on this day was at La Bottega del Vicoletto, a typical small family trattoria, where we had our first of many truffle tastings.

Before checking into a hotel with the best views from the toilet I’ve ever seen, we stopped at the Castle of Grinzane Cavour.  Its a magnificent castle, bested only by the stunning 360 panoramic views around it.  Its trully a great introduction to the Langhe area

After we rested a bit, we went to explore the town of Cherasco, known for its snails and kisses, as in the famous Baci di Cherasco chocolates.  But the main target of course was dinner at Osteria La Torre, one of many great restaurants in that area

Overnight in Tota Virginia in Serralunga D’Alba (3 nights).  I chose this place because it was the only one in the area I could pronounce

Italy 2014 203 Italy 2014 637 Italy 2014 224 Italy 2014 218

Day 3 – Neive, Barbaresco, and The Lunch

The main event on this day was the 3 hour lunch at Il Centro in Priocca.  A meal for the ages, and an experience we will never forget.  The sheer number of great eats within a 20 km radius of Alba is quite shocking.  I will have more on this meal in no time

In the morning we explored the tiny, picturesque Neive where we sampled some more wine and crashed a Macedonian religious service.  We then went on a drive where I counted 34 ooohs and Ahhs from Mrs Z.  Half of them out of fear really.  After lunch we explored the village of Barbaresco.  And capped the day with a nice dinner at Castello di Verduno winery’s restaurant Ca Del Re in Verduno, another local Slow Food place

Italy 2014 404 Italy 2014 371 Italy 2014 309

Day 4 – Barolo, Another great lunch, Serralunga

Drove to Barolo the long way to find this odd looking church.  Barolo is another stunner, not overrun with tourists considering its name.  But we were more interested in the breadstick manufacturer than wine, where we got a private demo of the breadstick making process.  More spectacular views everywhere we turned, but none perhaps like the drive from Barolo to Serravalle D’alba and our power lunch with the three brothers at Trattoria La Coccinella.  Yet another gem.

After lunch we drove to Serralunga D’Alba to explore the village and take a tour of the castle, one of many in the area including a pretty one viewed from the toilet at Tota Virginia.  Dinner at Schiavenza, another popular local winery

Click here for the of the trip

Italy 2014 458 Italy 2014 487 Italy 2014 573 Italy 2014 602 Italy 2014 190 Italy 2014 623

 

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Seven Provo Bites – October 2014

Seaside - Tuna Sashimi

A sample of some of Provos top dishes as featured in the latest issue of Where When How.  For past Provo Bites, click here.

Grouper at Three Queens – Any more “local” than this, and you are waking up early to milk the cow, play a game of dominoes, and take the kids to school.  The cliche “like eating at someone’s house” was born when someone ate at Three Queens.  Fresh grouper, lightly seasoned and sautéed to flaky perfection, comes with rice and peas, and slaw.  While other groupers on the islands require heavy dressing and extra seasoning to compensate for their unfreshness, this one needs no messing around with.  Just stop by at the church first on the way to pray the fish is on the board today.  Or jus call Dick.  Whatever works!

Three Queens Grouper
Yellowfin Tuna at Le Bouchon Du Village –  Touchdown!  Score another one to column favorite Le Bouchon which keeps producing dishes more robust than the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader Squad (Let me know when it becomes obvious that I’m watching Football while writing this.  My Fantasy team is losing so I need to focus on something else.  Its not working).  Black sesame crusted, lightly seared tuna, gently dressed with ginger tomato reduction just enough to bring out the flavor of the fish and take it to the next level.  Add Jasmine rice, fresh veggies action on the side including avocado and you got yourself a winning dish.  Plugging another classic to the list that already includes the Conch Chowder, Escargot and the Steak au Poivre.  That’s a great meal right there
Le Bouchon Tuna
Ribs at Chinson’s – Ribs, the official cure to summertime sadness!  These babies were wet rubbed, super tender, with a little kick, and quite possibly the best ribs I ever had in Provo.  Helped by an owner that redefines “Hospitality”.  Combine the ribs with their Jerk Chicken, the homemade ginger beer and the highway view in front of you transforms into a field of tulips… with potcakes, rainbows and an ocean in the background.
Chinson's Ribs
Fish and Chips at Hemingway’s.  While we can debate who has the best fish tacos (hint: Hemingway’s) until the conchs come home, there’s no debating who got the best Fish and Chips.  An absolute must for us on every visit.  “Meaty”, flaky fried grouper, along with Belgian style fries cut and seasoned to perfection.  Let me put this another way..  The dish is so good, it will make your kids put their phones down and tell you about their day!
 Hemingways Fish and Chips
Octopus at Caicos Café.  Just Octopus!  Not mixed in with pasta, risotto, dehydrated shrimp and scallop sauces.  Just the octopus please.  A selfie worthy beauty from Portugal, via Miami.  You can tell sometimes by the size of those things that Portugal is the source.  And no one on the island can make it as tender and flavorful as “Mad Max” from Caicos Cafe.  Last time I ordered an octopus dish like this in NYC it was as much fun as a vasectomy consolation.
Caicos Cafe Octopus
Jerked Gherkin at Danny Buoy’s.  One of the most surprisingly tasty little bites as of late came from Danny Buoy’s during the World Cup final.  We had to double down on this to lower the agony of defeat.  Jerky Dill Pickle, cheese, and bacon, essentially all the basic necessities wrapped in pastry with spicy chipotle-like sauce.  Like tiny pickle/bacon Wellingtons.
Danny Buoy's Jerked Gherkin
Tuna Sashimi with Wasabi mustard at Seaside (Top) – Young chef Francois has more moves than Nicky Minaj.  He takes South Caicos caught tuna “cubes”, adds fresh radishes, scallions and tomatoes, dresses it lightly with wasabi mustard and layers it all nicely on Teriyaki glazed tortilla chips.  A tuna festival in your mouth.  And if you don’t order the lobster risotto and the now legendary Peruvian Conch Salad, we are no longer in speaking terms.  “Hi”, “bye”, that’s it!
Categories: Turks and Caicos | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

My Top 10 NYC Pastas

Lincoln StrozzapretiHi, I’m Ziggy.  I love pasta!  I had pasta last night, for lunch today, and I will have plenty of it in the next few weeks as I embark on another trip to mother Italia.  I think about pasta more than.. you know… Sports!  And before I leave you idle for a few weeks I figured to leave with a bang, a post about one of my favorite subjects.  My favorite pastas in NYC in no particular order…

Trenette Al Pesto Trapanese at Mercato.  From the port of Genoa sailors brought Trenette al Pesto to Trapani, Sicily where the dish was perfected even further with the addition of almonds.  Homemade chewy dried Trenette cooked to al dente perfection, with almonds, garlic, tomato and basil.  Its fresh, simple, and quite tasty.  I havent seen this dish anywhere else, and at $12, I feel like I negotiated something at the shuk with just a stare

Mercato Trenette

Fusilli with Octopus and Bone Marrow at Marea – One of two NYC classics on the list, and perhaps the most celebrated pasta in NYC America.  Articles, blog posts, children books (Goodnight Fusilli with Octopus!) have been written about this clasic.  The twisted homemade Fusilli is tossed with the most addictive fresh red sauce you will ever taste, with Sangiovese braised octopus, and bone marrow being the culprits.  A no brainer on this list

Marea Fusilli

Strozzapreti Con Aragosta at Lincoln (top) – Perhaps the best dish I’ve eaten this year.  Calling it simply Strozzapreti with lobster should be punishable by Italian law.  The beautiful Strozzapreti, which most likely were invented when someone envisioned a pasta shape while witnessing a priest being strangled to death (Strozzapreti means priest chokers) are made with lobster coral hence giving them the orange look.  They are mixed with not only sweet chunks of lobster but also lobster and scallop sausages (my favorite part) which is like eating the most glorious chicken skin you can imagine.  The sauce is zesty, light, and the perfect compliment to this delicate dish.  A classic in the making.  Not always on the menu, and preparation may differ based on season.

Uni Tagliatelle at Cull & Pistol – Fresh squid-ink egg noodles tossed in uni sauce and topped with tomatoes, bread crumbs, squid and Santa Barbara uni.  Marea’s uni pasta is perhaps the best I’ve had, but Marea is already on the list, and C&P’s version is pretty darn fantastic and quite different.  The sweet uni reins supreme with that rich sauce, and the smoky squid and bread crumbs add more texture to this dark beauty.  When a place makes only one pasta, its very often a good one.  Balaboosta, The NoMad come to mind as well

Cull and Pistol Tagliatelle

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil at Scarpetta – Simple isnt it?  Well, why dont you try it, and invite me for a tasting.  Recipes are all over the internet.  Chances are unless you are Scott Conant reading this (hey Scott) you will not succeed in matching the flavors of this classic.  Its fresh, bright and every ingredient suddenly comes to life.  Scarpetta’s signature dish and the most celebrated Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce and Basil this side of wherever they make the best Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil.  Pure awesomeness.

Scarpetta - Spaghetti

Homemade Pappardelle With Sweet Sausage at Da Andrea – There are a lot of similar Pappardelle pastas in NYC with all sorts of tasty ragus (Bar Pitti makes a good one with either rabbit or wild boar), but none of them made so many locals happy for so long.  Ok, its only been 14 years but still.  A staple on the menu since they opened in another location (Hudson st).  The purists may turn up their noses at the thought of “fake truffles” when they see Truffle Oil being used, but we dont have truffles or wallets growing in our backyards in NYC.  Not yet!  And besides, unlike many truffle oil dishes I’ve had in this town, this one got that aroma which convinces your brain that you are eating the real thing.  And dont forget to order some Tigelle with Prosciutto, another Emilia Romagna specialty

Da Andrea - Pappardelle

Half Portion

Agnolotti at All’onda – This is a tricky one since its not even the most popular pasta at All’onda (that honor goes to the Bucatini or Garganelli), nor the second or third most popular actually.  But in this town, its more unique and interesting to me than the others.  Not your average Agnolotti, nor “Plin”.  They are Mortadella filled with pistachios, and a crazy homemade XO sauce made with dried shrimp, scallops and soppressata.  XO is a sauce that Cognac laden Hong Kong chefs invented in the 80’s, except they forgot to add the key ingredient, Cognac.  This version of the sauce adds a funky aroma, and  plenty of depth, to otherwise good but basic Agnolotti

Bonus mention:  Sort of a bizarre marriage between the Agnolotti and the Cull & Pistol dish in a way is the splendid Bucatini with black garlic and Dungenese crab at Piora.  I didnt taste enough of it to include it

All'onda Agnolotti

Tonnarelli a Cacio e Pepe at Maialino – Open the drawer in the kitchen where you keep the pens, ribbons and paper clips (just in case that paper clip emergency comes), take a pen and write the ingredients for Tonnarelli Cacio e Pepe… Tonnarelli, Cacio, Pepe!  The Romans like to keep it simple (Carbonara, Gricia).  And when I was in Rome last year, in a way I was disappointed that I wasnt exactly blown away by all the wonderful Carbonaras and Cacio e Pepes because Maialino quite frankly spoiled it for me.  If you’ve never had this dish before perhaps because “pasta with cheese and pepper” doesnt sound very enticing, now is a good time to have it.

Maialino - Cacio e pepe

Stracci at Osteria Morini – From the one who knocks I bring to you the one dish that you will not find in Emilia Romagna out of that splendid ER inspired menu.  Wonderfully chewy wide ribbon pasta inherits the juices of the succulent braised mushrooms.  I would be happy with just the mushrooms.  It was love at first Stracci at one of my favorite Italians in town

Osteria Morini Stracci

 

Pasta with White Truffles At ?? – Ok for this one you need to do a little bitsy homework.  Its white truffle season at the time of this writing and you can enjoy your Tagliatelle, risotto, scrambled eggs, pizza, car keys or anything else you desire with White Truffles from Alba, Tuscany or Umbria.  I know Lincoln, Maialino, Marta have it currently and last year The NoMad (below) offered it at cost.  Its a feast for all senses, especially the nose.  Me?  I’m not touching the stuff this season in this town, as I’m heading to the source, Alba white Truffle festival.  Buon Appetito!  Ciao, Ziggy

628

Categories: Chelsea, Gramercy, Flatiron, Midtown West, New York City, SoHo, NoHo, Nolita, West Village | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Rank Empanada Mama’s Empanadas

photo 2A Hell’l Kitchen Guide staple from day one, this mama hasnt skipped a beat since it opened.  Even when things seem slow everywhere else in the neighborhood (between lunch and dinner), these guys are busy.  I’ve gone on a special empanada diet for the past few weeks.  And for the purpose of this post, I picked 10 Empanadas which consists of all the popular ones, plus a few I was just curious about (e.g. polish).  Scoring is 1 to 10 Z’s, with 10 Z’s being the best.  Congratulations to the winners.

ZZZZZZZZZ (9) – SPICY CHICKEN.  The creme de la creme.  Chunks of chicken breast slowly cooked in mama’s special picante sauce which is reminiscent of the Israeli S’chug, a fiery delicious Yemeni spread.   This is the definition of “pleasant Heat” that stays with you for a few hours.  Fairly spicy, not for everyone

ZZZZZZZZ (8) – BRASIL – Traditional Brazilian style empanada with ground beef, olives, sauteed onions, and potatoes.  Juicy, flavor packed with excellent depth.

ZZZZZZZz (7.5) – CUBAN – Slowly roasted pork, ham with mozzarella cheese and a touch of sofrito sauce.   Very nice!  The ham and the sauce take this to another level

ZZZZZZZz (7.5) – DESAYUNO COLOMBIANO – Colombian sausage, cheddar cheese, eggs and Spanish onion.  A solid breakfast snack that’s available throughout the day.

ZZZZZZZ (7) – VIAGRA – Seafood stew with shrimp, scallops, and crab meat.  The shrimp half is a bit boring, but then when you get to the other stuff.. oooh boy!  Nice fishy flavors.  The Viagra especially goes well with the Brazil!

ZZZZZZZ (7) – TJC – Mama’s tuna melt with cheddar cheese and jalapenos.  While I didnt rate it here because I havent had in a while, the Tuna/Jalapeno Empanada (no cheese) may be even better

ZZZZZZZ (7) – MAMBO ITALIANO – Roasted Italian sweet sausage with red and green peppers, onions, mozzarella cheese and a touch of tomato sauce.  Pretty much exactly what you’d expect…  Sausage and Peppers

ZZZZZZ (6) – POLISHPolish sausage (Kielbasa) sauteed with sauerkraut.  Good if not a bit bland.  I like my Kielbasas a bit tangier.

ZZZZZ (5) – REGGAETONCaribbean style roast pork with sofrito seasoned yellow rice and peas.  I’ve enjoyed this in the past but now finding it a little dry and in desperate need of that green sauce.  Would have been better without the rice

ZZZZ (4) – CHEESESTEAKSkirt steak with mozzarella cheese and a Latin twist.  The latin twist is it squirts all over the place when opened!  Steak a bit tough, no flavor, no likey

Even though I ranked the Polish and Reggaeton at the bottom, the only one I would avoid is the last one.  Reggaeton is fairly popular.

The green sauce is nice.  Red sauce not so much

photo 3photo 1

Categories: Midtown West, New York City | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 847 other followers