Posts Tagged With: Travel

Enoteca L’Alchimista – Food Magic in Montefalco

IMG_1384When you visit Montefalco, a medieval stunner, smack in the middle of landlocked Umbria, it wont take you long to see which is the star restaurant.  About 5 minutes in fact after you enter the main gate.  30 minutes if you get distracted by more truffle sauces and hanging grandpa’s balls (Palle di Nonno).  Its the one in the main square with all the happy people occupying every inch of the space.  Some of the happiest ones are munching on pigeon done five different ways.  And while the star restaurant does not always deliver the results you’d expect, this one shines.

At the helm is Patrizia Moretti, the alchemist, the magician, and local legend, who runs a tight ship along with daughter and daughter’s partner.  L’Alchimista doesnt have the look and feel of a small mom/pop Trattoria but of a sprawling, busy, well run establishment with a traditional yet refined menu.  Delicate flavors so on point, you hear angels sing with every morsel (We did eventually asked them to lower the volume when it got annoying).  Facing one of the most atmospheric squares in Umbria doesnt hurt.

The only thing better than a restaurant with a signature dish is one with two.  Onion Parmigiana may not sound too enticing but here you get sweet protected onion from nearby Cannara that sings with that cheese.  Burrata with 24 month Norcia Prosciutto we couldnt get enough in Umbria was spot on, and so was the delectable ravioli with goat cheese.  Tenderloin, marinated with the local Sagrantino red, so tender you can cut with car keys.  The remote square ones, not the one you ignite with.

IMG_E1383But the undisputed shining star, and a dish of the trip nominee is the pigeon.  Just like Onion Parmigiana, pigeon just never jumps out at you when you read a menu as such.  But then we recall the tasty pigeons of nearby Tuscany, especially the one made by another female magician 100 km away.  This bird comes in a variety of ways – pigeon breast, pigeon sausage, pigeon liver, and pigeon stuffed with more pigeon.  Its outstanding.  The only thing left to do is finish with a proper Tiramisu, and its indeed fantastic here.

Although I’ve had Enoteca L’Alchimista on my radar, I was not expecting this level of cooking, and an impeccable attention to detail.  Neither should you.  It helps when you go anywhere with low expectations.  Or lower than the enthusiasm you get from such blogs.  Different tastes, off nights, and just picking the wrong items to match your palate means way too many variables involved to guarantee anything.  But for us, on this particular night, it was flawless.

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

Z-List Update – Fall 2019

tone cafe - ajaruli khachapuriIts been 8 months since the last update.  5 in, 5 out this time.  The Z-List is essentially my favorite 50 restaurants in NYC today.  I try to conduct surprise inspections as frequently as I can.  I show up wearing a hat and fake mustache.  Even though they dont know what I look like, you can never be too careful these days.  Rumors out there that I look like Tom Branson from Downton Abbey are unfounded.  I know because I founded them.  Anyway here are the changes…

In:  Wayan, Rezdora, 19 Cleveland, Kawi, Tone Cafe

Out: 

Pasquale Jones – Just getting a sense that its getting a little too touristy these days.  The group keeps opening restaurants and sometimes they lose focus.  Besides I needed to sacrifice one Italian as I have too many

Totto Ramen – Too many Tottos out there lost in the shuffle of too many great Ramen joints these days.

Oiji – Just not strong enough for me to keep coming back.  All sorts of great Korean on this list

Bombay Bread Bar, Timna – Closed

The full list with map

Congrats to the new members.  Happy eating!

Tom

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

EV Bites – Of Foxes, Pizza, and Smores in Paradise

Smor - Potato SaladEV Bites is a [whenever I feel like it] feature that showcases five places in or around East Village you should know about.  I will occasionally extend the border to surrounding hoods and maybe even mention a name more than once.  The neighborhood of East Village in case you are not aware is an incubator for top industry talent, and a goldmine of world cuisine.

Previously on EV Bites:  The Dumplings Belt

Smør –  Want to see the saddest looking McDonalds in the city?  Head to East Village.  No matter how many places like Smør open in this area, you never have enough fast food, or fast casual spots around.  Smør specializes in exactly that, Smørrebrød, Nordic open faced toasts.  It starts and ends with the high quality bread from Union Square market.  The Potato salad will just about be the best potato salad you’ll ever have.  Fantastic Smoked Salmon is a given.  But the best item on the menu might be the Hangover (Roast Beef) Sandwich, best enjoyed with a light headache or morning after guilt.

Mister Paradise – I only write about bars if they happen to have exceptional burger food.  Mister Paradise has at the very least, some of the best bar burgers in the city.  The patty is of good quality, perfectly cooked meat, topped with bacon-infused american cheese and caramelized onions.  And for $12 good value to boot (fries are separate and good).  Add a not too shabby, if slightly on the dry side, fried chicken that comes with truffle and Habanero honey duo.  For drinks, for something refreshing try the Party Lobster – blanco tequila, mezcal, campari, watermelon, lime, fermented habanero, garlic

Mister Paradise Burger886 – Sometimes new places “expire” in my head, and I forget all about them, before they resurface somehow out of their hiding.  This Taiwanese was hiding in plain sight right on the busy, glitzy side of St Marks.  886 offers one of the better lunch specials in the area where you can choose dishes like the visually pleasing sweet Taiwanese Sausage and Fried Rice, and the absolute best Popcorn Chicken I’ve ever had.

886 - Taiwanese Sausage and riceVillage Square Pizza – Pizza joints in all shapes and sizes come and go in that part of the island.  The intense competition in the area created a survival of the fittest environment, except that its almost impossible to determine the fittest.  Sometimes I try new pizza and can pretty much pinpoint the month they’ll close (Rolio Pizza), but then there’s the curious case of Martina.  Village Square is run by former employees of the famed Prince Street pizza in Soho.  This is where you can get the famous Pepperoni Sicilian (square) without the hoopla (meaning tourists), and their signature white (fresh ricotta, garlic, mozzarella, honey).

Village Square PizzaFoxface – I told you about this ‘Hers and Hers Closet’ sandwich gem inside the William Barnacle speakeasy.  Well now that the NYT discovered it as well, you’ll need to take a number and wait for your sandwich just a little longer.  But its well worth it.

Foxface

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A Day in Chianti

IMG_0884When was the last time you did the chicken dance?  They still do them in weddings and  events all over the continent as far as I know.  Legend has it, the first chicken dance was in Florence in the 13th century when Florence seized control of much of Chianti from rival Siena (more on that later).  So in order to give the proper homage to this famous wine region, and unless you’ve been to a Bar Mitzvah lately, start practicing that ancient dance.  You will see that famous black rooster all over Chianti, sometimes proudly presented as larger than life statues.  Wish to visit Chianti on a day trip from wherever (I recommend basing in this town)?  Follow me on this chicken route…

Start your morning with a visit to the Castello di Verrazzano, one of the oldest (over 1000 years) and most respected wineries in Tuscany.  Its educational, but the history, place and location offering some magnificent vistas, is what sets it apart.  Its a great place to visit even if you are not into wine.  The 10 am visit (there’s also a 3 pm) Classic Wine Tour ends with a tasting.  You can also visit the store, have a nice long lunch, or book other experiences.  But we have more to do…

A short drive away is Greve in Chianti.  Visit for one of the most striking squares in Tuscany, which all but disappears on Saturdays when the market takes over.  Its a catch 22 since the market is interesting as well, and you can still visit some of the square stores.  Like the ancient, well respected Antica Macelleria Falorni where you can buy some high quality local salami and where Beef Tartare is treated as fast food.  And if you are from NYC dont forget to take a selfie with homeboy Giovanni da Verrazzano whose statue dominates the square on non market days.

Speaking of Johnny, here’s a little tidbit.  On October 1st, 2018 NY governor Cuomo signed legislation to correct the spelling of the VerrazZano-Narrows Bridge, adding that all important extra Z missing since 1960.  The Z-gate feud between the one Z supporters, and two Z supporters that spanned decades, finally came to an end.. for now.  While Google and all electronic signs reflect the new spelling, none of the old 96 signs reflect the name change. With that said, if you take the tour at Castello di Verrazzano, you can find an ancient barrel that shows ancient spelling with only one Z.  And will New Yorkers ever change the pronunciation (ZZ is “TS”, like Pizza).  The great explorer Verrazzano of course discovered the Bay of NY, before being eaten by Cannibals in the Bahamas.  Thats why we go to Turks and Caicos.

Its almost lunch time, but before that there’s one more stop.  This centers around a man as well, except that this one is very much alive.  Panzano is home to the most famous butcher in Italy, maybe the planet, Dario Cecchini.  Dario is an eighth-generation butcher born and raised in Panzano.  He owns a butcher shop (Antica Macelleria Cecchini), a few restaurants, and is essentially the main attraction in this town based on the number of people and energy that usually surrounds his shops.  He is the only butcher featured on Netflix’s Chef Table.  Dario doesnt speak much English, and my Menu Italian wasnt strong enough to carry a conversation.  You can have your Bistecca alla Fiorentina at Dario’s house.  Or…

IMG_0861Head to Osteria Le Panzanelle, 5 km south of Panzano, with reservations in hand of course.  Its an institution, popular with locals and visitors alike.  Start with the luscious eggplant Involtini and/or green bean flan.  Move on to the fresh, eggy Papardelle with a wild boar ragu that carries some serious depth.  Then your choices are an excellent fried rabbit and chicken, or the very fine, and surprisingly affordable Bistecca.  This place is popular, so it may take some time.  So stay, relax, and.. sigh.. check in with social media.  But take turns.  Dont be that table! 

By now you must be wondering whats the story with this black rooster that you see on every Chianti Classico and all over the region.  The legend of the Gallo Nero came from medieval times when Siena and Florence decided to settle their territory feud once and for all.  Two horseman would leave early in the morning from each city, and when they’ll meet, that spot would serve as the border.  But since the Iphone wasnt invented yet, they used the rooster crow as the signal for the start.  The Florentine starved their black rooster, while the Sienese fed their white rooster plenty, thinking he’ll wake up early and energized.  But it was the black Florentine rooster that woke up too early, starving and crowing, while the white rooster slept well.  That meant an early start for the Florentine horseman who got within 12 km of Siena, essentially seizing control of Chianti.  Hence the symbol.

IMG_9875After lunch, your options are to head to the nearby hamlet of Volpaia, and/or perhaps skipping the next destination, but I suggest not.  Castello di Brolio is yet another stunner.  You can participate in more activities and tours, a la Castello di Verrazzano.  But for the purpose of this post, we’ll just pay the entrance fee, walk around the castle, enjoy the views, and read about the history.  This one feels more subdued and isolated, adding about an hour of travel time overall.  You are entitled to a glass of red on your way out, but then you have more driving to do and its getting late.  Safety 6th is the motto of Eating With Ziggy Tours.

Our last stop is the ancient Castellina in Chianti, arguably the most picturesque village in the region.  You can visit and climb the all important Rocca, and see the unique underground tunnel that is essentially a street today with wine shops.  Wine and food is the theme in Castellina.  Like the Montalcino of the north.  A great place to just hang and people watch.  End this journey at Gelateria di Castellina.  Not a personal endorsement, but… Gelato + Tuscany = Safe Bet.

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

10 Genoa Tips

IMG_0474Ahhh, Genoa!  The name that triggers no emotion, confusion, and even anger sometimes.  Why is this guy writing about Genoa now.  What happened to Venice, Rome, and that Cinqua Terras place that he supposedly visited and only wrote about one dish so far.  Isn’t Genoa a working town?  What is there to do for three full days (said Mrs Ziggy when I first pitched the idea).  Plenty, turns out.  Genoa surprised me with its cultural depth, cuisine, attractions, and fashion.  Yes, I said fashion.  This post is not supposed to reinvent the wheel and offer you a complete Genoa guide (plenty of sources out there), but offer you some tips that may enhance your Genoa holiday.

Stay for a while – “More Than This” is the Genoa slogan you’ll see everywhere.  Either Genoa has much to offer or they are just huge fans of Brian Ferry.  But you can very easily fill three days in Genoa alone, and even do some day trips to Boccadasse, Anita Garibaldi Passeggiata, the stunning Camogli, Portofino, and more.  A week doesnt sound too long in Genoa once you factor all day trips and all the Focaccia you can eat.

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Make Pesto with a local – Pesto, like jeans, originated in Genoa.  Book a Pesto making class with Enrica from A Small Kitchen in Genoa.  Enrica is a publisher, food blogger, Pesto championship finalist, and just a delight to be around.  This experience, that ends with lunch at the beautiful terrace of Enrica’s apartment will probably be your most memorable.  You can also take a food tour and book other food experiences with Enrica.  My friends are still thanking me for this.

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Visit Staglieno Cemetery – My apologies to Enrica for following her with well, death.  But if you havent quite made the connection between a magnificent old cemetery to local history and culture, this is a good start.  Staglieno is arguably the most important or at least most beautiful cemetery in Italy.  An outdoor museum like no other.  But it helps to do a bit of research (you can start here), and spend at least 2-3 hours here.  Reading about the monuments will bring some of the stories to life.

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Do some Rolli palace homework – Its almost impossible to come to Genoa and not visit the Rolli Palaces, but its important to arrive with at least the basic understanding of the system of the “Lists” and how it got UNESCO’s attention.  This is what makes Genoa so unique.

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Dont overlook the Royal Palace – A most underrated stunner.  The Palazzo Reale, or Palazzo Stefano Balbi is just a little out of the tourist way.  And I can see how it can be skipped on a short visit.  A mini Versailles in Genoa that was shockingly empty when we visited.  I could practically walked the hall of mirrors naked, with only one or two people marveling watching.  This is also a good place to see the Ligurian pebble mosaic style called Risseu.

See Piazza De Ferrari at night – This is why you need to stay overnight.  Its the same story as many Italian towns.  The difference between a rushed day trip and an overnight stay is, well, day and night.  Seeing the families come out, the lights, fountain, with the palazzos in the background including the magnificent old stock exchange, all add up to quite the atmospheric square.

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Ok, trust me, there was atmosphere 😉

See the old town, but be prepared for some ‘Grit’ – Like many such towns all over Europe, Genoa has a distinct personality.  Genoa’s old town is fascinating, especially to the culinary minds.  But it’s not the most attractive.  Dont be surprised to see graffiti, and prostitutes in some corners.  Maybe thats what they mean by “More Than This”!

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Stay at So&leo Guest House – A well maintained, comfortable, quiet accommodations right between the port area, and old town.  Just a few minutes from Focaccia e Dintorni and many more

Get your Focaccia at Focaccia e Dintorni – The Genoese eat Focaccia for breakfast, lunch, dinner and as a late night snack.  On my morning walks, I must have tried around half a dozen different places, and Focaccia e Dintorni was the clear winner.  Try the Farinata, soft chickpea flatbread a la Cecina.

Eat at Cavour 21, and Trattoria Rosmarino – These were the best meals.  Cavour, old, no frills, no nonsense institution I already wrote about.  Rosmarino, a dazzling Slow Fooder by Piazza De Ferrari.  Who knew Lasagna’s biggest problem was tomato sauce.  Get the Lasagna.

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

Brooklyn December Tours Almost Sold Out

IMG_9992 (1)This is not a drill, nor a sales pitch.  Just a friendly heads-up.  Last year during the last few months of the year, I answered so many requests starting with the word “Unfortunately” that my smart phone started completing “Unfortunately” every time I started a sentence.  This year its happening much earlier.  I got plenty of availability between now and then, but the month of December is looking mighty busy already, especially with Brooklyn tours.

At the moment, there are a handful of open dates left.  The rest are mostly sold out Brooklyn tours, holidays (Christmas, Festivus…), and some time off.  There are a handful of mostly weekend walking tours (East Village, Hell’s Kitchen) with availability.  I imagine Dyker Heights Xmas lights is one of the culprits for the December tour spike as I get many queries about it.  A late Thanksgiving means a later Dyker Heights season this year.  Meaning I dont expect a full light show during the first week but I’ll know better when December starts.

Anywho, just want to give some readers the benefit.  Any questions or if you want to book a tour, email me at EatingWithZiggy@gmail.com

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Categories: Brooklyn, New York City | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Banff – The Food Report

Juniper Bistro - Wild Boar

Juniper Boar

This just in.  There’s food, good food, in Banff.  You can spend weeks reading food blogs, publications, and review aggregators like Trip Advisor and Yelp without getting the proper understanding on Banff’s food scene.  My expectations were of similar to touristy, seasonal resorts like a Lake George, Ogunquit.  But we were pleasantly surprised by the depth of the offerings, and overall quality, especially of that tender Alberta beef.  And six people meant a glorious amount of samplings.  Heres the good and the not so.

Juniper Bistro – A few kilometers away from the city in the Juniper hotel.  Comfortable setting, large windows offering nice views, albeit over the highway.  Elevated, creative combinations, and great for sharing which was the case in most places.  Excellent silky smooth chicken pate, wild truffle scented (probably oil) mushrooms.  A gorgeously cooked wild boar loin, and Duck were the undisputed stars of the mains.  Recommend!

Juniper Bistro - Duck

The Bison – The second best meal of the trip.  A meat extravaganza.  I easily surpassed my annual Bison intake in just one plate.  The magnificent Bison platter includes Bison sausages, the exceptional short rib and rib eye.  Bison is leaner meat so leaner short ribs can be especially appreciated.  But the star of show was the Elk Poutine which didnt resemble poutine much (good thing).  Five hefty gnocchi with slowly braised pulled Elk meat and cheese curds.  So good we ordered another round.  By round I mean one.

The Bison - Elk Poutine

The Balkan – Good Greek food.  Sort of what you’d expect from a place like this.  Appetizers (hummus, dips) were forgettable, but mains were solid, especially the lamb shank.  If you are more than four, get the feast and the shank.  Less than four, share the shank and another dish or two.  Fridays and Tuesdays are belly dancer, “Opah” nights, where you can finally participate in a tradition you didnt know missing in your life.  Smashing plates against the wall.

The Balkan - Lamb ShankChuck’s steakhouse – Best meal of the trip as expected.  Superb quality especially from the striploin/New York cuts surprisingly over the Wagyu and Rib Eye.  Very clever sides (cauliflower!) and even better desserts.  I would skip appetizers here altogether and just concentrate on the prize.  If you are more than three, share some cuts that add to about 8-10 ounces per person, a few sides, and you are golden.  This is NYC quality stuff.

Chuck's SteakhouseIndian Curry House – We know Indian.  We love Indian.  This is good Indian.  By the last day we were craving something spicy and tall buildings.  ICH took care of one part, while Calgary took care of the other.  Not everything was super authentic like the too tomatoey Chana and  the surprisingly mild beef (yes, beef is allowed here) Vindaloo (get it still), but really excellent Chettinad among other dishes

Indian Curry HouseBear Street Tavern – We know pizza.  We love Pizza.  This was not good pizza.  But its popular pub fare, with a solid beer lineup.  Skip the mooshy wings

Truffle Pigs – This serves as a nice break between Emerald Lake, and Takakkaw Falls in Yoho.  Its in a little village called Field thats worth a stroll while waiting for your table in one of the only options around.  Serviceable burgers and flatbreads

Truffle PigsFor breakfast head to Wild Flour Bakery and get the Frittata sandwich.  One morning we picked up their fine baguettes and just bought butter elsewhere for a Parisian breakfasts in the hotel room.  Best full breakfast was at Coyotes Southwestern Grill.  Marginally better offerings than the busier Tooloulous next door.

Best ice cream was at….. Shell Gas Station! A fridge full of rare Magnum bars. Better than the top rated ice cream on the strip.

Try to avoid the Fairmont Lake Louise deli or Icefield visitor center cafeteria and plan lunching at the Post Hotel instead.  We didnt and it was a mistake.

And dont forget to remove your bear bells from your pants before entering any of these establishment.   You are safe now.

Wild Flour Bakery - Frittata

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Casa Vieja – The Anti-Yelp

Casa Vieja - Tingas and TacosSocial Media is a wonderful, powerful thing.  Until its not.  I dont recall how I first learned about Casa Vieja in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.  Perhaps I read about it on Chowhound or the excellent Eat The World.  But it was most certainly not via Yelp.  In fact after the first time I took Mrs Z to Casa Vieja and posted about it on Instagram, my friends were curious about taking my culinary spoiled wife to a place ranked so low on Yelp (three stars).  Thats because the type of people that visit Casa Viaja dont review on Yelp.  A whopping 15 reviews for one of the three oldest Mexican in Sunset Park (Tacos Matamoros, Tacos El Bronco are the others).

Like some of the Arab eateries of the neighboring Bay Ridge, and the Chinese neighbors in the East, it helps to know the language in this part of 5th Avenue.  I think I’m getting to the point that its a little too late in the game to tell my regular waitress that I dont really speak Spanish.  I’ve given her many clues, like not speaking a word of Spanish, and even accidentally uttering a Buonasera once or twice in the few attempts we tried.  We are not only the only non-Spanish speakers in this casa, but in the entire block sometimes.  If you measure authenticity by a foreign country like environment, Casa Vieja is as genuine as it gets.

Casa Vieja

Eat The World

However very often “authentic” doesnt translate well due to poor ingredients, execution, or cultural differences.  Sometimes in order to appreciate a dish, it helps to grow up with it.  Thankfully this is not the case here.  Everything I’ve had here so far has been fresh tasting and pleasing to the palate.  Flavors I dont expect in cheap Mexican restaurants.  I usually start with the Tingas these days.  Mini crispy tacos loaded with delicious shredded chicken with chopped tomato, lettuce, crumbled cheese and some tangy aioli.  The corn on the cob is always solid although oddly overpriced.

Tacos, even on 5th ave can sometimes be bland and uninspiring.  Not the case here, at least with the Al Pastor and Chorizo.  The Mole here is superb.  Try it on Enchiladas with steak.  But the one dish I must have every single time, that usually follows me to the car is the excellent Lomo de Puerco Adobado.  Beautifully marinated Pork Loin, with zucchini, corn, and dressed with sauce that got some seriously sneaky heat that even the Szechuan loving neighbors to the east can appreciate.

Casa Vieja
6007 5th Ave (60th), Sunset Park, Brooklyn
Rating: 2 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: Lomo de Puerco Adobado, Tingas, Enchiladas with mole, Tacos

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The Umbria Awards

IMG_1397Instead of boring you with the usual Best of Umbria this or that, or random tips on Umbria, I will bore you with an award ceremony.

The Charlize Theron Award.  Given to the most picturesque Town – Spello

We visited a number of towns and villages throughout Italy.  Spello is not only the most picturesque town in Umbria, but one of the prettiest in the country.  It helps if you visit during the Infiorate flower festival.  But even at other times you got flowers, bunnies, chachkies of all kinds decorate every balcony.  Some even proudly display the awards their balconies won.

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The Tom Branson Award.  Given to the most charming village – Scheggino

I’ve already written about this little fairy tale village near Spello that so many overlook.  But it helps to see it like I did, without any preconceived notions.  Have dinner at the excellent Osteria Baciafemmine, and visit the Urabni Truffle store.  Pair it with Spello, and give it an hour or two of daylight prior to dinner.

Tom

The Leonard Hofstadter Award.  Most atmospheric square –  Montefalco

You get the sense that the squares of Umbria stick out more than other regions.  Many towns feature interesting streets and alleys full of anticipation to what squares they lead to.  Some, as the great Morrissey once said, are bigger than others.  But few came close to the atmosphere of Montefalco in the evening.

Villa in Umbria

Courtesy of Villa in Umbria

The William H Macey Award.  Given to the sleepiest village – Bevagna

Or did we catch her at the wrong time.  June, midday, hot hot hot.  This is not a full endorsement as we found it a little too sleepy perhaps, but there’s something to learn here.  Avoid middle of the day.  Come with an open mind.  Dont compare them.  And no matter what, have dinner at Antiche Sere.

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The Rick Steves award.  Given to the most important, but couldn’t wait to get out of there town – Assisi

Every time there’s a discussion about wearing shorts in churches, I think of Assisi and the Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi.  I havent seen so many bare legs since the last ZZ Top video.  Some places are touristy for a reason, and Assisi is certainly no exception.  Best advice is this:  Take a guided tour to help with the focus and appreciate it better.  We didnt, and that was a mistake

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The Boar’s Head Award.  Given to the best picnic spot – Piani Di Castelluccio

With the aid of Norcia Salami, made by some of the most respected butchers in the world.  Even after the devastation of Norcia and Castelluccio after the 2016 earthquake, there’s just something surreal about being there.  A trip to the stunning Piani compliments any Umbria itinerary well.  But if this is a bit far from you, a picnic overlooking the spectacular Assisi from the vineyards off SAIO may do.

IMG_1276The Milton Snavely Hershey Award.  Given to the best Chocolate – Urbani truffled truffles in the Urbani museum

Umbria is sort of a Chocolate lover paradise.  You got Perugia and its famous tenant, Perugina, the maker of Baci kisses.  In Norcia you can visit Cioccolateria Vetusta Nursia.  We purchased so much chocolate, we are still eating them months later.  But it was the marketing nightmare of the truffled truffles in Urbani that triggered a reaction like no other.  A good reaction.

The rest of the awards given in a ceremony earlier…

Best Porchetta – Antica Salumeria Granieri Amato, Perugia

Best I can’t believe it’s not Porchetta – Rabbit Porchetta, Antiche Sere, Bevagna

Antiche Sere Porchetta rabbiit

Best Dish – Pigeon at Enoteca L’Alchimista, Montefalco

Best Meal – Enoteca L’Alchimist, Montefalco

Best Chef – Patrizia Moretti, Enoteca L’Alchimist, Montefalco

Best Chef South East – Patrizia Moretti, Enoteca L’Alchimist, Montefalco

Miss Congeniality – Giulia Rossi. Enoteca…  Just kidding.  Its Patrizia Moretti

Congratulations to the winners!

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

Rezdora – Grandma Power!

WDid I ever tell you the story of my mysterious volume spike?  A few years ago, I looked at my site and noticed the number of page views suddenly skyrocketed.  Mainly due to the post on Hosteria Giusti in Modena I wrote a few years prior that suddenly went viral.  And there was no indication why.  There was no referral site like Trip Advisor or Facebook which was the culprit for similar spikes in the past, like the Top NOLA bites that went viral on Facebook.  It appeared that people were sent there from simply googling “Hosteria Giusti”.  But why so many Googling?

The answer came about four months later.  Heard of Netflix and Chill?  If not, and you are a parent, you may or may not want to Google it.  But in my house, its more like Netflix and Sleep, with almost zero chance of Chill.  One day we started watching Master of None, Season 2, set in, you guessed it, Modena, a sort of Foodie paradise in Emilia Romagna.  But it was only when Aziz Ansari celebrated his birthday in Hosteria Giusti, that little light in my head finally turned on.  The next morning I googled it, and sure enough, my story is on the first page.  The spike started the day the season was released.

“So what the fuck does all this have to do with Rezdora, Ziggy”.  Great question Timmy. I’m getting there.  And why so angry today?  Hosteria Giusti is a 400 year old deli in Modena that takes a stupendously long lunch break and transforms into one of the north’s toughest tables.  Unless you have the adorable looking face of an Aziz Ansari, reservations required many months in advance.  For me it was easy because I do happen to have the adorable face of an Aziz Ansari.  More like a cross between Aziz and Tom Branson from Downton Abbey.

Tom

Anywho, this requires some more investigating, but chef Stefano Secchi the owner of Rezdora, might have been at the helm at Giusti during our lunch.  Although he grew up in some Italian city called Dallas, Secchi got much of his inspiration at Giusti and Osteria Francescana, one of the only restaurants in the world where you book the restaurant first, and THEN book flights.  Rezdora is an homage, not only to Modena, arguably the best food city in Europe, but also to the Nonnas that make it happen.  Its not entirely clear to me if Rezdora means head of household or Grandma in Modenese dialect.  It depends on who you ask.  Maybe in Modena, the grandma is usually in charge.  Not so much in NYC.

While we have plenty of restaurants that call themselves North Italian, or offer cuisine from Emilia-Romagna, none are nearly as representative or daring as Rezdora.  This is Modena cooking.  There’s a certain level of Chutzpah required to introduce this level of authenticity by way of dishes that may seem odd to the natives.  Like a Raviolo, which by definition means one Ravioli (and its a good one).  New Yorkers may know Ravioli, but not Raviolo.  Still, this is the right city to do this.  You may not get the same results in Boise.

Reservations are tough to get as of now.  But we showed up a few minutes before opening (5) and were able to get sits at the bar on a Saturday night.  When we left two hours later, there were sits available.  The best thing I can say about the service, and any service, is the staff seemed happy, genuinely enjoying what they do.  Here’s the food rundown…

Rezdora

Eater

Cherry season in Vignola – Vignola is a town near Modena known for its intense cherries.  Here its paired with creamy Stracciatella and almonds.  It is meant to eat with bread that doesnt exist unless you order the Fett’unta, an oily, garlicky toast.  It paired well initially or at least until the garlic from the bread took over the mic.

Gnocco Fritto – This is a classic Modenese specialty of fried dough balloons that pop when you bite into.  The Gnoccos vary from town to town between Parma and Bologna, but this is pretty much what you get at Hosteria Giusti.  Each one is topped with either Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella or Finocchiona.  If you are sharing and feeling selfish, go for the Mortadella.  If you are on a first date, go for the Prosciutto.  Then Mortadella.

Tagliolini al Ragu – If you ever had the ultra eggy Tajarin in Piedmont, or Tagliolini in ER, this is as close as it gets in NYC today.  Its an explosion of flavors.  What we call here Bolognese is essentially a poor attempt to mimic this, the original.

Uovo Raviolo di Nino Bergese – One large ravioli, and a brilliant combination of Ricotta, runny egg, Chanterelles, and fragrant summer black truffles shaved on top for good measure.

Cow grazing in Emilia Romagna – The names of some of the dishes alone show that Massimo Bottura influence.  This is pretty much what you expect from a sirloin in a high end restaurant.  Perfectly cooked quality beef with three delicate sauces.  The meat is so good on its own, you hesitate to try the sauces.  But they dont do any harm.  Mix and match for best results.

Chocolate Tart – This is were things just fell a little flat for me.  There was a Tiramisu and another dessert, but this one looked most interesting.  A not so inspiring dark choc tart with hazelnut mousse.

Poor lighting translated to some horrible iphone pictures this time, so borrowing some from Eater.  Read Eater!

Rezdora
27 E 20th St (Brwy/Park), Flatiron
Rating: 3 Z’s (out of 4)
Stars range from Good to Exceptional. Simple as that
Recommended Dishes: All of the above except dessert

Categories: Gramercy, Flatiron, New York City | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

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