Mauritius Bar Gelateria,
Bologna, Italy, tasted on March 21, 2004 — Yet another
write-up of an Italian gelateria. It's so funny how they all follow
a similar format. I guess ice cream shops in the United States all
kind of look the same too no matter where you go. What really put
Mauritius Bar Gelateria over the top was their chocolate gelato.
It was like frozen, creamy super pure Hershey's syrup. I know some
of you may scoff at Hershey's so substitute your favorite brand, but
trust me, this stuff was fantastic. When we go out to eat there's a
rule that you can't eat the food until the picture is taken. As you
can see from the toothmarks in this shot, the gelato was simply too
hard to resist. Creamy dreamy, yummy and deeply deeply chocolatey.
There were other flavors as well including orange, lemon, and
carrot. The orange was a touch artificial tasting like and
but still had a good creamsicle quality to it. The vanilla was eggy
and quite good. Other flavors (we failed in our mission to try them
all) included Nutella, biscotti, and creme caramel to name a few.
Bologna, Italy, tasted on March 21, 2004 — When you have a limited
amount of time in a city you need to choose where you eat carefully.
While appetite can be endless, time is precious as is space in your
stomach. You'd think it would be obvious where to eat. Countless
sources are all hawking their recommendations. But who to trust? In
fact, to be blunt, the distinct lack of reliable sources is partly
why this website was created. We strive to be that reliable source.
But who do we go to? Lauren had a good notion in asking Armandino
Batali, proprietor of the only real Italian sandwich shop in
Seattle, his own salumeria, and father of celebrity chef Mario
Batali where he likes to eat in Italy. His recommendation?
Ristorante Diana in Bologna - apparently (according to Lauren) his
favorite restaurant in all of Italy (and also
preferred by son Mario). Always willing to give people the
benefit of the doubt, we made our way to Diana for our first dinner
Diana was a site to see, an old school
restaurant filled with smoke licking the wood paneled walls. Fancily
dressed waiters carved meat tableside. If the smoke wasn't so thick
it might have been charming. We wound our way through the fog to the
backroom where there was some modicum of a non-smoking section and
We started with the Bresaola Della
Valtellina which had stunning color and rich flavor. Even better was
the Prosciutto San Daniele. This ham was among the best I've ever
had. Salty, yummy, and explosive in flavor. Great. More meat, this
time in a spreadable form - Spuma di Mortadella con Crostini Caldi.
It was like a baloney paste. Mild, interesting, and pink.
Next up was Risotto al Carciofi. The
artichoke risotto was savory and nice. The Taglioline con Tartufo
were ok. The truffles on buttered noodles were subtle, too subtle I
think. But the Bavette al Profumo di Limone - lemon noodles with
julienned ham was quite good. I didn't think I'd like lemon pasta,
but in fact I loved it.
Truffles were sort of a theme as we
ordered the Supplemento Tartufo and ended up with truffle on most of
our dishes. In case anyone's confused, this is definitely not a bad
thing. We had a combination of turkey, Ham, cheese, and truffle, as
well as a Patate Gratinee Tartuffi (potato, cheese, and truffles).
It's hard to really make dishes with these ingredients badly.
Finally we had the scampi in shells. I thought it didn't have huge
flavor, but Alex liked it.
Here's the thing about Diana. Everything
was certainly good, but not special. Let me explain. It's like
eating pizza, or caviar for some people. They're both foods people
love. And they're both foods that even when not great, people who
love them will still eat them. Pasta, truffles, cheese, ham. I
really can't complain about any dish that contains any (or even all)
of these ingredients. That said, other than the lemon pasta, it
wasn't exactly a memorable meal, and ultimately that's what we're
Food News, March 25, 2005
— Finalists for
International Association of Culinary Professionals awards were
announced recently. The winners will be announced April 16th.
Who really invented the hamburger? There are
apparently three major claims, according to John Menches, who
describes in a
Business Week online report how his great-grandfather
invented the hamburger in 1885.
NPR discusses the others in a report from a few years ago.
And if you are really into hamburger history, read
Hamburger Heaven: The Illustrated History of the Hamburger,
by John Tennyson.
Lately, food websites abound with various Easter
food discussions, like this one from the San Francisco Chronicle
Easter desserts. The author says that Easter isn’t
associated with an iconic dessert, but we say, then whither
Peeps (see last year’s Slate article that claims that
Americans eat around 700 million Peeps each Easter…mmm…marshmallow
and chemically-altered sugar…) or the Cadbury egg…what’s in
those things? Nobody knows…except possibly the creators of the
Cadbury egg tribute site.
Food News, March 24, 2005
— I admit that sometimes I'll eat a little bit of butter plain. I'm
not sure why that's not as socially acceptable as eating a spoonful
of sour cream but for some reason it's not. This is the place I
admit all my inappropriate eating habits so why not this one. The
Los Angeles Times (free registration required) gets it with
ode to butter.
Not sure I need to say much more than
Fusilli with Asparagus and Bacon.
meatball recipe have bread in it? This one is from the New York
Times (free registration required).
I'm thinking of flying a bunch of barbecue for lunch
one day for my co-workers. What's the best mail-order barbecue
The Salt Lick?
The County Line?
Kreuz Market? Of course,
given the people I usually eat with, the only possible answer to
this dilemma would be to try them all in some blind taste test. That
may not be possible for a little while, so in the meantime, this
seems like a good opportunity for
Alex is always complaining that white chocolate
isn't real chocolate. More
evidence for his case.
Not to do too much self-promotion, but we have
gotten a lot of new readers since we put out our first ever
electronic cookbook - All About Apples, from Chef Scott Carsberg at
Lampreia. Download it for free
Recently a group of Seattle folks who chat together
on a discussion board called mouthfuls got together to
cook all the dishes in the cookbook. Neat! I heard it went
Cerro, Covigliaio - Firenzuola, Italy, tasted on March 21, 2004 — Back
to Italy. On this particular day we found ourselves driving on a
long windy road from Florence to Bologna. Florence was great, but we
were intent on spending the bulk of our time in Italy in Emilia
Romagna - source of parmesan cheese, parma ham, and authentic
balsamic vinegar. Not many regions can claim so many iconic and
delicious contributions to the world of food. Bologna is the biggest
city in the region and it was going to be our home base while we
scoured every inch of the countryside for ham, cheese, and vinegar,
saving small amounts of room for pasta and various other yummy
Italian dishes. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Our drive to
Bologna was long, and we were... no surprise... hungry.
When we couldn't wait any longer we pulled off
the road and found the cute
Il Cigno hotel with
its own restaurant - il
Cerro. We'd stoppped at a roadside bar/restaurant but the smoke was
so thick we just couldn't stay. Luckily il Cerro was a little further
down the road. It was 3pm on a Sunday and the place was positively
empty. But they graciously agreed to feed us. It was very nice of them.
Given that they were working late, we didn't judge them too harshly for
the bad 80's music pouring out of the kitchen. Even though the hotel
seemed pretty relaxed, and the decor of the restaurant was a bit rustic,
the meal was definitely towards the high end of the spectrum -
especially in terms of the service. When we were served wine, the waiter
would "wash" all the glasses with wine...
'priming the glass" according to alex.
Our late lunch started off with Fagiolini with Bacon and Cheese.
Basically a pastry shell, all golden with sesame seeds is filled with
ham and a cheesy filling that was tart with warm beans all mushed up as
well. The beans were light but provided a foundation of texture and
flavor. This was quickly followed by an enormous plate filled with cold
meats and marinated vegetables. The marinated artichoke was simply
amazing. It was delicate, starting soft, but getting stronger over time.
Citrus showed up halfway through, and the flavor held up surprisingly
well to the strong meats. The oiliness was comforting. The strip of pork
fat on the plate got a little too warm to be enjoyable.
Next up was a series of crostini. There were
some good individual moments: the garlic on mushroom, the melty cheese,
and the unbelievably tangy and exciting tasting tomato.
Peyman pointed out that the bread
did get a bit soggy given how oil drenched everything was. The
Tagliatelle with Ham and Leek was delicious. I love pasta and this was
no exception. It was a bit peppery on the finish. The pasta spirals with
tomato sauce that followed were not quite as good. They had a great spicy kick,
but were a touch too
herby, and the pasta was slightly undercooked.
We were getting pretty full but soon a platter of San Carlo
Dixi, Cornetti di Mais, al Formaggio arrived. The rice
very good. The savory tomato meat flavored sauce was rich and hearty.
But the penne that followed was even more undercooked than the spirals.
It was inedible. Finally we had a platter with vegetables, cheese, lardetto,
and mushrooms. Unfortunately it was kind of greasy. The fresh vegetables
were great but overall tough to eat.
Two factors conspired to make this not a particularly
great meal (tagliatelle aside). Firstly, there seemed to be an overuse
of oil on the part of the kitchen. I love olive oil as much as almost
anyone. But it seemed overly generous to me. The other issue was that
many people in Italy had a hard time understanding our style of
ordering. We go for breadth, not depth. Our ordering is designed to let
us sample small amounts of as many dishes as possible. The waiter
brought out such enormous communal dishes of each item we ordered that
by the end we were begging for mercy. I suppose if the food had been
more consistent, maybe we wouldn't have minded the enormous portions
quite as much.
Seattle, WA, tasted on March 19, 2005 — I look forward to new
restaurants opening up with quite a bit of excitement. Especially
when they open near me. The truth is that I really want to love new
restaurants. I want to find a gem. I want to go back again and
again. I want to add a new restaurant to my list of favorites and
tell everyone how great it is. The truth is also that this rarely
happens. It's certainly not because I don't want new restaurants to
be great, it's just that often unfortunately they are not.
Crush, a recently opened restaurant in Seattle, is
doing everything right. They are doing everything right if you want
to be a successful restaurant in Seattle. Unfortunately that doesn't
necessarily equate to being a special eating experience. Fresh local
ingredients? Check. Frequently changing menu reflective of the
seasonality of the ingredients? Check. Open late? Check. Hip designy
decor? Check. Small Plates? Check. Open kitchen? Check. And you know
what? I think that's a great checklist. I think just about every
restaurant should follow those guidelines. However, all these things
are just a baseline. And they are not even foundational really,
they're not what makes for great food. They're the trappings of
potentially great food, as well as cues that today's sort of food
educated dining public looks for. But you can make great food
without any of those things. Because ultimately you judge the
quality of the food with your mouth.
Crush is designed for success. It hits all the right
notes the eating public is looking for as well as being housed in an
cute and hiply remodeled house in Seattle's central district. The
black and white decor as well as the plastic,
make for a neat interior. It's not off putting though, and in fact
the combination of the design, the beautiful open kitchen behind a
bar, all situated on the first floor of a house works. Kind of
innovative, interesting, and yet comfortable and not snobby. I
assume that's kind of the way they'd like their food to come off as
We started off with Spring Carrot Soup with Ginger
and Mint Cream. The soup had a nice texture. The flavor was simple
but not super interesting. Bland. The Citrus Marinated Beet and
Cress Salad with Sultanas & Warm Blue Cheese Toasts wasn't
particularly special. It's not that I wouldn't love a great
combination of citrus, beets, and blue cheese. It's just that this
wasn't it. I don't know any better way to say this than, there was a
whole lot of stuff thrown together. At least that's how it felt. The
Grilled Asparagus and Goat Cheese Salad with Prosciutto Chips,
Balsamic, and Hazelnuts was sort of thrown together as well but this
dish worked. Mostly I think because the asparagus was perfectly
cooked, and the prosciutto chips (sort of a ham jerky) were full of
Next up was Sautéed Hudson Valley Foie Gras with
Brioche, Endive Pear Salad, Huckleberries. The flavor was quite good
though the composition relatively typical. The main distraction was
the cold center of the foie. I don't mean luke warm. I mean truly
cold. Like the center of the piece had just been removed from the
fridge. We also had the Seared Scallops and Sweet Onion Risotto with
Duck Confit, Tangerine and Arugula. The scallops were ok. The
risotto was sort of just there. A touch gloppy. Not really
interesting. The duck got lost in it. The main challenge was that
the seared surface of the scallops had so much salt on them that you
couldn't help but get a mouth full of saltiness that distracted from
everything else. Finally we got the side of Sautéed Spinach.
It was pretty delicious. The diced bacon didn't hurt. I don't think
it's a coincidence that one of the simplest dishes we had, was one
of the best. I don't know why diners are looking for things that are
complicated. I assume they must be as many new restaurants zero in
on dishes with lots of stuff going on. I admit this may be a bias,
but I'm a fan of simplicity. Complexity just makes it harder to make
a coherent dish. It can be done (and some chefs do it beautifully)
but why try to make thing complicated when simple dishes can be so
Dessert. Chocolate Cherry Honeycomb with Chantilly,
Decadence, and Meringue. This was good.
Debbie was surprised
by the power of the liqueur, but she quickly got past it and enjoyed
the dish. I had the Warm Apple Tart with Caramel Ice Cream, Spiced
Apple Balls, and Chips with Calvados. I admit I'm hard pressed to
not like Apple/Caramel/Ice Cream combinations, but this one was
particularly good. Yes, a lot of stuff was going on, but the tart
was an ooey gooey foundation for everything else that brought it all
Crush will be very successful no matter what I
think. I knew this when I walked in the door. I knew it more
certainly when I watched every diner stop at the open kitchen and
thank the chef profusely for their fantastic meals. I don't think
these people are tasting their food. I think they have some idea of
what good food is and where you find it, and the trappings of Crush
conform to those ideals. Some might say I'm being unfair. If they
like it, who am I to say they are wrong. Fair enough. That said, I
bet I could put two carrot soups next to each other... one sublime,
with subtlety and strong flavor and show them the difference
between food that looks cool, and food that tastes great. I bet they
could tell the difference if they had the chance. Given that Crush
is relatively new I'll probably try it again. But I won't get my
tasted on March 19, 2005 — Yet another Jewish holiday is
coming up - Purim. The old joke sketches the outline for the
backstory of just about every Jewish holiday: "they tried to kill
us, we survived, let's eat". This is another one of those combined
with sanctioned dressing up and silliness. As for the food,
triangular fruit-filled pastries made to resemble the bad guy's ear
are one of the staples.
Historical perspective from my father the historian:
"Hamantaschen" were originally "montaschen"
(German-yiddish for poppy seed pockets). But Jews couldn't
resist the pun and began calling them "homantaschen". The
tri-cornered bit was simply the way a circular bit of dough
folded over came out. Note that in Hebrew, they are called "Haman's
ears" and not "Haman's hats". The tri-cornered hat idea is a
later innovation linked, presumably to the 18th century hat
style. I would love to imagine that this had something to do
with the hats of the Napoleonic French armies that liberated
Jews from ghettos in the early 18th century. There are tales of
the Jews eagerly swapping hats with the French soldiers, but
this is usually linked to wanting to sport the tri-color (red
white and blue little bits of cloth that were stuck into the
Frenchmen's hats as flag-like symbols of France and liberty)
rather than the hats themselves which, presumably, were just
like the hats the Jews already wore.
Often at bakeries you'll find them (hamantaschen,
not hats) filled
with poppy seeds or prunes. My mom knows better than that. She has
hers smaller, lighter, and stuffed with apples - sort of like a
On Saturday, Sivan (my three-and-a-half year old
son) and I decided to take out his grandmother's recipe and make
hamentaschen. They turned out just like she makes them - well just about
like hers. There's no real substitute for her making them herself.
Maybe we'll videotape her next time she does it. My mom says she
adapted the following from a recipe by Lillian Kaplun, For the Love
of Baking, page 47, published in Toronto 1960. Makes about
fifty hamentaschen. Believe it or not, mine were even better the
second day after they'd completely cooled.
- 4 cups all purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/3 teaspoon salt
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- juice of 1 regular orange
- 3 granny smith apples peeled and diced
- enough cinnamon and sugar to lightly coat (don't overdo the
- juice of 1 lemon
- Mix flour, baking powder, and salt.
- Beat eggs until light and lemon colored.
- Add sugar gradually and beat mixture until thick.
- Add oil mixing well.
- Add dry ingredients alternately with orange juice.
- Dough will be somewhat sticky. Add flour in small amounts
just until it's workable.
- Roll out dough thinly. Cut into 2 inch rounds.
- Put 1 teaspoon of filling on each piece, fold into a
triangle pinching edges together.
- Brush with beaten egg white mixed with a little water.
- Place on greased cookie sheet.
- Bake at 350F for 12-15 minutes or until just starting to
turn golden brown. Don't overbake. It's ok if they look a little
- Let them cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet and then
remove to a plate for more cooling.
You don't have to celebrate Purim to enjoy these
little apple-turnover like pastries any time of year.
March 18, 2005 — I found a cool food blog the other day,
Arthur Hungry. I liked it
for a variety of reasons, but mostly because it reminds me of
tastingmenu. I like seeing people describe their great meals out in
incredible detail and often with photos. I also like their "Right
Now" section which tells you where he is eating at the moment. This
seemed cool to me. Having no shame, we're happy to rip it off. From
now on you'll see where we are as well at the top of the column to
There was a cool article on food blogging that
mentions tastingmenu and a bunch of other food blogs in the
Washington Post (free registration required). We also got
a nice mention for tastingmenu and
Seattle Weekly. The article in the post appears to have been
syndicated in the Knoxville paper as well but I can get past their
burdensome registration page to see.
I'd love to see some discussions going
on at our discussion
board on tasteeverything. Registration takes a minute, and there
are plenty of topics to discuss. I'd propose, where to eat in
Chicago as a topic I'd like to see discussed.
Wacky Reader, March
16, 2005 — If I'm going to take up bandwidth and hard drive
space blabbing my opinions, then it's only reasonable to expect
criticism. And this site has gotten its fair share. Mostly I just
let it go and let it be part of the texture of the site. But today's
feedback on yesterday's
post by Debbie (e-mailed to me, not posted) is so nutty that I
can't pass it by. And please note: for anyone who is a vegetarian, I
respect you, and have no problem with you. I can even recommend a
restaurant or two that will blow you away with their incredible
vegetarian food. The exchange below is not about vegetarians and not
eating meat. It's about this reader's hostility and inappropriate
moral equivalency. OK. Enough caveats.
I received the following mail:
Regarding Jacques Pepin's comment "Most of
the people against foie gras have never even been on a farm",
followed by tastingmenu.com's "This great quote and more..."
One doesn't have to visit Auschwitz to have a
good sense of how brutal the Holocaust was for the millions that
But I guess if we've been eating foie gras
for years why should we change? We're under no obligation here
to examine what is right and what is wrong in light of the other
occupants of this planet. Animals are more like property than
sentient beings, really. If we can dominate another species
completely there's probably no reason why we shouldn't. Our
needs, however bizarre and out of touch with reality on a global
level, come first.
Jacques is off his freaking rocker. I read
the Saute Wednesday piece with him rambling dementedly about
tasteless organic tomatoes. Who cares, Jacques?
I hope the apocalypse wipes out the
condescending elitist food snobs first. If there's any justice
in the world it will be from avian flu.
M.Y. [I have withheld the writer's identity
so their mailbox doesn't overflow.]
In fact, I think one does have to visit
Auschwitz to get a sense of even a modicum of the brutality of
the holocaust. And it's clear to me that by comparing the plight
of ducks and geese to the genocide of 6 million people who
shared my religion, culture, and in some cases DNA, you have
definitely not visited Auschwitz. And ironically, the trip might
do you in particular some good. Maybe afterwards you won't wish
mass extermination on humanity as you do at the end of your
Setting your unbelievable insensitivity and
ignorance aside, I don't know why you haven't written to me
complaining about my love of meat. Have you seen how they treat
cows? Chickens? Pigs? I have. If you're truly passionate about
not treating animals like property then at least be consistent.
I assume you don't own or use any leather products either. Do
you eat fish? Eggs? Dairy products? If so then I would recommend
you do two things:
1) Examine your value system and figure out
why you've picked this issue to be outraged about when there
are so many others of equal or greater importance to spend
your time on.
2) Before dismissing Pepin's comments,
please do go visit a farm. And not just a goose farm, but a
variety of farms where they raise animals for food. (I
have done this.) After
that I again suggest you examine your value system and
decide in what order to be outraged.
If after these exercises you get consistent with
your passions and decide that all animal products are not for
you, and stop comparing farming of animals to genocide, then I
will disagree with you, but at least disagree respectfully. (I
have no problem with vegetarians or anyone who doesn't want to
use animal products for any reason. I do have a problem with
people who make hostile and incoherent arguments.)
And if by some miracle, after all this you
actually reverse your position and realize that the production
of foie gras is no more inhumane than raising and milking dairy
cows, and you suspend your outrage, I can recommend several
restaurants where the foie gras is prepared exquisitely.
sometime vegetarianism and
love of animals (especially his dog) appears to be
reasonably well-documented in respected books with no
anti-vegetarian agenda that I could determine (1,
2). This feels like an ironic moral equation for you to
weigh especially given your penchant for comparing Hitler's
activities with those of farmers who haven't killed millions of
Now I feel better.
Food News, March
15, 2005 —
Cooking for Engineers just won the
2005 "Bloggy" for Best
Food Blog of the year! Congratulations!
What's the difference between a hashbrown and a
latke (potato pancake)? I don't know, but they should both be
crispy. Simply Recipes claims to have a great
recipe for crispy hashbrowns which looks very good.
When we're in New York we always get pastrami
sandwiches from Katz's. The Amateur Gourmet agrees that Katz's is
the best, and has
some great pictures of their sandwiches (and latkes) from a
"Most of the people against foie gras have never
even been on a farm": This great quote and more from
Saute Wednesday's interview with Jacques Pepin.
Alessandro Nannini Coffee Shop,
Florence, Italy, tasted on March 21, 2004 — Italy is dotted
with little coffee shops - coffee, liquor, pastries, gelato, and
many of them serve panini - pressed hot yummy sandwiches. On this
particular morning in Florence Peyman focused us on panini. Our
choice this morning was
Alessandro Nannini Coffee Shop (part of a chain named after a
famous race car driver I think). Basically, there is a refrigerated
case lining one side of the little shop with a section containing
tens of little sandwiches all pre-made, even as early as seven in
the morning. Many are combinations of either prosciutto, spec, or
salami, with mozzarella, swiss, or brie, and maybe some lettuce and
tomato. There are other ingredients but you get the gist. The
sandwiches are four inches in diameter or two-and-a-half for the
panini piccoli. Cute!
I wondered about all those sandwiches just sitting
there waiting for their moment in the sun - the sun being the huge
flat press that smushes and heats them. Do they get stale? All I
know is that once they are heated in the sandwich press they come to
life. Hot, crusty, filled with yummy meat and cheese. This is almost
always a recipe for success. And when followed by fresh squeezed
blood orange juice, we are ready to tackle Italy for another day.
Trattoria 4 Leoni,
Florence, Italy, tasted on March 20, 2004 — On a small piazza
in the middle of Florence that looks like it's straight out of a
movie set, sits
4 Leoni. Don't ask to me explain the weird numerological naming
as I don't get it and I don't speak enough Italian to have asked.
Luckily, math is not a requirement to enjoy the food there. Before I
dive in, I should say that Italy really is an incredible place. Much
like Japan (in my experience) the bar for food is simply higher. The
number of restaurants we ate at that we'd love to return to were
numerous. Trattoria 4 Leoni was definitely one of them.
Dinner peaks in Florence between 9:30 and 11pm.
arrived on this night at 10pm, right in the middle of the action. We sat
down to a few slices of the almost comically horrible
Florentine bread. I don't know whether this is apocryphal or
not, but the story I heard is that at some point in not too recent
history salt was an incredibly expensive commodity in this region of
Italy. The locals had to bake their bread without it. And when salt
became as common as... well... salt, nobody bothered to put it back
in their bread. The result? Bread so devoid of flavor it's like a
black hole eliminating flavor anywhere it can find it in the
universe. I've never eaten cardboard, but I would imagine this isn't
so dissimilar. You may wonder how a meal starting with such horrible
bread can turn out so great. The truth is that the bread is a just a
function of the region. This was clear as we had bread like this
almost everywhere we went. On to the good stuff.
First up was
an assortment of crostini. The tomato was bursting with flavor, oil,
and freshness though the bread was a touch soggy. The mushrooms had a
nice oiliness as well. And the ground beef had a livery quality (in a
good way) and was savory and juicy. A neat butter replacement in my
opinion. Next up was the
The saltiness built slowly and the strong
cool freshness of the mozzarella was a perfect backdrop.
We followed up the prosciutto with
Involtino di Melanzane - eggplant and ricotta. The eggplant itself
flavorless but was saved by the ricotta which was supple and subtle with
tanginess and a bunch of warm flavors. It was cool how the olive oil snaked through
the the dish. These were all just warm-ups for the pasta. Let me take a
moment to explain my obsession with pasta. It's amazing to me how
something as simple as a noodle and sauce can taste so incredible when
every variable is just so. When the pasta has a fresh quality and is
cooked just perfectly - not too soft, not too hard. The sauce is hot and
chock full of clean, fresh, and distinct flavors. The combination is
served at the exact perfect moment when the temperature and textures are
perfect, and I'm happy.
OK. First was
Fiocchetti di Pere Con Salsa di Taleggio e Asparagi - asparagus pasta.
The sauce was silky and creamy and the pasta had a surprise filling - sweet pear.
Strigoli al Pomodoro Piccante. "Worm" pasta with tomato sauce! So simple, fresh, and
delicious. The slight kick combined with the slitheriness of the pasta
makes it special. Simple and special. I could eat this every day of
my life. And finally we had
Risotto alla Zucca Gialla e Gorgonzola - saffron risotto. It was gentle, creamy,
and slightly cheesy with good flavor. That said, it was slightly boring.
For our post-pasta dishes we started off with
Baccalà alla Fiorentina. It was soft with a subtle flavor. Nice. The tomato
could be a bit brighter. The
grilled chicken was a favorite for me and
Alex. It was savory, juicy and with a
grilled flavor that enhanced the perfect seasoning. Yummy! The
veal chop was excellent as well. I really love all the Florentine
grilled items. And they're always served with lemon. Another great thing
about Florence. And finally we had the
Veal with balsamic
vinegar. It was very good and drippingly
put forth a theory that the bread was designed only to be eaten in
partnership with other foods - like mopping up the juice from the veal
with balsamic. In the interest of a full evaluation and investigation I
tried out Peyman's theory... he was wrong. The bread still sucked. I
could have mopped up the juice with cardboard and not been able to tell
the difference. The water policy however was great. Unpretentious
pitchers, always filled.
For dessert we started with the
It was quite good. But it would have been better had they not run
out of truffle honey. [Insert sadness here.]
Cheese Cake Fatto da Noi - cheesecake with chocolate was so very
incredible. It was made of a light ricotta and covered with a
bittersweet chocolate. It was kind of a mound of slightly sweet air and cheese
covered in a chocolate drizzle. The crumbly cakey base/crust
was great for texture and a different kind of sweetness. Delicious. I was so in love with the cheesecake
didn't try the
pear cake and the
Rest assured I managed to get at least one bite of each and they were
good as well.
Bottom line, Italy is full of simple
pleasures. This meal was a like a mini-representation of our eating
so far during our trip. A higher baseline of quality than many other
places on the globe, and a regular rhythm of simple and exquisite
pleasures. I can taste it now.
Food News, March
— When we're not eating, we're watching TV shows about eating, and
there are a couple of upcoming shows that sound pretty good:
- Gordon Ramsay, whose London restaurant is a Tastingmenu
love, is launching a show on Fox called "Hell's
Kitchen" where he yells at fat American wannabe chefs. He’s
had two previous shows on the BBC, one that portrays him
starting up a new restaurant, and one where he "saves
failing restaurants". (This one appears to be off the air
- Along those lines, there's an American Idol-style show
(where ordinary people can get a shot at getting a chef's
position in one of Todd English’s Manhattan restaurants) called
Under Fire”. The launch date is April 27.
After going through two PizzaGanza™s (in
New York and most recently in
Seattle), we thought no one was as obsessed with finding the
perfect pizza as we are...until we found the "Pizza
Maniac". Can New York pizza really be made at home? Pizza Maniac
thinks so. We may have to buy our own pizza oven and find out.
Food News, March
— Two new ways to prepare chicken, one I’m skeptical about, the
other which sounds delicious! You decide which is which:
A la Carte gives
history of “chaud-froid” (literally “hot-cold”) dishes and
tries out a recipe for chicken which is served cold in a jelled
On egullet (free registration required)
someone posts on a
“taboo” treat. Combine the best part of the chicken (the
skin and fat!) with the best way to cook practically anything
(frying!); leave out the rest.
At tastingmenu, Dunkin’ Donuts is not only the best
chain doughnut establishment, but the only one we will go near.
(Unfortunately there are only two Seattle last time we checked.)
Slate talks about how Dunkin’ Donuts is
“middlebrow” to compete with Starbucks and the like. Dunkin’
Donuts, please don’t change! What next, will “Dunkin’” change to
their name to “Dunking”? It just doesn’t work.
We've mentioned Michelin coming to "town" before...
The LA Times (free registration required) talks about some
upcoming Michelin star promotions in France and the philosophy for
how Michelin will be applied in the U.S.
Reusing food parts you thought weren’t edible: It’s
not just for school cafeterias anymore. This
website talks about
how to reuse the most unappetizing food scraps in interesting ways.
Categories include “Stems, Skins, and Stalks,” “Past Peak,”
“Negligible Quantities,” and “Nearly Expired.”
Survey, March 3, 2005 — Gorgeous
Buttermilk Berry Milkshakes are featured over at 101 Cookbooks.
Really they're beautiful. Though I admit I once accidentally tried
buttermilk and it was gross. I suppose when mixed with all that ice
cream it's delicious.
LKL Chu, a chef at
Ambassadeurs in Paris writes about his restaurant
their second Michelin star. I can't say I'm a huge Michelin fan
as I feel they have a narrower purview than I'd like in terms of how
they define quality (i don't give a shit how much crystal a
restaurant has). That said, it's still very cool. Congratulations.
I know this was linked to from the Independent Food
Festival Awards, but I can't help but call out how great this entry
was from a la cuisine!. The
Maple Syrup Confection Worth its Weight in Gold was really so
cool given how much attention to detail existed throughout the
entry. I love that everyone rated their favorites and we can not
only see their scores, but their tasting notes as well. Cool! Eat
your heart out America's Test Kitchen. Now this is
Now with my new less negative attitude about the
Pacific northwest I am eagerly hunting for sources of great food
within driving distance of Seattle. Is
Walla Walla on
the list? I don't know, but I love that I'm not the only person who
gets annoyed about
If I had only one wish (and I couldn't use it to
wish for unlimited wishes) I might very well wish for my own
Indonesian Barbecue stand.
Not strictly appetizing, but I do find it amusing
that she was so proud of how good a job she did cleaning her oven
that she posted
before and after pictures.
The Jewish holiday of Passover is coming in just
over seven weeks. We have 40 people coming for one of the nights.
Planning needs to start now. In case you've forgotten, here's what
we did two years ago:
photos. This time we've put together a team of five wannabe
cooks, all with something to prove. Should be fun.
or Other?", March 2, 2005 — I spend an unhealthy amount of
time thinking about how to evaluate food. Mostly restaurants in
fact. I also spend quite a bit of time lamenting why I can't find
more restaurants that I really like. These are essentially the same
topic in my mind. The truth is that I feel a natural affinity for
people who dislike critics. After all, where's the art in
criticizing others? And where's the humanity in it? These people put
their hearts on the line every day. And critics come along and
render their "expert" opinions, shooting arrows from a distance.
From the comfort of their keyboard. For over two years I have made
it clear that I love two things. I love finding wonderful food
experiences, and I love sharing them with others. That's not
criticism. Is it? That's just passion for food. But really that's
not entirely true. This site already contains what are essentially
hundreds of restaurant and food reviews. And now we're on our way
down the slippery slope.
The next step is coming up with shorthand. Three
stars from Michelin (now
surveying New York for the first time), four from the New York
Times... we have Love, Like, and Other. The definitions are
here. But the truth is that
they are difficult to define for us. Remember something... writing
about food is completely subjective. Yes, there is a general
framework for how to evaluate a food experience, but it is simply
impossible to be objective. And because so much of one's own
expectations color their opinions of a food experience, eating (and
deciding what food you enjoy most), it's ultimately very very
personal. And so this site is really a personal expression.
But that said, we still have the shorthand. What
does it really mean? Well, we never talk about the shorthand as we
write about a restaurant as there's always texture. But when you
review a list of restaurants in a city, we put them in categories
for you. Categories that give you a sense of which we think are
better than the others. Every meal we eat together ends with a
simple question: "love, like, or other?"
Sometimes we've even considered creating a fourth
category, for the highest echelon of eating experiences. But it's
not clear what the point would be given how few there are.
Ultimately here is the key: Making good food is easy
(even I can do it if I really try). Making great food is hard.
Making great food consistently is really really hard. Making great
food consistently for a lot of people is nearly impossible. Great
food can be from a street vendor, or a 20 course tasting menu at an
expensive restaurant. Great food doesn't discriminate. But the
physics of making great food is consistent - like gravity.
Standards, focus, and lack of compromise are what make great food.
And just as with figure skating at the Winter Olympics, there are
degrees of difficulty. But unlike the Olympics, we don't
discriminate. If you do a simple jump and it's a ten, it's a ten. If
you do a triple lutz, they give you extra points. We don't. Is that
the right thing? I don't know. On the one hand I think that people
should get credit for trying something with a greater difficulty. On
the other hand, I also feel like if you try to do something more
complicated, you made your bed. And if we only gave our highest
recognition to restaurants trying to make the most difficult food,
then our "Loves" would look like the list of four star restaurants
from the New York Times: Daniel, Jean Georges, Le Bernadin, Masa,
Per Se (Ducasse lost his fourth star recently). They're all very
expensive, and until Per Se and Masa were added they were all very
French. (I think this list is complete, but for some unknown reason
the New York Times website has eliminated the ability to search
based on star rating).
It's nice to know that even the very chefs who've
earned these stars know that
not all good food is expensive: "Mr. Keller says he used to have
a weakness for Burger King's Whopper with extra cheese and French
fries, but now that he lives in California, he has switched his
allegiance to the cheeseburgers at In-N-Out Burger, with French
fries and a milkshake." It's also nice to know that these same chefs
follow the same protocol as we do when going out to eat: "How often
to eat can also be an issue. Mr. Trotter, for one, limits the number
of evening meals on his travels to one, but 15 years ago, he said,
he would pack away "three full dinners - I don't mean grazing - just
to see what's going on." When you're young, you can do it, " Mr.
Trotter, now 45, says. "I would eat for two hours at 5:30, for an
hour and a half at 8 p.m., and then I'd eat again. I'd be with two
or three other people, and we'd order six appetizers and eight
entrees. I was like an eating machine."
So we're back to standards, focus, and lack of
compromise. And art and commerce don't mix. Not compromising doesn't
seem so admirable when nobody's coming to eat in your restaurant.
Not compromising, and making a successful business is nearly
impossible. Nearly. And so there are restaurants that stay focused.
That have maniacal attention to detail. And ultimately believe that
quality and consistency are one in the same. Those are the ones I'm
looking for. Those are the ones we try to talk about on this site.
And while you might expect that someone who spends all this time
criticizing might enjoy being negative, I swear it's not true. I get
the most personal enjoyment from finding something great and sharing
it with others. I wish I could do it more often.
I've known for some time that London has great food.
After spending a month in London we amassed quite a
collection of write-ups and
photographs. Also, in a few weeks we should be posting the story
of our experience at Fat Duck
(not quite in London, but close enough). Gourmet magazine apparently
Things are getting worse and worse for foie gras
lovers in California. The Sonoma Saveurs shop in San Francisco
Despite my recent depression about
food in Seattle, there appears to be some modest hope. Now at
least we have what might be a
decent Brazilian Barbecue place. Ted also suggested
Carta de Oaxaca for great Mexican food. Also scarce here int
There is so much more traveling that I
need to do. The Los Angeles Times (free registration required)
talks about the new wave of experimentation happening at restaurants
Mexico City. It's not that far from here.
Speaking of Mexican food, the New York
Times (free registration required) has Amanda Hesser
extolling the virtues of a new wave of healthy and tasy fast food
with the Chipotle chain as a prime example. I'll admit I haven't
eaten there yet, but at least In-n-Out gets a good mention.
And speaking of fast food, Bittman
(also from the Times) recommends a
simple shrimp stir fry (recipe
I know it's only
tangentially related, but I'm still annoyed that Paul Giamatti
wasn't nominated for an Academy Award. Lame.
These "pancakes" look good. And the backstory is interesting