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Ristorante Diana, 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 in town.

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 ordered.

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 looking for.

 

     
     
     
     
     

 

 

 

 

 

   

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  Garlic has long been credited with providing and prolonging physical strength and was fed to Egyptian slaves building the giant pyramids. Throughout the centuries, its medicinal claims have included cures for toothaches, consumption, open wounds and evil demons. A member of the lily family, garlic is a cousin to leeks, chives, onions and shallots. The edible bulb or "head" grows beneath the ground. This bulb is made up of sections called cloves, each encased in its own parchmentlike membrane. Today's major garlic suppliers include the United States (mainly California, Texas and Louisiana), France, Spain, Italy and Mexico. There are three major types of garlic available in the United States: the white-skinned, strongly flavored American garlic; the Mexican and Italian garlic, both of which have mauve-colored skins and a somewhat milder flavor; and the Paul Bunyanesque, white-skinned elephant garlic (which is not a true garlic, but a relative of the leek), the most mildly flavored of the three. Depending on the variety, cloves of American, Mexican and Italian garlic can range from 1/2 to 1 1/2 inches in length. Elephant garlic (grown mainly in California) has bulbs the size of a small grapefruit, with huge cloves averaging 1 ounce each. It can be purchased through mail order and in some gourmet markets. Green garlic, available occasionally in specialty produce markets, is young garlic before it begins to form cloves. It resembles a baby leek, with a long green top and white bulb, sometimes tinged with pink. The flavor of a baby plant is much softer than that of mature garlic. Fresh garlic is available year-round. Purchase firm, plump bulbs with dry skins. Avoid heads with soft or shriveled cloves, and those stored in the refrigerated section of the produce department. Store fresh garlic in an open container (away from other foods) in a cool, dark place. Properly stored, unbroken bulbs can be kept up to 8 weeks, though they will begin to dry out toward the end of that time. Once broken from the bulb, individual cloves will keep from 3 to 10 days. Garlic is usually peeled before use in recipes. Among the exceptions are roasted garlic bulbs and the famous dish, "chicken with 40 cloves of garlic," in which unpeeled garlic cloves are baked with chicken in a broth until they become sweet and butter-soft. Crushing, chopping, pressing or pureeing garlic releases more of its essential oils and provides a sharper, more assertive flavor than slicing or leaving it whole. Garlic is readily available in forms other than fresh. Dehydrated garlic flakes (sometimes referred to as instant garlic) are slices or bits of garlic that must be reconstituted before using (unless added to a liquid-based dish, such as soup or stew). When dehydrated garlic flakes are ground, the result is garlic powder. Garlic salt is garlic powder blended with salt and a moisture-absorbing agent. Garlic extract and garlic juice are derived from pressed garlic cloves. Though all of these products are convenient, they're a poor flavor substitute for the less expensive, readily available and easy-to-store fresh garlic. One unfortunate side effect of garlic is that, because its essential oils permeate the lung tissue, it remains with the body long after it's been consumed, affecting breath and even skin odor. Chewing chlorophyll tablets or fresh parsley is helpful but, unfortunately, modern-day science has yet to find the perfect antidote for residual garlic odor.  

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