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Italy, June 1, 2005 My coming of age around food happened really in the last few years. But even in the dark ages before I'd ever even tried sushi, I knew I loved Italian food. And I also knew that I needed to travel to Italy. Not only because I knew that it was going to be a beautiful country with stunning architecture, churches, etc. I knew that I had to eat Italian food in Italy. And though I had many opportunities to travel to Italy before this last series of entries, I said no to every single one. I said no as each opportunity couldn't be what I wanted - a longer trip, where I could travel to more than one city, and really get to know the country and the food. I guess I should be embarrassed to admit that I said no to going to Italy for years because I so wanted the first experience there to be as perfect as possible. If only I had applied this logic to every corollary experience in my life. Italy didn't disappoint.

I first learned of a culture that simply has a higher appreciation of good food when I traveled a few times to Tokyo. Italy is in the same league as Japan in that regard. I hate to generalize, but from my perspective, there is simply a higher bar for food among the bulk of the populace in Italy. And the marketplace responds. The number of random restaurants, osterias, trattorias, etc. that you could walk into and get a truly great meal seemed to me simply astounding. All told we tried at least 23 different establishments. And while of course we worked hard to target as many quality food experiences as possible, even correcting for our targeting, it sure seemed like the standards were just higher.

And the funny thing is that in our just over a week in the country we were barely able to scratch a tiny corner of the surface of what it has to offer. We only spent time really in Rome, Florence, and Emilia Romagna. There are so many more regions, and it's so clear that we really did cursory investigations at best of the places we did visit. Still, as you can see below, we still found quite a few gems. Click on each picture to get to the entire album and write-up for each experience.



06-macaroni.jpg 06-lemon.jpg 01-forno camp de fiori.jpg
04-macaroons.jpg 09-the sandwich.jpg 23-dried oranges.jpg
10-piposo di mauzo.jpg 09-pomodoro picante.jpg 08-spuma di mortadella e gelatina di balsamico.jpg
11-head cheese.jpg 11-endless variety.jpg 19-raviolo with parmesan and truffles.jpg
15-aging.jpg 08-tagliolini al culatello.jpg 12-ricotta and herb filled tortellini.jpg


Bottom line, Italy is a country to fall in love with when it comes to food. The Italian food in the United States while it has its highlights is the barest impression of an amalgamation of a variety of cuisines that span the Italian countryside. And yet, it's just enough to remind me that I need to go back to Italy as soon as humanly possible.











Tastingmenu is focused on superlative restaurant experiences from two perspectives: behind the plate and behind the stove. Tastingmenu is written by Hillel (professional eater) and Dana (up-and-coming professional chef) in Seattle, Washington.

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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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