Tag Archives: gelato

Chinato

5 Aug

“Zack Bruell be my boyfriend, are you married?”

“I want to be best friends with lardo.”

These were the one-liners rolling off my tongue as I ate bite after bite of excruating beauty at Chinato, on E. 4th Street.  I’ve lived in Milan, my mother has lived in Bologna and Florence but an evening at Chinato brought us almost to tears.  Here was Italian food, dare I say, better than or on par with the pinnacle of Italian gastronomy in Italy.  The price point is well, on point!  I ate here again just tonight with a friend and with a crudo, an antipasto, an entree, a dessert, a cocktail and a glass of wine WITH tip and tax was $52.  Not to mention the service was outstanding (our waiter from a few weeks ago was our waiter again and remembered us), the wine choices impeccable, we were visited by the chef himself and treated to Damilano Chinato (a digestif) following our meal.

We started with a crudo, tuna with lardo and our hearts melted a little.  My mind was racing to figure out how I could make and eat lardo every day, even if that meant my body would take the name and shape of the delicious slivers that were melting in my mouth.

Next we shared the fresh sauteed sardines with parsley, olive oil and lemon — the nostalgia of eating fresh fried sardines in Genoa when I was 20 washed over me and pulled me, like the strong oceanic undertow, back to that fleeting moment.  After, an exquisite salad of julienned pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, arugula, goat cheese, roasted turnips and balsamic dressing.  I don’t even want to describe the dish because then it’ll just give away the ending.

Our entrees: for me, the fritto misto of sweetbreads with fried caper berries (our country is at least a trillion light years behind every country when it comes to our definition of bar food — because this would blow those pee covered pretzels and peanuts at the bar out of the water), for my mother the veal breast with polenta unlike any kind of polenta you’ve ever had and salsa verde (parsley, olive oil, anchovies).

Dessert was the best almond panna cotta I’ve tasted and also a lemon polenta cake with a scoop of cherry gelato.  This is Italian comfort food, the peasant food, the cheap cuts of meat or fish and making the most out of them by perfecting the cooking technique, letting ingredients speak for themselves and coaxing flavor out of tough cuts.  The result is something like magic.

I’ve taken to listening to TED podcasts in my car on the way to work, and they have a great catch phrase: “Ideas Worth Spreading”.  Recently I came across one that just spoke to me so clearly.  This time it was Chip Conley, who spoke about how we should re-evaluate what we value: GDP (Gross Domestic Product) or GNH … Gross National Happiness.  Surely, a restaurant such as Chinato is a focused human lesson in what we should appreciate and what counts.  What is the logical outcome of people loving what they do and creating what they love for others’ enjoyment?  An intangible measurement, with a very tangible result.  I don’t think it folley to say the lessons in Chinato are ideas worth spreading.

Nona

16 Nov

Nona — Italian for ninth — is a modest enoteca/osteria/ristorante in Granville (home to our rival school, Denison University).  Located right on the “main drag” of the town, Nona offers a small portal back to Toscana with an Italian/English menu, the feel of an authentic Italian enoteca and a wine list that includes the famous Brunello di Montalcino and other DOCG wines.

The service was excellent and friendly, the atmosphere muted but warm and bustling and the food was life-saving.  To start my roommate ordered the vegetable soup which made her eyes roll back in her head and for me the braised fennel with blood orange vinegar infused onions.  Ummm ok so that all rocked pretty hard but then came our primi: for my roommate, the Sundried Tomato and Asiago Ravioli with Arugula pesto and Toasted Almond Butter and for me, the spinach and ricotta tortellini with ragu — TO DIE FOR.  All the pasta is done in-house so the freshness can’t really be beat.

For the dolci, we split a gorgeous flaky pastry nest of roasted apples and balsamic gelato.  Whatever, we basically had a roommate date but we had so much fun and you could not have slapped the grins off our face.  I think our waitress thought we were slightly insane because we gushed at every special she told us about but whatever.


The Food Pushers

21 Jul

II. So I’ve been reading two books this summer that my mother recommended, A Mediterranean Feast by Clifford A. Wright and The Rituals of Dinner by Margaret Visser.  And it lead me to think about how we view food, and food coupled with drink.  Myself, I am a slave to pastas of every variety and the blue and yellow of a DeCecco box are enough to make me swoon, but what about everybody else?  My 4 months abroad in Italy gave me a chance to make some lifelong friends and alter some of my perceptions while strengthening others.  Everyone had different tastes, many of which I found amusing.  My dearest roommate, a Persian pescatarian who didn’t cook, relied heavily on Buitoni pre-made pizzas, gelato from Chocolat (I am happily, equally as guilty) EXY — the local vegetarian take-away store — and hard boiled eggs.

She is not a fan of cooking but she is a lover of food and would eat anything I put down in front of her never shying away, even when I brought out the Srichacha chili sauce.  Her pescatarian ways also challenged me to produce meatless meals and remold my brain from its strong convictions that a meal isn’t a meal without some meat.  It was a running joke when she would catch me hunched over my computer for hours looking up recipes for our next dinner party or sniffing out the new Italian microbreweries/brewpubs around Milan.  There were still others in our friend group who would order plain cheese pizzas, something I’ve never understood, and a Becks. However, when sat at our kitchen table they too ate what was in front of them and enjoyed it.

Back in the states, I had an illuminating conversation with a dear friend of mine who is also an avid cook and a lover of good beer.  We had a discussion about how we were raised when it came to food and drink.  Her family rule was no matter what you were served you were expected to eat.  In fact, she and her siblings would become the catalyst for other families’ picky children to try new foods when faced with the attention-creating prowess of their eating habits.  This too was how I was raised and we both benefitted from parents who could cook, who were adventurous in travel and diet and with the money to do so.  Is the blame or the responsibility for “good eating” shouldered solely by the parents as Willy Wonka would say ?  Are we faced with a combination of good parenting and personal choice or are some people naturally inclined towards, as Visser would say, neophilia – the pursuit of the new?

We also talked about the idea of the “food pusher”, or one who forces food upon one’s guests consent given or not.  She places herself in the  more aggressive streak of food pushers whereas I find myself in a more insidious position:  if I invite people to dinner, I place all the food on the table equally in front of everyone and food in the middle to be eaten by hand.  The arrangement uses unseen peer pressure as the trigger for the others who lag behind.  For example, if everyone is eating fettunta and you are the only one not, you feel kind of stupid and HUNGRY when everyone else is making those lovely yummy sounds and wolfing down the few pieces left.

From a personal stand point, I have never been afraid to try new foods and actively crave the seeking and eating of these new morsels.  A pivotal book in my high school years, was Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential: the one line of advice I took away from the book was to never order something I’d had before.  Even in my baby diary my mother wrote (besides, “she cries when is told No.”) that my new favorite food was mulligatawny soup.  I have the same craving when it comes to craft and microbrews.  The emotions I feel when confronted by a wall of pasta are much the same when I step into a beer store for the very first time.  I’ve been compared to a kid in a candy store when I shop for beer: in the beginning, I had no control and could spend $100 on beer, oops!  My drive for the new usually means I try a beer and move on to the next, so that drinking a beer I’ve already had feels counterproductive — like I’m wasting my time on a beer I know, when I should be plowing through to discovering unknown breweries.  However, this urge too I have learned to control and recognize the benefits of coming back to some beer to dig a bit deeper and create a better understanding of it.

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