Tag Archives: Italy

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.

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Sour Ales

20 Jan

When you create an account with Ratebeer they ask you your favorite style of beer. In the beginning, I was a barley wine girl then a fruit lambic lady and now I feel like I might be delving into the world of sours. Barley wines were appealing, and still are, because of the high abv and they tend to have interesting sweetnesses going on.  Fruit lambics were of particular interest because they produced flavors reminiscent of those found in our family orchard and the lambic style is so varied and surprising.  Sour ales also fall into this category of surprise and a variety of flavors that can vastly differ from one to the next.  My recent excursion to Lola had the added bonus of Jolly Pumpkin’s sour ale, La Roja.  I hadn’t had one since July and it was such a pleasant reminder of the greatness of sour ales.  Off to expand the horizons once again.

The Line Up

Verhaeghe Duchesse De Bourgogne:

I wrote about this weird yet great sour earlier in “Salty Bitches” but here’s a run-down again of my notes on it.  Straight from the bottle enjoyed on a summit over Lago Lugano, Switzerland. This was recommended to me by the wife/owner of A Tutta Birra in Milano as her favorite. Most interesting beer I’ve had so far in Italy. The aroma reminded me of rotting trash and at first sip so did the flavor. Further sips revealed sour cherries, dark fruits, apricot and vanilla. Incredibly smooth on the palate, absolutely no kick at the end. Much too sweet for me, almost could be considered a dessert beer in the same vein as dessert wines.

De Ranke Kriek:

Pours a muddy purple/red with no head. On the nose: same white grape tartness as lambic gueuzes but the flavor is really watered down. Flat but crisp. Don’t get the cherry taste but more lemon and white grape. Love the crisp cool character and the slightly boozier aroma of this as compared to the guezes. Very drinkable but not very complex.

Jolly Pumpkin Perseguidor (Batch 4):

On draft at Beer Engine Sour Ale tasting. Pours a dark brown/black with ruby tinges on the side. No head. Nose: cognac as is the flavor with that white grape/almost smokey aftertaste. Flat, slightly tart and crisp. Yum. The tartness is really present in the corners of the mouth which inspires you to keep sipping away.

Rodenbach Grand Cru:

Bottle at The Beer Engine: Color: same as Rochefort 8 with no head. Aroma is funky bleu cheese and sour white grapes. Smooth slightly tart but boozier flavor at the beginning of the sip then tart bite at the back of the palate. Very refreshing and completely different than the last Flemish Red I had, Duchesse de Bourgogne. Love the diversity of this style – it felt like a borderline lambic.

Jolly Pumpkin La Roja:

750 at Lola into white wine glass. I love the label as I love all the Jolly Pumpkin label but this one is just great. The color is simply beautiful like a cross between a hoppy IPA and a mead. Fluffy orangey/tan head with a nice fruity aroma almost a kin to red wine sangria. Flavor is similar with some dark wood background notes and again that really nice fermented fruit sweet/sour combination. Such a delight.

Caradosso

8 Jan

I don’t actually remember making this but lucky my friend remembered for me and there’s some horrendous picture of me during the cooking process.  It was a deadly combination of Inauguration Night and our friend’s birthday in Milan.  We stumbled home to Via Caradosso 7 and needed some food.  Spaghetti, olive oil, sauteed brussels sprouts, cayenne and black pepper all tossed together.  It’s spicy, simple, has some veggie in it and enough carbs to make you sober up.  And it’s pretty!

I revisited the Caradosso concoction last night for dinner and discovered how pretty brussels sprout stems are and their insides look kind of like brains.

NYT Travel Section

27 Dec

I have another sad.  This time it’s because around this time last year I was preparing myself for a semester in Milan.  I still haven’t unpacked a bag from when I got back in May.  Anyways, today my mom set aside an article in the New York Times about Parma, which of course, made me all googley and nostalgic as Parma was where I spent my 21st birthday.  I was skimming along the article on “Stendahl in Parma” from today’s paper and found their summation bit “Where to Eat”, on the last page:  “Meals are a delight in Parma; if you’re on a diet, stay home.  Lunch for two, with wine, of course, should cost you about 60 euros” (Begley, Adam. “Stendahl in Parma.” New York Times Travel Section, December 27, 2009.).

EXCUSE ME!!!??? 60 euros my ass!  Anyone who thinks that a lunch anywhere in Italy should “of course” cost 60 euro can kindly blow it out their ass.  That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard!  Perhaps this is part of the death of the newspaper/magazine in our culture.  There are so many television shows, blogs, etc. showing that good eating doesn’t mean you have to be made of money bags.  These writers need to get some perspective because I’m sure, besides me, that people in Parma are dying laughing at the idea of 60 euro lunches.

7 Christmas Realities and Fantasies

25 Dec

1. Grabham’s Chocolates — local spot, awesome chocolates like WHOA, specifically candied orange peel cocooned in dark chocolate.

2.  Gas stoves and new recipes — jam and doughnuts: picked up a recipe for sufganiyot from Martha Stewart and a raspberry jam recipe.  I tweaked the recipe using 8 small packs of raspberries, only 3 cups sugar (I’d use less next time), juice from 2 navel oranges, a tablespoon of orange zest and a tablespoon of ground ginger.  The ginger balances the sweetness SO well. Boiled the hell out of it for a long time, and I didn’t strain out the seeds.  This was my first jam and to blatantly brag, it was gohgeous.  Oh and the gas stove bit is partially about my pyro tendencies but mostly about the fact that the inventor of electric stoves is in a very deep ring of Hell.

3.  Oystah Stew and Osso Bucco — Mama made the osso bucco tonight for tomorrow’s Christmas dinner and I made our traditional oyster stew for Christmas Eve.  All you need is a small saucepan, 2 tablespoons butter melted in it, add 2 cans of oysters and their juices.  Simmer until the oysters’ edges curl then add 1 cup of heavy whipping cream and 2 cups of milk.  Serve when it gets frothy.  Winter warmer fo sho.

4.  Sleeping ’til 5.

5.  Wanting to get out of the States and go back to Milano with my lovely roommate for many aperitivi.

6.  Wanting desperately to lose myself in a market in Barcelona or Parma, run into a dashing European man who instantly falls in love with me.

7.  Human seatbelts made from a big brother — I got trapped for a while under the heavy feet of a passed out big brother today, almost made me late to the grocery store for my jam provisions.

In Praise of Foie Gras

30 Nov

It’s a beautiful thing and all you have to do is force feed a duck to fatten up its liver for it!  Sometimes I wish I could feel bad about that, but then Anthony Bourdain does a little expo and shows that it’s not so bad and plus it’s just so scrumptious that the sinner in me is a happy to be ingesting such a smooth delight.  I had only one bad experience with foie gras and that was in a very lovely little ristorante around the corner from my apartment in Milano.  Apparently, in Milan and perhaps most of Italy, foie gras is prepared very differently — it’s not the deliciously hot grilled fatty lobe I’ve come to love.  I believe it was a paté and I’m sad to report I really just couldn’t finish it: the richness alone and in that quantity was overpowering and it was cold which threw me off too.  With the kind of foie gras I love I feel like a nice lambic or maybe even a sour would be a fitting pairing with this creamy, fatty, buttery gift from the gods.

However,  I had a gorgeous rendition of the heated type in Toano, VA at Dudley’s Farmhouse Grille.  If you’re ever near this place, go!  They specialize in wild game and have a small seating area which provides for a more intimate atmosphere, which is furthered by the owner who is also the chef.  I wish my liver could wind up in such a happy state after I’m gone.  Anyways, the foie gras was my primo and my secondo was a mixed plate of venison, wild boar and quail.  Then I slipped into a loverly food coma.

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.


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