Thursday, September 30, 2010
Monday, August 2, 2010
After leaving Italy (for the last time!) hopped on a Wizz Air flight (as sketchy as it sounds) to Budapest, Hungary to meet Katie Simon. Budapest is not exactly known for its food, and while this was not Rome or Paris, we did find some tasty offerings.
Perhaps the city's most valuable contribution to the the world of food is the central market in Budapest located right next to our hostel. While I found that the diversity of goods, especially produce, were not quite that of Western European countries, there were still lots of stall brimming with sausage, paprika, baked goods, pickles, fish, meat, thick soups and more.
I tried a little sausage with a pickle, some sauerkraut and mustard. Pretty tasty!
Budapest is also known for its amazing, extravagant coffee houses. This one we found, Alexandria Wine and Books, looked somewhat like a Barnes and Noble when you walked in on the ground level. However, upon ascending the grand staircase in the middle of the store, you were presented with this spectacular coffee house. The service (as well as the comfortableness of the seating) were all top notch.
And the bagel with smoked salmon, or the tall, cool glass of lemonade, could not have been better. And this gilded experience cost about as much as picking up a bagel at Barnes and Noble. Can't beat that.
And for a happy ending, you have to try Budapest's renowned desserts, like a slice of layered cake or this sundae layered with rice pudding and fresh strawberries. Umm, umm good!
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
So here are my photos from my final days in Italy, spent with my parents who came over to visit. This will not be the last post as I want to share some photos from Budapest and Istanbul as well.
My final meal at Terra del Sole, an emotional moment. My parents went right after they got off the plane to Italy. Here is a torta rustica and an arancino.
LARDO! One of the truly most delicious things in the world, enjoyed at the bookstore/cafe Eataly. With a little natural honey on top. Doesn't get any better than this.
Some type of cured ham in Verona. So good.
At this same restaurant, got a sampling of fresh pastas including a porcini riostto and tortelloni. The tortelloni - I think they were meat filled - were thin, delicate, eggy, so fresh - everything a northern Italian pasta should be.
Some king crab with white asparagus and yogurt (not particularly Italian, to be honest) at a beautiful lakeside restaurant near Verona. This was amazing! Sweet, briny, offset by the cool yogurt and fresh, lush white asparagus. Nice and pretty too.
My final meal in Bologna at Osteria dell'Orsa. We started with a sampling of their very rustic bruschetta, including mushroom and cheese, arugula and parmigiano, tomato and cheese, and I think the last one was sausage and balsamic. So wholesome and delicious.
My very final meal at the airport about to go to Budapest, a radicchio, mozzarella and tomato panino. Not the best ever, but not bad.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Sicily has some really wonderful food to offer. In fact, many of the ingredients that we consider quintessentially "Italian" are Sicilian in origin, probably because of the heavy immigration of Sicilians to the US. Capers, olives, robust olive oils, dried oregano, sun dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, amazing produce and more can all be found on this island.
And seeing that it is an island, you're also in for some fabulously fresh seafood. At a small restaurant Sarah and I found Trattoria dal Maestro del Brodo near the seafood market in Palermo, we found some of this seafood. To start, common in Sicilian restaurants, there is a buffet overflowing with different preparations of seafoods, fish, grilled vegetables, fritters, olives, etc...
After, I had linguine with clams, mussels and shrimp. You've all had a version of this dish before - but this was the way it was meant to be made: al dente pasta, flavorful, lemony sauce, fresh seafood, prepared simply. It was delicious.
Other highlights included these panelle, a chickpea fritter you find all over the island, eaten with bread for the classic "pane e panelle."
Another wonderful seafood dish was couscous (an influence from the south of this island, ie. Africa) with assorted seafood in a rich tomato broth. Yum!
Another classic is Pasta alla Norma, with tomato sauce, eggplant and ricotta salata.
Finally, who can leave the home of the cannoli without trying one. These were rich, creamy and delicious!
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Il cibo della strada! Sicily is probably Italy's top spot for out-of-this-world street food. The warm climate, bustling markets of singing vendors (I kid not) and no-frills approach to cooking of this island make it the perfect place for street food.
Sicily has three markets, one focusing mainly on seafood and another, pictured below, on fresh produce. It is a truly bustling scene, with old men signing and yelling from their stalls, the grandmothers collecting the freshest produce, fish guts flying about, etc... A really wonderful scene, though.
For a snack we picked up this fried thing filled with cheese, salami, ragu and bechamele sauce. It was warm, sticky, ooy-gooey goodness. The Sicilians are masters of frying, whether its the classic chickpea panelle (chickpea fritters), arancini (risotta balls) or seafood.
Later we stopped by a cart to pick up another Sicilian tradition: meat in bread. Now I only say "meat" because that's about as much as they'll really tell you. There is a large pot over coals bubbling with meat, mostly stomach and other innards from veal and cow. The meat is swiftly scooped into some bread (delicious sesame bread) and finished with a squirt of lemon. These are good, but also INTENSE. More than a couple of bites and you start feeling weighed down by the fattiness of it all. They're tasty, but certainly not for everyone.
The man we went to came at the recommendation of his friend standing right there, shouting to us that this guy was the best in the world. So impressed that we could respond to him in Italian, they basically handed us the sandwich before I had time to say yes.
Here's a photo of the same vendor that night.
On our final full day in Italy, we found one of the best, and most unique, things I had my entire time in Italy. Most pizza in Italy is good (and if you're in Napoli, extraordinary). But it's always made the exact same way - dough cooked in a hot oven, topped simply and served immediately. This was something different. Full tomato pizzas were sitting on top of a sizzling black top. The man cut off a slice, did a few little flip things with it, topped it with fresh, spicy olive oil from the bottle, and handed it to us. For about 50 cents I ate one of the best things ever. The dough was super crispy on the bottom from having sat on the grill, but then inside it was soft, smooth, almost silky - perfectly cooked. It was topped with some tomato sauce bursting with freshness and slices of tomato, as well as a healthy dosing of salt, pepper and something a little spicy. These were incredible!
And of course, no trip to southern Italy is complete without plenty of gelato for the hot days.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Was lucky enough to get to join Alessandra at her family's home in Umbria. It was her cousin's confirmation at the local church - so of course plenty of food was to follow. Before the service - you know, we weren't sure if we could get all the way through - Sarah and I picked up a porchetta panino at a small stand near the center of town. Best porchetta (roast pork, often the whole hog) that I have ever had, hands down. The meat was tender and flavorful, the skin super crispy (almost crunchy) loaded with salt and black pepper (the pig is stuffed with black pepper before it is roasted, so it simply bursting with peppery flavor. Can't beat that!
After the confirmation, there was a feast to follow. We started with some apperitivi including the most amazing parmigiano bread, meats, cheeses, farro salad, fried olives, etc, etc, etc.
Next we had scrambled eggs with Umbrian black truffles. The native black truffles seem to be pretty ubiquitous in this area - certainly a special food but far from rare. In fact, when I arrived at Alessandra's house, the thick, earthy scent of truffle was wafting from the kitchen. Why? The dogs had just been by to dig them up from the tree out front of the house. Now I just need truffles to start growing outside my house... any ideas?
These eggs were probably the best thing we have - no doubt the best way, in my opinion, to serve truffles. All the rich creaminess of the egg and the pungent, irreplaceable flavor of the truffles.
Then, a pasta filled with ricotta and squash flowers over a fresh tomato sauce. Yum.
More truffles anyone? Sounds good to me. We then had risotto with black truffles. Thick, flavorful and bursting with truffle flavor. I may have finished more than one of these.
Roast veal, potatoes, spinach souffle, grilled veges.
For dessert, crispy and creamy cake/tart.
Thanks for a wonderful weekend, Alessandra and family!
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
So, as most of you probably home... I've been back in the USA for about 10 days! I still have about 3 weeks worth of pictures to upload from the trip, so stay tuned for Umbria (who knew truffles grew on trees... ok well they don't, but it seems like they do in Umbria), Sicily (Italian street food!), Bologna, Verona, Budapest (would you like that with paprika?) and Istanbul (yes, it's as cool as you thought)!
Sorry I've been a little slow with the updates... but thanks to all of you who keep checking back regularly. I was thinking about just stopping updating until I saw how many hits on the site there still are every day. So thanks everyone! More food to come, as well as some commentary on all of it!