LITTLE WHITE DRESS (ING)
After lunch at Trattoria Cibreo, Nancy Silverton and Michael Krikorian walked 10 meters to a piazza and into Enoteca Sant’ Ambrogio. There, Silverton, sipping Amarone, suddenly launched into a reverie about her next creation. A ricotta dressing. On and on she described how delicious it would be. How it would take the dressing world by thunderstorm. Krikorian later said he knew how Mr. Reese felt when his wife first told him her idea for a peanut butter cup.
Two days later, when he asked her about the dressing Silverton replied “What dressing?”
“The ricotta one. The one you was goin’ on and on about like it was the second coming of 1,000 Island.”
“Oh, yeah. We need to go to the Tavernelle market and gets some bufala ricotta tomorrow.”
The next day, Silverton was making the ricotta dressing when Krikorian asked “Should I test it out? See if it’s any good.”
She looked at him like Miles Davis did when Marilyn Monroe asked him if she could sit in with her ukelele. “Leave me alone. Go downstairs and Google “Big Evil.” or something.”
An hour later, the front porch table laden with a lunch fit for an emperor, Krikorian asked “Where’s the ricotta dressing?”.
“It didn’t work out. “
“That’s it. No dressing. Just like that?”
“That’s how it happens. Just like that.”
Reuters news Agency Jul 22. 2013
EDITOR’S NOTE – The copy editor strike at Krikorianwrites, lead by legendary copy editor Saji Mathai, remains in effect. Originally striking in solidarity with the California prison inmates on hunger strike, the Mathai-led organization has added free Butterscotch Budinos on Wednesdays to their list of demands. Expect some typos.
NOTE II The first 10 days of the trips saw a few disappointing meals. Like I wrote last week, I am not a food writer. And like I say this week, I get that when one is truly hungry any food is good. I am fortunate beyond paragraphs that I am able to eat well.
So, with that, here is an update on the dining adventures of Nancy Silverton and myself with and guest appearances by some friends and family.
Seventeen days into Italy MMXIII, our dining and eating adventures have shifted into a higher gear, thanks largely to Days 13 and 14 in Florence which began at the Cibreo Trattoria and ended aboard a southbound train headed to Umbria eating culatello di Zibello and drinking red wine. Dinner on July 18, (Day 13) at the home of Massimo Tarli and his wife Faith Willinger in Florence’s San Spirito neighborhood, was easily the best of the trip.
The upswing of our dining batting average, which i told Osteria Mozza backwaiter David Rosoff was hovering around a paltry .235, began at the lunch at Trattoria Cibreo', little cousin to the Ristorante, one of the acclaimed joints in Florence, which is known 'round these parts as Firenze.
We arrived at Florence's Santa Maria Novella train station at 1 p.m., and took a cab through the city center, past a very large church smack dab in the middle of downtown, to Cibreo where we were immediately sat.
I had a procini soup that brought to mind that tired food phase "depth of flavor", which this soup had in spades and clubs. The above spelling of porcini appears wrong at first, but if you tasted this soup, you'd agree these were some PROcinis. You feel me? Nancy had a fish soup that was good, too.
From main i had a roasted pork with spinich and some sterling mashed potatos topped with browned parmesan. I ate Nancy's portion Nancy had, damn what'd she have? Hold up. Three times I had to yell upstairs, "What main did you have at Cibreo?" She had rabbit. Was fine.
We took a two, three kilometer walk to our hotel called the Annalena near San Spirito that Faith had suggested. $120 for a nice room and a sweet balcony overlooking a garden.
It was dinner for six, us, the hosts and Dario Cecchini. the world's most famous butcher and KIm, the world's most famous butcher's wife.
Now this meal was outstanding. Here is where my lack of food writer skills becomes even more evident. Plus, I didn't take no notes. There were green beans, and beats with something, The beets were good. But, I remember Faith saying these green beans, (plain and called by her "haricots verte") , she said "these beans are to die for." Me i took one bite and i'm thinking "no way I'm gonna die for these beans."
But, the main course, an oxtail stew cooked, simmered and braised for, I think, 17 hours, was extaordinary. I wouldn't die for this dish either, but I'd surely take some indigestion and even a sore throat and maybe a mild fever for half a day for it. Faith added some chocalate and almonds to the dish that had such a extremely rich beefy flavor, almost like a Stegosaurus tail stew, but without the anxiety.
"I knew the moment that I started cooking this oxtail. that it was special. I never cooked a piece of meat like this," Faith said. "Just the aromas. My god." The extra large bull, raised by the winmaker Fontodi, was five years old. (Two years is normal age to slaughter an animal around here). The steer was a castrated bull which accounted for his size as apparently he ate extra because he was so ornery at not being able to - or maybe even not wanting to - make out with all the fine young cows that graze the Panzano en Chianti lands.
I ate three portions. More importantly, I got to sit next to Kim. Thank you Faith and Massimo for a memorable evening.
The next day we went to the San Lorenzo covered market about a five minute walk from the striking Basillica of Santa Maria di Fiori, maybe the most stunning urban structure I have ever seen. Your walking along a street lined with shoe stores and wine shops and turn the corner and sha la la la, sha boom!, there's the Duomo.
At the market, I had a pork sanwich with the roll dipped in pan juice, like a Philippe "double dip." Then we went to Perini. one of our all time favoirte delis, with meats from all over italy. We got the Culatlello di Zibelo here. We were here a year ago. and the counter man, Andrea, remembered me. Even before i ordered, he said "You got the culatello last year. I remember, for the train ride home." Going back there, for sure.
That was a Thursday. Friday, we stayed around the house, which is really the best day of all. We hung out in the piazza with some friends we know from here and Nancy, her dad Larry and our friend Bobby Silverstein, a professori di vini, a Philly guy who has traveled the world in search of fine food and drinks. This year is a small L.A. crowd. No Linda or Olivia, or Enid and Richard or even Margy and Robert or even Carly Kim. Nancy' sister Gail and her husband, Joel Hoops, had already gone.
Saturday we set out, at my suggestion. to an Umbrian hilltop village of Saragano, west of Montefalco and Foligno, if that means anything to you. The restaurant there, which i had read praise about and recevied a 14.5 rating for the guide book. L'Expresso, was Locando del Prete, a charming inn and ristorante with a sublime view.
A quick word about numeric Italian restaurant ratings. This guide book rates restaurants from 12 to 19.75 points, that highest rating going to Osteria Francescana in Modean where we are going July 30. The thinking behind the ratings, is like the French school systyem and maybe the Italian too for al| I know, 20 is unobtainable perfection. Nancy and I have found that we prefer the restaurants rated 13.5, 14, and 14.5 to the more fancy, 16, 17s and up.. We will see next Tueday about the 19.75. Those 14ish places are more representative of the pure and good rustic cuisine of Italy that we like. So this place, Locande Del Prete got a 14.5 and I talked Nancy Larry, Bobby into the hour and 15 minute drive there.
The problem here is the charming manager, Lucia, informs us, as we take the first bites that the chef, one Riccardo Benevenuti who had earned that 14.5, has moved on to consult around Umbria and work on his opening own place.. The food is all right now, but not worth the drive. Maybe the lesson is to call and ask if the chef you read about is still there.
Bobby give me a ration on the drive home, saying he'll stick with his 12.5s.
Sunday it was another drive, this time two hours there and two and half back. and this time it is worth it: Locanda Del Glicine in Campagnatico, on the road toward Grosseto. We had been here last year and it was a highlight. It was again Sunday.
Bobby, leery of my suggestions, didn't go, but Larry did, praise God..
I had a soup. a cream of their garden zucchini with a ricotta sorberto in the middle. |t might sound bizarre, but it worked for me big time.
I also had a excellent ravioli with spinach and a sage and butter sauce. Mo' butter! Fernand PoInt was right
Nancy loved her main course, a guinea fowl. The leg and thigh were boned and stuffed with roasted eggplant and wrapped in proscuitto. The breast with the wing attached was confit'd. "It was such a sensible way of treating the white and dark meat separately without using over the top modern techniques. It was delicious." said Nancy. "Respectful, sensible and thoughtful. You got that?"
Nancy had a mixed salad of vegetables from their garden, a tangle of carrots, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and tender young lettuces. "The chef was channelling Alice Waters," says Nancy, now demanding to be quoted. "You just don't see that kind of attention to salads around here usually."
Larry, aka in these parts as "Lorenzo", had a grilled sliced veal dish that was tasty, but not outstanding. Green beans wrapped in pancetta accompained this.
I had a brick flattened chicken that was very good. The menu frequently changes, and had only five main courses. The other two were a one kilo Bisteca and cod.
Desserts were pretty. A plate o five sorbets, aka sobetti, aka sherberts, and i had three creme caramels. i need to figure out how to get some photos up on this report. I have the photos, but not the technical support to get them on here. Spookie, where you at?
The drive home from there was another highlight. With Lorenzo as my navigator we took the winding and long way home, skirting Montalcino and driving on, at times, gravel roads. On once such road there was a warning sign that i took a photo of prompting Larry to say, "The authorites will go though your phone and figure out that was the last mistake we made. Drive down this road."
One that road, Nancy said "I think I was on this road with Taylor," referring to Taylor Parsons who accompainied Nancy here in February to accept an award to Osteria Mozza for the best list featuring wines from around here.
At 6:30, seven hours after we left for lunch, we were home. Typico,
Today we had that feast on the porch. And stayed home. One of the best days. Hitting our stride. For baseball fans, our batting average up to .314.