AUGUST 7, 2013
As Italy 2013 bites on and on, the team of Nancy Silverton and Michael Krikorian have added a slew of dishes that will compete later this month for the DOT (dishes of the trip) awards, that culminates in that most coveted award, Taste of the Trip.
Several guest diners have added their tastes to the pot, they include chef Matt Molina (who won a James Beard Award and the rare James Goatee Award), Liz “Go Go” Hong, chef of Pizzeria Mozza and, it shockingly turns out, not the dumb blonde she was when she entered the country. Also joining was professori di vino Bobby Silverton, a Philly/Venice Beach guy devoted to fine dining.
It has been over 10 days since the last restaurant update, and many good dishes will not even make this preliminary list. To get on the following you best grab hold of our taste buds, grab them and say “Don’t I taste good, fool?!”
GELATO IN ORVIETO
Orvieto, about an hour from Panciale, is best known for its cathedral which has a strikingly beautiful façade. I like to take the unsuspecting, like Liz Go Go Hong, lead them down a small street that live ends at the church, and twirl them around like I did with Go Go and also with Larry Silverton. Both said “Wow” and “Oh my God!.” Larry said he was tempted to become a Christian. As for Go Go, she was so taken with the church that I convinced her to go inside. She hadn’t been in a church since the Battle of Verdun. Go Go entered the church and said “Ok, lets go get some gelato.” Total time in church 9 seconds.
NOTE - I didn’t see this, but Nancy swears Matty Molina even took a photo of this church.
The church is about 60 meters from GELATERIA PASQUALETTI, where in 2012 I had nine scoups. This time I cut down to eight. The highlights are the pistachio and chocolate rum. The Fiore di latte with frutti de bosco is also excellent. Ya know what? All their stuff is good.
YOGURT AMUSE BUSCHE AT CIBREO
Cibreo is one of the top restaurants in Florence. So many things were good here at our lunch - roasted stuffed rabbit, fish soup, orange cheesecake - but the most stunning, most sensual single bite was this mold of yogurt flavored with turmeric, I am doing a rotten job of describing this, so |I’m going to yell upstairs and see if Nancy has anything to add. Hold up Ok. “It was a yogurt panna cotta with turmeric set with gelatin and very flavorful and tangy.” It was a superb way to wake up .the taste buds and let them know they were in for an exhilarating ride.
The entire lunch at Cibreo was excellent.
Our American friends in Panicale, Alan and Barbara, known as “A and B” and from Las Vegas by way of Pittsburg, spend several months a year in Italy, tracking down restaurants and operas the way Lord Baltimore tracked Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. “I know my food,” A said last night. He sure does. He has recommended three places this summer and all three were Returners, one of our highest honors.
This place is located in Sansepolcro, where Piero Della Francesca was born in 1415. The restaurant is Da Ventura and we were alerted by “A” to get the meat trolley. And indeed, for 12 euros, a meat trolley with three roasts pulled up to the table and a waiter starts carving. We had on our trolley a porchetta, a pot roast to rival Jar, and a veal shank. Avoid the pasta here. Or even any antipasti and go straight for the trolley.
The restaurant is 100 meters from the Musee Civico, which features masterpieces by Piero Della Francesca and several self portraits by Pat Asanti.
OSTERIA FRANCESCANA had several dishes that will make it to the grand finals at the DOT awards. A short script about this dining event will appear later.
BISTECCA MOLINA and Roasted Potatoes-
A week ago, while I read a good book called “Southside”, Nancy, Matt and Liz prepared dinner. It was a homeland feast highlighted by a one-kilo steak cooked in the outdoor wood oven and some simple roasted potatoes with rosemary and olive oil. Go Go made some good salsa verde and would frequently remind us of this throughout dinner.
NOTE Later that night, Go Go destroyed Nancy and myself in a stupid game of Scrabble. It was significant because it was the first inkling either of us had that Liz had a functioning brain. Days later, it would be revealed that in some societies , Go Go would be considered intelligent. On a nighttime walk, I handed her 30 pages of a novel to read. Nine footsteps later she handed it back saying “Change the $25,000 purse. Make it 10.” Girl can speed read. However, I learned she prefers to play down her brain so others will focus on her body. She did a good job of this at the piazza in Panicale prompting one Panicale veteran, George,. 77, to proclaim “I’ve seen women with more clothing on at a nudist colony.”
FISH BAKED ON SALT.
In the Adriatic seaside town of Cesenatica, north of Rimini, is the restaurant La Buca where Matty insisted we go. This guy is talking about this place like the fish is caught by Jesus with Peter as his netman. We went. The crudo was bright. The big prawns lightly grilled and good. The highlight was a sparidae, a fish related to bream and dentrice.. This fish was cooked on, not quite a bed of salt, but more like a yoga matt of salt. Not encased where you crack that salt cover off, the bottom of said fish had a nice, kinda, well, salty tinge to it. Real moist. We lucked out here on this \July 31 lunch as the fishing in the Adriatic shuts down for the month of August to allow the fish to build up their population and for the fisherman to essentially do the same while on vacation. .
After La Buca, we strolled over to a gelato place called Labratorio, something like that, and I have four flavors, including a pistachio made, they claim, with “100% DOP pistachios”. The gelato here was intense and good and the lady whose photo might be below says they are going to open a place in Malibu in conjunction with the Toscano folks.
NOTE ABOUT GELATO- The hotter it is, the better good gelato tastes. The heat can help a so-so gelato, but it straight out turbo-charges the good stuff. If you could get a real good gelato in hell, it would be out of this world.
FEGATINI aka CHICKEN LIVER ON TOAST.
“A” , our friend from Pittsburg and Las Vegas, hit a three-run homer with his recommendation of Piccolo Trattoria Guastini in Valiano, a 34-minute drive, (timed twice) from Panicale on the back road to Montepulchiano,
With Bobby Silverstein, we went two weeks ago and we very pleased. We decided to give it another try and this time it was even better. The highlights included a simple Fegatini, a dish available all over the country, but never better than this version. Nancy took one bite and uttered probably my favorite positive food term “delicious”. Coming from her, it has some pulp.
The dish was not cooked down to a smooth or even course consistency and spread on toast. Instead it had, excuse the word, gobs of chicken liver. The owner of Guastini said it was somewahto an accidental dish.
“We always cooked the dish like everybody else. But one day, we are cooking it down and some situation happened. A commotion. And we turned off the pan to look into the problem When we came back, an hour so later,. I tasted the chicken liver and, wow, it was so good. So we now serve it that way.” I told him if he changed it, he would be having a real commotion.
Guastini also scored strong on their ravioli stuffed with pigeon and topped with two gigantic pigeon legs.
SAUSAGE AND EGGS
Yesterday for lunch Nancy made a frittata with pancetta, onions, parmesan and aged percorino. She cooked up some sausage from the Coop, a supermarket made famous in a photo with Nancy wearing their shirt. Added a little salad. Just the two of us on the porch with the Panicale backdrop. Lou Rawls was on the box singing “Old Folks”. I don’t even have to say no more. You feel me?