The Steak Sandwich With Nothing Else To Compare It To

Nancy just left for the nightly 6:30 wine drinking session at the Piazza Umberto in Panicale. I'm alone at the house, writing intensely  and the door bell rings. It's Pina, the-across-the-street neighbor, holding a foil-covered tray with two pot holders. Speaking exuberantly with her beaming smile. the only words I understand are "foccacia", "formaggio" and "caldo"; hot cheese bread.

She places the tray down near the fireplace. She leaves. I get a knife,

As I'm cutting into this lovely creation, this unexpected joy that comes to the front door, this most neighborly of gestures, I realize what I have in the blue Smeg refrigerator; yesterday's steak. A steak from Dario Cecchini that I grilled last night. Possessed now, i stuff the steak into the foccacia, knife on a little Parmigiano-Reggiano. I bite into this steak sandwich. 

There have been many astonishing occurrences since recorded history began.  I've always marveled at how Alexander the Great conqueror most of the world. That first moon landing with both Louis and Neil Armstrong was thrilling. I cherish an early morning moment, captured by photographer Tom Caltabiano, with Nancy in Paris.

Was this steak sandwich in that league? No. Not even. But, since I can't think of any other sandwich to compare it to, I'd just thought i'd mention a few of my favorite things.

Here's John Coltrane's version :of "My Favorite Things" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWG2dsXV5HI

***  Ferrari just came out with their greatest road car ever, the million-dollar-plus, 950-horsepower hyper car called simply LaFerrari. I'm gonna call this LaSteak Sandwich.

The just released  La Steak Sandwich.

The just released  La Steak Sandwich.



 

ITALY MMXIII JULY 22

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.

ITALY MMXIII

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.

Michael Krikorian

 

Locanda Del Glicene's creme of garden zucchini soup with ricotta sorbet.   

Locanda Del Glicene's creme of garden zucchini soup with ricotta sorbet.   

Locanda Del Glicene's sorbetti    

Locanda Del Glicene's sorbetti  

 

ITALY 2013 July 17

“I’ll know when Nancy gets Alzheimer’s, She’ll tell Michael to snack while she’s preparing a feast,” Gail Silverton.

This quote from Gail was in response to Michael Krikorian’s disgruntled demeanor after Nancy Silverton scolded him, told him how annoying he was and threatened to ban him from Umbria for life  after he repeatedly raided  several of the plates she was preparing for a dinner for six Monday evening July 15 in Panicale, Umbria, Italy .

- From Reuters News

 2013 ITALY

It’s day 10 of our annual summer trip to Italy and so far, despite the predictable jabs, hooks and uppercuts, it’s going typically delightful.

Restaurant wise, we haven’t  got into the master groove.  There’s been several mediocre meals and one dinner in the town of Tavernelle so bad it will be the standard of which all bad meals will be judged.  I’ve had better meals at Men’s Central.

I mean I think grey is a useful color. It is excellent for warships. Most of the history’s greatest battleships were grey. Though if my memory is accurate,  I believe the USS West Hollywood was peach and lime green which worked well for it and the crew during the Battle of Sweetzer Creek.

Gregory Peck had a movie about a grey flannel suit. Grey is a leader among primer colors. But for a steak? No way, Giuseppe. For lamb?  Sorry. I don’t know how they got the beef. lamb and  the chicken the same shade of grey. Nancy’s father, Larry, saw one such colored dish come by and asked the servers. “What is that? Chicken?”  “Bisteca fiorentina”, came the answer. Dario Cecchini would have strangled the grill cook. . .

But, who wants to read about the lousy food? On to the highlights.

WARNING. - Let it be understood two things before you read on, if you do. Though the first byline I ever had at the Los Angeles Times (1992) was a small restaurant review of the Spoon House,  Japanese spaghetti restaurant in Gardena,  I am not a food writer. This will soon become quite clear.  Secondly, the website Krikorianwrites.com  is in the second day of a copy editor strike, so there might be a few copy edits missed and heading your way. The copy editors at Krikorianwrites.com have decide to strike in solidarity with the California state prisoners who are on a hunger strike.

That said... -

THE TOP TASTES  OF THE FIRST 10 DAYS

Not in any order of preference. All we would have again with pleasure.

CHOCOLATE CANDY BAR at Marconi Ristorante in the town of Sasso Marconi, about 20 minutes south of Bologna. The 15 euro raisin and brandy soaked cherry 70% bar by Claudio Corallo came in a cardboard box and was devoured by Nancy and I (mainly Nancy)  in one minute and 52 seconds, six full seconds quicker than Chris and Dahlia’s Vegas wedding.

Corallo is said, according to the Marconi menu at least, to be the only chocolate guy who grows and produces chocolate in the same site. That site being the small African island nation of St. Tome and Principe located in the Gulf of Guinea. This candy bar had a rich complex flavor and a borderline tender texture.

Claudio Corallo chocolate is available at Alegio in Berkeley. Though this particular bar is a long shot. UPDATE, I emailed Marconi to see if I could swing by and just by some bars, but they said they were ut until October.

http://www.alegio.com/corallo-chocolate/

I need to mention the seafood risotto i had here. While excellent, it was one of the only  dishes I have ever had that could one could say, as the cliche goes, looked like a painting. Som,etime abut it, the colors, reminded me of a paintin that hangs in Nancy's den here, a plate of fruit by our friend Jeff, husband of Collinette.  Check it out below. Way below. Scroll down extra. Couldn't figure it out to bring it up.  Looking at it, it don't look all that much like the Jeff painting.  Not a food critic, certainly not an art critic. 

Restaurant web site

http://www.ristorantemarconi.it/ristoranteMARCONI_home.php

NANCY'S JULY PORCH SALAD, at home for lunch today, Iceberg, anchovies, tuna, eggs, onions tomatoes. Extraordinary view of Nancy and the Panicale hillside

ROASTED PORK w/ ONION CAKE at Trattoria da Amerigo 1934 in Savigno,This was a standout of several good dishes. we had here. At Day 10, this meal, enjoyed at Day 4, is becoming more highly thought of than originally.  There is even the possibility we will return. The ultimate honor. Well, not ultimate, but high.  One factor in returning here is that this place is a 15 minute windy drive from Marconi so we could go by and get a Corrlo chocolate bar

 http://www.amerigo1934.it/content/show/section/trattoria

Via Guglielmo Marconi, 14-16, 40060 Savigno Province of Bologna  051 670 8326

SPIDER PORK PIZZA at Pellicano in Macchie. 7 minutes from Nancy’s Panicale home. Of all the restaurants in Italy, this place is my favorite. Not for the food, for the wonderful memories I have here. This is a place where we would cram Oliver, Max, Ida, a few adults and head to at one in the morning. I have been here maybe 70 times. The pizza, the only pizza I am legally allowed to eat under the terms of my contract with Pizzeria Mozza, is very good. The Tenant Super beer from England of somewhere like that comes in a size called Giraffe. ‘Nuff said.

Via Pineta 12 | Macchie, 06060 near Castiglione del Lago.

FOCCCIA  topped with coppa, split and smeared with crescenza or stracchino cow’s milk cheese, at Osteria Perilla in Tuscan hilltop village of Rocca d Orcia.

NOTE The kitchen-made KETCHUP  at Osteria Perilla came close to being listed here separately , but at the last minute, the council decided to merely add it on to the Focaccia spiel.   It came with lime zested potato chips and  was unquestionably the best ketchup I’ve ever had. I ate some of it like a soup.

With the ketchup and the focaccia, then a good pasta, (a tortelli with ricotta and peas) Osteria Perilla, which we went to on the high recommendation of Faith Willinger, was off to a very good start. Twice, Nancy raised her glass of local red and toasted to Faith for bringing us her. Bu then, a rain fell and we moved inside, the meal skidded off course and into a chicken coop. While Nancy pork was fine, my main course of a local farm raised capon the server gushed over, was bad.  It was like two pieces of package pressed Leo’s Deli Meats chicken smashed together with passion fruit sauce. Even though Nancy didn’t order it, she was more upset with the dish than me and proclaimed the meal a once promising but ultimately disappointment..

THE NANCY TAVOLA. This is the well-documented spread that lead Nancy Silverton to lay into me for AS, attempted snacking.  She prepared red pepprs, onions, flattened roasted chicken, pistachios from Adana, Turkey, barlotti beans, a pesto to rival, but ultimately lose to  Genoa’s finest, an assortment of cheeses we bought at farmer’s markets, notebale an old percorino and bufala bucconcini.  The best spread.  

SPECIAL K CEREAL.  After a 2.5 k walk and a 2.5 k run, this bowl of cereal Special K,. from the heralded the 2010 vintage, with rich milk was a delight.

DEB CAKE    Osteria Mozza cook Deb Michail, who is visiting her sister in Milan, brought this round almond cookie cake to Nancy as a show of affection. I received nothing from Deb. Well, I got a couple a hugs. But, can one really eat a hug? Still, though this buttery gift from a bakery in Milan was for Nancy, I  proceeded to eat much of it while standing up in the kitchen. 

DARIO COW’S ACL - This very tender and tasty beef dish was served Sunday July 14 at Dario Cecchini's Solociccia, the modern glass-stepped eatery of the world’s most famous butcher. .  His supreme wife Kim, said this as the platter of this was being passed,  “What is that part of the knee that the atheletes always injure?" Deb said “ACL”.  Yes, Kim said, explaining the dish was composed of the meat and tendons and ligaments around the cow’s knees. “It’s Dario\s favorite part of the cow,” Kim said

 As a placard states, Dario Cecchini is not a restaurant. It is the home of a butcher. It is also the place that Nancy and I know we will find happiness. And a greeting like none other. For many years, Dario has greeted me with a bear hug than he picks me up. Tradition has it that, in turn, I pick him up. To prepare for this on this trip, I picked up Nancy – half Dario’s weight,- in a parking lot a couple times. That was fun.  

This list will grow.   

Seafood Risotto at Marconi

Seafood Risotto at Marconi

Spider Pork Pizza at Pelicanos,  a favorite of the Berettos street gang. 

Spider Pork Pizza at Pelicanos,  a favorite of the Berettos street gang.