Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pancetta-wrapped Pork Loin and Funghi Risotto

Pancetta-wrapped Pork Loin
and Funghi Risotto
A Christmas dinner with friends
Dec. 29, 2012

It's never quite Christmastime without visiting Sharon. 

Pancetta-wrapped pork loin, 
With pesto, sundried tomato, flecks of parmegiano-reggiano, and a side of funghi risotto,
Paired with a delightfully sinful bottle of Etude's 2007 Pinot Noir

We know pesto is rich - so are sundried tomatoes and pancetta. But the pork loin - thick, dense, and juicy - with its milder white meat flavor made for an excellent complement to such rich Italian ingredients, amounting to this well-balanced, flavorful, and colorful entree. The funghi risotto on the side was a smart pairing. This savory side dish blessed the overall plate with a fine balance of rich and temperate flavors, not to mention the ingredients make for a fascinating array of textures - visually and in your mouth. I very much look forward to revisiting this recipe in my own home. 

Of course, Etude's Pinot Noir was an obvious star with the pork loin and funghi. The earthiness of the pinot noir grapes explains why this wine complements mushrooms impeccably. I've always had Etude's Pinot Noir with a mushroom, pork, turkey, or veal dish; it never fails to inspire me in celebrating these ingredients.

Champagne du Perrier-Jouet, homemade apricot preserve atop ricottesque goat cheese, and rosemary water crackers. Sharon is a food-pairing genius and talented artist with each of her creations and presentations of the culinary arts. Bravo bella!

Friday, July 27, 2012

La Veranda, Villa d'Este

La Veranda Ristorante
Villa D'Este
Cernobbio, Lago di Como

I kid you not, this place exists, but if you really want a taste of it you have to make an effort to get here. Sooo worth it. I spent the afternoon here. Looking back on it now, 'twas like a sweet dream; I didn't want it to end. And, oh, the food!

Monkfish Medallions

Spectacular, and cutting edge. Lago di Como- style, drizzled in hot, melted sage butter,
and adorned with cherry tomato concoctions, served on a crisp, eggplant tart

Never have I had such well-prepared monkfish, and with this choice of ingredients to pair. In my experience, chefs tend to overcook this fish or undercook it; they often also fail to pair it with a seasoning, sauce, or food that complements it well. Chef Micheli cooked this to perfection. Bravo! My fish was tender, juicy, and flavorful. The butter and sage seem simple complements, but they are powerful enough on their own to season and dress the fish, and they allow you to celebrate it rather than lead you to be distracted or overruled by the other ingredients instead of the savory, tender main course. 

Also noteworthy are the baked cherry tomatoes and the eggplant tart - total comfort foods. The mashed eggplant against the crisp tart shell beneath the monkfish made for an interesting juxtaposition of textures that I enjoyed. Also, the eggplant absorbed a bit of the sage butter. Mm.

For the proper wine pairing, I inquired with the sommelier. He suggested a regional white wine varietal from Treviso, the Veneto. The flavors and body were light and similar to a sauvignon-grigio with just a hint of frizzante. This wine was lovely. Though I didn't capture the name of it on paper, it's inscribed on my palette. I certainly remember the body and flavor.

Biscuits, florentine crisps, miele (honey) bars, white chocolate cup, you name it.

I do suggest you try one of the dessert. Today, my stomach just didn't have the space for more! Nevertheless, the Terrace Restaurant presents each guest table with a platter of miniature, delectable sweets. Don't be fooled by the size of these bites; each one is quite rich - delicious, though!

Bon appetito! 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

il Ristorante at Hotel Suisse, Bellagio

Il Ristorante
at Hotel Suisse
Bellagio, IT

I am seriously thinking about staying at this hotel next time. I quite enjoyed my experience here: eating, writing, sipping, and pondering delectable things. And the lake and ferry are right across from the hotel, which lend a front row seat to Bellagio's people watching culture.

Professional. Waterfront dining with a view. Friendly service. Good food.

Venere nero (black rice risotto) topped with lake fish, perch fillets
with sage butter

The regional fare: risotto topped with perch fillets. Yep. It's simple but rich - quite filling. I've noticed that along this lake you can pretty much expect everything from the lakes to be topped with butter and sage. It's the way they top off all the dishes here. Como offers a variety of white lake fish, such as salmon trout, but perch appears to be the most common species, perhaps because of its abundance in this region. You will often find it for cheap; it's the more affordable among lunch specials at the Como restaurants.

Perch fillets are thin; there is not much meat on a single fillet, so restaurants tend to compensate for this with breadcrumb overload. I'm not a fan of Como perch because when I've ordered it it always ends up being a plate of carbs when the fish is supposed to be the star - the fish is covered in breadcrumbs, fried and fine. Still, the complements are nice: fresh black rice, sage herb, and butter. Drizzle a bit of lemon over this and it's even better. In essence, I'm trying to say that this isn't really a seafood dish. It's a lot of carbs. But it's more about the flavor and textures, not to forget the integration of fresh, local ingredients.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Trattoria Bordino

Trattoria Bordino
Firenze, Oltrarno
March 2012

Nestled at the end of this little alley on the Oltrarno, just across the Ponte Vecchio and to the left, near Le volpi e l'uva. This place is all about the bistecca fiorentina - best I've had in Florence. The meat is tender and the flavor rich from natural juice. Mmm. The steak is huge, but you can split it between two people for 15 euro a person, and even then it's a lot of food. The risotto too was mouthwatering. I believe ours was risotto con funghi.

This is probably the most rustic-traditional, professional, best atmosphere, and best meal experience I've had in Florence. I liked the medieval brick walls and decor.

A heavy iron chandelier looms overhead, with spikes and all. Though it seems the lofty fortress walls would appear cold, this is certainly a warm atmosphere (with candlelight) to take a nice date or to catch up with good friends. We've spent a few hours in here, easily.
Finally, the wine list is impressive.
Excellent choice. 

Vino Rosso di Montalcino, Col D'Orcia
(My favorite tuscan wine. More full-bodied, and best with the steak).
Vino Nobile Montepulciano (Medium-bodied).

I always look forward to an evening here. Superb gelato is just around the corner; though you may want to save that for another night. Let the flavors of Bordino's wine and steak linger on your palette.

For the record, best gelato in Florence: Cantina del Gelato (Oltrarno). I LOVE the nocciola and cioccolato.

Trattoria Pallottino

Trattoria Pallottino
Firenze, Santa Croce
Via Isola delle Stinche

We wandered for a while through the streets of the Santa Croce quartiere, determined to find a cozy, affordable trattoria that was not swarming with tourists. Wedged at the intersection of multiple narrow alleys we came across this little family restaurant and saw that not only did it look warm inside, and the people look happy, but the prices were surprisingly below normal for tourist season. Score.

In the end, it was a casual yet satisfying meal. You can get better food in Florence, certainly, but this was good enough; plus, we were looking for something convenient in the first place, with the requirement that it be more satisfying than your average panino. Upon finishing our meal, we did not feel rushed to depart - you shouldn't be! The waiters were on top of things and obliging to answer any questions. This is a good stop for dinner if you're looking for something intimate, casual, and affordable outside of the tourist scene while still being in the city center. 


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Il Barrino

Il Barrino
Via Gioberti, Firenze

It was getting late and we were hungry, but we were searching for someplace cozy that would have a good meal from the kitchen. We weren't going to settle for any food, but we were open to exploring the places nearby and taking a chance. How can you go wrong in Florence? Well, actually, strike that. Il centro di Firenze may have Italian restaurants and might make the tourist think every so often that he is being treated as a king, but you may not always be getting quality Italian food there, or a good deal. A good trattoria is what we were looking for, all around, and I'd say we scored here with our pappardelle dish in particular. 

Of course, the three of us shared a bottle of the house chianti, which was just fine. The importance of this experience is that we asked them what their best dish was - that's what we wanted - and when the waitress told us pappardelle and pesce, we all knew what to go with. Once it arrived, I decided it was better than I had expected that night. It's wonderful when you find such a gem. 

Pappardelle alla cacciagione (with game ragout)

Amazing. The pasta here is, of course, homemade. You can tell. The flavors are rich; blame the egg pasta. The game was delicious; every bit in a bite falls apart in your mouth. Excellent dish, and a good-sized portion.

Pane: Schiacciata briosciata al rosmarino

I'm in love with this bread. It was infused with olive oil and rosemary and had sprinkles of salt along the edges where the consistency is crisp, like a foccacia shell. The flavors are bold. Consider this Italian cornbread. I have yet to find it anywhere else. It is rich in rosemary flavor and olive oil. After having so much Tuscan bread that lacks salt we found our mouths watering over this one. Of course, there is also a soft, thick loaf of Tuscan bread that goes ignored at the table.

This neighborhood is great. We just moved here and I've found there is so much to find within these few blocks: librerie, ristoranti, saldi, i caffe, gelaterie... molti negozi. And it's not as crowded as the city center. This is more of a residential community, east of Piazza Beccaria. Come over for a visit. 


Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Chinatown, Washington, D.C.
Dinner, November 2011

It was a narrow, welcoming facade at one corner of Chinatown where we entered and began our experience. We found ourselves in a culinary venue that ran deep and tall. The interior was less Chinatown than it was a clean and contemporary interior with a warm color theme of browns (espresso wood), reds, firebrick orange, and black, which complement most of their good beer selections. We climbed up to (what I thought was) the fourth story.

In particular, I remember the Allagash Curieux. So good. It is a tripel ale, best served chilled. It's lighter-colored than the imperial stouts, which I tend to go with. This was perfect - a good match for both the sweet Beet Salad and the spicy Fire and Smoke pizza, in which the gouda was the bite.

Beet Salad
"Arugula, goat cheese, candied walnuts, and grilled ciabatta."
We devoured this so very quickly. So, yes, it was good.

Fire and Smoke Pizza [$13]
"Fire roasted red peppers, Spanish onions, chipotle pepper, tomato sauce, garlic puree, smoked gouda (whoa!), fresh basil (love)"

Big enough to split between two persons.
The description says, "Very spicy," next to the menu item. Cute that they tried to warn us. 
It's not that spicy; it's not hot. I liked it. We finished it all and lusted for more, so we ordered their famous gelato cookie. I have to say, though, the Allagash gave us the spirit to keep going; it complemented everything here. Also, it's lower in alcohol than most red wines, so you maintain a good level of energy and spirit throughout the meal.

Gelato Cookie Sandwich [$8]
"Coffee gelato, chocolate ganache, creme anglaise"

 I did not taste, or sense, any hint of chocolate ganache or creme anglaise in this; though, the creme might have been in the shallow bit surrounding. Still, this cookie doesn't need much of a description. It is delightful and worthy of devouring entirely. The chocolate-chip cookies (sandwich parts) are semi-soft and warm, while the center gelato is chilled. Fantastic.

 You must dig-in with your hands. For goodness sake - it's a cookie! Bite into it. For the gelato, go ahead and use your spoon. It's delectable and chilled at the edges, though ours is clearly on the verge of melting. The drizzle around the outside is a rich dark chocolate serpentined atop the creme. Do dip the cookie in the creme, please.
Good choice for dessert. Mmm.


Matchbox Chinatown on Urbanspoon