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Everything posted by Schielke

  1. I think it was 4 Euros, but if you are a EU Citizen, it is free.
  2. Florence Part 2 On our way to Cibreo, we located a highly rated Gelato place called Vivoli. The Rice Gelato was easily one of the best of the whole trip. We made it to Cibreo a little early so we grabbed an espresso at the Cibreo Cafe. During this time, we were given a pamphlet regarding the newly opened canteen for Cibreo that sounded like a blast. I really would have loved to go, but it was so far from our place and we only had one more day in Florence. Dinner at Cibreo was a bunch of fun. We were seated and presented with some "welcome wine", a refreshing local white that was just the ticket. Unfourtanetly, I am terrible with wine names and labels so I forgot. The hostess/manager came to our table and spoke to us in perfect english regarding the menu. The selections sounded quite amazing and I had an extremely tough time choosing my dishes. As soon as we finished ordering, the staff presented us with a round of appetizers. There was: *Gespatcho flan with herbs- very floral and nicely balanced between acid and sweetness. *Chicken liver pate crostini- well prepared classic *Local proscuitto- good as always *Pecorino cheese with jelly- yum. *Cheese based souflee thingy- really good...so good I forgot what it was. *Cool Tripe salad- my first experience with tripe. It tasted pretty good, but the texture was somewhat odd. Katie, who normally would avert her eyes while I ate such a horrid thing dove right in with the comment "ohh! pasta!" I was very proud of her when she didn't excuse herself after I told her what she just ate. After the appetizers came our bottle of wine. I am going to have to reference my pics to remember the name, but I do know it was local and 100% sang. It was a really great wine that had an intersting tannin structure if I remember correctly. I really enjoyed it. The restaurant took pity on my ordering plight and allowed me to have half servings of two starters. Thanks Cibreo! *Yellow Bell Pepper Soup- Classic Cibreo dish for a reason. It is damn good. *Creamy polenta with olive oil and herbs- Great texture, good temperature and nicely balanced with the olive oil showing just enough pepper as to not overpower the rest. *Ricotta based souflee thingy that was similar to the appetizer but different in a really good way- Katie had this one and loved it although it might have killed her appetite from being so rich. The light texture combined with the rich cheese and a meat ragu = yum. The pacing at the restaurant left us with a much needed breather and time to build anticipation for the main course...specifically mine. *Chicken neck stuffed with veal and served w/ mayo- The chicken neck was cooked with the head attached and served sliced with the head on the plate. I had to check with my new wife to make sure she wouldn't leave me if there was the head of a dead chicken on the table. I was told that the dish was a very traditional thing that families would make on the weekend as something special back in the day. The dish itself was pretty mild. It was served cool and tasted pretty good, but I couldn't help thinking that it would have made a much better starter in a smaller portion. *Katie had the Priest's Hat sausage. It is named for the shape of the sausage, which unfourtanetly came sliced so we couldn't see the namesake. It was a tasty sausage that reminded me of a more delicately textured keilbasa. While it was good, I didn't think that the flavor profile really matched the rest of the dishes. It seemed out of place. Dessert was very tasty but somewhat uncreative. *I had a vanilla flan with strawberry sauce- It was a really great example of a classic dish. *Katie had a flourless chocolate torte- Again, very well done, but not terribly creative or regional. With dessert, I requested a "beginner's grappa". I was given a wood aged grappa. It was very much like conac, but sharper and in some ways more pleasant. Overall the meal was very good, but it seemed that the first half of the meal "fit" with the restaurant, while the other half did not at all. Has anybody else experienced this at Cibreo? The rest of our time in florence, we spent running around the beautiful boboli (italian bread shell ) gardens and shopping. We had an ok meal at bibo for lunch, but nothing to write about. Our last dinner in Florence was at Hosteria Ganino, where the meal was simple and fantastic. I had the best pasta of the trip there. It was these noodles that looked like tubes connected side by side in an amazing meat sauce. Katie had ravioli in sage butter. We also ordered some out of this world fried zuchinni blossoms. Great rec Tighe!!!! The next morning, we hopped a cab over to the rental car agency to pick up our Daewoo Kalos. I was nervous as hell about driving in Florence, but it was a breeze. The worst driving was yet to come in the Mountains... Mountain driving next!
  3. I guess what you're saying is that in the Seattle area - there's a price point where people won't frequent a restaurant unless it's extraordinary. That is also true where I live with one exception. All the tourists/convention people etc. will drop big bucks at expensive chains like Ruth's Chris, Morton's, etc. It's really a bit of a conundrum - because fine ingredients (as well as a lot of other things) don't cost more in Chicago than they do in Seattle or Jacksonville. Yet I find myself unwilling to patronize a local restaurant that costs $100-150 for 2 when it is merely good - as opposed to spending more - sometimes a lot more - in a big city where the food is terrific. For example - I rejected going out to a new restaurant here tonight because we would have wound up with a bill in that general price range - and it didn't have a full liquor license (I enjoy having a cocktail before dinner). Anyway - regarding Seastar - I really like raw bar things - and I especially like raw bar things from the Pacific Northwest (e.g., love the oysters). So perhaps that's why I enjoyed this restaurant more than most people here. Robyn Robyn, I think you did certainly choose the right things to order at seastar. I am certain that the restaurant does get good ingredients and one of the best ways to serve a fine ingredient is to not mess with it much. My old co-workers reported very good raw bar items for lunch in the past. I had some one time and also thought they were fine. When we went for dinner, however, the raw bar is not pushed much and the cooked dishes are typically ordered. I think this is where Seastar's inconsistency comes from. Ben
  4. Florence We arrived in florence in the afternoon via train. Fourtanetly our apartment was not too far from the train station so we made it there pretty quick and got settled. After a quick gelato at Carabe and a walk around of the sights near our apartment, we had a lovely dinner at Il Ritrovo. Il Ritrovo is just a little tricky to find, but we didn't really have much trouble. You just have to look for the stairway going down on the northern side of the street. We rang the bell and were greeted by the cook/waiter who was lots of fun. We ordered a nice local bottle of chianti that the waiter reccommended. I believe it was Poggio Al Sole- Annata 2000. Katie really likes caprese salad so we shared that to start. It was not nearly as good as the one from La Zucca, but still quite serviceable. Next was a beautiful Artichoke risotto and a nice rich ravioli bolognese. We followed these dishes with a 900g Bisteca from heaven. I believe that I ate 800g and Katie had 100g because she was already full from the first part of the meal. I honestly can't remember if we had dessert or not since I was pretty full and drunk by then. Either way, we had a very nice time at Il Ritrovo. The next day we slept in a bit and then hit the sights. I can't even remember how many paintings I saw of Mary and baby jesus, but it was more than enough. Also, it seems that baby jesus was painted creepier and creepier each time (no disrespect of course! ). Being in our creepy baby jesus haze we went to the first place we found in the main square. We promptly paid too much for mediocre food and drink. I remember a lemon pasta dish that was pretty decent though. We did some more window shopping and grabbed more gelato as well as some great salumi and cheese from a local deli before we grabbed some dinner. We decided to try out a Rick Steves rec whose name I don't remember. It is a wine bar somewhat near the Mercato Centrale on a scary street with a Donner Kebab shop. The house wine was pretty nice and the food ok. Katie had mushroom ravioli and I had tagletale(sp) with rabbit. Our third day in Tuscany, we decided to hop a train to Lucca, which turned out to be a blast. The train to Lucca is unnecessicarily slow and frusturating in that regard. It seems to have a random speed generator that is set to "slow as hell" most of the time. I couldn't figure out why we would roar into one town really fast and then stop and then continue very slowly to the next stop. When we finally made it to Lucca, we were delighted by our first smallish town in Italy. The place really is quite cute. We wandered around town for a while where I bought some wine and then found a great little treat in the market. They called them Frati, but it is basically a really really good donut fried up fresh for each customer and then sprinkled with orange sugar. Yum. Lunch was at some mediocre pizza place. After lunch we rented some bikes and rode around the wall and relaxed for some time. We made an effort to find the Giusti bakery for their Foccica bread, which was divine as advertised. By now we were torn between trying to catch a cab to go to La Mora out in the countryside and hopping on the train to go back to Florence. We finally decided to go back to Florence since we were both a bit under the weather from allergies. Doh! We had a late dinner at Za Za's near Mercato Centrale, which was pretty decent. Nothing appears to have stood out about the meal since I dont remember what I ate. The next morning we slept in and instead of breakfast, I harvested some foccica, leftover meat and cheese to make a sweet toasted sandwich in our apartment's little oven. It hit the spot perfectly. We had a lazy morning and walked up to see David. We took a risk by not having reservations, but there was no line at all and we waltzed right in. We were hungry for more gelato after being wowed by David. I wanted to be sure to check out the Market, so we hustled on over there to check it out. It pained me so much that I could not utilize all the fantastic meats available in that market. To console myself, I bought more salami and cheese. Lunch was at Mario's right across from the market. It was the only place we had to wait to get a seat. The place was packed and everybody was jammed in together at communial tables. We ordered Vegetable soup, shrimp spaghetti, and roasted chicken. The food was really great and I had a good time, but Katie did not. The place was just too much for her. That combined with most of the menu being fish dishes (it was friday), she didn't find anything that she wanted to eat. So I would reccommend Mario's as long as you don't mind being ass to elbow with 50 other Italians. After lunch, we went back to the apartment to take a nap before more running around and our dinner at Cibreo. More on Cibreo and Florence later.
  5. Yeah, that's the one! (sigh)
  6. The buffet at Sahib in Redmond is not too shabby and I recall somebody recently extolling the virtues of the buffet at the Indian place near Chuck-E-Cheese and 148th in Bellevue. I need to check that one out. Also if anybody says Todai, I am going to explode. Ben
  7. I think I will just start from the top of my trip and worry about pics when I have more time later. Our condo looks like a Bed Bath and Beyond bomb went off. Venice We arrived in Venice around noon and took the Water bus into town. It is painfully slow, but so is the bus I hear. I have a theory that travel to and from airports in Italy is a manufactured industry. We found our Hotel after looking around for a while and asking some locals for help. Katie and I were pretty pooped from 14 hrs of travel so I just grabbed some take out pizza and brought it back to the Hotel. It hit the spot, but was not anything special. The next day we grabbed a few items from the hotel breakfast and then hit a local Cafe that served well made espresso. Throughout my trip I loved the abundance of cute little cafes. The coffee quality was all over the board, but consistently highter than the average Seattle place. None of the espresso I had, however, was better than the top end espresso places in Seattle. After breakfast, we toured around town to check out the major sights. I had fun getting covered in pigeons while feeding them. We grabbed some fantastic white chocolate gelato at Mille Voglie near the church of Dei Frari. After some more wandering, we had lunch at La Zucca. La Zucca turned out to be really great. We shared a caprese salad with the best tomatoes I had the whole trip. Katie then had pasta with tomatoes, ricotta, and basil. I had pasta with cuttlefish and tomatoes. Both used really great ingredients and turned out very nice. I also ordered their asparagus with pecorino, which was also very good. I would highly reccommend La Zucca for a great casual meal. That evening we found Trattoria Pizzeria San Toma. I would have liked to have a high end seafood dinner in Venice, but the reccommended places were all closed on Monday. The pizza turned out to be very nice though. I had Gorgonzola and Katie had one with sausage, olives and tomatoes I think. The next day we did breakfast at the same place and then grabbed a picnic lunch from the local deli. I got some fantastic cheese, salumi, and bread for our train ride to Florence. More on Florence Later! Ben
  8. Milan, Is there another? Are they related? It seems like this happens alot in the Milan area. Our Hotel reservation for Milan was screwed up by Travelocity because there is another Hotel De La Ville in Monza that is completely unrelated to the one in Milan. It all worked out though, but was a huge headache.
  9. I need to learn how to cross my legs proper-like before I start wearing kilts!
  10. I am suprised that the premium Vodka makers have not taken a note from the fantastic Grappa bottles made in Italy. I bought a bottle of Nonino Verduzzo Cru pretty much just for the bottle.
  11. I think that seastar's problem is that it fails to excell. I used to work right across the street from it back in the day. The menu does not seem to have focus and the place just does not feel special. Food wise, I never had anything there that was poor, but I never had anything there that was great. Most things are prepared fairly well but are priced as if they are much better than they turn out. Ben
  12. This twin you saw...did he look evil? Eastside breakfast is tough. The Brown Bag cafe in Kirkland and Redmond are pretty good. Ben
  13. Tell them to get their croissants from Besalu. Oh my god what a combo that would be. Katie and I have been known to get Besalu and Vivace on some glorious weekends. My coffee picks are: Vivace Hines Public Market Zoka Lighthouse I havent been to Victriola but hear they know what they are doing.
  14. The other threads pretty much sum up my eastside food likes (I am an evil eastsider afterall). Things to add: Dosas galore (even a 6 foot dosa) at Udupi palace. Thin Pan Thai in Kirkland is very good. Santori (spelling) Greek in Kirkland is quite lovely Noodle Boat Thai in Issaquah is fantastic XXX Rootbeer in Issaquah is fun and has great rootbeer
  15. I'm Back! There is definitely more to come. I am trying to decide how I want to deal with all the pics I took since it is exhausting to upload them all. Needless to say I had a great time and am sad to be back at work. Overall, I think the best meal was Boccondivino. Ben
  16. Probably my last post until I get over there. Thanks so much for all the help, I truly do appreciate it! All the responses were so very helpful. Caio! Ben
  17. Ugh, there goes 350 bucks. I picked up the latest rev of my camera, the Dimage Xg. Well, I dont have too much to be in the dumps about. I am getting married on Friday and going to Italy on Sat! Ben
  18. Yeah, I am at least glad it happened when we had time to fix it; albeit expensively. Battery-wise, I have two batteries for this camera and a power transformer so I can use the charger over there. I suppose if I get another camera, I will have three batteries now! Ben
  19. Well it was bound to happen sooner or later, but disaster has stuck. I woke up yesterday to find my new digicam in a pool of water on the table next to a knocked over vase. The cats were looking at me as if they never even set foot on the table. I thought it was ok at the time though since I could power the camera on and take a picture. I let it dry out all day. When I came home, the camera would not turn on and continues to be stubborn and not play nice. It looks as if I am going to have to replace it in the next couple days. Ben
  20. Yeah, Seattle is very Veg friendly. A Hindu friend of mine was visiting and was amazed at all the options compared to his current residence of Kansas City.
  21. Is it going to be hard to find a place to hold our bags for the rest of the day after we check out of our Milan Hotel? I would not want to lug them around while we run around before going to Gallarate. Thanks! Ben
  22. cool, we made a reservation at the Jet hotel. Anybody know how to decipher the Trenitalia site? It is horribly unusable to me. I am trying to find out how much it costs to get to Gallarate.
  23. Servers in Washington State have it pretty sweet comparatively. Min wage and tips. Ben
  24. Fun! I am going to keep my eye out for them.
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