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Everything posted by fortedei

  1. fortedei


    Julot, The only scallops worth eating in the U.S. (and in my mind they are the best in the world) are the bay scallops from either Nantucket or The Vineyard. They usually appear in early November and depending on the weather, last until just after the New Year. Small (but not tiny) and as sweet as can be, just briefly cooked (really poached) in butter over a low flame, there are few seafood dishes as good.
  2. There is a huge fisherman's strike going on in Italy over the cost of fuel. Fishermen want relief from the government. It's made the front page of La Republica and La Stampa. We saw it on Saturday coming back from Alba to Forte dei Marmi, when we stopped in Varazze, between Savona and Genova, to eat at a wonderful restaurant Antico Genovese. The owner apologized that he only had Cernia (which was delicious) and that was gotten from Nice. The strike is at least in Tuscany and Liguria and from what the papers implied, at least all over the western coast of the country.
  3. Lorenzo, in my town of Forte dei Marmi and Ristorante Romano in Viareggio, the two most famous fish restaurants in Versilia, have closed up shop. The fisherman's strike continues and there is no fresh fish that is the quality they need. Rather than serving frozen fish or farm raised fish as most fish restaurants are doing, they closed rather than compromise their standards.
  4. John, Re Six Odeon... you said "Me I ordered a warm Toulouse sausage also with potatoes and salad in a Ball jar." Why do you think a place like this serves salad in a Ball jar?
  5. R.I.P Very fond memories of L'Auberge de l'Ill in the late 70s when it was at its peak.
  6. It is a jellied custard made from Parmigiano cheese from the vicinity of Reggio (Emilia, Italy). Do you need any more information? ← Pasta, risotto and now this concoction using one of the world's great cheeses in a jellied custard. As many of us said in a long series on the Italian forum, the French are the world's greatest cooks with regard to most things, but they haven't a clue how to make pasta and risotto, and it is now quite apparent that some of them don't have the foggiest idea of what Parmigiano Reggiano is all about. At least use Gran Padana so that parmigiano can be used for what it was intended for. Today, we'll be going up to to a little trattoria in Zibello, near Parma, and we won't think fondly of Pierre Herme's dessert with jellied custard partially made from Parmigiano, as it's being sprinkled over tagiatelle with sugo di coniglio. Man, I hope Herme doesn't start using culatello on his concoctions.
  7. What is Reggiano Parmigiano (sic) jelly?
  8. Two meals stick out as “the best meal.” In early July 1975, after spending two days in Geneva, I drove down to Pere Bise in Talloires. I was a bachelor at the time. It was the first time I had any money to be able to afford a “three star” meal either in the countryside or in Paris. I had made a reservation to stay for Saturday. At that time, the only rooms were in the old inn, the front part of the auberge, not facing the lake. I got there in late morning, parked on the gravel in front of the inn and immediately, a young man came out to help me with my bags and show me to my room. No check in, no passport needed… how wonderful. He spoke very little English and my French was basic, but he managed to convey all I needed to know… it was a gorgeous day and service would be outside. I would be expected at one o’clock. That sounded good to me. The rooms were just fine, but of course nothing like the luxurious ones they would become in the late 70s and early 80s. At one precisely, I made my way down the stairs and around the side of the inn. Instead of what I expected (a stone patio), the tables were set on the grass leading down to what those of you who have been there know, is one of the most beautiful points on one of the most beautiful lakes in France, Lac D’Annecy. I was staggered at the beauty, but the best was yet to come. The Maitre d’, whose name I have forgotten, could not have been more pleasant. Instead of snobbery, there was warmth. It didn’t matter that I was a table of one, and that although I was well- dressed, I was young… and that my French left a lot to be desired. He made me feel as if I were an old customer. I was seated prominently among the other (older) patrons, mostly French or Swiss (no Americans as far as I could see) and one Italian couple (a young woman and her “uncle”) right in front of me…as I looked out at the unbelievable setting of the lake. I looked at the Italian couple again and did a double take; no a triple take. A few months before, I had seen the film, The Garden of The Finzi-Continis. The Italian woman in front of me was Micol… the actress Dominique Sanda. An absolutely beautiful woman, just incredibly exquisite. I wanted to say, “what are you doing with him (and it wasn’t Vittorio De Sica), I’m young and by the way, I have a room right here for the night.” It was a wonderful afternoon. Lunch probably lasted until four-thirty or five. Francoise Bise was in his prime, one of the many disciples of Point who were at their peak at that time. His food was firmly classic, but seasonal, with no menu degustation; everything was a la carte. For my first meal at Pere Bise, I had the classic one (of many over the next several years; never went back after he died, unfortunately, much too young): bisque de homard, gratin de queues d’ecrevisses, and, of course, for the main course… omble chevalier, right from the lake. I didn’t know anything could taste as good as that omble. Over many years, I have had “the best” fish from “the best” restaurants in the French countryside and in Paris and the Cote D’Azur; nothing came close to that omble. It’s amazing how memory plays so many tricks. For dessert, the classic marjolaine. The wine was a 1971 (?) Puligny from Leflaive. So this is the way people could eat… wow! I left the next day, but before doing so, went for an early morning run along the lake. When I came back, perhaps around 6:30, there was Francois making croissants (very, very unusual for a chef to be making pastry), the best I’ve ever tasted except for Maurice Bonte’s in New York. He was smiling, happy as could be, very friendly… and made a breakfast that was spectacular. Dominique was nowhere to be seen. For the next two days, I traveled, eating at simple places around the Annecy area. Tuesday, I went to Chez La Mere Blanc (as it was called at that time) in Vonnas. Several months before, when mulling over where to go in that area, I couldn’t make up my mind between Mere Blanc and Chapon Fin in Thoissey, owned by Georges’ uncle, Paul Blanc. Both had two stars at the time and, in fact, Chapon Fin was equally well known (and where my wife and I had some wonderful meals a few years later). I chose Mere Blanc. Vonnas was then a sleepy little town in contrast to what it became when Georges got his third star in the early 80s (oh, that helicopter pad). The few rooms were in the original small building and the old dining room was the only serving area. There were probably six tables at dinner that Tuesday evening. The Maitre d’ sat me in a corner so I could see what was happening. I looked at the menu and was floored. There was no Lac D’Annecy and no Dominique, but what a menu. I simply couldn’t choose because there were too many great dishes. I told the Maitre d’ to choose for me and he asked only one question… did I plan to come back in the future? I said yes. This is what I had: consomme’ with quenelles; grenouilles sautees aux fine herbes; ris de veau Dore’; crepes Vonnassiennes; charlotte aux framboise. To drink, a 1964 Nuit St. Georges from Bouchard. As good as my meals (had a light dinner as well as my memorable lunch) were at Pere Bise, this was even better. Simply incredible in all respects (quality of the ingredients; preparation; plating; service; ambiance). After the service was over, Georges came out to say hello and then we sat outside and had a cognac (those days, where the chef could do that, are unfortunately long gone). In a mixture of halting English and halting French, he wanted to know where I had been and where I was going (Alain Chapel… absolutely go; Beau Rivage in Condrieu, “no you can do better than that, let me make a reservation for you at Pic”). He wanted to know what the food scene was in New York and I told him, that for me, there was Andre Soltner of Lutece and no one else (something I continued to believe until Andre retired). And so it went. A magical evening and I floated up to my small room in the main house to dream of that dinner… and of what might have been with Dominique and me.
  9. It’s interesting to see how times have changed. People walk out of “three star” very, very expensive restaurants and there is disappointment in the food, service and ambiance. I’m going to date myself, but when you walked out of Alain Chapel in the mid 70s, you thought you’d died and gone to heaven. Everything, everything was perfect. Not even a minor miss. Same with Troisgros, same with La Mere Blanc (when Georges had only two stars), same with Haeberlin, same with even with Guerard (when he was still in Paris). What has happened to cause the change?
  10. fortedei


    A bit, but not much, further away (a very easy cab ride) in Cap D'Antibes, is Bacon. Wonderful bouillabaisse, but every bit as expensive as Tetou. Wine list is a gem if that is a consideration. Service is friendly, but not overbearing. Right above the water. Just perfect for a gal and her papa.
  11. fortedei

    Wine Stores

    Antiseptic? So what... do I want the atmosphere of Caprice or certain bottles. Lavinia has them... they have a lot of (recent) great stuff. The wine is in the bottle. You buy the wine (Barthod, Grivot etc.) and bring it home and have it with some great Vacherin from P Trotte'. Better than searching for poor years at Caprice. 880 euros for 1990 Salon? I agree, but why pay 450 at Le Bon Marche? In both cases, the wines has been stored improperly. You have no idea what is in that bottle and the odds are very high that it is not what you want. You're buying labels, just as you mentioned with the first and second growth Bordeaux at Caves Elzevir. As my friend Neal Rosenthal said in Mondo Vino...sterile wines, those first growth Bordeaux ! Come here to Italy and get away from 1990 Salon and first growth Bordeaux that have been sitting in stores for 18 years. Go to Montalcino, close your eyes, don't look at the labels, and just enjoy what's in the bottle. Beve Il Vino, non L'etichette.
  12. fortedei

    Wine Stores

    Just curious... how come Lavinia wasn't on your list?
  13. fortedei

    Wine Stores

    It may be laughable to you you, but we thought the store was poor. I guess we have very different standards (yours not better than mine, mine not better than yours... just different). A good example is also Caves Elzevir, which you mentioned as one of the top wine stores. How can I say this politely, it was a joke. Have you been there? We spoke to the people at Caprices at length (they were quite nice) about what they had. By the way I didn't "find my happiness", whatever that means. I found a wine store that had an incredible selection at reasonable prices. That was Lavinia. Salute.
  14. You're exactly right about L'Astrance. I misunderstood our schedule a bit, and so I misspoke! Last day is still up in the air at this point. I don't want to speak for him, but I will say that in the not-haute category on this trip, ajgnet will be our fearless leader as we knock off a good bit of my list: Au Boeuf Couronné Au Trou Gascon Aux Lyonnais Chez L'Ami Jean Chez Michel L’Ardoise L'Avant Goût Le Pamphlet Le Sèvero L'Os à Moelle Mon Vieil Ami Ribouldingue ← From a very recent nine day stay, here is what was written to a friend about two of them and a third (thank you John Talbott for La Cerisaie): Sunday lunch went to Mon Vieil Ami on the Ile St. Louis. The cooking was exquisite, but in a non fussy way. The preparation for two of the dishes was on an extraordinary level. What they do to vegetables to get the flavor is not to be believed. Throw in a great wine list, priced very reasonably (we had a 2005 Boillot Volnay for 72 Euros), very good service and a really pleasant place and this was our best meal of some very good meals. Had mijotee teide de legumes de saison aux raisins et aux amandes avec tartine de tapenade (unbelievable);legumes marines en tartine filets de maquereaux et vinaigrette aux epices;vol-au-vent aux asperges et ris de veau (also unbelievable); celeri, pruneaux et noix, magret de canard roti aucitron confit; tarte chocolat et sorbet; profiterole vanille-chocolat. Monday lunch in the 14th., way out beyond blvd. Monparnasse ( about a mile beyond the Luxembourg Gardens). It is La Cerisaie 70 blvd. Edgar- Quinet. Worth the detour. We'd go back in a second. A small (maybe 8 tables, mostly for two) bistro, run by a husband and wife (he in the tiny kitchen by himself and she in the dining room with one waitress). Again, the emphasis is on getting the maximum amount of flavor out of excellent ingredients. He's a master. So many good things to eat with a strong emphasis on the southwest but near the Spanish border. A very adequate wine list with more than enough to choose from. A real gem of a place with no one but French going there. We had tourin des pyrennees, ravioli de fois gras; terrine de foie gras;cochon noir debegorre;agneau de lait des pyrennes with stuffed peppers;baba aux pruneaux; sable de pommes avaec glace vanille. Thursday for lunch we went to Au Trou Gascon where we hadn't been in 20 years. It was as good as we remembered. Way out in the 12th (but easy to get to by Metro), it is the original restaurant of Alain Dutournier, whose second restaurant is the well known two star Carre' des Feuillants. Mostly businessmen and a few couples at lunch, all French. Pleasant room, very good service without being either fawning or cold... just right. Madame was as pleasant as could be. Great menu with so many things to try (again food from the southwest), even better wine list (both the menu and wine list very reasonably priced). We had gateau de topinambour, foie gras, truffle noir (with the Jerusalem artichokes serving as the pastry in essentially a millefeuille... outstanding dish); fricassee de petit gris, ravioli verte; la cuisse d'oie confite en pot a l'ancienne, galette de pommes, and a salad with intense fresh mushrooms;le cassoulet, lighter and more elegant than most, but also more flavorful; tourtiere chaude et croustillante, glace caramel; russe, pistache glace.
  15. fortedei

    Wine Stores

    Lavinia, where we finally landed after three days of trying Les Caprices de l'Instant by the Bastille- (poor... why is most of the stuff in "off" years?); Caves Elzevir rue Elzevir (very poor... absolutely nothing of note) and several others, had an incredible selection of Burgundies and Rhones, which is what we were interested in. The prices at Lavinia, in contrast to what you mentioned, were very reasonable for what we were looking for. A first rate shop.
  16. Yousaid: "The sommelier recommended an extremely well structured Chianti that he was (quite correctly) very proud of (€38). " What does it mean to have an extremely well structured Chianti and what was it?
  17. Any thoughts on recent visits? Any thought on recent visits to restos of this type with a strong regional bent? Thanks.
  18. Am looking for "better" wine stores in the 1st, 3rd, 4th. 5th. or 6th. Particularly important are the selection of very good white Burgundies and Rhones. The selection of wines is the only important thing, not the price ( I'm not looking for discount stores). Any thoughts would be appreciated.
  19. It was an odd sort of place physically, on the alternative road to Bra from Alba (that is, you go west first and then head south a bit). Large garden out front (one time we there, there was a large party and a happier group of people you’ve rarely seen; interesting that he was able to handle both a full restaurant and the party…unusual). Inside it was not attractive, but he and his wife (?) were fixing it up and had plans to have a few rooms (that obviously never came to fruition). I remember one of the two dining rooms had “bathroom tile” on the floor, from the previous owner. Ugly. But the food. Wow! Carlo served both a tasting menu and a’ la carte. It was a combination of Piemontese and Lombardian dishes, many classics and some more “modern” dishes, very well executed and “lighter” than elsewhere in Piemonte. It was one of our favorite places near Alba; in fact our second favorite at the time. He was very enthusiastic and really wanted to earn his second Michelin star right there. There was never an indication that he would leave. I would say that the way he approached food was the way Nadia Santini did in the middle 80s and that is high praise indeed. Am sorry that I don’t have my tasting notes here in Italy; they are back in The States.
  20. As someone who ate, many times, at Carlo's former restaurant outside of Alba (and enjoyed it), all I can say about what he is doing now is, yuk. What a travesty. He shouldn't be doing this; he knows better.
  21. That was exactly my point. I guess it's not clear to me what this "point" adds to the discussion. I believe I wrote some time ago in this thread that most culinary traditions when "elevated" to a certain level of haute abstraction don't seem particularly rooted to an actual national cooking. The only reason we call today's haute cuisine "French" is because the French were the first and strongest to go in this direction. This seems pretty simple to understand, and I can't believe you actually don't understand it, but I will humor you nevertheless: - "cippolini onion" is simply an unfortunate and not uncommon spelling of cipollini, which, as I imagine you know, is the diminutive of cipolla (onion), therefore meaning "small onion." In the United States, this designation is generally applied to the small, flat onions which are popular in Italy. - What's not "Italian" about branzino saltimbocca? I've had plenty of "saltimbocca" dishes in Italy that were not made with veal (usually with turkey or chicken). What's "not Italian" about branzino (presumably) folded around prosciutto with onion, cabbage and sage? This seems clearly evocative of the "saltimbocca" meme. - Again, what's "not Italian" about smoked fennel? You mean to tell me that fennel-loving Italians never thought to put fennel on the grill and cook them off with a smoky flavor? I think you must be kidding me. - The taggiasca olive is an Italian cultivar from Liguria, I believe. So, what exactly is "not Italian" about these olives? Or are you saying that they would never be combined with guinea fowl and smoky fennel in Italy? Really?! The provenance of the steak is not of crucial importance in "allowing" them to call the steak "bistecca fiorentina." Do you suppose that 100% of the places selling bistecca alla fiorentina in Firenze itself are using Chianina beef from Toscana? Perhaps there is some kind of Italian government regulation to this effect? Regardless, their preparation seems faithful enough to the original that it's certainly not un-Italian. Would it please you more if their menu said "bistecca 'alla fiorentina' style"? Would that make it any more or less "Italian food"? ← I really appreciate that you’re trying to humor me and also trying to explain the Italian language. I have many, many problems with the language. Here, in the extreme north- western part Tuscany, I simply didn’t know that, as you say, cipollini is the diminutivo of cipolla. For the diminutivo, we always say cipollina in the singular and cipolline in the plural, because cipolla is feminine, not masculine. The word cipollini doesn’t exist here (either spelled that way or in the “not uncommon way”), except in local dialect, where it means something entirely different, or as a surname. However, thanks for the grammar lesson. Here, cipollina is also the name for what you say is “the small, flat onions which are popular in Italy.” We see lots of flat onions here, cipolline, but none of them are small; however, we’re in a small town in Tuscany so we miss a lot of what is popular in the rest of Italy. Having been to Taggia a lot, I believe the people there would be horrified that those olives would be used for “guinea fowl” with smoky fennel and lemons. Hey, but times are changing and the good folks coming to New York because the dollar is so cheap, and eating at Insieme, might, after eating that dish, think that serving them that way is a good idea. Once again, cultural transformation of food from one area to another... right? In taking another look at Insieme, some of the dishes from the “traditional” side of the menu would be found in Italy; most are merely the latest version in a long line of Italo-Amercan food, perhaps very good, but having very little to do with what is cooked in Italy today.
  22. “I don't take any particular position on the three dishes you ask about, except to observe that they don't strike me as all that Italian -- or all that anything, really.” That was exactly my point. What is “cippolini onion”? And what exactly makes “branzino saltimbocca” Italian? You’re kidding me… smoked fennel and Tagiasca olives is “plenty Italian?” From which part of Italy? BISTECCA FIORENTINA (for two) 78. 26 oz. grass-fed Piedmontese t-bone steak. Anything wrong here? Didn’t realize that Bistecca Fiorentina was from Piedmontese steak? Also didn’t realize that steak from Piemonte came to the US, but perhaps it does. Does it?
  23. Fat Guy, This is from a well known "Italian" restaurant in New York. Is it Italian or just one that calls itself Italian (it has a very Italian owner, so it can call itself anything it wants) to cater to New Yorkers who want to tell their friends that they ate "real Italian" food. This was on the menu: BISTECCA FIORENTINA (for two) 78. 26 oz. grass-fed Piedmontese t-bone steak. Any problem? These were also on the menu. Any problem? FISH CRUDO 18. Hamachi with fennel and lemon, Japanese mackerel with asian pear, and branzino tartare with a Chilmark oyster MARINATED BLACK COD 13. Sour apple, lime, perilla OCTOPUS CARPACCIO 17. Sweet potato confit, fennel, celery and spiced geleé.
  24. What did you mean "One can use any sausage instead." Use it for what?
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