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Everything posted by albiston

  1. For food I'd definitely go to La Caveja in Pietravairano, about 60 Km from Naples and easy to reach with the motorway. Not much else to do around there though, but a good choice if you drive northwards, though there's also a couple of very good stops in Lazio if that's on your itinerary. Instead, if you're planning on seeing more of inland Campania I'd definitely visit the beautiful Sant'Agata dei Goti and once there Mustilli, who make wine but also have a small hotel/restaurant which is not bad. Be sure to ask for a visit of the cellars if you go there, it's worth it. If youn have any other question, just ask .
  2. We spent most of the following week in Agropoli, simply enjoying the local strands, especially the one of Trentova just south of the city, and taking things easy. Food-wise things were equally easy going. We shopped and cooked without too much hurry and ate out a couple of times. It still surprises me to see how many Southern Italian regional cuisines still remain more tied to the land products than to sea food, especially considering the length of the Italian coast line. Agropoli seemed no exception to this rule: I only found one large fish shop offering mainly "popular" fishes (at least popular locally), i.e. mainly swordfish, anchovies, mussels, clams and mixed fish for soup. Still, I'm not complaining. We were lucky enough to live very close to the city market and so we filled up on the seasonal offer: great yellow peaches locally called percoche, all sort of peppers, delicious aubergines, bitter rabe greens and porcini. Some of the pictures are quite blurry (most so much so that they don't deserve posting), so sorry for that. From the market: a few different pepper sorts,from top left, clockwise: corna di toro, bull's horn peppers;friggiarielli, sweet peperoncini; papaccelle, round peppers often stuffed or preserved in vinegar. Porcini, which ended in part in a risotto, in part dried Aubergines, to be used in a pasta together with mozzarella and cherry tomatoes sauce I took the chance to prepare a few of my favorite vegetable-based dishes of the Neapolitan tradition, which I simply cannot knock together here in Germany for lack of ingredients. My favorite definitely is penne (or any short pasta) with the friggiarielli peppers pictured before and below. I've tried substituting these with other peppers I find on sale in Middle Eastern shops here but it just isn't the same. These have a marked but pleasant bitterness paired with a characteristic aroma which is unique. To prepare the pasta sauce the peppers are simply stemmed, washed and dried then shallow fried in olive oil till tender. Then you simply prepare a basic garlic flavored tomato sauce keeping some of the frying oil as cooking fat and add the peppers back into the pan once the sauce tastes ready. I like my pasta with friggiarielli as is, but many add parmesan, which also adds a nice savory note to the dish.
  3. After a long summer at work, my last two weeks were dedicated to a much needed and awaited vacation spent between Campania and Sicily, enjoying the weather, the food and the people in what still is for me "back home". I'll probably be posting pics and stories as I find time (my collegues at work were just waiting for me to get back ) to write and edit the pictures. Hope you'll bear with me even if the rythm will be a bit slow... well, just as it should be since we're talking about Southern Italy! Our stay was part planned (the accomodation mainly and a few restaurants) and part free-fall/take what comes and both the planned destinations and the casual ones never disappointed. The first stop was my parents place in Naples for a quick lunch which turned out to be much longer than that, before picking up our car and driving to our first destination in Agropoli. We got our first plesent surprise as soon as we arrived: my parents had been off to a short fishing session with friends in the Gulf of Naples coming back with a small pesce spada (swordfish), some young lampuga (dolphin fish) and a tuna-related fishes (which were already frozen for future use). The front part of the swordfish got cooked as small steaks for the kids (my son Saami appreciated greatly) while us grown-ups enjoyed the final part of the tail in a tomato, mint and sword fish pasta sauce of Sicilian inspiration. The head: The tail: And our pasta dish, very pleasant and fresh through the use of mint: That was followed by one of the two dolphin fishes, each about 1kg prepared by cutting their filets into bite size pieces, frying them and adding these to a tomato, olive and caper sauce I had never had dolphin fish before -I can't even recall seeing it on sale in fish shops- and was positively surprised by how tasty and firm the flesh of this fish is.
  4. People always tell me that I don't look or sound Neapolitan at all. Maybe we got mixed up at birth . In the area there are three nice restaurants/trattorie I would suggest. In Capaccio there's La pergola, which I tried recently and will report about soon, and Nonna Sceppa, which looks like a holiday banquet sort of place -if you know what I mean by that- but is well worth a visit. I did not manage to visit Il Ceppo in Agropoli but Boris_A strongly reccomended it and I trust his judgement. I'd absolutely visit the mozzarella producers named Vannulo (pictures and report coming up too). They're one of the only two producers of organic mozzarella in Italy and their products are fantastic, both mozzarella (in its many forms) and the rich ricotta di bufala. That's so much the case that they only sell directly and there's always a que at the shop. Best to go early. They also organize visits to their facilities. Call torre del saracino beforehand, because they should move soon to a new location. In the same area you might also want to consider Taverna del Capitano, and clearly the obvious Don Alfonso. Regarding Feudi: marenna is suppoosed to be nice, but if I had to chose, I'd drive a little bit more till Vallesaccarda and eat at the Oasis restaurant.
  5. Definitely! That's what was great about the dish I had as antipasto at Al Vedel. Tasting the three culatelli with different aging (if I recall correctly it was 16, 24 and 40 months) was like tasting a cheese in its different ripening phases. Those deep soul-filling aromas you describe evolved in a clear way never losing their seductive quality. Still, some of the locals found the 40 month's old culatello to be too powerful. I loved it .
  6. athinaeos, do you have any slightly more detailed plans for Campania? I have quite a lot of tips for the region (I'm originally from Napoli), so if you have a special place in mind I could reply in a more detailed way .
  7. I was waiting to see if Ore would chime in, but since he's probably too busy grilling at Chapter8 in LA, let me add Al Vedel to the suggested places where to have culatello. The people who run the restaurant also produce their own salumi, and culatello clearly, under the brand Podere Cadassa. Thze restaurant sderves nice to very good food, both traditional and slightly more creative -though never wildly so- and the wine list is simply stunning and quite moderately priced. If you're lucky enough to be there when they offer one of their long aged culatelli definitely go for it, it's a rare and delicious experience. I wrote a report on the place, both the restaurant and the salumi making part a while ago, which you can find here.
  8. I've tried this spiral technique. It's not nearly as bad as it sounds (and I'm not that dextrous). It does help to start off with more olives than you'll need, though, so that any failures can be kept aside for some other use. ← I've never had the patience to make olive all'Ascolana myself but the few times I've seen someone prepare them they always used to carve the pit out with a small pairing knife, with a technique slightly different from the spiral technique. At the end you get a sort of olive pocket looking like a folded up pita bread (can't think of a better example). Then the olives would be filled with enough meat stuffing to give them their original shape back, breaded and fried. Real tedious work IMO. That's why I prefer eating the little buggers only if someone else has prepared them for me. My admiration for Kevin's efforts just increased by a whole bunch after this .
  9. Adam, definitely with you on this one, but I fear the real reason why we don't have crispy cracklings is that we lack the beer-making history other countires have. Where you have cracklings you need a nice beer, an ale possibly, to go with that. Unless, maybe, you're an Scotsman... in that case no beer needed and dip those cracklings in batter beforehand .
  10. ....Ah! Penne. And there I was thinking about Lorena Bobbit .
  11. Moby, are you sure those were potato gnocchi? I ask because, as someone with a Northern Italian background who moved to Naples as a child, I was used to eating little soft potato pillows and was quite disappointed by the local gnocchi the first times I tried them. I did eventually develop a taste for Neapolitan gnocchi and some time later found out why they are so gummy. Quite simply, there's no potatoes at all in there, rather they're made with flour and boiling water. To get potato gnocchi in Naples you have to be sure the menu says "gnocchi di patate", otherwise it's the flour only kind.
  12. Does that mean they'll only have the online edition available or are they effectively going to stop doing restaurant reviews? That would be a pity. Though I did not eat out much in London during the time I spent in the UK, I often followed their tips on ethnic places. Edited to add: sorry, I hadn't seen Sarah's reply.
  13. As many things in Italy, cheese remains very much a regional product, as Boris mentioned, so knowing were you will be might be helpful to give you more detailed tips. With over 400 to choose from it would at least reduce the sample slightly. Still, because of Slow Food and the newly found interest in local products, it is getting easier to find good cheeses in selected shops like Cracco in Milan or la Tradizione in Rome, although at a price. Shops like these have another advantage they often carry the artisan versions of those popular cheeses that are mainly known in their "industrial" version like Taleggio, Gorgonzola or Parmigiano. A real raw milk Taleggio for example, ripened in the mountain caves of the homonymous valley is simply another cheese compared to what one can find abroad and in most Italian supermarkets. Other cheeses that have suffered from loss of quality recently are those that are fashionable among italian foodies like formaggio di fossa, a kind of cheese aged in special "wells", orBagoss, a relative of Grana Padano from the Brescia province. Bureaucracy has had, in my experience, a limited effect at times even a positive one. The real risk some Italian cheeses face is not having to comply to hygienic regulations, but rather that of finding cheese makers interested in keeping the tradition alive and dedicated to promoting these products. Many mountain cheeses are at risk of extinction simply because no one wants to live the life required by the job anymore. In some cases due to the health concerns very small cheese producers, one could almost say one-cow or one-goat farms, have organized themselves in coops or associations with very promising results. In some cases this was born from the ideas of forward looking individuals who risked their own money in doing so, but in other situations the availability of EU funds has played a major role. I don't like the EU hygiene regulations too much either, but they can be used in an intelligent way if one wants to. All things considered, the best places to get to know Italian cheeses are probably still top-end restaurants. As with other ingredients, many of these establishments get their hands on the best products either before they reach the market - some are produced in such small quantities that they never do anyway- or are supplied by specialists, like Italy's top affineur Alberto Marcomini, who cater almost exclusively to restaurants. The incredible gorgonzola bianco, also called stracchintund, I had at Dal Pescatore earlier this year went straight in my "best cheeses ever" list.
  14. To be sure about that, someone would have to test it in a lab (Prof. McGee?). I would say it is a likely possibility rather than a certain fact. I thought about tartaric acid too, though from what I remember (still looking for the original papers in my basement boxes) the transformation does take a little time. Just adidng cream of tartar and whipping straight away would not be explaineable with an s-ovalbumin to ovalbumin reversion.
  15. I've been following tha discussionon day-old whites for a while and it is a fascinating theme. About five years ago I had the chance to spend some time in a research lab in Cambridge, UK where the structure of ovalbumin, the main protein of egg whites had been studied some years before. Until now I had almost forgotten those research articles, but reading this post brought them back and I might have a scientific explanation for the day-old whites phenomenon. While water content might definitely play a role, I believe that day-old whites wip better for a different reason. I'll try to keep the scientific talk to a minimum but if I get too technical just hit me with a stick . It is known that the egg white protein ovalbumin changes the way it is folded, i.e. its structure, with time, becoming what is known as S-ovalbumin, a thermostable form. This form is what makes whites runnier and makes the whites whip worse. The older the eggs, the more S-ovalbumin you have. It is also known that this transformation is helped by high pHs, i.e. conditions where acidity is low. On the other hand this transformation can be reverted by mild increases in acidity, as for example by exposing the egg whites to an atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide. My suspicion is that by leaving the egg whites to "age" outside the fridge we're in a sense replicating this and using the carbon dioxide present in the air to increase the egg whites acidity. Yet if this is true a mild acidification, i.e. adding a little lemon juice to the whites and letting them sit for a couple of hours should have a similar effect. Anyone up to some scientific macroon experiment?
  16. Hogwash ! Coca is clearly an adaption of mexican maize tortillas, which clearly descend from Chinese pancakes, which in turn are inspired by asian naans, which derive from Mediterranean pitas which most definitely come from the Roman placenta and offa, which comes from the Greek plankuntos. Honestly Adam, didn't you know that everything came from Greece? Just like kimono!
  17. Scared ? What Amabile Palmer says about puttanesca makes perfectly sense to me. The flavors are much more Calabrese than Neapolitan. Who knows, maybe some nice ladies from Calabria offering their services in Naples brought it there. I agree less on Margherita: there's plenty of good evidence that what we comonly call pizza today (not what goes as pizza in Southern Italy, that's at least 10 different things) developed in Naples. On the other hand I have no problem in seeing it as an item of Calabrese cuisine. I'm somewhat surprised how few writers (Italian and not) mention that since Southern Italy was an independent Kingdom for many centuries and it is therefore not surprising to have the two most important cities there, Naples and, in a lesser way, Palermo, as the places where the largest amount of culinary exchange took place. Immigrants from other regions of the kingdom would bring their traditions in and eventually they would export the Neapolitan food fashions back home. One just needs to have a look at how many places claim to have invented parmigiana di melanzane to have a good example of that. Never get into THAT discussion .
  18. Welcome to eGullet posternatoir and thank you for the very detailed report. Your calling this "one of the most creative, innovative restaurants in Holland" makes me curious. I don't know much abouth the Dutch restaurant scene so I was wondering if there are others that follow the molecular gastronomy trend even more radically and how popular that is over there.
  19. Copied and saved Marco, I deeply trust the expert's opinion . I never heard the last two in your list, do you happen to know their address by any chance? Gosh! How could I forget Asprino d'Aversa! Absolutely worth a try with pizza. I find some producers make a wine that is much too nervous to go well with pizza, but those wines that are more rounded make for a nice pairing.
  20. Good question or rather nightmarish one! Let's be honest about this, usually Neapolitans drink beer, usually the ubiquitous Peroni or Nastro Azzurro, (or worse, cola) with pizza. This is so much the case that many pizzerie in Napoli hardly even sell wine. On the other hand this is somewhat changing in the last few years. Quality-Conscious pizzerie have been making an effort to offer wine and better beers with pizza. Some pizzerie have turned to the budding Italian micro-breweries like Le Baladin and Menabrea (this is actually one of the oldest beer makers in Italy), and these definitely make a better match than the simple Peroni. Still, this is happening more in cities like Rome, Milan and Turin than it is in Naples. In Naples and Campania there has been an effort to focus on possible wine-pizza matches. During the time I lived there I trained to become a sommelier and pizza-wine matching was always a hot topic and one prone to cause fight between the experts who taught us. Quite amusing actually. The real problem of pizza-wine matches are the difficulty to find a decent match to the tomato sauce/chopped topping most pizzas have and then the fact that different toppings call for completely different wines. This latter problem is hard to tackle for simple pizzerias that run business on small profits, since the cost of a good wine cellar are simply too high. For this reason you might find that only restaurants that serve pizza as part of their menu (like Ciro a Santa Brigida, and Salvatore alla Riviera) have a decent wine range that matches all the pizzas on offer. Other places will probably sell wine that is intended for margherita and marinara for all their pizzas. The consensus for the ideal wine for pizza (among Italian sommeliers at least) is that it should be a light, fresh wine with a nice bouquet. Traditionally, before beer became popular, people would have had Lettere or Gragnano, two light sparkling reds from the northern border of the Sorrento peninsula, with their pizza. Recently people have turned to local whites like white Falerno del Massico, Falanghina, the lighter Greco di Tufo wines and the Whites from the Amalfi coast. Another match which has been tried out with some success recently is pizza with southern Italian rose wines such as Salento rosato or Cirò Rosato. All in all these matches work fine but are IMO far from perfect. For my taste the best matches are those with medium bodied Falanghinas, Costa d'Amalfi whites, especially those that have a nice amount of the local Coda di Volpe grape in their assemblage, and, best of all, Salento rosati. The best would be to try them out and see what works best for you. That way you have a perfect excuse to indulge in pizza AND wine till you find the perfect match .
  21. Judith, , welcome to the eGullet Forums and I hope we'll see you often on these shores. Since you mention Italian (as in the language) regional cooking books, I was wondering if you have any favorites. Ciao!
  22. If I say "No" will you hold it against me? ← Me? I'm a lazy fellow who never made garganelli in his whole life, so why should I. I buy the damned things on those few occasions when I manage to find them on sale. If you had said "yes" it would have been just another additon to my "Adam's impressive cooking" collection, vegetarian cracklings included. The fact that you have not is sort of reassuring. Actually I'll have to take my word back about the ricotta salata, I'm just too curious. How did its saltiness work with the rich ragu?
  23. Mmmhh, garganelli al ragu, simply delicious. I'll keep my mouth shut regarding the ricotta . Did you make the pasta yourself?
  24. Hector, thank you for the great report. I have lived quite a long time in Naples myself and travel back often, since my parents live there, so reading your post was like having a little tatse of home. I completely second your opinion on pizza fritta which has nothing to do with that crimo to fine food that Scottish fried pizza is . Salsiccia e friarielli (sausage and Neapolitan rabe greens) is great and I deeply miss those flavors! Maybe next time you should try the even more traditional pizza fritta coi cicoli, fried pizza stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, cicoli (practically the rleft over meat from lard making) and plenty of pepper. I have my list of pizzeria favorites in Naples too and some of your names match. Da Michele is probably my favourite, and Port'Alba is fine though I prefer the nearby Lombardi. I don't really like Brandi though. I find the place pretentious, expensive for Neapolitan standards and the pizza is not that good. The dough is paarticularly disappointing. Two names that definitely are well worth trying are: - Starita in Materdei (Via Materdei 28), somewhat off the beaten tourist track, but they make great pizze, both classic and fritte. If I'm not mistaken they're also one of the very few pizzerie that still use a sourdough starter for their dough. - Trianon, either opposite from Da Michele (Via Pietro Colletta, 44/46) or Via del Parco Margherita 27 makes very good pizze too, though I've often had a very unfriendly reception there. Still my no.1 choice when the waiting times at Da Michele are simply too long. Another pizzeria I've heard great things of, but never tried myself (hope to make up for that in September) is Pizzaiolo del Presidente, Bia dei Tribunali, so called because the pizzaiolo here served Clinten when he visited Napoli.
  25. Touchy topic there smile.gif . There's at least three theories I know of, which try to explain the origin of caciocavallo cheese. And clearly the scholars inside each of the separate fields claim they are the only ones that are right. I have looked at the historic sources for all three for a little article I wrote and I believe that the Italian origin seems the most sound of the three. Still here they are: 1&2) The term caciocavallo seems to originate from the Italian words cacio, today less used than the modern formaggio, meaning cheese, and cavallo, horse. This has given rise to two theories: - the cheese was introduced by the nomadic populations, the Huns are often mentioned, which migrated /invaded Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire and was actually in origin a mare's milk cheese, hence the name. From what I read recently this theory seems to be loosing popularity. - the name refers to the way the cheeses are traditionally aged, i.e. tied in pairs and hung on a stick, something which is commonly described in Italian as "appeso a cavallo", hanging on horseback. Some sources mention the reference to a "cacio a cavallo" made from an old cheese called pruvatura (today's provolone probably) in old texts, but I never checked those myself. What I found is that there are documents describing the commerce of cacicavallo from Sicily from the XIV century According to the supporters of this theory, Italy is the place of origin of this kind of cheese which then migrated to the Balkans and from there to the Middle East and Russia, where cheeses with similar names can be found. 3) According to the last theory this kind of cheese has actually developed in the Balkan area, probably in today's Bulgaria, as reported here. From there the cheese making method migrated both east- and westwards. If you check the dates between theories 2 and 3 you will see that the first Balkan reference to caciocavallo are from the XVI century while the name appears in Italian sources tat least two centuries before that, making the Italian origin more probable. Still, as my wife is always happy to remind me, the fact that someone wrote it down first does not mean that they came up with the idea first, and I have to admit there is some truth in that too.
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