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Schielke's European Vacation


Schielke
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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. :smile: I honestly can't remember if we had dessert or not since I was pretty full and drunk by then. :wacko: 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! :smile:). 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. :sad: So I would reccommend Mario's as long as you don't mind being ass to elbow with 50 other Italians. :smile:

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. :smile:

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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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. :sad:

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. :smile:

*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. :smile:

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 :smile:) 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!

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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I just ate at Cibreo with 6 friends the other night.. so let me answer some of your questions..

The Tomato flan ( Gaspacho like) is a tomato, garlic and veggie..puree solidified with gelatin..

The ricotta Souffle.. is made with potatoes and ricotta and cooked in a hot water bath which makes it so silky..( in summer it is sreved with pesto)

The jelly on the baked pecorino is my recipe!!! which is produced at the Macelleria Cecchini in Panzano where I worked for 2 years.

The cheese souffle thing is herbed ricotta...

The recipe for the yellow bell pepper soup is on my web site

The priests hat ( cappello di prete) is a recipe typical of Modena, where the chef learned it from one of the best restaurants there Osteria Giusti.. it is poached.. then the fat is cut off and served sliced.. again with my jelly!!! and I belive candied mustard fruits from Cremona.

I don't think that Cibreo is for everyone.. he is a wild and strange guy.. and does what he likes.. no pasta... and some odd choices for the American palate as main courses.

Some of the favorites are the Pidgeon ( which I had), the sausage and beans ( sausage made by Cecchini), the eggplant parmesan...and a new entry, milk roasted veal down with herbs and served with artichokes, ( in season)

also now there is Tuna two ways.. a carpaccio, just drizzled with oil and lemon before coming out of the kitchen on a mountain if thinkly sliced celery.. and cubes of tuna belly marinated overnight in oil.

Being 6 of us we had all the desserts..and my favorites are the marscarpone cheesecake, the chocolate flan, and the minature tart with fresh berries.

Tuscans are not big dessert eaters... but there is also an incredible cheese assortment!!!

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Mustard fruit! I've never had that. Does it taste more like mustard seeds, more like mustard greens, or not like either?

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Mustard fruit! I've never had that. Does it taste more like mustard seeds, more like mustard greens, or not like either?

Mostarda di Cremona is a very, very special condiment that goes well with cheese, meat and foie gras.

You can it buy at William-Sonoma and I am sure you will find it at the Italian shop at Chelsea Market.

Here is a recipe for it:

http://italianfood.about.com/library/rec/blr0834.htm

Edited by Swisskaese (log)
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Mustard fruit! I've never had that. Does it taste more like mustard seeds, more like mustard greens, or not like either?

Mostarda is popular throughout Lombardia and there are many different types. It is more a hot/sweet flavor although many types are not that hot at all. It is normally served with boiled meats or with cheeses. During the fall and winter we always have some in the refrigerator to have with our cheeses. It disappears from store shelves in the summer.

Here is a recipe for a common mostarda.

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Thanks for the links, Craig and Swisskaese. So these are sort of mustarded fruits, not fruits of the mustard plant.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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When making Mostarda I have always bought Mustard essence.. which I have not seen for sale elsewhere.. unless as listed as not for human consumption in an Indian shop..

It is dangerous!! you must hold it away from your eyes when opening.. and only use about 10 drops per kilo of fruit.

All said and done.. I buy mine at Bizarri shop in Florence. :rolleyes:

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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!!!!

That's so cool that you made it to Ganino, and even cooler that its still good. Any trouble finding the place? When I was there I had the bistecca that was excellent and of rediculous size. I still have dreams about that steak and the white beans on the side.....

Thanks for writing up your adventures. I'm such a slacker....

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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I remember having the chicken neck at Cibreo back in 1998. I enjoyed it and the whole experience of Cibreo, although I don't really remember too many other details. I would return when back in Firenze.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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I'm just catching up with this thread now...it was worth the wait! I'm looking forward to the mountain driving experience. Look on the bright side, at least it wasn't in January with black ice... unfortunately we've had that adventure.

Katie is a good wife to let you eat chicken neck with the head attached!! :biggrin:

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Schielke,

I'm really enjoying this thread! Between reading about your planning and honeymoon trip experiences & furiously jotting notes from all the advice you received, I think I've formed the bare bones for a trip of my own :smile: . Looking forward to hearing more about it all!

PS. Congratulations to you and Katie :wub:

"A good dinner is of great importance to good talk. One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." Virginia Woolf

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To Villa Minozzo we go!!!!

Our last moning in Florence, we grabbed a quick breakfast at the local cafe and caught a taxi to the Rental Car place. The lady pulled up with our cute little Daewoo and my heart began to pound. I had been warned about driving in the city, there were unimaginable tales of woe floating in my head. I had poured over maps and street sign references in preperation for our driving adventure. My palms were sweaty and I was nervous as hell...

For no reason.

Driving in Florence was pretty easy. We made one wrong turn on our way out of town, but got back on track and breezed away.

Driving in the mountains of Emilia Romagna, however, proved to be a very different experience. I became intimately familliar with the capabilities of our Daewoo Kalos. Many of the switchbacks required first gear and a watchful eye for Fiats in the other lane of traffic coming at you in your own lane. This combined with the Audi TT riding your tail and passing you in the oncoming lane provided endless white knuckling of the steering wheel.

The view was spectacular though!

Also worth the drive was our final destination of Villa Minozzo where Katie's family came from. The town was dead due to it being a Sunday and Holiday, but we managed to find the Graveyard and some of the long passed relatives. It was pretty neat to be halfway around the world in the middle of nowhere standing at the gravesite of your relatives.

The town is quite cute and in a perfect setting. Unfortunetaly everything was closed and we decided not to stay the night.

Yay! More driving! Mostly downhill this time.

We made our way down without too many near misses and over to La Spezia on the coast. We were crossing our fingers that there would be signs to get to Cinque Terre and we got lucky! But as we drove along, a Police barracade blocked our progress and were diverted to the side. I made my best guess at how to get around it and back on track and we managed it perfectly! Phew.

The road to Cinque Terre starts out pretty nice to the first few towns, but it quickly became a flashback of the prior mountain adventure. We finally made our way down to Vernazza (one of the 5 towns on the coast that make the Cinque Terre) and parked at the top of the town. As Katie got out, she smelled burning brakes from coming down so many hills. We smelled it on pretty much every car that came down too.

All I cared about though is that we made it to the Cinque Terre. I was hungry and tired from driving all day and eating only little bites of salami, bread, and cheese in the car. We managed to find a room up way too many stairs, but it was clean and acceptable. A very good Dinner was at the place across from Gambero Rosso in the Square whose name I am forgetting at the moment. Katie had troife with pesto while I had the Mixed Fried Seafood. The pesto was very fresh and bright, one of the better examples we had. I really enjoyed my mixed seafood fry and had trouble giving into the pleas of my wife to share it with a local begging cat. We shared a carafe of the local white wine which would be our first of many since it is so nice.

After all the adventure and a good meal I slept very very well.

More Cinque Terre to come!

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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Your mention of foccaccia at Giusti in Lucca brought tears to my eyes. I have decided to take credit for turning you on to Giusti, whether I actually did so or not!

It was your rec that guided us to the sweet sweet manna at Giusti.

The sweet foccaccia they sell is also quite tasty.

Ben

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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Sorry for the delay! I have been lazy in my posting duties! :smile:

Our time in the Cinque Terre was great. The place is so beautiful and the slow paced style there really does throw off your internal time clock. Because of this I will do my best to remember our food there.

The first day there we walked up to the top of town to pay for parking since the attendant had already gone home when we arrived. On our way we stopped in at Il Pirate della 5 Terre at the top of town. This was one of our best decisions of the trip. Two sicilian twin brothers run this place and they are fantastic hosts. One is a pastry chef and makes fantastic creations fresh every morning. My favorite was the ricotta filled donut like one... oh man. They also will fresh juice blood oranges for you if they have them. They are very particular about making things fresh and don't hesitate to let you know. We went there pretty much every morning from that point on as well as a stop in sometimes for an afternoon granita. The food here combined with the fantastic company makes it a must go if you find yourself in Vernazza.

I think we had lunch that day at Giani's, which turned out to be good, but very overpriced. I still can't figure out why 5 grilled shrimp should cost 17 euro when they come out of the ocean less than 50 yards away.

We had dinner that night at Il Pirate della 5 Terre, which was quite nice. I had the mixed appetizer, which was 7 small dishes on one plate. Everything was fresh and of good quality, but some of the dishes just didn't hit the mark. The main course was much better. Katie had a really great lasagna bologenese and I had a nice cheese ravioli. We got our first taste of Sciacchetra dessert wine, which was very well made. We couldn't help but chant Chaka kahn!!!! after hearing the correct pronounciation of the wine.

We left the next morning to check out the other towns and hike back to Vernazza. We had a lovely time stopping at a cute little bar with an amazing view in Manorola. Katie and I shared slices of Riso Torte and Verde Torte with some local wine before our hike to Corniglia.

When we reached Corniglia, I could only find two wine shops even though the town is supposed to be the wine center of the area. I am sure I just didn't know where to look.

Dinner was at Gambero Rosso in Vernazza. Our service started out very poor when the waiter pretty much forgot we were there. He forgot to give us menus and then took 15 min to get a wine menu. It did much improve after all this though. Katie, not being much of a fish person ordered the trenette with pesto and a salad I forget. They were both very good though. I ordered Fish Ravioli, Anchovies, and Swordfish. The Ravioli were the best I had my entire trip, They were filled with a smooth ricotta mixture and the sauce had chunks of mixed fish in a creamy base. The Anchovies were traditionally prepared with olive oil, potatoes, and I think rosemary and sun dried tomatoes, this was also a fantastic dish that spoke of the quality of ingredients. The Swordfish was simply prepared, but I think I am just not a big swordfish fan. It was good, but I think just too firm of a texture for my liking. We ended the meal with more Chaka Kahn. :smile:

The next day, we hauled ass out of town to Levanto where we got a great apartment for the night. We needed to leave early for Milan the next day to return the Rental Car and the roads getting out of the Cinque Terre don't make for an easy getaway. We were, however, able to go explore the Cinque Terre more that day with the easy train access to the towns.

We had Lunch at Belvedere in Monterosso. There were a bunch of local workers eating really great dishes when we showed up. :biggrin: I had the mixed fry and Katie had a really fantastic pasta with tomato and basil.

While running around Levanto, I asked the man at the Salumi Shop where to go for dinner and he pointed us in the direction of Osteria Tumelin. When I went to find it and make reservations, I was drawn into their amazing Enoteca to browse for a while. We made it back later on for dinner after drinking wine and hanging out on our terrace for a while. I had the mixed house appetizer and Grilled Shrimp. Katie once again had Pesto. :wacko:

She was not disapointed, however, as the Pesto was the best we had in the region. I barely got two bites! My mixed appetizer was incredible. I was brought dish after dish of fantastic fish to gorge myself on. I remember two dishes of cured fish; one was swordfish and I think the other was tuna. There were a couple anchovy dishes as well. I also remember a marinated octopus and a "tuna salad" type dish that was the best damn tuna salad I have ever had.

Just as I was getting set to call those dishes the best part of my meal, the grilled shrimp arrived in all their glory. The flesh was firm and swelling out of the halved shells. It was barely dressed with lemon and olive oil. The shrimp were huge as well. I couldn't believe how succulent and sweet they were. Just thinking about them now make me want to hop on a plane. I pleaded with Katie to try some and she confirmed that they were incredible. And shrimp is one of her stronger fish dislikes! Go Katie!

We went home that night very happy and nicely drunk from the fantastic house wine.

The next morning was a mad rush to get out of town and on the road to Milan. The autostrade between Genoa and Milan is not quite as easy of a drive as the one from Florence to the Coast. It was very curvy and had quite a bit of trucks filling up the road. The drive was mostly slow and not dangerous. Fourtanetly, things straightened out about 1/3rd of the way there. I even managed to get pretty good at the local driving.

We stopped halfway at an Autogrill and had a great time buying random snacky treats and such. We both had tasty grilled sandwiches that kick the pants off of any US truck stop. Outside the stop, however was kind of sketchy... there was a cup and ball game going when we waked in and it was still going as we left. Have some Italians not yet figured out that this is the oldest scam in the book? As we were leaving, some creepy guy tried to sell me a "rolex". :wacko:

The next stop was Malpensa Airport to drop off the rental. I am pretty sure the rental companies had something to do with there being no acessable gas stations for 30+ miles before the airport. We had to turn around and go back to one on the other side of the highway to fill the tank back up. Grrr....

We got the car returned easily after that and hopped on the train to downtown Milan.

More to come on Milan!

Ben

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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