Sunday, October 31, 2010

barry shares some inspiration.

with the leaves gone, and snow coming, i thought i'd share a few dishes i've had over the past little bit to inspire some delicious and warming fall creations of your own.

start the night (or day - i don't judge) off right with a ginger saketini, complete with pickled ginger garnish. spicy, slightly sweet and a wee bit salty, it's a fantastic balance to whip up when the temperature drops.

i made this! i'm so proud of this fresh fig salad. lots of prosciutto, goat cheese, aged balsamic and fleur de sel, this stuff was ridiculously good. head over asap to the italian centre to get the last of the fresh figs.

i had this beet risotto this past summer at dine kalyna in vegreville. not only does it look beautiful, but add some onions and maybe a hint of dill, and it is absolutely delicious.

barry continues to explore the mercato, and goes beyond the cheese...

...only to come back to it because, after all, what's life without cheese?

so the fantastic thing about il mercato is that you can get almost any kind of food here. not all of my pics turned out, but imagine heaps of pomegranates, mounds of spinach, oodles of noodles, barrels of oils, and porcini mushrooms as far as the eye can see. this place is a kind of mecca for foodies everywhere; a pilgrimage that needs to be undertaken at least once in a food lover's life to achieve enlightenment.

or, at the very least, a very full stomach.

for a truly authentic experience, join the florentine locals for lunch at nerbone's, located on the main floor of il mercato. go for their traditional panino con bollito (boiled meat sandwich dipped in meat drippings), or their trippa alla fiorentina (florentine style tripe).

of course, a trip to florence would not be complete without a traditional steak. take note: if you're looking for the authentic, go for a cut similar to the below picture. anything else, while WE might consider it a steak, is just a piece of beef for florentines.

...or there's cow testicles. your call.

the homemade pasta we saw looked out of this world! and for those of you who've never tried it, gnudi is the ravioli filling, minus the ravioli. it's delicious, especially with a fresh pomodoro sauce.

look at your cheese in the fridge. now look at these cheeses. look again at your cheese, and back to these! your cheese isn't any of these delicious european concoctions, but it could smell like them if you let it sit on the counter for a few weeks. or, as a healthier more delicious alternative, you could book your plane ticket now.

i think i'll have to have a separate post dedicated solely to cheeses i found in europe. many of them can't be found in edmonton (maybe in montreal), but just imagine if they were! for starters, i'd be 400 pounds and have diabetes, but i would be in heaven so it wouldn't matter!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

barry attempts to explore florence's mercato centrale...

...and is at a loss of where to begin. so i think i'll break this up into a couple of posts.

bustling with locals and tourists alike, the mercato caters to all tastes. luckily, i was there on a private food tour with angel walking tours, and so was able to enjoy stuffing my face with delicious goodies in relative peace. our guide, Samanta, started us off with a "small" selection of italian antipasti and wine (can you already tell that this is going to be good?!). everything was local, fresh, and told a history of the region that made you wish that all history lessons you had in grade school had a sample involved, because you would actually remember what you learned. i'll try to impart just a fraction of the wisdom i learned, and leave it to you to discover the rest on your own food adventures.

can i just say that i love cheese? i've been smitten with it for years, but would never have thought to serve it straight up with huge dollops of raspberry jam and orange-onion marmelade. DO IT. a staple around florence, and with so many sheep in the countryside, both fresh and aged pecorino cheese is the only way to go when sampling tuscan cuisine.
how can you tell a florentine salami from a venetian, or even a hungarian? no, this isn't some dirty joke, there really is a way. just look at how big the fat bits are. florentine ones will have larger fat bits, and lots of black peppercorns. other sausages will have smaller bits closer together. eccola! with info like this, you're going to be a hit at all the cool kids parties!
let's talk carbs, shall we? or more specifically, tuscan bread. no, i'm not talking about the soft, fluffy stuff they serve at olive garden with their mozzarella fonduta, but instead, the saltless wretch that tries to rip you teeth out of your mouth when you take a bite of it. ah...THAT bread.

for years florence and their rival (well, one of their rivals), pisa, went after each other in anyway that they could to get the upper-hand, and one thing that the pisani had access to that the florentines did not was the harbour...and salt. by heavily taxing salt headed for florence, almost no one in the city could afford to puchase this basic seasoning. the result: a new bread, recipe, that was salt-free. ha! take that pisa!

i don't like olives. argh! i can practically hear you judging me. i do like olive oil if that makes you feel any better. no, these olives were not the typical olives you'd find at the corner store in edmonton. they were fresh, and done in a simple brine to keep as much of their fresh flavouring in. it also made them more meaty than other olives i've tried. tuscany is brimming with olive trees, and you'll find their fruit and their oil in almost everything. we were also educated in what to look for in a good olive oil. 1) make sure it's cold pressed, and 2) the freshest olive oils will be a murky green. the longer they sit, the clearer, and paler in colour (towards the yellow many here are used to) they become.

what would italian cuisine be without a little garlic? i ate these. raw. well, pickled. and surprise, surprise, i did not create a 10-foot barrier around me with my breath. sweet with almost no after taste, these suckers were probably my biggest surprise on this tour.

i also don't like sun-dried tomatoes. calm down, calm down! if i WERE to like any though, it would definitely be these. packed in good olive oil to be carefully preserved with love, these ruby jewels were crammed with enough flavour to work over your tastebuds as you chewed. only the best plum tomatoes are to be used - use the tomato-flavoured olive oil with salads!

20 year aged balsamic vinegar. you know all those trendy restaurants that started serving strawberries decked out in balsamic? yeah...they're doing it wrong. good balsamic vinegar should be sweet and almost syrup-like in consistency. anything less is just gross fwhen you're using it for dessert or appetizer toppings. try drizzling the good stuff over strawberries, ice-cream (really.) or, like we did, freshly shaved parmesan.