Pairing chocolate with wine | In Florence

 

gianduja and chocolate wines
chocolate hazelnut chocolates and gianduja from Piedmont paired with Barolo Chinato. what grows together, goes together.

There are a few things that stuck in my head during my food & wine pairing classes. Old adages like “what grows together, goes together”, you might say. One was related to pairing chocolates and wine. My ever so flamboyant instructor, who probably drank more in class than we did, asked “who in here likes red wine and chocolate?” You can imagine that mostly women rose their hands and to their reply he said “You probably like it, but it’s actually one of the worst pairings. It’s kind of like sex on the beach- it sounds like a good idea in theory- beach, sex…but then the reality kicks in and you got sand and all that ruining the mood.” Continue Reading

Eat spaghetti for Amatrice and Central Italy!

photo credit: Daniele Pignoli Fotografo
photo credit: Daniele Pignoli Fotografo

Hey guys! This will be a fast and furious post, as I just landed a few hours ago from the states. Ungodly jetlag is setting in- my body and it’s surroundings feels like we’re going in circles. Please forgive typos and off syntax more than ever!

In any case, I wanted to share a quick note regarding the horrible earthquake claiming several towns in Central Italy. On Wednesday August 24th 2016, a 6.2-magnitude quake hit a series of towns in Central Italy’s Apennines, less than 100km from Rome and Norcia (Umbria). The towns most affected are Accumoli (Lazio), Amatrice (Lazio), Pescara del Tronto & Arquata del Tronto (Le Marche) and Accumoli (Lazio). There have been continuing tremors and aftershocks disrupting rescue efforts, the death toll and # of displaced people continue to rise. I can’t imagine what people there must be going through and send my deepest condolences to everyone affected.

However, I am very comforted and impressed with the world’s response to this unfortunate occurrence. An Italian blogger Paolo Campana sparked a viral donation effort when he proposed on social media that the dish Amatriciana from Amatrice, one of the towns terribly affected and closest to the quake’s epicenter, be used to encourage donation efforts.

 

There are many ways in which you can help, The Florentine wrote up a great article on the various donation options but also I’d like to mention that there has never been a better time to carb-load than now. According to this article via NPR, there are several restaurants (even as far away as in London and Los Angeles!) stepping up to the plate to put Spaghetti all’Amatriciana on the menu’ and donating 2eu to the Italian Red Cross of every dish.

In Florence, for example there are restaurants getting behind this effort. If you are in town, check out these eateries who are serving Amatriciana things and donating a portion of their sales to the relief funds:

  • Trattoria Da Burde- A bit off the beaten track and outside the city center but worth the taxi or bus ride. A Tuscan institution Address: Via Pistoiese, 6/R Phone: 055 317206
  • Corte Reale- This is a sort of modern, casual restaurant block attached to the city’s main train station so if you are leaving town for the weekend, fuel up with some pasta. Located near Santa Maria Novella Train Station, near Piazza Adua Address: Piazza della Stazione, 50 Phone: 055 264 5114
  • Il Magazzino- One of my personal favorites in darling Piazza della Passera which specializes in offal-centric pastas, historical classics and even sushi lampredotto, Il Magazzino seems to be serving up some amatriciana as well. I love their pasta in general and the owner rocks. Address: Piazza della Passera, 2-3, 50125 Firenze Phone: 055 215969
  • FuoriPiazza- In the very local’s quarter of Beccaria in Via Gioberti, is a modest restaurant usually known for pizzas but they also have regular menu items. I personally haven’t been but it’s a good time to try it out! Address: Via Vincenzo Gioberti, 46R, 50100 Firenze Phone: 055 669957
  • Ara e’ Sud- Another fantastic eatery participating- Ara e’ Sud is a sort of “modern Sicilian” and I’m sure will be paying flavorful respects to Amatriciana, since they are meticulous about ingredient quality and sourcing. Address: Via della Vigna Vecchia, 4 Phone: 328 611 7029
  • I’Tosto- So I’m not sure what l’Tosto envisions serving since it’s a grilled sandwich kinda place. They do these things called “Toasts” in Italian, square white bread grilled sandwiches. Think like a hot tramezzino! Maybe they’ll be doing Amatriciana-inspired Toasts? Address: Via dei Servi 8/R Phone: 055 0515280
  • Enoteca Pitti Gola and Cantina- A great venue to visit for this pasta initiative in the center of Florence, also because their wines and service rock and the people who own/run are as soulful as their intention to help. They are doing Spaghetti alla Chittara (guitar string pasta) and will be donating 2eu for every plate. Address: Piazza de’ Pitti, 16 Phone: 055 212704

The list is growing daily- so keep your eyes peeled for anything “Amatriciana” on menus across Italy, the UK and America! I bet this will spread to other countries, too. For example, I just read that Mario Batali’s restaurants are pledging $5 for every plate sold.

I found some participating restaurants in Florence from an Italian food culture site called Il Forchettiere since it seems to have concise info, albeit in Italian! Another site listing restaurants in America pledging is Foodiamo. 

 

I dig the idea for pop-up dinner/spaghetti feeds/virtual sagre to in a sense replicate the sagra (festival) which would have ran this weekend (and sadly would have been the 50th edition) in theme with the pasta Amatriciana, which is typical to the town of Amatrice, and has been one of the worst affected. Food-related sagre (festivals) yes celebrate traditional dishes, foods and wine but they also raise money for local projects/organizations- why not do some pop-ups and donate all the proceeds to Amatrice and surrounding towns affected? I’d be so happy to see a venue in Florence make such a genuine gesture!

 

Don’t know what Amatriciana is? It’s a simple spaghetti dish made with loads of tomato, pork jowl (guanciale), pecorino (ewe’s milk cheese and a touch of dried hot chili pepper. The dish has stirred some controversy recently (prior to the earthquake, of course) as some chefs have challenged it’s traditional recipe, desiring to alter it with garlic, using bacon instead of guanciale, black pepper and/or white wine. While I’m sure no one (I hope no one) is going to split hairs if the recipe varies at this time, it’s the thought and intention that counts, no matter how you find offers to pledge money. I read about a pizza place doing Amatriciana pizza too so the recipe isn’t limited to pasta in this effort.

Like I said, there are other ways to help and contribute, like donating blood and items like clothing, but I appreciate this option since it reminds/raises awareness about the food traditions of Amatrice, plus creates a unique source of solidarity- as food usually does. The organizations you can directly contribute to

Check back with this post, my facebook page and Il Forchettiere– as they will be adding new venues to the list and I will update when I find new sites listing where pasta donations are being implemented.

In your pasta solidarity for Amatrice and surrounding areas affected by the quake,

Curious Appetite

p.s. other sites with great, up to date info is Slow Food International and Gambero Rosso.

New fish spot openings in Florence (2016)


Last year, I wrote a list on Florence’s new openings for Eater.com and to be honest- selecting a respectable list of 10 had its challenges. However, this year is looking like it’ll be a cinch thanks to some venues which break the traditional Tuscan mold. Moreover, there seems to be a trend (or perhaps demand) for seafood restaurants in Florence.  Continue Reading

{Quick Recipe} Pistachio & Basil Pesto

getting touchy with food.
getting touchy with food.

Is this your first time reading Curious Appetite? If the answer is no, and you already follow on facebook and instagram, then you’ll know how obsessed I am with pistachios!

It all started when a fiery Sicilian-American woman met an Iranian guy with a ‘fro in a club back in the early 80’s. A few years later they made me and ever since, I was exposed to many exotic flavors as a result of being born to a Sicilian/American mother and an Iranian pop. Continue Reading

An alternative guide to the “best” panini in Florence

 

salami florence panini brunori

I’m going to flat out and be honest- if I have to see l’Antico Vinaio on one more list, one more time, I might cry for the sake of the countless other panini slingers in the city. Places like Antico Vinaio are extremely famous thanks to a failproof recipe: thousands (13K+) of tripadvisor reviews mostly since they’ve been listed for ages, obnoxiously large portions and cheap wine all for under 5€. However rarely questioned is the quality of their ingredients. Like are those industrial factory produced cheeses and grocery-store quality meats? Aren’t you curious as to what’s in those sauces/globs?  I am suspicious of these sauces in terms of what’s actually in there and truffle sauces with 99% artificial flavor and 1% truffle extract. The panini at l’antico vinaio are good, even delicious, but not worth to me waiting in line for. Italian panini, were meant to be simple and traditionally included few ingredients: primarily cheese and/or meat. It seems that they’ve become monstrous man vs. food feasts here! Not that I don’t enjoy a decadent massive panino, but again, I suggest folks to consume info (and food) with a discerning palate.  Continue Reading

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