Mercato Centrale is a historic food market in the San Lorenzo district of Florence, Italy. The district itself is utterly famous for the leather and tourist trap stands (selling mostly overpriced souvenirs and sometimes poor quality leather goods) lining the streets wrapping around the market. The reason I don’t particularly like these stalls is that they block the way of some truly legitimate foodie joints like Casa del Vino and the historical carb-oasis Forno, not to mention amazing cafes, wine shops and kitchen gadget shops. I think in someways, the mercato centrale is a huge sellout to its historical roots. There still remains some rustic Florentine spirit, amazing fruit and veg vendors, fish mongers, butchers, bakeries and wine shops…not to mention the always valid Nerbone comfort food pitstop which melts my heart with its luscious boiled beef sandwich with hearty Tuscan men serving it up to match and solid greasy spoon primi (like a rich, ragu’ smothered lasagnole pasta) which washes away any cynicism I may have walked into the market with. Continue Reading →
Month: June 2014
I live in Florence and summer has indeed arrived. Except for today. Which is why I am not a sweaty mess and why I can even stand to be near my computer. It’s so funny to see my friends in Seattle through the social media webs wearing light spring jackets and here I am pushing the envelope basically trying to see how much I can get away with not wearing and pondering how sheer I can really get away with because I feel like I am going to die if I wear anything other than a gel pack of ice. I am exaggerating, after all I could be in Cairo where it’s like 110 degrees. Anyways, I digress as usual.
I am very weary of red wine in the warmer months in Florence, not only because to me red wine says cozy sweater and fireplace recounting the days I spent backpacking through Europe saving baby kittens from olive trees, but because most shop keepers are infuriatingly aloof about how they store their wine on the shelves. A wine shelf near the door is a horrible idea. And unless it is a super market, or a very smartly designed shop (that is not ever in direct sunlight) or has the luxury to invest in air-conditioning I don’t trust poorly stored red wine to be anything but vinegar or acidic grape juice at best.
Apart from that, I honestly can’t fathom consuming something that isn’t cold. I recently had a dilemma where I wanted to make an eggplant parmigiana but didn’t want a red wine. In normal weather circumstances, I would usually go for like a Negroamaro from Puglia or a Barbera from Piedmont for a baked cheese, vegetable and tomato dish like an eggplant parmigiana (or even for like a cheesy lasagna too) but I wanted to figure out how I could pair with some white wines. So I went to the wine shop at Eataly on a Sunday to stare at all the bottles hoping my food and wine pairing classes would flood my memory. Here is what I managed to pick out after many minutes scratching my head and having a lot of “oh yeah!” moments:
I wanted to stick to a white wine from Southern Italy because I am obsessed with gastronomic identity, meaning to pair local wines with the local cuisine. In theory, an elegant white wine from the Langhe (in the Northern, Slow Food capital region Piedmont) such as Marin by Fontanafredda could have sufficed just as easily as a rich, aromatic yet balanced Sauvignon by Bastianich from Friuli. But I wanted to go down south where the dish originates. You should still try these with something cheesy or creamy like risotto, the traditional Piemontese vitello tonnato (which is boiled veal in tuna mayonnaise) or anything with seafood, of course.
In the end, this is what I found and which I suggest for a baked cheese and tomato dish like Eggplant Parmigiana:
COS Rami Sicilian White (as early as 2012) This is a very unconventional winery which specializes in local, indigenous grape varieties and abides by biodynamic production methods. The particular grapes showcased in COS’s Rami are Inzolia and Grecanico.
A Greco di Tufo from the famous Feudi di San Gregorio in Campania.
But what I ended up choosing was a Sicilian Viognier by Calatrasi & Miccichè. This would be good also with a chicken dish in a cream sauce or a creamy mushroom risotto- perhaps not exactly Sicilian foods but just to give you an idea what Viognier could also match well with.
I picked this because Viognier tends to be a richer white wine, what I like to call a greasy wine which give a nice full mouth watering start and long finish but not too fruity or aromatic, with just a tinge of petrol on the nose which for me is also why I call it greasy. This was a great wine pair for a saucy, creamy ricotta filled Eggplant Parmigiana which I proudly made, by grilling (not frying) the eggplant, and whipping up the tomato sauce from scratch with heirloom umami rich tomatoes, garlic, herby olive oil from the most recent fall’s pressing and fresh basil.
In my posts regarding food and wine pairing, I don’t go into the tasting notes too much because I just want readers to know what’s good in my opinion and to find out for themselves. Wine is all about opinion. And these are my suggestions that you can take or leave. This is my blog and this is what I think.
In my humble opinion,
Before I moved to Italy, I dabbled in food and wine pairing classes in Seattle and in certain ways I feel like it was easier to play and experiment around with food/wine pairing at home than it is here…WAITAMINUTELETMEESPLAIN!
Because in Seattle we have amazing shops that shelf a huge variety of wines including little boutiques that specialize in hand picked small selections and big mega stores that could be the mall of wine for all I know. Which means, international wines. In Florence, you can find everything under the Tuscan sun (sorry, I couldn’t help it) and maybe a few labels from other parts of Italy but a Spanish wine? A Washington wine? Forgettaboutit! I’ve been lucky to find a few international labels in wine shops here, but mostly French. So. Typical. Continue Reading →