Curious Appetite

Italy

Eating through Italy, Pasta and San Francisco

You’re probably wondering why the title of this post is named as such. I’ll tell you! I snuck off to San Francisco and while perusing the events at Omnivore books, I discovered Elizabeth Minchilli in Rome would be speaking as part of her book tour in the US! What luck, right?

The new book she was presenting was Eating My Way Through Italy and it concentrates her 30 years of exploring Italian regional foods into neat chapters divided by the regions she has closest connection with, including dining advice, recipes and resources. For those of you who don’t know (which I highly doubt) Elizabeth Minchili is an American in Rome holding a varied background with Italy over her life including having put down roots with an Italian husband, children and a doggie. She is revered and a respected authoritative voice on Italian cooking and Roman cuisine, and has varied resources for eating around Italy with her apps and popular food blog. Her daughter Sophie is carrying the gastronome torch and leads culinary tours through the eternal city. Ciao, Sophie! Continue Reading

Feasting on Volcanic Etna in Sicily: Wine, Pistachios and Granita

roadside cannoli in Bronte, Sicily

For as long as I can remember, Sicily has been a distant curiosity. And not because I’ve never been- anzi. Post study abroad in Rome during a Spring/Summer of 2007 I took a trip through Sicily via Catania, Agrigento and Palermo. 10+ years later at my current stage of culinary curiosity- I wanted to return to Sicily. I decided, this place needed to be mine- at least for a few fleeting days.

For Sicilian food excellence, you hear mostly about Sicilian sweets- crispy fried shell smooth sweetened ricotta cannoli, marzipan enveloped cassata, mounds of almond granita said to be breakfast, cookies packed with pistachios of Bronte, luscious bold chocolate from Modica. Of course, Sicily is more than sweets. This place is a treasure chest of pastas, meats, cheeses and specialty ingredients like olive oil, saffron and pistachios.

I reached out to sommelier & Etna expert Brittany Carlisi with a wish-list to help make it happen. This post details what ensued over 4 days in the Mt. Etna area of Sicily. The subsequent 4 days of this trip covered Noto, Modica and Vittoria but I’ll get to that in a a future post. Continue Reading

Meat Trends and Bistecca alla Fiorentina in Florence

photo by Tracy Russo taken on my gourmet market walk!

If Florence had to choose to be renowned for one thing food-wise, it would definitely be this thickly cut, grilled to a bloody char La Bistecca Fiorentina. Mention these 3 words to any Florentine or Florence transplant and assuredly a debate will ensue. There are many opinions on what is important for a steak, where to get the best steak in Florence and most of all, what breed of cattle la bistecca fiorentina should come from. But restaurants in Florence are evolving to cater to meat connoisseurs, offering more than just a mystery meat variety grilled in the Florentine manner.  Continue Reading

Visiting VINITALY in Verona 2018

Ever been to Vinitaly or did you go this year? It’s supposedly the world’s largest wine fair held annually in Verona. I’m not sure if it is actually the largest wine fair in the world, as Prowein also claims this title, but nonetheless it’s a mega wine show. Vinitaly is held at a convention center just 10ish minutes from the historical center of Verona and has numerous pavilions dedicated to various wine regions. Map required as it’s easy to get lost!

I had been to Vinitaly some 5 years ago but had only gone for the day and had a pretty crappy experience. I had spent years writing it off as a result. But my 5 year boycott came to an end (or maybe selective amnesia kicked in) and I decided to go this year. So much had changed over 5 years: I developed as a writer and food & wine professional. Plus, I recently obtained that shiny new sommelier certificate- better keep new knowledge fresh with Vinitaly!

tasting 35 years of Vino Nobile di Montepulciano organized and led by the Consortium

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3 easy recipe ideas for artichokes

photo by Tracy Russo

In Italy artichokes are a big deal. They are beautiful, delicious and full of amazing health benefits and are extremely versatile culinarily-speaking.

Roman cuisine probably gets most of the diva attention for their thistles, and rightly so. They have plenty of culinary uses in Roman cuisine, the most famed being from the Roman Jewish repertoire, carciofi alla giudia (Jewish deep fried artichokes, traditionally served after Yom Kippur but eaten joyously by all when in season). If you are in Florence and love carciofi alla giudia, Club Culinario da Osvaldo in Santa Croce pays them due justice even if outside of Rome. Worth knowing is this artichoke currently experiencing some controversy as Israel’s chief Rabbinate declared the dish non-kosher. 

In Florence, artichokes may not have fascinating recipes steeped in deep cultural history like Rome’s, but they are nonetheless present and important to Florentine and Tuscan cuisine. They are commonly found in traditional trattorias quartered, battered and fried with a squeeze of lemon. At home they are made into sughetti (sauces) for pasta, carciofi ritti (upright artichokes doused in lemon, herbs, pancetta and garlic) and are cooked along with a variety of meat dishes, such as involtini (meat-rolls), arrosta in crosta (crusted roast meats), etc. Continue Reading

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