Curious Appetite

“Street” Grub

Where to get solid panini (and carbs) in Florence.

May I confess something to you? I love all things that are baked. I think baked goods are an expression of love- so much works goes into making the stuff and it creates so much joy as a result. I go crazy when I find either a shop full of owners with passion and love to make delicious food for good pricing. Continue Reading

Where to get Mexican Food in Seattle (which is not terrible)

See recommendation #4

I will be taking a short break from writing about my food memories in Florence to make the most of my time left in this food obsessed city. Stay tuned for the next few weeks, Seattle. The next posts are inspired from F.A.Q’s my tour guests in Seattle hit me with. I get my brain, prodded, picked and tested for food recommendations like a target at a firing range, with the hopes of hitting me right in the stomach for the best tips for eating around Seattle. A sort of “people’s request” response, I decided to start with Mexican Food since strangely enough, it is on the top 5 for the most common question. I must say, I am almost embarrassed to talk about Mexican food in Seattle because A. This isn’t Texas or California. and B. I am not an expert on regional Mexican cuisine. But you asked for it. Continue Reading

Street food with Malay Flavor: Kedai Makan Seattle

Pastry filled hand held lamb pockets

Brace yourself, Seattle. I think I found the one hole-in-the wall that is not a one-hit-wonder. The street food that really involves something besides pretentious “sliders” and “authentic” tacos.  Let me preface this post with the fact that I have never been to Asia. I am nothing close to an expert in tasting exotic Asian foods. However, have faith in my palate and critical eye to suggest to you what I think is the most heavenly street food that 8 dollars can buy in Seattle, and that is: Malaysian-style food at Kedai Makan. Continue Reading

First Floor of Mercato Centrale in Florence

(photo from google: Top Floor of Mercato Centrale)

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

Eating man food in Florence

Whenever I have guests, I tell them that they must try lampredotto from a banco mobile (food cart) that puts the whole “street food”…”food truck” fru fru scene in America to shame. I recommend it because it is an authentic food experience besides “pizza and pasta.”  And it’s what the general blue collar work crowd can comfortably afford for lunch. I am about to explain. I will use this post to squash some ideas Americans and tourists have of Italians and Italian life. Okay, so we come here like it’s Disneyland, voyeuristic in taking snapshots of the old ladies buying fruit at the open-air markets, or as one of my friends told me- taking snapshots of him buying tomatoes in the store. Which if you think about it, is pretty creepy. How would you like some tourist taking your picture in Trader Joe’s? But the reason people shop at these “open-air markets” that tourists think is so glamorous, is because life in Italy for some is poor and that 10 cent difference between bananas at the market and at the store is worth something that most tourists could hardly fathom.

So my point is, unlike living in the states, life is modest here. I’m not complaining, but most people in Italy don’t exactly have the luxury to eat out expensive meals multiple times a week . I’m not writing this to incite sympathy or pity-  It makes me uncomfortable to talk about money in my sort of public blog but I think people should understand this. And nothing irritates me more than people who think Italians live this life of vespas, ferrari, gucci and cappuccino. The vespa part is kinda right, but because the gas is cheaper for scooters. Gas costs almost the equivalent of 10 dollars a gallon. Cappuccino is also kind of true, but it’s part of breakfast and there is a national “cap” on how much a bar can charge which is not the Stumptown fancy schmancy 4 dollar cup to-go but 1.20 at the counter.

Anyways…do you know what lampredotto is? It’s this:

lampredotto- a Florentine specialty made from the fourth and final stomach of the cow, the abomasum.

Florence and Tuscany in general should be known for la cucina povera which is a cuisine based on peasant food that most cultures have. Tripe, chitterlings, liver “crostini”, tomato bread soup, minestrone, etc- are all cheap and crucial to real Tuscan cuisine. It’s a no-waste philosophy that dates back to when Italy was limited on resources during post-war depression periods. Because Italians are sticklers for tradition- these foods are still as popular as ever. And sadly, Italy has in a sense returned to a depressed economic state. Meno male that la cucina povera never went out of style. :/

So today I had to do an interview with the Cordon Blu culinary school for an article I am writing and I asked the director if they taught lampredotto in the Tuscan cooking courses. She said no, because most tourists and Americans are scared of it and think that they don’t like it. It made me smile that she said they think because picky eaters drive me crazy- how can you not like something you’ve never tried?!

Then it made her smile when I asked her where her favorite lampredottaio “banco mobile” was. She said near the bronze porcellino near Piazza della Repubblica. I didn’t know what the porcellino was, which apparently is the lucky rub-for-luck tourist attraction bronze pig. So I decided for lunch today I was going. I realized I’ve been here for 4 months and haven’t had lampredotto yet AND I didn’t know what the lucky porcellino was. It was a sign.

Panino con lampredotto at Il Trippaio del Porcellino.

This sandwich with a glass of wine will cost under 5 euro. The meat is stewed in a simple broth and then made to order. These innards are then cut up and laid a top a crusty bread roll, doused with salt and pepper.

the meat getting pulled from the pot- made to order!

Then a half of the bread is dipped in the lampredotto stock and topped with a kind of herb paste made mostly of parsley. I chomped on this at the “banco” counter of the food truck, observing the guy make sandwiches and noticing that most of the clientele were men and I was seriously the only woman eating a cow guts sandwich. I felt oddly proud of my “bizarre food” Andrew Zimmern inspired moment.

It was okay. It had a weird fatty consistency and there was too much salt and parsley sauce to really be able to get an idea of what lampredotto tasted like. It was a nice, filling lunch that I think my stomach was confused about how to digest (which enzymes to I make for this thing this crazy lady just ate? lipase or protease?) You could for sure taste that the meat was stewing in a broth yet it was soft and flavorful. And I could see why this would be a pit-stop for the Florentine lunch crowd- especially because there is cheap wine that you should for sure have with it. Why not?

So if you are in Florence or in Tuscany- be adventurous, be curious!  Taste everything! Unless you are a vegetarian or celiac- you can’t knock it till you try it:)

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