Italy is not just pizza and pasta, guys. If you think about it- the Mediterranean diet is all about whole foods and pure ingredients. Appetizers can be marinated vegetables, olives, grilled veggies, cold cuts, olive oil and crudités (pinzimonio), fried polenta and so on. First courses can be bean soups (crema di ceci!), risotti (made without cheese) and rice salads. Mains are usually meat or seafood based and not usually made with cheese unless it’s like involtini or polpette, but it is quite doable to find main courses without cheese if not certainly easy to ask for it to be omitted. Contorni (side dishes) would be a breeze: herb roasted potatoes, braised greens, vegetables, beans, salads and such. Continue Reading →
Jesus Christ, Florence. You’re beautiful. You’re a gem. But you’re stuck in a moment. And that moment is the Renaissance.
Brac is the embodiment of the anti-renaissance, pro-hipster movement of Florence. It bleeds with contemporary “we’re so alternative but artsy organic homey Anthropology-store front displays”, it hurts. Even the menù is a collection of food porn- taken with a Polaroid camera all pinned up on the bar wall. Jesus, if this was the antimony of Renaissance…well it would be.
You might be asking…so what the hell is it…BRAC?
It’s a restaurant caffé that has a bunch of books in it so it’s called a “literary caffè.” Barf. Europe, how pretentious you may can be. So I have books in my bike sometimes…so does that make me a literary biker??? Those books I generally don’t read but accumulate in order to look educated and like I give a damn about anything else but hooch and hot butchers.
I digress… Basically, it’s a little bistro style resto in some random alley that serves up some gourmet, fancy frilly vegan and vegetarian food. Despite all its sickening cuteness and “cool,” you can’t beat Brac for wicked solid vegetarian meal. Or vegan at that.
I’d been here for dinner on a pair of occasions. I highly recommend the piatto unico and it’s basically a mix of all their fancy savory mains like Sardinian flatbread pie, lasagna and fagottino style cheesy pasty.
This time recently however, I was here for brunch (pronounced “braaaaanch” by moi). I came on a Yelp-event occasion and most people were pining for pancakes…and I knew better than to order pancakes from some fru-fru bourgeois literary caffè…pancakes are for hungover American wolves of the indulgent excessive palate. It’s quick risen lazy man crepes with some blood sugar roller coaster-inducing syrup doused on top…to me pancakes are like diabetic sponges that only lead to stomach aches and cavities.
My theory is “when in Rome”…and when in some snooty vegan bistrot, you are best to order the snobbiest thing on the menu and for me- my dear readers- was the wild fennel and citrus vegan tartare (oxymoron, right?) atop a crema di spinaci which was fancy foodie talk for blended spinach.
For €8, it was a fab-bo deal. Beautiful presentation, lovely flavors, crunch consistency and a mark in my “I’m an adventurous eater” book of brags.
So word to those who need an escape from the grandma house decor of Renaissance Florence for an equally revolting overdose of all things modern, hipster and contemporary Brac is your man. Or woman. Or whatever.
With a smile,
p.s. Here is your BRAC info:
via dei vagellai 18r 50122 firenze http://www.libreriabrac.net email@example.com +39 055 0944877
In my last post, I ranted for about 12 hours about getting a hold of some Italian meat for a tagliata (sliced Florentine steak) experiment. I wanted to see if you could make grilled steak at home without a grill since at the time, I only had this ceramic pan. My new best friend who is a chef told me if could be done and told me how- as long as I could find a good piece of meat.
Well this is the piece of meat I found. Chianina.
Then about 3 minutes on each side this hunk of love made my house smoke
Then I turned the flame off and threw on the pan cover for about 2 minutes to let the juices set in, not dry out. The point that my chef friend told me was to let the meat rest before slicing into it to. I also remember my new best friend saying to throw on the lid or coperchio (which I thought was called copricoperchio)
Last step was the sprinkle on some “grosso” sea salt (chunky flakes). According to BFF, the heat makes the salt scioglie (melt) into the carne flesh.
Final dish: sliced tagliata on some peppery arugula with sliced parmigiano and drizzed with fresh olive oil, aged balsamic and cracked fresh pepper.
Result: Delicious. Wine pairing: Rosso di Montalcino (fancy for Sangiovese. Wine speak for red wine from Tuscany). You could taste the countryside in this flesh. It was a rollercoaster of flavor. Texture: not tough but not melt in your mouth. Realization: I should have bought the meat in advance and let the muscle fibers relax for a couple of days. FISH is what you want to use up the same day, not steak. And I should have cooked it for less time. Still tasty though. A good reminder of why eating Tuscan ranged meat is way better that the corn fed confined American crap meat. I swear I could taste the Chianti the Chianina was reared on. (Chianina do not actually fed on wine grapes, that is just my food fantasy).
For the curious appetite in everyone…
There was a point in my life in which I was vegan. At that time, I also was pretty disciplined in karate and took dance. I was one healthy little lady. And not a deprived one, neither. Vegan food has a bad rap. Its not all tofu, bread and margarine. Its also creative milks made from luscious almonds, fermented bbq “bakon” tempeh, cashew tahini, sprouted grain & bean burgers, olive oil mock-anaisse, raw chocolate avocado mousse pie, coconut milk ice cream…as you can see, it can get quite decadent. In the U-District, I realized there are very few breakfast joints and can embody the image of the rolling hay deserted western town on a weekend morning. There is Portage Bay, but forget it unless you have a reservation or get there at an unfair time, unfair to your REM cycle that is.
After strolling up and down the ave, looking for warm eggy goodies, I landed instead at a tofu scramble hole in the wall called Wayward. They are pretty popular even among non-vegans. They have hearty portions of veggie stuffed burritos, massive piles of spiced home fries and even old school sweets like cheez blintzes. As well as home made biscuits with vegan “sausage” mushroom gravy with generous sides of garlicky kale greens. In the kitchen, all you can see are cast-iron pans that are an obvious flavor-savour plus. I have a question mark in the headline because what I ordered was totally gross but it was my own damn fault. It was a vegan Monte-Cristo. Which traditionally is turkey and some fancy white cheese slathered smoked and melted in between 2 buttery sugary maple hunks of french toast. I thought that by eating this, it would be a tongue in cheek gesture towards food novelty. But there is nothing savour-worthy of plastic dry tofurky sandwiched in between 2 rubbery earth-balance pan seared hunks of what seemed like angel food cake bread, without the pillow sweet, just the pillow white bland texture. And a dried-out side of hashbrowns that was only salvaged by dollops of hot sauce and ketchup. But every place has its crappy menu item, and even the cashier warned me of the tofurky. I should have taken heed. But my neighbor’s plate, the biscuits & “gravy” with garlicky greens, was quite nice, and nice enough to have shared and taken pity on my fearless mistake. The biscuits are warm and buttery-like and perfectly salty. Nice and ‘shroom earthy hint o’ umami gravy, with pleasant chunks of broccoli and peppers. Greens held up nicely and werent overdone and still bright green.
If you want something hearty, semi-greasy spoon, chock full of greens, vegan and cheap Wayward Cafe is a good bet. Just run like hell if you see any tofurk-slice anything!
Today was one of the glorious sunny fall days that make Seattle worth living in- and Cafe Flora is a great spot to be indoors when choosing to eat-in. It is full of open windows and cozy rooms, one with an actual flowing fountain as if vegging out in the whimsical garden of vegetarian bliss, and you could bask in its gastronomic glory (and sun) for hours.
I used to always think of Cafe’ Flora as the restaurant for people who wanted to be vegetarian or vegan on the week-ends, as its menu is exclusively vegetarian and vegan, now w/ many gluten-free options. And it used to always seem like a heavily fakon’ bakon soy imitation kind of novelty place. Well, that was over 5 years ago and its menu has diversified to celebrate the beauty of vegetables, not its imitation meat inventions.
I was in for lunch. And boy was it yummy. (and sunny)
This was their Lentil Pate Platter w/ In-House Pickles Veggies (including purple cauliflower, beets, red peppers and of course a cuke), Marinated Olives, a Raspberry confit, crisp sweet tarty sliced (I bet local honeycrisp) apples to finish and daggered with these crispy olive oily sea salt Panzanella Croccanti (crackers). ====== $9 ====== best gourm-deal of 2010.
The lentil Pate was as you would expect, creamy yet grainy, sticky, lentily, rich and delicious. Perfect pair of Croccanti dagger crackers to schmear with.
You would think that I suffered a salt-lick coma from all the pickledness, but everything was pleasantly unbriney and full punched with flavor. Good crispage concerning the pickledge and good meaty herby olives. as I was soaking in sun in our greenhouse-like room, I saw a waitress take a sandwich board in the back that said “Happy Hour.” And that’s when I’ll be back.
Cafe’ Flora, thank you for showcasing palatable gourmet veggie plates for those of us who would like to be vegetarian on the week-end, or at lunchtime =)