Curious Appetite

summer

Gelatoholics anonymous- Florence!

I am pretty bummed that I haven’t been writing as frequently as I would like, I tend to have a good reason or another but ultimately- I’ve been too busy stuffing my face and keeping my glass full to bother typing away. ūüôā

The first thing I must speak upon is my ungodly obsession with gelato. It’s pretty sick and twisted, at this point I should be considered a gelatochocohawlic. There is good reason, too! First off, I live in Florence where gelato was supposedly born. However, ask an Italian where anything was born and it will just so happen to be conveniently original from their hometown. ¬†Secondly, I live right above one of the best gelaterias in the city. Is it the best in my opinion because I could¬†practically¬†crawl spiderman style ¬†down these ancient walls to arrive at such delectable wonders? Who knows, and let’s be honest- no one cares. I live above a gelateria and it’s become a problem. Thirdly, to make matters worse than being haunted by a gelateria every 100 meters, apparently during renaissance¬†times women were forbidden from eating ice cream. Well, it wasn’t like they got a fine but it was a huge social faux pas for a woman to be seen licking an ice cream. And even today in some silly male and dogma dominated culture it is still heavily discouraged. SOOOOO naturally I MUST make up for all these years of ice cream oppression!!!! I mean, it’s my duty as a free western WOMAN of the 21st century!!! And yes, you’re welcome! ūüôā

My wine studies went really well at Apicius and I feel very confident about my command of knowledge concerning wines in Tuscany. Moreover, you can depend on me to ace any challenge on a food and wine pairing with a wine from this beautiful region. For studies sake, I had to really understand and study a pair with a chianti classico (which makes up a good chunk of the Tuscan sangiovese-based line-up) with a nice Tuscan aged prosciutto and a hard umami loaded pecorino cheese. I mean, it was rough work but I finally figured it out, for the sake of my grades.

Back to gelato. My go to flavors are generally anything chocolate and something nutty like pistachio, coconut or nocciola (hazelnut) but sometimes I get a little tutti frutti and venture with fresh watermelon, apricot or cantaloupe. ¬†I’ve even ventured into the fusion realm with saffron rose and then walnut gorgonzola (gelato?! yes you can!)

I have yet to meet a gelato I didn’t like. ¬†Today I had a realization that I may need to go on a diet if I continue at this drink wine at every meal that consists of cheese and cured meats pace/lifestyle, but how could I live without gelato?! Well, thankfully today I found a gelateria that has “skinny” yogurt gelato and apricot sorbet so that crisis seems to have been averted. Or wait, maybe I could go on a gelato diet! In fact, some Italians DO have ice cream for breakfast! I was having lunch with a Sicilian friend and I casually mentioned my gelato obsession and pondered the possibility of having it for breakfast and she said I could in theory as this is practiced in Sicily. (?!?!) Basically, since it gets rather warm down there in the summer, it’s not uncommon apparently to have a lemon granita (like a sort of slushie) with a piece of bread. Alright, so turns out it’s in my genes to want gelato for breakfast! I knew it!! ūüôā

Macaroooooons! a perfect cookie for an ice cream sandy!

Oh! one more thing! So eating in Venice can be complete crap! I know you can find little hole in the walls and restos off the beaten path, but you know some people (tourists, you know those who are making a lot of commerce possible with their hard-earned money) should be able to sit near the canals, watch the gondolas pass by and have a bloody good meal too and not get ripped off just because they want to visit a new place. GRRR! That mentality really pisses me off about some resto owners to rip tourists off for the immediate financial boost but really, they are creating a crap reputation and then some people write home about it. ūüôā But nevertheless, Italy is the only place where you can eat complete crap but it still looks lovely on a plate (like these wretched fishy freezer burned gunky shrimp and razor sawed salad with sulfuric over boiled eggs:)

So moral of the story is: when in doubt, eat gelato!!! ūüôā ūüôā CIAO!

Guten appetite- in Germany!

In route to Italy, I first landed in Munich and Berlin- both new cities for miss curious! Germany was shocking in so many ways in terms of efficiency, accessibility and style of living (in¬†comparison¬†to Italy). I know not one lick of German, and there was little time to learn key phrases before I left. Life before leaving was like trying to escape bowels of fire while trying to keep my body in one piece. It seems that many Germans speak English and I felt I’ve done my duty as a¬†traveler¬†by learning at least one, albeit somewhat useless, European language. I was also visiting friends who speak German so I felt like I could get a bit lazy. I will say, on one day that a friend was at work and there was a desperate jet-lag inspired need to find a coffee shop which I expected to be on every corner like in Italy, why I expected that I don’t know. Rather, you should expect to find a Bierstube on every corner. Anyways, so like a complete child walking around streets, which I can’t read or pronounce, looking for a coffee shop. So what did I do? I stumbled into an Italian resto and asked the guy, in Italian, where one could find a coffee. He put me in the right direction but also very confused I imagine, that some random foreigner with an American accent is asking him directions. So I guess Italian is not all that useless outside of Italy:)

In Germany, I got to enjoy some dirt cheap beer that you can walk in the streets freely with, fantastic hendel (roast chicken), fresh warm PRETZEL,¬†Bavarian¬†yogurt, falafel + doner and my then obsession: WIENER ART! Okay, so I am pretty childish. I was obsessed with the word “fahrt” and “wiener” which are on signs everywhere in Germany because “Fahrt” means journey, way, via, pathway, etc. And Wiener…I don’t know all I know is that it’s a type of¬†Schnitzel.¬†And it’s not a hot dog-¬†but rather like a veal cutlet. So I tried to take shots of any signs I caught with those words so I could create a “bloggage.” A food I did not enjoy was beef phŠĽü¬†b√≤¬†at a¬†Vietnamese¬†resto. It was not as cheap as in the states (considering the currency) and it was salty, void and empty of ingredients. Jagged thin short slices of chewy beef and cilantro that was just thrown in with some spaghetti noodles. My pals got some sort of coconut milk based curry noodle dish that seemed worthy, but I felt duped and naive to have expected consistency in beef phŠĽü in Germany coming from Seattle where phŠĽü’ is pretty damn good. Something to note about eating in Europe is that you have to ask for tap water¬†explicitly¬†to avoid getting charged for bottle water. So here I asked for tap water and they brought out water¬†practically¬†in shot glasses. When we asked for more, like 2 seconds later, they said the policy was one per customer. Jerks. I totally am trying to overcome the whole American customer service/entitlement thing since that doesn’t exist anywhere else, but I find it truly rude when people get cheap and stingy providing basic human necessities like water and using the bathroom- especially if you are a paying guest! Arg! Anyway, another thing I noticed in Germany is that they love Italian food. I was boycotting Italian food as long as I could since I knew I was moving there and in Italy the restos mostly serve – you guessed it: Italian. So it was actually pretty hard to avoid Italian food in Germany, but I still managed to get some German/Italian fusion pizza at a sweet place in Berlin. Also worth noting, Germany is famous for it’s white wines- especially Riesling. And I was lucky to find a wine on tap shop that not only had several German whites but also of course Italian reds for like 3 euros a liter! This shop,called Vom Fass, also had several barrels of whiskey on tap straight from the ageing barrel as well as dozens of flavored liquors! Oh man, I wish they had something like this in Italy! (or the U.S. for that matter!)

Enjoy the sights from Monaco and Berliner- baby!

Okay, enough with the wiener shots- here’s some food porn ūüôā

schnitzel wiener art + frites and a Hefe!

Halben hendel (half roasted chicken) and fresh pretzel +more beer in one of Munich’s many beer gardens (cost? like 6 euros each!)

A night of Mexican food- actually more descent that I expected!

and more beer of course- Dunkel, danke!

Whiskey and wine on tap!

Pizza- German style with sausage, herbs and mushroom cream

Oh, food trucks you say, America? Well check this out! A fresh fish stand!

11 euro smorgasbord brunch BUFFET!! SCORE, Berlin!

CHEESE!

CREPE! (chocolate pudding in the backdrop!)

Oysterfest 2011 in Samish, WA

Lately, I have been epicuriously dining at potlucks, backyards, farmsteads and as of most recent: at the seashore. Sometimes, the best food is that consumed in and by good company. I was lucky enough to be invited to Oysterfest 2011 ¬†in Samish, WA . And may I say, it was quite an exhibit of the Pacific Northwest BOUNTY! Not only with seafood, but also the yummy delicious sides just about everyone brought! Oysterfest was nestled this year in Samish, WA at the Acme Seafood Company along a beautiful strip of beach and mountains in view paired perfectly with breezy Bluegrass by the Shed Boys. As if donating extra joy to our lives wasn’t reason enough, the event was intended to raise money for TeenFeed, a Seattle-Based non-profit that provides resources, outreach and rehabilitation to teens living on the streets. Talk about win-win, the day came dressed with a sweet dose of SUN. The irony of it all, is that we missed the boat on the oysters, but believe me, I didn’t even notice until I put the subject line in for this post.

I can’t imagine how I got so lucky, but we were surrounded by bottomless fresh perfectly cooked crab with TEQUILA BUTTER for dipping, Mediterranean Chorizo style Mussels, CLAM FRITTERS with a buttermilky batter (paired with a divine tartar sauce), and creative potluck sides like Harissa style garlicky Carrot Salad, a creamy yet kicky Potato Salad, Fresh shucked corn and tomato salad topped with perfectly ripe avocado, several quinoa salad variations,¬†Tuscan Panzanella ¬†salad (a delicious olive oiled bread, tomato and fresh mozzarella salad), and a killer dessert of Blueberry Batter Cake. O.M.GOOD! ¬†Enjoy the slideshow of the shots I managed to pull myself away from my fork and crabby fingers from to take!

This was the mouthwatering mussels and clams cooked in a Mediterranean spicy full bodied chunky tomato sauce, please mind the glaring sun:)

cracking away to fresh caught tequila butter dipped crab

my plate stock piled with amazing sides, such as this sweet citusy corn salad with fresh avocado, cilantro and tomato

The nutty smooth olive oil silkened Panzanella salad

CLAM FRITTERS in the frydaddy making!

these little clam hush puppies lasted for about 3 minutes out of the fryer and popped happily into a few lucky bellies

and how did I forget to mention the king SALMON!! This was the ultimate CANDY of the sea! So sweet, tangy, moist, peppery, melty, not to mention fresh! Please, try not to drool!

#pureheaven

Last but not least, the Blueberry Batter cake. No need to describe this buttery cakey blueberry mound of goodness!

PAIR

Pair is a little nook in the almost Wedgewood, nearly underrated, neighborhood of Seattle. ¬†It’s perched on a steepish hill with a tender view of a local¬†cemetery. ¬†The inside decor is nicely inviting, with a picnic table-like set-up and a cozy bar area where this dinner was nested. ¬†Pair is trying to be the neighborhood date and foodie joint with an emphasis on a locally sourced, euro-inspired seasonal menu and strategically paired quality wines that the average person would never be able to pronounce.

The house white was an Italian Pinot Grigio and the red was a Montepulciano.  Eh, pretty basic.  I thought it was strange that the house wines were imports, and this joint is claiming to have a bleeding local heart.  I did eventually move up to a menu merlot/cab/syrah wine from Walla Walla that blew my socks off. Talk about delicious! Very fruity spicy and equipped with a thick body. We ordered a cheese plate along with our 3 small plates and the server asked if we wanted the cheese plate before or after the plates. And what a concept! Duh, right? Clean your palate (and surrogate your sweet tooth) with some yummy cheeses and red wine AFTER a ton of complex flavors.  

Sauteed Chard with sliced carrots, raisins and pine nuts.

Nill ingredients of which seem local. Ok, maybe the chard. But last time i checked pine nuts came from china and raisins probably from a box. Sorry im being nit-picky but if you’re gonna call yourself a locally sourced restaurant then make a little more sense. You could have used hazelnuts and cherries and ditched the carrots, actually it was like 2 pieces of sliced carrot that seemed way too robust to be from WA, as our growing season has been lame due to equally LAME temps. ¬†The plate was OK. I could have made it better myself, by adding a lil pepper and cumin and maybe even truffle salt. For a whole lot less than 9 dollars. It was certainly anti-climatic for foodie expectations.

Manila Clams w/ Salumi Guanciale and large cannellini beans.

Ok, so Guanciale is pork cheek and Salumi is the brand that Pair sourced its Guanciale (aka THE Seattle salumeria). I thought this was going to be really unique since Guanciale has a very delicate yet porky smokey bacony melt in your mouth kind of feel. But there were like 3 pieces in the whole thing which seemed more like pancetta than guanciale and the clams were too chewy. The broth was pretty mediocre, it was as if some boxed chicken stock was poured over already boiled clams and then cooked some more. Maybe threw some sage in there to throw the eater off. The only redeeming quality were the beans. They were cooked perfectly and absorbed all the flavors of the Guanciale and Clam juices very nicely.  I liked making a little wrap of Guanciale a bean and a clam. When all nestled together, it made the dish worth while, left to their own devices: boring.

Potato Leek Gratin.  My favorite dish.

But you really can’t screw up a Gratin unless you really burn everything and even toast. Its potatoes baked with olive oil (sometimes butter) gruyere cheese and breadcrumbs, how is that not good? AND with Leeks? Delicious! But also the least seasonal and local of the bunch. Ok, maybe the potatoes were local. ¬†Keyword: WERE, ¬†from last season. ¬†Nevertheless, a potato bake with heavy cream and cheese should never be a seasonally offered (advertised) plate in the summer, even if I am wearing my cable knit sweater at night here in the PNW. It was fantastic though, gruyere very creamy and gooey, breadcrumbs fried baked in the plate’s natural oils and buttery firm yet tender potatoes. NOT atkins friendly by any means.

The highlight of  the night was the 3 cheese plate. It came adorned with julienned dates with walnuts and a tiny tub of (i hope) local honey.

PAIR

Le Bleu des Basques- A blue veined cows Basque cheese wedge.  It was pretty creamy, bluey, more sweet than spice. Firm and not crumbly. Cream indeed. Paired greatly when dipped with honey and crunched in a walnut.

Caprifeuille- This was a delightful almondy french goat chevre. Pretty firm, a lot of goat chevres crumble and seem too chalky to me, the firmness indicated to me good quality cheesemaking, with attention to moisture details. The cheese also didn’t have that gamey “barty” waft to it most goat cheese have, which also is a check plus for artisanship. I read in Edible Seattle that the gamey, they call “Barty”, aroma is actually¬†pheromones¬†produced by does in the presence of billy goats, a good¬†cheese maker¬†knows to separate the boys and girls for milking season.

Aragonès- A spanish washed rind cow/sheep milk hybrid. It was sooooo good, pretty firm and slicable witha nutty sweet cream sheepy finish.

Verdict: If you live in this neighborhood, you don’t have much choice for fine dining and as long as you don’t mind the view of the¬†cemetery¬†you got your self a descent dinner spot. I wouldn’t¬†recommend¬†coming to this place more than once if you are coming from cooler foodie friendly quarters of this emerald city. Its good that Wedgewood has a nook for good wines and cheeses (that are mostly¬†French) and a good back-up of creative (so called local) small plates that you yourself can then go home and probably make better at home. In your very own, local kitchen.

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