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June 2008

2 Sundays...2 Big Dinners...2 Much Wine...


  Officina della Bistecca 
  Originally uploaded by jennifer mcilvaine

Two weeks ago I made my way up to Verona for the annual VinItaly fair to do some wine tasting for the restaurant.  Last year I went for 3 days, and ate 3 crappy to mediocre dinners.  This year, I went just for 1 day, and had 1 excellent dinner.  We went to Trattoria Giovanni Rana , a historic restaurant in the center of Verona, famous for its pasta.  The antipasti were great:  fried baccalá with sweet marinated anchovies, and beef carpaccio with a hop shoot cream.  But, its the pasta that's amazing -we ordered only 2 pastas, but I could have easily skipped the entrees in exchange for more pasts.  Federico had the classic tortellini with butter and sage made with a whole egg pasta.  I had the cappelletti which were made just with egg yolks, and it was the thinnest pasta I have ever seen - it was like yellow cellophane, but still with texture, and held the filling (white asparagus cream).  All this was accompanied by Dal Forno Romano 2001 Valpolicella Superiore, which was more than superior...  and to put the cherry on top, one of the best grappas ever:  Grappa di Dolcetto, distilled in 1976, bottled in 2001.  The grappa of grappas....

Last Sunday I managed to drag Federico up into the forbidden land known as Tuscany.  Joel had been working with the famous butcher Dario Cecchini, and invited us to one of his all-steak luncheons.  More than anything it was an amazing lesson in business and marketing - half the people there were there only to make contacts.   The  unfortunate aspect of the lunch is that Dario is no longer using the Italian Chianina beef that made him so famous - he now uses imported Spanish meat.  In fact, Salvatore was furious when I told him that we were going to eat there, and told me not to go because of the fact that Dario is no longer using the Chianina.  But the lunch was pretty incredible - a giant communal table (remarkably rare in Italy) filled with pinzimonio (raw veggies), bread, pizze, Dario's olive oil, Dario's salt, and Dario's bottomless fiasco's of Chianti.  Then comes the meat  - a tartare-like ball seared on the outside, followed by 3 different kinds of steak:  Costata della Fiorentina, Bistecca Panzanese, and Bistecca alla Fiorentina.   Also, cannellini beans, roasted potatoes and onions, fresh lard (the "butter" of Chianti)...and I think there was some dessert, and amari too... 3 solid hours of eating...  If you ever go to one of these lunches, don't even think about eating dinner afterwards, or lunch the next day.  It took 2 days to digest all of that meat.  The diet before the wedding officially starts now!!!