July 30, 2015

Drinking Italy – Summer 2015

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I was thinking of writing such a lovely post about how beautiful the vineyards were in Italy, how driving through the hills of Tuscany there were miles of sunflower fields, like an endless sea of yellow. We learned that all those sunflowers were used to make oil… interesting. I was thinking that I should fill you in on how serious the Italians are about their wine. Black roosters and DOCG. Brunello vs. Chianti and Chianti isn’t Chianti, if it isn’t made in Chianti. The deliciousness of the Sangiovese grapes and that we learned all grapes are white inside, it’s their skins that make the red wines… well, red.

Then I was just thinking about how freaking hot it was. 102 degrees one of our days in Florence and how we were melting in Sienna, even though it was only 98 degrees that day. And then I thought how delicious the ice-cold beers were and that for the first time, I realized that alcohol actually never cools you off, it makes you hotter. Maybe because we were in Italy, the heat wasn’t nearly as offensive as it can be here; or maybe it was because it was generally a dry heat, like Arizona and Vegas instead of the humidity laden muck of summer in New York City. Beer played as important a role in our drinking this trip, as did the wine. I even tried to enjoy Campari. There’s something so sexy about a Negroni. Well it wasn’t happening… too medicinal for me. The disappointment on the handsome Italian bartenders face. In his head I’m sure he was thinking “f*cking Americans!” But the beer, that was a great relief. Here’s what we drank along our travels.

HOTEL L’OROLOGIO, FLORENCE

Our home away from home in Florence, one of our favorite parts of the hotel stay was the bar. Crisp refreshing cocktails and an impressive spread of free bar snacks. The bartender made me my first Aperol Spritz. Delish! Everyone else seemed to be ordering them, too.

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POGGIO AMORELLI, CHIANTI

We had a wonderful afternoon visiting the Poggio Amorelli winery. A family run vineyard, we enjoyed a tour, wine tasting and lunch. They specialize in Chianti and other wines, as well as making their own olive oil and balsamic vinegar. They also made a killer cheesecake which they served for dessert alongside our Vin Santo and biscotti (my favorite). Here I learned that the whole “Italian” ricotta cheesecake thing found commonly in the States, is actually not even Italian. I guess it’s more of an Italian American tradition? Like chicken parmesan and spaghetti & meatballs.

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Other wines we enjoyed and my favorite Italian beer…

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Watch out Italy! The Jacobson’s will be back soon, hopefully not in the middle of summer. Maybe a springtime trip to Milan with a visit to Modena and Bologna next time. Meanwhile, I wonder if they sell this beer here in the US?

July 20, 2015

Eating Italy – Summer 2015 Restaurants

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We just got back from a family vacation in Italy. It was hot. Like heat wave hot. The A/C in Italy is nothing like here in the states. The Italians don’t seem to mind the heat. Maybe we’re spoiled here? It certainly didn’t put a damper on our trip, but ice-cold beer and gelato certainly helped. That, and pit-stops to our hotel to cool down – though still not as cool as what we’re used to.

I came home from our trip and instantly thought I don’t really feel a need to go anywhere else in the world. Am I limiting myself? Missing out on adventures and experiences in other places around the world? I’m sure you’re thinking yes, but I can’t help but start planning another trip to Italy. The food, the wine, the people (so nice), the culture and history is like nothing else. Did I mention the gelato? It’s a food group of its own you know?

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All the accolades aside, the trip was great and the food was fabulous. As usual, I love to share where and what we ate, so here goes…

FLORENCE

Buco Mario – Piazza degli Ottaviani, 16r

Buco Mario is one of the oldest restaurants in the city, founded in 1886. They have an incredible wine list, the service was top-notch and the food was excellent. We did learn after the fact that they are well-known for their bistecca… I had the fish. All was delicious. I especially loved the farmhouse prosciutto with gorgonzola crostini & artichokes shown below.

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Trattoria SostanzaVia del Porcellana, 25r

If you do a little research on where to get the best bistecca Fiorentina, Sostanza is always on the list. It was fantastic! They are known for their bistecca, artichoke pie and butter chicken. We ordered all three shown below. Sostanza is cash only.

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La Cucina del GargaVia S. Zanobi, 33

Off the beaten path or I should say, “nowhere near anything else we ventured to in Florence.” It was worth the schlep across town just for their house marinated anchovies and the warm buffalo mozzarella with eggplant, tomato sauce, basil & black olives. A bit different from the usual Tuscan fair, one of Garga’s oldest dishes is their tagliatelle del “magnifico.” Homemade pasta with orange and lemon zest, mint & Parmesan in a creamy brandy sauce. I know, sounds weird, but boy was it good! No picture, the restaurant was a bit dark for great pics.

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Ristorante PesceRossoPiazza della Repubblica, 11-12r

We had a nice lunch on a very hot afternoon at PesceRosso. Located in one of the busiest areas of the city, each side of the piazza is lined with restaurants vying for your business… it can be a little off-putting. We enjoyed cold crisp salads and steamed mussels.

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Ristorante PaoliVia dei Tavolini, 12r

This is one of my favorite restaurants in Florence. We ate here twice last year and again this trip. All three times I ordered the spaghetti alle vongole. It’s the best! My only disappointment this time around was it wasn’t artichoke season. I had to suffer and eat a shaved zucchini salad with parmesan and truffles.

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Gusta PizzaVia Maggio, 46r

Ranked as the best pizza in Florence (by many). Look at this pizza!

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MONTAIONE, TUSCANY

l’CiampaVia Chiarenti, 43

Our first meal out during our week in Montaione. Beer, antipasto and pizza. Yum!

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La TerrazzaVia L. da Vinci, 73

Have you ever been to a restaurant where they just try too hard? Everything looks so fancy schmancy with artistic schmears of sauces? Wouldn’t it be awful after all that effort if the food wasn’t good? Lucky for La Terrazza the food was yummy, because they certainly put a lot of effort into getting their food onto the plate. Look at my fish! I should also mention that the restaurant is located in a building with a gas station. See the parking lot below, definitely an odd location.

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LUCCA

Trattoria da LeoVia Tegrimi, 1

A nice spot to stop for lunch when you need a rest from riding bikes along the city wall or just shopping around this beautiful historic city. The roast chicken was really delicious. A cold beer helped cool us down, too. Cash only.

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