Category Archives: Eating

At Delinda, Serious Joys

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Full disclosure.  These are our relatives.

My relatives by marriage, and how lucky I was, am, and will always be. (When Tizi’s cousin Pierpaolo shakes my hand and says, Come va, cugino? How goes it, cousin? I sort of pinch myself. How did this happen?) Continue reading

Da Gustin

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Today, on Thanksgiving Day, we went to Bargni.  

I wouldn’t blame you if you said, “You went where?” It’s not the kind of place, you go back to the States and say, Hey, when we were in Italy we went to Bargni.   

Remote location. A small town on a hill west of Serrungarina. Twice this month on the state highway we’ve driven past the exit for Serrungarina, on our way to Acqualagna, on our way to Fossombrone. This is hilly country between the Adriatic and Gubbio. Along this state road that goes south to Rome, Bargni does not merit a sign. And Bargni, truth be told, is barely a town. More like an abbreviated village. So, that’s where. And I’ll tell you why. Continue reading

Intermittent Feasting

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Fat rats. Research focused on them suggests there may be something to intermittent fasting. So says Monique Tello in Harvard Medical Publishing

Good, I think. Because this morning I feel like a fat rat.

My wife and I are in our fifth and final week in Italy.  Around this time in our stay, a kind of desperation sets in. Can we eat enough before we go home? Yesterday at lunch, after our first course–she had the ravioli, I had the pappardelle in boar ragu–we asked our server about the carbonara.   Continue reading

Probably Not the Beef

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So you’re standing outside a restaurant in Italy. Its PR machine has been humming for months, no, make that years. The restaurant has been featured on Chef’s Table, in Food and Wine, who knows where else.  

You’re standing outside enjoying a glass of their Tuscan wine, actually a third or fourth glass. It’s a small glass, of a light swill, and it’s free! While you wait for the starting gun at 1:00 p.m. you enjoy crostini with lard, crostini with olive oil, slices of house salami, and all the free wine you can drink.  Continue reading

Required Eating

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I remember a distinction professors made on their course reading lists: required reading vs suggested reading.  

Put Gennaro down as required eating.

That’s Da Genarro.

It’s on a hillside high above the Adriatic, on a two lane road called “la panoramica,” through a national park called San Bartolo. I wouldn’t say the restaurant is in a village. It’s not a village so much as a brief deviation. If you don’t deviate, you’ll miss it.  And trust me: you do not want to miss it.   Continue reading

Into the Mix

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One of the delights in eating in Romagna (and I hazard to guess all over Italy) is the “misto.” 

The mix. 

Where I come from, eating fish you usually get one thing. Your appetizer is one thing–a tartar, half a dozen oysters, a bowl of mussels. And your main course is usually one thing–fillet of whitefish, fillets of perch, a chunk of salmon or tuna or swordfish, some crab legs or a lobster tail. Want to taste something besides what’s on your plate? Poach a bite from your wife’s when she’s not looking.   Continue reading

Romagna Food Notes, Part IV

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This post is not exactly Romagna food notes. 

Tizi’s family on her mother’s side is from le Marches, a contiguous region known for white truffles. There are truffles in Romagna, too, any Romagnolo will tell you. We’ve been to eat, for example, in Sant’Agata in Feltria, which, as far as I can tell, is a truffle capital in Romagna. Truffles are on the menu in all restaurants we like around here. But we save ourselves for days like yesterday. Because in le Marches, we have a huge advantage.   Continue reading

Romagna Food Notes, Part III

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“This chicken has barbecue sauce on it,” I say to my wife.

We’re eating take-out for lunch, a few chicken legs, roasted potatoes, some bietole, and grilled zucchini. All this for 20 euro from a place in Santarcangelo. I also picked up a bottle of Sangiovese for 5 euro from a street vendor. This weekend is Festa di San Martino. The whole town is an outdoor market. I love this place. Continue reading

Romagna Food Notes, Part II

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Where I come from, the wine I drink comes from somewhere else. Around here, the wine they drink comes from around here. Vineyards everywhere. Wine production is local, in small batches and large batches, quaffing wine, slurping wine, sipping wine, wines that go with your food just right, wines you want to contemplate and appreciate and gently guzzle. 

Local legend has it that the Sangiovese wine (meaning “blood of Jove”) got its name from some monks in Santarcangelo di Romagna. Tuscans might take issue, referring to first mention of the wine in the 1590 writings of Giovanvettorio Soderini. It’s a quibble. Who cares? I love the idea of monks getting tipsy, and I love the ceramic billboard (shown above, “Sangiovese was born in Santarcangelo”) you’ll see when you walk around Santarcangelo di Romagna. Mostly, I love the pour. 

A word about pronunciation: Sangiovese, san-joe-VAY-zay.   

A few days ago in Santarcangelo we had lunch at Trattoria del Passatore. Our server offered us new Sangiovese, a young wine; not the novello, Italy’s version of the nouveau, this was a wine just a few months older than novello. He said in a few more months the wine would grow up and become the restaurant’s regular table wine–what comes by the glass or in a pitcher or carafe in quarter or half liter quantities–at a ridiculously low price. 

Among other things, among MANY other things, we come to Italy for the wine.

We come to Passatore for the food. 

The pasta, in particular. This day we ordered ravioli con le rosole. Rosole are leaves from very young poppy plants. Inside these delightful little ravioli pillows: ricotta, grated parmigiano, and nutmeg. The sauce consists of a little butter and a gentle saute of the greens. The grated cheese you see, formaggio di fosse, a sheep or cows milk cheese aged in a cave.

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Also on the table, passatelli con crema di porcini e tartufo nero (passatelli with porcini mushroom cream sauce with black truffle).  Like cappelletti, passatelli are served dry (asciutti) and in broth.  Delicious either way.

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So much variety. We swing both ways–pasta asciutta and pasta in brodo. You can look forward to a soup meal or two on the October 2020 trip.  

Yesterday we chanced on a new place in Rimini, Osteria Io e Simone. How charming is that? Osteria me and Simon. We’ve walked past this corner many times in the past, noticing the wine bar and crowds of gioventu (young people) outside. As chance would have it, our wine bar of choice is closed and changing ownership, so we needed a new place. Inside, we had a long chat with the fellow in charge of the pour. A glass of local, for 4 euros. Very satisfying. And a restaurant recommendation, right next door. That would be Osteria Io e Simone. 

Staying with the current theme, showing you “primi piatti” (dishes you start with) here are two more pastas we might find on the menu when we travel.  First up, cappellacci di zucca al burro e salvia and second, tagliatelle al ragu di coniglio. 

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Cappellacci–the word means ugly old hats (whereas cappelletti are little hats).  These cappellacci have a sweet squash filling. Served with butter and sage. Delicate and interesting.

With those tagliatelle (pronounced tal–yah-TELL-ay), immediately above, is a rabbit ragu.  Hold on, now. I know Americans tend to recoil from rabbit as food. They’re little and cuddly and cute. You might think: It’s like eating a baby.  Think again.. At this point in our trip, we are on our sixth pasta dish, and the rabbit wins paws down. I’m joking. But I’m not joking. Tagliatelle with rabbit ragu is amazing. I won’t make anyone eat anything they don’t want. But I hope you will consider trying a rabbit roast or a hunters rabbit (cacciatore) or a rabbit ragu. 

Autumn time and the eating is easy.  Shown below, Santarcangelo.  

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Food Notes for My October 2020 Excursion, Romagna, Part I.

Last night we went to Ro e Buni, in Villa Verucchio. (That’s Boo-NEE.) It’s a pasta-meat place. I had cappelletti al ragu. Sort of like tortellini, a folded pasta with a filling, cappelletti are usually served in broth. It’s a delicious soup when there’s a chill in the air. I like cappelletti with ragu at Ro e Buni.  Here they are:

cappelletti in ragu

In addition, we had passatelli in broth (another fantastic soup), swisschard, squaquerone (a soft spreadable cheese), grilled sausage, and piada. And a half liter of red wine. 

For dessert, because we’re taking it easy, we had just a tiny bit of crostata with nutella.

nutella crostata   

Today for lunch we went to Nud e Crud, in Rimini. This place gets it done. It will definitely be on our itinerary. In the interest of sampling as many different kinds of pasta as I can (and I’m doing this for you) I had strozzopreti with salsiccia, pendolini, stridoli, e fossa.  Strozzopreti is the pasta, meaning “choke the priest,” with sausage, pear tomatos, a wild herb I don’t have a name for in English, and a local cheese that matures in a cave. This dish was mind-blowing:

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In addition, we had piada, swisschard, baby artichokes, and a half a liter of red wine. For dessert: Zuppa Inglese and Crema della Nonna. (Idiot! I didn’t take their picture).

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 Note: there will be recurring menu items in these reviews–swisschard and piada, especially.  And red wine. I’m eager for you to try to local Sangiovese.  

I’m thinking about how to organize this food adventure so you can try as many things as possible. Eat widely (without becoming wide). With your permission, I will order for the table, indicating in advance: Tonight is a great pasta place. Or today we’ll have three soups for lunch. Or next up: a seafood meal. Or at this place we’ll concentrate on meats. Always, of course, with an assortment of sides.

My preference is to order for the table–because it saves time and because I can direct you to local specialties. Often servers will have recommendations. Today’s special at Nud e Crud, for example, was the strozzopreti. I would have been a fool to miss it. 

That’s yesterday and today. We’re taking the night off.  It was a heavy lunch. Which raises an important issue.  Is he nuts? How much does he expect us to eat? Only as much as you want.  I’ll be thinking light vs heavy, when we need to take our feet off the accelerator and coast. When we need to coast and take a breather, we will.  

Tomorrow for lunch I expect to have rabbit–at another great place in the area. Also, they usually have ravioli (probably with a stridoli sauce) that are delicate and, well, exquisite.   

 

You’re Not Going to Eat That, Are You?

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I’m smarter than squirrels. But not by much. 

When they raided my bird feeder I took action. The feeder hung from one of our apple trees. It looked like a little cabin with top-to-bottom windows on two sides, through which you could see the seed. It had a spacious wrap-around porch-perch-platform. The slightest agitation, a blue jay coming in for a landing, a pair of nuthatches shoveling through the mix with their pointer beaks, caused a gentle cascade of seed onto the platform. It was an interdisciplinary seed mix (all birds welcome, something for everyone).  A full feeder should have lasted a week or so. 

But, squirrels. 

Continue reading

Pienza, Pinconning, Santa Monica

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“I don’t like the word cheese,” my wife says.

We’re driving home from the grocery store, where we have just bought a couple mozzarella balls to slice and lay over tomato slices at lunch today.

I am surprised and delighted. Forty-two years of marriage and I never knew this about her. I tell her cheese seems like a perfectly good word.  

She shudders just a little.

One syllable, it must have Anglo-Saxon roots, I think, also considering the ch in the word.  “Cheese,” I say out loud, testing it. In Italy, I’ve heard groups of people lined up to have a picture taken together, everyone saying “cheese,” in English.  I remind her of this. “Cheese has caught on in Italy,” I say.   Continue reading

Market, Mercato

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So I had to get something.  Buy something. My wife and I were on the ninth day of a ten-day stay in Italy. She had visited her cousin’s boutique in Pesaro.  And her favorite shoe store and bookstore and her favorite herbalist in Rimini. And a great toy store in Bologna. And her scarf and headband lady in Santarcangelo. She was pretty loaded.

She asked me, “Don’t you need anything?”

“Nope.”

That Thursday morning we were walking through the mercato in Borgo Maggiore, a village ten minutes up the mountain from our apartment in San Marino. It was the end of November. In two days I would be back in the classroom. Continue reading

A Suite, a Swim, a Fish

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Nobody told me there would be a Gulf of Mexico.

It was October 2005. What little I knew about Galveston, Texas, I owed entirely to Glen Campbell. His song of that title, written by Jimmy Webb, was released in February 1969. I was sixteen. I had a girlfriend. The song played on the AM radio in my red VW bug when we bombed around town or drove down to the drive-in theater in Saginaw.  Good song, crappy radio. I never bothered to listen carefully to the lyrics. I hummed along indiscriminately and waited for the sad and yearning turn in GC’s voice when he sang, “Galveston, oh Galveston, I am so afraid of dying…,” missing the references to the sea that came earlier in the song: “I still hear your seawinds blowing,” for example, and “I still hear your seawaves crashing,” for example, and “I still see her standing by the water.”

So when the cab pulled up to the hotel that day, and I found myself at the edge of a wide beach, looking out to sea, I thought, No one told me there would be a Gulf of Mexico. I was not prepared.

My colleague and I were in town for an English teacher conference. We checked into the hotel where registration and the meetings and luncheons would be held, right across the street from the Gulf.  Good location. Crappy rooms. We were on the ground floor. There were bars on the windows and the doors. My room smelled of old mold and a chemical floral deodorizer-disinfectant. Under foot, I was sure the scuzzy carpet would feel damp if I took off my shoes. I didn’t.

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Five hotels up the road was a Hilton. My colleague and I had just published a textbook together and were working on a second book, hoping for years of royalty checks. The week before, we had gone to a conference in Santa Monica, next to another fabled body of water, where we had experienced Hilton comfort.

I called her and told her don’t unpack. Meet me up front.

When we met back in the lobby I said, “Let’s go.”

“It’s not that bad,” she said.

“Yes, it is that bad,” I said. And it seemed clear, the longer we were there, the badder it would get.

We walked up the road. Yes, there were rooms available at the Hilton, also on the ground floor. Yes, they were more money. I thought about those bars, about the bad smell. We made the move.

That was the first of three good decisions I made that weekend.

I was raised with an it’s-not-that-bad ethos. I learned not to make a fuss, not to draw attention, not to be demanding. Maybe it was Midwest. Or maybe Methodist. Or just my parents’ dubious gift to me.  On your birthday, presented with actual gift that you didn’t really like that much, you smiled, nodded your head, and said you liked it. It wasn’t that bad.

In time I learned there was another point of view.

Exposure-therapy

A year or so after we were married, I remember my wife’s reaction to a gift my mother gave her. It was our first Christmas. She opened the package and frowned. She looked at my mother and said, “Do you still have the sales slip?”

On my mother’s face, a quizzical look. I felt an uncomfortable blip in my blood pressure.

“Can I take this back?” my wife said.

Aghast, I asked her later, “How could you do that?”

She shrugged and gave me a quizzical look. “Why would I keep something I don’t like?” she said. “Isn’t that a waste? Wouldn’t that make your mother unhappy?”

“Yes, but…”

But she had made a fuss. But she had made the gift-giver feel bad.

Down in Galveston, at the Bars-on-the-Windows Regency, I said we had decided to make a change and could we cancel? And they said yes. I didn’t want to make them feel bad. Neither did I want to take my shoes off in that terrible room.

The next day in Galveston, in full sun on a glorious afternoon, I was body-surfing waves in the Gulf of Mexico, looking up at my hotel room. That’s right, up. The ground floor rooms we checked into the day before had noisy AC wall units that ran continuously, barely keeping the rooms cool. The sound was deafening. And somehow, I had the idea that Legionnaires Disease and air conditioning units were correlated. I didn’t open my carry-on. Could I do it, twice in one day?

At the front desk I asked if there might not be another room. I didn’t want to appear difficult and demanding, but why should I be unhappy?

“Last week,” I explained, “I stayed in the Santa Monica Hilton, one of the nicest hotels I’ve ever been in.” This one, I added in the most apologetic way I could, was kind of a disappointment.

Evan smiled at me over his glasses. He said he understood.  “Let’s take a look, Mr. Bailey,” he said.

He moved me to the twelfth floor, a suite with a Gulf view.  The AC was silent and sufficient.  I don’t know what the bed sheets’ thread count was. Approaching four digits, I think. Heavenly pillows. What comfort. There was no additional charge.

“You did what?” my colleague said later.

“You just have to ask,” I said.

That was the second good decision I made that weekend.

My default position in most situations is still “it’s not that bad.” A few weeks ago my wife and I were out to dinner with a couple friends. A crowded place. Reservations made a few weeks in advance. We went through the menu, noticing, as we did so, a man sitting at a table outside on the veranda. He was with three women. His shirt was unbuttoned to his waist. Ample belly. Lots of chest hair. Lots of gold.

When our server returned with drinks I asked about the mackerel. On the menu the fish was described as brined, not cooked, with a cucumber relish.

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“It’s in season right now,” the server said. “Light, like ceviche.”

I asked: “Served cold?”

“Warm,” he said. He took orders around the table, heritage tomato salad, carpaccio, eggplant Parmigiana, scallops. When he came back to me, I was still dithering. He said he really liked the mackerel. He was recommending it to everyone.

When our food came, we gestured in the direction of veranda guy with the exposed hairy belly. The server nodded and smiled, said he had noticed him too.

“Would you?” one of our friends said, holding out his phone to the server.  “Take a group photo?”

The server took a few shots of us. In one of them he positioned himself so that the exhibitionist outdoors was in full view. It was a good joke.

The mackerel was nothing like ceviche.  It was an inch and a half thick slab, with a layer of skin on the bottom side of the chunk. Tough as a piece of overdone steak. I poked it, I sawed at it. With a little effort, I found I could tear at it and shred it. But the problem remained.

“So?” my wife said.

“Can you make leather from fish?”

“If you don’t like it, you should send it back. The chef would want to know.”

“It’s not that bad.” I swear I said it. I didn’t send it back.

After a night in the Hilton and a morning of conference meetings down at that other place, my colleague and I had a forgettable conference lunch. Outside it was sunny and warm.  Up in Michigan, I told everyone I saw, the colors were changing. People were going to the cider mill, which seemed charming. It was charming. But I was in Galveston. Outside was the sun, the Gulf.

And I had come unprepared. No swimsuit.

The third decision.

Mid afternoon, after the conference coffee break, I decided to skip the next session. I walked back to the Hilton, went upstairs, and changed into a pair of jeans and t-shirt. Outside I walked across the street to the beach. Lake Michigan size waves were rolling in. I pulled off my shirt and stripped to my skivvies, feeling slightly exhibitionist. I just couldn’t worry about other people.  I waded in for a swim.

That night, when I called my wife and she asked how things were going, I told her, in that weird lingo we use without thinking, that it wasn’t too bad. “Not too bad” is a small step up from “not that bad” and significantly better than just plain bad.

Not too bad? In point of fact, it was actually damn good.

IT'S NOT THAT BAD