Saturday, July 5, 2008

Firenze (aka Florence)


OK, back to the core of this blog: food, wine and restaurants! I'll refrain from commenting much on Firenze except to say we had a fabulous three-night stay at Il Bargello B&B (the website does not do it justice). Firenze is a wonderful city we certainly plan to revisit. So, on to the food pictures. I consumed a decent amount of gelato in Firenze. This first shot is not great, but shows me enjoying a cone of pistachio, one of my favorites flavors. We tried gelato from a number of stands and while all of it was pretty good, there were stands clearly superior to others. I judge this first in the texture. Gelato should been more meringue-like than ice cream. I think some readers will take issue with this observation. Consider than gelato has substantially less air churned into it than ice cream. However, gelato, normally made with milk rather than cream or a mixture or milk and cream, has a lower fat content than ice cream despite additional egg. The effect on the tongue is much different. Gelato has more staying power, it melts a little less readily. I find it less rich due to the lower dairy fat, yet more luxurious in it's creamy mouth feel. Confused? The solution: eat some gelato and forget about it! Yum! The second aspect by which to judge gelato got it, the flavor. The more intense the flavor, the better. I'm getting a hankering for some just thinking about it.

We ate dinner the first night at Birreria Centrale, a moderately priced restaurant serving traditional, rustic cuisine. We were given a little extra attention, Il Bargello having made the reservation for us. So we were treated to Prosecco at the start of the meal and a pour of grappa afterwards.

Cured goose breast with truffle oil, shaved pecorino tuscano and lemon on greens. Fantastic.

D's dinner, tortelloni (ricotta and shallot) in a rich hazelnut sauce. Yummy, but not pretty.
Gnocchi with pesto. These were a disappointment: tough and lacking in flavor.

Rustic, but tasty: roasted pork loin stuffed with apple and pear.

Lunches we took on the cheap: sandwiches or pizza. The pizza at a place called Yellow Bar was really good. Yellow Bar is a young, somewhat hip, family friendly place with a wood fired (what else?) pizza oven. When it came to sandwiches, I opted for speck. It's essentially a boneless variety of prosciutto that's been cured with juniper berries. Mmm, so good. It's a shame we can't get speck in the US.

Our second dinner was at Trattoria Anita, another traditional and moderately priced restaurant in a back street behind the Uffizi. It had it's pleasures and disappointments as well. The highlight was ravioli in sage butter, the let down: osso buco, decent flavor, but poor texture. Sorry, no pics for this spot. For our third meal we decided to raise the bar. So, we visited one of the better known spots in town, Cibreo. No, not the extremely expensive fine dining room, but their trattoria, a different room, entrance, menu etc., delivering food out of the same kitchen. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong about that). The food was outstanding. I wish I had taken more pictures. It was not presentation perfect, but it was spot-on taste-wise. D started with a tomato timbale (presented like a vegetable flan, but made with gelatin, not custard). Fabulous flavor and texture. She also had a pureed soup of yellow peppers, very yummy. I took the fish soup, a brownish concoction, thickened with bread which was out of this world. I also enjoyed the brandade (aka salt cod...I forget what the Italians call this stuff, maybe it's something like bacalao). It was served cold with toast and pickled beets on the side. We skipped dessert. I had an espresso and we got gelato on the walk back to Il Bargello B&B.

The salt cod.

Dining at Cibreo's trattoria.

Finally, I'll post a few pictures from the Mercato Centrale, Firenze's indoor market. Enjoy.

(Yep, this is tripe.) Beefsteak Fiorentina, anyone?