My series of entries from my time in Umbria concludes with our last dinner in Montefalco at the award-winning Spirito di Vino. If I could go back in time to the day of our visit, I would change only two things:
-I wouldn’t have over-ordered.
-I would have made arrangements to stay in Montefalco instead of driving back late (in pitch black darkness) to Perugia.
Spirito diVino has got to be one of my most favorite dining destinations in Italy. Why? Because they’ve got a ridiculously solid wine list (boasting hyper-local and natural wines), and their simple farm-to-table cuisine is rustic yet luxurious. Aside from the copious amounts of Paolo Bea’s wine, it was one pasta dish that particularly blew me away. This, my friends, was the BEST pasta dish we had in Italy:
Handmade pasta with a light truffle cream sauce, generously covered in fresh white truffle shavings. OMG.
Need I say more? Had the meal ended right then and there, I would have been happy as a clam. My error was in thinking that this needed to be a multi-course affair. Once my (still delicious) pork tenderloin came out with a melange of sweet peppers, I began to fade into the depths of too much food & too much wine sleepiness. My couple of bites of the boy’s eggplant dish was cheesy, comforting goodness which also didn’t help in aiding my looming exhaustion from the day’s wandering.
The most clever ice cream presentation ever.
Paolo Bea has my Sagrantino-loving heart.
Tender, local pork w/ beautiful sweet peppers. Too bad I wasn’t hungry by the time this got to me.
Not your average eggplant parm.
Tiramisu and an espresso? Yes, please.
Luckily, dessert helped put the pep back into my spirit. A clever dessert of sorbets and gelato utilizing the shells & bodies of the fruits, vegetables, and nuts that lend them their flavors was an almost meta dessert experience. Walnut ice cream made with the walnut meat and then shoved back into the shell, a sweet green bell pepper turned into sorbet and scooped back into it’s body…flavors I wouldn’t have dared to consider as a sweet end to a meal. And on top of that, a small tiramisu because I’m just a sucker for those it seems.
Overall, this intimate meal was a memorable one. And while the prices weren’t as economical as other places we visited on this trip, it surely didn’t break the bank and was worth every penny. Be sure to make advanced reservations, and be patient with the service. Our lovely hostess was also the only waitress of the evening, but with that wine list, who can really complain?
Spirito di Vino is located at Piazza Mustafa 2, Montefalco, Umbria, Italy, 06036. www.spiritodivino.net.
Filed under seasonal foods, local eateries, fruits and vegetables, organic, Comfort Food, wine, local food, Vacation, Travel, Italian, Dinner, Travelogue, Pork, Pasta, Italy
Updates on here haven’t been as frequent as I have been wanting them to be. I guess this is what happens when we take on more work stuff and hobbies, right? In any case,here are a few photos from my visit to Assisi. We were driving around the Umbrian countryside and decided to make the pilgrimage to where St. Francis of Assisi is from. Don’t ask me what compelled me to go there– while I was raised Catholic, I’m not the least bit religious. Somehow, I was still drawn to this hill-top town and I am very glad that we took the couple of hours to explore. Note the photo of the specialty food shop in this slideshow. The people who run it are darling and really go in for the hard sell. It worked though. We left with two bottles of Umbrian wine, two jars of white truffle & artichoke paste, one jar of black truffle salsa, and some really terrific 12 year old balsamic vinegar. If you’ve got the time to add Assisi to your sight-seeing, it’s worth the trip. A lovely, quiet town (despite having a sort of religious theme-park-feeling parking structure and gift shop) with stunning views, beautiful churches, and killer sunsets.
If there is one thing that you should know about dining in Italy, it’s that booking is essential. Even for lunch. Sure, you can always wander the streets and pop into a place that looks lively– taking a chance here and there in the name of dining spontaneity, but I for one, prefer to have a loose game plan, utilizing the recommendations of locals and friends. The truth of the matter is, some of your best dining options (budget and fine dining-wise) will require a bit of advanced planning, so don’t be put off if you’re turned away and the restaurant seems empty at the time because more than likely, they’re “e al completo” (fully booked).
For our first lunch in Venice, we decided on a casual lunch at Ristorante San Trovaso in the Dorsoduro neighborhood close to the Academia. Our reservations were confirmed via e-mail about four weeks prior to our arrival, but somehow I had missed their cancellation e-mail one week prior letting me know that they were actually going to be closed for a private event that day. Luckily, I was able to scan my e-mails on my phone and find the message where they recommended going to their sister property, the Taverna San Trovaso, located just around the corner.
Slightly discouraged, we made our way to the Taverna. Since it was early enough, we were seated immediately for lunch at noon. The menu at this location featured many similar dishes as the Ristorante with the addition of pizzas in a livelier setting. Based on the recommendation of a few blogger friends, we opted for the mixed seafood appetizer and two pasta dishes to accompany our locally-produced Prosecco.
This week the boyfriend and I will finally embark upon our trip to Italy . To get into the spirit of things, I decided to make one of my favorite pasta dishes: linguine alla vongole, also known as linguine with clams. This dish is said to have originated in the Campania region of Italy and is a staple in Neopolitan cuisine. It’s also quite popular in Rome and every so often you’ll find a great rendition of it up north in Venice where there is abundant fresh seafood.
This recipe is very easy to make as a weeknight dinner. Instead of using canned clams however, spring for live fresh clams (Manila or Little Neck are what I like to use). If you must supplement more protein, ask your fishmonger if they have high-quality canned or bottled clam meat. Since the sauce for this pasta relies heavily on the seafood’s natural flavors, I like to add an extra bottle of good-quality clam juice to bring out more of that good briny essence. I also chose to use dry vermouth rather than a bottle of white wine because I always have vermouth handy and the herbal notes are a good compliment.
Back in April I started the process of making my own blood orangello (as documented here). This week I finished the process by filtering the vodka mixture and incorporating my homemade blood orange simple syrup into it.
The results were better than I had hoped for; well-rounded, sweet, and with a deep color. This is by far the best orangello/limoncello batch that I have made. The use of twice as many blood oranges in the recipe plus saving the juice of all those oranges to make a flavorful simple syrup really took it up a notch. As a reminder, make sure to use organic oranges and super fine organic cane sugar whenever possible– it really makes a difference. Lastly, this particular recipe leaves some of that warming vodka flavor in there– if you’d prefer it to be a little sweeter, just add an extra 1 cup of prepared simple syrup (total 3 cups) to dilute the alcohol further.
Recipe and Directions.
Filed under Liquor, recipes
I love it when squash blossoms start popping back up at my local farmers’ markets. Typically found in the Los Angeles area in the late spring, these edible flowers are a special and versatile ingredient that are only available for a very short time before they disappear until the next season. You will often find squash blossoms at high-end restaurants ( Osteria Mozza and Jar included), but what many people don’t know is that these beautiful blossoms are very inexpensive. The Hollywood Farmers’ Market has them for about $4.50 a pound and our handful of 10 flowers only cost $1.50. Not too shabby for a popular gourmet ingredient.
There are so many different things you can do with squash blossoms but one of the most popular ways you’ll see them prepared is stuffed, battered, and fried. I am particularly fond of making stuffed squash blossoms as a light appetizer served with prosciutto or as part of a cheese plate. I try to get younger blossoms with a longer stem, but these blossoms with baby zucchini attach work just as well and make for a lovely presentation. Continue reading
You had me at Mexican Mocha. After a couple days of dreadful conference coffee, I needed to get a good caffeine fix while in San Diego. After consulting the trusty Yelp app and weeding through some dumb and some useful reviews, we decided to head over to Cafe Calabria in San Diego’s artsy North Park neighborhood.
This isn’t the cutesy little independent coffee shop that you would expect. Instead think of a sleek, industrial, almost-streamlined cafe with lots of natural light and a full menu of tasty Italian sandwiches and pizzas. They just so happen to also have a full espresso bar– the verdict: delicious. There wasn’t any spice to their version of a Mexican mocha, but the velvety chocolate and cinnamon was quite tasty. Unfortunately, the staff here wasn’t very chatty so I’m not sure what their house espresso was. Just know that it’s good.
Cafe Calabria is located at 3933 30th Street, San Diego, CA.
Braised Short Ribs w/ Vegetable & Farro Risotto
DineLA Restaurant Week is a great time to try some of the city’s best restaurants at a discounted prix fixe price. So when we saw that Scott Conant’s Scarpetta in Beverly Hills would be participating, a friend of mine and I made no hesitation on heading over for a swanky lunch date.
Scarpetta is located within the beautiful Montage Hotel on a delicious stretch of Canon Drive; just across the courtyard from Bouchon and across the street from the world-famous Spago. Our three-course lunch was in the higher-end tier of dineLA’s lunch menus, but was still quite a steal at $28 each. I couldn’t resist ordering a glass of wine from a well-curated list, so I opted for a glass of lambrusco which was beautifully deep, slightly dry, with a touch of barnyard and bubbles. Every aspect of the meal from the bread service to the ambiance was A+ in our books.
The meal began with a lovely bread service featuring a sampling of ciabatta, rosemary focaccia, and prosciutto Stromboli served with really good olive oil, butter, and a sun-dried tomato tapenade. I opted for the braised short rib appetizer (pictured above), while my friend went with their luxurious creamy polenta with wild mushrooms.
We both went with the wild king salmon entree which was beautifully presented over a bed of mushrooms and farro and a butternut squash puree. The fish was so tender and fresh, yet the skin was incredibly crisp.
Wild King Salmon
For dessert, I went with their rich caramel-vanilla budino which was smooth and velvety contrasted with a great crunch and chocolate sable cookies and she went for something lighter; a refreshing coconut panna cotta served with a guava soup and caramelized pineapple.
Whether you visit during the next dineLA Restaurant Week or you head over for a lavish dinner, Scarpetta offers a refined Italian-inspired menu that will sure to please.
Scarpetta is located at 225 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills.