Eating Florence – Gelateria Santa Trinita

Restaurant: Gelateria Santa Trinita

Location: Florence, Italy

Date: June 21, 2011

Cuisine: Gelato

Rating: Awesome!

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On our first day in Florence we had walked by this Gelateria with huge lines (not far from Nove IX). And then coincidently I was talking to our wine country guide who was a definitive foodie and a Florentine native and he recommended the very same place as the best in Florence.


So on our second day we had to try it.


I mentally think of gelato as falling in two broad flavor groups. These are the “non fruits” (i.e. chocolates and cream flavors).


Some more of them, and some hybrids like cherries and cream.


Then we have the fruits.


A couple more angles on this stuff.


Yum.


I went for “creamy” this time, with pannacotta and tiramisu type flavors.


Half the group going to town.

This was indeed one of the best Gelato places we ate at on the trip, although there were certainly lots of very good ones. I asked them for a sample of their pink grapefruit too and it was totally spectacular, making me want to get a whole second cup.

As a second opinion though, my wife thought Vivoli, was more to her taste because she loved the “chocolate mousse” fluffy style flavor. In 1986 I spent five days in Florence, and I went to Vivoli at least twice on each of those, as at that age, and not having much gelato it was mind blowing. It was certainly still good, but I thought Santa Trinita was a little better personally.

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Eating Staggia – Pozzo dei Desideri

Restaurant: Pozzo dei Desideri

Location: Bologna, Italy

Date: June 11, 2011

Cuisine: Tuscan

Rating: Good food, good value

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Today we drove through the mountains between Forli in Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany, then down past Florence to Staggia a small town near Siena. As this was a transitional day and we were settling into our new (temporary) home we just popped down into town for a quick local dinner.


This joint is in the center of this one horse town.


It has a big menu of typical Tuscan fare and very reasonable prices.


This being the heart of Chianti we chose a local Chianti Classico. This was probably about an 89 point wine, but it had some decent age on it making it fairly nice.


It was old enough that they decanted it.


In this modern age, the old adage, “don’t order seafood in the country,” no longer applies. This was billed as Zuppe di Mare. There wasn’t a lot of “soup” but it was tasty with a hearty garlic tomato sauce and various and mysterious shellfish.


Torte of Zucchini in a Pecorino sauce.


One of the MOST typical of pasta dishes, Pappardelle Cinghiale (wild boar ragu) with olives. The Cinghiale is the local hairy wild boar of tuscany. Click here for some pictures of this delightful creature.


This is a big wide fresh pasta with pomodoro and pecorino.


Gnocci with pecorino, tomato, and arugula.


The omnipresent insalata misto.


And another Tuscan classic, the block of beef. This is a fillet in balsamic sauce.


Notice how it’s served rare. Really rare. Tuscans don’t believe in cooking their beef. It was tasty though. Leaner and a bit tougher than an American filet, but full of flavor.

Overall the place was very good for just being a casual inexpensive local spot. We did however run an odd service quirk when they brought out a second steak a full hour after everyone else got their food (they had forgotten the order). Unlike in America they didn’t want to pull it from the bill (although it was only about 10 euro) and instead insisted on boxing it up for us.


Then we walked across the street for gelato. The place was humming at 11pm, packed with kids.


The didn’t have a lot of flavors, but they are all artisanal and very good.


Some various gelato cakes too.

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Eating Milano Marittima – Lo Sporting

Restaurant: Lo Sporting

Location: Milano Marittima, Italy

Date: June 9, 2011

Cuisine: Trendy Italian

Rating: Decent food, but overpriced

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One of the cool things about the beach town of Cervia / Milano Marittima is that there are a lot of shops and restaurants on a lovely tree lined promenade stretching through town.


Notice how the old Italian Stone Pines grow right through the shops!


We stopped for lunch at a likely looking place called Lo Sporting.

The menu was huge, but I only photoed the part that was relevant. Really we had wanted pizza, and the place had the world “pizzeria” on the sign, but when we sat down they told us that the pizza oven was only available in the evening!


So it had to be pasta. My young son got this garginelli pomodoro.


Grilled tuna in balsamic sauce. They were surprisingly cold, and very rare. The sauce was tasty but I think it might have been better with warm fish and cold sauce.


Spaghetti pomodoro.

Mixed fish. On the left tuna in balsamic, in the back sepia (cuttlefish) in a vinegary sauce, and in the front right some white fish — possibly sardine fillets — marinated. This was all very tasty.


Lightly breaded shrimp and octopus skewers. I didn’t try it, but it was reportedly excellent.


Mozzarella salad.

Afterward we went across the street for some gelato. I often find in Italy that the gelato is much better than the restaurant desserts.


This is hazelnut and bacio (hazelnut chocolate with liqueur).

Coconut and pineapple.


Some chocolate being spooned in. Some of these places have 3-5 different chocolates to chose from!

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Crafty Little Lunch

Restaurant: Craft

Location: 10100 Constellation Blvd. Century City, Ca. 90067. 310-279-4180

Date: May 26, 2011

Cuisine: Farmer’s Market California

Rating: Nice little power lunch

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I was meeting a friend in Century City at the Annenberg Space for Photography (which I hadn’t even known existed), and we decided to catch lunch at nearby Craft. I’ve eaten dinner a couple times here before and thought it a very good “New California” style restaurant using a sort of large American tapas style. I think they may have ditched this format (at least the lunch menu shows no evidence of it). This seems to happen a lot and really bums me out as I completely and utterly prefer the small-plates style to the appetizer/entree dinosaur.


The menu. We both went for the little $30 “power lunch.” Craft is right in the heart of Century City with all the lawyers and CAA, so it’s obviously a spot for those putting lunch on the expense account.


Bread.


“Wild Mache, pistachio & raisin.” Really great little salad. The greens had a nice peppery quality, complemented nicely by the light dressing and the sweetness of the raisins.


“Rabbit tortellini, pecorino & baby onion.” Very nice little pasta too, in that buttery tortellini school. Inside was some good solid chunks of rabbit meat. The sauce was basically butter, cream, pecorino and onion.


Sea Bream, leeks, fennel & watermelon radish.” The sauce was on the side as my friend preferred.


The leeks, fennel & watermelon radish.


The dessert menu.


Expresso.


“Ricotta cheesecake, poached cherries.” A slightly new format of an old classic.

“Profiteroles, mint chip ice cream & chocolate.” This should have been delicious, but for some reason it was muted. The pastries were really good, like a Beard Papa cookie shell, but the ice cream, while creamy, didn’t taste enough like mint. Not like the powerful mint leaf flavor of say Sweet Rose Creamery. The chocolate too was a bit muted.

Overall, this was a nice little lunch. I’ll have to go back for dinner again, although if they totally abandoned the small plates I’m bummed.

Palisades Yogurt Shoppe

Restaurant: Yogurt Shoppe

Location: 873 Swarthmore Ave, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272. 310-459-0088

Date: Friday May 13, 2011!

Cuisine: Homemade Ice Cream

Rating: Yummy & Popular.

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Recently a new frozen yogurt place opened in the heart of the Pacific Palisades Village. This is a popular and welcome addition to our little community, which has suffered a bit of a drought of unoccupied storefronts since the recent recession began (much of this is due to the apparently asinine landlord on Swathmore who refuses to rent out half the storefronts).


The frontage. You should have seen this 10 minutes before as school let out and the place was swamped with kids.


The have a great little format. You choose a cup, and then fill it up yourself from any combination of the ten soft-serve machines.


Then self load up from the extensive topping bar. Here are various fruit, cool “mango poppers” mochi balls, chocolate chips, snowcaps, bits of various candy bars etc.


Even more toppings. Lots of common candy types (including my favorite, skittles), nuts, sprinkles, and more.


Then an extensive wet topping selection, including hot fudge, caramel, and marshmallow sauce.


My son went simple. With tasty fat-free vanilla (which didn’t taste fat-free), strawberries, bannas, snowcaps, and sprinkles (aka jimmies to use East Coasters).


I jazzed mine up a bit more, with cookies and cream and dulce de leche yogurt, various candles, mochi, and caramel sauce. The mango poppers were cool, little Ikura (salmon roe sushi) look-alike orange balls that exploded mango in the mouth. I also discovered that Skittles when frozen and VERY hard on the teeth. But they’re still my favorite standard packaged candy.

For more high quality Westside dessert, check out Sweet Rose Creamery.

Chili Addiction – The Heartstopper

Restaurant: Chili Addiction

Location: 408 N La Cienega Blvd. (323) 203-1793

Date: May 7, 2011

Cuisine: Comfort Food

Rating: Tasty!

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Last Saturday a good friend of mine had a bunch of people over for a BBQ. He got all his food from Chili Addiction, a comfort food joint over in West Hollywood. This is not a complete review, although the place is good. I just wanted to show my evil creation.


Two HUGE sausages (the dark one is Italian, the light Jalapeno & Cheddar), over a bun, smothered in some kind of spicy meat chili (I don’t know which exact flavor).


Then I added some of their “mellow yellow” homemade mustard, some “lethal injection” Habenero sauce, ad a ton of cheddar cheese. Oh the arteries!


Rolling back a second, the dogs on the grill.


Chili addiction also makes homemade ice cream. It’s not bad, but nowhere near as good as their chili and dogs, or Sweet Rose Creamery (review) for that matter. The mint had the fake green, and wasn’t real mint leaves. It wasn’t bad or anything, but not super either. The vanilla was better, a very tasty french vanilla, probably a 7/10.


This homemade tiramisu baked by another guest on the other hand was a 10/10.


Creamy goodness.

Ford’s Filling Station

Restaurant: Ford’s Filling Station

Location:  9531 Culver Blvd, Culver City. 310-202-1470

Date: April 28, 2011

Cuisine: Gastropub

Rating: Always great for lunch.

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It was a gorgeous day (again) in LA, so I headed out to find another good lunch spot with outside dining. We ended up in Culver City with its rather large selection of good lunch spots and specifically at Ford’s Filling Station, which is run by Benjamin Ford, son of Han Solo. The place has been around awhile but before this he had another place in Beverly Hills which was very good — but I can’t remember the name.


Notice the “pig country” sign. They offer on the menu a 8 person minimum whole pig dinner with a whole roast pig!


Outside, there are two different patios. In general, Culver city has a lot of outside dining which is nice. For some mysterious reason LA restaurants often lack al fresco. This makes no sense given our weather.


The menu.


“Bacon wrapped dates, stuffed with cheese.” Um yum! I love this dish, and I’ve had it at many places (like recently at Upstairs 2). These were as good as any, showing off the sweet and salty.


“Shrimp Curry, jasmine rice, marash pepper and applewood smoked bacon.” Also a really great dish. Very similar to the one I had at Gladstones. The bacon made it even better.


Sliced serrano peppers in has you want to spice it up.

Pulled Pork Panini, melted gouda and spicy pepper relish.” The beans were awesome too, with a nice smoky porcine flavor.


A close up of the sandwich itself. I had expected something like a North Carolina pulled pork sandwich. That’s kinda tangy. This was more the succulent roast pork with cheese. Yum.


The dessert menu.


“Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich, chocolate chip cookie and mint chocolate-chip ice cream.” The ice cream was great, very similar to the mint ice cream I had at Sweet Rose Creamery, tasting as it did of fresh mint leaves. The fudge was good too. The cookie needed more butter, it was a little dry. Not bad, and the overall dessert was still very good, but with a really awesome cookie, it could have been… really awesome.


Inside, the stripped down old-school culver city building provides a nice deconstructed interior. I’ve never been here at night but I bet it’s a good watering hole.

Another good Culver City place is Fraiche, here for review.