Eating Milano Marittima – Palace Hotel Breakfast

Restaurant: Palace Hotel

Location: Cervia / Milano Marittima, Italy

Date: June 9-11, 2011

Cuisine: Italian

Rating: Great hotel breakfast

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The Palace Hotel in Cervia fits into an interesting class of European hotel. It’s a beach resort, and elegant, but hosted in a building from the 1960s or 70s that has been newly restored. This is not the kind of old school Belle Epoque place like say Le Metropole in Beaulieu-sur-Mer. But it is very nice and well run.


Breakfast is outside on the beach/pool patio.

Another view. The Adriatic beach is right behind that hedge.


This breakfast puts the typical one at the Hotel Real Fini to shame, but it follows the same basic format of large cold breakfast buffet and a few hot items. Here are the jams and spreads!


And more of them, plus teas and a few other odds and ends.


Then cereals.

Juices and additives for yogurt or cereal.

Have a few Fruits.

Champagne, more spreads, lox, cheeses.

Close up of the cheeses, mostly local.

Some meats, like salami and prosciutto. Note that they have the same spam-like spreads!


Then the regular breads and self-use toaster.

Now we really get our sugar going with the huge sweet pastry table. A lot of these are local too.


And the other side! This selection changed a little every day. There were all sorts of nut, chocolate, creme, and fruit tarts.


Finally there is the hot station. With omelets or eggs made to order, pancakes, and some various hot sausages. Plus you can order fresh squeezed juices and coffee done any way (cappuccino etc). All of this is included with the room! And this is actually just typical of a good larger Italian hotel too.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Cervia – Locanda dei Salinari

Restaurant: Locanda dei Salinari

Location: Cervia, Italy

Date: June 8, 2011

Cuisine: Adriatic Seafood

Rating: Great seafood

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After three days in the Modena/Parma/Bologna area we relocated west to the Adriactic coastal town of cervia/Milano Maritima. While technically still in Emilia-Romagna this is a beach-side community with a much greater emphasis on seafood.


Our first night we check out this Michelin bib-gourmet restaurant.


The menu.

Starting with a nice white.


Note the cool antique interior.

A sub selection of the wine list.

Great breads are an Italian staple.

Carpegna ham and fresh ricotta.

Scallops with grilled tomatos and spring mushrooms.


Local fish crudo. This was super tasty, basically sashimi with a slightly Italian twist.

Some kind of snapper, local giant shrimp.

Some other crustacean (scampi?), and I think a halibut.


Special toast to go with the crudo.


Insalta misto.

Swordfish skewers, with parmesan.


We moved on to a Masi Amarone. I love Amarone, and Masi is one of my favorite vineyards. This was surprisingly cheap too. “The entry-level 2005 Amarone Classico della Valpolicella Costasera is made in a fairly straightforward, fresh style, with perfumed bright red fruit supported by silky tannins. This harmonious red offers excellent depth and lovely balance. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2015.”


A kind of local pasta with fish.

Passatelli with scampi and asparagus. This is a local style of thick worm-like pasta.


Rissotto with peas and raw red shrimps. There was an interesting red sauce in the center that might have been made from their shells or roe.


Rissotto with pheasant.


A zoom-in so that you can all can revel in the rissotto-ness of it all.


Turbot with ricotta and aubergines on potato cake with truffle sauce.


Frito mixto: fried mixed vegetables and fish. These were really lightly friend and delicious, although there was a lot of bone action.


The dessert menu.

Semifreddo of fig ice cream with orange sauce. This was super yummy too, as I particularly love the cool soft texture of semifreddo.


They have a few grappas and the like.


Overall this was a wonderful transition to the more seafood oriented cuisine of the coast. This was a great place.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Parma – Cocchi Ristorante

Restaurant: Cocchi Ristorante

Location: Parma, Italy

Date: June 6, 2011

Cuisine: Emilia Romagna

Rating: Amazing traditional!

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Today we ventured out to Parma, home of Parmesan and Prosciutto. We met up with a friend of a friend who took us for lunch to this local place for a spectacular traditional lunch.


Not too much to look at from the outside.


Inside we have a number of rooms, decorated in drawings and paintings from 20th century masters.


The opening bread are various baked cracker like things and thick breadsticks. These are light and crunchy.


Lambrusco is the local drink of choice for these occasions. This was described by our host as the “only Lambrusco Frizzante with subtly.” It tastes like sangra with more carbonation and less fruit.


The first course are just some plates of top notch young parmesan and…


Relatively fresh salame. These were both wonderful. The salame was soft, but very very meaty.


Next course is the traditional Parma way of eating crudo. On these sopapilla-like fried dough puffs.


Here is the ham. They had some name for it, perhaps cutello. It’s a kind of prosciutto, available only in Parma — very fresh. Served with a little butter. Eaten by itself the stuff was wonderfully light and tasty.


Shown here on the puff.

A variety of grilled vegetables.


This was a spectacular implementation of a classic local pasta. Homemade, stuffed with riccotta and spinach, and in a simple butter sauce.


It’s then doused with parmesan.

The tender inside.


Tuna with zucchini and balsamic drizzle.

Another traditional regional dish. Veal stuffed with prosciutto, and an egg and parmesan quiche-like filling. The potatoes were very salty but excellent for their type. This is a sort of the high end version of the dish I was often served as an American in Europe: fries and mystery meat.


An apple strudel-like dessert.


And the obligatory expresso.

The have quite the supply of grappa and the like.

This was one of the hands down best traditional local Italian meals I’ve had. Everything felt not only very typical, but the ingredients were top notch, and the food completely on-point.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Eating Modena – Osteria del Pozzo

Restaurant: Osteria del Pozzo

Location: Modena, Italy

Date: June 5, 2011

Cuisine: Emilia Romagna

Rating: Very good casual

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This post kicks off the food portion of my 2011 Europe trip, Eating Italy. We begin our month of gastronomic excess in the heart of Emilia Romagna, Modena — home of both Ferrari and Balsamico di Modena. It’s oddly rainy for June, and exhausted from over 27 hours of air and ground travel we stumbled across the street to this local place.


The have a number of rooms in these cute little tents.


The menu.

A prosecco, slightly sweet.

Caprese of course. Each portion is a whole ball of real buffalo mozzerella! Huge.


Homemade pasta, ham, arugala, cream, parmesan. This was a VERY good pasta by my taste, the in heavy ham & cream style I love (see here or here).


Spagetti and pomodoro.

Bresola, thin sheets of cured beef and parmesan and arugala. Good stuff.


Insalata mixta.

This 15E sangiovese was very drinkable.


Homemade (all the pasta except the spagetti was) with zucchini and shrimp. A nice light pasta.


Potato gnocchi in gorgonzola sauce. These were the kind of amazing gnocchi that are nearly impossible to find in the states, where they are so fluffy they melt in the mouth.


Tortellini in broth. A very traditional dish, little meat pockets in a savory chicken broth.


Classic taggliatelli ragu.Probably mixed pork and beef.


The case of traditional northern Italian desserts. Various cakes and tortes.


The chocolate with hazelnut nougat cake. Very rich.


Cherry torte. It tasted like strawberry rhubarb pie.


A sampler of fresh fruits. The cantaloupe was particularly flavorful and sweet. The cherries were great too.

This place was a perfect choice for the right off the plane choice. It was casual, reasonable, but had very good food. Perfecto.

Click here to see more Eating Italy posts.

Peace in the Middle East? – Mezze

Restaurant: Mezze

Location: 401 N La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048. 310.657.4103

Date: May 31, 2011

Cuisine: Modern Middle Eastern

Rating: Really tasty!

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For a long time in the 2000s Sona was my favorite restaurant in LA, and I was sad when they closed last year. Mezze is a totally new restaurant that opened in the same space. It’s much more casual, a modern middle eastern with a mostly tapas style menu and an emphasis on farmer’s market ingredients. I love middle eastern flavors, so I was excited to see what they’ve done with the concept.

The chef,  Micah Wexler, has a star studded pedigree too, having worked variously in LA at Vincenti, Melisse, Patina and Craft.


All the wines are from my cellar as usual. I had gotten a case of this Cal Pinot in 1997 at the vineyard and I noticed it in the corner of the cellar while picking wines. This was the last bottle — most of the rest probably having been drunk over a decade ago — and it turned out that the extra years really served it well. Having been well cellared its entire life the wine came out of the bottle like a middle aged burgundy, slightly brick in color and deliciously pinot fruity.


The menu. Even the “large” plates aren’t that large. We ordered around three things per person and it was about right.


The old Sona space has been opened up and repainted, lending a lighter more casual style.


“Spring Tabouli, Green Garlic, Fava bean, Pancetta, Almond.” A very nice tabouli, made richer by the addition of big ham chunks. This is from the grain school of taboili, some are a bit stronger on the parsley/mint thing.


“Beet Salad, Chickpea, Sheep’s Milk Yogurt, Haloumi.” Beet salads are a menu staple in recent years, but this one was as good as any with the yogurt serving well as the “fat.”


“Wild Salmon, Purple Onion, Rye Bread.” This dish was made entirely by the fish, which was sashimi grade and top notch.


“Fluke Crudo, Cherry, Green Almond, Tahini.” This dish was just a little bland. The cherries were yummy, but the fish, while impeccably fresh, didn’t have a lot of flavor.


Parker gives this Chateauneuf du Pape a 95. “Bottled at what I suspect is the whim of Paul Feraud, the 1989 and 1990 Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Laurence were tasted side by side with the Cuvee Reservee. Although the Cuvee Laurence is no better than the Cuvee Reservee, they are more evolved, with more complexity from the extended cask aging. Ultimately, I think the Cuvee Reservee will surpass them, since the development of that wine will take place in the bottle, not in wood, but it is more backward and less evolved. The 1989 Cuvee Laurence is slightly sweeter, richer, and more opulent than its younger sibling. However, both wines are enormously constituted, thick, rich, classic, old style Chateauneuf du Papes the likes of which are rarely seen today. Both wines carry 15+% alcohol. They will be worth a special effort to find and purchase.”


We also ordered a series of flatbreads (aka pizza). This one is “Green Cauliflower, Moroccan Olive, Feta, Golden Raison.” The feta/raison thing worked: sweet and salty.


“Flowering squash, syrian cheese, zatar.” This was good too, but more mild.


“Merguez Sausage, Fontina, Tomato Jam, Aleppo Pepper.” I had high hopes for this one, but it just didn’t have enough punch. There was nothing wrong with the flavor, but the sausage was too mild, and the tomato muted.


“Grandma’s Chopped Chicken Livers, Sour Plum Mostarda, Challah.” This tasted exactly as advertised, like homemade chicken livers!


The challah is a perfect bread for it too.


“Soft Shell Crab, Heirloom Cucumber, Gem Avocado, Smoked Egg.” Nice and interesting combo, although it was a small dish and split by 6 people resulted in merely a bite.


“Shawarma, Amba, House Pickles.” Nice little meat, pickle and flatbread sandwich. Although I would have liked the meat to punch out a bit more in the flavor department.


“Poached Egg Shakshouka, Yogurt Emulsion, Sweetbread, Pita.” I liked this dish a lot. It tasted mostly of tomato and yogurt, a bit like “ricotta and gravy.”


“Lamb Shoulder, Green Wheat, Dukkah Spice.” A very nice lamb dish. The meat had that full on lamb flavor. This was not a sweet lamb prep like some middle eastern ones, but more on the salty/meaty side.


“Sea Urchin, Israeli Cous Cous, Lemon, Mint.” Very soft tapioca type texture, with a some sea urchin flavor — very pleasant.


“Veal Manti, Almond Milk, Black Lime.” Manti are a type of dumpling, like Afghan Mantoo (see here). While we each only got a bite this was a very good dish.


“Hashweh Risotto, Lamb, Burnt Onion, Fried Lemon.” Nice. Rich too and gooey.


The desserts.

Parker 94. “The 2007 Laurel, a blend of 65% Garnacha and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, is deep purple-colored with a bouquet of wet stone, Asian spices, black cherry compote, and incense. Dense and sweet on the palate with tons of spice, it is super-concentrated, rich, and smooth-textured. Give this lengthy effort 2-3 years of additional cellaring and drink it from 2013 to 2027.”

This is an amazing wine, deep grape.


“Semolina Pound Cake, black lime, Indian lime, mulberries, hibiscus.” This was my least favorite of the desserts, although there was certainly nothing wrong with it — just a mild sweet cake with fruit.


“Roasted Aprium, honey, basil, pistachio.” Aprium made me think of a Latin noun, but they’re just apricots crossed with plums. In this particular incarnation however, they were wonderful — and the ice cream went perfectly!


“Lebne Cheesecake, rainer and brook cherries, rose.” A wonderful light cheesy fluffy, which went classically with the cherries.


“Strawberry Parfait, sasame, sumac, halvah cream.” This was probably my favorite. The strawberries were really intense and the cream — well exceedingly creamy.


“Rose Malabi, rhubarb, market berries.” Also fantastic, this was basically rosewater (which I love) flavored pannacotta with berries.


We recieved a little parting gift of spicy saseme bright. I totally dug this stuff, and it had a bit of a burn.

Part of the surgery done on the old Sona space is opening up the kitchen.

Overall, I was very impressed by Mezze. Not every dish was spot on, but they varied from good to great and they get serious points for having a big menu full of interesting flavors and a tapas style format that really favors sampling a lot of stuff. The prices are pretty reasonable too considering the quality of the food and how much we pigged out.

For other LA restaurants, click here.

Memorial Day Pig

One of my friends always throws a “hog wild” Memorial Day BBQ.


The beginnings of the spread.


Pulled pork! This stuff was mouth watering good.


Baked beans cooked in molasses.


BBQ. This was a little sweet for my taste, even the hot.


BBQ turkey.


All this needed some wine from my cellar.

The shafer had enough age to be really nice, although I had cork problems. Parker gave it 90, “The Cabernet Sauvignon Stag’s Leap District has jumped in quality as John Shafer‘s son, Doug Shafer, abandoned sterile filters in favor of no fining and only a polishing, coarse filtration at bottling. That, plus less acidification, giving the wines a higher PH, has resulted in a more revealing and beautiful expression of the gorgeous fruit obtained from the Stag’s Leap District vineyards. The 1992 Cabernet Sauvignon Stag’s Leap includes 7% Cabernet Franc and 4% Merlot. It offers a wonderfully pure cassis nose, a velvety texture, plenty of ripeness, and some structure and tannin in the medium to full-bodied finish. It should drink well for 10-15 years. This winery continues to build on their fine reputation, pushing the quality to higher and higher levels. Shafer’s 50-acre estate vineyard, located in the heart of the Stag’s Leap District, is supplemented by an additional 70 acres in Carneros. The winery continues to be innovative, offering a very good Sangiovese called Firebreak that has a small percentage (usually less than 20%) of Cabernet Sauvignon included in the blend for color and bulk.”

The 2001 Beaucastel is wonderful as always, 96 points. “Beaucastel has been on a terrific qualitative roll over the last four vintages, and the 2001 Chateauneuf du Pape (which Francois Perrin feels is similar to the 1990, although I don’t see that as of yet) is a 15,000-case blend of 30% Grenache, 30% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah, 10% Counoise, and the balance split among the other permitted varietals of the appellation. This inky/ruby/purple-colored cuvee offers a classic Beaucastel bouquet of new saddle leather, cigar smoke, roasted herbs, black truffles, underbrush, and blackberry as well as cherry fruit. It is a superb, earthy expression of this Mourvedre-dominated cuvee. Full-bodied and powerful, it will undoubtedly close down over the next several years, not to re-emerge for 7-8 years. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2025.”

And the Brunello also 96, although it needed a few more years. “The 2004 Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Vigna Paganelli emerges from the glass with masses of scorched earth, leather, tar, licorice, menthol and dark fruit. The Riserva shows a touch more inner sweetness, richness and depth in its fruit than the regular bottling, plus a bit more French oak as well. For now, the Riserva is quite reticent and requires air, but with time its awesome richness and power come through in spades. This dark, brooding and authoritative Riserva from Il Poggione is simply gorgeous. Readers who don’t want to pay the premium for the Riserva in 2004 need not worry; I tasted the 2004 regular bottling (twice!) while preparing this article and it is every bit as promising as my review last year suggested. In 2004 the Paganelli vineyard was harvested on the 13th of October, quite late for this estate. Anticipated maturity: 2019-2039.”


Salmon for those who aren’t into pig!


And spicey hot links!


Then the desserts start to come.


Fruit tart, pie, cupcakes for the kiddies.


This yummy red velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting.


And ice cream from Sweet Rose Creamery. Mint, salted carmel, vanilla, caffe luxxe coffee, strawberry etc.

Waterloo & City

Restaurant: Waterloo & City [1, 2]

Location: 12517 Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA 90066  310.391.4222

Date: May 21, 2011

Cuisine: Gastropub

Rating: Really tasty!

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There has been real growth in the gastropub catagory here in LA during the last few years. Part of this is probably the recession which has encouraged somewhat lower key dining, but there’s probably more to it. When I first moved to LA (early 90s) things were dominated by flashy higher end “event” restaurants each with its own blend of novel fusion cuisine. Good examples of this would by Chaya, Matsuhisa, Chinois, Spago, Abiquiu. The next wave after that were the farmer’s market driven joints like Josie or Gjelina. In any case, on to Waterloo & City.


A view of the bar. This is a pretty big place.


The menu.

The drink menu. I didn’t feel like wine, so we tried out some of these.


“Oh Rickey! Russian Standard Vodka, Fresh Raspberries, Lime, Soda.” This tasted like fresh raspberries. It was sweet, but not too sweet. Good.


“Tamarindo Fever. Tequila Blaco, Tamarind, Grand Marnier, Habanero, Lemon, Lime Salt.” I’ve been trying a lot of these “hot drinks” lately. I like them. This was good, sour and hot at the same time. But it was really hot. Not enough to bother me, but enough that I worried about heartburn if I drink say, 2 or 3 of them.


This special cocktail had vanilla Stoli, fresh lemon juice and some other stuff. It tasted like a lemon candy.


Bread.


Waterloo has a lot of charcuterie. This was a small plate on the left, on the right are “Shrimp & Zucchini Blossom Fritters, piri piri hot sauce.” A tempura fried variant on the Italian favorite (in that case usually stuffed with ricotta).


“Yellowtail crudo, shallot & ginger dressing, spring salad.” This was very tasty. Besides the fish there was a bit of burrata and tomato in here too. But the fish was very succulent, and the ginger based dressing delicious. With all this stuff, including the radish, there was a very complex but harmonious flavor/texture thing going on, not unlike a dish at Red Medicine.


“Steamed mussels, red thai curry, lime ginger, ciabatta.” A very nice adaption of the french classic.


“Hand-cut pasta, English Peas, Italian Sausage, Parmesan.” Even though it was two nights in a row I couldn’t resist this dish, as it is close to one of my favorite pasta types. Yesterday’s version was a little better, but this was very nice. The sausage was flavorful and after chopping it up a bit so some could get in each bit made an excellent foil to the buttery sauce.


“Wild mushroom pizza, smoked mozzerella, truffle oil.” If I didn’t know better I’d have said that this was a bacon and mushroom pizza! It was really good. First of all, the crust was thin and chewy, but not over burned. The cheese was gooey, and the smoked mushrooms really really meaty. Good stuff, I should have tried their Chicken Tikka Masala Pizza, as they stole my idea!


“Beef Wellington.” Sweet and sour onions on top of a puff pastry, sitting on bacon wrapped asparagus.


Inside is the medium steak (could have been a bit rarer), fois gras, and maybe some more bacon/pancetta. Certainly rich…


“Crispy confit pork shank, spring potato, bacon salad, peas & favas.”


Look at this sucker! Confit (twice cooked in it’s own fat)! Then deep fried! It was just a ball of piggy goodness.


The dessert menu.


Special. Glazed beneits with creme anglais and raspberry jam. These were REALLY sweet, coated in a bit of carmel I think too (you can see it pooling beneath). Very much to my taste, but not for those that don’t have a MASSIVE sweet-tooth.


“Sticky Toffe Pudding, Salted Caramel, Vanilla Ice Cream.” Also excellent, with a not so dissimilar flavor profile. Both were intensely sweet. The ice cream helped cut it.

Overall I was very impressed with Waterloo & City. Things were extremely tasty, and there was a lot of stuff on the menu that I wanted to try but couldn’t. I’ll have to head back. It’s, however, not a light cuisine. Which is perhaps why it suited my taste.

For a second review of W & C, click here.

For another recent gastropub visit, check out Ford’s Filling Station.