A Trip into the Ghetto… A Gourmet One: North Berkeley

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Not having to unbutton the top button of my pants or having my friends roll me to the car after our nine restaurant tour of North Berkeley, was a surprise and minor accomplishment. Although in recent years the population of gourmet restaurants has increased in many areas, the cluster of restaurants in North Berkeley is unique and historic. Known as the Gourmet Ghetto, this neighborhood offers some of the most well-known and respected organic restaurants in California and the nation. From high scale food court to butcher shop, high-end gourmet restaurant to small cupcakery and pizza collective, the Gourmet Ghetto can please any food craving or cultural experience in just a few blocks.

Love At First Bite Cupcakery ~ Ginger Mini

Speaks true to its name. In just one small bite of their Ginger Mini cupcake, I felt I was put into a cartoon world where all of my emotions were drawn around me. Hearts were circling my head as fireworks exploded in my eyes. The love connection between my mini and me began at the moment my teeth glided through its cloudlike frosting, passing through its moist brown cake, ending with a sweet little taste of ginger jelly at the bottom. This mini appeared to be sweet and kind but after my first bite, I realized it had quite the personality. Sophisticated with a small candied piece of ginger on top, you would never know this mini was actually quite loving and had great sense of hospitality. It welcomed my senses with a light spicy zest that tickled my tongue. Its frosting was soothing and refreshing covering my mouth in a cream-like blanket.  It was a blissful two-bite affair that had me dreaming and hoping for my next encounter with that little dessert soon to come.

SOOP ~ Thai Lentil Soup

Located in the Gourmet Ghetto’s Epicurious Garden, SOOP gives each of their customers a steaming cup of fresh ingredients and heartwarming feeling of a home-cooked meal. After receiving my cup of Thai Lentil Soup I peered over the rim in curiosity. The soup had a thick strong scent that reminded me of something, but I couldn’t quite put a finger on it. It was awfully peculiar, before taking a taste I studied the contents of the cup. The soup was a deep rich red color like bricks of an old building. Scratching my head I took a huge inhale of the steam and strong hearty scent of the soup filling my lungs to full capacity. It hit me! I asked Chef Marc with a little bit of apprehension

“Would it be odd if this smelled exactly like Yellow Thai Chicken Curry?”

Through excited eyes and a large smile Chef Marc replied, “Not at all. It contains many of the same ingredients.”

I whispered to myself, “Yesss” my inner cooking ego was floored and did a small victory dance. After further discussion it was the coconut milk and lemon grass that were the culprits of my Yellow Thai Chicken Curry flashbacks. As I dipped my spoon into the brick red concoction and savored the coconut milk and lemon grass I was reminded of the special occasions of ordering Thai food take-out for family dinners. Each swallow of my soup made me envision pouring the spicy neon yellow soup over a large scoop of sticky white rice.

What I assumed to be a basic lentil soup, was not so basic. So many ingredients you would think to be overwhelming, but this soup was a balanced and pleasing surprise.  Each ingredient stood out and could be identified with each slurp of the spoon. Organic red lentils, vinegar, lime juice, lemon grass, coconut milk, onion, chives, and cilantro are only but a few of the ingredients. After scraping at what was left of my soup, I found myself wanting to connect with my inner Oliver Twist and ask Chef Mark, “Please Sir, may I have some more?”

The Cheeseboard ~ Pizza of the Day

Established in 1967, The Cheeseboard is an iconic Gourmet Ghetto restaurant. This restaurant is like no other pizza place I have ever been to, and I have been to a few. The Cheeseboard keeps it simple only offering ONE pizza each day… One could assume that it would be impossible to please a large number of customers with just ONE pizza. Well those people are completely wrong. Even though there was no empty table or chair to be found, I was informed that this was at low occupancy for The Cheeseboard. The whole concept was a bit odd to me, “how can you offer just ONE pizza, and customers be lined up around the block?”. It was in that split moment of ignorance that the steaming hot fresh-out-of-the-oven pizza appeared out of the corner of my eye. From then on it was a series of slow motion events. Grabbing at the crunchy sourdough crust and pulling it into reach, the tip of the triangular slice separated from the others as melted cheese stretched into thin spider web-like strands. I carefully maneuvered the hot slice into my mouth. My eyes became as wide as golf balls, unable to control myself I let out a loud, “Mmmmm”. Luckily I wasn’t the only one in our group. It was as though it was an orchestrated choir of satisfied eaters. The sliver melted perfectly together as I enjoyed the cheesy, sourdough twang, and salty garlicky juices. The toppings of onions and mushrooms were strong filling all of my senses with flavor. The Cheeseboard’s pick of the day was more than just pizza, it was a collective gathering of simple, organic ingredients that together made a juicy, cheesy, flavorful combination held together by a modest sourdough crust.

Pete’s Coffee: Major Dickenson’s Blend & Phoenix Mountain Oolong Tea Alegio Chocolate: High End Premium Chocolate The Local Butcher Shop: Ham Sandwich Poulet: Adobo Chicken with Roasted Butternut Squash Salad and Quinoa & Barley Salad Grégoire: Potato Puffs with Chipotle Aeoli Lush Gelato: Honey Rosemary Gelato Impereal Tea Court: Organic Dim Sum and High Quality Teas Asha Tea House: High Quality Tea House

 

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A Cooking Challenge, Chopped Style

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My mystery ingredients: Ranch, Ground Turkey, Orzo Pasta

With my mystery ingredients in hand I decided to prepare a ground turkey and beef chili topped with a roasted red jalapeño ranch sauce, and a Mexican style quinoa (gluten-free substitute for the orzo pasta). When deciding on the best way to prepare these different ingredients I consulted my Mom’s overnight crock-pot chili, and used recipes from different bloggers and some of my Food Network idols. The end product, to my surprise, came together to cumulate Southwestern and Mexican flavors creating a sweet, savory, and spicy meal.

My initial plan was to make the chili and quinoa for myself. In my mind, this was brilliant. If anything were to go wrong I would be minimizing any major culinary embarrassment. I also assumed it would be a great way to connect to my food. Sitting alone at my kitchen table, just my food and I, writing vibrant and sensational descriptions that were sure to awe any future reading audience. Playing it safe never hurt anyone, and in my mind might save an upset tummy or two.

As an impatient soul, the 6-8 hour crock-pot process leaves much room for: anxiety, second thoughts, fear, excitement, hope, prayer…ect. It was at hour four that I put on my big girl cooking pants and texted my boyfriend, “Dinner at my place @ 7”. As I watched the sending bar inch closer and closer to send I felt accomplished and satisfied. I turned back to my cooking, adding the remaining ingredients with a bit more sass and gusto.

I danced around my small apartment decorating the kitchen table with small colorful flowers and two little candles. I uncovered the steaming chili and added much needed salt to my bubbling concoction. I was not blown away by my last minute taste tests and a pinch of worry started to cloud my sunny preparations. As soon as I received the, “on my way” text, my nervousness hit full force. I started to sweat in my footie pajamas, plucking the cilantro leaves off their stems like a worried schoolgirl ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ manner.

Europe’s Final Countdown was playing in my unconscious as I plated my very first home cooked meal for my boyfriend. As I spooned the chili into the bowl, the steam filled my nose with an incredible aroma of spices, onions, garlic, and tomatoes.  I plopped a generous dollop of my experimental red pepper ranch sauce in each bowl of chili. The fluffy cool sauce began to dissolve into the chili, reminding me of marshmallows melting into a fresh cup of hot cocoa. I sprinkled a few leaves of cilantro for garnish and plated the Mexican quinoa to the side. I was disappointed with the dismal coloring of the quinoa. The canned tomatoes and corn made for an orange-like mush. My dissatisfaction was abruptly stopped as my boyfriend’s excitement of the meal I had made.

With our plates in front of us, I cautiously took my first bite of chili. As my lips pulled back on the big silver spoon, a rush of triumph traveled through my body. I did it. The creamy and fiery ranch sauce blended with the savory hot chili. I picked up my fork and dug up a scoop of quinoa. It was interestingly sweet from the corn and onions. The salty and spicy chili with the sweet and light quinoa made a great combination and wonderful meal.  I don’t know what was better my feelings of accomplishment or my boyfriend’s enjoyment of the “grand slam chili”. That kind of satisfaction you cannot receive playing it safe by yourself at the kitchen table. I ended the night with a small victory dance and only but a few extra dirty dishes.

24 Hour Crock-Pot Chili

Mamma Carabini

2 pounds coarsely ground beef or turkey

1 cup chopped onion

2 cans(15oz) kidney beans -drained

2 cans (14 1/2oz) chopped tomatoes-  drained

1 green pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic pealed and crushed

2 – 3 tbsp chili powder

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp (or more) ground cumin

salt to taste

Preparation:

In a large skillet, brown beef or turkey or combo with the chopped onion. Put the ground beef, pinions and other ingredients in a 3 1/2 to 5 quart slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 9 – 11 hours.  Serves 8

Roasted Red Pepper Ranch Sauce

http://www.grillgrate.com

 
1 red jalapeno pepper, fire roasted, peeled, seeded and diced

1/2 cup mayonnaise (If you’re from the South, use Dukes)

1/4 cup half and half

1 1/2 Tbsp ranch dressing mix

1 tsp BBQ rub

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Next Stop: Japantown, San Francisco

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The morning drive into the city was less than relaxing. However, the moment we entered the serene neighborhood of Japantown there was a sense of calm that came over me.  The streets were clean and quite, offering a welcoming and eclectic environment. Japantown’s benches were speckled with local men and women enjoying the sunny January weather and observing the curious college students who were roaming around their streets. We seemed to be quite the entertainment on that Thursday afternoon: stuffing our faces with food, cameras around our necks, and journals at the ready. The food is only but a part of why this historical neighborhood is so special.  The concept of community is truly exemplified and cherished. Lead by our local celebrity tour guide, Miss Alice, we quickly learned that this was a very close nit and supportive community.  From restaurants new and old to local gossip and events, the inhabitants of this district seem more like family. This trip was definitely an adventure for the palate. The unfamiliar Japanese flavors in many ways pushed my eating comfort zone. Overall it was a very unique and special trip, not to mention took my eating résumé to a whole new level.

Super Mira Market introduced us to traditional Japanese flavors with Hijiki, Croquette, Daikom Radish, & Soba!

Walking through the doors of the Super Mira Market, you might not assume that in addition to having common Japanese groceries they also serve great tasting food. Mr. Miura, owner of Super Mira Market, creates a very traditional Japanese food market experience. With a cafeteria appeal that has only a few tables, it barley fits our small group of 12 students. As the beautifully plated food was brought to our tables, I realized that it is a humble environment where the food shapes the location. This might have been the most intimidating meal of the day, with pickled diakom radish, Hijiki or Japanese seaweed. Luckily a small fried croquette was placed in the center, which eased a little bit of worry. Like any true adventurer, I courageously picked up my chopsticks and pinched a strand of the dark yellow and orange diakom radish. It was surprisingly sweet at first with cold temperature. However, like any ingredient that you are not a fan of, had a strong pickled flavor that stuck in your mouth and stayed for longer then you would have liked. As my gutsiness increased I grabbed at the dark bundle of Hijiki. The strong flavors of the sea and soy sauce were pleasing, and reminded me of summer and long swims in the cool, salty ocean. The croquette was a fried, crunchy, potato relief. It was covered with a very sweet soy sauce that had a small flavor of ketchup. It was no different then a tater tot or more fondly a large hash brown on the breakfast menu at McDonald’s. This familiar taste caused me to tilt my head in wonder at this Japanese creation.  We finished our meal with one more traditional dish, Soba, which are buckwheat noodles that are soaked in a light salty broth. The soup was fresh and with every slurp, gave my stomach a warm salty wave of content. As the last buckwheat noodles slithered into my mouth, I had a small sense of accomplishment for trying these, at first, daunting Japanese dishes. ~1790 Sutter Street

Benkyodo took us to sweet tooth paradise with their Manju & Mochi!  

These confectionery experts soothed our sweet tooth craving with just one little ball of chewy, gooey, hand-made treats. We overwhelmed this small historical shop, touching our noses to the glass as we picked which carefully crafted and decorated mochi we wanted. Benkyodo does not make it easy, however I chose their Habutai, which is a white mochi with red bean paste. As I sunk my teeth into the white rubbery exterior I came to the smooth and rich red bean paste center.  As I licked the powder sugar off my lips the flavors reminded me of one of my favorite Chinese desserts, dim sum sesame seed balls! A regular meal out for my family, these rich fried balls of sesame and black bean paste are always the highlight of my meal and consequently, my day. Needless to say enjoying this white ball of chewy rice flour and soft red bean paste was not too hard of a task. Benkyodo’s family owned and operated bakery gives their customers a fabulous taste of Japanese sweets with such delicate craftsmanship that should be visited on every trip to Japantown. ~1747 Buchanan Street

DOSA on Fillmore gave us a taste of Indian street food and a home-cooked meal: Masala Dosa & Chutney

From the moment you walk through Dosa’s giant doors, you are immediately greeted by the vibrant colors of their restaurant and welcoming staff. Although unfamiliar to this country’s culture, it wasn’t long before I felt connected and transported straight to the streets of India. As we were seated, I stared at my plate in curiosity and a bit of worry as I anticipated the unfamiliar flavors to come. There were three little bowls of wonder which were filled with: Sambar, a bright green coconut chutney, and a deep red tomato chutney. Sambar is a traditional Indian lentil soup made with 36 ingredients. Dosa puts their own twist on this common dish with a touch of truffle oil. A sense of ease came over me, as I was finally familiar with 1 ingredient in this dish. Like the curious girl I am, I smooshed the crepe like burrito in front of me and a neon yellow stuffing squeezed out the sides. The colors and smells alone were intoxicating and enticing. The deep spicy aroma and truffle undertone pulled me in with each inhale. My moment of inspection and observation was broken by, “grab the dosa with your fingers and dip!” I slowly picked up my Indian burrito and timidly dipped it in Sambar and two chutneys. As I took my first bite, BAM! The strong sting of the spices and sweetness of the chutneys overtook my mouth with a frenzy. I quickly took my spoon and generously topped my dosa with the contents of the three bowls of wonder. With every bite came a new punch of flavor, salty, spicy, sweet, and truffles. I had created a relationship with my dosa. I stared at the last bite of my Indian burrito and said to myself, “where have you been all my life?”. I know it will not belong until I find myself on Fillmore walking through the giant doors for my next fix of Dosa. ~1700 Filmore Street

 

YakiniQ Cafe: Sweet Potato Latte, Onigilly at New People: Onigri, May’s Coffee Shop: Taiyaki Fish Shaped Waffel, Mifune Don: Okonmiyaki, Kiss Seafood: Very good small sushi, Maki, Suzu Noodle House: famous handmade noodles, Nippon-Ya: small gift store that sells Japanese trinkets and candies. 

 

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Madeleine Mayhem

madeleines

Like most kitchen disasters, it all started with a fabulous spontaneous idea and ended in utter disappointment.  I should preface that my newly adopted Gluten-free lifestyle and, in my mind, successful independence in the kitchen gave me a large amount of confidence entering into this project.  At the time, I would have never realized the blow that such a delicate little cookie can have on one’s cooking ego. My great idea to make homemade Gluten-free madeleines has been one of many kitchen “woopsies”, however the only true pluses being that I walked away with my kitchen still standing and stomach only minimally scarred.

There were a few things going against me to begin with:

1. It was my first time baking something gluten-free.

2. I couldn’t find a madeleine cookie mold and used a shallow muffin tin instead. (this was definitely a bad sign from the gluten-free baking gods)

3. I used a stevia sweetener (was still on my healthy high horse when making that decision). Just because it says baking sugar on the bag doesn’t mean it makes things taste good…

3. I have little to no patience.

4. Completely underestimated the cookie… never underestimate the cookie!

It all started with a quick search on Pinterest, where I decided to pick the least complicated recipe to follow.  As I shopped for the unfamiliar ingredients in our local Whole Foods Market, I was doing nothing but visualizing the future success I was going to feel and the boost to my foodie ego after completing this “incredibly brilliant” endeavor.

With every step of the recipe that I followed, there was little doubt in my mind that after 14 minutes of baking in the oven, I would have baked a successful batch of my very own twist on gluten-free madeleines!  The delightful aroma of browned butter mixed with vanilla added to the anticipation of these experimental cookies. However, as I took the first batch out of the oven and released them from their circular molds, my excitement was brought to a complete standstill. The normally airy and sweet cookies dropped out of the muffin tin like rocks. It took one small bite to realize that something had gone terribly wrong. They were heavy, with slightly uncooked centers, and a very coarse texture (I assume from the rice flours I used). There was also a horrible after taste that made the corners of my mouth curl upside down and tongue shiver in disgust. Needless to say I learned a quick and important lesson: that the smell of the dough doesn’t always reflect its taste and gluten-free madeleines are not for the faint hearted.

My first round of curricular failures were placed in the trash and after a few minutes of deliberation I attempted the recipe again.

As the butter was browned once more and giving off a deep nutty smell, the anti-gluten ingredients were mixed and chilled. The madeleine dough was again carefully spooned into their unconventional molds with high hopes of future edible enjoyment. However, all hope was again destroyed, as nothing miraculously changed and the second attempt at my madeleines were thrown into the trash along with my pride.

With the first batch came persistence, the second frustration, and the third pure mayhem and kitchen rage.  Kitchen rage is similar to road rage; it is when a person in the kitchen is on edge and angry using a very un-ladylike vocabulary. Even my rage and complete desperation could not help these sad excuses for a cookie. Ultimately, the “third time’s the charm” mantra did not carry over into my kitchen. After throwing away my last hopes of gluten-free baking, I was disappointed and completely exhausted. I cleaned up the remains of the aftermath of my kitchen disaster, shut my computer pages of Pinterest recipes and YouTube on browning butter, and went to bed.

There will come a day when I attempt Gluten-Free baking once more. But for now, the brown rice and tapioca flours will remain untouched in our kitchen cupboard.

A special thanks to my roommate Rachael, bless her heart, who fearlessly and eagerly tasted each failure of a cookie.

Madeleine Recipe from The Content Owl Blog:

1/3 c or 40 grams brown rice flour

1/3 c or 40 grams white rice flour

1/3 c or 40 grams tapioca starch

1/2 cup white granulated sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 stick salted butter (8Tbsp or 1/2c)

1 tsp vanilla

http://thecontentowl.blogspot.com/2012/10/gluten-free-madelines.html

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Our First Adventure: The Mission District, San Francisco

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7 Different Restaurants and one eye opening, mouth watering tour of a famous San Franciscan neighborhood.

“The Mission” is colorful, bright, and full of culture. Instead of the common nuisance of graffiti that covers the walls of most cities, the walls of this district are covered in vibrant and artistic murals. Because of the Mission’s sunny climate and overflowing culture and history, there was never a moment of boredom walking through the streets of this neighborhood.  Our class walked from one delicious food stop to the next for 3 hours. With every new stop there was a new delicious surprise! Although a large Latin flavor and influence in the Mission, it hosts fabulous and diverse restaurant population offering many different cuisines. From pop-up to eatery, ice cream shop to Jewish deli, this neighborhood never ceased to amaze or please my appetite. I have come to understand that a large part of this neighborhood’s culture is hospitality. It is a place where everyone is welcome: artists, cultures, restaurants, and most importantly foodies like me!

Local Mission Eatery

When deciding on a place to eat, rarely do you assume the restaurant considers their morality to be just as important as the food they plate. The Local Mission Eatery stays true to its name. It has very strong utilitarian values and uses local produce to embrace and showcase the different farmers, businesses, and culture of the neighborhood. On our visit, we enjoyed Chef Chad’s twist on the ever so famous Grilled Cheese sandwich.

As I closed my eyes and sunk my teeth into the sandwich, I immediately heard sounds of little grilled cheese angels singing in my ears. The grilled cheese gave the perfect crunch with every bite. As my teeth grabbed what was rightfully theirs, the gooey, milky center of melted cheese and caramelized onions filled my mouth. Trying to process my overwhelming emotions of happiness and yummy excitement, my first thought was what was making this grilled cheese so wonderful?? The ONIONS! No, no, no it’s the CHEESE! Nope, the BREAD’s aroma, texture, and flavor are what hold the sandwich together! Then the underlying nutty flavor from the almond butter came to mind. It was then that I realized that I wouldn’t be able to put my finger on the true hero of this life changing grilled cheese. I came to the conclusion that it was the accumulation of all the fresh and fabulous local produce that made this crunchy, moist, flavorful happiness in a bite.

Mission Mini’s

Brandon and the Mission Mini’s bakers were sent from cupcake heaven! Their itty-bitty cupcakes are so cute and delectable many of our class couldn’t help but grab a few extra for the road. The cuteness of these little cupcakes was surprisingly out shined by their flavor. I ordered the Cinnamon Horchata.  Horchata is a traditional Hispanic drink that is very sweet, milky, and has a very strong cinnamon taste. The cupcake matched the flavors of this traditional beverage to perfection. The thick creamy flavor of the cream cheese icing was instantly blended and matched flawlessly with the cinnamon flavors of the cake. Upon my first bite, I was instantly transported back to my hometown of San Juan Capistrano at my favorite local Mexican food restaurant and bakery Molino Del Oro.  I closed my eyes once more and let the little cupcake absorb deeper into my palate and memory, I found myself sitting at my favorite table outside of Molino’s doors.  Sitting down biting into a fresh-off-the-griddle, juicy, and extra spicy chorizo breakfast burrito which I always follow with a large gulp of freshly made Cinnamon Horchata. As I finished off my last bites of mini cupcake paradise, it was then that  I said to myself I could die a happy, fulfilled, sweet tooth death.

Roxy’s Café

Chef Manny creates such a unique environment and dining experience in his multi-cultural pop-up restaurant. With very minimal cooking appliances, it is shocking to see what this Chef can create! His passion for food and his restaurant is exciting and inspiring. Chef Manny stretches the traditional boundaries of many dishes and cuisines. He infuses his own Venezuelan culture with the many different cuisines that he has cooked in his career.

We were served Gnocchi alle Bolognese with a Venezuelan twist! Chef Manny substitutes the traditional potato ingredient of the gnocchi with Yucca root. As a seasoned gnocchi eater, I was prepared to find flaws in not only the gnocchi but also the sauce. With one very large (un-ladylike) bite I was struck by a spoonful surprise of savory goodness. Gnocchi with such a deep meat sauce like the Bolognese is true comfort food to me. I have no better way to describe it other than it feels like a hug from the inside out. The yucca dumplings were smooth and buttery. The sauce was a wonderful combination of sweet and salty leaving a light flavor of garlic on the back of my tongue. Just one bite completely warmed my soul, making me want nothing more but to stay and daydream of my many memories of Italy. The Tuscan countryside, drinking a bold red wine, and the strong, intoxicating aroma of my cousin Libera’s cooking in the small mountain town of Rocca Di Mezzo. I left Roxy’s with a happy tummy, warmed heart, and huge smile.

Humphry Slocombe Ice Cream Shop

This is not your typical local ice cream shop. Three words that pop into my mind when trying to describe Humphry Slocombe’s are: funky, fun, and creative. They create a fun, funky environment not only with their store’s décor but more importantly in every scoop. Their fresh flavors and ingredients push the boundaries of your traditional expectations of ice cream (for example their Balsamic Salted Carmel flavor).

I ordered a scoop of Humphry Slocombe’s well-known Secret Breakfast, which is made with bourbon and cornflakes. The ice cream’s consistency was more icy than creamy which I was not expecting.  The strong bourbon flavor completely enveloped my mouth, and the crunch and sweetness of the cornflakes gave fabulous texture and flavor mellowing the taste of bourbon. Secret Breakfast is a perfect interpretation of a college girl’s breakfast: a bowl of cereal with a splash (or sometimes a good pour) of alcohol.

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“La Mia Pranzo Più Memorabile”

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Pinning down my most memorable meal was quite the task. The the first place that instantly came to mind, make my mouth water, and smile from memory was a a summer lunch with at the Avignonese Winery in Moltepulciano, Italy.

The entire trip to Avignonese was a completely intoxicating and blissful experience in its own. From driving through the Tuscan countryside, walking through the gravel courtyard, waiting for our reservation in the exquisite yet rustic main tasting hall overlooking the rolling hills of Tuscany and Umbria, then walking through the peach and golden buildings of the winery that revealed a lovely dining patio.  Avignonese provides an elegant and dreamy setting: eating on the patio next to the grapes with a breath taking view of the Orcia and Chiana valleys.

Although two summers ago, looking at pictures, and digging deep fond memories of food, family, and wine I can’t help but let mind transport back to Tuscany. The warm Tuscan sun, smell of wine, and meat sauce completely fill my mind.  As I grab at the memories of this lunch I have come to realize that sometimes a fabulous meal is not always about the food. The ambiance, location, as well as great company, are what make a meal even more enjoyable and delicious!

The breath taking setting did not completely outshine the wonderful meal prepared by the kitchen.  They perfectly matched a classic Italian feast with Avignonese’s wonderfully made wines, overwhelming your stomach and mind with content.

Antipasto:

Fiore di Zucca Fritti : Lightly fried and crispy zucchini flowers (my family’s favorite antipasto!)

Braesole & Salami

Formaggi Locale : A few local cheeses

Bruschetta : Thinly sliced and sautéed zucchini covered with mozzarella cheese all topping a slice of freshly baked bread. It was lightly baked to a crunchy, savory, fresh, melt-in-your-mouth perfection!

Primo Piatto:

Papparadelle : Which is a wide noodle which was lightly covered by a wild boar sauce and topped with freshly shaved parmigiana cheese.

If you are a pasta lover, papparadelle is a gift from the food gods. When handmade, and it is a split second in heaven wrapped around a fork. This plate was no different. Handmade pasta has a different smell and a buttery eggy light goodness. The sauce was light which complimented the pasta rather than overpowering it.

Secondo Piatto:

Bistecca con insalata di arugula e patate al forno : The steak was medium rare and so tender it literally melted into my mouth. It was fresh and light with the arugula salad.

Dolce:

Torta di Frutti di Bosco:   Mixed berry cake that was topped with powered sugar and lingonberries.

The dessert was fabulously creamy, however not too heavy. It was sweet with a hint of tart and incredibly flavorful and berry delicious! It ended the meal with a summery, fresh, and sweet flavor.

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