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Piemonte 2014 and some links to previous years

jessicablock, to chime in with allende, we liked the rooms at Da Ivan. The dinner there is extraordinary and breakfast is good, too.

I would also recommend Locanda Mariella, especially if you're attracted to an entirely different setting in the hills. The restaurant does not have rooms but we were told that there are places in stay in Calestano, which is very close by and the roads are quiet. It's also a good place for lunch. Here's a write-up of the restaurant, in Italian but with photos that would give you an impression of the setting:

http://lagrandeabbuffata.wordpress.co...

Oct 17, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Paris trip report: Café Trama, Le Severo, Hugo Desnoyer, Le Servan, L'Auberge Bressane

Incidentally, I went to one of the two Pâtisserie des Rêves branches in London after coming back from Paris. I don't know how representative it was but most of the pastries were really disappointing and did not taste fresh.

Sep 23, 2014
johannabanana in France

Paris trip report: Café Trama, Le Severo, Hugo Desnoyer, Le Servan, L'Auberge Bressane

I imagine now would be a good time to go to l'Arpège, given the vegetables that are in season. I never went before the vegetable switch but have eaten lunch there six times, twice since this more extensive report:
http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/796842

If you do decide to go, I recommend arriving at 12:30 and keeping your afternoon free!

For la Table d'Aki, you might want to bring your own wine for 35 euro corkage, as the wine list is the restaurant's weak point. It's all fish, the chef having been in charge of cooking fish at l'Ambroisie for a long time. I would probably go for dinner rather than lunch but the cooking is excellent at both meal times. The dinner menu is more varied, made up of a no-choice menu of smaller dishes - but not too many and not too small - whereas the lunch menu is a conventional three course format, with I think two choices for the starters and main courses.

Sep 23, 2014
johannabanana in France

Paris trip report: Café Trama, Le Severo, Hugo Desnoyer, Le Servan, L'Auberge Bressane

Thanks and yes, I'm really impressed by raids patisseries. It's worth paying attention to the recommendations they make - I wouldn't have tried the pain au raisin at Patisserie du Panthéon otherwise.

Sep 23, 2014
johannabanana in France

Paris trip report: Café Trama, Le Severo, Hugo Desnoyer, Le Servan, L'Auberge Bressane

sfcarole, I'm glad you liked the report. I just took a look at the thread you started about your trip. If you find yourself wanting to make a splurge on a Michelin-starred place and if you haven't eaten there before, you might like to go to l'Arpège for lunch when the menu is far less expensive. I have written a few reports on this board describing lunches there. It's a very unique and Parisian experience. Not stuffy. I also highly recommend la Table d'Aki.

Sep 23, 2014
johannabanana in France

Paris trip report: Café Trama, Le Severo, Hugo Desnoyer, Le Servan, L'Auberge Bressane

Reporting back from a trip to Paris with my in-laws and husband in late August (by which time most restaurants had reopened).

We started off with lunch at Café Trama. We were staying nearby in the 6th and it was convenient after getting to the hotel from the Eurostar. This is a great neighbourhood spot, even rather better than that. Not inexpensive but the quality of the ingredients is high. Cèpes poélés were good as a starter. The cod with fine strands of courgette, roasted tomatoes and black trumpet mushrooms was very good. I liked the wine list.

In the afternoon, everyone went their separate ways and my husband and I made a beeline for Jacques Genin. There was a short wait to get a table. I'm glad there are now so many different options to order, especially as the tea room was closed the last time we came in December. We had the Paris Brest and the lemon tart, both as good as ever. I love how they give you some chocolates as well. The lemon tart included basil, the first time I've had it like that and a nice twist. The Paris Brest was a slice off a larger pastry and worked well, maybe even better that way - previously we have had it as a whole pastry. (Also on offer were: cheesecake; chocolate mousse cake; St Honoré; caramel nut tart; millefeuille).

For dinner that night we went to Le Severo, sharing everything: Iberian ham and sautéed girolles to start; côte de boeuf; camembert. The ham, girolles (better than the cèpes at lunch) and camembert (perfectly ripe, great flavor) were impressive for their perfect sourcing. Sadly, they didn't have the chorizo yet post-vacation. I had never eaten the côte de boeuf here before and it was worth the very high price tag. On the menu it was listed as being for two to three people but it happily fed four. It came from Galicia, according to the owner, William Bernet, and was very dry-aged. He also sources his beef from Germany, and even from the U.S. for the onglet cut. Amazing wine list, reasonably priced, the wines expertly served by M. Bernet.

As my brother-in-law only got into Paris late that night and missed the meat feast, we went to Hugo Desnoyer for lunch the next day. I really liked the experience of eating here, the butcher shop smell. We had a table to ourselves and shared a selection of terrines and the foie gras mi-cuit to start, all excellent. Then I had the veal tartare and my husband had the roasted rack of baby lamb (an off-menu item our waitress suggested). M. Desnoyer chopped the veal behind the counter. Very fine pieces of apple were incorporated, which was a brilliant touch. It remains the best raw meat dish I've eaten in my life after a recent trip to the Piemonte, where raw meat is a specialty. My husband's lamb was from a very young animal, less than 3 months old and I think from the Lozère. Delicate and milky in taste, cooked right. One piece of advice for anyone eating here is that on a Saturday a lot of the menu was sold out, often to the customers buying to cook at home, so it might make sense to either arrive at the beginning of the lunch service or to call ahead if you knew what you wanted to eat.

That evening we went to Le Servan. Funnily enough, William Bernet and his colleague at Le Severo were sat at the table next to us with a friend and we said hi. My husband and I were quite full at this point and only felt able to manage the cod out of the mains on offer, despite it being a little boring to order having had cod the day before. This cod also came with courgette, in sliced ribbons, and had an interesting and effective pistachio sauce. All in all, a definite step up from Café Trama's cod. To start, we shared some snacks, including fried boudin noir wontons; mussels; cooked live shrimp. All tasty. Then my husband and I shared the raw mackerel and crab starters. My memory blanks a little here but both were good, especially the marvellous mackerel. I generally liked the light touch with the food a lot and the very pretty dining room. The service was really warm.

On our last day, for breakfast, I went to the Raspail organic market and bought raspberries, mirabelles, raw milk, and white peaches. My husband meanwhile walked across the Jardin du Luxembourg to the Patisserie du Panthéon, which we had read about on raids pâtisseries. We tried the pain au raisin, almond croissant, pain au chocolat and croissant. All were excellent, in particular the pain au raisin, which is quite unusual and delicious. It doesn't actually look that appealing, resembling a round bun, but has a mostly hollow center filled with some kind of cream and raisins. Later in the day we returned here to try their ice cream (coffee and chocolate flavors) and the sablé au citron, also really good. We made the mistake of saving a sablé au chocolat for the train. It softened up in the heat and is clearly best eaten straight away.

For lunch before the train, we went to l'Auberge Bressane, the disappointing meal of the trip. I'd been here once before a few years ago and enjoyed it. This time, I felt the food tasted tired. Everyone ordered the expensive poulet de Bresse with vin jaune sauce and morels as their main. The chicken was in fact quite tough. A far cry from the rendition of this dish I ate at La Balance in the Jura last summer. A sharp piece of plastic was in one of my husband's morels (yuck) and lodged itself in his tooth/gum so we had to go back to the hotel to get it out with floss.

We also went to the wine shop Mi-Figue, Mi-Raisin to check out their wine selection. They had many desirable empty bottles on their shelves, chalked with prices. However, when we asked, nearly all of them were sold out. It seemed strange to keep them on display, priced, if they weren't available. On our first night, we had a late drink at Café de la Nouvelle Mairie. The wines available by the glass here are wonderful and well-priced. It's a fun place.

Sep 20, 2014
johannabanana in France

Trip report: Milan; Piemonte; Emilia Romagna

Thanks Jen. Barbara's "grater" was a meat grinder that she somehow used for the cheese. She showed the machine to us but I didn't fully understand how it worked.

Sep 19, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Trip report: Milan; Piemonte; Emilia Romagna

allende, Mr Banana and I would love to have dinner with your wife and you if we return to the Piemonte on vacation next year. Thank you for inviting us.

You are so right that it is worth the effort to seek out these wonderful places. When eating at them, we thought of you!

Sep 19, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Trip report: Milan; Piemonte; Emilia Romagna

Thank you both!

Sep 19, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Trip report: Milan; Piemonte; Emilia Romagna

We proceeded to Emila-Romagna (via a night in Milan, after a long wait in the Piemonte for a replacement rental car) and had two extraordinary dinners at Da Ivan. Ivan and Barbara are delightful hosts, really kind – and talented – people. There is such perfectionism here in the cooking and in the preparing of the cured meats, so much flavor throughout. The prices for the food are also extremely low for the quality of what you are getting. I recommend asking Ivan how you should compose your dinner.

For our first dinner, we started with the assaggi and drank a bottle of 1990 Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo. Tosone fritto con pancetta (fried Parmigiano Reggiano-pancetta blobs) were awesome. The fried polenta, cut into thin slices, and served with lardo spread, was even more decadent. Giardiniera was a perfect accompaniment to the wonderful hams: culatello, procuitto, and coppa. These, however, were one-upped by a ham from a black pig that Ivan brought out and sliced by hand with a knife in the dining room. He generously offered each table a little plate of this. After tasting it, one man walked over to the ham and circled it, sniffing, like a dog. A woman at another table ordered two big plates of the black pig ham, despite having already eaten dessert. She ate it licking her fingers. It was like a drug, this ham.

The pastas were just killer. The tortelli intrecciati were filled with herbs, ricotta and egg, had a hint of nutmeg, and were expertly sauced with butter and thickly crumbled Parmigiano Reggiano. These tortelli were the best stuffed pastas of the trip and of our lives, perhaps because we prefer a non-meat filling, but also because of the wonderful texture that the braided form gives them (as "intrecciati" designates). Likewise, the lasagna! Very delicate sheets of pasta, an intense meat ragu, Parmigiano Reggiano fonduta (instead of bechamel), a crisp bottom. They thoughtfully gave us each a half-portion of both dishes so that we could share without eating them at the same time.

For the secondi, a full portion of tripe was divided in two. The trip’s best tripe! A more tomato-based preparation, perhaps using pork tripe rather than veal? Far more melting and less chewy than the three other tripe preparations we ate during our trip. (In fact, each restaurant almost seemed to use a different part of the tripe and had its own way of slicing it up.) A half-portion of the pork liver, sautéed in thin slices, and served with little bits of fat, was also movingly good. Perfect zabaglione (made with marsala and a little cognac) to finish.

For our second dinner, black pig ham, a full plate of it this time! Ivan keeps a very good champagne list and we had a bottle of José Dhondt Grande Reserve. The tortelli again, as good as before. A third excellent pasta dish was comprised of flat, frilly-edged green-and-white triangles of pasta, with an anchovy-taleggio sauce and red peppers. We shared eggplant parmigiana for our main course that was so intensely flavored yet delicate. And then the zabaglione again, as well as a semifreddo with cherries and amaretti crumbles.

When driving from Da Ivan to Amerigo dal 1934, we stopped off for a picnic lunch at I Sapori Delle Vacche Rosse on the road (the SS9) between Parma and Modena. Be aware that they close between about 12:30pm and 3:30pm. Luckily, when we were waiting in our car outside, they decided to open up for us at 2:45pm. We got a big hunk of delicious red cow milk Parmigiano Reggiano, aged 36 months, and incredibly inexpensive. A beautiful golden yellow color. It was on a different level from any other Parmigiano Reggiano we’ve eaten, better than the Parmigiano Reggiano served at Aimo e Nadia and Locanda Mariella. The ricotta they sell here is also very good. We had read about the red cows in The Art of Eating.

We had a good dinner at Amerigo dal 1934, which had a wonderfully charming atmosphere. The highlights were the antipasti: balls of carne cruda sandwiched between slices of local black truffle, and showered in truffle shavings; and cornmeal rectangles (a local specialty) made with bean-vegetable stock and draped in lardo, served with tomato sauce and giardiniera.

The next day we took a hike with our hunk of Parmigiano Reggiano and some focaccia and biscotti from the bakery associated with the delightful baking school on the main street in Savigno. The 3-4 hour hike loops runs from Savigno to San Prospero and is a good way to make room for dinner. The bakery is also somewhere to get your breakfast pastries if you’re staying at Amerigo, as those at the café they send you to for breakfast with a coupon are not as good.

The last meal of our trip was at Locanda Mariella for lunch before the plane. I'm so glad we went here. It’s most scenically located, high up in the hills, and was fabulous. At the beginning of our lunch, they brought us homemade salami and olives, and a somewhat wholewheat-y foccaccia, all very good. We ordered a 2001 Cappellano Pie Franco and the owner thoughtfully advised us on what to pair with it food-wise. All the dishes worked wonderfully with the wine and I strongly recommend asking for her advice as she is passionate about her brilliant wine list. Light, neat little gnocchi with a cheese sauce and sliced, local black truffle were great. The most flavorsome and scented black truffle of the trip. Delicate cappelletti were almost upstaged by the deliciousness of their broth. Fassone beef cheek braised in nebbiolo and served with polenta was a clever and soothing combination that played on the cheek and polenta's shared gelatinous texture, outstanding with the wine. Lasagna was more rustic than Da Ivan's, with thicker, green-flecked noodles, quite eggy, with a tomato-less meat sauce, also made from Fassone beef. (As the owner explained, tomatoes were not used much in the mountains as they don’t grow well so high up.) Some Parmigiano Reggiano to finish our wine with. A bavarese with cherries was maybe the best dessert of the trip, a bright yellow disc in a magenta sauce.

A few general observations:
I was suprised by how the Parmigiano Reggiano was always grated on a Microplane grater in the Piemonte. I don't think that Parmigiano Reggiano "microplanes" well, texturally, and appreciated how Barbara at Da Ivan grated it using an electric grater to make the cheese more granular in texture. The pecorino was similarly granular on the carpaccio at Trattoria Mirta in Milan.

People eat late in Milan - some people showed up at Aimo e Nadia at 10pm - but in the Piemonte most people seemed to eat dinner at around 8:30pm.

Particularly in the Piemonte, as well as at Da Ivan and Locanda Mariella, secondi were often around the same price as the primi and well-sized for a meal where you are eating an antipasto, primo, and secondo. I have been to Italy many times before but this had not struck me as much in other Italian regions.

You can post any wine you buy in the Piemonte back from Mail Boxes Etc in Alba, who are professional and seem to pack the wine well. It's better to do so in increments of 12 bottles, in terms of the pricing.

Sep 19, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Trip report: Milan; Piemonte; Emilia Romagna

We then drove to the Piemonte and had our first dinner at La Torre in Cherasco. We ate dinner here three times, so really got to taste a lot of the menu! We had planned to go only twice but went for a lighter dinner at the last minute one night, as the restaurant was convenient for where we were staying. The restaurant was full each night and, as allende says, has a very convivial atmosphere. The service was always friendly.

-Tajarin with salsiccia di Bra ragu were our favorite tajarin of the trip (slighter better on Wednesday night than on Saturday night).

-Plin were good, austerely and interestingly served dry on a napkin. Reminded me of Chinese dumplings.

-Finanziera was outstanding, incorporating green beans. Sauced rather differently on the two occasions we ordered it, one time more liberally and emphatically than the other when it included sweet-and-sour cipollini onions.

-We also liked the vitello tonnato very much, handkerchiefs of perfect veal surrounding the sauce.

-Fried Cherasco snails were good, if rather particular.

-Baked conchiglie, stuffed with ricotta, green beans and pesto; and ravioli verde with tomato sauce were also strong pasta dishes.

-Guinea fowl and roast lamb were both good but not so different from what we get at home, and so not the most exciting for us. When in the Piemonte, we really enjoyed the more unconventional regional dishes.

-The cheese cart here is excellent, as allende has rightly pointed out. We preferred picking the cheeses rather than being given a selection.

-We had some very good Brovia wines: a 2007 Barolo Ca’Mia and a 2007 Dolcetto Solatio.

-The only disappointment was perhaps that there were not more daily specials written on the board. Each time we went, just the antipasto misto was featured.

Lunch at Boccondivino in Bra was good. The courtyard is pleasant to sit in on a sunny day. It felt a bit like a canteen for locals, at least at lunchtime. The raw salsiccia di Bra was striking on its plate with lardo and carne cruda. Rabbit braised in carrot sauce was excellent. The red bean soup was a letdown, though, so heavy and tasting almost canned, even though I know it wasn’t.

We had lunch at Da Bardon twice. The highlight of our Piemonte dining, not unexpectedly!

To start, for our first lunch, we shared the antipasto misto: carne cruda with black truffle on top (THE carne cruda of the trip), insalata russa (not, in fact, my favorite dish in general), a little piece of salt cod in an eggy batter with vegetable sauce and potato (the slices of potato in this dish were great, slightly chewy, so potatoey), and an involtino of red pepper stuffed with tuna.

The plin here were outrageously good, about half the size of La Torre’s. Oddly, they weren't recited with the menu and we had to ask for them. (Tajarin were never mentioned either.) We ordered them with butter-sage sauce, which was divine and expertly applied – almost glossed over them. The proper buttering of pasta is a true skill.

Taglioni con funghi (using extremely fresh-tasting porcini and girolles) were just as good – so juicy and mushroomy.

We then ordered a piece of the roast veal brisket (it looked and tasted like brisket – unsure though if this was the exact cut) which came with carrots and green beans; and the braised veal tripe. The roast seemed to have been slow-cooked and was melting in consistency, a marvel brought out on their cart of meats and carved before us. It was considerably better than the tripe, although the tripe was good.

Then we had the selection of 10 different cheeses. We drank a 2011 Giuseppe Rinaldi Freisa.

For our second lunch, we had the salt cod antipasto again (in a larger size) and an eggplant flan, served with tomato sauce. Light and airy.

The pasta dishes were not quite as good this time – green tagliatelle with black pepper-cheese sauce and walnuts (like a cacio e pepe with walnuts) really grew on me but didn’t stand up to the tagliolini from the lunch before. The meat ravioli were just ok. I didn’t like the meat ragu saucing them as much as La Torre’s on its tajarin.

Pork ribs were from a rugged beast – very dark meat, tasting almost like wild boar. Excellent. Rabbit was a little dry and overcooked, less good than Boccondovino’s. It seemed to have been roasted rather than braised, and had perhaps been under the heat lamp too long.

As we were still drinking a 2004 Guisseppe Rinaldi Brunate-Le Coste (very reasonably priced, as was the Freisa), we had a half portion of the cheeses, thoughtfully selected by our waitress to pair better with the wine. And then for dessert a very good bonet. We actually reserved to return here a third time on the way to Milan, otherwise we might have ordered differently (more repeats from the first lunch). Unfortunately, our rental car broke down on our way to the third lunch! (If flying into Milan and staying in the lower Langhe area in the Piemonte, I would recommend structuring a trip so that you can stop off at Da Bardon en route, remembering that they are closed on Wednesday and Thursday.)

Nonetheless, the total experience of our second lunch, on a Sunday, was perhaps even more charming than the first. The restaurant was busy but not overly so. Less full in fact than it had been on the Friday at lunchtime. It was a beautiful, sunny day and the waiters were so welcoming and nice. One piece of advice for Da Bardon (and elsewhere) might be to sit inside if you mind being sat next to smokers, which is what happened to us the first time we came here. (We moved indoors mid-meal, as all we could taste was smoke with our plin). If you are into thermal baths, a good way to digest your lunch is a soak at the spa in Acqui Therme, quite nearby. We also took allende’s walk both times and noticed a promising-looking place to stay a little way up it, called Casa di Rodolfo.

The one disappointing restaurant for us was Veglio, where we ate twice, for dinner and lunch.

Stuffed peppers were really good (stuffed with cream-soaked bread, and served with an anchovy sauce). Pumpkin soup was simple but tasty. The roasted mixed vegetables (not on the menu – requested as ‘verdure’ after reading reports here) were nice but somewhat dull, identical both times we ordered them, and expensive at 14 euros. Tripe was beautifully cooked but way, way over-salted. There were capers in the broth which may have contributed to the problem. Porcini and potatoes were baked together in the oven. This preparation did not serve the mushrooms well as they went rubbery, and the potatoes lacked flavor.

Also, at dinner we were served a bottle of 2006 Roagna Langhe Rosso that, on reflection, I'm fairly sure was heat-damaged. We did not complain at the time but we did not drink much of it. Oddly enough, they decanted the bottle and left it for about ten minutes before even allowing us to taste the wine. When served, the wine was warm in the glass. At lunch, we saw the very same wine being served in quite a different (more normal) manner to a table of Italians, perhaps a better bottle.

I also found the service to be a little grumpy and, on a Friday evening, only 5 tables were occupied (all indoors) giving the dining room a slightly drab atmosphere, especially as they only partially lit it. The atmosphere was much better on the terrace on a sunny weekday, at lunchtime, when there were more Italian diners as well. I’d still recommend this as a lunch spot as the view is great and perhaps we were unlucky with some of the dishes we ordered.

We greatly enjoyed Il Centro for our last dinner, even if we felt that it was torn between two aesthetics. On the one hand, the antipasti were served on slabs of slate and were slightly fiddly in style. My husband had carpionata of chicken cutlets, stacked with lettuce and ribbons of zucchini. Good, but not my favorite thing (like insalata russa.) I had a salad that consisted of a peeled slab of eggplant, baked and served with goat cheese, salsa verde, a slice of peach and a cherry tomato.

On the other hand, the primi and secondi were wonderfully uncomplicated and flavorsome. These seemed more in keeping with the dining room's old-fashioned feel, its dark wood furniture, and cabinet displaying attractive bottles of grappa. I loved the extremely fine tajarin with slivers of onion and zucchini in a slightly tomatoey sauce, which they split into two larger-than-half portions. Our secondi were the most impressive pair of the entire trip: very thick slices of fried porcini, simply served on a piece of brown paper, were extraordinary, with so much flavor; as was boiled tongue, perfectly cooked, yielding, served with a finely chopped soffrito-like relish incorporating red and yellow peppers. Zuppa Inglese was a fine ending. We drank a reasonably priced 2010 Giuseppe Rinaldi Langhe Nebbiolo and regretted not going to Il Centro twice. We had been put off by the nighttime drive on the autostrada to Priocca but shouldn't have been. On the way out, they showed us the wine cellar and there were some people eating their dinner in it, as if in a mirage.

We also followed henjef85’s recommendation of Café Divin for breakfast in Barolo, where the apricot brioche was indeed very good and the atmosphere friendly. Sadly, we had less good fortune at La Vite Turchese. The food here was disappointing, not fresh-tasting. We found the owners overbearing, rude, and although they clearly knew the fizzing bottle of Giuseppe Rinaldi Barbera we ordered was bad (we overheard them say it was refermenting in Italian) they tried to pass it off on us. We had to insist on being given a different bottle of wine. Giolito in Bra was excellent for cheese. Be aware that they are closed until 4 in the afternoon. We bought a spectacular (and rare) ewe's milk robiola from the friendly owner, and tried two types of Castelmagno and some other things. He said he can arrange a tasting with wine and a tour around his cave and cheese museum.

Sep 19, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Trip report: Milan; Piemonte; Emilia Romagna

I'll post this report in sections. Many thanks for advice given before the trip, particularly to allende, who was most helpful.

Milan
We went to Trattoria Mirta for lunch, straight from the airport. It’s conveniently en route between Linate and the center of Milan and I’d read about it in the Slow Food guide. It was completely full of Italians at lunchtime and had a pleasant, lively atmosphere. To start, we shared tripe stew, very brothy, almost Chinese in character; and a goat cheese ‘crème caramel’, which was savory-sweet and could alternatively have been a good cheese course. It was served with a jelly-like melon mostarda. Then I had beef carpaccio – the meat not fatty but creamy tasting, strewn with bits of celery and crumbles of pecorino. One of the best raw meat dishes of the trip. My husband had bollito (beef tendon) salad, with chickpeas and a moussey-textured green sauce – also well-prepared, homemade-tasting. The portions were generous and inexpensive and the ingredients clearly very good.

For dinner that night and again a week later, we went to Aimo e Nadia. It’s a chic place, with a striking-looking dining room. Décor-wise and formality-wise, it resembles a Milanese version of L’Arpège if that makes any sense. The first time we went here, we had the "menu degustazione". We drank a 2011 Borgo Del Tiglio Friulano. Highlights were:

-A fried porcini and aubergine dish that was dusted with cocoa and also involved blueberries. (It sounds more strange and complicated than it tasted, as no ingredient was manipulated, in a molecular gastronomy sense).

-Raw San Remo shrimp (the world’s best) with a sauce made from the shells.

-"Etruscan soup": 15 types of vegetables and herbs, a few chickpeas, beans and farro grains, olive oil – almost like a soup version of Michel Bras’ famous salad.

-Very plump tortelli of osso bucco, drizzled with saffron, Parmigiano Reggiano and meat sauces.

The cheese course was also good here, as was the chocolate dessert, a kind of pudding in a sour grape sauce, with mulled wine sorbet. The only weak course was a thick slice of smoked duck breast, which was too dense and heavy.

For the second dinner, we ordered à la carte, which I preferred, even if the tasting menu worked well for trying more dishes. We drunk a 2007 Clos Rougeard Brézé. We started with truffled pigeon-and-duck liver mousse, served with very yellow, toasted brioche. The truffle flavor came from a "cream" of white truffle that comes in a tube but is of a high quality (sold by Grazioli). Then we shared risotto for two – this was one of the culinary highlights of our trip. It was explained to us that the rice is cooked without onion, using a light fish stock, and finished not with Parmigiano Reggiano but with Burrata cheese. The rice was topped with raw San Remo shrimp (sliced length-wise), raw tomato and capers. The risotto tasted intensely of summer. For his secondo, my husband had the Tuscan sucking pig, several cuts, all of which were perfectly cooked. Quite a simple preparation in a way, as if to underscore the pork’s great flavor. I had the “fantasy” of fish – red mullet, baby octopus and squid, served on top of a very tasty bean purée. Both very refined and earthy somehow, if rather small portion-wise.

The journey to Aimo e Nadia does take a while in a cab but the restaurant is well worth it.

We also went to Latteria San Marco twice for lunch. This is a charming spot with a rose-themed décor. Some of the vegetables are grown by the owners. The husband is the chef and the wife presides over the dining room. Unusually, you see many diners eating a simple vegetable dish (contorno) as a main course. For our first lunch here, we had spaghettini with fresh tomato and herb sauce and grated ricotta salata; cream of zucchini soup with bulghur wheat; chicory salad with anchovy dressing; roasted pepper with capers; fresh peach slices in lemon syrup for dessert. On our second visit, we had spaghettini with green chili, lemon zest and juice, parsley and olive oil; zucchini purée (too buttery actually); skinned eggplant chunks; porcini cooked in a silver pan (although we were not served this in the pan – unlike other diners!); finally a slice of reine claude tart.

The first lunch was better than the second, although the pasta dishes were both excellent, inspiring in their simplicity and effectiveness. I hope to recreate both. It’s a nice spot. Prices are a little high, but this is central Milan and the ingredients are good.

Sep 18, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Apicius?

Take a look at the Gastromondiale blog, where several recent dinners at Apicius are written up.

Aug 26, 2014
johannabanana in France

Piemonte in November

Thanks, will do!

Aug 25, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte in November

henjef85, did you mean the DiVin café in Barolo for the coffee shop you liked the best? That's the only place I can find online. We're also staying in Barolo and are looking for somewhere to breakfast so will look forward to going there if that's the right one.

Aug 25, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

First Paris trip for major LA food lovers

For your blowout meal, given your not eating meat, I would certainly consider l'Arpège. Go at lunchtime for the 130 euro menu and leave lots of time for your meal. You could look at Alain Passard's twitter photos to get a sense of the food.

I agree about not doing spontaneous lunches -- Paris is like any other city in that regard, maybe worse.

Aug 12, 2014
johannabanana in France

Piemonte 2014, Part II

Glad to hear it -- I, too, am generally averse to experimental cuisine.

Aug 06, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte 2014, Part II

Can't wait to go here, more than once!

Aug 06, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte 2014, Part II

I like the way you convey the sense of the place here, as well as describing the food, which seems more experimental than at Il Centro and La Torre?

Aug 06, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte 2014, Part II

Thanks for the info. Sounds manageable at dinner.

Aug 01, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

More Piemonte Recs

There's a Locanda dell'Arco in Cissone (in addition to the Osteria dell'Arco in Alba that you list). I read about it once in an old issue of The Art of Eating. Is the one in Cissone still meant to be good?

Aug 01, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte 2014, Part II

Great report! I might go to Il Centro for a weekend lunch in September instead of dinner, when they'll hopefully be busier. What time did your dinner end by, for the drive back to Barolo?

Aug 01, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte 2014, Part II

Thanks for letting me know. I'll certainly report back. We're spending 3 nights in Verduno so Dai Bercau might make sense for dinner on one of them.

Jul 30, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte 2014, Part II

allende, I wondered if you had heard of or been to Dai Bercau in Verduno? I can't find anything out about it on this board but it has been recommended to me. I also read about it in this more wine-oriented article from the Art of Eating:
http://www.artofeating.com/tt/pelaver...

Jul 30, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte 2014, Part II

Really enjoyed the reports so far and am greatly looking forward to the rest of the story. You have given a truly personal account of your dinners and the photos are great.

Jul 30, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Trip report: Emilia Romagna & Rome

Thanks you for letting me know. We'll certainly consider going for lunch.

Jul 16, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Trip report: Emilia Romagna & Rome

allende, you reference Villetta in this slightly older report. I wondered if you're still as much of a fan of the osteria?

Jul 16, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte 2014 and some links to previous years

Even more salivating than your last report. Thank you allende! My Italian menu vocabulary is improving, too, by looking up the dishes you've helpfully listed.

Jun 16, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte 2014 and some links to previous years

How grateful I am for this report! Can't wait to try out a number of these places when in Piemonte at the end of the summer. You have made me very hungry.

May 02, 2014
johannabanana in Italy

Piemonte: drinking barolo and barbaresco and September reopenings

Thank you very much for the September information. Your recent dinner at Conchiglia d'Oro sounds amazing. Very useful to know about the rooms there, too.

Mar 30, 2014
johannabanana in Italy