Thursday, February 16, 2012

chicken paprikash

"Waiter, there is too much pepper in my paprikash."

"But I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie."

I didn't even know what paprikash was when I first saw that movie. I know what it is now, but for some reason had never made it until recently when I crashed dinner at Brother #1's place and Pam gave me a big ole plate of it. I was inspired to get that in my belly again ASAP without having to invade a sibling's home. I should really get HER recipe because it was freaking awesome, but I think this one is not bad at all. Winter comfort and egg noodles that's easy enough to make on a weeknight after a long, frustrating, irritating day at work. What? I'm not having a great day, and I need a big bowl of this immediately. Recipe after the jump:


2 pounds of chicken legs, separated into drumsticks and thighs
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large onions, sliced lengthwise
2 tbsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup sour cream

Salt and pepper the chicken pieces. Melt the butter in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Place the chicken pieces in the hot butter skin side down and sear until browned, about 4-5 minutes. Turn and sear the other side an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pan and set on paper towels to drain some of the fat.

Add the sliced onions to the pan and saute until softened and lightly brown, about 8 minutes. Add the paprika to the onions and stir to distribute. Add the chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pan for any brown bits. Add the chicken pieces back in the pan among the bed of onions. Bring to a low simmer, then cover and cook for 25 minutes-1 hr, depending how soft you'd like the meat.

Remove the chicken from the pan to a bowl. Add the sour cream to the pan and stir into the onions and sauce. Return the chicken to the pan to reheat if the sour cream cooled the sauce down. Serve hot over egg noodles or rice.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

revisiting italy: pasta al crudaiola

I don't know why grape tomatoes seem to be in good shape at any time of year that I look for them, but in the dead of winter when any typical tomato is sad and lackluster, you can usually find a little box of nice grape tomatoes.

For my second attempt at recapturing our Italian honeymoon - this Pasta Al Crudaiola is inspired by a lunch we had at Trattoria Trebbi in Bologna. This is actually a Pugliese dish, from Southern Italy, which makes sense because it is so light and summery. Incredibly simple, incredibly fresh, dishes like this are why I love Italian food so much. You can taste every element, nothing overwhelms, and the flavors complement each other so nicely. It is also a super quick meal being as how the word "crudaiola" means raw - nothing is really cooked except the pasta. For my taste, I throw the tomatoes into a saute pan for just a minute before adding the cooked pasta and tossing, just to take the edge off of the rawness, but you could certainly skip that step and just toss the pasta with all raw ingredients.

What made me especially happy about this dish was that it essentially provides a canvas for you to grate excessive amounts of ricotta salata over. I'm rather obsessed with ricotta salata, a pressed and salted dry ricotta. It is softer than most grating cheeses, and the briney flavor more subtle. It goes especially well with vegetables, like one of my favorite pastas with cauliflower and walnuts. Recipe after the jump:


1 lb pasta of your choice (I used fresh linguine, but traditionally this is made with short pasta like penne)
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
6-7 leaves fresh basil, chiffonaded
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated ricotta salata, to taste

Prepare the pasta according to package directions and drain. Combine the tomatoes, garlic, and olives in a large saute pan with a teaspoon of the olive oil and saute for no more than a minute. Add the drained pasta, fresh basil, pine nuts, and additional olive oil to coat and toss well to combine. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve in warm pasta bowls and grate the ricotta salata over individual bowls.

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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

revisiting italy: bollito sandwich

Three months and a crazy trip to China later, and what is still on my mind? Italy. On the coldest days in northern China, with too many hours between meals and seriously low on sleep, I dreamed of Spaghetti Carbonara in Rome and Tortelloni in Bologna. And perhaps most of all, those unbelievable bollito sandwiches at Nerbone in Florence. Our cheapest, quickest meal - and the one we talked about the most - it was the first dish we tried to replicate for ourselves when we got home. While NYC is an excellent source of great pasta, this sandwich doesn't seem to have broken through here, and I don't know of anywhere to get it.

Luckily, there's nothing complicated about it, and we were able to devise a fairly faithful rendition without too much fuss. We tried it with brisket, which is the classic cut for bollito misto. I think the key here is to find a brisket with a really thick fat cap. No one is trying to be healthy when eating a beef sandwich, and all the real flavor and moisture will depend on that fat. Think Texas barbecue brisket fat.

Beyond that, boiling the beef is as straightforward as it gets, so the remainder of the focus needs to be on the sauces. Two sauces were served on the sandwich at Nerbone; a green, parsley-based sauce with a nice garlic kick, and a spicy red sauce. The green sauce was easy to figure out, it's essentially a chimichurri. The red sauce a little more complicated, but safe to assume it's mostly chilis and oil. For my taste, I like a lot of green sauce and just a touch of spicy, so I went light on the red sauce but amped up the garlic on the green sauce. We're also lucky to live right around the corner from an excellent Italian bread bakery, Napoli Bakery, which sells rosette rolls that are very similar to the ones that Nerbone uses. Big plus, buy rolls at Napoli on Friday or Saturday morning and get a loaf of their lard bread. Best kept secret in the neighborhood.

Recipe after the jump:


1 flat-cut brisket, untrimmed (approx. 3 pounds)
2 carrots, halved
2 celery stalks, halved
1 onion, quartered
1 garlic clove, crushed
salsa verde (recipe follows)
salsa rosso (recipe follows)

Bring 2 liters of water to a boil in a pot large enough to hold the brisket. Add brisket, carrots, celery, onion and garlic. Cook for 3 hours or until meat becomes very tender. Remove meat from the pot and let rest. Reserve the cooking liquid for the sandwich. Slice across the grain into thin slices. Pile meat onto a soft rosette roll which has been dipped in the brisket's cooking liquid, and top with the salsas.


1 large bunch flat leaf parsley
3 oz capers
5 fillets anchovies
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Finely chop parsley, capers, garlic and anchovies. Place in a large jar and add lemon juice and oil. Mix well, taste and season with salt and pepper.


1 cup fresh hot Italian peppers (Peperoncino, Anaheim, or Cubanelle will work)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
a bunch fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Finely chop the peppers (keep seeds if you want it spicy), garlic, tomatoes, and basil. Place in a large jar and add olive oil to cover.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

eating italy part 4: modena

Yes, there is more, despite my posting neglect. I saved the best for last, and really made you wait for it. On our last full day in Italy, to cap off our food pilgrimage, we were lucky enough to tour the Emilia-Romagna countryside to see how some of the best and most important foods in the world are produced. Taking the Italian Days Food Experience tour was a big exception to our anti-tour style, and it was so worth an exception. (Note that we're not necessarily against taking formal tours, we just like wandering on our own. We definitely took tours when that was the only way to see something, like the Vatican Scavi or the Colosseum Underground, or this. Tours can be good.)

The IDFE is worth taking a trip to Bologna, even if you didn't intend to. It was so good that I didn't even mind waking up super early in the morning for the pick-up, since I knew that stop one was cheese and I didn't want to miss the cooking. A relatively short drive with our hilarious and wonderful guide Alessandro to Modena brought us to a small Pargmiggiano-Reggiano factory where they only produce a maximum of 16 wheels of P-R a day. This particular factory is a collective, with milk provided by a handful of small dairies in the region.

The eight copper-lined vats make two wheels each. The "casaro" is the cheese chef, and is the only person in the factory who is allowed to cook the cheese. Only he knows exactly when the cooking is done and what the perfect texture should be.

After it's cooked, cut, and the curds have separated from the whey, two other cheese dudes give birth to a giant wheel by scooping it up from the bottom of the deep vat. The vats are much deeper than they look from the outside, they are set into the ground.

The large wheel is lightly shaped and held up by cheesecloth to later be sliced into two smaller wheels. Finally, they are fished out of the whey and set into a plastic mold. The whey, by the way (ha!), is used to feed pigs for Parma ham.

After a few days, the formed wheels take a bath in a brine for about 20 days. Next comes a whole bunch of aging and whatnot that I won't go into here.

The exciting part is after twelve months when the wheels are tested by the Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano inspectors for uniformity and structural soundness. This inspection determines whether it can be considered Parmiggiano-Reggiano D.O.P (protected designation of origin), or just cheese. First class P-R looks like this:

Second class P-R has these horizontal lines etched into it. It is still considered P-R DOP, but cannot be aged as long as first class so will not have as deep a flavor.

Third class has the P-R imprints completely etched out and is called cheese, not P-R. It must be sold fairly young.

Our visit to the factory was topped off with a tasting of the two top classes of P-R so we can see how much of a difference the age of the cheese makes. I love really aged P-R, especially when you get the little salty crystals. We also had our first of many glasses of Lambrusco of the day. It was just after 9AM. It was shaping up to be a long day.

Stop two: Balsamic Vinegar. Real BV, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, also DOP, produced on a family-owned villa in Modena. True balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes, and only in Reggio Emilia and Modena. The thick syrup cooked from the grapes is aged in these barrels for a minimum of twelve months before it can be sent to the consortium for testing to determine if it can earn a DOP status, or must be considered condimento, a much less valuable but still really tasty result. As you can see by the small size of the barrels on the left, you don't get a huge amount of vinegar after twelve months of work, plus you can only take out a fraction of what that barrel holds, because you want to keep the aging process going. We got to taste condimento on some homemade gelato, plus some balsamic jelly on the still-warm ricotta cheese from the P-R factory (ricotta is a by-product of P-R making). But the best of course was that we got to taste a bit of the 40-year aged vinegar, which was truly like nothing I've tasted before. You really learn how drastically different real balsamico is from the stuff that is readily available here in the states. Interestingly, I also learned that real Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale can only be sold in one shape of bottle, and nothing else can use that shape. It is sort of a bulbous bottom with a long neck. If your BV is not in this shape bottle, it is technically not real!

Also, booze count, we knocked back some nocino - walnut liquer - that this family also produces. Apparently that stuff is about 80 proof. Not even 11AM yet.

Finally, speaking of those pigs that eat the whey from the P-R factory, we next went to factory for Prosciutto di Modena.

Alessandro kept warning us that this place was going to smell funky, but I didn't mind it at all. I freaking love that funky smell of curing meat. It was, however, really freaking cold in that factory, but Alessandro doesn't seem to feel it anymore. Here his is showing us an especially ginormous leg.

And, of course, there is that brand designating this prosciutto as DOP, which can only be produced from pigs in the central and northern areas of Italy, especially Parma, San Daniele, and Modena, where this factory was. The process, like the P-R and BV, is a long and labored one - the ham is first cleaned, salted, and left for about two months. During this time, the ham is pressed, gradually and carefully, to avoid breaking the bone, and to drain all blood left in the meat. Next, it is washed several times to remove the salt, and is hung in a dark environment. The surrounding air is important to the final quality of the ham; the best results are obtained in a cold climate. The ham is then left until dry. The amount of time this takes varies, depending on the local climate and size of the ham. When the ham is completely dry, it is hung to air, either at room temperature or in a controlled environment, for up to eighteen months. Of course we topped off this section of the journey tasting some prosciutto. Plus more Lambrusco. Did I mention that we hadn't even gotten to lunch yet?

Because lunch is what really went over the top on this tour. We drove up very windy roads into the hills outside of Bologna, where I could not believe anyone but hunters would go on a regular basis. By the way, we passed a Lamborgini parked at the side of the road on our way up, so perhaps hunters do very well there? At the top of the hill was a little trattoria that looked nothing like a restaurant, but like a small private cottage. No sign, no indication of its existence. And there we were bombarded with food. The name of this place was not clear, but Alessandro said that it was known as the Hunter's Trattoria, because they cooked a lot of game killed by the local hunters right in that area. Sure enough, soon after we were seated a group of five men with rifles came in for lunch.

The meal started off with pasta. Not just pasta, four pastas. Four. I didn't even get pictures of all the pasta because it was overwhelming and amazing and I was already a little drunk (see notes above about all the booze I drank before I even got to this place). There was a tortellini (very bolognese) with porcini mushrooms in a buttery sauce. Then a caramelle stuffed with meat in a red sauce. Then more tortellini in a cream sauce, because when you're already pretty full of course you want cream sauce! Then there was a tortelloni - a much larger version of tortellini - filled with cheese. All of the pasta was awesome and overwhelming, but then came the meats.

And remember, we're in hunter country right now, so the meats were appropriately hunted right around the little trattoria - rabbit and wild boar. Missed the shot of the wild boar, which was stewed until super tender in a tomato base. The rabbit was done as a fricasse with lots of rosemary and wine. Super delicious.

Oh wait, there's more! Don't forget the house-made salami!

And in case you were wondering, there was plenty of wine at this meal, but that didn't stop them from serving up some gelato milkshakes spiked with rum for dessert. Needless to say, we snoozed all the way back to the hotel, then snoozed some more before it was time to venture back out for our last night in Italy. Shocking for us, but we didn't even eat dinner that night. Some snacking, and of course some gelato, but we stayed stuffed for days. Bellissimo!

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

eating italy part 3: bologna

I've been holding out on you. I've been neglecting to gush about the endless cups of gelato I inhaled throughout our Italy adventure. This is partially because I ate so much of it that it is a bit of a sugar blur, but mostly it's just because I didn't take pictures. Gelato was almost always eaten while strolling, when both hands were occupied and the late summer heat was threatening frozen integrity. But I got this shot, triumphantly!

Yes, it's true, that is a gelato sandwich. Upon arrival in Bologna, I promptly found Cremeria Funivia, a beautiful, sleek, and modern gelateria on Piazza Cavour in the heart of the city known for innovative flavors and supremely exacting standards. I had them stuff three flavors of gelato into this "focaccia". This is nothing like the salty, oily focaccia that we know, this was like a soft brioche bun with a bit of sugar on top. That might just look like vanilla, but there's more to the story in there. The first flavor was one of their specials, the San Luca, a white chocolate gelato with "riso soffiato croccante", essentially Rice Krispies. How the crispies managed to still be so crispy even when sitting in the gelato is magical to me. The second flavor was a fior di panna, essentially a pure cream gelato. Perhaps it sounds simple, but when made with exceptionally delicious cream it is one of my favorite flavors, especially when paired with fruity sorbetti or strong chocolates. Finally, my third flavor was another special, Leonardo, a toasted pine nut unlike any other gelato I've ever had. For three essentially white gelatos, the variation of flavor was stunning, and the texture surpassed any of the countless other gelatos I had on the trip. Paired with the soft, slightly sweet bread, this was the mother of all ice cream sandwiches, and far less messy than I anticipated. J-Cat chose two very different gelatos. The first was Amarenata Croccante, which we chose blindly and happily discovered to be a local preserved sour cherry with the same crispy rice. This was paired perfectly with ciccolata e rhum, an amazing balance of liquor flavor in a pure, smooth, deep chocolate. I would return to Bologna just for that gelato.

Emilia-Romagna is known as the food capital of Italy, and though everywhere I've been in Italy is entirely obsessed with great food, there was a true level of mania in Bologna that I hadn't seen elsewhere. My tattoo was a big thing there, as if this mark of a similarly food-obsessed person automatically made me one of their own. Roberto and Agostino, our hosts at our incredible B&B (Antica Residenza D'Azeglio), were so excited to discover how food-focused we were that Agostino actually walked us to the restaurant that he recommended for dinner, insisting on introducing us to Stefano, the owner of the delightful Osteria al 15. This tiny, homey restaurant hidden on a quiet side street is apparently one of the few true osterias left, a small, casual, affordable place with a simple, concise menu that usually changes with the seasons and the days.

Seated in a cozy corner we watched the empty restaurant fill to the brim in the course of our meal. Which was intense. Intense and awesome. We started with a little treat of canellini crostata, so flavorful and comforting on an actually chilly night.

Next up, for our antipasti, we chose a Bolognese classic - crescentine e tighelle. Crescentine are these magical fried bread pillows that you eat with a wide variety of antipasti. The tighelle are dense, almost biscuit-like rounds of bread. The crescentine were of greater interest to me, so much so that I forgot we had pasta and a secondi on the way...

The breads were served with cheeses and meats, including ricotta all’ aceto balsamico caramellato, a slab of fresh ricotta with a sweet mixture of balsamic vinegar, honey, and caramel.

The meat plate (already half depleted when I took the picture) was a classic variety of prosciutto, mortadella, bresaola, sopressata, capicolla, and a delightful radicchio cup filled with a tangy fresh cheese that I never identified. Think cottage cheese if cottage cheese was irresistibly scrumptious.

Next came our primis, and I'll be honest, we were already kind of full at this point. The tighelle and crescentine and all of the meats and cheeses - there was a lot and it was so good that we did not bother to restrain ourselves. But pasta. You know that pasta is my primary reason for being. So I was going to make room and pray that our secondi would be small. Of course, my pasta was insanely rich. I had to get tortelloni in Bologna, and this was filled with creamy cheese, tossed with artichokes and slathered in a delicious cream sauce.

J-Cat also went classic with a tagliatelle al ragu. And actually, he had had that same dish earlier that day at the fantastic Trattoria Trebbi, but I failed to get photos of that. Very sad I didn't document that because he loved it so much he ordered the same thing twice in one day! The tagliatelle at Osteria al 15 was just enough different than the one at Trebbi, though, as every family and restaurant has their variation on such a homestyle dish.

Thankfully, our secondi was relatively small, though rich, and unfortunately I forgot what it is called. It was essentially a bowl of melted cheese, mostly fontina, but there was probably something else mixed it. Laid atop the sea of cheese were slices of prosciutto and a handful of arugula to cut the richness. Had I had any room left for bread it would have been ideal to scoop this up.

So yes, my Bologna post only includes some gelato and one meal, but that's because what would happen the next day would take us out to Modena on an epic food adventure that deserves a post of it's own. Stay tuned for part 4!

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

eating italy part 2: firenze

After some truly exceptional meals in Rome, the question on our minds was: Could we possibly top that in Florence? We certainly intended to try. But before we get to the food, we should really do some more chatting about coffee.

J-Cat and I really love our coffee. It is serious business for us. We are picky about beans, we grind it fresh in our burr grinder every morning, we're all about the french press. But now we were in espresso country, which admittedly we're less knowledgeable about. Would this satisfy? The answer is that since we got home, J-Cat has been talking about espresso makers. So yes, it definitely satisfied. First stop in Florence: Chiarascuro for their Nocciolino, a delicious, lightly sweetened hazlenut-infused espresso drink. I HATE flavored coffee, but this is the exception I would be willing to make on a daily basis if I had the choice. Chiarascuro also features a nice spread of point-and-choose plates like pastas, salads, and antipasti for a light lunch or midday snack.

So back to the food. Steak. Florence is known for steak, specifically their giant T-bone steaks, which they serve quite rare and simply seasoned with just salt and pepper. Our first dinner was at Centro Poveri, a modern little osteria/pizzeria in Santa Maria Novella. I'd heard some solid things about their Bistecca Fiorentina, which was not only tasty, but a very fair price for a giant hunk of steak. It wasn't drop dead fantastic, in fact, we would have a far better steak a couple nights later (I'll get to that), but as a whole meal it more than satisfied. The Bistecca Menu was almost outrageously affordable for three courses plus wine, starting with a great salumi and cheese plate.

Followed by the enormous, well seasoned, but somewhat gristly steak. It was cooked perfectly, but the strip side of the bone was not as tender as it could be. The ribeye side was heavenly. It was served with a little side of sliced, roasted potatoes.

The meal rounded out with a perfect little coffee-flavored budino, which was actually one of the only proper desserts we ate in Italy. This is purely because we ate gelato every single day.

The next day, after climbing all the way up the Duomo, we rewarded ourselves with a visit to my favorite place in Florence, the Mercato Centrale. This is my wonderland of food. Next time I go to Florence I have to stay in an apartment with a kitchen, because the market is chock full of great ingredients. The stunning dried kiwi slices above, or the "polli nostrali" ("our own chickens") below, everything I saw made me itch to cook.

Cases of tripe and lampredotto.

Dozens of different nuts and dried fruits.

The highlight - not only of the market, or even Florence, but possibly of the whole trip - was this:

The bollito sandwich at Nerbone, a food stand at the back of the market where you have to aggressively fight your way onto the line to first pay, then order from the no-nonsense guy with the cleaver chopping up meat that he fishes out of a magical vat of broth. You're not going to successfully beat out the working guys who sidle up to the side of the meat man's counter and surreptitiously grab sandwiches, but if you go on the early side of the lunch rush there are enough lulls to shout out your order. Juicey boiled beef is sliced thin and piled onto a rosette roll, which you must order "bagnato", or bathed, so that he dunks the roll into the vat of meaty broth. Ask for "tutte le salse" and he'll slap on the fresh green chimichurri-like sauce, plus the spicy red pepper sauce. This is a sandwich that you continue to dream about for days and weeks after you eat it. This is the sandwich that we've tried to replicate twice since we've been home. We've actually come pretty close but there is still some untouchable magic about that meat man at Nerbone.

It could have been all downhill from there. I could have eaten the frozen lasagna out of this automat that we found in the Oltrarno.

But there was actually a lot more tastiness to be found, including a cool enoteca in Santa Croce called Baldovino.

Baldovino is a trattoria on one side of the alley and an enoteca on the other. Pretty good pizzas and pastas, I was happy to find this pappardelle with vegetables because as strong as my stomach is, eating meat at every meal for a week doesn't feel fantastic. I loved that the celery, carrot, and onion were sauteed just enough to lose their raw bite, but still maintain their refreshing crispness.

We sat on the enoteca side, where they have a very cool wine dispensing system that gives you the opportunity to sample a variety of wines instead of having to order a full bottle. You can put however much money you like on a wine card, then help yourself to half or full glasses of over 40 different varieties. We slept well that night.

The next day we found ourselves back at the Mercato Centrale. J-Cat plead his case to just go back in and get more bollito sandwiches, but I had to try Trattoria Mario. A cramped little hole in the wall behind the market, Mario is only open for lunch, and by 12:01 every seat in the place was full. The no-nonsense hostess/waitress points you to one of the long communal tables and gives you about 10 seconds to decide on what you want off of the handwritten menu on the wall. The pastas and soups change daily, the meats - such as bistecca fiorentina, vitello arrosto, and bollito misto - are pretty much always available. To the sounds of the grinning chefs in the long and skinny kitchen chop chop chopping up the meat, we chowed down on a maccheroni al ragu, the bollito misto, outrageously good french fries, and a magical green salad that consisted only of lettuce with a sprinkle of olive oil and vinegar, yet tasted like a work of art. The pasta was freaking amazing.

The bollito misto was quite good; although the brisket was a little drier than our bollito sandwiches from Nerbone, the tongue was incredibly tender and juicy. The salsa verde had a nice fresh bite. Mario is a must-eat for lunch in Florence.

Later that day, we allowed ourselves a very indulgent touristy moment and took a table outside at Rivoire, a beautiful and historical caffe and artisanal chocolatier on the Piazza della Signoria. It is one of those classic Italian caffes where you would be wise to stand at the bar to drink your coffee and save a ton of money, but perhaps it's worth the table fee to sit across from the Palazzo Vecchio and the copy of the David and relax for a while. We went for the sweets - J-Cat opted for a coffee granita with whipped cream, while I went with what Rivoire is really known for, the chocolate. The hot chocolate is only lightly sweet so you can really taste the cocoa, although of course you get sugar packets if you want to go crazy. I think we paid more for two drinks and some water than we did for the entire enormous lunch at Mario, but it really is some lovely atmosphere.

Okay back to the meat again, this time at all' Antico Ristoro Di' Cambi in the Oltrarno, where the only thing any diner is eating is the Bistecca Fiorentina, because it's THAT GOOD. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, let's first talk about how I managed to have a brain fart and think I was ordering fennel (finocchia) and artichokes for an appetizer, but I had misread the menu and it actually said fennel sausage (finocchiona). And not that I don't love fennel sausage, but we were about to eat a giant steak and I didn't really need a meat appetizer to warm up for it. We ate the whole thing, though.

But the steak was really the star of the show, and this was truly a star. This steak was perfection - cooked perfectly rare, but not raw-tasting, seasoned just the right amount, butter tender from beginning to end, and a profoundly beefy flavor - it is everything you want when you commit to a giant steak at a restaurant. This, to me, was Florence, and the perfect way to wrap up our stay.

Next up, if you thought Rome and Florence were food destinations, you've never been to Emilia-Romagna.

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