Cold spells call for hot plates. It can get tough out there while tasting some of our favorite street foods such as lampredotto, especially if served at outdoor stands. For the weather-fearless, eating at the stands is a part of the experience. For the less hardy, fear not! Indoor joints can be found in the city. Nerbone at the San Lorenzo Central Market and da Vinattieri in Via del Corso are no less “street” than the outdoor versions, while Tripperia Il Magazzino in Piazza della Passera is a small albeit more serious restaurant style of tripe and lampredotto. More recently, our staff has been flocking to Trippa&Zampa, Florence’s newest walk-in place. Conveniently located in via de’Neri, the feel is that of a collapsable outdoor that has unfolded its walls and expanded into permanent outpost. Butcher paper placemats, a list of tripe-boiled meat-lampredotto options gives any serious street vendor a run for his money. Wicker bread baskets, house red wines by the glass, wooden stools, and slim eating counters complete the walk-up ‘n order experience. Minus the cold.

Trippa&Zampa
Via de’ neri, 50/r
50122 – Firenze (FI)

Big photo, big bbq. Yes, bbq. We’ll let the photo speak for itself and make it short but sweet. Perhaps savory is a more appropriate way to put it. It’s really quite simple, two Florentine brothers, fascinated with the sizzle that American summers and picnics are made of, crave a restaurant that serves bbq in their home town. And given that transcontinental culinary exports usually trigger the translation process of how to express a foreign concept on one’s home turf, an idea flares through the siblings’ mind like the flame of a gas burner. Americans are good grillers, but Italians are the masters of cottura a legna – think puffy, blistering Neapolitan pizzas or peposo, the pepper-laced beef stew from Impruneta – so why not do bbq in a wooden hearth in the heart of Florence? No, not by the Duomo or other fancy squares, but in San Frediano where one of the last outposts of real, lived-in Florentine neighborhoods continue to thrive. Don’t expect molasses slathered on ribs but an Italian interpretation of an American term referring to a style of meat preparation; in a sense it could confer a new dimension of appreciation for Italian-American cuisine, considering how Italians slowly adapted their native cooking to products/produce on American soil and eventually the cuisine transformed into something else. Neither better nor worse, just different. The same concept of adaptation is applied at BBQ, just the other way around. And perhaps we could add that when done right with freshness and quality, reinterpreting an international cuisine can be sustainable for its local approach and experimentation with foreign ideas. Now that’s some food for thought.

BBQ: Piazza Torquato Tasso 9/10r Firenze. Tel 055.5120376

Palazzi intern Elena Policella provides an extremely tempting example of the desserts made in her corner of Italy, the city of Bolzano in Alto-Adige, perched on the border between Italy and Austria. If you notice a German twang to the dessert’s name “Buchteln,” the hunch is on the spot – the region is known for its autonomous status in the Italian government and for being multi-linguistic, meaning that both Italian and German are officially recognized and taught in schools. The combination of alternating jam and nutella fillings in blooming, brioche-like rolls are irresistible especially in these colder winter months. And we Florentines are more than happy to take a culinary cue from Elena who’s notorious for her way with desserts…

The video is in Italian but each step of the baking process is methodically shown in the video. Italian language students – take it as a true linguistic exercise, there are no subtitles! For questions about ingredients and the recipe overall, feel free to email ufficio.stampa@palazziflorence.com.

In flashy Florence it’s easy to feel lost under the Duomo’s imposing shadow and the golden glitter of Ponte Vecchio. Where to go for real details, small yet significant splices of Florentine culture? How can one’s eyes drink in an entire piazza and feast on a singularity within the same moment? CiboChat’s answer naturally comes in the form of food. Amidst the bevy of food stalls, chatter, bursting colors and shapes, and throbbing food commerce that is Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio in Piazza Ghiberti, let your glance go askance. Raise your eyes above the heads of shoppers, above the husky voices of stall owners, you might glimpse a slip of storefront marked by a wild boar’s head.

Duck into Semel and you’ll find yourself surrounded by a surplus of details in this tiny space. Deer horns and hunting-themed knickknacks hang from the brick walls, ducks swim across small ceramic plates hanging from the counter, the shop’s elegant postcard with wild boar stamp is tucked into a wooden holder. The owners greet you by name, wearing crisp tailored shirts and classy ties adorned with a miniature wild boar pin. What to order? The food detail here is singular: sandwiches. But not any old sandwiches stuffed to the nines with a million different ingredients. Consult the mini-chalkboards lining the counter and you’ll find that each indicates a game meat stew or filling – hare, donkey, wild boar, deer, or salt cod and vegetable options for non meat eaters, to name a few – take your pick and it will be lovingly laid on a small white roll that used to be called “semel” thanks to an Austrian diffusion of the world during the Lorena dynasty in Tuscany. The sandwich is served on a small plate on top of a seemingly tailor-sized paper wrap stamped with the Semel logo and omnipresent wild boar’s head.

Take a small bite, not too big or else you might devour too quickly the savory moment, and you just might hear the sounds of hunting dogs and smell a woodland air in addition to the fragrant, elegantly rustic flavors of your sandwich. Albeit fully immersed in the city buzz of Florence’s historic center, Semel is a place where you can get lost within a detail, where the rabbit-hole marked by the unnamed sign outside draws you into a fascinating den of unique traits not found elsewhere. And yes, it’s probably the only place in Florence where you can try donkey meat, or ciuco, as the locals call it here.

Aging Barrel at Castello del TrebbioDiscussing wines in Castello del Trebbio's ex-prison

A new year brings new appetites and to satisfy new cravings, the Apicius staff visited its one of the Wine Department’s sponsors for an evening of wine and food pairing in a suggestive and intriguing setting – no less than the medieval Castello del Trebbio where the Pazzi family conspired against the Medici with the ill-fated and unsuccessful Congiura dei Pazzi, which eliminated only one of the two targeted Medici brothers and unleashed the fury of the Florentine population upon the Pazzi family. This plot and the killing of JFK have been deemed by historians as the two most important assassination attempts throughout history for their political reverberations.

Beyond the bloody political intrigue of the past, the castle today produces excellent wines, olive oil, and saffron. The wines range from the extremely traditional – Chianti, Vin Santo, etc. – to forward-thinking products such as a red Supertuscan, 100%  Merlot, and a white blended with Riesling that is unusual for Tuscan wine producing zones. The aging cellars run in a circular direction in the underground area beneath the castle where, incidentally, the prisons were originally housed. It is in these cold and strangely-lighted spaces where wines are contemplated and coaxed into maturation.

In these cellars we run across cases of wines from the wine producer’s property in southern Tuscany, Tenuta Casadei. While Trebbio’s wines, in addition to innovative wine making methods, are dripping with a bloody and fascinating past evinced also in its labels (i.e. the wines named Pazzesco, Congiura), Casadei is instead infused with a different sort of fascination in its search for the Mediterranean essence. This is interpreted from both ends of the spectrum – Sogno Mediterraneo blends 7 varietals from the Mediterrean countries and essentially seeks to capture them in a single bottle, while the prize-winning Filare 18 (“row of vines”)  literally features wines produced from grapes coming from a single vineyard. The Mediterranean, powerful flavors evoked from blends taken from different countries as well as singularly from a tiny slip of geography, as interpreted by a single producer.

Our heads were spinning with these and other details – such as the old-timer property guard who has served the castle for over 50 years and shed his uniform complete with feather-trimmed hat only twice in his entire life, not even when he was honeymooning on the beach in Rimini! – by the time we headed towards the winery’s restaurant. The restaurant on the castle’s property has been awarded by Great Wine Capitals network for its contemporary, elegant, and at the same time comforting and hearty expressions of Tuscan cuisine. Mozzarella-stuffed savoy cabbage with black olive puree and game hen stuffed with sausage were excellent standouts.

We’re already conspiring to return, perhaps for some intriguing lessons on olive oil and saffron…

To find out more about Castello del Trebbio:
http://www.vinoturismo.it/

To find out about Apicius Wine Friends group of sponsors who support our wine studies program:
http://www.apicius.it/spotlight/47

Amongst our distinguished guests at the 2010 Beard events was Mimi Sheraton, a native Brooklyner and respected food critic whose authoritative voice has shaped the field of food writing. Her reportage held long-standing posts as critic at the New York Times and Time magazine reporter.  A myriad of contributions have graced the pages of Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue, and The New Yorker just to name a few.

We caught up with Mimi once the entire team relocated back to Florence. Here she shares her opinion on the overall impression of Italy that she felt and tasted at the gala dinner, given that she has extensively traveled throughout the country and her husband Richard Falcone comes from an Italian background:

“What  connected me and Richard to Italy given the Apicius menu at the James Beard House was not so much any particular dish, but rather a feeling for how authentic a new creation or interpretation can be when it reflects its roots even as it deviates. Although many of the ingredients are not generally used together, all were well understood elements of Italian cuisine and so new combinations or presentations did not seem in any way “un-Italian.” That is really the best form of creativity..the new arising from and respecting the tradition.”

 

The proofers have been returned, the team is back in their respective homes in Florence and US cities, but TuttoToscana is far from over. We salute James Beard for now, but left a reminder in New York for next year’s edition. October 2011 holds in store four events both at the Beard/Astor Center and an exciting new location so mark your calendars!

Oct 24 – NEW Workshop at De Gustibus @ Macy’s Herald Square
Oct 25 – Astor Center Food and Wine Event
Oct 28 – James Beard Foundation Lunch
October 29 –  James Beard Foundation Gala Dinner

Save the date and keep an eye out for reservation and ticket price info. We hope to see you at some of the America’s most prestigious centers of gastronomic excellence!



The final TuttoToscana event was a flurry of food, fashion, fun, feathers, and featured a lighter side of Tuscany. Read on to find out how Team Palazzi accomplished this feat!

Lightness
Lightness was represented in all components of the evening, from the food to the fashion show and the featured wines. Another type of lightness, however, was also present in the designs of AltaRosa sent down the runway as a reminder to guests that an ethical approach to lightness can result in a lesser negative impact on the environment while creating beauty. AltaRosa is a Florentine fashion company, led by Valeria Doga and Gloria Modesti, who produce bio-dynamic organic clothing with an ethical approach to production and sales.  The feminine, incredibly natural and effortless wearability of each Alta Rosa creation is a profound study, or better yet, a philosophical approach to create better systems of high quality materials, eco sustainable artisans and manufactures and ultimately respect for the usage of resources provided by nature.

Feathers
The concept, designed to evoke lightness, found its literal expression in the choice of Mazzanti Piume as one of the two featured designers at the fashion show. Since 1935, the Mazzanti family has been creating high quality flower and feather adorned fashion ensembles. Located in the city of Florence, which is synonymous for its long-standing artisanal craftsmanship, the company has reached the third generation of Mazzanti family members who experiment and create whimsical, elegant, and surprising accessories that respect the Florentine tradition of handcrafted accessories. Mazzanti Piume is the resource for feather creations in the world of fashion, entertainment, and historical ceremonies. Local Italian fashion giants like Gucci, Cavalli, and Chanel turn to Mazzanti Piume to top off their fashion collections with show-stopping feathers while Mazzanti collections are often whisked to glamorous fashion destinations such as Paris for runway appearances.

Freshness
The evening’s menu, created by Apicius Executive Chef Andrea Trapani, was designed on the same lines as the event concept of lightness. Guests were presented with dishes inspired by Florentine historical and environmental references such as the famed Boboli Gardens, gastronomic icon, Caterina de Medici, and the flavors and senses of the Tuscan landscape and sea.  Such dishes will include, Profumi del Cielo, a lasagnetta enhanced by scents of mandarin, as well as cappellacci ravioli, folded in the shape of swallows, filled with artichokes, almonds and potatoes. Furthermore, food production and ingredient purchasing was coordinated Great Performances, New York City’s highly respected and first green caterer.

Contemporary Interpretation
All elements of the event also had the objective of countering Tuscany’s traditional image, widespread through literature and film in the minds of the international public. One unique example at Feathers demonstrated a perfect harmonization of contemporary and traditional. Wine producer Dalle Nostre Mani was chosen for its usage of an unusually light and delicious grape, pugnitello, and its story is a special one to tell. Young and dynamic winemakers Lapo Tardelli and Giulio Wilson Rosetti have brought contemporary, organic winemaking techniques to an almost abandoned area of Tuscany in order to bring back rare grape varieties to the Italian wine scene. Not only have they revitalized the territory but in order to do so, they have integrated the infallible, time-tested experience of elderly traditional farmers from the area who still have the intimate knowledge of the land that’s risking extinction with the advent of modern mechanization.

Solidarity
If there was one “solid and concrete” element of the evening, it was the solidarity forged amongst the event creaters, producers, and volunteers. The Palazzi team was composed of faculty and students from the areas of Culinary Arts, Wine Studies, Event Management, and Art Direction. The service staff was composed by an excellent team of students from CUNY Queens and one SUNY Stony Brook student. And finally, the group of models were a group of New Yorkers, beautiful individuals from different countries, careers, and studies, who breathed life into the creations of AltaRosa and Mazzanti Piume. A team NOT to be taken lightly who explored and expressed lightness in Italian style and cuisine with hard effort and dedication.

Photo: Sunday mornings at the Beard House. Chef Desi and Kate Mulligan warm up the brunch atmosphere in the kitchen. Courtesy of Kimberly Polito.

Let’s Do Brunch!

Brunch: a culinary adventure for some, a heavy/stressful weekend cure for others, a universal tradition for Anglo-Saxon countries. And for almost everyone, a time to spend with friends and family. We all brunch for different reasons. For the food, the company and sometimes due to the inability to wake before noon. But this weekend for the Apicius students and staff, it was to invade the late morning meal Italian style!

Sunday October 24th concluded our last event at the James Beard House – the perfect ending to our time spent at the West 12th Street address. A highly anticipated event, I was really looking forward to seeing how well a Tuscan menu beyond a cappuccino and cornetto was going to hold up with the American public. The result – amazing!

As the weather held out for a sunny reception in the courtyard, guest gathered to sip on a Loacker Vermintino, while enjoying passed hor dourves. The energy was high in the kitchen after a successful Gala dinner the night before and the Apicius team was anxious to give their Beard guests a proper farewell.

The kitchen brigade began preparing to plate the first course, as guest were moved into the dinning room where they received a warm welcome from the James Beard  and Palazzi staff. With the help of a dedicated James Beard service team, dinners began their meal with a warm cannellini bean soup with Tuscan pancetta and kale. As it passed from the kitchen to the dinning room, the rest of the event team and I couldn’t help but sneak a taste from one of the extra bowls not needed. It was delicious!

The next two courses consisted of a poached egg served with potatoes and shredded Chianti blue cheese. Again, we got our hands on one of the extras, piercing into the eggs so the yolk could coat the potatoes it was a well put together dish full of just enough flavor and texture to savor every bite. My favorite, however, was the stuffed gnocchi with wild boar, topped with butter and sage. A simple dish by the looks of it, served as a single ravioli, but a savory delight with the combinations of a soft and chewy texture that allowed the mix of flavors to be enjoyed.

The menu truly gave the American buffet style brunch a run for its fame. Guests leisurely read through the menu, written newspaper style complete with crossword puzzles and horoscopes. I only wish now that I had the chance to experiment this approach to brunch more often while in Florence, but am very satisfied by the experience the Apicius team provided this passed weekend, not only to our guests but to everyone involved.

The meal was nothing but satisfying, comforting, Tuscan style.

- Kimberly Gilroy, Special Event Management Team

Model Albert Trifone III, sporting a Mazzanti Feathers top hat.

Location: Feathers Fashion Show fitting in the West Village

Photo courtsey of Kimberly Polito

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