The Gentleman Gourmand

sharing the best food around

Month: June 2004 (Page 1 of 3)

Raisin Bran without the raisins (but not Bran Flakes, I hate those

I am Jack Spicer’s inflated ego.

How far can one man push the nation’s most accommodating hotel?
By Jack Spicer

I am not Jack Spicer. I am actually a decent guy, meek and apologetic. Jack is my alter ego. He’s pushy, difficult–the polite term is particular. Jack gets what he wants, and he wants like there’s no tomorrow. He is a hotel concierge’s nightmare. I, on the other hand, feel bad asking for the free shoeshine. But I was tired of saying “please” and “sorry.” I wanted to release my inner Jack. And I knew where we had to go: the Mansion on Turtle Creek, in Dallas, rated the nation’s top hotel for service in T&L’s annual readers’ poll.

Good service means getting what you want when, where, and how you want it. Great service never makes you feel guilty for asking, even when you’re out of your spoiled mind.

Putting the Mansion to the test, Jack and I subjected the staff to demands realistic and ridiculous. Then, for the sake of comparison, we checked into a mammoth chain hotel–let’s call it the Gargantua. Here’s how we fared.

Note: Article located half way down page, past list of hotels.

Would you like an espresso with your cookies, water, gelato, and cookies?

So I stopped the first day at what came to become my favorite café (bar) in Sorrento, and ordered a gelato and an espresso.

What came was an entire meal in itself. Now, I knew I would be charged more for sitting down, but I had been walking around all day and didn’t care.

I was not prepared for the events that followed.

With my caffe came four absolutely amazing cookies and a tall glass of still water. With my amazingly huge gelato came more cookies, sticking in and out of it, and a glass of sparkling water.


It was a snack fit for a king.

Sorrento, city of Limone.

Sorrento is a hell of a city. It’s actually quite small, but it’s the quality that counts, right? Anyway, Sorrento is near across the Gulf of Naples from…Naples. And it’s one of the top 10 most beautiful places I have ever been.


They’ve got some decent food, too.

The reason for my cross country trip (it was pretty far, about 4 hours from Rome) was that a friend of mine from BU was a chaperone on a school trip, and they were making their last stop there. Their group actually turned out to be hilarious, and the first night, I had dinner with Allyn (my friend, who is a she, and who goes by her middle name), and the teachers from the trip.

There was a hilarious moment outside the restaurant when I, attempting to clear up some confusion regarding an incredibly vulgar phrase that I had picked up. Well, I asked the tour guide, who was a young brit, and he basically stood there in shock, having expected something like “where can I buy limonchello?” Little did he know I wouldn’t ask something quite as boring as that!

So anyway, it went like this. I said to him, in the middle of a street:

Gentleman Gourmand: “So, I’ve got a question for you.”
Adam: “Shoot.”
GG: “So, is it ‘vafanculo, or vavanguno?”
Adam: *stunned look*
Latin professor: *breaks into insane laugher*
Middle-aged-woman-walking-by-not-with-the-group turns towards me and says “vaffanCULO” and keeps walking.
Latin professor: *even more incredibly insane laughter*
GG: *almost crying from laughing so hard*

It was the highlight of Sorrento.

Note: Do not attempt this at home, you will get assaulted. The term roughly refers to someone “engaging themselves” in their “less than appropriate area” in a “most vulgar fashion.” You have been warned.

As luck would have it, I ate both lunch and dinner at the same restaurant on my second day. For lunch, I had Tortellini in Brodo and some type of pasta Bolognese, both of which were very, very good, especially the Tortellini. It evoked memories of summers ago in Colorado at the only restaurant in Telluride that Ralph Lauren will eat (at which I had very good Tortellini in Brodo. But not with Ralph).


Oh, and I had an amazing pitcher of white wine with peaches in it. Mmm.


For dinner, I had “mixed marinated stuff” which was delicious. The “stuff” comprised of salmon, shrimp, sardines, olives etc. Next, the same Tortellini, then some pork. No comment on the pork.

Actually, for dinner the night before I had a very interesting meal. Fodors recommended a place down by the water known for their “fried local seafood.” I feel for the poor tourists, expecting fried fish the likes of Red Lobster. What I got when I ordered it, was a huge tray of completely whole fish, that had been perfectly fried.


I ate everything but the spines and the teeth of the bigger ones. And I do mean everything.

It was delicious.

(By the way, Sorrento is of course famous for it’s lemons, which are amazingly sweet. It evidently has to do with the ash from Mount Vesuvius, and they are amazing. One of the most popular products they make with it is Limoncello, a sweet digestivo, which I had many of during my two days there. The lemon ices and lemon gelato were phenomenal as well.)

Andrew (Kobayashi)

So, an interesting fact is that all of Cate’s male friends are named Andrew. And at Smith, I’m sure some of her “female” friends are named Andrew too. Anyway, Cate’s significant other (Kobayashi) told Cate that she had to take the subway in Rome, and photograph the graffiti for him. It worked out, because Cate wanted to see the Coliseum and we didn’t feel like carjacking an old lady for her wheels. So we go underground, and what do we see? The lamest graffiti ever.

Just as I was making fun of Andrew, which I rarely do, since I actually think he’s a great guy, our train came, and I utterly stopped talking.

The trains were covered, nay, WERE graffiti. On some of the cars, it was hard to tell what color the car was supposed to be, there was so much spraypaint on it. This was my favorite:


Unfortunately, I didn’t really document any of my epicurean adventures in Rome, but I didn’t really think I needed to. I had some good meals, nothing really extraordinary. We did have some amusing waiters, including one who basically forced Cate to eat all her food, so she kept sneaking most of it onto my plate.

Nothing more to report on that front.

I believe it’s in both of our best interest to leave you with this picture.

iF yoU eVeR wAnT tO SeE cAte AgaIn yOu WiLl bUy hEr a rEtUrn tIcKEt fOr aT lEaSt a MoNtH !!!

-aNonYmoUs gEnTLeMAn GoURManD


Just kidding. She’s fine. Or is she?

Fashion Update #1

So recently, Cate has been assisting me in re-designing my wardrobe. She helped me with an excellent purchase of a Banana Republic shirt while we were in Key West.


More recently, she was key in my purchase of two excellent Lacoste shirts while we were in Rome. The obvious color choices? Lime green and pink.

I *heart* Cate. Nobody tell her that people usually pay for a fashion consultant. K?

Another important purchase that I made in Rome was the best pair of sunglasses I have ever bought. I must have tried on close to a hundred pairs over the days I was with Cate, and none of them even came close to the pair I finally found.

It was the last day before I left for Sorrento, and I desperately was searching for a pair, ANY pair. We ended up finding the coolest optometrist in the entire world. There was a huge fountain in the main room (both the room and the fountain were entirely marble.) Anyway, I grabbed a pair by impulse and said “Well, how about something a little different.” The look on her face was priceless; it looked like she had just met a new, hotter me. At least, that’s what I imagined.


Suffice to say, I liked them.

We also tried on hats. (Didn’t purchase, don’t worry. I saw that face.)


Best mini vacation, ever.

So rather spur of the moment, I decided on thursday to take off for Rome and Sorrento.

The next morning, I packed up my things at 6:30 AM, and headed tromping down the hill. I got exactly halfway down the mountain, and realized I had forgotten my sandals. I went back, grudgingly.

I left my bag on the hill, and some hooligans almost stole it. (Who knew hooligans were {still?} up at 6:30.)

Other than that mild dilemma, the rest of the journey was uneventful. I arrived in the ancient city around 11, and promptly enjoyed the culinary pleasure that is known as “cheap Chinese food.”

I took no pictures.

My hotel, the Westin Excelsior, was phenomenal. Right on the Via Veneto, I actually happened to be literally on the same block as Cate’s hotel, the Grand Rose Palace. This is where we started our two-day adventure continuation (she had stayed at the castle for a few days just before, and was happy to see me again. At least she pretended well.)

Sorting through my pictures recalls some great memories. Most importantly, I discovered a great new beer. “La Biere du Demone” advertised as “la biere blonde la plus forte du monde.” I believe it. This beer is a heavy hitter at 12% ABV. Most beers are 4-6%. Plus, it actually tasted amazing. I said that it tasted sweet. Cate said it tasted “floral.” Man rules dictate that I call it “girthy.” Wait, no… “freakin awesome.”


What I neglected to take a picture of, was when I was discovering this awesome beer, we met a Swedish backpacker by the name of Annie. Which reminded me of Ann (my friend who is currently stranded in Vienna). Except, I think I liked Annie better.

Je blague, Ann.

So anyway, Annie was a backpacker. She was waiting for the train to go somewhere or other. That’s about all there is to say about that.

So Cate and I ended up spending some time at the Spanish Steps at night, which proved to be a good decision. There was a multitude of people sitting around, and about two (bakers) dozen guys with guitars striking up soulful (mostly American) tunes.

Beware: If an annoying man offers you a “free” flower anywhere in Rome, don’t take it. He’ll come back 60 seconds later and demand a Euro, and try to make you buy the rest.

You have no idea how many of them I had to punt into the fountain.

Pizza with Pizzaz

Today, I learned how to make pizza the Umbrian way.

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the recipe for the dough, which just happens to be the most important part. You’re just going to have to use your imagination. (I know it had flour, water, lard, yeast and salt. What’s odd is that the yeast came in these little blocks that looked like dough. I guess it’s an Italian thing.

Now, I had been eating pizza in Spoleto, and it was incredibly thin (with the exception of Pizza Bianca, which is supposed to be thicker). I really enjoy thin pizza, but evidently this is not how Umbrians make pizza at home.

Anyway, here’s our dough proofing on the stove (but not on the heat, silly):


After proofing, the dough was surprisingly soft. It reminded me less of bread dough and more of a pastry dough.


We ended up making two pizzas with it, one with a simple sauce of fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, basil and oil (margarita), and another with just oil, salt and rosemary (bianca).

It’s important that you spread lard on the parchment, so that it doesn’t stick. You cant use oil, because the pizza will soak it up and get soggy on the bottom, which is molto cattivo. (Look that one up!)


If you wished I had taken a close up of the bag of lard, I’m way ahead of you.


Another important thing is having a ragingly hot oven. If you open it, and you don’t feel your skin start to peel off, it’s not hot enough. Ours went up to about 250 C. That’s about 500 F for you stateside folks.


Spread out the dough however thick you want. We did about half an inch. Spread the sauce, or oil/salt/rosemary combination evenly on the spread out dough. Then poke holes in it. But don’t prick it; that’s just dirty.

Don’t give me that look.


Anyway… put the pizza in the oven. Enjoy the burning smell of your face. Then take your face out of the oven, silly.

Toss some mozzarella on there. Then toss it back in the incendiary device.




Then take a picture of your scowling maestro.


Now run!

Comunione “Angelica”

So this Sunday was Angelica’s communion. We catered the lunch. And by lunch I really mean afternoon. We started serving little hors d’oeuvres at around 11 AM. We didnt serve the second dessert till 5:30 PM.


Phew. Long day.

We started with lots of little breads and pastries, which were unfortunately not photographed.

Once everyone came inside and sat down, we served the first course: Mini Quiches with vegetables.


Scrigno con Passa Sfoglia alle Verdure

Next, Pasta with Asparagus and Tomatoes


Tagliatellina con Asparagi e Pomodoro

After a slight pause, and half a dozen packets of saffron: Risotto with saffron, raddichio and pistachios (which was almost as good as her Lime risotto, the best risotto I have ever had):


Risotto zafferono e Pistaccaielle

I took a quick break to eat some extra Tagliatellina with porcini mushrooms and to send some out to my friend and her family who is staying here. We were supposed to be closed for lunch, but I worked it out so they could get some of the extra food, and make some extra for them as well.


Next up, a Rolled Turkey with somethingorother (didnt catch this, and its mostly illegible on the order sheet)


Finally, after the cake from the local bakery was served (and was amazing) with champagne, we served our own dessert: Semifreddo with Fruit Salad



Parfait di fruitte con semifreddo

Afterwards, Cate (my visiting friend) and I explored the olive grove right below the castle. It ended up being pretty awesome.



Then I took a nap.

Chicken Schnitzel-izzle

Got chicken? Got old bread? Got lemons? You’re halfway to heaven! Well, at least half way to a decent, quick delicious meal.

This is the recipe with no numbers.

Take some chicken breasts. Pound them flat. Take some flour, put it in a dish. Take some egg, add a little bit of water, mix with egg. Put in separate dish. Take bread (if it’s old just grind it up, if it’s not old, toast it for a while and then grind it up). If you like spicy stuff, put some crushed red pepper in the grinder, or add cayenne after you grind, but DON’T grind the red pepper then put your head in to smell it. Your face will sting for an hour. I know.. Put in another dish. Add salt and pepper and anything else you feel like.

Cut up some pieces of lemon for later.

Take the chicken breasts, dredge in flour, then egg mixture, then breadcrumbs.

Heat up olive oil (or butter or any other fat you want) pretty hot, but not smoking, in a saute pan. Lay chicken flat in the pan when it’s good and hot.

Fry for a few minutes on one side, then the other side. Adjust temperature to keep it just below the smoke point. This gets harder as more and more breadcrumbs fall off and start to burn. Just hang in there, you’re almost done.

Transfer to serving dish, add salt right when it comes out of the oil.

Keep the cooked pieces in a medium warm oven until all pieces are done.

Serve to a small ravenous crowd.

Let them squeeze lemon on their own (and make sure you cover your eyes, those suckers spritz hard.)



Dinner party

Monday night I watched Italy vs Denmark football.

It ended 0-0. Boo.

Then we had dinner and drank lots of beer. (Drank lots of beer during the game too…)


From left to right: (1)Our host, the next door neighbor of (2)Donatella and (3)Luca, and (4)Michael, a Hollywood sound mixer, who won an Oscar for sound editing in Master and Commander.

That is all.

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