The Gentleman Gourmand

sharing the best food around

Month: July 2004 (Page 2 of 4)

Of Beast and Bunny

So one of the first meals I had with my Dad was in Orvietto, a small town that didn’t really offer much to me. There was a Church, some caves, and some old-towny stuff. I travel for the food!

My new best friend, aka, the stack of travel books my dad carries around, helped us pick out a good local place to eat.

Most of the meal was uneventful, but we were both relatively adventureous with our meat dishes. I got rabbit and he got boar.

My rabbit was more tender, but his boar had a really spunky sauce that I greatly enjoyed. His was also bone free. I wasn’t really pleased with the fact that I had to pick about a dozen, razor sharp bone fragments out of every bite, but it was good.

(I had tortellini in brodo for lunch. I am unhappy to report that it was not as good as the soup I got in Sorrento.)

The rabbit:

The boar:

{Editors Note: If I get any “omg andrew, you ate a rabbit? i’m never reading your site, like ever ever again! thats cruel!” I wont respond. Sorry, thats not one of the qualms I have. Food is food, cute and furry or not.}

Public Service Anouncement

I would like to issue an apology. I have been recieving angry letters in the past few days, since there has not been a new post. This is because my dad is here, and he’s been dragging me around Umbria (like, who would want to do that?). Anyway, we have had some very good meals, but I had suffered a major setback in publication. I had been taking pictures of some of the meals with my dad’s digital camera (which seems to be easier to use without a flash), and thought I could easily transfer them to my computer.

Not so. Oh well.

I know this has been doubly hard for you, as AG is also on hiatus (but at least he has a very entertaining duo covering for him!)

Anyway, the past day I have been taking pictures with my camera, and will be posting these updates right now!!

Grilled cheese, take 2

So today, I woke up hungry, which doesn’t usually happen. I usually down an espresso and slowly eat a croissant, enjoying the taste more than the hunger-sating effects.

Not today. Today I decidedly needed something more filling for my “breakfast” at 3 in the afternoon. Since I had figured out that some of the bread we keep here is actually decent for sandwiches, especially grilled cheese, I decided to have another go at it. Since there is no wood burning fire today, I also had to make it on the stovetop. Now, I’m sure this is good news to you, since you probably didn’t say to yourself during my last grilled cheese making episode, “hey, I’ve got a big wood fire going in my kitchen right now! I think I’ll go make grilled cheese!” Nor did it prompt you to light one. (If it did, you might be a pyro, and should stay away from the flame. -Surgeon General’s Warning)

So, there was a small crisis when I could not find the proscuitto cotto (aka, ham), and thought I would have to have a “plain” grilled cheese. No sir. I did find the ham, the cheese and some lovely looking Roma tomatoes. (As a side note, they are suprisingly not called Roma tomatoes here. They’re just….tomatoes. When I saw them I said, hey, pomodori di Roma, eh? Donatella looked at me, as always, like I was nuts.)

So I came up with a gameplan. Fry the tomatoes, and make a tomato/ham/cheese melty sandwich of goodness. I quickly wrote up a menu using Japansese calligraphy.

Allez cuisine!!

I began by slicing the tomatoes in 3/8ths of an inch slices. By hand. 3/8ths of an inch. You can vary this thickness, but it just wont be the same.

Next, I salted and peppered one side of the slices, and heated up some olive oil.


Make sure you get two pans out. You don’t wanna be caught searching for a pan while your tomatoes are burning, now, do ya?


While the oil was heating, I formed the sandwiches. Two slices of thinly sliced cheese on each piece of bread, and 1 slice of ham (again, thinly sliced. This isn’t a Hungry Man Frozen Melty Sandwich.) on each side of the bread.


The whole shebang:


Once the oil is decently hot, throw the slices in, seasoned side down. Then, season the other side!! (This a culinary trick, don’t feel bad if you don’t get it right the first time.)


After about a minute, get your other pan ready. Melt some butter, and when the tomatoes are done on the first side, flip them. They should look like this. It’s OK if the oil is smoking, you’re almost done. (Whats not OK is if your fire alarm goes off. But I don’t have to worry about that here. They dont even have an ANSEL system….which I do worry about…)


While the tomatoes are cooking on the other side, drop the first half of the sandwich onto the melted butter. The tomatoes should be finishing up, so transfer them onto the still-open-faced sandwich. Now, here comes the really cool tricky part. The reason I had you use two pans, is so that you would have a really hot pan ready when you needed it. Once the tomatoes are on the open first half, put the other half on top, and put a small pat of butter on top of it. Spread it around a bit, and then take the other pan, from the tomatoes, and put in on top of the sandwich! This not only browns the top, but also has the added bonus of cooking the sandwich quicker and more evenly. I know I’m not the only one who hates a grilled cheese with a burned crust and unmelted cheese.


After about 30 seconds (this is a fast process), take the top pan off, flip the bread over, and put the pan back on top. 15-20 seconds later, you should have a perfect grilled cheese!


The side view:


I like mine cut diagonally.


Plate it up, and then it’s time for the photoshoot.


Now, vogue!



So, I have been attempting to contact all the folks on the list that I made (the pronunciation guide), and I sent out a bunch of emails.

Only about 6 hours after I sent them, I got a reply from none other than Ruth Reichl, one of my personal favorite food writers.

This was absolutely thrilling to me. I hope you can understand. Ruth Reichl used to be the editor for the food section of the New York Times, and now is the editor for Gourmet. This is bigtime stuff.

I feel as famous as AG! Well, maybe not, but I bet he doesn’t get emails from Ruth Reichl!

Heres what she said, for those who are curious (and I will be doing a full write-up later):

It’s more like rye-shel, but I can’t say it the way my German father did, which was with an r in the back of the throat.

When I first started writing I used to save envelopes with the various permutations of my name on them; my favorite was the one addressed to Ruth Raisehell.

And hell, I did include a link to this site in the email, so it’s possible that she read it. Now hows THAT for popular? Eh? Thats what I thought.

Everyone wave to her!

A warning

The below post is incredibly spoiled, self entitled, and somewhat childish.

It has some good points, but don’t feel like you must read it. Take it with a grain of salt, if you will.


So, I’ve decided something. Now, I’m going to tell you, but you can’t tell anyone that I told you, ok?

Here it is: Italian cuisine doesn’t please me as much as other cuisines do.

There, I said it.

I have been trying to think to myself, when was the last time that I extremely enjoyed a meal? The only times I could think of were in Atlanta and Boston.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like Italian food just fine, and if it’s done well, it can be enjoyable. I can eat a plate of pasta, or risotto, or veal, anything, and say “mm, that was good.” You won’t find me moaning in ecstacy though, like I do at some Thai or Japanese places.

I don’t crave Italian food like I do Asian food. (Or even American food for that matter. I was reading a post today about Philly Cheesesteaks (with picutres, I might add), and I nearly slobbered on the keyboard.)

There have been very few times, here in Umbria, that I have eaten something and it has been a revelation, like so often happens for me in the states. This is why, when I was in Rome, I ended up eating TWO of my meals at a little Chinese place. I just needed something stir-fried, with really spicy oils and sauces. Hell, even the pepperoncini here aren’t anywhere near as hot as Thai, or even South American chilies.

Last night, I went into Spoleto, prepared to have a very good meal. I was hoping for a meal that would break me out of “castle food” mode (which I had been spoiled by, and gotten used to), and get me back into “haut cuisine.” There is no haut cuisine in Spoleto.

This was the second restaurant that I had dined in, and they were both “good.” They served decent food, prepared properly, (if slightly underseasoned), with good service.

Both times I had the tasting menu, and both times I left full. At no point during either meal did I sit back and say to myself, “wow.” I even went all-out, trying to see if they could impress me. I asked for the 3 course tasting menu, ended up getting 5, and ordered a bottle of wine, limoncello, and a caffe, and the total, with service, came to 40 euro.

I felt cheated, like I deserved a better meal than this. I wanted Clio, Veritas, Seegers, Pho 79, a Publix Sub, Moe’s Burritos, Tacqueria del Sol, ANYTHING. Now, it really was not a bad meal. I just was willing, and was utterly craving, a much more upper end one. Don’t get me wrong, I really do enjoy any level of food, as long as it is fresh, prepared well, and exciting. I enjoy a $4 bowl of Pho as much as a $34 daube provincial at Veritas, or $6 Publix sub as much as a $80 tasting menu at Seegers. Honestly, I enjoy all food equally (so long as it’s really, really good). This is where the rant part applies. I’m not saying that I need to be eating $50 and up meals every day, I just want food that I really enjoy. In Boston, I can eat amazing thai for lunch, and phenomenal Indian for dinner, and spend $25, total. I can also spend $100, and have a life-changing experience at Uni, but that’s another post.

Now, I’m sure I can get something like Veritas, or Seegers in Rome, but so far, the places that I have eaten have been relatively similar to last night. I ask the concierge for a very upscale “Ristorante”, and they send me to places with bumbling waiters serving very decent food at very reasonable prices.

Now, they may be sending me to these places because I am not a suit-wearing “adult,” but I’m really getting frustrated by it. Anywhere in the states, I am taken seriously as a guy who likes really unbelievable food. I can walk into Veritas, a place that doesn’t really attract the “chic” or young crowd, and be treated just as well as the 55 year old investment banker sitting next to me who is drinking his $300 bottle of vino.

It’s hard for me to find places like the ones I am looking for, because there are not terribly great resources for it. Fodors sucks, generally. Michelin is good, but there aren’t any Michelin stars around here, that I know about, and there are not many coherent online resources here for food, that I can find. eGullet is great for big cities, but doesn’t help me in Umbria.

So this post isn’t a total waste of me ranting (and completely being spoiled) about how I “should be able to find better;” here is my semi-biased review of “Ristorante Aristocrate,” aka, the place I went last night.

I ended up choosing this place, because it was around 10PM, and it was one of the only places that was still serving and looked crowded on a Monday night. I was seated in a corner table, which ended up being a good spot, as I could look into the pass, and have a clear view of the whole room.

I couldn’t decide whether or not to take pictures, since it was dark enough to require a flash, but there was no way in hell you can get me to use a flash in a restaurant. So I ended up putting the camera on “night mode” and seeing how it would turn out. It didn’t turn out well. Sorry.

Anyway, I believe that they thought I was some sort of reviewer, since the chef personally brought out every plate. He brought out some plates for others, but he brought every single one of mine, and explained the dishes.

This could have been because I was a solo diner, but it was nice anyway.

The first course was simple, melon with proscuitto and grapes. I like this combo, and it was done just fine. (Though, we do get fresher melon at the castle, go figure)


The bottle of red wine that came with the tasting menu ended up being my favorite part of the meal. Now, I don’t know a lot about wine, but I really enjoyed this one. It had a strange quality to it. It was a young wine (2003), and when I drank it, it made my tongue tingle, as if I was drinking a carbonated beverage. Now, this may not be a sought after quality in wine, but I liked it anyway.


The second course was odd. It was described as “Farm-style, grandmothers “panzanella.” So I didn’t really have a clue what to expect.

What I got next was odd. It was sort of a salad of cold polenta, cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley. It was very mushy and very bland. This was the least favorite thing I ate.


Next was supposed to be Frascarelli with asparagus, porcini mushrooms and cherry tomatoes, but the chef explained that he was not satisfied with the asparagus at the market that day, and didn’t buy any.

It was good, but some of the pieces of pasta were a bit too large, and therefore hadn’t cooked enough. Oh well, this was my second least favorite dish.


The meat course was good. It was local trout, with shaved truffles, and roasted onions with a mound of leeks and potatoes with a roasted tomato on top. The trout was cooked perfectly, if a bit under seasoned, and the Umbrian black truffles complemented well.


The most enjoyable food I had was the intermezzo and the dessert. The intermezzo was a house made strawberry and grapefruit sorbet. It was delicious, and just the perfect amount. The only annoying thing about it, was the spoon was too big, and I had to leave a bit in the bottom. I had to stop myself from scooping it out with my finger.


The dessert was solid. It was a almost-mouse on the bottom almost-dense-chocolate-cake on top, and ended the meal well. It’s possible that I liked it more since it was the only chocolate thing I had eaten in 2 months, but even so, it was good.


Afterwards, I attempted to find a “Reciracarte” for my stupid, useless, non-functioning, service-unavailable, espece de con, bastardo, culo, merde of a phone. Now, the phone itself works just fine, it’s the service that I absolutely hate.

There is no such thing as “monthly plans” in Italy. You buy minutes, at tabaccherias. While this seems fine, it really isn’t, especially when you like a few miles from the nearest place to buy them.

Even when I buy the 50 euro cards, I run out in no time flat when I call the states, and I always need a new one. Now, this wouldn’t be so hard if you could call and use your credit card. But this is Italy, that’s too easy.

In order to remotely charge your phone, you have to GIVE THEM ACCESS TO YOUR BANK CODES, so they can take it out themselves. Not gonna be doin that in the near future.

Talking about banks, though, I thought I might share this warning with you. This cracked me up.


Anyway, once I was done with my meal, and got some cash (oh yeah, forgot to mention that too, you can’t buy reciracartes with credit cards, only cash), I went to find an open tabaccheria.

The one that said it was open until 2 AM had closed by 12. Everywhere else was closed, and there was no way else to buy one. I wandered around, angry, until I found a bar, with a bunch of 30+ Americani standing around and drinking. I hung out there for a bit, and then left, determined to find a reciracarte before I went back.

I stuck my head in an open bookstore, and asked. They directed me to a piazza about a km up the hill that had a 24 hour cigarette dispenser that also sold reciracartes. When I got there, they were right. I tried to put a 20 euro note in, but alas, the highest note that the machine took was 5 euro.

I had to go to TWO different places to get enough change to buy a 30 euro card. When I finally got the card, I sat down at a closed café to recharge my phone, finally.

I scratched the code off the back of the card, called up the “automated 24 hour, instant recharge number,” and OF COURSE, it didn’t work. Instead of telling me to put the # in like it always does, it just kept saying “one moment, transferring your request.” And then hanging up.

I was so mad I nearly destroyed the phone.

Then I got some gelato and life was better.


Next time, I’m going dressed like this:


A Serious Discussion

We need to have a talk. A serious one.

About… knives.

I don’t consider myself a knife expert. I know how to cut things and not cut myself. I know how to care for them, how to clean them, and how to keep them sharp.

I have sort of a mish mash of different types of knives. I have a Wusthof Santoku knife, a set of Henckels Professional “S” 5 Stars, and a Shun paring knife.


I used to use my Henckels 8″ chefs knife for everything, but recently, my Santoku have been taking over.

It’s so rediculously sharp, so incredibly light, and so damn awesome I just can’t justify using my thick, heavy chefs knife for much more than heavy chopping (like the left hand of thieves).

Lets discuss knife care:

1) Always keep your knives clean.
2) Never put a knife away wet.
3) Never put a knife in a dishwasher, and never leave it in the sink.

Actually, on second thought I have decided to refer you to the eGCI (the eGullet Culinary Institute) to get some professional advice.

While I know some of you will not try the sharpening, please heed the other advice. It’s really important.

I am a little kid.

So I had to come up with something to do with this fire that would directly benefit me. (Other than the fact that we had the lamb for dinner) {See below post for fire explanation}

So I thought, what would I have been doing right now, 9 years ago?

I would have been at the Capital City Club swimming pool, at the snack bar (the aspiring gourmet at heart, trying to shine through, I think), ordering a “Grilled Ham and Cheese.”

I promptly procured some white bread (a hard thing to do here, as most of the bread is baked rustic Italian bread, and kinda sucks for sandwiches. Sorry Donatella.). I sliced some of the mild cheese that we use for everything (the Italians call it “sweet” cheese.), and also sliced up some ham on our going-to-hell rotary slicer. (Parts keep popping off, and I keep re-attaching them with medical tape. This cannot be good.)

I slathered a bit of butter on the bread, smooshed it between the racks, and tossed some coals under it.

In the spirit of being 10, I also snuck off with the chocolate sauce (supposedly reserved for desserts), and made some chocolate milk. When Donatella tried to inquire how I had made the milk brown, I clutched it close and shouted “no yoohoo for yoohoo!” and ran away to eat my sandwich. Needless to say, Donatalla was pretty confused.

The sandwich turned out great.


Not sure if it would win the $10,000 Grilled Cheese Contest, though.

Lamb over coals

So today, I woke up at the early hour of…11pm. I was told 8 people were coming for lunch, and I had to get ready. I walked outside, blinking in the bright 85 degree sun, and meandered up to the kitchen, which is usually cool at this time in the day.

Not today, folks. Today, in July, we had a roaring fire going. All day. With lots and lots of wood. For tonight, we would be serving Lamb Grilled over Coals. I’m sure the guests were excited, but damn, it got hot in there.


Now, the lamb was basically just a bunch of bones with some little pieces of meat attached, but it ended up being mighty tasty. From what I could tell, Oscar (Donatella’s father, pictured), just put salt, pepper, some garlic oil, and rosemary on it.


Then he stuck the pieces in a great big metal cage, and raked a bunch of hot coals under it. Flip once, and serve.

Cheap, Tasty ATL Eatins

I decided to finally write about, and post my list of top 10 ATL cheap, tasty food.
Without further ado…

1) Pho 79

This place is some of the cheapest Vietnamese food in Atlanta. While places like Nam are upscale and expensive, you can eat just as well for about $5 per person at Pho 79. I personally recommend the Spring rolls and the Basic Pho (beef stock soup with lots of tasty garnishes). Another favorite of mine is the thin sliced beef with chilies and onions.

2) Au Rendez Vous

The owners of Au Rendez-Vous are originally Vietnamese, recently Parisian, and now Atlantan. They serve French bistro style food for dirt cheap prices. It’s $13 for 2 courses (and its BYOB). The bouef bourgignoin is particularly delicious.

3) Publix Subs

If you haven’t tried one, do yourself a favor and go. They kick the crap out of Subway, Blimpie and any other chain sandwich shop. For $7 you can grab a large sandwich and a drink (or anything else you want, since you are in a grocery store…). My personal sub of choice is Cajun Turkey, Honey Ham, Provolone cheese, mayo, mustard, extra onions, lettuce, oil, extra vinegar and oregano. Most people don’t know that
you can request ANYTHING from out of the deli cabinet. Take advantage of this.

4) Tacqueria del Sol

Delicious tacos, cheap. That is all.

5) Pig-N-Chick

Really good ATL BBQ. If you want more info, check out John Kessler’s review.

6) Daddy D’z

Now this place, I crave whenever I’m out of A-town. It’s a tiny little place with good ole down south service. Your Coke (or iced tea, because you really shouldn’t be drinkin anything else) will come in a Styrofoam cup, and your food on a plastic plate. The food that’s on it is without a doubt going to be delicious. Once I asked where they got their cookies from, and my server yelled to the cook, “yo, whered these here cookies come from?” The reply? “Oh, my mom baked em yesterday.” Doesn’t get much better than that. Make sure you ask for the spicy sauce (which isn’t spicy, but is better.) Also, the cornbread is excellent.

7) Sons Place

Great cafeteria with amazing fried chicken and other “soul food”ish stuff, like okra, rice and beans, etc. All delicious. (And if I do recall, iced tea and water are the only available options.)

8) Fellinis

Where else can you get two large slices of excellent, thin, crispy pizza for under $5? My point exactly.

9) Hashaguchi Jr.

We used to eat here on a regular basis, but stopped going when other options popped up. I hadn’t been back in probably 5 years when a friend of mine told me it was one of his favorite places for lunch. We ended up going, and while it’s certainly not the best sushi in town, it is certainly a good deal. For lunch you can eat for $10 quite easily, and leave full. The rice bowls are very good as well (I haven’t ordered it for myself, but I pick what I want from my companions.)

10) Waffle House

See previous post.

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