The Gentleman Gourmand

sharing the best food around

Category: Dining (Page 2 of 2)

A tidbit dinner

The same place I had the prosecco tripled as a wine bar, store and restaurant.

They served lots of stuff that I had not previously seen in Umbria. Two of my favorites were the mixed meat/cheese plate (I had of course seen this, but this was the best one), and a bowl of polenta with truffles.

The polenta was amazing. It tasted more like mashed potatoes than cornmeal. So far so good in terms of dining. We really haven’t been let down yet. (And I’ve chosen every place that we’ve ate! *pat on back*)



I Can’t Believe It’s Just Chicken

Todays lunch was very good. It was light, with just some bruscetta, a simple and delicious penne with just tomatoes and hot peppers, and “bistecca di pollo.” Now, this “bistecca” intrigued me, because bistecca is usually steak. It was the house specialty, and I decided to just go for it.

It was quite hot today (around 100 F), and this place has a coal fire going in the dining room. My bruscetta and chicken were both made on this coal grill. The bruscetta was good, but pretty normal, but this chicken, listen to me now, was some of the best “plain chicken” I’ve ever had.

Now, I’m an odd duck in the fact that I like burned bits of things, but this thing was utterly perfect.

It looked like it was the leg, with some breast meat sorta attached, but with no breast bones. The skin had rendered perfectly crispy, it was amazingly juicy, and it was just served with a bit of lime to squirt on yourself.


It was devine. (And it was just plain chicken!)


Lettuce what?

The dinner that surrounded this particular course was not post worthy. This particular course was.

Never in my life have I seen anything really quite like it, and I’m still not sure if I liked it. I didn’t dislike it, but I wouldn’t order it again.

I give you “Lettuce Soup.” (From what I could tell it was….like….lettuce put through I juicer? I don’t really know. The stuff in the middle are noodles.)


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.}


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:


On that note…I bring you: Uni!

Since I’m posting old food reviews, heres another one for you.

The Eliot Hotel
370A Commonwealth Ave. (Massachusetts Ave.)
Boston, MA 02215
Rating: ♠♠♠♠♠ (out of 5)
Cost: $$$$ ($60+)

Read More

Felice Zucchero? aka. “Get away from me, freakface.”

What, exactly, is this “sugar-man” so happy about?

Should this be cause for concern?


If you ever see this guy around, I would advise you to keep him away from your kids. Far away.

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.)

Pocketful of dough? More like pocketful of COLD HARD CASH.

This is an excellent article on Epicurious on the hot topic of tipping your way into fine restaurants. Try it sometime, it works!

I am nervous, truly nervous. As the taxi bounces southward through the trendier neighborhoods of Manhattan — Flatiron, the Village, SoHo — I keep imagining the possible retorts of some incensed maître d’:

“What kind of establishment do you think this is?”

“How dare you insult me!”

“You think you can get in with that?”

It’s just after 8 p.m. on a balmy summer Saturday and I’m heading toward one of New York’s most overbooked restaurants, Balthazar, where celebrities regularly go to be celebrated and where lay diners like me call a month in advance to try and secure a reservation. I don’t have a reservation. I don’t have a connection. I don’t have a secret phone number. The only things I have are a $20, a $50, and a $100 bill, neatly folded in my pocket.

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