Monday, November 20, 2017


Via Damaso Cerquetti, November 20, 2017—
FRIENDS AND FAMILY arrive today, and by dinnertime we were not yet into thinking seriously about where to eat. I had a place up my sleeve, a neighborhood place with an interesting menu playing a few variations on local standbys but never descending to the level of tweezer food.

I started with a twist on steak tartare. The chopped beef was sweet and pleasant; there was a barely poached egg on top; the dish was accompanied by smoky sautéed porcini; and underneath it all was a soft layer of parmesan cheese-infused mousse — no idea how that was accomplished.

Then a simple spaghetti alla gricia: spaghetti tossed with fried guanciale (cured pork cheeks) and grated Pecorino cheese — a specialty of Lazio, like last night's carbonara. Both these dishes were expertly done: I recommend this place.

     🍷Traminer from Friuli in carafe
•L'Osteria di Monteverde, Via Pietro Cartoni 163, Rome; 📞+39 06 53273 887

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Sunday, November 19, 2017

There was a time…

Via Damaso Cerquetti, Rome, November 19, 2017—

WE TOOK THE 12:37 train from Varenna to Milano, then the 2pm train on to Rome, where our hosts met us at Termini and drove us to our (their) apartment — what a generous gesture, and how we appreciate it.

I have to admit I was tired and a little dazed from… well, I don't know what, exactly. Perhaps a near-week of just the two of us with minimal input other than beauty. Perhaps the train, which sailed along at 150 mph from Milan to Rome without stopping.

In any case we washed our hands and said goodbye and thank you to our hosts and then walked down to a place we recalled from last April — honest, dependable, not terribly expensive, and nearby.

There I had fagioli e tonno, nothing more than cold cooked Borlotti beans and cold canned tuna, which I seasoned a little further with salt and olive oil. A very simple dish, easily simulated at home. I've usuually had this dish with white beans, cannelini for example: but the meatier borlotti are very good as well.

And then, since after all it's the first dinner in Rome in quite a while, spaghetti carbonara. It's about as good here as anywhere else. The egg yolk is deliciously yellow; the guanciale is first-rate; the pasta is cooked to just the right point — what's to refine further?

     🍷Pecorino, mezzolitro

•C'Era Una Volta, Piazzale Enrico Dunant 13, Rome; 📞 +39 06 53627 8

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017


Via Venini, Varenna, November 18, 2017—
HERE JUST FOR a day, because tomorrow's train leaves from here, and we didn't want to rush things in the morning. Rushing is not indicated in this idyllic corner of Italy.

And, like Bellagio, Varenna is in the grips of basso stagione; much is closed. Including the restaurant we'd thought to try. So we walked on a little further, to the interestingly rhomboidal Piazza San Giorgio, and took a table al sole, in the sun.

fagiole e cipolle

We started by sharing two generous appetizers: a plate of bresaola with arugula and Parmesan cheese; another of perfectly cooked cold Borlotti beans with sliced raw white onion.

I went on to salsiccia e patate, grilled cotechino sausage and curious french fries.

No room, no need, for salad or dessert…

     🍷vino bianco in mezzolitro
•Albergo Del Sole, Piazza San Giorgio 17, Varenna; 📞+39 0341 815218

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Friday, November 17, 2017

Alla darsene di Loppia

Via Eugenio Vitali, November 17, 2017
DINNER AT MIDDAY today in what seemed — after a little online research — likely to be the best restaurant in the area. Darsena, accent on the first syllable, is Italian for "dock," and Loppia is a tiny village a mile or so downcoast from Bellagio, a village with its own tiny sheltered harbor set between a pair of small warehouses.

Whatever. Darsene di Loppia is an elegant place: a long shoebox of a dining room, say fourteen by fifty feet, highceilinged, besutifully lit and painted, with ten or twelve well-spaced tables, quiet, professional staff, an an engaging and thoughtful menu and wine list.

Crudo di tonno

I began with Crudo di tonno: clean, deep red, meaty tuna under a cap of deliciously anchovied puntarelle and set about with equally delicious slices of lardo.

Afterward, Filetto di Vitello farcito con Olive Taggiasche, pomodoro secco, su purea di Topinambur: a slice of veal steak spread with Taggiasco olive paste and rolled, bound with Jerusalem artichoke purée, and garnsihed with a bit of barely cooked broccoli, a generous spoonful of savofry red cabbage, half an artichoke, and a single asparagus spear (from Chile: I asked). The vegetables all complemented one another remarkably well.

Dessert: a white-chocolate sphere, hollow, filled with licorice mousse and covered with lukewarm raspberry sauce. Ingenious and once again deeply flavored.

     🍷Spumante of the region; Lugana CàMaiol Molin, 2016; Barbera d'Alba Elio Altare, 2015; all perfectly correct and enjoyable
•Ristorante Darsene di Loppia, Via Melzi d'Eril 1, Bellagio; 📞+39 339 42.29.884

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Thursday, November 16, 2017


via Eugenio Vitali, November 16, 2017—
WE TOOK A WALK up to the supermarket yesterday — a mile or so — more out of curiosity than need, since there are perfectly nice little alementari here in the village, and a butcher, a wine shop, a pasticceria. But while there we bought a package of gnocchi and a small jar of tomato sauce. Also a lemon, a bottle of Arneis, a small bottle of olive oil.

Today at the local shops we bought some arugula and a bottle of red wine, and tonight Cook put a number of those things together for our second dinner "at home." The gnocchi weren't the best I've had — a little doughy — and Cook thought the sauce could have been better, but I'm not complaining. I dressed the arugula with lemon juice and olive oil, and had a snort of Fernet Branca for dessert.

     🍷Dolcetto, Giuljn, Elio Perrone (Piemonte), 2015: fruity, smooth, hearty

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


via Eugenio Vitale, November 15, 2017—
DINNER AT HOME: Pizzoccheri bought fresh-made (of course) at the supermarket a mile or so away — a brisk walk. Pizzoccheri (accent on the second syllable), I read on Wikipedia, are a flat pasta made of buckwheat flour with a big of wheat flour mixed in. These were not flat, as you see, but formed into ravioli, stuffed with greens, the butcher told us, and ricotta. The filling tasted like spinach to me, but I don't say the hell with it: I love spinach.

Cook simply boiled them in salted water and added sage leaves and butter, salt and pepper. They were interesting, substantial, and enjoyable.

     🍷Arneis, Axzienda Agrficola Gino Battaglia (Roero), 2016: supple and refreshing

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017

A weekend at home(s)

Friday, November 10—
LUNCH TODAY — in fact a midday dinner — at a restaurant we like quite a bit, just across the street from the apartment we've been sharing for the last week with our hosts. We say goodbye to them today, for another year or so, so why not take them to lunch?

We've eaten here a few times over the years, and this time I think it is even better. I begin with Rundercarpaccio met oude Reypenaer, pestodressing en pijnboompitten: beef carpaccio with old Amsterdammer cheese, måche, parsley, fennel greens, and pine nuts with a pesto dressing.

I'm not sure I had a second course; perhaps a salad. I'm writing this several days after the fact. The dessert was memorable: a sort of vla, fortified with genever, with little almond cakes and chocolage-covered nougat lollipops.

     🍷Viura/Verdejo, Conde Pinel (La Mancha), 2016: delicious

Restaurant De Heerlijckheyt Het Loo, Koningstraat 1, Apeldoorn; 📞+31 55 521 3997

Then we took the train to Amsterdam, to have dinner and spend the night with friends. Yolanda is a professional cook and cookbook author, and knew what we'd like to eat. She began us, for example, with hareng. You can't have too much of this, especially when served with delicious gherkins.

Main course was salmon, simply poached, coverfed with a strew of chopped herbs, garnished with cherry tomatoes. Then a quinoa pilaf with chopped parsley. Salad. Dessert.

And, since Krijn was involved, a number of bottles of spirits: the odd Cleveland Bourbon I'd brought him (bought at De Heerlijckheyt), another Bourbon, and a marvelous artisinal Apfelkräuterbrand Mühlengeist from Brennerei Spanier Holsthumer Mühle Startseite, I think. Smooth, fruity, a little edgy.

Next day, Saturday, November 11, we took the bus from Amsterdam to Luxembourg. We had a quick cup of coffee chez Yolanda, then nothing until reaching Brussels, where a half-hour stop allowed time to buy a pistole ham-kaas at a dubious convenience cafe.

Arrived in Luxembourg a little early, say 4:30; we had time for boissons (that delicious Luxembourg Rivaner white wine) during a short waIt for Catharina, then to her new home.

Dinner was, again, salmon — not a all unwelcome. Catharina served it with rice and “grandmother sauce,” a thin sour cream (I think) based sauce with herbs, very good; and a green salad. She is our Swedish daughter, and knows our tastes.

     🍷Rivaner sparkling wine

Proud Croatians in a Luxembourg fund-raiser
Sunday, November 11, we spent enough of the afternoon at a special fund-raising cultural "culinary" event that we hardly needed to eat (or drink) otherwise. There were sixteen countries represented: all the Scandinavian ones; Luxembourg of course; the United States (rather weak: pancakes and lemonade!); Croatia, Bulgaria, Morocco, Israel, Germany, a number of others. Nearly all these countries were handing out samples of sausage, pastries, breads of various kinds, cheeses, wines, and spirits. Ireland was particularly generous with her whiskies. Croatia boasted an excellent Slivovitz.
Then Monday, November 32, we took a train from Luxembourg to Lugano by way of Mulhouse and Basel. Another short-ration day, with coffee and bread and butter — Catharina's delicious home-made bread — and then nothing until we found a restaurant car on the last leg of the trip and availed ourselves of another ham-cheese tosti with a glass of white wine.

That evening, though, we booked into an excellent hotel, the Victoria, whose only drawback was that its restaurant was closed. Oh well: another was across the street, and there we had our first Swiss meal in probably forty years. It was a hell of a lot better than the last one, a gluey fondue somewhere in the sticks. Here we had spaghetti Bolognese and a nice green salad and amused ourselves watching three businessmen (I guess they were) from India drinking "double Jackies" and Johnny Walker Reds with chicken pizzas, ordered without looking at a menu.

     🍷Red, Veneto

•Cafè Retrò Ristorante Tivoli, via Generale Guisan 6, Paradiso, Switzerland; 📞+41 91 993 16 54

And now I'm finally caught up with Eating Every Day, and have only to get around, one day, to bringing up to date the

RESTAURANTS VISITED, with information and rating: 2016      2015     2017