Friday, November 7, 2008

Nov. 6: Chez Panisse at the Academy

Via Corsini, Rome, Nov. 6—

THE FELLOWS AT THE ACADEMY complained for years about the food; only those with barely enough money to get by ate at the American Academy up on the Janiculum. Too bad, because the buildings and grounds are magnificent, the site quite splendid, the library enviable: it seems a perfect place for the contemplation and conversation that goes into the liberal arts.


Entrò Mona, as Moravia might have written; enter Mona Talbot about two years ago. Mona was a line cook in the café at Chez Panisse quite a while ago, and has, as they say, good chops. She also has a fine mind and a big heart, and she completely changed the direction of the food at the Academy. Last night we were up on the hill for dinner: house-made terrine of offal and meats with pickled onions and mixed greens; then sautéed chicken, moist and plump, finished in the oven, with small white Cannelini-type beans and further mixed greens from the garden. Yes: the Academy's own garden, which is being encouraged to develop into a kitchen garden alongside its more traditional elegant setting of pines, cypresses, and lawns. Dessert: an extraordinarily subtle persimmon gelato with an equally fine-textured fior di latte on a soft meringue. Cuisine has joined Contemplation and Conversation, and you can be sure much of the table talk is about the food. Excellent.
Chardonnay-Sauvingnon blanc: Monte Lessini "Re d'Aurum" 2005

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