Sunday, June 5, 2011

Last night at Cristofoli

Albergo Cristofori, Treppo Carnico, Friuli, June 4, 2011—
LAST NIGHT IN TWO senses: I write about this the next day, as you'll have seen by the datelines; and then it was also our last night's dinner at this delightful country albergo, where we had been received as honored guests, I've no idea why.

In the afternoon our hostess — let's call her Dora; I think I heard someone refer to her by that name — had proposed a risotto for the three of us as a first course, and we jumped at the suggestion. So that was how we began the meal: a beautifully made risotto, both creamy and al dente, based on chicken stock of course, flavored subtly but definitely with silex leaves.

I've since looked Silene vulgaris up in Wikipedia; it's what is called campion or bladderflower or, in our family, balloonflower. It grows wild; no need to cultivate it; and it's one of a number of greens foraged in the wild that crop up — ah, there — in la cucina povera, peasant cuisine. Such herbs are said to be particularly nutritious; they're also often strongly flavored, useful in heightening what might otherwise be a drab diet.

(English-language Wikipedia mentions only Spain in describing culinary use of silene; the Italian-language version is considerably more edifying.)

What with the stridoli, as the herb's called in Friulano, and the discreet use of Parmigiana, this risotto was anything but drab, and revealed a fine hand — which is consistent with the other meals we've had here. It was followed by little pork-loin cutlets nicely pan-seared and served with peperonata, grilled, then braised red and yellow peppers, sharp and sweet; and then a green salad.

The dessert was truly memorable: bowls of the tiniest little strawberries, (fragolini di bosco, fraises des bois), smaller than any I've seen except growing wild high in the Alps in France. There was nothing to be said about this: there's a particular kind of truth that transcends language. As had happened at the two previous meals, we all simply exchanged glances and grunted quietly. If you have to have a last dinner, this is the way to do it.
White wine in carafe
• Albergo Cristofoli, Treppo Carnico, Friuli

Location:Treppo Carnica, Friuli

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