Saturday, January 26, 2013

Notes and photos

Via Gaetano Sacchi, Rome; January 27, 2013—

A FEW NOTES on the recent state of Eating Every Day:

Here in Rome we generally take one meal a day in a trattoria, the other two at home. Our usual breakfast has been toast, coffee, and milk, just as at home; the friends with whom we share this apartment, and these two weeks, add cheese and fruit to the menu. Today being Sunday, we'll add a boiled egg to the meal: so we all manage to stay with our familiar habits.

Last night, at home, we made do with a few slices of mortadella, some cheese, bread, and fruit. I do love Castelmagno, and bought a pound or so the other day. It turns out no one else seems to like it, so I'll have it to myself, though I still think I'll dress some pasta with it one of these nights. Alas, the Sard pastaficio on via del Moro is closed, whether permanently or only for January I haven't yet determined; I'd been counting on some maloreddus — but there are plenty of other pastaficii nearby.

Night before last our friends made supper, inventively I thought: our plates offered softly scrambled eggs dressed with fried onions and tomato chunks warmed in the frying pan, all on a bed of little lettuce leaves. Very Dutch looking, somehow, and quite delicious, and something I'd never have thought of at all.

A note on the trattorias: we've returned to a number we've known from earlier visits, but also tried a few new to us. I read comments on all these places, as hinted last night, at Yelp, Chowhound, TripAdvisor, and such sites — thankfully we have splendid wifi in this apartment — and I've seen reviews in the traditional press as well.

I learned a long time ago that you can't rely on anyone's report of a restaurant. Dining is simply too complex and too personal an experience to share reliably. I've tried simply to report on my response to what I've eaten, rarely reporting on the setting, the service, and all that. Many of the online comments I read seem fixated on various subjective elements whose relevance to the dining experience is overwhelming from the writer's point of view but completely absent to mine. And one can imagine, of course, that expressions of outrage or resentment, frequent in these online "reviews," reveal personality characteristics that put waiters on guard, often resulting in a spiralling loop of mutual suspicion and irritation, even dislike.

I'm curious about a fairly new place over in Testaccio. When it opened, a little over a year ago, people raved about it. More recently there have been the predictable lamentations that it's gone downhill; one blogger even orders me not to eat there. It's a little off our beaten path, but I'd like to try it, partly because it may be a real find, partly because it'll be another check on all these comments.

A note on photographs: I take them as discreetly as I'm able, without flash or long exposure. I'm aware of the controversy reported in the New York Times on this subject. Diners have a social obligation, I think, not to intrude on other diners in the restaurant: flash, standing photos, asking the waiter to take a photo — these constitute real intrusions, in my opinion.

I take these photos primarily as aides-memoires, in lieu of taking notes. I photograph menus and wine labels as well as dishes, for that reason. This has made me lazy: you'll have noted evasive writing here and there, when I've forgotten exactly what it is I've enjoyed. Fettucine, or tagliarini? Was there tiny bits of tomato in that sauce, or was that crisped radicchio? No clue: the photo isn't detailed enough. Take notes, dammit, Charles!

(Lindsey does not completely share my photo-taking policies, and is responsible for the photo here, taken yesterday at Perilli.)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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