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Desserts, Family Fun, Firenze, Florence, Gelato, Italy, Tuscany

Three Scoops: Gelato in Florence

October 6, 2016

After a long day of touring, or in the middle of a long day of touring, or just because you’re in Italy, in the beautiful city of Florence, you’ll want gelato. Even if it’s wintertime. Avoid the places with the big puffy gelato displays and colors not often seen in nature. Look for signs that say gelateria artigianale, naturale, or biologico.  Go for gelaterias that keep the ice cream in stainless containers—covered stainless containers are even better.

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Covered stainless steel containers keep gelato fresh and flavorful. Daily flavors will be listed on signs along with prices.

All the available flavors will be written on a sign and you already know what fragola (aka strawberry) looks like. We love that you can choose two or more flavors even for small cones or cups, so experiment with any flavor combination you fancy. Go wild! If someone behind the counter asks, “Panna?” Just say “Si” and your cono will be topped with delicious fresh whipped cream, often at no extra charge. Feel free to indulge.

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To make your gelato even more satisfying, say yes to panna montata– fresh whipped cream often offered gratis– free!

In Florence, some say Perche No! www.percheno.firenze.it can’t be beat. This is one of the oldest gelaterias in the city, serving it forth since 1939. It is good, really good, so if you’re in the city center you should definitely stop in for a cone.

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Many of the best gelaterias have lines, but they go quickly. It is worth waiting at places like La Carraia.

Often touted as the best in town, La Carraia www.lacarraiagroup.eu , with two shops in Florence, is branching out and opening a store in Rome, too. We like their gelateria on the Altro Arno just over the bridge of the same name. This is a line worth standing on– and there is always a line. They also have scrumptious looking cakes and other tempting confections but we single-mindedly stick to the gelato.

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You can choose at least two flavors even on small cones.

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It’s hard not to be happy with a cone in your hand.

Our little apartment’s location by the Duomo caused us to walk by Edoardo daily. www.edoardobio.it We don’t resist temptation often or easily so had ample opportunity to sample their delicious gelato. Just grab a number by the door and peruse the list of daily flavors while you inhale the intoxicating aroma of their handmade cones. Don’t worry–the line goes quickly.

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Grab a number and enjoy the heady aroma of fresh baked cones while you wait at Edoardo.

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This is what delicious looks like. Chocolate with chili (cioccolato con peperoncino) and cinnamon (cannella) are two of my favorite flavors.

Grom www.grom.it was the first of the “all natural” gelato we enjoyed many years ago and it’s still delicious. The company began in Torino and now you’ll find them in cities across Italy, including Florence, and around the world from New York to Jakarta. They even have an outpost in Los Angeles now.

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Grom is in cities throughout Italy and worldwide.

Gelato preferences are personal, of course, so go explore. Find your favorites and please share your discoveries with us.

 

 

 

Desserts, Dining, Firenze, Florence, Italy, Pizzerias, Restaurants, Tuscany, Wine bars

Florentine Favorites: Where to Eat

September 28, 2016

Many visitors to Florence seem to be on a quest, trying to squeeze in as much culture as they can in a few short days. Don’t overlook the culinary component of travel. Take a deep breath and spend some real time in this glorious city if you can, and take time out for some superb dining while you’re here.

A quick 10- minute walk from our apartment near the Duomo over the Ponte Santa Trinita brought us to Il Santo Bevitore’s welcoming doors. It seemed like everyone inside ilsantobevitore.com was having a great time. We did, too, and put it at the top of our list of Florentine favorites.

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Il Santo Bevitore on the Altro Arno is one of our absolute Florentine favorites.

The comfortable dining rooms (there is a large one, pictured above, and a smaller one just beyond it) are lively and full of happy diners enjoying the excellent cuisine. The atmosphere is casual and warm with just the right amount of buzz.

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You can request an English menu or practice your language skills with the Italian one.

The food is absolutely delicious and the service is attentive and friendly. Some stand outs were the porcini risotto, the pigeon, rombo, and the veal.

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This simple pear and pecorino salad was a perfect starter.

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We always say, “si” to a sformatino– a light, savory custard just right as a first course..

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Il Santo Bevitore’s veal was perfectly prepared.

You can’t go wrong with the pastas, meat or fish—whatever you choose is going to be good. Save room for dessert though.  The chestnut torte and yogurt mousse were both terrific.

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The succulent pigeon is a game bird lover’s delight.

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Fresh fish (rombo in this case), lardons, and potatoes were elegantly plated and beautifully prepared.

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Save room for dessert. This yogurt mousse was spectacular.

We would’ve eaten at Il Santo Bevitore every night, but felt the need to explore some of Florence’s other delightful dining options. Remember, reservations here are a must. Il Santo Bevitore is open for lunch and dinner.

img_3068Try Cucina Torcicoda cucinatorcicoda.com for lunch or dinner. They have a restaurant, a casual trattoria, and a pizzeria– all in the same building.  When you book in, and you must reserve, let them know which you prefer. They’ll be very different dining experiences but all delicious.

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Torcicoda’s elegant and tranquil dining room.

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Torcicoda’s wine list features fine selections from all over Italy.

We had an excellent dinner in the restaurant. The food was superb and the service attentive.

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This exquisite pork dish was rich and flavorful. The chestnuts gave it a great contrasting texture and crunch.

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Memories of this sensational truffle- topped tenderloin make my mouth water.

The casual trattoria has a different menu from the restaurant’s and it looked good, though we didn’t have time to try it.

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We’ll try the casual trattoria next time.

We ate lunch at Torcicoda’s pizzeria and sampled four different pies. We were especially pleased with the ones topped with fresh buffala mozzarella cheese– gooey and delicious but with a crisp, thin crust–just the way we like our pizza.

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The pizzeria was packed day and night, so be sure to reserve.

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Fresh buffala mozzarella, available on a number of Torcicoda’s pies, upped the yum factor.

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Pizza bianca with sausage and broccoli rabe was another hit.

The pizzeria also has a good-sized outdoor dining area which is open rain or shine. It’s fun to watch the parade of tourists passing by on their way to the beautiful Santa Croce across the piazza, as you enjoy your meal.

img_3368We walked past Konnubio www.konnubio.it one afternoon at lunchtime and it looked so inviting we decided to go back for dinner.  It was a good choice. The restaurant is casual and lively but the noise level is not over the top.

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Diners were just beginning to arrive when we took this photo. Every table was taken in both dining rooms when we left.

The food was beautifully plated and everything we tried was delicious.

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Seared tuna with fresh asparagus was pleasing to the palate and the eye.

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Tender lamb with caper berries was outstanding.

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Konnubio has an extensive wine list and knowledgeable, helpful waitstaff.

You should reserve a table as we saw only one walk in party seated, while others were turned away. See if you can sit in the main dining room at one of the tables with the big comfy chairs instead of the side dining room, if you can.

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Cantinetta Antinori is owned and operated by the Antinori wine family cantinetta-antinori.com. The restaurant is located in the beautiful Antinori family palazzo right in the center of Florence. We’ve had many delicious lunches here as well as a very good dinner.

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Enjoy fresh baked bread and Tuscan olive oil from Antinori’s estate while you peruse the extensive wine list.

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Thinly sliced artichokes with parmesan cheese was a winner.

The food is typical Florentine cuisine and oriented to the seasons.

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Crispy potatoes topped with filet of white fish, sundried tomatoes, and capers was full of flavor and texture.

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The hearty stewed beef on a bed of polenta is typical Florentine fare.

They have an extensive wine by the glass (or half glass) program so you can sample many of Antinori’s broad line at reasonable prices. It’s fun to try wines you may not see at home.

img_2002Cantinetta Antinori is very popular with local business people especially at lunch, so book a table.

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We had a good lunch at Trattoria 13 Gobbi Via Porcellana 9/r www.casatrattoria.com tel 055 284015. We discovered this cute little place tucked away on a small side street on one of our meandering walks through this beautiful city.

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The dining room is charming and features plenty of vintage posters, advertisements and more to catch your eye.

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The flavorful vegetable soup was presented in this lovely copper pot.

We plan to give dinner a try there next time.

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Trattoria Cibreo is another one of our lunchtime favorites. We go to the trattoria at Via di Macci 122R, instead of Signore Picchi’s very popular but pricier restaurant, Ristorante Cibreo. The food is terrific and the menu seasonal. Be aware that they don’t serve pasta and they take no reservations at the trattoria. They open for lunch at 12:45 pm and you need to be there early to get a table. People will be lined up and waiting for the doors to open. The trattoria is closed Sundays and Mondays. There’s a tripe truck parked nearby that the always has a line. Snack while you wait?

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While not to my taste, this tripe truck does a great business.

Here are a few other Florentine restaurants we’ve enjoyed over the years: Omero is a wonderful classic Florentine restaurant way up above the town with great views. The food is delicious, the service is attentive and this well-known eatery is extremely popular. Be sure to book in for lunch or dinner. ristoranteomero.it

Il Latini is the place for multi- course and enormous meals. There wasn’t a menu when we went for lunch–they just kept bringing food to the table. It was all good and there was plenty, served family style. The key word here is “basta”! Enough! Tell them how many courses you want before they start bringing it—especially if you don’t want the meat courses. illatini.com

Del Fagioli means the beans, literally. This is a good, casual family place close to the Uffizi. The owner seemed to know at least half the patrons when we had dinner there some time ago. Corso Tintori 47r telephone for a reservation—they were turning people away. 055244285

There are so many wonderful restaurants, trattorias and pizzerias in Florence you’re bound to find some to fit your taste and budget.  Please share your favorites with us @traveltawk. Buon appetito!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate, Desserts, Dining, Family Fun, Firenze, Florence, Italy, Markets, Pizzarias, Restaurants, Shopping, Tuscany, Wine bars

Florence’s Fantastic Mercato Centrale

September 22, 2016

Craving a cappucino and a cornetto? Need a bouquet of fresh flowers or picnic provisions? How about fresh pasta to enjoy at home? Or maybe you’re just in the mood for pizza and a beer? Florence’s Central Market or Mercato Centrale Firenze www.mercatocentrale.it  is Florence’s answer to foodie heaven.  Housed in a historic building originally erected in 1847, and open from 10 a.m. to midnight, this is the place to go.

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Pick up picnic provisions like salami, cheeses, prosciutto and more at Florence’s Mercato Centrale.

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Fresh pastas and delicious sauces to go with them make a tasty and quick meal that’s easy to prepare in your vacation rental.

The market on the ground floor is fun to explore with every kind of seasonal produce, pastas, sauces, meats, cheeses, and flowers. Anything you could want that’s fresh and in season is right here.

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The Mercato Centrale has a bounty of seasonal produce, herbs and fresh flowers.

Upstairs at the Mercato Centrale is one of our favorite stops for for lunch, though you can also have breakfast, snacks, sweets, drinks and dinner here.

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Neapolitan-style pizza is done right at La Pizzeria Sud.

Go get some terrific Neapolitan style pizza at Pizzeria Sud. You can take your slices to one of the communal tables or go upstairs for table service. We opted for the former and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the place.

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Lunch is ready!

There are lots of tasty options– pasta, panini, cheese and meat platters, fish, pizza, even burgers and fried chicken to choose from. There is also a coffee bar, wine, beer, pastries, gelato and delicious desserts–something to please most any palate.

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Choose your favorite foods from the array of vendors upstairs at the market and grab a seat at the communal tables. Mangia!

Everything on offer here from the hamburgers made from Chianina beef at La Toraia di Enrico Lagorio, the pasta from Raimondo Mendolia, Maurizio e Poala Rosellini’s fresh fish, the bufala mozzarella, beautiful baked goods, chocolates and gelato are all of the highest quality.

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A great selection of fresh or aged cheeses to eat now or enjoy later are readily available.

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If you’re looking to really splash out, try these fragrant truffles.

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If your tastes run more to fried foods, you’re in luck.

We even sampled the trippa fritta—fried tripe, a Florentine favorite, though not to my taste.

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Trippa fritta is a Florentine favorite.

After lunch (or dinner), you’ll probably want coffee and something sweet. Please remember that no self-respecting Italian would even consider ordering a cappuccino, latte or similar milky coffee drink after breakfast hours. Stick to the espresso. Ask for a caffe lungo if you miss your American coffee. Desserts are in abundance here and include gelato, pastries, cookies, and cannoli, which are stuffed while you wait—as they should be. Crushed pistachios on the ends are optional.

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These confections look almost too good to eat. Almost…

Upstairs is also where you’ll find Eataly www.eataly.net/it. which features Italian grocery items, household goods, personal care items and my favorite Florentine soaps from Nesti Dante. You’ll also find a wine shop specializing in Chianti Classico selections, a cooking school, a bancomat (ATM)  and public restrooms which are in short supply in many cities like Florence.

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If you’re looking for Italian wines, particularly those from the Chianti Classico region, you’ve come to the right place.

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Students pay rapt attention at the Lorenzo de Medici Cooking School upstairs at the Mercato Centrale.

If you feel the need for yet more shopping, there are also stalls outside the building on the surrounding streets with scarfs, leather items, and souvenirs—all the typical Florentine goods you’d expect to find.

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Shoppers can find everything from dry pasta to Pinocchio at the market and stalls outside.

Buon appetito and happy shopping!

Desserts, Pacific Northwest, Restaurants, seattle

Emerald City Eats: Bar Sajor & Cupcake Royale

July 27, 2015

Bar Sajor is owned by the same people behind Sitka and Spruce, along with several other Seattle eateries www.sitkaandspruce.com. We enjoyed one of our first communal table meals there several years ago—a very popular concept in the friendly Northwest. Bar Sajor www.barsajor.com has an open kitchen with a large wood burning fireplace on which a number of dishes are prepared. The room is open, airy and has a very casual vibe but there is an undercurrent of hip pretentiousness, which didn’t bother us. It was a warm evening but the windows were open wide to allow in the welcome breeze.   The restaurant was busy but still fairly quiet for a Saturday night.

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Bar Sajor’s airy, casual dining room.

Bar Sajor, like Sitka and Spruce is dedicated to the farm–to- fork concept using local purveyors for nearly everything on offer. The menu, which changes regularly to reflect seasonally available ingredients, is meant for sharing. Diners are encouraged to choose a selection of dishes to share with the entire table. Many dishes are available in several sizes to accommodate larger groups and appetites. Food is served as soon as it is ready in the kitchen, typically in no particular order. If you have a desire to receive your dishes in a specific order, you can ask, or just order a few items at a time, pausing between orders, which is what we did.

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It’s fun to watch the chef preparing dishes in the fireplace.

We started our evening with beers (local drafts and foreign and domestic bottles are served) and a nice glass of rose—perfect for a sultry summer evening. Bar Sajor is another of those restaurants that charges $5 for bread but theirs is “naturally leavened” and served with the very “of the moment” cultured butter and flake salt. It was really tasty and the cultured butter, which had a nice tang, was served in an oyster shell.

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Cultured butter in an oyster shell adds a touch of whimsy.

The “simple” salad was anything but. It featured crisp snap peas, Shunkyo radishes, fava beans, and fiddlehead ferns– which added a nice texture and an earthy element. All of the vegetables were perfect. The green goddess dressing was light and balanced, unlike the gloopy goo that was poured from bottles many decades ago. The salad is available in two sizes at $13 or $17. It made a delicious first course.

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There’s no excuse not to eat your vegetables when they’re this good.

Next, we enjoyed a beautifully presented “Grand Aoili” with dipping vegetables including seaweed, hard cooked egg, and a nice assortment of local fin fish and shell fish including Dungeness crab, shrimp, and house-smoked mussels. My only complaint—the dish could have been heavier on the seafood and perhaps the largest sized platter is. This dish is available in three sizes at $30, $55 or $95. We had a nice flinty Sancerre with the Aoili.

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The Grand Aioli brought back memories of France.

Our meat course was a juicy, perfectly prepared ribeye. The meat was cooked over coals and served with baby squash and Meyer lemon. It was a pricey $56 but certainly satisfied the carnivores at the table and their voracious appetites.

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The ribeye was a meat eater’s delight.

The Sequim strawberries and warm coppa arrived at the same time as our ribeye. The berries were perfectly ripe and the ham was an excellent compliment to the fruit. These were served with lavender and black sesame seeds. Delicious! The price was $16.

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The coppa complimented the berries beautifully.

With the meat and berry courses, we enjoyed a bottle of Domaine Philemon, a red varietal made with Braucol grapes from Gaillac, in the Southwest of France. The wine has a nice spiciness and a woodsy, floral aroma, perfect with those dishes.

We were much too full for dessert. Besides, we had our dessert much earlier in the day when we stopped at Cupcake Royale www.cupcakeroyale.com. Highly recommended to us by a Seattle friend, Cupcake Royale has multiple locations. We stopped in at the one near the Pike Place Market www.pikeplacemarket.org.

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No need to choose between cake and ice cream at Cupcake Royale. Try both.

The small storefront has delicious cupcakes in seasonal flavors like Raspberry Pavlova, Blackberry Brown Butter and Blueberry Lavender Honeycomb, and at least a dozen rotating ice cream flavors. You don’t have to choose between cake and ice cream here—have both. They also have coffee drinks– this is, after all, Seattle. There is limited seating available inside.

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Cupcakes and ice cream worth the wait!

If you haven’t satisfied your sweet tooth after Cupcake Royale, pop into the wine and chocolate shop next door. While we were enjoying our ice cream cones, one of our traveling companions took advantage of the complimentary wine tasting going on there. Next, another day, another delicious dinner.