Florence: An Insider’s Guide to All That’s Delicious

One of the Realtors who work in my office has been giving out a May 2000 copy of Bon Appétit magazine to all his friends every time one of them goes to Italy. In particular, they are instructed to read the article “Florence: An Insider’s Guide to All That’s Delicious”. His claims is that this is the perfect guide to eating in Florence, and in 14 years it has not been topped by any other information or guide he has ever read. High praise! I found this fascinating, and the copy of the magazine is quite a relic in and of itself. It’s lovingly worn and taped back together after at least 6 international flights, and I’m sure at this point this magazine has done some extensive sight-seeing.

Which is why I thought it needed to go digital . My god, what if something happened to it? What if it was left in a hotel, or the back of a plane seat?

So what I have done is scanned the article in it’s completion (Click Here to View) and also broken it down as a quickly view-able guide to actually finding a place to eat in Florence. Wherever possible I have include a link and map to easily find the location in Florence as well. Divertiti!

Breakfast

Rivoire – Piazza della Signoria, 5, 50122 Firenze – Hot Chocolate, Pastry, sandwiches

Cennini – Ponte Vecchio – Custard filled brioche, budino di riso, cappuccino

Mid Morning Snacks

Procacci – Via Tornabuoni, 64r, Firenze  – Prosecco, cheeses, charcuterie, sandwiches

I Due Fratellini – Via dei Cimatori, 38, 50122 Firenze – Chianti, anchovies marinated in olive oil, crostini, mozzarella and tomato sandwiches

Lunch

Trattoria Belle Donne – Via delle Belle Donne, 16, 50123 Firenze – Daily Menus

Cantinetta dei Verrazzano – Via dei Tavolini, 18/r, 50122 Firenze – Cheeses, cured meats. crostini

Caffè Cibrèo – Via Andrea del Verrocchio, 5r, 50122 Firenze – High end dining

Il Pizzaiuolo – Via dè Macci, 113, 50122 Firenze – Pizza, seafood

Buca dell’Orafo – Via dei Girolami, 28, Firenze – Tuscan seasonal simplicity

Cantinetta Antinori – Piazza Antinori, 3, 50123 Firenze – Luxe lunch

The Market

Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio –  Piazza Ghiberti, Florence – Held every morning (except holidays) from 7:00 am to 2:00pm, partly open, with benches clothing, fruit and vegetables and food

Kids

Ringo’s Bar – Borgo San Jacopo, 19, 50125 Firenze – Organic burgers, desserts

Afternoon Tea

Osteria del Caffè Italiano – Via Isola delle Stinche, 11R-13R, 50122 Firenze – Proper tea, sweets, desserts

Dolci & Dolcezze – Piazza Cesare Beccaria, 8-red, 50121 Firenze – Tarts and Treats

Vivoli – Via Dell’Isola delle Stinche, 7r, 50122 Firenze – Gelato

Drinks

Hotel Lungarno – Borgo San Jacopo, 14, 50125 Firenze – Arno River views, aperitivo

Le Volpi e l’Uva – Piazza dei Rossi, 1, 50125 Firenze – Small producer wines, local and imported cheeses

Dinner

Garga Via San Zanobi, 33, 50129 Firenze – Art Gallery and Trattoria

Caffè Concerto Paszkowski – Piazza della Repubblica, 35r, Firenze – Modern interpretations of classic dishes

Cavolo Nero Bistrot – Via Guelfa, 100, 50124 Firenze – Romantic courtyard, traditional and modern tuscan

Trattoria IL GUSCIO – Via dell’Orto, 49, 50124 Firenze – Classic Florentine ambiance, simple food

Trattoria 4 Leoni – Via dè Vellutini, 1r, 50125 Firenze –  Bustling, youthful, modern menu

Al Tranvai – Piazza Torquato Tasso, 14r, 50124 Firenze – Quiet anti-tourist trap

*Notes; It is remarkable how few of the restaurants from the original 2000 article have gone out of business. I could only determine a few; Baldovino, Latte & Co., Trattoria Pasquini, and Beccofino – are all closed. Please also note that I cannot personally recommend any of the above restaurants as I have never been to Florence :(

Coconut Banana Bread

I made this last Monday night as a last desperate act of long weekend optimism before it was was all over. I was trying to make a concerted effort to clear out the freezer, which resulted in a pile of defrosted bananas. Im not sure what else in the world anyone can do with defrosted banana. This turned out so well that even my super healthy gym bunny boys in my office ate it and loved it, and my office mate asked for the the recipe.

Two fun things to mention; one, I baked this in a disposable loaf pan, which I found at Gourmet Warehouse and which is perfect for baking treats to bring with you anywhere, no having to remember to bring the pan home. Two, this is a perfect use for virgin cold pressed coconut oil. You get the moist consistency that you would get with margarine, but no nasty hydrogenation. Plus delightful coconuttyness (possibly not a real word) that is enhanced with more coconut and other tropical inspiration.

Note: if you has some Terry’s Chocolate Orange, it would be ideal in this.

Coconut Banana Bread

Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS
3 or 4 ripe bananas, smashed
1/3 cup virgin cold press coconut oil
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon orange flavoring
1 tablespoon lime cordial
1/4 plain yogurt
1/4 milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour
1/2 cup coconut
1/4 chopped dark chocolate

METHOD
No need for a mixer for this recipe. Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C). With a wooden spoon, mix coconut oil into the mashed bananas in a large mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar, egg, Orange and lime flavoring, yogurt and milk. Sprinkle the baking soda, baking powder and salt over the mixture and mix in. Add the flour, coconut and chocolate last, mix just barely together. Pour mixture into a buttered 4×8 inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour. If you use a single use loaf pan, after cooling just cut right in the pan and wrap in cling film tightly. Makes 12 slices.

The Best Raspberry Cheesecake

I was at a great party last night and brought this cheesecake and it went down tremendously well. There is nothing more gratifying than someone saying they don’t like something normally, but that they like this one you have made so much that they want the recipe. This is especially nice as cheesecake doesn’t always work out. It’s got a bad reputation for cracking, collapsing, undebaking, overbaking, burning…in fact I’m pretty sure the few times growing up I ever heard my mother say the word “fuck!” It was when a cheesecake was coming out of the oven.

This makes a very large party sized cheesecake, but if you would like to do the more reasonable home version I suppose, follow this link. I have made a few small changes to my recipe below. The linked recipe has a weirdly small amount of cookie crumbs, and I like to use vanilla sugar ( just pop a slit vanilla bean in a container of sugar and shake occasionally. Keep topping up the sugar, it will keep flavoring and scenting the sugar for years). I also like to whip the egg whites before incorporating as I like to try to get a little lightness into it any way I can.

Baked Raspberry Cheesecake

Ingredients
about 30 digestive biscuits (or half a sleeve)
70g butter , melted
900g cream cheese or 4 packages
3 tbsp corn starch
263g sugar or vanilla sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 eggs, separated
210 ml sour cream
450g raspberries or 3 little grocery store punets
2 tbsp raspberry jam

Heat the oven to 180C/350F. Crush digestive biscuits in a food processor (or put in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin). Mix with melted butter. Press into a 24cm/10″ springform tin and bake for 5 minutes, then cool.

Beat cream cheese with cornstarch, sugar, vanilla extract, egg yolks and sour cream until light and fluffy (you can use the rinsed food processor for this). Whip the whites until firm and fold into the cheese mixture. Stir in 1 punet raspberries and pour into the tin. Bake for 60 minutes and then check, it should be set but slightly wobbly in the centre. Leave in the oven with the door ajar to cool.

Using the remaining raspberries, keep a few for the top and put the rest in a sieve with the jam and force and stir though. Serve the cheescake with the raspberry sauce and raspberries.

There is no calorie count as it would make your head explode. Besides, raspberry are good for you. Fruit! When you think about it, this is practically breakfast food.

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Newfie Trifle

Christmas is over pretty officially now. Lights are coming down in all but the most oblivious households. All the cookies and baking have been begrudgingly eaten or gone stale. January diet season has started. It can all feel a little anticlimactic. It did for me anyways. I did not see my parents at all, in fact I spent the holidays with me new-ish boyfriends family, which was lovely. They did a great Christmas meal. But there is something a little formal about being around the new family. Everyone is on better behavior, you can’t force upon them your own, and perhaps eccentric, traditions.

My mothers family is from Newfoundland, a provence with a long tradition of eccentricity and also of making the most of often scant resources. So the traditional Christmas treats I grew up with I now can’t help but consider and think, what the good goddamn?

For example, my Nanny would make little treats called ‘Penguins’. They are little white cone shaped sweets dipped in a little bit of chocolate, thus, look a little bit like a penguin. But get this; the ingredients are coconut, icing sugar, and MASHED POTATO because why the hell not I suppose. And let me tell you, they are divine.

‘Trifle’ growing up was eaten, as you will see from the recipe below, not at all in the commonly held English idea of Trifle at. That is to say; cake, sherry, jam, custard, whipped cream, decoration. That is English Trifle.

This is my great-aunts trifle recipe, and could be considered a little weird perhaps. For one, there is no cake, because there would not have been cake just lying around having the opportunity to go stale. It in fact has white bread in it. This sounds completely mad but works SO MUCH BETTER THAN CAKE. It keeps the sweetness down and keeps its shape in a nice way. This is also something you can make entirely out of boxes and cans of things. In face if you wanted to go purely authentic with my aunties trifle, it would have tinned carnation condensed milk in it, because that’s what they used.

Regardless of how weird this recipe in its entirety might seem, please understand that this is the taste of total normalcy to me. It is a great example of how in life, you don’t know what you don’t know. In all the holiday wind down, when the weather stared getting really cold here, when I missed my family, this was what I had to make to make the post holiday sadness abate for just a little while. Because like this trifle, you don’t know you’re weird until you’re compared to someone else’s normal. And this is deliciously weird.

Newfie Trifle

2 slices white bread, frozen
1 box strawberry jello
1 can fruit cocktail
2 boxes vanilla pudding
2 cups milk
250ml whipping cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
Maraschino cherries

Put the kettle on. Straight from the freezer, cut the crusts off the bread and cut into cubes. Put in the bottom of a glass bowl or trifle dish. Make up the jello with one cup boiling water and cool down with 4 ice cubes. Empty the can of fruit cocktail, juice and all, into the jello and pour over the bread. Chill for an hour or so.

Make up the vanilla pudding using the 2 cups milk and pour over the jello layer. Whip the cream with the icing sugar and blob over the pudding layer. Decorate with a few halved maraschino cherries.

Eat by the loving bowlful.

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,700 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 5 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

Are restaurants meant to be missionaries?

Last night I went out to celebrate a friends birthday at the new extension to Nicli Antica Pizzaria, Vicino . The meal was fabulous, the space very cool, birthday celebrations always good. But I have to admit that I went home with a stomach ache. It was certainly not Vicino’s fault, at least not directly. It had to do with the rather uncomfortable one block walk from Columbia and E Cordova to the restaurant. You see the only parking to be had was right in front of the Anchor of Hope Salvation Army. And the crowd out front did not exactly seem hopefully, in fact I was more than a little worried for my safety.

I thought I was being a little sheltered until I reached my group, and my boyfriend commented that I should have called from my car and had him come get me and walk me down the block. I was more than a little stressed out over this.

Am I a snob? Maybe. Sheltered? Well yes, probably. But the whole thing was so weird. To practically sprint down the block to avoid crackheads and then come in to Peroni, and $10 per oz. beef jerky, and in house made prosciutto, and other (really delicious) modern hipster excess just seemed completely bourgeoise.

Is this what Gastown is now? I suppose it was coming. Once a few dive bars started getting a more influential following, it was just a hop skip and a jump to organic butchers, South African gastropubs, and charcuterie down alleys. Then there’s Save On Meets, a Gastown experiment so smug it even got its own show on OWN . Is it just because it’s cheaper, better for business? Or is it just that elusive hipness that’s so necessary to keep a restaurant humming along in Vancouver. I have a feeling though that its much more desperate; the deep soul satisfaction that the middle class get when they help out somehow with “the downtown eastside situation”.

Now lets be frank; it’s shitty down there. Deeply horrible. But that doesn’t mean that putting a new nice restaurant in the middle of it is somehow helping out. It’s just forcing the unappealing to the side, over one more block maybe. At worst these new new places become the neighborhood equivalent of new gold fillings in a meth addicts mouth. They’re out of place, and kind of pointless if the recipient is still on the goddamn meth.

The the downtown eastside isn’t a zoo and I for one don’t like going down there to garp at the detritus. So I’m not sure what the point of all these new places are. Are we somehow bringing money into the area? Not unless we get mugged on our way to Chill Winston. Are we just putting a happy modern face on a poverty problem that shows no signs of slowing down? Pasting over poverty with high end furniture shops and gelaterias?

What do you think? Should we keep up the gentrification of Gastown, or leave the homeless a neighborhood to be homeless in?

Sexing up Star Anise

I had a pretty little jar of star anise in my magnetic spice containers for heaven knows how long. I was sure it was mostly for looking pretty, or maybe mulled wine in December. How wrong I was. The secret is this: star anise does amazing things to any meat with a good deal of fat in it.

This recipe is a dinner time savior. It’s easy, flexible and has a wonderful, glamorous spiciest too it. While it contains mostly flavors that would be categories as Asian, it somehow does not come off that way at all in the finished product.

The clincher is the carrots. Just for a little backstory, when I was growing up, I had an Auntie Norine who went to discos and traveled and I thought was very glamorous. I remember me night she had a dinner party where she did these carrots in butter, cinnamon and brown sugar. I though she was mad, but the way they tasted was pure 80s solid gold dancer.

When you get everything roasted together with the chicken schmaltz and 5 spice, you get a hint of what those cinnamon carrots taste like, but maybe in a slightly more modern way. This is the easiest path to winter food Valhalla.

Sticky Chicken Legs With 5 Spice Carrots

Marinade

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp molasses
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp sambal oelek (or more if you like)
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 inch fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp dried ginger
1 cinnamon stick, crumbled
2 star anise, crumbled

4 chicken legs
8 or so carrots, cut into sticks
About a tsp of Chinese 5 spice powder

Stick all the marinate ingredients and chicken in a large ziptop plastic bag, squidge everything around and stick into the fridge with a plate under it for at least a few hours, but up to two days will do nothing but good to it.
(Protip: you can also bung everything straight into the freezer, flat. When it thaws later it marinades itself beautifully.)
Lay chicken on a double layer foil lined baking tray that had been oiled and cook in a 400 degree oven for about an hour. Half way though cooking time, add in the carrots. Sprinkle over the 5 spice powder and give everything a toss to coat the carrots in the cooking juices and spice.
It’s done when everything is bronzed and crispy skinned.

Might I also recommend using this same marinade on some nice pork ribs? Thought I could twist your arm.

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