You should be redirected in 6 seconds - if not please click the link below:
You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit and update your bookmarks.
see you over there :-) Man Woman


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Trattoria Le Cave (Padova)

The day: 19 March 2010, Dinner.

The place: Via delle Cave 51, Padova, Italy

The venue: Trattoria Le Cave

The food: Unreconstructed Seafood Italian

The drinks: Simple but interesting wine list

We discover it in the most serendipitous of ways. We are in Padova for work, living in a completely nondescript neighborghood at the edge of the city. A walk around reveals this very simple looking but, to us, mysteriously enticing venue specialising in seafood. We reason that in an off-neighborhood like this, either they kill their customers with bad fish or they satisfy them to induce them to spread the word to non-residents, and to come back themselves.

And indeed, this is one of those stereotypical Italian restaurants of which unfortunately one sees less and less around: a cuisine based on immaculate ingredients simply but correctly cooked (as opposed to the more frequent category: mediocre ingredients pretentiously and/or faultily cooked). A trattoria, if you will, but one in which (unlike in more chic places) your are seated at a table with a proper tablecloth.

No menu, just the manager standing at the table and asking us what we'd like. Normally this would put us off, but as we said, this place strangely inspires confidence - and to be fair there is a menu outside the restaurant, and after a quick scan we had decided it looked honest. So we ask our attentive manager to prepare a mixed starter of raw and cooked seafood.

'Do you want to go the whole hog? Because I warn you: if you do, you won't have space for anything else'
'Well, no, we want to have space left for a grilled fish afterwards'
'OK, I'll take something out then, leave it with me'.

While we wait we munch some complimentary vegetables accompanied by a nice home-made mustard vinaigrette

From then on it was a real feast for the seafood lover. From tuna and swordfish carpaccio

(with good olive oil!).

Raw langoustines (stunning):

Raw local scallop (you can tell you are not in a fine dining restaurant here...but actually the coral which you don't usually get served is pleasant and, less sweet than the rest, it creates an interesting contrast)

We had also asked for a local speciality, the 'granseola' (crab):

and, while we are used to our great local Anstruther crabs, we must say this was a true delicacy. Very different and more 'dramatic' in shape, too, as you can see. For those of you with a naturalistic interest, here's a look at the picturesque back:

And the cooked part begins...

all super-fresh and nicely cooked, no hint of that rubberiness which is the most dreaded feature for this type of item.

And this, this dish of grilled cannolicchi (razor clams) and "mini scallops" (we forgot to note down the local name) was a stunner:

And we finish the 'starter' (ehm) with a cooked scallop each:

At this point we supposedly had space left for a grilled seabass, with a couple of grilled squids thrown in for good measure:

Thebass was ever so slightly overcooked but very fragrant, pleasant. The squids just perfect. It was accompanied by unadvertised roast potatoes

which while not helping our waistline surely did appeal to our tastebuds. Oh, yes, they did.

We did not have space for dessert, but we were offered one of several home-produced digestives (we opted for a delicious liquorice based one).

And here goes another old fashioned classic, talcum powder, viava' and a good brush, the indespensable tools to remove whatever juice or sauce has unfailingly found the way onto your shirt...

All in all, a very good, straight seafood triumph. It does not come cheap (€165 inclusive of a mid-priced and reasonably priced wine), but good fish never does.

And what you get here is that generosity, welcoming hospitality and straigth honesty that alas is no longer as common as it used to be. How many restaurateurs can you imagine offering you so much fish that you won't have room for the more remunerative desserts?

It was obvious from the word go that our delightful host was there to make sure we went out happy: and we sure did.

Don't come here if you don't like seafood because it is literally all they do: but if you do, do!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tortel di patate

Tortel di patate is a traditional dish from Trentino, a 'potato cake' made with grated potatoes which provides a carbohydrate base to accompany the main dish. There are many versions: those that add flour to the grated potatoes, those that add eggs, those that cook it in the oven, those that cook it in the pan, those that make it thick, those that make it thin.

We tried a modern, very light, very thin and almost greaseless interpretation at our Trentino fave Osteria Fior di Roccia. The purist take is: potatoes. The right potatoes, of course, so that once grated they will produce enough starch to keep the grated mass together, but not so much as to make a gluey mess. Good potatoes, very little oil to sear the cake in the pan, and a lot of skill. Full stop.

Here is the result:

Now, what more could you want?

The main character first:

which on this occasion we try with venison stew and the stunner of the dish, 'marmellata di corniole' (cornelian cherry jam):

The trio, the starchy-sweet and ever so slightly burnt potatoes, the acidic corniole, and the unctuous, dense and gamey venison, are one of those perfect combinations one only occasionally encounters in gastronomy. Pure delight.

And fun, preparing each tortino slice with the desired proportions!

All accompanied by a remarkable little wine:

From a local producer, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot, jammy and dense due to a proportion of dried grapes, balanced, with some elegance and interesting, unusual flavours.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Hirschen Oberkirch (Luzern, Switzerland)

It's around Luzern but you don't want to travel there, so no details.

After our gastronomically undistinguished boat trip from the North of England to Amsterdam and another sandwich-fuelled few hundred mile drive to Switzerland, en route to Italy, we are looking forward to a gastronomic break at a place recommended by the Jeunes Restaurateurs d'Europe association.

They promote 'passion and talent', so our expectations are high.

And it's also part of the 'Hirschen' brand which we recently extolled...

The rustic small room, behind a bar area, is promising.

Then we look at the scandalous bread (of the supermarket slice variety), we have a moment of doubt, but we resume the optimistic mood. It's Sunday night, after all.

An amuse also appears:

Boiled veal marinated in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple, slightly 'thrown on the plate', but at least pleasant. We keep being optimistic.

We are looking mesmerised at the dense menu in German, resigned, given the language wall between us and the waitress, to order food at random.

But then suddenly the chef appears (we recognise him from the JRE website photo), even though dressed in 'civilian clothes', says hello in English, and sits decisevely at our table.

He asks us what we want to eat. What do you recommend? He asks if we want traditional or gourmet. In unison: gourmet. How many dishes? We have been sitting all day, not many, just two, three. And yes, sure, we want dessert. You have free hand, chef, just cook for us what you want!

So what you are going to see is the absolute best this cuisine is capable of producing.

Dish number 1:

It's a pan-fried Zander fish (pike-perch) with celery, wild rice and peppers. Ok, the fish is fresh, and it is also cooked well, this a 'gourmet dish'? The artless cheesy pool and the little mountain of naked (and steamed) celery bits tell the tale, we think.

We begin to notice that not only does the chef not wear chef clothes, he is also never in the kitchen, just chatting at the bar. We had also noticed that he was not sure what amuse bouche we had been given.

In other words, we begin to notice that the chef, assuming he is a chef, doesn't give a shit.

Dish number two:

It's roast lamb with potatoes and greens, a very young and smiley cook emerging from the kitchen announces in Italian. The lamb is of good quality, slightly tough, the sauce not very intense. It's an unambitious dish which however is not throughly unplesant to eat. The vegetables are just boiled vegetables, with a watery taste. The potatoes fare better, but to be frank the hurdle was not that high...

At this point we are regretting asking for the dessert. And we are getting more and more edgy, as this dessert is taking quite a while. Uh, but what is that, the young cook now leaves the kitchen. Uhm... We ask the waitress whethere there is any more coming. She checks with the 'chef' (c'mon, be serious), and she comes back that no, that's it. Just to remind you: we had given free hand to the chef, and we had asked for a dessert.

The dessert never came.

A very modest dinner by the advertised 'gourmet' standards. No talent and even less passion, so we just do not understand how the JRE association can endorse this venue.

One thing which wasn't modest was the price. Including a Swiss red wine at 59 CHF (a blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noire, Gamay recommended by the 'chef' which was the one bright spot of the evening) and a tiny mineral water at CHF 6.5, we paid CHF 195.50. That's over £120, totally ridiculous for a 2 course dinner of this modest quality.

The JRE should be ashamed of themselves.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The boat rocks...

Wafer thin cabin walls that make it impossible to ignnore the clumsy love making of the impetuous adolescent couple on the right, or the engrossing middle of the night discussion on the virtues of multi sotrey car parks in Amsterdam from the two blokes on the left. A sport bar with a lonely customer staring into emptyness, his clutching hand warming the beer. The nightclub? Just sad...

So our expectations upon entering the "Seven seas Restaurant" of the Newcastle to Amsterdam boat, grandly named the Queen of Scandinavia (or was it the Princess of Sweden?), on an "all you can eat buffet basis couldn't be lower. And yet:

an attractive bread display

An unexpected shellfish counter

various passable salads

a very wide selection of fish-based finger food bites, a carvery counter, plenty of dessert counters, cheese and biscuits:

£25 per head if you book before you board. It's not gourmet food, let's be clear, just edible and pleasantly presented material: but, if you really have to go, it must be the best thing within the confines of the boat!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Eating well in Germany

Yes, eating well in Germany happens easily. A couple of years ago we sampled fine cuisine and had a wonderful experience in Bad Mergentheim.

Then last year and this one we found ourselves spending a few cold February days days for work in a small town in Bavaria, Parsberg (located between Regensburg and Nuremberg).

Where you can't miss the Hirschen Hotel

which not only is spoilingly comfortable and relaxing but, even more crucially for us, serves warmly satisfying Bavarian home cooking.

They do their own butchering - you can see their butcher and delicatessen shop on the left of the entrance - and even brew their own beer.

We are not great beer appreciators but we must say that on this occasion, in this below zero temperature, with this food, a few litres of sweetish, dense Weizenbier (beer with malted wheat - more than 50%) went through us very pleasantly.

There were, of course, the unmissable sausages and krauts and potatoes

everything of high quality, the veggies and the meat, and cooked as they ought to be cooked.

But also other items on the menu

Grandma serves the succulent pork, kartoffel and krauts from a tray:

She tells you you must absolutely try the beautiful sauce (at least this is what we think she said, as we don't speak a word of German):

and whatever she said it was indeed intense, not too heavy and ideal to elevate the rest of the very good ingredients.

We said it was below zero, we needed calories to survive, so what better to finish than homemade apple fritters?

(the compoted berries, plums and assorted fruit were also top notch).

It's so beautiful to eat traditional food cooked simply and properly and with care in the choice of materials, with flavours that tell a story and go far back in time.

There's also great generosity at Hirschen, we haven't told you about the enormous variety and quantities of pickles, nuts, seeds, jams, charcuterie, cheeses and of the wonderful teutonic breads, all available to the guest who goes for the buffet lunch or dinner or who takes breakfast.

Even coffee was almost OK: what more can we say?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...