Instead of Jack-o’-lanterns

More than any other season, fall is my favorite time of year. Lots of awesome things happen in the fall: the stifling heat of summer dissipates, I celebrate my birthday, and my boyfriend’s, Halloween, post-Halloween candy sales, the leaves turn colors, Thanksgiving, and the electricity bill goes down. But my favorite part about autumn is, not surprisingly, one of the edible parts: pumpkins!

In the last month or so I’ve been on a pumpkin binge. Pumpkin ale, pumpkin scones, pumpkin butter, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin pie, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin spiced lattes. If it’s got pumpkin as an ingredient, I want it. Which is why when someone back in San Francisco told me about a delicious recipe for soup made in a pumpkin, I made a mental note to make it as soon as I could in New York.

The main ingredients

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Thanks for the memories, San Francisco!

It seems like literally just yesterday that I was boarding a plane for the West Coast, heading out to California for the first time to start new adventures and make new friends and eat my way through a whole new city. Almost three months later, here I am back in New York. I had my adventures, I made my great new friends, and I had many a good meal. But now it’s back to life (and eating) on the East Coast.

Before I dive back into the New York food world, however, I’d like to take a moment to pay homage to one of the best meals of my San Francisco days.

One of my coworker/friends used to always rant and rave about Foreign Cinema in the Mission. Her whole face lit up and her eyes sparkled when she talked about it. So when she asked if I wanted to go with her and another coworker/friend, I said yes right away.

Everything on the menu sounded fantastic, the type of food you might call California/American nouveau (i.e. a little bit of everything hence the American part, and made with fresh, locally farmed ingredients, hence the California part).

Arugula salad with beets, figs, toast and shaved fennel

I don’t usually order salads before dinner (I either get an appetizer or just get straight down to business) but a salad on the menu sparked my interest. Wild arugula, roquefort toasts, beets, shaved fennel, and black mission figs. (I was sold when I read figs.) The slight bitterness of the arugula (which I always prefer to lettuce) was a nice complement to the sweetness of the beets and figs, and the crispy crunch of the toasts made everything just perfect.

Orecchiette with lobster mushrooms and other deliciousness

But the star of this show was definitely my entree: orecchiette pasta with wild lobster mushrooms, bloomsdale spinach, walla walla onion and garlic chili. I had seen lobster mushrooms earlier during my time in San Fran but never tasted them so when I saw them on the menu, I was intrigued. It was a creamy, almost buttery dish, with an overall smooth, texture but with a slight crunch perhaps from the crispy edges of the lobster mushroom. The garlic chili gave it a nice warmth without being overpowering and the onion gave it the perfect sweetness to play off of that. It really was one of the most delicious pasta dishes I’ve had… and that’s including my  recent trip to Italy! Later when I got home I googled lobster mushrooms and found out they’re not even technically mushrooms, but instead a type of parasite that grows on mushrooms and turns them into the bright red-orange, gnarled things that I saw at the market. Who knew parasites could be so delicious?

And it wasn’t just the food that was great, either. Outside in a walled-in area they were playing a movie (the Bob Dylan inspired I’m Not There)  projected on to a blank wall with speakers set up next to each table like at a drive-in movie theatre.

Great food, cool setting, fantastic company… San Francisco, just how I want to remember it.

 

Ripe for the picking


A fig practically shouting to be eaten

I’m obsessed with figs. Usually, I only see them in little plastic crates at the supermarket, but during my recent trip to Italy, I saw them fat and ripe, hanging from a tree in my boyfriend’s yard. In the case of the one pictured above, it was so ripe and ready to be eaten, that it simply couldn’t take it anymore and literally burst open, showing off its ruby colored pulp to the world. This wouldn’t of happened if it was my fig tree. That’s all I’m saying.

I do

Three tiers of beautiful merengue deliciousness at a recent wedding in Italy.

I love weddings. No, really. I loooove weddings. I don’t go to nearly as many as I should for knowing as many people as I do that are getting married, but still. I love ’em.

Yes, the vows to have and to hold, love and to cherish, and all that other lovey dovey stuff are nice, but really, I’m there for the food and the party, and of course, the cake.

Some girls dream about trying on white dresses and choosing the first song they dance to with their betrothed. I dream about cake sampling and getting the first slice of the chosen cake.

Sigh. One day.

Pasta perfection

 


Spaghetti alla vigliacca

 

Everything happens for a reason. However, I did not purposely leave the dress I was supposed to wear to the wedding hanging in the closet at my boyfriend’s house so that we would have a reason to go back to Florence and then have lunch while we were there. Really. I didn’t. It just worked out that way.

So there we were, driving back toward Florence from Lucca. Yes, we needed to time everything so that we could be back in time to get ready for the wedding but there were other pressing matters at hand.

“So, uh, where should we eat lunch?”

Deciding that we would rather avoid the nightmare that is driving and parking in the center of Florence, we instead opted for a place just outside of the center, i.e. where I’d be sure to be the only American around.

We had been to Caffe Dogali before, usually on lazy weekend afternoons when we’d wake up late with growling stomachs. It’s a small osteria and bar near the stadium, part tobacco shop and sandwich counter inside with a small dining room in the back and a little square of outdoor seating in the front.

Though lots of people around us (namely awkward looking Italian teens with identical shoes and bad hair) were eating delicious looking panini made with giant pieces of gold-colored focaccia, we both wanted pasta. Continue reading

Wine isn’t the only good thing to come from grapes

A few weeks ago when the news of me going to Italy for my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding became official, one of the first thoughts to rush through my head (and consequently get voiced in an email shortly thereafter) was, “Ooooh! I wonder if I’ll make it in time for some schiacciata all’uva?”

 

Schiacciata all'uva

 

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“Reunited and it feels so good”

I just came back from a whirlwind weekend trip to Italy. (I know what you’re thinking. Who goes to Italy for the weekend? It was for a wedding, alright? Jeez.) But it wasn’t all about celebrating other people’s love. I was there to see a  couple of my own loves, too. Yes, I’m mainly talking about my boyfriend who’s been flaneuring around Italy while I’ve been in California, but more specifically as it relates to this blog, I was there for something else, my all-time favorite sandwich: the #15 from Antico Noè, served by my all-time favorite, muscly armed panino maker, Luca. ::sigh::

My favorite sandwich of all time, the #15 at Antico Noè

Flaneur and I only had a couple of hours to spend in Florence before having to be elsewhere for wedding festivities, so the million dollar question was where to eat lunch. Now, really, this isn’t a fun question to be asked. I could name 20 places I wanted to have lunch in it. New places, old places, panino places, sit-down places, gelato places (yes, gelato can be lunch), the choices were endless. But since I knew convincing Flaneur to have more than one lunch in the course of a couple of hours wasn’t going to be likely, I had to go with the one place I hold nearest and dearest to my fat little heart: Antico Noè. Continue reading