An old tradition in my old neighborhood

Il Lampredottaio of Sant’Ambrogio

When I lived in Florence a few years ago, my apartment was a stone’s throw away from what is apparently one of the best places in town to get one of the most Florentine foods around, lampredotto. I never went because 1. while I’m not opposed to offal, eating the cow’s fourth stomach wasn’t really high on my must-eat list, and 2. I always just figured that I would get around to it at some later point. But when I left and moved to New York, I did so without ever trying the famous local street meat.

Last week though, during  my vacay in Italy, I went back to my old stomping grounds and finally made it to the famous lampredottaio (i.e. the lampredotto vendor) of Sant’ Ambrogio.

Panino al lampredotto, an old Florentine tradition

So what’s the cow’s fourth stomach (cause yes, they have four) like, you ask? Well, it’s not exactly pretty. With its greyish brown color (before being cooked, which it is, in a broth of onions, tomatoes and other ingredients) and its wrinkly, floppy texture, it definitely doesn’t get points for being aesthetically pleasing. But once it’s cooked, plopped on to a warm, toasty roll and dressed with a healthy drizzle of salsa verde (a tangy, flavorful sauce made of garlic, parsley, and olive oil) and a few fat drops of spicy sauce, the lampredotto panino is actually not half bad. It’s interesting. It has a slightly off-putting texture at first but the deeper you chomp into the heart of the sandwich, where all the juices and flavors have collected, it actually gets pretty good.

Had I tried it when it was just a few steps away from my apartment I don’t think it would have necessarily become my neighborhood go-to but I liked it enough to be glad I finally stopped to try it.

For another post on the Florentine street meat from a great blogger who really knows what she’s talking about, check this out. Buon appetito!

Gelato, that’s amore!

I just came back from Italy, where I spent a week in and around Florence with my boyfriend, visiting his family and friends, taking daytrips, carboloading and through it all… SWEATING, cause dear sweet Madonna and Child, it was HOT. Like, really hot. Like, totally socially acceptable to eat gelato every day, sometimes twice, kind of hot.

Below, the highlights reel of my love fest with gelato, which I thank for saving me from heat stroke:

Il Sorriso

Outside of Florence’s tourist-clogged center was Il Sorriso, where the BF and I stopped one day on our way to lunch at his sister’s house. Because we really were on our way to eat lunch, he suggested we split a cup instead of each getting our own. I relented, though I’m not usually into this kind of thing. We got stracciatella, probably the best I ever had, with thick, chunky pieces of chocolate throughout it,  and cremino alla Nutella, which was a creamy, chocolate, Nutella swirled bunch of awesomeness.

Badiani

On a different day we went to one of Flaneur’s old favorites, also outside of the center, called Badiani. Though it’s a gelateria/ pasticceria combo with some pretty amazing looking baked treats, their main draw is the gelato, especially the Buontalenti flavor which they hold a registered trademark for. On the left is my cup of Millefoglie gelato (named after the Italian pastries made with dozens of layers of delicate, crispy thin layers of dough and thick, custardy pastry cream) and more cremino (this time without Nutella, but still chocolatey and rich). On the right is the BF’s cup of pistachio (a nutty, creamy blend) and the house star, Buontalenti, a buttery, rich mixture of cream, custard, and all that is good in this world.

Gelateria dei Neri

While strolling around downtown in Florence’s historic center one day (and by strolling you should know that I mean wondering at what point the skin on my body was going to start bubbling and blistering from the unbearable heat) we stopped at Gelateria dei Neri (no website, because that kind of technological nonsense just hasn’t fully caught on yet in Italy).  They had a big selection, with lots of really refreshing looking fruit choices, but I’m always a cream/chocolate girl, so I went with cassata siciliana (a traditional Sicilian dessert cake made with candied fruits and nuts, and a mix of sweet ricotta and the heaven they stuff cannoli with) and a ricotta and figs blend, which was velvety and sweet, with jammy chunks of figs swirled in. The beau got an always delicious combination of rich, bittersweet dark chocolate  and bright, creamy coconut.

I could almost not hate the suffocating heat of summer if I had all this gelato to keep me going. Say what you will about Italians, but man, do they know what they’re doing with this stuff.

Good breakfast is always a great thing

If there’s one thing I could eat tirelessly it would be breakfast. Well, no, really it might also be pizza, ice cream, mac and cheese, or pork buns but that’s besides the point. Today, for the sake of this post, it’s breakfast.

Eggs, bacon, pancakes, ALL of it— I. Love. It. And last week, on a day off in the middle of the week, I had a great breakfast (or brunch I suppose) at one of the best spots for it in town: Clinton Street Baking Co. & Restaurant. On the weekends, people line up outside before the place even opens, but during the week, in the middle of the afternoon, you can just walk right in and help yourself to a table, which is exactly what we did.

Rosemary Salty Dog and Cucumber Cooler, fine company on a day off.

Drinks are a necessary part of the brunch experience so I went with the Rosemary Salty Dog, a rosemary-garnished, salt-rimmed mix of gin, fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice and rosemary simple syrup on the rocks.  It was citrusy and tart with just the perfect bit of herbal sweetness from the rosemary. Flaneur, always shying away from overly sweet drinks, went with the cucumber cooler, a crisp mix of vodka, cucumber puree, lime and mint with a refreshing bite to it.

Probably the best blueberry pancakes I’ve ever had.

Earlier that morning, Flaneur had rolled over in bed and said, “I want pancakes,” so at Clinton Street, which is known for its pancakes,  he ordered the blueberry variety. They were perfect in their soft fluffiness and had big fat blueberries throughout with a delicious bunch of more wild Maine blueberries on top. But what really had me literally licking my fingers was the delicious maple butter these came with. Instead of just traditional maple syrup, these pancakes came with warm maple butter, a ridiculously good concoction that was simultaneously sweet and just a tiny bit salty.

Southern breakfast in all its glory.

But because we had agreed to split something sweet and something savory, I ordered the southern breakfast: two eggs (ordered sunny side up because I go bonkers over runny, orange yolk), cheese grits, sugar-cured bacon and fried green tomatoes. Yes, that’s right, fried freakin’ green tomatoes! It’s not every day I see those on a menu, and with cheese grits no less! The only thing missing was a biscuit, but that was ok because the bacon more than made up for it. The ideal thickness and crunchiness, it had a sweetness to it that made me want to eat plate after plate of it.

After eating at Clinton Street, I get why people line up outsides on the weekend, which makes me even happier to have days off during the week.

Shaved ice will get me through it

Summer is almost here and I’m about as excited for its arrival as I am for my next dentist appointment. Still about two weeks off, I can already feel summer’s grip tightening around my sweaty neck, its stuffy hot breath on my face.

So this year, like the last, and every one before it, I’ll comfort myself in one of the best ways I know how: by eating copious amounts of ice cream and other cold treats.

I think I’ll live through the heat waves if I can have this little mountain of refreshing sweetness.

Last summer I discovered snoballs, a New Orleans spin on shaved ice, and now this year I found the Korean version, patbingsu, at koreatown’s Korydang. But while other forms of this frosty treat are usually just shaved ice and a flavor syrup, patbingsu way more than just flavored slush.

When I ordered the green tea version at Korydang, out came a cherry topped-mountain of green tea flavored ice cream, surrounded by mochi balls,  sweet red beans, and chunks of mango, kiwi and strawberry, all which were hiding the bottom layer of slushy, cool shaved ice, made a creamy green color by green tea syrup and one of my all time favorite ingredients, condensed milk. Refreshing, creamy and light, and mixing the different smooth, gummy, and chunky textures of the fruit and mochi toppings, this korean take on shaved ice was not only delicious, it was fun to eat. And when the summer months get really nasty around here, which they inevitably will sooner than I’d like, this is the kind of fun I’ll be looking for on those sticky hot days in the city.