Novità: Brunch in Florence

All things new.
They may not be new to Florence, but they’re news to me.

Brac_FlorenceI admit that in that last few years I have almost entirely converted to the Italian breakfast of an espresso coffee and a pastry over the American toast, bagels, bacon, sausage, eggs, and drip coffee. I’ve come to look forward to my simple and delicious sweet treat and its eye-opening companion. However, every few months, there comes a day (usually a Sunday) where I need something more. I need the saltiness of lunch, the sweetness of breakfast, in the portion size of most people’s dinner, at an atypical time, and I need to wash it all down with a coffee, tea, smoothie and/or a mimosa. What I need people, is brunch, and I assume I’m not alone.
 
There is no word for brunch in Italian, which should tell you all you need to know about trying to find the aforementioned meal in this country. In my English-Italian dictionary it explains that “brunch” is a unique blend of breakfast and lunch, but gives no one-word translation. If you want to ask an Italian friend to join you for this unique feast, you would simply say “Facciamo un brunch?” This always seems a bit silly to me, but it’s a genre of meal that is clearly not Italian and calling it by its original English name maintains the separation between diverse cultural mealtime choices.
 
There are a few places that have popped up in Florence to help feed this deeply rooted (I’m talking DNA deep here) need for brunch. Want a bagel or a muffin (or, for holidays, a pie)? Go to Mama’s Bakery. Need an enormous omelet or eggs benedict with American drip coffee or a cappuccino smoothie and a side of french fries? Go to The Diner. But if you want classy and affordable (but also manageable size-wise) pancakes, french toast, Italian inspired salty crepes or egg scrambles with fresh smoothies, juices, and an impressive list of teas, all in the quiet, hidden courtyard of a bookstore? Well then there is only one place you can go: Brac.
Continue reading…

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,


Photo of the Week: Artichoke Season!

Photo of the Week: Artichoke Season!

Artichoke season is coming to a close here in Italy, so, I have decided that now (right now!) is the time for me to learn how to actually cook one of these suckers. Yes, it is my first time. Honestly, I am deathly afraid of them in their uncooked form. Artichokes (a.k.a. carciofi) are hard and prickly and rip open any grocery bag you attempt to put them in. On top of that, they have this mysterious part called the “choke,” which sounds horrible and is apparently hidden deep inside (ready to attack!). How could anyone eat something so threatening?! I mean, it’s an edible plant in the thistle family! Doesn’t that strike anyone else as odd? However, lucky for them, they are damn delicious. Hence, I’ve made a practice of paying someone else to deal with the cooking side of things. This is especially true when I am in Rome, where, due to some special additives in the water, they all know exactly how to make this (rather intimidating) vegetable taste like sliced (or steamed or fried) heaven. (Between you and me, I have a theory that the government is intentionally hiding the number of artichoke related deaths for nefarious artichoke eating purposes).
Continue reading…

Technorati Tags: , , , ,


Sandwich Wars: Gustapanino

Battle No.4
The Challenger: Gustapanino
For rules, regulations, and a fascinating review of sandwich history, see here. For our current rankings, see this blog’s side bar.
 
Sandwich Wars continues!
Quick review: Currently in first place with their huge and mouth-watering Finocchiona panino is the Via dei Neri favorite, All’Antico Vinaio. Coming in at a close second, we have the salty and super flavorful porchetta sandwich at the tucked-away-treasure known as Da’Vinattieri. The competition is steep. Can our newest contestant squeeze into these tight numbers?
 
After last month’s killer competition, I just didn’t see how anyone, without some serious effort, was going to be able to push into the top two or three spots on the board. I always have my fingers crossed, so this month I went back to an old favorite, Gustapanino. I remember this sandwich spot as being one of my go-tos about two years ago. I used to look forward to stopping here every Sunday for a salty treat after perusing a flea market or taking a leisurely Sunday stroll in the gorgeous Piazza Santo Spirito. There is almost always a small line, longer around lunchtime, and it remains consistently a mix of American students living in the area and locals looking for a quick meal. The panino shop makes up one part of a three-part establishment, including Gusta Pizza and Gusta Osteria, all three of which are very popular. So I decided it was time to go back with my now more educated sandwich palate. I think sadly, I may be overly educated.
Continue reading…

Technorati Tags: , , , ,


Photo of the Week: Roman Cauliflower

Photo of the Week: Roman Cauliflower

Also known as Romanesco broccoli, this stunning fractal* vegetable originates from Italy. The first time I saw it at my morning market, I was so blown away that nature could produce such an incredible and edible treat that I had to buy one. I mean…it’s a science project you can eat…or observe, if that’s your thing. With most things in Italy, my first instinct is to eat it. So I did. It was so good! It tasted more like cauliflower than broccoli and that is how I tend to approach it when considering it for a meal. Bonus, it is high in vitamins C & K. Any way you can cook regular cauliflower can be applied to Roman cauliflower, but here is a very simple recipe, should you find this fractal friend in your local grocer.
Continue reading…

Technorati Tags: , ,


Sandwich Wars: All’Antico Vinaio

Battle No.3
The Challenger: All’Antico Vinaio
For rules, regulations and a fascinating review of sandwich history, see here. For our current rankings, see this blog’s side bar.
 
YES! It’s time for Sandwich Wars again!
Quick review: after the first throw down between Fratellini and Da’Vinattieri, we tossed in the first challenger, The Oil Shoppe. Sadly, they fell a bit short leaving Da’Vinattieri as the reigning champ with their killer Porchetta sandwich going into Battle #3 with Contestant #4.
 
I was really rooting for someone to come along and make a solid grab for the title this month. In the hopes of just such an event I was forced to face an old foe: the small but popular sandwich spot known as All’Antico Vinaio on Via dei Neri. This place has had lines and crowds in front of it since I first came to Italy in 2002. Like those people who avoid Harry Potter, I thought I was too cool (read: scaredy cat) for a place that was so clearly awesome. No surprise, as with many things that are popular, this place is popular for a reason. Like me, you’ll just have to learn to suck it up, jump into the fray, and elbow your way to the front like the old Italian ladies. It is more than worth it.
Continue reading…

Technorati Tags: , , ,