Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fri Feb 1st. A day, a perfect day.

Started the day waiting on a street corner at 5am for Stefano and Manuel (father & son), part of a family run shop called Conti at the Mercarto Centrale. Sellers of fine produce & food products. A beautiful family. They took me on the wholesale market run to pick up supplies. Picture a warehouse the size of two football fields. One for each type. Produce, meats, fish and flowers. Plus old men in the parking lot selling organic herbs and vegetables from their own gardens.

And now, the produce. Mostly from Sicily, some organic, all fresh and gorgeous. Stephano had the vendors give me samples of many different oranges. Seem to be developing an addiction for the stuff. By the way, all the produce looks like this. Everything pops out at you, vibrant and fresh. All you need is a knife and something to cook on.

The guys told me stories of their families. The shop Conti has been in their family for 4 generations. Stefano Conti hunts whatever is in season with friends at a hunting cabin in Puglia. Manuel and his sister Stella both study business and have modeled part time. The wife, Grazia is lovely and pretty much runs the whole operation. They will be opening a shop in San Francisco this year plus a USA retail website.

Back to the market and then home for a nap by 7am.

At 10am Will (25yr old chef friend. The future great chef of America and currently private chef for a billionaire in NYC. ) and I headed off for shopping. A kitchen shop for roasting pan and utensils to round out my kitchen needs. Then back to Mercarto centrale for ingredients. At Stefano's shop I purchased unfiltered olive oil, black truffle honey, fennel pollen, 15yr balsamic vinegar, sea salt, canned tomatoes, two fresh pastas and produce for the nights dinner. Then another shop for aged parmesan and anchovies in oil.

Previously in the week had gone to Divino, a small shop with bulk supplies. You bring in bottles and they fill them. Picked up vin santo, red wine vinegar and red wine. All for cooking. Great place with 3 lovely ladies. Grandma (Nonna), Patricia her daughter and Sara the niece.

Casa del Vino
A perfect establishment for wines and small dishes of panini and crostini. More on that later. For now I purchased a bottle of Fruili Pino Grigio from Gianni the owner and wine master. He has a wine cellar that would blow you away. Food too. Stop in for a snack and glass of wine sometime. Standing room only.

Lunch at Trattoria Mario right on Plaza Mercarto Centrale. This is the place I will be observing at for a week starting Monday.

A moment is needed to talk about my mentor and chef instructor Judy Witts of Divina cucina.
We booked her for a 4 day class to see, learn, taste and cook all things Florentine. More about her in a separate blog. For now know that she helped me over 4 months to create this trip, advise me on an apartment to rent and places to visit. While here she has taken us on a tour of Tuscany to meet the great local restaurant and shop owners. Walked us all over Florence to meet the locals, the best purveyors and what to know for an extended stay. Worth every cent and a wonderful person to befriend.

And now for my first dinner in the apartment
(located 3 blocks from the Duomo and 6 blocks from Mercarto Centrale. )


Parmesan cheese with black truffle honey and 15yr balsamic vinegar.


The ingredients for a no stir Artichoke risotto with no cream.

2 artichoke hearts cleaned and sliced thin
2 shallots minced
1 garlic clove minced
3 leaves sage chiffon
2 cups aborio rice 1 cup whine wine
3 cups water or vegetable broth.
2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons olive oil grated parmesan cheese
Salt and little pepper to taste
Fresh grated lemon zest to tast.

In med pan. Saute shallot and then garlic in 1/2 the butter & oil. Add artichokes & sage, saute.
Add rice then stir to mix with oil then the water and wine. Let simmer 14 minutes. Taste, should be just done. Add remaining butter, olive oil plus grated parm, salt and pepper to taste. You want the fats and cheese to cream the dish. If you want cream then now is the time to add some. Now add a little lemon zest to perk up the dish.

The dinner. Don't forget the wine.
Dessert was dark chocolate bark with hazelnuts from Vestri

1 comment:

floozigrl said...

oh god the produce shots are like porn for my belly :) oh how i miss europes markets!