September 24, 2006
As soon as Fall comes in the door, a sense of peace and happiness fill my food soul!
The market begins to fill with the Fall food lover favorites , porcini and also, as if my magic, the second spring.. artichokes, zucchini blossoms and figs, which all gift us twice a year!
In the countryside, the leaves are finally starting to turn and the vendemmia, wine harvest, has begun. August's cool nights and September's heat followed by rain have created an incredible harvest.
If they are able to finish before rain or hail storms hit.. watch for the 2006 vintage to be a great one!
Our own zucchini plant has taken over the garden, producing incredible numbers of flowers, but luckily very few zucchini.
The days are still warm, but cooler evenings bring on the desire for slow cooking.
Slow Food's Salone di Gusto in Torino is on my fall calendar at the end of October.
But before Slow Food, I will be gone for a week of total CHOCOLATE DECADENCE, touring the master chocolate producers with a group of professionals. This year's tour we are also adding on a day trip to Genova to Domori and ending in Perugia at the Eurochocolate festival. Way too much chocolate, is there such a thing?
Life is tough in Paradise, but someone has to do it!
September 4, 2006
"This is not a restaurant. It is the home of a butcher"
Dario Cecchini, SOLOCICCIA, Intructions for Use.
Dario does nothing halfway!
Dario with friend Ed in the shop before dinner
When we were talking about opening a guest kitchen for his chef friends and classes across the street from the shop, in a converted apartment, that was only the beginning of the dream.
Soon the storefront downstairs was bought and also the apartment above.
This was the birth of SOLOCICCIA....ONLY MEAT.
What else would you expect from one of Italy's most famous and talked about butchers.
The space is fabulous, connected with glass stairway, stone walls, modern art and a simple elegance that is Dario.
The dining experience last 2 hours, exactly, if you are in the first seating at 7pm.
We were in the lower dining room, which has a glass door onto the main street which goes to the village.
Our dining-table partners were a couple that had come down from Padova on a BMW and another couple from Le Marche(who it turned out had a Harley!).
When you hear Dario preach, which is what he does, not just speaking, but preaching his gospel according to Dario on not just beef, but life from behind the butchers stand, which serves as an altar and pulpit,sermons to the beat of whatever music has stolen Dario's attention that day.
A cow only has so many steaks,for Dario fewer than others as his steaks are mammoth, looking like something for Fred Flintstone.
Dainty eaters are requested to not whine!
When Dario breaks down the sides of beef in the shop, and fills the orders, there are about 6- 2 pound steaks per rack. The famous Fiorentina, a t-bone with filet, is the most sought after piece by restaurant owners and clients alike, but Dario as a third generation butcher, knows there is much more to fine food and flavor than the showy Fiorentina!
His sermons of food, wine and life, include recipes for using the other more flavorful cuts of meat. Dario has created the anti-Florentine steak the "Panzanese" which is a boneless cut, huge of course, which Dario hands out the recipe for the correct care and cooking.
Dario's disciples listen with baited breathe for words from the master.
Those questioning the master are often banished from the shop, the brave who resist are rewarded with friendship and food!
Solociccia is Dario's chance to share his family's recipes and the flavors of the past as well as hopefully teach and inspire clients to recreate these dishes at home.
When you enter SoloCiccia, you are given a small brochure with the rules of the house, and seated at your table. When your dining companians have arrived, the food feast begins.
House wine and water are brought in carafe's large water carafe's and personal wine called quartino, a 1/4 liter portion which is refilled as needed.
You can also bring your own wine which will be served with no corkage fees.
The recipes are those of a butcher's family, using not leftovers, but pieces with lesser known cuts. Italians are meat eaters and have a totally different way of cutting meat, region to region and Tuscans are the most creative and varied in these cuts.
Our menu for dinner Saturday September 2 was:
Three opening dishes...
Crostini al ragu in the modo di Natale:
Toasted bread with a ragu sauce, served as they do for Christmas.. the bread is dipped in broth first,and the covered in ragu.
ragu on the stoveInsalata rinasciamentale:
Chickpea and headcheese salad, ( one of my favorites) tiny garbanzo beans and Dario's soprasatta, delicate headcheese made with pork head, boiled and taken apart and formed into a gelatinous salami sliced into tiny cubes and and flavored with orange and vin Santo, Tuscany's sherry and red onions with olive oil.
Ramerino in culo:
Single pieces of Sushi di Chianti, Dario's marinated beef cubes,lightly seared with a rosemary branch stuck in.
Petto al salsa verde
a tender boiled meat served in a traditional garlic and parsley sauce
one of the evenings favorites at our table
Then three main course kinds of Meat..
Fiocco.. a simple sliced roast
Stracotto ..Tuscan 12 hour Potroast
Brasato a midollo, one of Dario's signature dishes, a whole beef shin, boned and rolled filled with it's marrow ( it is the piece used for Osso Buco) and cooked for 3 hours with shallots and Vin Santo.
Tuscan beans and an oven roasted caponata ( eggplant, onions, carrots)
then coffee and cake!
Thursday Friday and Saturday dinner 7pm or 9pm
Sunday lunch 1pm