Thursday, April 27, 2006

Restaurant La Diligence - Montpellier

This smallish restaurant, tucked in the pedestrian downtown area of Montpellier, not far from La Comédie, was delightful. When we first walked in, I was struck by the coziness & warmth. Despite the high stone vaulted ceilings, the dining room wasn't at all austere or cold. The colours were rich and the lighting cast a softening glow on the walls.

First we sampled the house equivalent of a kir royale, where instead of kir in the champagne, they put a homemade raspberry liqueur. For my appetizer, I had the beef carpaccio, wisp thin, with shavings of parmigian.

The main course was my favourite, not only the dish I'd selected but also its presentation and side vegetables. I had chosen a Mille Feuille d'Agneau (thousand-leaves of lamb). Normally, mille feuilles are tons of layers of puff pastry filled with cream. In this case, it appears that the tender lamb was what replaced the pastry... A thousand layers of lamb - I swooned!

The mille feuille came on a large plate that ended up resembling a painter's palette: The lamb was in the center surrounded by splashes of colour - a tablespoon of carrot purée, a tiny stacked ratatouille (eggplant, tomato, and zucchini), a dab of Gratin Dauphinois (decadently rich potatoes, cream and cheese). Not one of the sides was more than a few tastes, and it was the perfect complement to the meat, just enough variety to keep tantalizing your taste buds without feeling like an overstuffed sofa.

The dessert, a tiramisu served in a parfait glass, was so light it floated onto my tongue and evaporated, leaving behind a mere hint of chocolate and cream.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Ristorante Da Cesari - Bologna

Via dei Carbonesi, 8, Bologna - Telefono: 051 237710

One of my top three* favourite restaurants in Italy, Da Cesari draws me back every year for a culinary pilgrimage. Once you are seated, the waiter will list the items that were prepared that day. A limited menu, but this is perhaps due to that fact that the chef exclusively uses produce from the "Umberto Cesari" farm.

My most recent meal:

A spring antipasti medley:
A delicate artichoke flan with a rich creamy sauce
Roasted sliced artichokes with shavings of sharp pecorino romano
Steamed asparagus topped with a hard boiled egg topping

Hand-rolled spinach pasta with the local specialty ragù
Fresh tagliatelle with a basil pesto

Beef fillet topped with prosciutto and melted cheese

Semifreddi di Zabaglione - This dessert was a masterpiece: I was not able to dicern the liqueur used in the zabaglione but the burnt caramel topping was phenomenal - bitter, creamy and sweet.

* For the curious, my other two favourites are Ombre Rosse in Parma and the recently discovered Osteria della Piazzetta in Rimini.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


I seem to forget about it while we're away, but perhaps rediscovering this cheese, every year upon our return to Rimini, is worth the small lapse. Creamy & cloudlike, squaquerone is the angel of cheeses. Our first day at the beach, we go to our Horned Melons welcoming outpost and I order a Piedina with Squaquerone, prosciutto crudo and arugula. The combination is perfectly salty, a touch of bitterness from the arugula balanced with smooth and tangy cheese. Heavenly.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Primus Olive Oil

A meandering non-productive day led me to A16 right around lunchtime. I'd never been, so I decided to grab a little lunch there. I chose a lovely salad of beets, fennel & shaved pecorino romano, but more on that later.

On the side, I was given some fresh bread with a little dipping bowl of olive oil.
It was phenomenal: fruity and nutty, very flavourful. It reminded me of Ommi, my wonderful Tunisian grandmother, who always had a vat of Tunisian olive that she would scoop out in a little tea cup and occasionally let us dip some fresh baguette into. She often told us that most ailments could be cured with some good olive oil.

Back at A16, I asked what kind of olive oil it was and was told it was Primus olive oil. It was delicious.