Agenda: 8/24 to 8/30

1. Evian Taste of Tennis, tasting event "pairing world class chefs with professional tennis players to prepare and 'serve' mouthwatering delicacies for guests," to benefit City Harvest, Thursday, August 25, at the W New York, 49th Street and Lexington Avenue, 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. $250/person (877.282.7100).

2. Blues, Barbecue, and Fireworks, sixth annual barbecue festival will take place on Sunday, August 28, 2:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., at Hudson River Park’s Pier 54 (212.627.2020).

3. This Common Ground, farmer and author Scott Chaskey will discuss his book, This Common Ground: Seasons on an Organic Farm, farming, and the organic movement, on Sunday, August 28, 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills, New York. Free (914.366.6200).

4. Fourth Annual Secret Tomato Lovers Society Dinner, the American Institute of Wine and Food will present a reception and dinner featuring a tasting of heirloom tomatoes, Tuesday, August 30, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., at Village Restaurant, 62 West 9th Street. $65/members, $80/non-members (718.229.6565).

ONGOING EVENTS

Summer Restaurant Week, three-course lunches for $20.12 and three-course dinners for $35.00 (beverage, tax and gratuity additional) on weekdays at participating New York restaurants. The promotion continues through September 5.

 


Best Focaccia Ever

Focaccia_2

MfitaliathHappening upon Camogli's market may have been sheer luck, but we had a very specific target in mind on this visit. We had returned to the town in search of the most amazing focaccia we have ever had. This might sound like an overstatement, but upon looking at these photos again from our trip, I'm convinced that this is, hands down, the best focaccia ever.

Its source is a small focaccieria located at the Eastern end of Via Garibaldi, where the sunlit promenade loses the view of the beach and narrows into a darkened alleyway between two buildings. Blink, and you might even miss the place, but for the aroma of bread baking.

There's focaccia topped with chopped tomato, another with thinly sliced onions, and one with olives. There's pizza too, but the real draw is focaccia col formaggio, a specialty of the region, and in particular the neighboring town of Recco. Loaded with olive oil, the bread contains fresh, soft crescenza cheese stuffed between two extremely thin layers of dough.

I had never tasted anything like it on our first visit, and when a New York City restaurant opened a few years ago promising authentic focaccia col formaggio, I was disappointed to find something closer to a quesadilla instead. I tried to make the focaccia once after my last visit, but it just wasn't the same. After tasting it again this summer, I realized that I had forgotten how incredibly thin the layers were -- paper thin, almost crepe-like. You might need to use a pasta machine to make dough that thin.

I spied a menu posted on the wall of the focacceria detailing the ingredients: "Farina tipo '00,' acqua, olio di olivia e di sansa, cereali maltati, lievito, sale, crescenza."

Unable to translate cereali maltati, I tried to ask some questions about how the focaccia is made, but no one who worked there spoke any English and my phrasebook Italian was not up to the task (if anyone can translate, please comment below). Lievito, which appears to mean yeast, is a surprise ingredient since every recipe I have found for focaccia col formaggio uses an unleavened dough made from just flour and water.

Thoughts about how I might go about reconstructing the focaccia upon our return home quickly turned to eating, as I paid for a focaccia trio -- con pomodoro, con cipolle, and col formaggio.

There's nowhere to sit inside (plus, it's too hot even if there were tables), so you take your focaccia, carefully folded in paper, and quickly find a spot along Via Garibaldi to sit in the sun and unwrap the bready, cheesy goodness. It's gone in seconds, and all that's left is the olive oil covering your fingers.

Colformaggio

Tomato

 


Agenda: 8/17 to 8/23

1. Hudson Valley Rib Festival, food festival featuring a championship cook-off, Friday, August 19, 4:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday, August 20, 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., and Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., at the Ulster County Fairgrounds, New Paltz, New York. $5/person, children under 12 free (info@hudsonvalleyribfest.org).

2. Wines of Summer, a tour of Long Island wine country, including visits to three wineries and lunch, will be held on Saturday, August 20. $115/person (866.946.3268).

3. Second Annual New Jersey Tomato Festival, “tomato war,” tomato competitions, and other tomato-related activities, Sunday, August 21, 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., at Wiggins Park on the Camden Waterfront (856.384.8182).

4. Victorian Summer Beverages, the Montclair Historical Society will present a discussion by Judith Krall-Russo, tea and food historian, on beverages commonly served in Victorian times such as flower tea, root beer and ice tea, Sunday, August 21, 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. $25/person, advance registration required (973.744.1796).

ONGOING EVENTS

Summer Restaurant Week, three-course lunches for $20.12 and three-course dinners for $35.00 (beverage, tax and gratuity additional) on weekdays at participating New York restaurants. The promotion continues through September 5.

 


Liguria: Random Acts of Eating

Riservato

MfitaliathBeyond our afternoon trip to Camogli, we also ventured further to Chiavari, located a few villages down the coast in the opposite direction.

Below, from top to bottom, is photographic documentation of random acts of eating in all three towns: Candy (Santa Margherita), focaccia (Chiavari), focaccia layered with tomato and cheese and with eggplant (Chiavari), fritto misto (Chiavari), gelato cones (Santa Margherita), gelateria sign (Santa Margherita), pistachio gelato (Camogli), prosciutto and melon (Santa Margherita), grilled scampi (Chiavari), caffe shakerato (Santa Margherita), trenette al pesto (Santa Margherita), trofie al pesto (Santa Margherita).

Candy_1

Focaccia_1

Focaccia2

Fritto

Gelateria

Gelato_1

Gelatocamogli

Prosciutto

Scampi

Shakerato

Trenette

Trofie

 


Agenda: 8/10 to 8/16

1. American Cheese Society Winners 2005, sample some of the winning cheeses from the annual American Cheese Society competition, Thursday, August 11, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., at Murray's Cheese, 254 Bleecker Street. $50/person (212.243.3289, ext. 25).

2. Jersey Fresh Wine & Food Festival, featuring local produce, food tastings, and wine from New Jersey Vintners, Saturday, August 13, and Sunday, August 14, noon to 5:00 p.m. at Mercer County Community College, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor, New Jersey. $20/person, children are free (609.588.0085).

3. French Regional Tasting Menus, Partage restaurant (92 7th Avenue) presents a series of tasting menus dedicated to specific regions of France, beginning with Paris, from Monday, August 8, to Thursday, August 11. $35/person (212.242.2207).

ONGOING EVENTS

Summer Restaurant Week, three-course lunches for $20.12 and three-course dinners for $35.00 (beverage, tax and gratuity additional) on weekdays at participating New York restaurants. The promotion continues through September 5.

 


Camogli: Market Day

Camogli

MfitaliathWest of Santa Margherita lies ritzy Portofino, the tiny village of San Fruttuoso, and then Camogli, which is almost sedate in comparison to Santa Margherita. Via Garibaldi, the main road that follows Camogli's shore, is pedestrian-only. Walking along and taking in the view (above) of the pebbly beach lined with colorful umbrellas, the buzz of Santa Margherita's scooters and smart cars fades into distant memory.

We had previously spent a week in Camogli on our honeymoon, and we were eager to return for an afternoon visit. The drive took us along the shore toward Portofino and then high into the hillside above before descending back down to the coast. This challenge was not only navigational but physical, as I woke up that day with a pulled muscle in my neck. Luckily, the ibuprofen kicked in, and we made it down to the bottom of the village in one piece.

When we finally arrived, we discovered it was market day. The east end of Camogli's main shopping strip (a steep flight of steps above Via Garibaldi) was filled with vendors offering a bounty of vibrant fruits and vegetables. Here are a few pictures.

Market3

Market2

Beans

Apricots

Onions

Zucchini

Apricots2

 


Agenda: 8/3 to 8/9

Coming Up

American Cheese Society Winners 2005, sample some of the winning cheeses from the annual American Cheese Society competition, Thursday, August 11, 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., at Murray's Cheese, 254 Bleecker Street. $50/person (212.243.3289, ext. 25).

Events This Week

1. Origins of Cheese, explore the origins of dairying and cheesemaking, including a demonstration of how early cheese was made, Saturday, August 6, 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., at at the Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, 630 Bedford Road, Pocantico Hills, New York. $25/person (914.366.6200).

2. Second Annual Tiger Beer Singapore Chili Crab Festival, Singapore style chili crabs and other Southeast Asian specialties will be served Sunday, August 7, from 12:00 to 6:00 p.m., outside Water Street Restaurant & Lounge at 66 Water Street, Brooklyn, NY (between Dock St. and Main St.). Free admission (not including food and drink).

3. Wine and Spice, Asian Women in Business will present a a dinner demonstrating how to pair wines with Indian foods, Monday, August 8, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., at Diwan Restaurant, 148 East 48th Street. $50/members, $75/nonmembers (212.868.1368).

4. French Regional Tasting Menus, Partage restaurant (92 7th Avenue) will present a series of tasting menus dedicated to specific regions of France, beginning with Paris, from Monday, August 8, to Thursday, August 11. $35/person (212.242.2207).

ONGOING EVENTS

Summer Restaurant Week, three-course lunches for $20.12 and three-course dinners for $35.00 (beverage, tax and gratuity additional) on weekdays at participating New York restaurants. The promotion continues through September 5.

 


Baby Gastronomy

Farmacia

MfitaliathThe green glow of the farmacia's neon cross heralds not only the wonders of Proraso shaving cream and 600 mg. tablets of ibuprofen, but unique insights into the food culture of Italy's littlest gastronomes.

On a visit to Santa Margherita's Farmacia A. Pennino, we noticed shelves and shelves of baby food products (see below) that suggest modern Italian bambini get a very early introduction to the glories of cured pork, biscotti, and pasta.

Babyprosciutto

Babylatte

Pennette

 


Restaurant Redemption

Insalata_1

MfitaliathIf our first dining experience in Santa Margherita was a disaster, things got much better the next day, when we finally made it to our original destination, Trattoria da Pino (Via J. Ruffini 15).

We ended up eating at the small, unpretentious family-run restaurant twice -- once for lunch and once for dinner -- and had some of the best meals of our trip.

Pino_1

The restaurant is operated by the daughter of Pino, whose picture can be found on the cover of the restaurant's menu -- standing, with the sea behind him, proud of a surprise catch of the day, a (very short) swordfish.

Here, we found the Ligurian cuisine we were craving.

I had a particular hankering for insalata di mare, the warm seafood salad you will find nearly everywhere in Santa Margherita, though served with slight variations. Sometimes it's topped with a dollop of pesto. Sometimes it includes tiny clams and mussels. Sometimes it's rubbery and cold.

At Trattoria da Pino, the salad was impeccable -- just thinly sliced squid and moscardini (baby octopus) tossed with shrimp, potatoes, and dressed only with herbs, olive oil, and a couple of lemon wedges. Everything was so fresh and incredibly tender (you could even eat the little tails at the end of the shrimp without scarring your throat).

I asked the owner how she made the salad, and she explained to me that everything is cooked separately in hot, salted water and then combined to order: the calamari cooks for an hour, the baby octopus for as long as two. Once everything has been cooked, all of the seafood then remains chilled until an order is placed. The ingredients are then briefly warmed in hot water, drained, and tossed with olive oil.

Even though I could probably have just eaten two orders of the insalata di mare and been happy, I don't want to short-change the rest of the menu. The pastas we had were also wonderful -- fresh trenette with pesto, green beans, and potatoes, as well as pansotti with walnut sauce, plump blond dumplings whose color reveal a potent filling of dark green herbs and cheese.

Pesto_1

Pansotti_1

Pinomenu_1