I recently became aware of two terms that I feel are very fitting for me, and for this post. Those terms are “destination foodie” and “culinary conservative”. “Destination foodie” is someone who is willing to travel to a destination, or make a major detour, for the purpose of indulging in food. “Culinary conservative” is someone who isn’t adventurous when it comes to food and tends to eat what they know or within their comfort-zone.
I believe that both of these terms could be used to describe me, and our visit to Osteria Francescana in Modena (Italy) reinforced this. When B and I were first planning our trip we hadn’t intended on visiting Modena at all. Time was limited and “it’s too far from Florence” we claimed but, in the end, our curiosity won and we felt that the more than three-hour round-trip to the third best restaurant in the world (2013) was completely reasonable. Hence, the “destination foodie” label.
Even though months have passed since our dinner, I still have difficulties reconciling how I felt about our experience at Osteria Francescana. On one hand, it was like no other menu that we’ve had before (and that is one of the reasons why we go to fine dining restaurants) but on the other hand, I was disappointed by the menu. I found that I didn’t enjoy the dishes as much as I had hoped – some I found to be quite odd – and this is why I (shamefully) think I deserve the label of “culinary conservative”.
Once seated in the dining room, you are given the choice of three menus to select from: Traditions (€130); Classics (€165); and Sensations (€190). The titles of the menus describe them perfectly; the first two are definitely more traditional and classic Italian. Feeling bold, we ordered the Sensations menu, which was created to be a tour of Italy through the eyes of the Chef, Massimo Bottura. Each dish represents a different area of the country and all were a complete surprise. Here we go…
The entrance: an unassuming door off the beaten track
The dining room
Savoury Oyster and Anchovy Macarons
House-made bread selection
More house-made bread
Baccalá: dried and salted cod
A whole grilled sardine, stuffed with cream of scampi, and topped with the ash of seaweed, vegetables and lemon peel. Finished with squid ink
Risotto with cod fish balls
Eel with saba sauce, swimming upstream
Lamb Oyster (lamb meat in an oyster shell)
“Think Green” – green peas and beans, topped with green pea granita, chlorophyll, and curd of Parmesan cheese
“Snails on a grapevine” – snails with chlorophyll, red beet sauce, and black truffle shavings. Weird!
Foie gras ravioli, topped with black truffle, served on a black truffle and balsamic vinegar sauce – easily my favourite dish
Pigeon with beet reduction. I could barely eat this as it looked like a murder scene!
I don’t really know how to describe this one. Candied leaves, served with strawberry, pumpkin and chocolate purees and topped with black truffle shavings
So there you have it…a trip through Italy without leaving your computer chair. Unfortunately, for me, it was a very seafood-focused menu (strike 1) and I personally found some of the dishes to be just down-right strange (strike 2). Whilst I appreciated the innovation, the boldness, and the skill, I did not love most of these dishes. It would appear that I am just not adventurous enough to have appreciated it for everything that it was.
In no way do I want to discourage anyone from going to Osteria Francescana; it was certainly unique and I will absolutely remember it. However, I do believe that the Sensations menu is not for everyone, particularly the “culinary conservatives” out there. The next time I return to Osteria Francescana, I will settle on the more traditional menu and be satisfied in my comfort-zone, but for now I’m glad that I tried a menu this interesting and creative.