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Osteria Francescana – Modena, Italy

25 Apr

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

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Almond Granita

Savoury Oyster and Anchovy Macarons

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House-made bread selection

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More house-made bread

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Baccalá: dried and salted cod

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A whole grilled sardine, stuffed with cream of scampi, and topped with the ash of seaweed, vegetables and lemon peel. Finished with squid ink

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Risotto with cod fish balls

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Eel with saba sauce, swimming upstream

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Lamb Oyster (lamb meat in an oyster shell)

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“Think Green” – green peas and beans, topped with green pea granita, chlorophyll, and curd of Parmesan cheese

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“Snails on a grapevine” – snails with chlorophyll, red beet sauce, and black truffle shavings. Weird!

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Foie gras ravioli, topped with black truffle, served on a black truffle and balsamic vinegar sauce – easily my favourite dish

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Pigeon with beet reduction. I could barely eat this as it looked like a murder scene!

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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

P1080007“Oops! We broke the lemon tart”

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.

Bites of Italy – Part 3 of 3

10 Mar

Bruschetta

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Spaghetti Carbonara

P1080119Wild Boar Pappardelle

Platter of Tuscan meats and cheeses

Grapefruit and Prosecco Gelato

Dinner made up from our market finds

Porcini Fettucine from the incredible Le Logge del Vignola, Montepulciano

Porcini risotto from Le Logge del Vignola, Montepulciano

Wines from Poggio Antico winery

Bites of Italy – Part 2 of 3

4 Mar

Pappardelle with wild boar ragout from Borgo Antico, Florence.

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 Rigatoni with bacon and tomato sauce from Borgo Antico, Florence.

Pizza from O’Munaciello, Florence.

Porchetta sandwich, Florence.

P1080104A simple, yet tasty, lunch that we had whilst on a bike tour through Tuscany.

We didn’t meet a bottle of Italian red that we didn’t like…

Although not visually appealing, ribollita was surprisingly delicious.

 Mushrooms at San Lorenzo Mercato Centrale, Florence – a must visit for foodies.

More truffles!!

Bites of Italy – Part 1 of 3

2 Mar

Italian food is some of my all-time favourite food and this was reconfirmed when we were in Italy last October. I was in my element as we dined for more than two weeks on pizza, pasta, risotto, gelato, robust red wines, fizzy Prosecco, cappucino, sliced meats, and different varieties of cheese. What strikes me most about Italian food is that it is honest and uncomplicated. Rather than relying on heavy sauces or complicated dishes, the Italians prefer the ingredients to speak for themselves.

As we were there in the Fall, we were just in time for the season of chewy porcini and fragrant truffles, of which we consumed a lot. Pasta was a regular item on our daily menu – which I was incredibly grateful for as I never tire of eating pasta – as were the divine Italian red wines that we sampled (our favourite being a type of wine called Nobile di Montepulciano).

The following images (and the others that will follow) are a capture of some of memorable dishes that we had the pleasure of experiencing whilst in Italy.

A breakfast of crema croissant and cappuccinos.

Flavour-packed pizza sold by weight. The porcini and proscuitto pizza was a favourite.

Piles of tasty and affordable panini from All’antico Vinaio, Florence.

Porchetta and truffle panini from All’Antico Vinaio, Florence.

Wine by the glass for only €2.

Heapings of Tuscan ham and mozzarella from Borgo Antico, Florence.

Duck tortellini in a light broth from Il Santo Bevitore, Florence.

 Shaved truffles over house-made pasta – simply divine.