Hermann J. Wiemer Still Getting It Done

I have not had a chance to sample one in some time, but I remember Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard as producing some outstanding Finger Lakes rieslings. According to Lenndevours, nothing has changed.

Published in: on May 29, 2009 at 7:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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When in Rome, Eat as the Romans Do

With twin boys on the way, my wife and I knew that the time was now for a Babymoon. Destination?  Italy: Rome, Montalcino, Chianti, Florence, and Venice, specifically. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be posting about our guided wine experiences in Montacino and Chianti, as well as the food we enjoyed throughout the country. Hopefully, if you have been or will be planning a jaunt to Italy you can learn from our research and experiences.

This post is dedicated to Rome, where we started our vacation. It is fitting that Rome is first, as it offered the best meals that we had on the trip. If I could sum up our meals in Rome in one word it would be simple.  Simplicity at its finest. From the pizzas to the pastas (homemade, of course) to the meats, the best dishes were the least complicated. Unfortunately, choosing where to eat is anything but a simple task. My advice is to pick a few candidates from a guide book that you trust, like Rick Steves’ Italy, and then run those by the folks at your hotel. If your hotel has knowledgeable staff like our folks at The Inn at the Roman Forum, their advice will be well worth taking. On the other hand, if you trust me and will only be in Rome for a few days, you may not need to look any further than this post and the following recommendations for dining in Rome. The first three are dinner destinations, followed by three places where we had great lunches between tourist attractions.

IRFA Peek Into the Inn at the Roman Forum by Night

1. Trattoria der Pallaro (Tel: 06-6880-1488) — This is the best overall dining experience we had in Italy. Trattoria der Pallaro is a casual, comfortable restaurant a block south of Corso Vittorio Emanuele, down the Largo del Chiavari to Largo del Pallaro 15. It’s a small (reservations are advisable), family-run place with no menu and a clientele consisting of locals and well-prepared tourists. Upon entry, you will be shown to your table and asked whether you want the House white or the House red. That is the only decision you will have to make all evening.

Once you’ve had a sip of wine, the food starts coming. You don’t know what you are going to get (the menu changes every day) but you can trust you’re going to love whatever they decide to feed you. Our experience started with a series of small plates including big green olives, croquettes, salami and prosciutto, fennel, some amazing lentils, and  a delicious loaf of bread. After we enjoyed our small plates at our own pace, the waiter brought over rigatoni with red sauce and cheese. The pasta was a perfect al dente and the the sauce just doesn’t get any better.

Enough, right? Nope. You still have your main course. That night it was an excellent cut of beef with house-made potato chips accompanied by zucchini cooked with parmesan and a side of fresh mozzarella. Everything was simply but elegantly prepared and beautifully presented. The meal finally ended with a dessert of old fashioned cheesecake accompanied by a shot of fresh mandarin juice. It’s a very tasty shot of juice.

I should note that the comment boards on the Internets have revealed at least some concerns about the tab at der Pallaro, but we experienced no problems with the 50 Euro charge for our dinner for two. If you’re going to Rome and like food, this a must.

2. Taverna Romana (Tel. 06.39743393) — We owe our hotel for this one. Blocks away from our hotel, the Cavour metro stop, and the Colosseum is this lovely little family-operated place at Via Rodi, 16. No reservations here and you may have to stand in line, but the Italian that you hear your fellow customers speaking should reassure you that it is worth it. Everything is good, including the tortellini with meat and the boiled meats with pesto, but you can’t leave this fine establishment without tasting the rigatoni with cacie e peppe. Pasta, pepper, and pecorino, period. Simple, to the point, and out of this world. The desserts look good to, but there is some good gelato 5 minutes up the main drag, making that a tougher call.

3. Ristorante Clemente Alla Maddalena (Tel. 39066833633) — Only a block away from the Pantheon at Piazza della Maddalena 4, this was also a recommendation from the hotel. It was probably the most formal dining experience that we had in Rome, though business casual attire is still perfectly appropriate. The cuisine was not quite as simple as der Pallaro or Taverna Romana, but the chef found good balance in her offerings. For the first course I would recommend the brocolli and (melted and gooey) pecorino romano cheese. The fresh mozzarella and prosciutto is also delicious. My wife and I both had the lamb chops with potatoes as our main course, electing to skip a pasta dish for one night. The lamb was well prepared with just the right amount of fat left on it and an excellent combination of herbs while the potatoes were roasted to a perfect texture. As for dessert — trust me — get the chocolate tart.

TorteMmmmmm… chocolate tart…

Of course, everyone has to take a few minutes out of sightseeing to grab lunch as well. There are any number of wonderful snack bars and lunch stops throughout Rome. Here are a few that we particularly enjoyed.

1. Perilli in Prati (Tel. 06.3700156) –This great lunch spot is only a block from the subway and minutes from the Vatican and the Vatican Museum at Via Otranto, 9-11. In addition to the standard menu, there is a very nice brunch available with meats, pastas, and vegetables. Perfect after a morning of viewing Raphaels and staring in awe at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

2. Osteria del Sostegno (Tel. 06.679.3842) — Near the Pantheon and need a bit of a carbo boost before moving on for the afternoon? This is your spot at Via della Colonnelle 5. The wife and I recommend the pasta con cacie e pepe and the mezze maniche with tomato, onion, and bacon. (The bruschetta was good too.)


3. La Gallina Bianca (Tel. 06.4743777) — This is at Via Antonio Rosmini 9, very close to the National Museum of Rome. They have great pizza here, and I can vouch for the four cheese. Very tasty.

One other tip. If you are looking for a place to get a good drink and watch some American sports (the NHL playoffs were on while we were there and I just had to see the Caps start their epic comeback against the Rangers) while in Rome check out La Botticella on the Via di Tor Millina (Tel. 0039066861107). Call in advance to see if they will be showing the desired sporting event, then bring Giovanni your favorite team’s pennant for behind the bar and he’ll take good care of you.

Published in: on May 25, 2009 at 5:00 pm  Comments (2)  

Doh! I’m Missing the Chili Cook-off!!!

Thanks to Metrocurean for this D.C.-area Memorial Day tip. Too bad I will be working, but you crazy kids should have fun.

Published in: on May 23, 2009 at 6:15 pm  Comments (1)  
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Rieslings are Aging Just Fine in the Finger Lakes

Great post over at Lenndevours celebrating the aging potential of Finger Lakes rieslings. I still have one bottle of Dr. Frank from a couple of years back down in my basement. The only question is how long I will be able to resist it.

Published in: on May 21, 2009 at 11:06 am  Comments (1)  
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Spotlight on Sauvignon Blanc

Dezel over at My Vine Spot has a great feature on Sauvignon Blanc. While I am growing to appreciate the whites of Bordeaux more and more, my favorite Sauvignon Blanc region is still New Zealand.

Published in: on May 17, 2009 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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