Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Mini Reunion at Trader Vic's

We had a really pleasant lunch yesterday at Trader Vi's near Fruitville and I-75 in Sarasota County. We joined three of my really nice high school classmates and one spouse. We ate outside overlooking a pond. The temperature was perfect. Even though we were just off I-75, there was no hint of noise from the freeway. All of our meals were tasty.

My wife had a sushi. I had a pulled-pork sandwich, sweet potato fries, and the 1944 Mai Tai. Everything was really tasty. The Mai Tais were among the best I have had. The total cost for the two of us was $36.

It doesn't get much better than that. We'll be back.

A St. Patrick's Day Dinner

We had a very pleasant dinner tonight with visiting friends and local friends. I tried to prepare something that seemed to be a bit more authentic Irish than corned beef and cabbage, which is Irish-Amreican.

The menu was:

Irish cheeses & crackers
(Cheeses: Dubliner, Kerrygold with Stout,
Kilaree Irish Cheddar)
Bibb, Bacon & Apple Salad w. Camembert Dressing
Irish Onion Soup  wti Ivernia Cheese
Traditional Beef & Guinness Stew
Irish Soda Bread
Strawberry & Bailey’s Fool   

One of the guests made the dessert.

The cheeses were very tasty. I bought them at Whole Foods.

 I found the recipes for the salad, soup and stew at

That site has lots of great-sounding recipes. The dishes were all tasty. However:
1. The stew was more like a soup. For some reason, it did not thicken up.
2. Although the guest who made the dessert added extra Bailey's, there still was not a strong taste of Baileys's. However, the dessert was still very tasty.

For the soup, I could not find the recommended cheese, so I used Irish Ivernia cheese.

I loved the salad. I found Irish-style bacon at Whole Foods.

I bought the bread at Publix. It tasted good, but I think it works much better as a breakfast bread because it has lots of fruit in it.

This was my first attempt to do anything Irish. I was happy with the results. It took me about 8 hours to prepare the meal because there was lots of chopping, mincing, etc.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Another Tuscan Dinner

Last night, I tried making another Tuscan dinner. This one was for two friends (including a follower of this blog) and my sister. Except for the dessert, I was happy with the results. The menu was:

- Bruschetta
- Zuppa di Fagioli (Bean Soup), from Florence
- Peposo dei Fornaciari dell'Impruneta (Peppery Stew of the Terra Cotta Tilemakers of Impruneta)
- Tegamata di Peperoni (A vegetable dish of sweet peppers, tomatoes, and pancetta), from Grosseto
- Migliacco al Miele, a cake from Arezzo
- A backup dessert of store-bought gelato because the migliaccio was blah.

All of the recipes except the bruschetta were from the cookbook - Tuscany The Beautiful Cookbook by Lorenza De' Medici, a descendant of the Medicis of Florence. While I have made a number of dishes from the cookbook and have enjoyed most of them, the two desserts I have tried have failed. The other dessert was "Coffee on a Fork." Both were very simple recipes. I think something has been lost in translation with these desserts.

The bruschetta recipe was from the URL:
I used four plum tomatoes rather than six Tuscan tomatoes. I used ciabatta bread instead of saltless Tuscan bread because that's impossible to find here. This bruschetta turned out much better than the last bruschetta recipe I tried. I think one reason for the last failure was partially due to the fact that the bread I used was a pseudo-baguette from Publix. (The only similarities between a Publix baguette and the real thing are the name and the shape.)
The wine I served was the 2008 Villa Antinori IGT Toscana red. As always, it was very nice.

Peposo is the signature stew of the town of Impruneta near Florence. Impruneta is famous for making terra cotta tiles. The fornaciari were the operators of the kilns (furnaces) in which the tiles were made. The wives of the fornaciari would make the stew for their husbands to take to work. They would warm it in their kilns. Peposo means “peppered” because it is made with peppercorns.

This dish is from the town of Grosseto in the Maremma area of Tuscany. “Tegamata” means “potful.” In Italian, “peperoni” means “bell peppers.” The word has nothing to do with “pepperoni” the salami which is an Italian-American creation, not Italian. The one problem I had with this dish was that it called for six yellow and/or red bell peppers. The peppers I bought at Publix were huge, so I really only needed two.

There are several very different Italian dishes called, "migliaccio," including one made with fresh pork blood. This one was a simple cake.