FIORE

This Italian restaurant in the heart of South Granville has it all.

and wine be thy joy

As their website points out, FIORE is part casual trattoria, part Italian wine shop and part charming market You can grab a bottle from an extensive collection of Italian varieties and go, or make a reservation to eat there (when indoor dining is allowed again).

I took my sister for her birthday to their sister (ha, ha – no pun intended) restaurant FIORE FAMIGLIA at their Kits location so we could enjoy a nice heated patio.  Although at first we went to get a bottle of beautiful organic Northern Italian wine from the S Granville location to bring with us. Wine that you cannot buy in a regular wine shop or liquor store.  It was excellent.  Smooooth!

tasty bowl of warm olives to start

We shared pappardelle with braised short rib, sundried tomatoes, arugula, garlic cream, parmesan +fried shallots.  AND; roasted butternut squash ravioli with tomato beurre blanc, toasted pine nuts, friend sage + pickled apples.

The food was truly outstanding.  Service and presentation too – I’m talking about you, Jacob!

Finished with moist Olive Oil Cake with fresh berries, whipped cream + sprig of mint.

We’ll be back!

Photos: d. king

Food: Trail Tradition

Where do you go for a good old spaghetti and meatballs these days?  This was my favourite meal as a toddler and it’s still one of my all-time faves. When I was one year old, to my moms dismay I spilled a whole plate of spaghetti over my head on purpose. She was mortified but I was all smiles.  True story (like why would I lie about that?). I was just showing appreciation. And might I add it’s a surefire way to grab attention. So where do you go??

If you live in Vancouver, many hours out of your way to The Colander restaurant in Trail, B.C.  I’ve heard about the place for years but never experienced it until last week. The Colander has been owned by the LaRose family with a history dating back to their opening in 1972.  With an open, casual atmosphere that lends itself to large parties along with intimate dining experiences the main attraction is  plain old good Italian fare. And that’s good enough for me!

GREAT FOOD FRIENDLY ATMOSPHERE

The Colander Special remains their most popular meal. It’s what I ordered although their menu has expanded over the years to include things like baked ziti, ribs, lasagna, etc.  My intimate party ordered ribs with chicken along with spaghetti & meatballs and the meal came with simple salad and rolls.

A brief history:

Back in the days when immigrants flooded over from the “old country” to work at Cominco and the C.P.R., the men lived in boarding houses. The wives and children remained in Italy until the men could afford a home and enough money to bring their families here. In the meantime, the boarding houses did a booming business serving all-you-could-eat dinners at low prices.  Meals are still served in the same manner as when they were first introduced back in the fifties. Despite numerous requests from me alone, the famous pasta sauce recipe, which has been carefully developed over the years, to this day, has remained a Colander secret.

The Colander Restaurant has been chosen by Beautiful BC magazine as one of the top 24 restaurants to dine in BC.

After dinner my friend ran into an Italian run store naturally called Formosa Foods to buy me her favourite bread; a homemade sourdough with dates and walnuts to take home.  It was outstanding.  fyi: I only have two pieces left. Another good reason to go back to Trail.

Enough said!

Photos: d. king

Food+Drink: Italian Days 

Land of Art, Charm, History, Tradition and Wonderful Wines.

Italian Days on the Drive
Italian Days on the Drive.  Photo: d. king

rosesauce2rosesauce3For three days in a row I enjoyed little Italian touches and some major ones, not in a physical sense but in other gratifying ways.

I made a typical Italian Rosé Sauce on Saturday.  The kind I’ve been craving for ages; nicely rich & full of flavour.  Simple and satisfying.

Because I wasn’t sure if I’d be eating
Italian on “Italian Days” the following day, Sunday.  They have Italian Days in many cities across North America where they close the streets to traffic, put up white tents to sell odds ‘n ends by storefronts, have staged live music, many food vendors and crowds where you can hardly walk without bumping into someone and wait in line forever to get something you can normally get on any other given day.  Anyway, in Vancouver it took place on Commercial Drive (aka “the Drive” on the East side of town ) in what used to be a mainly Italian neighbourhood but now houses an International variety of cuisine.  I think I did notice a few Italians here and there but most of them probably left for the day. It was fun for a few hours especially from where I sat, comfortably under a heat lamp on a side street enjoying a glass of wine while watching the passersby and a plate of calamari. The real Italians were elsewhere, sitting inside one of the many Cafés sipping espresso.

italiandays3italiandays2

Then yesterday (Monday) I spent part of the afternoon at the Vancouver Club with real Italians flown in fresh from Italy especially to educate the trade about the wonderful ancient wine growing regions for Prosecco & Valpolicella and of course to promote the wines.

A short history of Old World Wine Country:

italiandays10The VALPOLICELLA territory has ancient origins, natural beauty and artistic value.  In Roman times it was known for its fascinating landscape and its tranquility.  Ancient palaces and noble villas are among the most attractive historical monuments in the area.  During the rule of the Most Serene Republic of Venice, large land tenures were established: country houses turned into splendid villas, decorated by the best artists of that period, and became the place where aristocracy and intellectuals had their cultural gatherings.  There are architectural jewels in the valley of Valpantena. Rural and town churches are spread all over the territory, enriching Valpolicella building panorama, made of small villages, courts, towers, capitals, fountains and dry stone walls.  All these monuments were built by local peasants, whose technical mastery turned country labour into ART.italiandays11Valpolicella “Superiore” is made from selected grapes grown in the best locations. It is aged for a year minimum thus obtaining its characteristic ruby-red colour with garnet shades; the nose is slightly ethereal with hints of vanilla.  Its flavour fine, harmonious, dry and velvety.  Especially fine when paired with second courses of red meat and medium seasoned cheeses.

Prosecco: not just a name.

chilled Prosecco bottles
chilled Prosecco bottles

Prosecco with friends: when I have a special occasion (which almost everything is a special occasion) I like to start the evening off with an Italian Prosecco. I never think too much about it, just that I like a nice tasting, tall cool glass of bubbly.  But now I know a bit more about Prosecco Superiore and realize the refinement of the region it comes from. Apparently it makes a difference between various types of soil, climate and the skill of men (yes, men) who have passed down the art of their hand-crafted labour from one generation to the next. It is thanks to this experience that they can cultivate the steep slopes of the hills that they have adorned with manicured vineyards, creating an environment so spectacular that it is now a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  So there is a “Superiore” for every occasion in three versions that vary in their residual sugar content. Brut, the driest style, Extra Dry, the most traditional version, and  Dry.  The sparkling wine also differs according to where it comes from within the region.  So the best advice I can give is to try them all and find out which one(s) you love best.

Amarone Amore:

(ps: the individual bottles shown in photos are my picks for this week)italiandays5

Amarone Wine: The Patriarch of Valpolicella
italiandays6amarone3Many wine lovers know Amarone on a first name basis, though relatively few are personally acquainted. This is most likely due to the high entrance fee. Perhaps you’ve seen him lingering at the bottom of a wine list next to other recognizable stars such as Brunello di Montalcino or Barolo and wondered:italiandays9

What is the story on this dude? Is he worth it?

Yes.  Amarone is worth the minimum $50-$60 ++ bottle price. While some wine prices are artificially inflated, there’s a practical explanation as to why Amarone is one of Italy’s top red wines. – and one of mine too.  It comes with a good story: To tell it properly, we must begin at the end, with Amarone’s family name: Valpolicella. Like Romeo and Juliet – it is in fair Verona where we lay our scene…

Verona is a jewel of a city in northeastern Italy, an hour and a half due east of Venice by car. The town is home to an immaculate, picture-perfect medieval center, as well as one of the most untouched Roman amphitheaters in the world, where concerts and events are still held.amarone4amarone2

The 5 Levels of Valpolicella Wine

  • Tier 1:Valpolicella Classico
  • Tier 2:Valpolicella Superiore
  • Tier 3:Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso
  • Tier 4:Amarone della Valpolicella
  • Tier 5:Recioto della Valpolicella

amarone1amaroneWhy is Amarone Wine so Expensive?

After harvesting the grapes for ‘Tier 1’ Valpolicella Classico, they are immediately crushed and fermented. This is a light, high acid red wine; it generally sees no oak aging and provides a perfect match for the traditional local appetizers.  In Verona, everything tastes  amazing when accompanied by delicious Valpolicella.

By contrast, the fruit destined to become Amarone takes quite a different journey before reaching the bottle. He is, after all, the family Patriarch – most wineries will select their older, more mature vines for this wine. Grapes are picked a bit later to ensure ripeness – usually in mid-October. Then, they are left all winter to dry into raisins.

What goes into Amarone:

  • 2x as many grapes as normal wine
  • 45+ day slow fermentations
  • Long term aging at winery (similar to Rioja)
  • Expect to spend $50-$80

Viva Italia!

Photos: d. king

Source for Amarone: Winefolly.com

 

 

 

 

 

Food: Italian Potluck – Milan Expo 2015

From May 1 through October 31, Milan is a hosting an international pot luck dinner antipasto-platterat Expo 2015, that once-every-few-years universal world fair where countries come together for a thematic event. This year’s theme, “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” will explore food culture and sustainability as seen through 170 country and corporate participants.  This is my kind of Expo!

Together they are bringing food conversation to the table in a multi-cultural village of pavilions, theaters, conference halls, and parks where food finesse is just an hors d’oeuvre and tastings plus table talk are the main courses.

Naviglio canal at night
Naviglio canal at night

Pavilions make up the core of Expo 2015: Unique stand-alone structures that share food ideas and concepts and are architectural celebrations in their own right.

The Italian Pavillion
The Italian Pavillion

Focusing on food discussions, the Expo village brings together countries and food concerns in different Clusters. Countries will ask you to think differently about what you know about food through dedicated topics like grains, coffee, chocolate, and climate zones. The Slow Food pavilion celebrates the Italian-born movement and radicalizes it for the 21st century. Pavilion Zero and Future Food District (created with MIT’s SENSEable City Lab) are poised to take you back to the future. And if you’re bored, there’s always Cirque du Soleil‘s Allavita! at the open-air theater.

It’s food. It’s a celebration of food. And it’s chefs celebrating. Some of the world’s biggest kitchen names will be heading to Milan for demonstrations, conversations, and even a little giving back. Italy’s top chef Massimo Bottura and 40 of his famous friends will take host a charity kitchen and cook with Expo leftovers at the Refettorio Ambrosiano.

Spaghetti Bolognese
Spaghetti Bolognese – I just made a batch

If you go: It’s a six-month food party. You’ll need a game plan and a great pair of walking shoes. Visiting the Expo is like heading to a food-focused theme park. You are going to want to take your time and to be there for more than one day.  Why don’t you make it a holiday? Milan for Food and Shopping...Cosa c’è di meglio (what could be better)?

From Milan: The Expo is in Rho, 20 minutes northwest of Milan’s city center.

Source: Forbes.com – Erica Firpo for Fathom

simply satisfying – Pappa al Pomodoro

I want to live like an Italian!soup1

If you can’t get to Tuscany…warm up to a simple, hearty blend of tangy tomatoes, rustic bread and fresh herbs. This is a classic Italian dish which means to say – not at all fancy.  It is all about simplicity and good ingredients.  It’s worth splurging on richer olive oil for recipes like this and a chewy, unsalted white bread instead of whole wheat (which has a distinctive flavor that won’t marry well with the ingredients).

I just had a request for making a rich tomato soup.  My friend and I were served a delicious sampling from a food truck after our run the other day & I forgot how good something like this can taste. Not reserved for only cold days.  This is something I’ve made while camping (in the Eurovan). This delicious Tuscan recipe is originally from the popular restaurant I Sodi in New York (see below).

Serves 6

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

3 Large Garlic Cloves, minced

1/3 cup chopped Fresh Basil

2 tsp. chopped Fresh Sage

1 ½ lb. ripe, peeled, seeded Tomatoes, chopped (about 5 medium)

3 slices day-old White Peasant Bread, cut into ½ inch cubes

3 cups Vegetable Stock (water is okay but I prefer the stock)

Olive oil & basil leaves for garnish

Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add garlic, basil and sage, and cook for 2 minutes or until garlic begins to brown.  Stir in tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add bread and stock (or water).  Return to boil and reduce heat.  Stir, breaking up bread with the back of a wooden spoon.  Let soup simmer for 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Ladle into soup bowls, drizzle with additional olive oil and garnish with basil leaves.

TIP:  It makes a tasty compliment to light choices – a tossed salad or grilled fish.  You can use canned tomatoes providing they’re a superior brand – organic & peeled are best.soup2

A word from I Sodi

Rita Sodi grew up on a little farm North of Florence, Italy, and almost everything her family ate was made from the farm, prosciutto, salami, wine, vegetables…and this food was very important for the family. They were not allowed to miss any meal. Rita’s mother, Elena, always told her to drink wine because it “makes good blood” and do not eat Prosciutto without bread. When she finished art school she began to travel for her work in the clothing business and at that point she really started to appreciate the simplicity of her mother’s food and the way she cooked. For ten years she traveled from Florence, Italy to New York, Los Angeles, Asia and Australia. Year after year, wherever in the world Rita found a kitchen, she began to cooked her Mother’s food. Friends filled her kitchen and sat at her table, her passion was born.


Address: 105 Christopher Street, New York, NY 10014

 

Neighborhood: West Village

Or: your own home