Before Ramsey, there was Blumenthal

After getting the sour taste of Ramsey out of our collective electronic mouths, we add in the epilog for our foodie-vacation. Having dinner at the third ranked restaurant in the world should have been difficult to topple. It was.  But not through lack of effort or innovation. Heston Blumenthal is seventh in the world. I know, hard to tell them apart at that level and you are right. They are head and shoulders above Gordon and their menu’s and service show it.  With a lovely and bright ambiance, the restaurant was welcoming and comfortable.  The menu was full of dishes that teased both the tongue and imagination. What does grill hay smoked salmon actually taste like? How about Dressed Snails. I didn’t know they even came dressed. We ordered a range of delights that included duck for me and a rib-eye for Gina. She also ordered a Tipsy Cake which had to be ordered in advance because of how long it took to prepare. We were not disappointed. The food was simply top shelf. Gina’s steak was mouth watering. The star of the show however was her side of frie’s. You might wonder how that’s possible. If we had taste-o-vision you would know. They were perfectly cooked and I suspect they were twice or thrice cooked and at least one of the hot baths was a dance through  duck fat.  They were hot and perfectly golden crisp.

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 I suddenly have a new fry mission in life!  I finished with the traditional cheese platter and was terrified when the waiter delivered what i thought was the desert to our table.Image

Turns out it was just the selection platter. My platter however wasn’t much smaller when it showed up.  The cheeses were as one might expect, sublime, coming from the land of cheese. Back to Gina’s tipsy cake. It was clear why it took as long as it did. They had to roast a large cone shaped chunk of pineapple until it was carmelized. To die for. ImageImage

 I forgot to mention that I added to the number of frogs rolling around in wheel chairs. I ordered the frog’s legs. I’ve had them a few times. These of course were the bee’s knees of frog’s legs, except there weren’t any knees in this case.  

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Now we don’t ordinarily do this but the urge was to irresistible.  The couple sitting next to us ordered a signature dish. We saw it on the menu but passed having already eaten our way through a significant amount of foie gras. This one was served as a mandarin orange. Totally off the charts.

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What the F*#% – a visit to Gordon’s Place

You have likely all seen Hell’s kitchen. You watched in amazement as Chef Ramsey berated his wanna be top chefs into something better than they were before they met him. After watching a few seasons of this, it got tiring.  Big ego, lots of noise, but where is the beef?  So, we thought we would give it a go. In the Savoy, they have a Ramsey restaurant.  Savoy, Ramsey – what could go wrong?  As it turns out, the food could. Gina ordered a traditional British roast pudding and I ordered a steak. We split the side orders of spinach and fries. Gordon should take lessons from the crew over at the Mandarin on fries. His fries wouldn’t pass for acceptable out of any chip-wagon.  I cannot even use language appropriate to describe his roast pudding. Greasy flour coating dried up beef bits. Sad. My steak was excellent, but it was hard to compensate for the other disasters. For desert, I chose a walk on the wild side (why not at this point)? Welsh rare bit. A delectable, if over salted, crostini and baked cheese.

 

I’m afraid Gordon’s team came up short and Chef R should have a good look in the mirror next time he yells at his staff.   

It was a dark and stormy night … our last night in Italy

It was a dark and stormy night … wait a minute, wrong story line.  It was dark. It was bloody early and there were pigs.  Yes, pigs. The kind And  that we had been eating for the last two weeks except these were wandering about in front of our car while we were travailing at a rapid rate of knots down hill. What’s this got to do with food?  Let me back up. Our last post was about Osteria Francescana. Our trip back from there involved a side trip to the east coast for some shopping and of course a little taste of the local cured ham salami sticks. Like salami but small bites. Delightful. Easy to take with your cappachino to go.   The exciting part was of course the trip over the Italian mountains that make up Tuscany.  Narrow twisty roads that made the ones we came in on the first time look like a beginner driving course lesson. These guys were the real thing. Twisty, tiny roads with hair pin turns, semi trailers backing up because they met an oncoming truck and parts of the road that simply were not there any longer. All of this as I was feeling my oats on the Italian roads. We may have mentioned that we were thinking of renting a Ferrari for a day or two. Raw unadulterated testosterone fuelled power.  This of couse also comes with a $120 thousand dollar deductible.  So much for that dream. Never the less, this didn’t stop us (okay, just me) from wanting to feel the road Italian style. And what better way to do that than to slalom down the all too narrow, all to steep Italian roadway at high speed. Gina would have said something but she was having trouble speaking. What a rush. 

We made it back to Casa Ombuto for the final cooking class. It was a bitter sweet class – we could taste the end – we indeed, were cooking it. One of Paola’s culinary friends joined us as did Alex. Any thoughts of this quickly disappeared as we cooked our way into the evening. I made two dishes that were simply amazing. Lemoncella Creama which is basically a high octane lemon infused cream liqueur that cleanses your pallet after dinner. Something you’ve got to try. The other was a puff pastry vegetable side dish that was served with the braised lamb. OMG. Yup, it was good. Gina made an amazing ravioli with sea bass and squid ink. Truly a fitting finish for a week of fine cooking and fine dining.  There were many other courses and they all were matched with first class Italian wines as per every other night. One could say it was getting boring, but that would be foolish. A much better way of describing it is “that’s Italian Pauola style”

 

Special thanks to Pauola – you are truly a wonderful human being – funny, quirky, and a brilliant chef that loves her food, her land and has more passion in her pinky finger than most people in their whole bodies. More of us should be learning from you!

 

Thanks to Alex and the rest of his team for making our stay a world class pleasure. Your skills in the hospitality business are world class and you are a wonderful host.

Amazing food, amazing location, amazing people.

We look forward to sharing this with our “foodie” friends and family and are planning our next trip already.

Bryan and Gina

London Calling….or is that Fort Mac

Tonight is our last night.  We have had a blast but been a bit slack in the updates.  Today we had an English Breakfast….and high tea.  Breakfast consisted of a  variety of fried things….eggs, bacon, sausage, beans and toast.  Not sure I would have it again but had to try it.  This gave us the energy to head out to Harrods followed by the British Museum.  We came back to the Savoy for afternoon tea (enough food for 4 people….who would have thought that you could get filled up on finger sandwiches, crumpets, scones and a variety of delicate desserts.

Stories we have missed but will love updating you over dinner…..Dinner with Heston Blumenthal…..number seven in the world and totally unbelievable (earned all of his Michelin stars)  Thai cooking lessons….feel like an expert now.  London Cabaret show…..fun and funny.  Savoy Grill (Gordon Ramsey’s restaurant)….another great choice (Gina and Bryan might have seen this one a bit differently – LOL).  Museums, art galleries, trolleys and rides down the Thames.  We have been busy London tourists.

Off to London

It was a dark and stormy night … wait a minute, wrong story line.  It was dark. It was bloody early and there were pigs.  Yes, pigs. The kind And  that we had been eating for the last two weeks except these were wanting about in front of our car while we were travailing at a rapid rate of nots down hill. What’s this got to do with food?  Let me back up. Our last post was about Osteria Francescana. Our trip back from there involved a side trip to the east coast for some shopping and of course a little taste of the local cured ham salami sticks. Like salami but small bites. Delightful. Easy to take with your cappachino to go.   The exciting part was of course the trip over the Italian mountains that make up Tuscany.  Narrow twisty roads that made the ones we came in on the first time look like a beginner driving course lesson. These guys were the real thing. Twisty, tiny roads with hair pin turns, semi trailers backing up because they met an oncoming truck and parts of the road that simply were not there any longer. All of this as I was feeling my oats on the Italian roads. We may have mentioned that we were thinking of renting a Ferrari for a day or two. Raw unadulterated testosterone fuelled power.  This of douse also comes with a $120 thousand dollar deductible.  So much for that dream. Never the less, this didn’t stop us (okay, just me) from wanting to feel the road Italian style. And what better way to do that than to slalom down and all too narrow, all to steep Italian roadway at high speed. Gina would have said something but she was having trouble speaking. What a rush. 

We made it back to Cassa Umboto for the final cooking class. It was a bitter sweet class – we could taste the end – we indeed, were cooking it. One of Pauola’s culinary friends joined us as did Alex. Ayny thoughts of this quickly disappeared as we cooked our way into the evening. I made two dishes that were simply amazing. Limincella Creama which is basically a high octane lemon infused cream liqueur that cleanses your pallet after dinner. Something you’ve got to try. The other was a puff pastry vegetable side dish that was served with the braised lamb. OMG. Yup, it was good. Gina made an amazing ravioli with sea bass and squid ink. Truly a fitting finish for a week of fine cooking and fine dining.  There were many other courses and they all were matched with first class Italian wines as per every other night. One could say it was getting boring, but that would be foolish. A much better way of describing it is “that’s Italian Pauola style”. Amazing food, amazing chef and an amazing setting. 

 

Special thanks to Pauola – you are truly a wonderful human being – funny, quirky, and a brilliant chef that loves her food, her land and has more passion in her pinky finger than most people in their whole bodies. More of us should be learning from you!

 

Thanks to Alex and the rest of his team for making our stay a world class pleasure. Your skills in the hospitality business are world class and you are a wonderful host.

 

We look forward to sharing this with our “foodie” friends and family and are planning our next trip already.

 

Bet you were wondering about the dark and stormy night part.   Thats part of the next instalment!

 

 

Bryan and Gina

 

Osteria Francescana

This is going to be a short blog. These guys are third in the world. We had personalized (and I do mean personalized) service sitting in an international crowd of the who’s who. Two little Canadians chatting up a storm with the staff and then the man, the legend himself, Massimo Bottura. Yup, he came out to make sure we were happy. How cool is that. So, four hours, thirteen courses with wine pairings that started at the top of Italy and worked there way down. We covered it top to bottom. Amazing – oh ya. We will add pictures, words simply don’t do the food justice. For all of the Michelins and other top flight restaurants we have been to around the world, this one blew the rest away. My advice, book a table, book a flight and enjoy the meal of a life time.

For example, macaroons with sardine and seafood infused foam. You would never have thought to start a meal like this.

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Or how about this delight, a squid ink scampi crispy fried to perfection.

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And of course, the man and his fans!

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Talk about amazing.

We loved it, we loved osteria-francescana and we especially loved Massimo Bottura and his amazing staff.