Surf and Turf: Lunch at the Bar of Hotel Metropole, Venice, Italy

Σάββατο, 5 Νοεμβρίου, 2011

Hotel Metropole is one of the hospitality jewels in Venice. This I knew before my last visit to Venice. What I did not know was that for two years now they serve some real food dishes (not only sandwiches and salds) in the bar of the hotel every day of the week from 1230 to 1430. Taking into account that the famous gourmet restaurant of the hotel (with two Michelin stars) does not serve lunch except on Saturday and Sunday, the bar is a practical solution for a visitor who wants to have lunch.

Hotel Metropole, Venice

The Hotel commands a fantastic position on the promenade of the “Riva degli Schiavoni”, a few meters away from St. Mark’s square.

Lunch serving area of the Bar at the Hotel Metropole

The Bar is located on the ground floor, on the left side as you enter and before you reach the reception. It has beautiful wooden panels which are used as displays for the owner’s collection of objects.

Being in Venice, it is proper to start with the surf side of the menu.

Gamberi "in saor" - Hotel Metropole, The Bar

Gamberi (prawns) “in saor” (sweet and sour). A delightful appetizer. The prawns are seared for one or two seconds, literally, and then served on a bed of cabbage and pickled red onions, with raisins and raspberries (lamponi). On top the chef placed a few finocchio leaves. The flavor combinations are incredible! And if you do not have all the rest, go and get prawns and taste them with raspberries.

Prawns "al saor" detail - Hotel Metropole, The Bar

The red onions are pickled and caramelized, adding the mild sweet and sour background to the taste of the prawns.

Cod with asparagi and potatoes with mustard sauce - Hotel Metropole, the Bar

Merluzzo is “cod” of the Adriatic Sea. It was served on a bed of mashed potatoes with mustard seeds, and asparagus.

Cod - detail

The Merluzzo was seared on the side of the skin for a couple of minutes in very strong fire, that made the skin crispy and the flesh juicy, firm, and succulent. The fish was served with fresh oregano and dill. Wonderful execution!!!

We now move to the turf side of the menu: Italian Delicacies are the first chapter.

Prosciutto crudo di Sauris is the prince of this dish of mixed cured meats. Sauris is a locality near Udine, where this tender and tasty prosciutto crudo is produced. It tasted like it has more character than the prosciutto di Parma.

Soppressa di Valdobbiadene

Salsiccia del Veneto (deer and pork)

Speck di Alto Adige. Perfect balance of salty and sweet. When the pig has had the proper food, the fat is sweet and flavorful.

Salame del Piave

The silky and full of flavour “Veal Carpaccio (di Manzo)” completed the tasting experience.

After the qualitative parts of the food, it is time to come to the value for money summary. Not only is the food of top quality, not only is the service excellent, the value for money of the Bar’s Lunch Menu is unbeatable, the best not only in Venice, but in most of Italy!!! But please please please, keep this little secret to yourselves.

Today’s dish belongs to the minimalist school, and as such requires tender loving care for the flavors and the textures. It is my own creation, and I am sure that if you like the ingredients, you will love the dish as much as I do.

Although it is the middle of October 2011, I had in the freezer  a bag with fresh string beans and in the middle of a rainy dark day I felt the urge to cook them. I cook them lightly in boiling salted water so that they remain crunchy. I love the texture of string beans and immensely enjoy the crunch. After boiling, I let them cool off in room temperature.

The day before I had put in fresh water two fillets of salted bacalao to desalinate. The marriage was inevitable, even though it was not the result of a plan, but of sheer coincidence. I have learned from my Basque friends to prepare the bacalao in low heat with the skin down, so I cut the fillets in pieces.

Both ingredients are best friends with garlic, so the next step was to chop plenty of garlic. I like very much the combination of garlic and chilli, so I chopped some chilli peppers and through them in a deep pan with the garlic and olive oil.

I place the pieces of bacalao on top and let it cook in low heat, so that all the natural juices of the fish mix with the garlic and the chilli in a mild way that preseres natural flavor to the maximum.

After 10 minutes the fish is ready and there is a fantastic sauce in the pan that is going to dress the beans.

Serve the dressed beans in a deep dish and put on top a piece of bacalao. Enjoy with a “Asyrtiko” white wine from the island of Santorini in Greece.

Today I share with you a dish that is perfect for the sunny days of Spring, and can be enjoyed al fresco as well as indoors.  I This is an original recipe of mine, and I gave it a rather pretentious name: “Pavillon de la Mer”.

The first ingredient of the dish is lightly cured bonito (lakerda), a fish in the tuna family. I gave the recipe for this wonderful fish back in 2008.  The only difference between then and now is that the fish is a lot smaller, and for this reason I fileted it before curing, rathern than cutting it across with the bone.

Lightly cured bonito (lakerda) filet

The second ingredient is a mix of vegetables. Carrots, coliflower, brocolli, and dill weed. Steam the vegetables for 10 minutes, let them cool off and then put in a blender.

The third ingredient is salted cod, or bacalao if you like (I like). After placing in cold water for at least 24 hours, I boil the fish in water with a just a little garlic.

The fourth ingredient is home made mayonnaise made with olive oil.

After 5 minutes in the boiling water, the cod is done. Remove from the pot and let it rest until lukewarm. Then mix thoroughly with the blended vegetables, and let the mix rest for at least 15 minutes.  After that, spoon in plenty of mayo and blend thoroughly.

Use a round open container to give the mix a cylindrical shape (a la pavillion), and place on top three fingers of the cured bonito. Finalize the simple layout of the dish with capers.

Enjoy with asyrtico white from Santorini.

Today’s dish is simple, light, with delicate flavors of the earth and the sea.

I got a very fresh sea bass and filleted it. The flesh was firm and the smell wonderful! Such a good piece of fish should not be cooked at all! I submerged it for a couple of hours in cold water with the juice of one lemon and a bit of coarse salt, while I was preparing the accompanying ingredient of the dish: a puree of split yellow peas.

As always, I use yellow split peas  (“fava” in Greek) from the island of Santorini (Thira) whose volcanic soil produces the best “fava” in Greece. Once the puree is ready, I add lemon juice, finely chopped dry onions, coriander, olive oil, salt and pepper.

I slice the sea bass fillet, and place on top of the puree with fresh coriander.

Enjoy with a glass of asyrtico white from Santorini, and please tell me what you make of this divine dish!

Ristorante Madonina del Pescatore: La immortalità del cibo

Δευτέρα, 27 Δεκεμβρίου, 2010

Today’s post is about my visit to Moreno Cedroni’s restaurant “Madonina del Pescatore”, in Senigallia, near Ancona, Italy. I was there on my way to Tuscany, and decided to have lunch at the restaurant before proceeding with my trip.

Senigallia is on the Adriatic coast, south of Rimini, the birth town of Fellini. I was there back in the summer of 2009, when I visited the “Uliassi” restaurant, on my way to Ravenna.

It was late December. The long road by the beach was empty in the middle of the day, in sharp contrast with the pandemonium of the summer. The air was not cold, but humid, and the atmosphere hazy. The big lady dressed in dark greeted me and suggested to have a good lunch, as you never know when life will end. She then turned back to her endless gazing at the sea.

The restaurant has been awarded two Michelin Red Guide stars many years ago, and has managed to keep them, a good indication that time is acting to the chef’s benefit so far. The theme of the chef’s creations is “la immortalità del cibo”, i.e. “the immortality of the food”. It sounded very good to me, especially after my encounter a few moments before. I entered the restaurant and ordered the menu of the chef, eager to taste what the chef had in store, eager to immortalize my humble existence for even a split second. .

The beginning was hygienic, as I was asked to brush my teeth and then wash them with the greenish liquid.

Mojito alla Lavanda e Nocciolina.

Then came the aperitivo, a tasty white foam on a bed a martini cubes, accompanied by a fake pistachio in his crust. So far so good.

There was no amuse bouche, the action started straight away.

Raw amberjack, leeks and lemongrass sauce, pancy, basil and fried amarant. The amberjack was sweet and tender but with texture. The sauce was discrete, supporting the fish taste.

Oyster with sour cream, green onion, raspberry caramel and pearls with black tea. Oysters require subtlety and superior balance. They can get very watery and soft, or dry and tough. In this dish, the chef has achieved perfection. The pearls of black tea complemented the flavors superbly, by adding a slightly bitter note to the harmony.

Swordfish bites “shabu shabu” style with celeriac, pineapple and green peppers. Shabu-shabu directly translates to “swish-swish” and is a cooking technique whereby you submerge bits of the meat or fish in hot water and swish it around. The taste of the flesh was mildly aromatic and firm. Good balance of subtle sweet and sour in the accompanying vegetables and fruit.

Tribute to Giacomelli (see below): the black figure awaits the white – black bean sauce with seared scallops. I am a scallop lover. I fell in love with this dish. The scallops were seared to perfection, the seasoning ever so subtle and discrete to simply accentuate the natural flavors. The black bean sauce supporting the scallops extremely smooth and fine.

Mario Giacomelli (1925 – 2000) was a photographer born and raised in Senigallia.

Cardoon soup, camomile and cuttlefish. Soothing, smooth, flavorful, the soup supports the tender cuttlefish. A nice interlude.

Risotto with clams, red shrimps and squid, “aio oio”,  parsley and wasabi sauce. This dish is the powerhouse of the menu. The combination of “aio oio” that is “aglio e olio” that is “garlic and olive oil” with the wasabi sauce was a big success, and elevated the risotto to the sky!

Turbot with braised wild mushrooms, jerusalem artichokes sauce and white truffles acqualagna. The turbot was tender, seared to perfection, the accompanying mushrooms and the sauce as always subtle and supporting. Deliciou,s uplifting dish!

The dishes were accompanied by moderate quantities of the excellent white wine “VERDICCHIO DEI CASTELLI DI JESI VIGNA DELLA OCHE 2008″.

Sorbet of Toma Cheese with strawberry jam. Wonderful combination of flavors!

Chocolate mousse, Clementine oil and sea urchin eggs. The absolute star of the deserts, a hard core dynamite combination that blows up in your mouth. Extremely long aftertaste.

Purple ice cream, raspberry mousse and streusel spice. The best sequel to the dynamite mousse, playful in colors and subtle flavors.

Ice cold zabaione (-196 degrees). The illusion of taste. This puffy blob disappears in the mouth so quickly and so suddenly that it is like the descend to nothingness. This is the end.

On my way out I looked at the long sandy beach. Did I become immortal? Even for a split second?

Yes! In the deserted, winterly beach by the Adriatic I entered the world of split second immortality. This now occurs to me as the continuation of the path that originated in Vienna, when I visited the Vestibuel Restaurant, and I declared:

“If mortality is so beautiful, I am happy to be mortal!”

I now realize that this statement anticipated the experience of split second immortality, therefore it is the prologue to the immortality path that now took me to Senigallia.

Damianos Fish Tavern, Ambelas, island of Paros, Greece

Τρίτη, 12 Οκτωβρίου, 2010

A touch of the unforeseen landed me on the island of Paros for a short visit in October. The tourist season in Paros is very short, only three months, June, July, September. As a result in the first half of October the options for a decent meal to the visitor are limited.

Initially I wanted to go to Ventouris, a fish tavern I have enjoyed in the past, but as I have heard the tavern was closed. Instead, I opted for the fish tavern of Damianos, 100 meters from Ventouris. Here is my report.

The tavern is literally by the sea. However, the days before my arrival there were quite strong winds that prevented the fish boats from fishing. The result is that the fresh fish available was minimal (literally). When nature tries you you have to resort to the means by which man has been able to preserve food. In this case, salt curing provided the answer to the question: “what  do you recommend for today?”

Salt cured red mullet with garlic and rosemary

Manos brought to me the red mullet fillets that have been salt cured, then thoroughly cleaned from the salt and stored in olive oil, thin slices of garlic and rosemary. The taste was wonderful, intense, full of flavor, and the flesh juicy and firm. Eduardo, the Peruvian who has made Paros his home for the last 15 years, told me the story of the dish. It started from a village on the Peloponnese and was modified by Damianos, the owner of the tavern.

Salt cured sardines - frissa

The next delicacy was salt cured frissa, the large sardine fished in the waters of the Aegean.  Here what impressed me was the balance of the salty taste, and the moist flesh of the fish. One thing is obvious, Damianos knows how to salt cure fish!!!

Potatoes with onions and capers

The island of Naxos can be seen from Ambelas. It is less than 5 nautical miles away. Manos told me that they had received some nice potatoes from Naxos. they boiled them, dressed them with olive oil, and served with parsley, onions and capers which grow in abundance on Paros. I Was lucky to taste this dish, that in its simplicity was magnificent!!!! The flesh of the potato was sweet, soft and almost creamy. The combination with the onions and the capers was harmonious.


This dish of assorted vegetables came to partner with the main protein dish of the meal, chick peas!!! Chick peas  grown on the island of Paros are limited in quantities but delicious. They cook them in the oven with plenty of onions and herbs (mainly oregano). They are soft, tender, and have smoky flavor.

Chick peas

At the end, a simple and delicious local sweet, called “patsavouropita”, literally translated as “rag-pie”. It is made with fillo, and a mix of eggs, milk, flower, and a bit of lemon peel.

Eating is Damianos was a pleasure of discovery of the technique and joy of salt curing done with expertise and skill. But the potatoes with the onions and the capers topped the bill for me as the simplest and most flavorful dish. Talking to Eduardo after the meal, he promised to me that next time (assuming that fish and seafood will be available) he will prepare the original Peruvian cheviche. For those who have tasted the original Peruvian cheviche, this sounds like a very good reason for another quick visit to Paros. Thank you Eduardo, Manos, and Thodoris, for a wonderful meal and your hospitality.

Au revoir!

Brandada de Bacalao – Salt Cod Mash (Brandade)

Κυριακή, 3 Οκτωβρίου, 2010

After the excesses of Despoinarion’s Oscars gala dinner, today’s dish is easy, cheap (cost efficient) and tasty! In addition, it has a name that in some languages refers to sensual oscillations…

Lets start with the geography of the dish. It is a Mediterranean dish, in the large sense, as we find it also in Portugal and the Basque Country. We find it in Catalunya, Provence, Rousillon, Languedoc, Liguria, Valencia.

It is based on salt cod (bacalao), garlic and olive oil. The variations include bread, potatoes, cream. What I present today is my own version, which uses potatoes, parsley, dill, garlic, and bread crumbs. It is an all season all weather dish, and goes very well with white wine. Who said that cucina povera is not wonderful?

It is best to use salted cod for the dish. Desalinate the cod and then remove the skin. Simmer in milk for 5 minutes in medium heat. Then gently break the flesh in a food processor. Gently, otherwise, you will get a mousse instead of threads.

Chop garlic, parseley and dill and boil potates until they become soft. Remove from the heat, drain, and then gently mash them in the food processor. Bring all the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

 Spread the mix on a baking tray that has been thoroughly oiled, cover with breadcrumds and bake in 200 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it rest for 30 minutes before serving.

Prepare a mix of vegetables (fried or baked) for serving with the brandade. I have prepared a mix of red peppers, eggplants and zucchini with tomato sauce.

Cut the brandade in squares and serve over the vegetables sprinkling with chopped parsely.

Enjoy responsibly with chilled asirtiko, and let the good times roll!!!


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