Having got married at the beginning of July (my excuse for recent blog-neglect), and following weeks of wedding obsession and constant attention to detail (not necessarily my forte), once it was over I was extremely pleased to down tools and head off to Italy. A 16 day extravaganza of hot sun, beautiful cities and beaches, and above all cheese, wine, pasta and anything else in sight that I could consume. Oh, and spending time with new hubby..
Our first stop was Florence, which was everything I thought it would be. Packed full of history with stunning buildings, views, statues and art at every turn, it’s really a gorgeous city. But I was mostly keen to try the Florentine steak, or bistecca alla fiorentina – a phonebook-sized T-bone traditionally enjoyed in Tuscany with just a sprinkling of sea salt and olive oil, and some good red wine and are generally shared between 2 or 3 people.
There is a clear difference between the cuisines of the north and south of Italy, with the north having less coastline and more open land, cattle are a key source of ingredients. Beef, butter and cream all feature heavily on practically every menu, and needless to say, I was excited.
In a restaurant in central Florence we ordered a 1kg to share, accompanied by some garlic sauteed spinach. The monster arrived sizzling away on a hot plate, the fillet and sirloin separated by the bone, and was one of the best steaks I’ve had lately. Juicy, rare and tender with crunchy, charred bits on the outside (if I was Jamie Oliver I’d probably call it ‘gnarly’) and a deep, delicious beefy flavour. It was great on its own – no sauce required, and I’ll possibly hold back on the Bearnaise/anchovy hollandaise etc next time I have steak – really amazing meat is enough.
My other favourite Florence dish was my ridiculous burrata at Coqinarius – tucked on a little street near the Duomo, which nearly ended in tears when I couldn’t finish it. I LOVE burrata (it was my favourite dish at Naughty Piglets), its rich, milky middle bursting out everywhere, perfect with something salty and crunchy. This one was served with prosciutto, rocket and ‘pomodorino’, and was ideal.
The problem was that there were two. Two enormous, fist-sized burrata all for me – heaven in theory but it was so sad when I couldn’t do it. On the upside, the salty prosciutto was delicious with it, and I don’t like raw tomatoes but these were so sweet and juicy, with no hint of the mushy, watery-ness you get with tomatoes here. A gorgeous, lovely dish.
Highlights of the south to come!