Restaurant review: Osteria Simon Boccanegra, Firenze, Italy

October 31, 2010

Ponte vecchio, Florence

For our first family visit to Florence my good friend Giuseppe Sepe had put together a selection of six “must do or must see if in Florence”.

These six locations were carefully marked on a little map Giuseppe had drawn for us. His suggestions did not disappoint. In fact we felt utterly privileged to have this little treasure map in our hands.

One of the suggestions was Osteria Simon Boccanegra. We went there for dinner. As instructed, we asked for Tommaso, a good friend of Giuseppe, who as Giuseppe said “would treat us like royalty” (which in fact he did – thank you Tommaso for this memorable evening).

There are actually (at least) three Boccanegras: the ristorante, the osteria and the pizzeria (there is an enoteca as well), all of which offer quite distinct and different menus to their customers. We were drawn by the allure of the food of rural Florence, manifesting itself in the Osteria Boccanegra menu.

Furthermore, Tommaso spoilt us from the outset with a couple of glasses of spumante (bubbly) first, and some selected delicacies later. Then we moved on to a selection of traditional Florentine “primi piatti”, dishes to get started with. They reflected the charm of a truly rustic Florence.

We had raw vegetables, some white bread with liver pate, and a selection of local cheeses with kumquat and other jams all of which were super delicious.

Raw vegetables

Liver on bread

Various cheeses with marmalades

After that we moves on to pasta. I ordered gnocchi al ragu, one of my favourites. Margit had papardelle with rabbit, and the girls chose spinach ravioli with ricotta cheese.

Spinich ravioli with ricotta

Papardelle with rabbit

Gnocchi al ragu

Then came the absolute highlight of the evening, the “bistecca Fiorentina”. Goodness me, we had almost no space left for more food but this beef was heavenly. Look at the picture of the steak below with its mouth watering faculties.

Bistecca Fiorentina

As regards the choice of wine, we were constrained or shall I say conditioned by a wine tasting with Giuseppe in Bangkok. He served us a bottle of Tignanello some time ago which we had not forgotten (how can you forget a Super Tuscan like this?). Of course Boccanegra listed Tignanello on their (extensive and very interesting) wine list.

So the choice was made quickly and a bottle of ‘2006 Tignanello’ by Villa Antinori was ordered.

The waitress opening the bottle

Wine decantered

2006 Tignanello by Antinori

Tignanello, bottle with the cork

I was amazed how skilful one could open such a bottle of wine. The cork would remain “encapsulated” so to say. The waitress decantered our Super Tuscan, and then we were ready. Great job. I have never seen such art elsewhere.

The wine is just beautiful, consisting of 85% Sangiovese, 10 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc grapes. Tignanello was the first Super Tuscan which was made that way. Traditionally all grapes are Sangiovese. No white grapes are used for the blend.

All the fruit is estate grown and comes from a vineyard also named Tignanello covering 47 ha. The vines grow on 350-400 meter altitude on limestone and red tuffaceous soil.

2006 was a great vintage, quality and quantity wise. After the normal fermentation, the wine is put in barriques where the malolactic fermentation takes place. After the blending the wine can age in oak barrels for about 12 months.

The wine is dark red with aromas of red fruit and berries. It has fine tannins and is elegant with a good structure and length. I just love the finish with is smooth and round like good chocolate. This was only my second bottle of Tignanello but the lust for more is lying in wait.

Tommaso with the Adam family

Occasionally we review our family holiday experience by rating the places we have visited. Boccanegra (the Osteria to be precise) came out on top of our Italy visit which did not come as a surprise. There was only one other restaurant which came close to it. But more about this another time.

If you visit Florence please feel free to use Giuseppe’s map. It is worth it to explore “his” Florence in 48 hours. And if you happen to bump into Tommaso, say hello to him. By the way, he loves Thailand, Bangkok and Thai cuisine.

Address:
Simon Boccanegra
Ristorante, Osteria, Pizzeria
Via Verdi 27/r and Via Ghibellina 124/r
50122 Firenze/Florence, Italy
Tel.: +39-55-2001090
Fax: +39-55-2263038
E-mail: boccanegra@boccanegra.com
www.boccanegra.com
Closed on Sundays!!!!


Mount Nelson Sauvignon Blanc

June 24, 2010

Our fish

I just love to eat fish, all kinds of fish. And there is good fish on offer in the markets of Bangkok. Often we do not have carbohydrates with it. But veggies are a must. They are a great complement for the protein.

What you need in addition is, if possible: a superb wine, preferably white.

A plate of fish and veg

Very delicious veggies

I admit that sometimes I drink red wine with fish but most of the time I select a white. Since I love to drink Riesling wines, that’s often my preferred choice. Another option I like is Sauvignon Blanc. But it needs to be a really good one. I like Sancerre style wines and the ‘2007 Mount Nelson Sauvignon Blanc’, from the Marlborough wine region of New Zealand seemed to be the right stuff.

But I did not buy the bottle because SB wines from New Zealand are in fashion right now. I bought it because the Mount Nelson brand is a project of a famous Italian wine dynasty, the Antinori’s from Tuscany.

Piero and Lodovico Antinori are the 26th generation of Italy’s most famous wine family. I wanted to know how their interpretation of New Zealand SB fruit would turn out. I should not be disappointed as it turned out later.

2007 Mount Nelson Sauvignon Blanc

In 2004 the Antinori brothers bought for US$ 1.8 million a 32 acres vineyard on the banks of the Taylor River near the mouth of Cloudy Bay not far from the Wither Hill Vineyard. To make the Mount Nelson SB additional fruit (about 40%) is purchased from the adjoining Meadowbank vineyard.

The 2007 vintage is just the best ever. This is the unanimous verdict of the wine critics (91 Parker points). I can only confirm this. My recommendation: buy buy buy.

The wine has zest, is fragrant with lime and lemon flavours and some mineral notes. The colour is beautiful straw-like. The finish is lasting. I forgot the alcohol content and the price. But rest assured if I see it in my local market again, I will buy all the bottles on the shelve.

Beautiful colour in the glass

In early July, we will be in Italy. There I will taste some more of the Antinori wines. This time Italian wines.


Fine dining in Bangkok: Thai cuisine at Patara Restaurant

March 9, 2009

On the 8th of March 21 years ago, I entered an Italian language class and sat next to a blonde girl from Australia. In the morning of the same day, my boss, Luciano Montesi, had send me out to buy flowers for all the women working in our service. This is how I learned about world women’s day.

It was a glorious day in Rome and I was glad that my friend Jim had taken me to his language class. What I did not know at the time was that I would marry that blonde Australian two years later.

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Today, we felt like celebrating this first encounter and decided to go out for lunch. We called the Patara Restaurant which is only one Soi away from us in Thonglor, Bangkok, and they sent their tuck-tuck to pick us up at 13:20 h. All four of us like Thai food, so the choice of Patara came very natural.

Patara is located in Thonglor, Soi 19. The building used to be a private residence in a single house with a large garden, I guess. Inside you’ll find an elegant Thai restaurant, just the right place for such a celebration as ours was.

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The interior of Patara

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The decoration is very tasteful

We ordered two starter platters, a selection of various small Thai dishes and the three dumpling assortment. Don’t get fooled by the colours. The dumplings are most delicious.

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This was the first starter platter

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Three kinds of Thai dumplings

Then we ordered the main dishes, among them a tofu in red curry, a green chicken curry, an oxtail red curry, some green vegetables and some rice (which came in four colours, unfortunately my photo of the rice was blurred). All of us like spicy food, therefore we just followed our instincts when ordering.

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The main dishes

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Green chicken curry

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The ossobucco-type dish

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Green veggies

The food was so wonderful, so perfect, so delicious; our taste buds went from one sensation to the next. This is Thai food at its best, wow. I could not believe it. Margit and the kids had visited Patara earlier but for me it was the maiden visit. This was the best Thai food in ages.

What about the wine? Food and wine pairings in Asia are at times a challenge. Patara has a well assorted wine list. Since the first encounter had taken place in Italy, I choose an Italian wine. The ‘2005 Campogrande Orvieto DOC Classico Superiore’ by Antinori seemd to be just the right choice.

First, many times we had stopped in Orvieto when returning to Rome from Umbria so that a lot of happy memories are tied up with Orvieto Classico wines. Second, just a day earlier we had this wonderful ‘2005 Antinori Tignanello’, so I thought why not stay with the same producer.

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Wine is expensive in Thailand. The bottle was under 2000 Bath, not bad for a restaurant offer. I know that this wine retails for about US$ 10-12 in other parts of the world. The wine has a pale straw colour. It is elegant and fresh. The wine has a good structure and a very pleasant palate of tropical fruit.

As typical for Orvieto Classico, the wine is a Trebbiano blend. Varieties include Procanico, Grechetto, Verdelho, Drupeggio, Malvasia and – surprise surprise – Chardonnay (15 %!). Antinori went up to the maximum allowed as regards Grechetto (27%). With the exception of Verdelho and Chardonnay, I have never tasted any of the individual varieties included in this blend as single wines.

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Cheers

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Happy children

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After lunch the children entertained themselves in the garden.

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These are the ingredients for Irish coffee. It’s worth to order it. It’s freshly made at the table, a spectacular show, truly amazing.

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The finished product: Irish coffee

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Before we got on the tuck-tuck again, we were served refreshing towels. What a wonderful celebration this family meal was, a delight for the palate, a pleasure for the eyes. The staff at Patara is incredibly professional, very friendly and extremely helpful.

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Happy diners

If you want to experience something special and you have the chance to drop in a Patara Restaurant, please do so. I highly recommend it. And if you are in Bangkok, the choice is clear: visit Patara, its’ worth it.

Address:
Patara Fine Thai Cuisine
375 Soi Thonglor 19 Sukhumvit 55, Klongtonnua Vadhana,
Bangkok 10110.
Tel. 0-2185 2960-1 Fax. 0-2185 2962

PS: Patara restaurants can also be found in Singapore, Taipei, London and Geneva.


Salve da Firenze

March 8, 2009

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Our friends Lucija and Giuseppe came by on Saturday afternoon to treat us to a special treat. They brought with them a bottle of ‘2005 Antinori Tignanello’ from the Toscana.

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Lucija and Giuseppe

Friends from Firenze had given them this wonderful wine and they wanted to enjoy it with us, and enjoy we did this heavenly drop. We sat on our terrace, I grabbed a couple of wine glasses and opened the bottle. Immediately, the djin was out: what a “profumo”. You could smell the scent from a distance.

My nose registered forest berries, dark fruit, moss and forest floor, hmm. In the mouth it felt round and silky. I loved the intense flavours of fresh fruit. The wine is full-bodied with very fine balanced tannins, a treat indeed.

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2005 Tignanello

Later on the internet I found that Robert Parker had awarded 92 points to this wine. This blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc is a wonderful wine from Antinori which I can highly recommend. The Wine Spectator says it should be drank after 2011. We could not wait that long.

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Captured by a wine

One bottle for four does not last long. But we had memorable minutes of utter pleasure. Thank you folks for this wonderful treat.

PS: Later that day we were joined by about 10 more people and had a barbecue on our terrace. It was a jolly good day with lashings of food and drink.

At about 10 at night I found myself laying on the terrace tiles, feeling the heat emitting, my head on a pillow which I shared with my two daughters Lucy and Charlotte, the crown of our heads touching and our bodies radiating out like the spokes of a wheel. We were watching the night sky of Bangkok, the moon and the clouds travelling fast elsewhere. We talked about life and the universe and our thoughts attached themselves to the clouds. Our dreams carried us away, and in a heartbeat we were gone into other worlds.