Crunchy Bottoms

Striking the caloric balance. Barely.

Tag Archives: cheese

Italy, Genoa 2012: Gran Ristoro – 150 types of Panini

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‘150 tipi di panini’, boasts a sign outside Gran Ristoro. A rudimentary estimation (mine, of course) puts the figure a little closer to 10,000 types of panini, given a choice of two ingredients with the same kind of bread. With over 30 different cured meats, 20 condiments and cheeses and whatever else is hidden out of sight, it’s obvious that while Math may not be their forte, a solid panino is.

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The staggering selection of meats of all shades, sizes, and marbling was enough to stun me. Salami, coppa, prosciutto, lardo, pancetta, and every other what-have-yous under the Italian sun must have found a home behind the glass at Gran Ristoro. They’re all there: whole logs thicker than any of my limbs, and slabs so large you would think they had just cured the animal in its entirety.

The line moves far too fast to attempt to differentiate one from the other, and may you receive some divine intervention of sorts if you cannot understand a word of Italian. Like I did. Well I know enough to know what’s ‘speck’ and ‘cinghiale’ – especially cinghiale – and ‘salame’, and a handful of cheeses that would grant me a decent panino. But I didn’t want decent. I wanted all the ugly ones, the fatty ones, all the olives and sundried tomatoes and pesto and cheese and good grief what a godawful panino I’d end up with if I truly had my way.

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Everything moves like clockwork in that cramped space. Meats are sliced fresh upon order, breads are split open, and money changes hands faster than you would be able to decide your ingredients. There’s little cause to worry though, since the servers are quick to critique your choice of ingredients if they know for a fact that it won’t work, or that you could do better. It’s always nice to know that someone thinks you could do better, although they don’t quite put it that politely. They’ve been operating for at least 30 years, so assuming one panino a day, they’ve probably had every single combination imaginable, so listen to them. Just ask for the server’s favourite panino if you’re ever in a stitch. The Italians love a little ego rubbing.

We had two different panini, neither of which I can recommend because I have no memory of what we chose. Cinghiale (wild boar) perhaps, no, definitely, and…something else. Sorry, I’m not going to be of much help. You’re better off spinning a wheel.

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The bread itself is particularly chewy and cold, which could be a let-down given the excellent fillings available, but that’s how the Italians eat it. ‘One man’s meat…’, as they say. There are a couple more panini shops nearby if the line at Gran Ristoro turns nasty, and I’m willing to hazard a guess that the breads elsewhere may be better.

A panino with meat, cheese, and a choice of condiment averages around 2.50€, and won’t kill your wallet even if you wanted more ingredients. I doubt I’ll find anything like it again. They’re all of great quality, prepared by people who have been doing what they do best and only have the line of locals and tourists alike testify to that.

Gran Ristoro

Address: Via Sottoripa, 29 16100 Genoa, Italy (Righi)

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Dark Rye Bread with Raisins

Dark Rye Bread with Raisins

My first introduction to rye breads came in the form of pumpernickel bread, those dark brown, unimaginably dense bricks (not loaves) of bread made with coarsely ground rye grains and rye berries. I hardly think of them as bread. In fact, I placed my mug of iced tea on a slice lying on the table thinking that it was a coaster, and it was only after my mom picked up another hefty slice to slap me away – I suffered oblong bruises – that I realised I just ruined her snack.

I didn’t take to pumpernickel very well. The musky earthiness, sweet-sour tang, grainy bits and coarse texture made me feel like I was gnawing on rabbit food. Suffice to say, dark rye breads didn’t get much of my attention as well.

And then I started getting my bread geek on, and all of a sudden, I saw how unearthly beautiful the dark rye fissures in a misty blanket of white looked on the loaves I saw occasionally in Cold Storage or Carrefour. I wanted them. I wanted to craft those crevices.

And then, I couldn’t find dark rye flour (because what demented person would want to bake artisanal breads at home? I mean, sheesh!).

Dark fissures.

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Brotzeit (Vivocity)

Brotzeit

As I’m punching out this post, I’m reminded and wrecked with guilt over the remaining 18 days of my Europe trip that happened about half a year ago that I have yet to write about. That will probably be done next year around this time if all goes well. And that’s me being optimistic.

Anyway, Frankfurt’s pork knuckles can wait (ETA 6 months from now). Brotzeit’s can’t.

It was with a fair bit of hesitation that I led the family into Brotzeit (pronounced broht-zye-eet), but I reasoned that since our last meal of wursts or brots or German-anything has been a good while ago, they wouldn’t turn green at the sight of potatoes anymore. And so they didn’t. But our Europe-seasoned habit of ordering three dishes for four to share remained even though I was ready to conquer the Schweinshaxe (Pork knuckle) all on my own when it eventually descended onto our table.

Pork Knuckle ($36)

This was one burnished crown of blisteringly, crackly, hunk-o-barbaric-looking, MEAT.

Just Meat in all its glory. Look at that. No, really, look at that. What higher power orchestrated such a perfect union of unctuous, smokey meat and golden, crisp skin? Read more of this post

Choupinette

Choupinette

I’ve never been a brunch person.

At least not intentionally because, I mean, can I be blamed if I sleep in and have breakfast at 10-11am? I still consider that breakfast, by the way. Feel free to contend with me on what you’d like to call a meal at that time. I thrive on confrontation.

Meals, to me, are the fundamental three: Breakfast, Lunch and then Dinner.

Anything else in between is subject to preferential labeling. Brunch, tea, lunchner, dinch (you know, since breakfast + lunch = brunch. Therefore lunch + dinner = lunchner/ dinch), dinper, supner. Whatever.

I don’t care what time I’m eating something at, because regardless of how school life has been granting me only lunchners and supners, the only and important fact to me remains: I’m eating.

‘Nuff said.

Yet this was a planned brunch. Afternoon classes make certain of that. And have I mentioned how there should be more weekday French brunch places to cater for the increasingly prominent crowd of late-rising tertiary zombies? Oh any kind of brunch place is fine. But I’ll be a regular at any French cafe. Give me a piping hot croissant anytime and you’ll seal the deal. Read more of this post

Europe Day 2 – Switzerland (Thun)

Breakfast!

The entire day before, I was silently anticipating breakfast the next morning, right from the moment Angela placed that very loaf of bread in the grocery cart and told me that was her favourite. I knew I would love it. Regardless, nothing beats the sweet smell of toasted bread in the morning – a rather frigid morning might I add, because all I’m really used to the moment I wake up is humidity a slight chill (that is if I am alive and kicking before 7am).

Hell-good bread. Industrial toaster.

I wandered into the kitchen naturally, and seeing the Weizenbrot Hell (which I thought was very aptly named because it was hell-good) all wrapped up in plastic and sitting demurely atop the kitchen counter, I knew I’d be making short work of the loaf in no time. So while Angela kindly brewed me some of her mighty espresso, I cut me up some slices and stared in wonderment at the…machine…next to the cutting board. Read more of this post

Jones The Grocer (Mandarin Gallery)

 
Jones The Grocer

Raise your hand if you knew Jones The Grocer existed right smack in Orchard Road.

Keep your hand raised if you know where Mandarin Gallery is.

Mmhmm…I’m keeping my hand down on both accounts.

Perhaps you’re like me too, or not since I have somehow managed to walk past Mandarin Gallery with my eyes closed, never knowing it existed and then where it was after hearing of it.

Recall passing by a gargantuan palatial silver building just after Takashimaya while walking towards the Somerset-Dhoby Ghaut direction?  The one that makes you feel like an insignificant dust mite under the watchful and glamorous presence of Mont Blanc, D&G, Just Cavalli and Marc by Marc Jacobs that it flaunts? The one that looks far too atas, out of your league, and just so darn intimidating to even want to venture a step in?

Yea, that’s it.

But maybe that’s just me, who somehow never once saw the name of the building since it was always overshadowed and eclipsed by dear Marc.

Then again, you know, I know some people who would frolic and skip around inside the building like a playground, fully comfortable and right at home surrounded by all those designer labels.

That’s fine by me, really. They can graze and spree and party and bounce from one branded boutique to the next like a pachinko ball at the hands of a jaded Japanese salesman.

But me? I don’t care for that when there’s Jones (but that is not to say that I even could).

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Roasted Bell Peppers and Bacon Risotto

Roasted Bell Peppers and Bacon Risotto

I have never had authentic Italian risotto. 

There, I’ve gone and said it. 

I have this staunch principle, where I will not  – even at gunpoint – recreate something that I’ve never tasted before, because I have no idea what the standard or benchmark is, so I’ll never know if what I’ve concocted is authentic, bona fide, genuinely true to the dish’s traditional taste and texture. Like how I’ve sworn not to bake macarons till I’ve had one. And I have. But I still won’t make those little baking devils because I’ve never had one made from Pierre Herme’s shop in Paris because those are the macarons to have in one’s lifetime. 

I don’t feel qualified somehow, as though I’m some deluded housewife (which I am not and will never be, so call me one and I will end you) desperate to experience some form of life outside of the four walls of the home she’s bound to, even if that means cooking up some pseudo curry from a recipe that the neighbour’s German wife swears by just for a flickering glimpse of what India is like beyond her seat beside the baby’s rocking cradle. 

Oh my, don’t I feel all poetic now.  Read more of this post

Ciabatta!

 

Ciabatta

 

During Chinese New Year, I fed my cousin a couple of slices of toasted home-made bread with smoked ham, gouda cheese and a squirt of honey mustard. He complained that it was too holey and light – hardly filling at all. It was good, he said, but the lobangs were too big. And that’s all the feedback I got, not that I expected or wanted any.

You would probably infer then, that I don’t take feedback well.

If anything, I would seem to do the exact opposite with unrestrained vigor, refusing to consider kind advice, or perhaps intentionally mocking constructive criticism.

I see you frowning in confusion. Let’s clear up some things shall we?

1. I respond well to feedback.

2. While I absolutely adore feedback, I don’t care what you say, and I sure won’t give a flying rat’s ass if you tell me you don’t like your bread to resemble the remnants of a thoroughly pilfered, eroded excavation site.

You want holes the size of single-celled organisms? Grab the loaf of Gardenia from the supermarket next time.

Anyone who eats my bread will observe, with deep reverence, the First Commandment of Christine’s Home-made Bread:

Honour the lobangs of thy holey bread, for it is them which contain heavenly reservoirs of salted butter, melted cheese, golden olive oil and smoky ham, and you will receive the gift of gastronomic paradise.

End satire.

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You have no idea how thrilled I was when I sliced the loaves open. *Squeeee!!* Read more of this post

Oh yeasty goodness

Now look what I’ve done.

I started this on Saturday, and popped it in the oven today. Richard Bertinet wasn’t kidding when he said that longer fermentations and rising times produce a gorgeous rusty-red crust, full-bodied flavour and the slightest nutty sweetness. Oh my lordie. I could have an entire loaf as a snack, or perhaps all three. I hadn’t planned on taking a span of 3 days to bake this, but I’m glad I did. Now I only wished I had doubled the batch. Half of it’s gone already.

And of course my shaping leaves much to be desired. They’re suppose to look like baguettes but ended up mangled. Tsk.

That wasn’t all that I made with the dough though (say that ten times fast!). I could jump around the house in joy, bouncing off the walls like a chimpanzee on crack and red bull both at once because I thought three baguettes would satisfy the family enough, so I took the last ball of dough and made this: Read more of this post

Ricciotti – 1 for 1 Pizza

Pizza Al Crudo

 

I seem to be having pizza every week now. Which isn’t a bad thing by any means, of course. 

For a self-proclaimed bread fanatic, this is pretty much a given. As long as something required yeast in the making, I’ll be all over it like a plague of locusts that would put Moses’ to shame. 

Alright, so that wasn’t the most flattering of similes. But really, if you don’t like pizza, well…who are you?! 

So tell me you could skip merrily by a restaurant signboard, boasting a not-so-modest chalked scrawl of ‘1-for-1 Pizza’ and I’ll instantly drop all previous allegations. I promise. 

I’m talking about a restaurant from the Garibaldi group of restaurants (aka Italian Food Done The Proper, Respectable Way). I’d pick this over Canadian 1-for-1. 

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