Menu For Hope 6 – Donate and Win (a wine tasting for 8!)


Update: Bidding just became easier! This nifty little form will help you choose your items and transfer it directly to the donation site – remember my code is EU23.

Menu for Hope is an annual fundraising campaign hosted by Chez Pim and a revolving group of food bloggers around the world.  For the past three years, Menu for Hope raised nearly a quarter of million dollars in support of the good work of the UN World Food Programme, helping to feed hungry people worldwide. We, food bloggers from all over the world, join the campaign by offering a delectable array of food-related bid items for the Menu for Hope raffle. Anyone – and that means you too – can buy raffle tickets to bid on these items. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on an item of your choice. At the end of the two-week campaign, the raffle tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim.

Once again we’ve chosen to work with the UN World Food Programme. This year, we are supporting a new initiative at the WFP called Purchase for Progress (P4P). P4P enables smallholder and low-income farmers to supply food to WFP’s global operation.  We food bloggers understand the importance of buying locally and supporting our local farms, P4P helps do the same for farmers in low income countries around the world.  More on the campaign, the donation system and the programme we are supporting can be found here.

This year, I am again offering a bid-item:


(EU23) My Italians wine tasting in Rome for 8! A great opportunity for wine lovers – beginner or expert – to get an overview of Italian wines, learning about and tasting 7 of them. Let yourself be guided by sommelière Hande (me!) through this fun and informative 2-hour tasting that gets rave reviews! Offer is valid for up to 8 persons, so gather your family, friends or colleagues and hop on a plane to Rome!

Small print: Tasting to be taken within 2010 and date to be arranged with vinoroma. No guarantee on exclusive, private date – there may be others taking part in the tasting, especially if your party is less than 8. Winner may not “sell” remaining places if his party is less than 8. Shipping N/A. Worth of bid item is (up to) €400 / $600 (for a group of 8), non-redeemable.

There are many food and wine related items out there that you can bid for. Over at David’s blog you can see the other bid items offered in Europe and at Alder’s vinography you can see other wine related items. For the master list of all bid items you can win with a donation of only $10, have a look at Chez Pim. And if you want to win the wine tasting in Rome, don’t forget to state EU23!

To Donate and Enter the Menu for Hope Raffle

Here’s what you need to do:

1. Choose a bid item or bid items of your choice from our Menu for Hope main bid item list over at Pim’s.

2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make a donation.

3. Please specify which bid item (EU23 for the wine tasting in Rome) you’d like in the ‘Personal Message’ section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per bid item if bidding for more than 1, and please use the bid item code.

Each $10 you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 and 3 tickets for EU02, so write: 2xEU01, 3xEU02.

4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.


Giuda Ballerino! What an Unexpected Dinner in Rome!

Tepid octopus, cold burrata cheese and smoked eggplant puree - heaven!

Tepid octopus, cold burrata cheese and smoked eggplant puree - heaven!

Ever thought about combining octopus, burrata cheese and smoked eggplant puree? Well, think again. Overcome your initial reaction and think about all these elements, all the best of their kind, and imagine the aromas, the textures and the temperatures playing around each other. Once you taste it, it makes you lament the 38 years where you had the possibility of this dish at your fingertips but the idea nowhere in the vicinity.

panzanella con tonno - bread salad with tuna

panzanella con tonno - bread salad with tuna

After 11 months in the Eternal City, we decided it was time to indulge in some serious fine dining. We would like to have something other than the ordinary carbonara or trippa (tripe) or carciofi (artichokes). Sorry folks, yes, I just wrote “ordinary” and “trippa” together. I know any food lover outside of Rome is hating me, but these yummy dishes we have just 5 minutes and 10 Euros away from us – or just a trip to the market and some time in the kitchen. And we do love “our” Roscioli, but there is still so much to try out there.

Fried muscles with sepia crunch and carrot puree

Fried muscles with sepia crunch and carrot puree

I have been eye-ing Guida Ballerino! (literally “jumping Judas”, an exclamation of surprise with origins which I refuse to write in depth here, on a FOOD blog. The relevance to the restaurant is that it is an exclamation used often by the famous Italian comic figure Dylan Dog, of which the owner & chef seems to be very fond of) for over 1,5 years now. Yes, your maths is right, even before coming to Rome I was interested in paying a visit to this place.

Foie gras terrine with whitefish, spicy apple and candied almonds

Foie gras terrine with whitefish, spicy apple and candied almonds

And it really has been worth it. T. and I chose the “classic” menu (6 courses, €65), where we were allowed to substitute one dish with Shrimps because of T.’s allergy. Other than the 6 courses we got 4 amouse courses, 1 pre-dessert and a mignardise plate. We loved (or at least liked) almost everything we ate. Exceptions was the dessert – we found it strangely bland and just too sweet.

Squid ink tagliolini with monkfish cheeks and crispy greenbeans

Squid ink tagliolini with monkfish cheeks and crispy greenbeans

We also had the accompanying wine pairing (4 glasses, €28) to the menu, because we like to test better restaurants in that aspect. Unfortunately, the wines, although good in their own right, were not the best matches to the food. Next time we’ll definitely get a bottle or two of wine that we choose ourselves from the extensive list. A word on the wines: This was the wine list with the highest mark-up we have seen in Italy up to now! Kind of a bummer for us wine lovers.

Vitello tonnato inside out - genius!

Vitello tonnato inside out - genius!

We will definitely go back to Giuda Ballerino!, the food was creative, the products used were very good quality and the results very enjoyable in most cases. This small restaurant (seating only 16 – all taken by Romans on this night) on the outskirts of Rome has great service and a very interesting atmosphere, with the emphasis on the right things (the food!). At the same location there is also a more informal osteria, which is open for lunch as well and has more accessible prices, which we’ll visit soon, too.

desPS: Excuse the pictures, I wasn’t expecting to be able to take pictures and had just my compact camera with me – no proper adjustings!

Great Chefs and Their Quirks: Vissani

Gianfranco Vissani and Aldo Sohm

This is, according to some, the best and most important Italian Chef, Gianfranco Vissani, currently 2 Michelin stars (he is being helped into his chair by the soon-to-be best sommelier in the world, Aldo Sohm from Le Bernardin in New York). See his scarlet shoes, the matching belt and the red thingies (what are those?) on his jeans hems? The guy has an attitude!

Seen on May 24th in Rome, during the “World Best Sommelier” Competition, about which you can read a very interesting post at the vinoroma blog.

Spring on My Windowsill: Sage

sage on my windowsill

I love our apartment in Rome. It is in an old palazzo from 1886. I love everything about it. There is just one aspect which I miss, which would make out of this lovely apartment a perfect apartment: A balcony or terrace. So on my kitchen windowsill I have put some planters and have some herbs in there, it is great to have them, not only because of the quick and fresh herbs I can use anytime, but also because they just look great. This lively green in the silver-aluminum planters.

Now they are even more beautiful to look at, because, starting with the sage, they are in flower! As much as I love the looks, I wonder, is the life of a windowsill herb over when it blooms? Will the herbs taste the same afterwards? I have sage, rosemary, thyme and, no, not parsley (this is Rome, not Scarborough Fair!) but basil. I lived in Liguria and know first hand that “wild” rosemary bushes are perfectly ok after flowering but that when basil blooms, the leaves turn too hard and bitter. Do you have any experience to share with me?

In the meantime, the next couple of days I will be in Istanbul, gathering great recipes and hopefully some nice pictures, and eating some real simit, so get ready, when I return, there will be some cooking!

The Silence of the Lambs

Warning: Explicit images

I know that you are fine with the piece of lamb roast above. Ok, some of you readers are vegetarians, but just a few; and some don’t like lamb. But most of you have no problem with eating lamb. You all have had your Easter lamb roast, haven’t you? Leg of lamb, lamb shoulder, as is here the case, even a rack of lamb. You eat it, the braver ones among you have cooked it.

Lamb Shoulder

This is already where it starts to get touchy for some. See, I have friends who tell me that they “eat meat as long as it doesn’t look like the animal it comes from”. Last time a friend told me this, I started thinking. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against vegetarians. I am an omnivore, but not only do I think everyone should make the food choices he is comfortable with, I even have empathy with vegetarians. I really can understand if someone has problems with the taste or health implications of meat or with the conditions most animals are kept and slaughtered. But why eat meat if you don’t want it to look, smell, taste the part? Why should another being get killed for you if you do not acknowledge or enjoy it? Isn’t all these meat-eating-but-not-caring-for-it people the reason (well, part of it at least) for the mass production, the cruelty, the low quality?

This is where it gets really touchy:

Head of lamb

Roman cuisine, actually a poor man’s cuisine, uses all parts of animals. The innards are called “the fifth quarter”, all the parts that the butcher gets after selling more noble parts to the well-off. Well, let me tell you, the poor in Rome have been eating tasty dishes!

My favorite butcher in Rome, Annibale (that really is his name, don’t you also think he chose the right profession?), after testing me during my first visits, finally decided I am to be trusted and won’t run away shrieking if he gives me the head belonging to the lamb shoulder (actually a quarter of a lamb, since his lamb are so small). He sent me away with a couple of suggestions, but I already knew what I wanted to do with it.

Inside a lamb\'s head

The split-in-half head went into the hot oven, dressed with a couple of drops of olive oil. When it looked done, I scooped out the brains, cut the tongue out, picked the little scraps of meat on the cheeks. With the roasted and now naked skull I made a stock, added a can of tomatoes (it is too early in the year to be using fresh ones), the bits I had pried away and cooked my pasta directly in this sauce. Yes, it tasted of innards, a deep and satisfying taste. Cheap, simple, humble food fit for gods. And that lamb, it didn’t live and die in vain!

Been Drinking Wine – Bibenda Day 2008, and others

Bibenda Day 2008

This past 10 days, in between all the last minute preparations for vino roma (like begging wine distributors and reps to sell me wine, please, and when they consent to do so, after many mails and calls, wait for them to deliver), I have been taking part in a lot of wine events here in Rome, most of them thanks to A.I.S., the Italian Sommelier Association, of which I am a proud member.

Marchesi di Barolo 1947

There was a vertical Barolo tasting (vertical not meaning that we were standing all the time, as one of you asked in an email, but that we tried different vintages of the same wine from one winery – in this case Marchesi di Barolo) where I got to drink the oldest (non-sweet) wine of my life, a 1947 vintage, which was very, very good, smooth as silk and velvet, no tannins to disturb your palate, and with very fine, warm fruit aromas.

There was a 2004 Barbaresco tasting with 23 different wineries, where I got to try the first Gaja of my life (I mean the original, Piedmontese, Gaja, not one of his experiments elsewhere – the next day I had the 2nd and in 10 days I will be drinking more and getting to know Mr. Angelo Gaja himself, so I will hold my evaluation of Gaja back till after that event, he is called a “volcano-like man”) along with La Spinetta and Ceretto.

And then there was the Bibenda Day. Bibenda is Italy’s best Wine Mag and is affiliated with A.I.S. Every year they organize a day, where the members get to experience a guided tasting of 25 of the best wines to be found, Italians and international ones, rotating every year, from several (old) vintages. I drank the most expensive wines of my life during this evening: nothing under €60, the most expensive at €500, some were invaluable because not on the market! The picture at the beginning is from this tasting. Do you see the perfect accuracy? 50 rows of perfectly prepared tasting tables for a total of 500 tasters at this event: everything was perfectly organized.

perfect organization

They really thought about everything; there were 6 glasses, a spittoon for each taster, booklet of the wines to taste, a booklet for your tasting notes, a pencil, a napkin, bread and cheese, water….The rows and everything on the table were accurately set, the tasting began on time (all the A.I.S. events- 4 up to now – have been on time and well organized, I have to say, we had been expecting anything but good organization based on our experiences in the last two months here in Rome, but A.I.S. is nothing less than perfect) , the excitement was palpable. I really was nervous (in a good way), I have to admit, I knew I would drink wines better than any I had, and so many of them.The tasting was divided into 5 parts, the bubbly, the white, the red – Italians, the red – international, and the sweet. For each part the 90 sommelier on duty (all very friendly and professional) served the wines for that part in our glasses (each part had 3 to 6 wines, a total of 25 wines) and a different specialized moderator for each part talked about the wineries and the wines and did a tasting of each wine, relating his/her thoughts about the wine.

1932 Marsala Florio

My highlights were:

The bubbly: 1995 Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore Spumante Metodo Classico (I loved the base wine of this spumante most; among 1989 Ca’del Bosco and the champagne from Krug, Jacquesson and Bollinger, all 1996)

The white: 1987 Terlano Sauvignon (this was really hard, as I loved all the whites: 1998 Chardonnay Tasca d’Almerita, 1984 Cabreo, 2006 Riesling Dellchen Dönnhof, 2004 Meursault-Genevrières Jobard and 1991 Chevalier-Montrachet Jadot)

The Italian red: 1995 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Valentini (this was the most “ready now”, doesn’t mean others won’t be grand when their time comes: 1999 d’Alceo Castello dei Rampolla, 1999 Sassicaia, 1998 Sorì San Lorenzo Gaja and 2000 Barolo Giacosa)

The international red: 1999 Chateau Margaux (this was also the most expensive wine – aside from some which were invaluable because not on the market at all – with €500 for a bottle. I loved, loved, loved this wine, it was the best one for me in this evening of superlatives. Other international reds were 2002 Chambertin Rossignol-Trapet, 1998 Latour, 2001 Le Méal Chapoutier, 2002 Relentless Shafer and 2001 L’Ermita Velles Vinyes Alvaro Palacios)

The sweet: 1932 Marsala Ambra Dolce Florio (this being the oldest wine I have ever tasted – the record which has been broken twice within a week -, others were 1996 Rotenberg Vendange Tardive Humbrecht and 1975 Sauternes Suduiraut)

If you want to see all the wines we tasted, here they are (pictures courtesy of Bibenda):

Ca’del Bosco Franciacorta Cuvée Annamaria Clementi 1989 Ferrari Riserva del Fondatore 1995 Krug Champagne Brut 1996 Jacquesson Champagne Extra Brut 1996 Bollinger Champagne R.D. 1996

Cantine Terlano A. A. Terlano Sauvignon 1987 Tasca d’Almerita Chardonnay 1998 Tenute del Cabreo Cabreo La Pietra 1984 Dönnhof Riesling Dellchen Trocken 2006 Domaine Francois et Antoine Jobard Mersault-Genevrières 1er Cru 2004 Louis Jadot Chevalier-Montrachet Les Demoiselles Grand Cru 1991

Castello dei Rampolla d’Alceo 1999 Tenuta san Guido Bolgheri Sassicaia 1999 Valentini Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 1995 Gaja Langhe Nebbiolo Sorì San Lorenzo 1998 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche del Falletto Riserva 2000

Domaine Rossignol-Trapet Chambertin Grand Cru 2002 Chateau Margaux 1999 Chateau Latour Pauillac 1998 M. Chapoutier Ermitage Le Méal 2001 Shafer Napa Valley Syrah Relentless 2002 Alvaro Palacios Priorat L’Ermita Velles Vinyes 2001

Domaine Zind Humbrecht Alsace Pinot Gris Rotenberg Vendange Tardive 1996 Chateau Suduiraut Sauternes Ancien Cru du Roy 1975 Florio Marsala Superiore Riserva Ambra Dolce 1932

Pasta alla Romana

Pasta alla Romana

No, no, no, before any Romans come out to throw stones at me, this is not a traditional recipe. It is my interpretation of typical Roman ingredients which turned out to be truly yummy: Guanciale, romanesco, pecorino romano are real milestones of the roman kitchen – mind you, not the only ones; but they really are everywhere.

Once you taste guanciale, you would understand why it is used in so many dishes. Do you like bacon? Wait till you have eaten guanciale. It is not smoked but rubbed with a delicious cure and is so much more delicate than bacon or pancetta or speck. (Though of course you could substitute it with these if you don’t live in Italy.) Since we started our scouting visits to Rome last year to check out so many things before really moving down, I have been thinking about guanciale. Actually, I even dreamt about it. There, I said it. It was in December that I made a note in my cellphone while going through the mercato Trionfale (on Andrea Doria): rigatoni, guanciale, romanesco, pecorino romano, onions, raisins, almonds, white wine (sweet?).

After weeks (months?) of being first without an apartment, then without a kitchen, this week I finally made the dish I had been thinking about for months. And it was even better than I imagined. Sitting in front of the fire, along with a glass of full bodied white wine, this pasta dish hits all the right spots, savory and hearty, with a mellow and sweet note from the caramelized onions and moscato soaked raisins. Comfort food for a chilly night at the end of winter here in Rome, though I am sure it will taste just as well where you are sitting right now! Well, except maybe in Cebu, Philippines (hi!), where I think is summer right now!

Guanciale, Romanesco, Pecorino Romano

Pasta alla Romana
own creation

prep: 15 mins
cook: ca. 20 mins

rigatoni, 500g, or other short pasta
romanesco, 1, or broccoli
guanciale, 100g, or pancetta/bacon, in one thick slice
onions, 3 medium sized
raisins, handful
pecorino romano, 50g, or other hard, flavorful sheep milk cheese
almonds, handful, blanched and slivered
sweet white wine, 1 cup

Bring a big pot of water (at least 5 liters/quarts) to boil, add salt after it boils.

Soak the raisins in the sweet white wine. Cut the onions in half-slices and roast them over a medium-low heat in a heavy pan with little olive oil. You want to do this slowly so that the onions turn brown slowly and caramelize during the process. Cut the romanesco into its florets. Cut the guanciale into strips. Add the guanciale to the onions halfway through. Add the raisins and the soaking wine to the pan near the end.

Throw the pasta and the romanesco florets into the boiling salt water and cook till al dente, firm to the bite. With rigatoni, this happens about the same time for the pasta and the romanesco, after around 10 mins. Drain and mix gently with the onion-guanciale mixture in the pan. Divide between 4 serving dishes. Add the almond slivers and freshly grated pecorino romano on the individual servings.