Saturday, June 25, 2016

Florence, Italy - Il Santo Bevitore Restaurant




On a tiny little side street just on the opposite side of the Arno River in the Oltrarno neighborhood of Florence lies Il Santo Bevitore. This is one of the most talked about restaurants in the city, mainly due to the fact that they serve near Michelin-star quality Italian dishes (this is no spaghetti and meatballs joint my friends!). 




The service is gregarious and friendly and reservations are highly recommended. We sat down for dinner at 9:30pm on a Sunday night and this place was just getting going. Lively and spirited, but perfectly dark with ultra flattering candlelight dancing on every table, its a wonderful ambience in which to tuck into some superb and inventive Italian fare.

Two of us sampled six dishes (for the sake of the blog, naturally), but left feeling satiated, not stuffed. We tried the garganelli pasta with crushed tomatoes, zucchini and onions:


Followed by little tortellini parcels filled with pigeon and topped with fava beans and a bitter orange mustard:


We washed it down with a white Arneis from Piedmont, which was exceptionally food friendly:


Once past the "primi" we then moved onto some house specialities: crunchy octopus legs: 


And a "Wow, how did they do that?" mushroom flan with a mousse-like consistency topped with sage, celery, speck and parmigiano:



The next two courses were a beef carpaccio with capers, bits of marinated yellow egg yolk, and pecorino cheese:


And two milky balls of beautiful burrata cheese on a bed of sauteed spinach:


The wine list is extensive and the waiters love retrieving bottles from the very top shelves!


We rounded out our meal with the beautiful simplicity of a few almond biscuits dunked in perfectly sweet vin santo dessert wine and then enjoyed the midnight stroll back over the Arno to our hotel.


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Sunday, May 22, 2016

Florence, Italy - Sunday Brunch at J.K. Place





If you find yourself in Florence on a Sunday and are in need of a truly peaceful escape from the throngs of tourists and the hustle and bustle, look no further than the Sunday Brunch at the exquisite boutique hotel J.K. Place Firenze

As you sink into one of their white wing back chairs with coordinating monogrammed pillow, you have the sense that you are relaxing in the comfort of your own home (that is, if you lived in a dream home interior designed by famous Florentine Michele Bonan and had your own personal staff to wait on you). The coziness of the space and the gentle color palette are the perfect backdrop for a leisurely Sunday spent eating until your heart's content. 



For a fixed price of 60EUR you can enjoy the menu as follows:

First choose a welcome cocktail, anything from local wines to a J.K. Place signature Bloody Mary, Mimosa or Bellini. Tea, coffee, cappuccino, hot chocolate and mineral water are also available. Then you get up and navigate your way around the buffet station set up in the neighboring room. You'll find both sweet and savory items including cakes, muffins, pistachio brownies, fresh fruit, yogurt, salad, meats, cheeses, cereals (there's even a vegan corner). A basket of homemade breads, rolls and croissants is also brought to your table.











As if the buffet wasn't enough to fill you for the entire day, you then move on to the 'J.K. Kitchen' portion of the menu, where you can order a hot dish specially prepared by the chef. There are eggs benedict, pancakes, scrambled eggs, bagels with salmon and cream cheese, burgers, pastas, steak and fresh fish of the day all on offer.

We went for a lovely cod filet and some salmon, both served with beautiful grilled vegetables as an accompaniment. 



The absolutely charming and wonderfully attentive waitstaff would not let us leave without trying the famous J.K. Place tiramisu ... it was hands down one of the best I have ever tasted, and believe me, having lived in Rome, Padova, Trieste and Boston's North End, I have had my fair share of tiramisu! Unforgettable. 



I highly recommend spending a lazy Sunday enjoying the brunch at J.K. Place. Outside tables are available in the nice weather and have a glorious view of the facade of the Santa Maria Novella Church (the facade is not only the oldest of all the churches in Florence but it is also the only church with its original, planned facade still in place today).


I was lucky enough to stay at the hotel on this visit as well, so stay tuned for some gorgeous interior shots and a look at the duplex suite overlooking the Santa Maria Novella church that we stayed in while here in Florence. 



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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Hautvillers, France - A Day Exploring the Champagne Region




On a recent weekend trip to the Champagne region of France, we spent a morning exploring the tiny little town of Hautvillers. Set up on a hill and surrounded by vineyards, the entire town consists of about three streets, but is really beautiful in its simplicity.






My favorite aspect of the town is the hand-painted signs in front of each building that indicate what trade goes on inside: have a look and see if you can figure each one out!






Hautvillers is famous for one very good reason: the abbey there was the home of Dom Perignon, the world's most well known Benedictine monk whose work in wine making helped make champagne what it is today. (Some say he invented champagne, but that is largely a myth). 

In 1668 Dom Perignon was transferred to the Abbaye Saint-Pierre d’Hautvillers, where he served as cellarer for the rest of his life. Under his stewardship, the abbey flourished and doubled the size of its vineyards, while he worked to improve their product with the help of another monk Dom Thierry Ruinart (Ruinart is believed to be the oldest champagne house founded in 1729), a noted scholar of the abbey.






Dom Perignon is buried inside the abbey and you can visit his tomb.


Naturally there is a street named after him in Hautvillers, and his likeness can be found all around the town.



Hautvillers has some beautiful architecture and is surrounded by rolling vineyards on all sides. It is a lovely town to visit and walk around if you have a spare hour when touring the Champagne region.










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