August 07, 2014

Ristorante le Segrete (Rome, Italy)

On last night in Rome-- a torrentially rainy last night-- 2 of the girls from our group joined me for a late night dinner at Ristorante le Segrete.

The restaurant appears tiny when you first walk in, with only 4 or 5 tables fitting in the front room, but the downstairs is spacious and warm. We had a room all to ourselves for a bit!

I ordered the artichoke bruschetta there-- just your basic garlic and olive oil masterpiece in edible form, topped with the most amazing artichokes I've ever tasted. They really are spectacular in Rome!

I paired my appetizer with a glass of an Italian red (can't remember the specific grape/varietal)-- always an excellent bet in Bella Roma.

One of my friends ordered the garlic & oil bruschetta-- I think she was hoping there would be more to it.

They do look a little underwhelming in retrospect-- but she still ate them! She also got the pizza (first pic in this post), a traditional pizza margarita, with mozzarella, fresh basil, and olive oil, and a perfectly charred crust. It smelled so lovely!

Our other dining companion ordered a dish with fresh zucchini and cream sauce. I want to say these were paccheri noodles, but I'm not sure. She was quite happy with her dish.

My dish is one I try in nearly every Italian restaurant: Cacio e Pepe (cheese & pepper). It's a dish that sounds and looks humble, but packs such a savory punch. This was perfectly al dente, a great chew to them, and expertly seasoned with the perfect amount of cracked black pepper, a spice I'm learning to appreciate more and more. O, Italia-- you are always so delicious!

The food was heavenly, the service was great, and they even take Discover cards!

I loved this spot; it's not touristy, prices were reasonable, and our server always popped up at precisely the right moments without rushing or crowding us. I'd recommend it if you're looking for a more sedate spot for dinner-- get the downstairs seating if you can!

Ristorante le Segrete

Via della Scrofa, 31

00186 Roma, Italy

+39 06 6476 0557

August 06, 2014

Schnitzel in Switzerland (Zurich)

We'd planned to have a leisurely day of wandering around Zurich, but our train from Rome got delayed. A four-hour layover in Milan meant we didn't get to our Zurich hotel until 10pm. It was dark, we were tired and hungry, and we had an early wake-up call the next day to head off to Germany. Rough life, but someone's got to live it!

We took a 5 minute walk from our hotel down to a cluster of restaurants. I love the outside-menus that let you do some quick math before walking inside. We selected the Rheinfelder Bierhalle and were quickly seated by an effusively welcoming manager. We are not a small group, but he didn't even blink and quickly found our party a spot all together (and he snapped our group photo!)
I'm not much of a beer drinker, so I ordered a Coca-Cola in a glass bottle. I hadn't had one in a while, and it was just what I needed. Enough caffeine to fuel me until we returned to our hotels and took our 5 hour 'naps!'

I ordered a plate of schnitzel to share with LaShauna. We were surprised that our pork wasn't breaded and fried, but it was still delicious (and easily big enough to share). It came with rosti potatoes, a Swiss take on potato pancakes/hash browns. These were so good-- nice brown, crunchy exterior, fluffy potato inside, and expertly seasoned. Salty, creamy, crunchy and just the best.

It didn't even need any of the interesting seasoning options available at our table!

Another dish--bratwurst and rosti!

We loved the welcoming atmosphere of Reinfelder. I'd go back here in a heartbeat, and while I'd love to try more dishes, I would DEFINITELY get those rosti potatoes again! This restaurant is a short walk from the train station, easy to find, easy to navigate, and above all--delicious! 
Placemats around the world...a new collection to start?

This was our first impression of Zurich, and it was an excellent one. Vielen dank to all of our gracious hosts along the way this night!

Rheinfelder Bierhalle
Niederdorfstrasse 76
8001 Z├╝rich, Switzerland

+41 44 251 54 64

August 05, 2014

Giolitti (Rome, Italy)

I was going to wait a few days to post this visit, but Buzzfeed just published a list of some of the world's most visit-worthy ice cream/gelato spots, and Giolitti was on the list!

This ice cream parlor has been serving up sweet endings in Rome since 1900, so I guess in 2014 we're a little late to the party. We stopped here on a late night in Rome, after a good bit of walking around in drizzly, damp weather. Gelato is always in season!
I was a little confused at first-- at Giolitti, you pay up front at the cashier, and THEN you pick up your product. But how am I supposed to know what I want when there are so many choices! It took me a while to decide.

 Giolitti is known for its gelato, but it also had a dizzying, heady display of sweets, from cannoli to Nutella tarts. I resisted the tart, but snagged a cannoli for later (leave the tart, take the cannoli)-- and when I had it the next day for a snack on the train, it was STILL sensational.

The cannoli of my dreams...

But tonight was about the gelato. I got a bit shy and was less brave about snapping photos, but I enjoyed the fancy uniforms the (handsome) young Italian men behind the counter wore. They looked a lot like Disney's Prince Phillip's fancy dress whites-- I'll have to research that more.
I first tasted pear gelato in my 1999 trip (then in Sorrento), and I've never forgotten it. This is NOT the same thing as pear sorbet, which I sometimes find gritty and bland. Pear gelato is a light, fragrant, delectable cloud of flavor. Sublime. And at Giolitti, they ask if you want freshly whipped cream on TOP of the gelato. YES PLEASE THANK YOU. You will not regret it. I got another flavor on top of the pear (Amarena cherry, maybe?), but the pear completely stole the spotlight.
This is a hot spot for locals and tourists alike, at least from what we saw during our stay there, and the gelato was incredibly delicious. If you're wandering around Rome, you'll be happy to take a side trip over here.

Via degli Uffici del Vicario, 40
Roma, Italy
+39 06 699 1243

August 04, 2014

Roscioli Wine Tasting (Rome, Italy)

Trevi Fountain selfie!

Guys-- seriously. This trip was so incredible that every time I'd sit down and try to put it into words, I'd feel it was too impossible a task. (For more photos of the deliciousness we sampled in this post, visit my blog's Facebook page here!)

I'd been to Rome once before on a pass-through, spending less than 8 hours in the city (back in the day when you could leave your bags at a random hostel while you went sightseeing-- I can't even believe that happened)-- I saw the Coliseum, the Spanish steps, ate some so-so pizza, and felt generally underwhelmed with the city. I knew I'd go back someday, but then 15 years had passed and I'd still not returned.
A group of girlfriends & I recently celebrated a milestone birthday, so one of them (I'm looking at you, LaShauna) decided it was time to go wild and take a crazy, once-in-a-lifetime trip together. We hit a ton of cities, one right after the other, and had amazing adventures in each one. Sleep later, enjoy now! (And this is why we have credit cards, right? Um...right?)

So my first, super-long-overdue entry, was about a lovely, personalized, worth-the-trip-just-to-visit-here wine tasting at Roscioli in Rome, Italy. 

Jet-lagged, rain-soaked, over-tired, but ready to learn..and sip!

 LaShauna had heard of this class after seeing Anthony Bourdain give it high ratings, and that was enough for us. (Spoiler alert: Bourdain was right, right, RIGHT!)

Alessandro Pepe is the purchasing manager for Roscioli, a restaurant and wine-tasting venue in the heart of Rome. He normally does open classes, but we opted for a private class, as our group was at least 10 ladies. It was a little extra money, but worth every penny (euro)!

Alessandro had picked out a gorgeous selection of whites and reds for us to try (8 wines in all). He first asked our wine preferences, and realized that they mostly swerved to the sweet and maybe not-so-sophisticated, so he  vowed to educate our palates by the class's end. Quite the challenge!
I, personally, adore an Italian red, but wouldn't necessarily be able to say why. I also don't know a lot about Italian whites, and I couldn't wait to learn. Bring on the knowledge!

With each glass (every one of them a generous pour, might I add) we got a tasting of a savory Italian treat-- a rich, creamy house-made cheese, a single, succulent meatball, and in one case, a much-needed bowl of pasta Alla Amatriciana.. all of which we devoured.

house-made burrata

Cheese topped with caramelized onions (front) and fig jam (back)
A meatball with the perfect piece of polenta 
Carbs, glorious carbs...
We also had a generous serving of tiramisu, one of my favorite desserts of all time. I took one bite and had a 'moment.' This is one of the most heavenly, sublime, sumptuous tiramisu I've had the pleasure of tasting. This bite alone would have been worth the flight to bella Roma!

There wasn't a bad wine in the bunch, as you can imagine. AlesSandro, bless his heart, also encouraged us to "finish the bottles" we had left. If you know me, you know I'M VERY LITERAL. Apparently, I took these words to heart, and had a few more glasses.

Holding the 5th wine we sampled, a  Negroamaro & a crowd favorite...

Oh, Alessandro. This Irish girl got a bit animated, and WAY TOO TALKATIVE. When Alessandro mentioned that he was planning to come to New York to sample our wines, I became FAR too enthusiastic, and perhaps interrupted a bit too much due to said enthusiasm. Perdonami, Alessandro, per favore!

By the time the class finished, we truly had developed a greater appreciation for even more wines, and we'd not only LEARNED, but we'd so enjoyed it. I must thank Alessandro again, not only for his enthusiastic sharing of wisdom, but for his unfailing patience, and his generous hospitaliano. I can't recommend this class enough. If you're in Rome, you MUST take a class here. Just be sure to have a sandwich before-- I can't stress this enough! If you go on an empty stomach, you might find yourself enthusiastically interrupting your gracious host, Alessandro, and trust me, he's had quite enough of that!

For more information on these classes, visit their website here!
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