Fast Meals and Home Meals

A few pictures of travel meals, quick breakfast items, and the use of cold cuts that needed to be cleared out of the refrigerator before leaving the apartment. It's amazing what you can do with three different salumi and dry pasta.

It is now TRADITION since my first visit overseas, to eat exactly one McDonald’s hamburger.  I thoroughly enjoyed it for 1eu while transitioning through Florence.

Florence Train Station...1 McDonald's Hamburger please.

Florence Train Station...1 McDonald's Hamburger please.

Pathetic Chicken Sandwich. I needed a fix frankly. Something quick, something to remind me of the gas station complex in Ripon off Highway 99 in California. The picture below was from one of the bar places in Lucca on the way to the train station. I wouldn’t do it again, go find Caffe Monica for a take-away.


Caffe Monica in Lucca just inside the gate wins for best sandwiches so far. Bread was outstanding and the meat and cheese quality were high. 2.50eu (look for the darker bread sandwich from the train station)


Truffled Eggs, Truffled mortadella. My mortadella sandwich aka bologna sandwich for my 8+ hour train ride to Puglia was all I needed.


Fusilli with truffle butter, sage and prosciutto. Nearing the end of what's in the refrigerator things get more simple. Version 2.0 was Fusilli with artichokes and sage. I think more representative of what might be seen in a restaurant.


Lots of prosciutto, cheese, and bread for dinner at the apartment in Bologna. Breakfast tended to be eggs, toast, juice, coffee. Although my eggs with truffle butter took top marks in Lucca.


Il Brindisi, Ferrara

Il Brindisi has been in the Gambero Rosso Guide for many years. It's old. Real old. Plenty of dusty stuff all over the walls. Even has a squat for a toilet. Yea, that old.


Il Brindisi seems touristy, from the moment you walk up to the door, with every global guidebook sticker you can think of, some certification on table, and some other certificate on a eisle. But, it’s Sunday in Ferrara, so choices are extremely limited.

Walk in and there are plenty of visual clues telling you about the history of the place (besides the dusty stuff), from pictures to ancient bottles of wine to somehow make you love the place just because it's old. I can almost see my Mom watching Rick Steves on PBS telling me about Il Brindisi in the heart of Ferrara, (dub in Rick’s voice) "legend has it this is the oldest continually operated restaurant in town"...blah blah blah.

I started off with pasta in brodo or broth, a classic and hard to screw up. The dish was warm, filling, and salty. Belly filling. But there isn't that much to it. I've made this dish and had it in other places, it's a classic regional dish served here with irreverence and disrespect. In most cases, the simplest dishes can be the hardest to get right. 

Boring broth with salty pasta lurking underneath the surface

Boring broth with salty pasta lurking underneath the surface

Moving on to the second course, cotechino with mashed potato was exactly as billed, no frills and cooked like it has been for the last 500 years.

500 year old cotechino sausage

500 year old cotechino sausage

My friend ordered the pot roast with mashed potato. This dish could have been cooked by my mother. One doesn’t come 6000 miles to eat a pot roast that can be duplicated by your mother.

Hey look, Mom's Pot Roast 10,000km away from Fresno

Hey look, Mom's Pot Roast 10,000km away from Fresno

The wine? It tasted like the stuff they served at the Fresno Basque Hotel in 1989. The wine was 3eu a glass. If it wasn’t served chilled, it might not have been palatable.

Was it bad food? No. Was it knock your socks off? No. It was home cooked comfort food, nothing more...but it was open on a Sunday and saved me from having to get a sandwich or bad pizza.

Ferrara has three reasons to go back to: 1 Rizzati Gelato. 2. A walk around its ancient wall. 3. Find a better restaurant to eat in (don’t go on a Sunday).

December Feasting

Fresh sea urchin in Santa Barbara, right off the boat. Whole roasted, bone in rib-eye cooked by yours truly only to be followed up by braising the bones and pulling the meat for Bolognese the following night. Lobster tails on Christmas Eve. Hand-made pasta at Cousin Vince's house paired with one of the first wines I ever made, a 2007 Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon. Freshly made cannoli by Mom.


I lost track of how many times I had rib-eye over the month of December. House to house, night to night, city by city it seemed rib-eye was being served. The only break in the rib-eye action was on Christmas Day when Cousin Jeff brought over some antelope (outstanding) and wild duck breasts from three different types of ducks, canvasback being one of them. Delicious (please ignore the unceremonious plating job). Wild ducks are not what most people are used to being served in restaurants, there isn't much fat on these, but the breast meat has a depth of flavor that rivals almost any beef. Cabernet is still too harsh for duck, but Pinot shines with duck, and I've always got some Pinot on hand.

From the Cellar a 2007 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

From the Cellar a 2007 Dry Creek Valley Cabernet Sauvignon


It was a fantastic December of family, friends, food and drink. A great way to end 2016.

Pasta Party (with wine)

Gnocchi and Linguine were on the menu Saturday night. Fresh, hand-made and demonstrated by the bald guy in the center picture (me).

The gnocchi were sauced two different ways:

Gnocchi #1 - browned butter with sage and black pepper
Gnocchi #2 - crispy pancetta with basil and garlic topped with fresh Parmigiano Reggiano

The Linguine was sauced with a Bolognese of lamb, beef and pork.

Wines poured that evening:

2014 Mastro Scheidt Sangiovese
2013 Mastro Scheidt Bordeaux Blend
2013 Denner Syrah
2012 Mastro Scheidt Superstrada
La Marca Prosecco

Most of the photos are courtesy of our hosts, John and Falina Marihart. Thanks for letting everyone get flour on your floor!

David rolls out the pasta dough with friend Trisha

David rolls out the pasta dough with friend Trisha

Osteria del 36, Parma

Upon entry, I didn't see anyone at the front desk. So I made a little cough noise. I can only assume it was the owner that heard me, he clapped twice, loudly, as if to summon someone from the back to help. That's exactly what happened. The summons clap, something you won't ever hear in an American restaurant.

Incredible wine list here. Pages of stuff. Lots of big names and verticals from Tuscany. This is where traveling solo has a disadvantage, missing some great wines at reasonable prices. This is probably the reason this restaurant is on the Michelin list as an up and comer.

It's pasta, it's soup, it's good. 

It's pasta, it's soup, it's good. 

This is the first place that I noticed non-Italian music in the background.  Club beats in English no less, from Pitbull. Truly Mr. International.

To start, tortellini con brodo. It was pure. I added 2 spoonfuls of Parmigiano. There's not much to say here, it's broth, it's pasta (some meat filled, some only cheese), it's good. Look at the picture.

Time for your close-up Ms. Pasta

Time for your close-up Ms. Pasta

Wild board with pears

Wild board with pears

For my second plate, wild boar. The cut is a loin chop, bone in, with pear in a red wine reduction finished with what are small enough to be huckleberries and  a ton of butter. A true pan sauce style. The boar is gamey and wildish in texture and flavor like wild ducks. Frankly, a bit tough and chewy. The rare part near the bone is where it's at. The Italians can cook a steak perfectly rare, but pork or boar, always cooked through. The pan sauce is the bomb. I actually took bread to soak it up. If it weren't for the sauce, I would have been disappointed.

A first, Parmigiano with honey

A first, Parmigiano with honey

Parmigiano with honey. A first. The pairing doesn't clash with the pitcher of wine. No problem. Never seen honey served with Parmigiano, only w Gorgonzola. 

This is basically what I drank at Osteria 36

This is basically what I drank at Osteria 36

My pitcher of red wine is a drinker, plain and simple. It's my Jug wine. It's red, Sangiovese based and an easy going bouquet that will pair with everything I eat. This is why I made the Jug wine.

Grappa generally has a couple choices, morbide or dolce and then bianco or the caramel colored variety that has been aged in oak. The Italian purists believe that anything other than bianco is not one should drink. Basically, the oak adds color, some sweetness and mellows out the flavor. That oak treatment is something I've seen in many an American restaurant for sure. We do love oak, sweetness and mellowing. I tend to get bianco and morbide.

Grappa and the end of another meal

Grappa and the end of another meal

Was this my best dining experience in Parma? No. However, there was one very positive take-away, chunks of 24 month or older Parmigiano pair very well with wild honey and dry red wine and for that alone, I'm glad I dined here.

Christmas Feast

Tradition is the theme for Christmas at Mastro Scheidt, with emphasis on the MASTRO (Translation:Italian Tradition). 


Ravioli are traditionally made each year specifically for Christmas. Sure ravioli could be made any time of year, but the holiday requires that a very specific type of ravioli be made...the little ones. The filling (pictured below) is a combination of veal, beef, and spinach with onions pulsed separately in the Cuisinart and then blended together by hand.

Ravioli filling.png

Most ravioli you see in restaurants these days are larger, one ravioli can be roughly half the size of a new iPhone. But to my Southern Italian relatives, "those big ravioli have too much dough and not enough filling". 


Without question, the smaller ravioli are a little more difficult to make, using only a rolling pin, a ravioli form roller, and traditional cutter, every step of the process is hand-made. No machines, no fancy pasta roller, nothing but shoulder and tricep power rolling.

The results?


Merry Christmas! Yes, I was drinking my Dry Creek Cabernet Sauvignon with my Christmas meal.


An evening cooking in Chalk Hill

I love cooking Italian-themed meals. Acquiring the last heirloom tomatoes of the season, scouting the Bay Area for the best Ahi tuna, making fresh pasta, and quickly searing a skirt steak over a hot fire are some of my favorite things.

Each of the courses I prepared have a suggested wine to pair with each dish, from our crisp proprietary white wine with Caprese salad to our elegant mouth-filling 1-T-L Cabernet Sauvignon.

It was a pleasure to cook for my friends from Charleston, South Carolina Bill and Margaret and to make some new friends that evening around the table. Thanks to everyone that night and I look forward to seeing you all again very soon. Cheers!

Bolognese Sauce Recipe

1 pound ground pork
½ pound ground beef
1 medium white or yellow onion, finely minced
1 large carrot, finely minced
1 Handful of dried porcini mushrooms
8 Cups liquid from soaking the dried porcinis 
10-15 leaves of fresh sage
¼ stick of unsalted butter
¼  cup of olive oil for finishing
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley or Basil, finely chopped for garnish
Parmigiano Reggiano to finish, Freshly grated or ribbon sliced

Soak you dried porcini mushrooms in about 8 cups of water for 30 minutes. Make sure porcinis are free of sand/dirt. Use a coffee filter to strain the liquid for use in the bolognese.

Heat up a 3 quart pot on medium heat and add butter and all of your ground beef and pork. Once all of the beef and pork are broken up (no chunks) add the onions and carrots, lowering the temperature to Low or Simmer and cook the onions and carrots for about 10 minutes.

If there is a crust on the bottom of the pan from all of the sautéing, you may add a little of your porcini liquid to prevent it from burning. Scrape the bits of caramelized meat, onions and carrot from the bottom of the pan.

Turn the heat back up to high and pour all of the porcini liquid into the pot and bring up to a boil. When boil is reached, turn the heat down to low. You may add the sage leaves. Partially cover the pot and allow the sauce to reduce until nearly all of the liquid had been evaporated. If one thinks of this dish as a slow braise, rather than a rapidly made sauce, the cooking time of 2 hours makes more sense, which is how long it will take on Low Heat to reduce all of the liquid.

Test for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. When the taste is satisfactory and liquid has been almost completely reduced, turn off the burner and add the remaining olive oil to the pot.

Scoop a moderate portion of Bolognese Sauce over your Pappardelle (do not over sauce) into a warm bowl. 

Add a dusting or several ribbons of Parmigiano to the top of the pasta along with a garnish of basil and a drizzle of olive oil. 


Pasta Video with Taste Fresno and Fresno Bites

It was a real pleasure to make pasta with friends and fellow bloggers, Charles Ciapponi and Alisa Manjarrez. I thought it would be a good start to make two classics, ravioli and pappardelle. The attached video highlights the 3-hour instruction and meal (through the magic of video in 5 minutes) we all helped to create. The recipes for the pasta and the sauce can be found on the Taste Fresno Website or in the Mastro Scheidt Recipe Gallery

I'd like to give special props to Alisa for here delicate work on each ravioli. I understand that she has recently graduated to making panna cotta

In addition, Chuck made one of the finest ravioli doughs I've used since I left Italy. Wonderfully smooth and workable, this dough was perfect for our stuffed pasta.

Taste Fresno - Episode 26 Pasta 101 from on Vimeo.

Special thanks also goes out to Enrique Meza for filming and editing this video. As far as I'm concerned, it's magical what Enrique did with the rough edit I saw. I will post some additional pictures in the Gallery taken by James Collier of Foie Gras and Flannel. James is another magician with his camera and lens. The picture of the flour dropping is pretty cool.