guess who's coming to dinner

i have nothing against salmons.

some of my best friends are salmons (even if, i must admit, i wouldn't like my daughter to marry one).
still, i eat a lot of fish and write about it many times but i never had salmon for dinner.

well, while farmed salmon is cheap, it is heavily coloured with the happily named canthaxanthin not to mention that its farming is an heavily polluting business, with dreadful consequences...
therefore, at home i rarely eat salmon, because wild salmon is as expensive as it is rare to find and when i cook for my clients i make a point to let them try some of the delicious fish that comes daily practically on their doorstep: mackerel, gurnard, squid, skate, huss, red mullet, breams...

a few days ago i managed to find some organically farmed salmon which i thought to be a good compromise, because that was exactly what i wanted to think.
thanks to my easily fooled conscience i bought it.

to prepare it a took inspiration from a couple of rick stein's recipes twisted an turned them, added a bit here, took out a bit there and came up with my own poached salmon with shallots and sze-chuan pepper. the recipe goes like this:
poach some salmon in a lot of olive oil flavoured with bay leaves, szechuan peppercorns and thinly sliced shallots for 30 minutes in an oven at very low temperature.

drain and eat for dinner.


the great italian oil swindle: an update

these are the not so quintessentially italian owners of the bertolli brand...

and this is an interesting piece of information from the states

"In 1998, the New York law firm Rabin and Peckel, LLP, took on the olive oil labeling misnomer and filed a class action suit in the New York Supreme Court against Unilever, the English-Dutch manufacturer of Bertolli olive oil. The firm argued that Bertolli’s labels, which read “Imported from Italy,” did not meet full disclosure laws because, even though the oil had passed through Italian ports, most of it had originated in Tunisia, Turkey, Spain or Greece. “Bertolli olive oil is imported from Italy, but contains no measurable quantity of Italian oil,” according to court documents".

and remember, the same applies to every single "italian" big brand.

buon appetito?



i actually drank them

pictured above -resting on the table of the sun terrace of the secluded villa on the ligurian coast where we were lucky guest earlier last june- is the most exciting display of italian wines you will ever see.

praise and thanks go to my dear friend stephen, refined australian gentleman (well that is an oximoron if i've ever seen one) living in florence with lovely marina and recently arrived baby raphael eliodoro.
stephen is my wine sherpa. for more than a decade now, he has been guiding me with skill and passion through the highest imaginable peaks of taste... and he even foots the bill!!
he has been discovering, buying and offering me wines that would soon be elevated to the top of any league.

but this selection which he showed me on my arrival just left me speechless.
from left to right:

- the now legendary solaia 1997: the best wine of the best modern vintage in tuscany and wine spectator's wine of the year 1999. not cheap but affordable when stephen bought it: just on release, before the rave reviews. now it retails, if you can find it, at no less than £300 (it's not a typo..). i had already drank a few solaias in my previous life in italy, when wine prices were much lower and my wages much higher. i can recall exactly when and where such remarkable experiences they were, but i won't bore you with the details;
- cepparello 1997, the second best wine of the best modern vintage in tuscany;
- an incredibly rare and movingly wonderful sauvignon 1996 by the reclusive maverick genius of miani's Enzo Pontoni. his wine are produced in very limited quantities and are extremely difficult to find, and the few dealer that stock them only sell them to the inner circle of their best clients. a few years ago i managed to buy four bottles of tocai and sauvignon at venice's aciugheta only because i was with stephen... being able to drink another bottle of miani's wine was an unexpected surprise and a great privilege. a bottle that conjured up old fond memories and managed to create plenty of new ones;
- sassicaia 1995 in recent years sassicaia has been affected by the ferrari plague: ferraris are great cars, but each time you see one in the street, you are almost certain that the driver is a pretentious fart wishing to show off his wealth in a loud and slightly vulgar way. or a footballer. or jamiroquai.
so, even if sassicaia has become the kind of wine which is ordered in fashionable restaurants by would-be ferrari drivers it is still an absolute gem of a wine. my canny sherpa bought it when it was much much cheaper and we enjoyed every single drop.
- antinori secentenario was bottled in mgnums on the 14th of may 1985 to celebrate the 600th birthday of the family's winemaking activity. six hundred years make some know how. the wine we drank on the 8th of june 2004 was perfect.

pictured above is the most exciting display of italian wines you will ever see.
i can't believe i drank them all.