One meal in Modena

So after some quick research on the train from Bologna to Modena, I had settled on checking out a place called L’Incontro for lunch. It had been recommended by our driver a few days previously and It has good reviews on both trip advisor and google. When I researched it, it was off the main piazza and the menu looked interesting.

The restaurant was on a quiet street and the restaurant was tiny. There were only a few tables and luckily we had reserved one. I was sat and given a menu in Italian. I asked for a wine list. I asked again for a wine list. Then I asked someone else for a wine list. The waiter wouldnt bring it to me until I had ordered food, which I thought was ridiculous. Essentially, how could I, a woman no less, choose wine when I couldnt even choose what I wanted to eat yet.  You know us ladies unable to make basic decisions as to what to eat.

So Waiter Waitersen told us what we should order. He vetoed somethings we wanted and explained that we must have this magical crab pasta they offered and of course we would want the local fresh fish (which was only available in Italy and very rare). The only positive things about him were that he spoke english very well and he had nice eyeglasses. Thats it.

So after ordering the food we were allowed to order wine. The wine order of course was vetoed by Mr. Waiterson, but luckily my dining companion informed him that I was in fact a sommelier and then he dutifully, if not begrduglingly, got our wine and gave it the waitress to open for us. Maybe he was busy or maybe he just didnt want to open it for us since he disapproved of the lambrusco I chose.

“Unacceptable” But delicious lambrusco

So the first course was grilled octopus with grilled potatoes and radicchio with balsamic. The octopus was tender and had a nice char on it. The potatoes were perfectly seasoned. The bitter crunch of the raddichio balanced out the sweet balsamic. This dish was fantastic. It definitely made up for some of the snootiness we had experienced.

Grilled Octopus

The next dish was one of my favorite bites of the trip. It was a grilled artichoke with parmaggiano reggiano cream sauce and aged balsamic vinegar with crispy pieces of proscuitto. The sauce was velvety and had a wonderful nuttiness to it and the balsamic was rich, thick and syrupy and sweet.  After  the artichoke I was happy with all the suggestions the infamous Waiter had made and was excited that he has essentially dictated our meal. I was looking forward to what else was to come

Grilled Artichoke

The next course was pasta. Waiter Waiterson had waxed poetic about this crab pasta. “We had to order it”. It was a signature dish. The presentation was amazing. Blah blah blah.

So the pasta was cooked well but that is the only positive thing I can say about it.  There was hardly any crab. The sauce was under seasoned and the presentation reminds me of something I would see on “Worst cook in America”. Harsh I know.

So now my disappointment is mounting again with Waiter Waiterson. But the next course held promise. Some mysterious fish I’d never heard of, prepared simply to let the flavor of the fish shine through.  And broccoli with anchovy butter(this is butter country since the area is known for dairy products among other things).

“Fish”

So when the waitress (the only other person we saw working there) brought this dish she said very clearly in perfect english “here is your snapper”.  Snapper. Not this fish I had never heard of. Snapper I didnt even think Snapper was a Mediterranean fish. In fact, Snapper is a local fish where I live in Florida. Was this fish from florida?  Or did this waiter think that I looked like the kind of person who has never had snapper before.

The fish was awful. I wanted to like it. It was undercooked and the sauce was bland and gelatinous.

Broccoli with anchovy butter

The broccoli was also disapppointing. I was expecting broccoli drizzled with a butter that cured anchovies had been melted into. Instead I got broccoli with butter and chunks of anchovys dropped on top. Maybe I didnt understand when I ordered it but this just seems like a lazy approach. Also it was served on a thin piece of cracker which I didnt understand. Is a quarter head of broccoli traditionally served with a cracker?  I mean Waiter Waiterson definitely knew more about food/wine/life than me so this must be the only proper way to eat broccoli.

So overall, first 2 dishes: wonderful. Last 3: awful. I think Ive spoken to the service enough. I cant wait to go back to Modena to eat, with so many artisanal ingredients made and available in this town, but not at L’Incontro

 

Modena

The thing about Modena (you’re pronouncing it wrong, regardless of how you say it someone will correct you while you are there) is it is exactly what a fairytale village looks like.

Brightly Colored Buildings

The narrow streets are lined with brightly colored buildings and it is impeccably clean. The sidewalks are so small people amble down the center of the streets moving over slightly to let the few cars pass.

Modena is ranked as one of the best cities for quality of life in Italy. Its known as the center for big industry, since it is the home of Ferrari and Maserati, and of course Vinegar. Balsamic Vinegar is known as the black gold of this town.

As we walked down the streets there were so many cute little cafes and shops. Everything pristine, and well kept.

 

In the center of Modena is the Piazza Mazzini and the Palazzo Comunale. The Duomo located there is a 1000 years ago.

Palazzo Comunale

This is the Duomo with the famed tower Ghilandia

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Cathedral Entrance

This is a side entrance that I wandered over to

I liked these gargoyles better.

So other than exploring the Fairy Tale-esque building, the main reason you visit Modena is to go the Museo Del Balsamico Tradizionale or one of the many Consorterias.

Im very excited to learn more about and taste Balsalmicos, but Im mostly excited to stand somewhere warm for a while

There will be one whole post dedicated to the visit to the Consorteria and all the incrdible balsalmicos I tasted.

So what else, other than Balsalmic, Fast Cars, Great Architecture, Amazing Restaurants would you want to see while in Modena.  Well theres the Albinelli Covered Market. This is the bustling hunb of this town.Its where most people gets their produce, fresh pasta, wine, salumi, cheese and more than likely gossip.

The market has all the little known specailties of Modena like Nocino, which is a locally made walnut liquor, Sassolino another local liquor used for trifles, ready made Trifles and Amaretti cookies which are two desserts that are quintessentially Modenese according to the locals.

 

 

The outside of the market is pretty unassuming

No big deal just some stunning artwork in the middle of the market

Produce stalls in the market

 

Fish Market in the Market

Some of these pictures I snagged off the internet, waiting for the market to open after lunch and an attempt to keep warm compelled us to get a little (more than necessary) Grappa and therefor the quality as well as quantity of pictures lessened.

 

The Grappas!

Tiganello

So I would be remiss if I didnt have an entire post dedicated to a phenomenal bottle of wine I had whilst in Parma. This wine was special. As was the company I shared while drinking it.

The wine itself, like most of Italy, is drenched in history. Often refered to Italys “first modern wine” it was the wine that broke all the rules in Tuscany and coined the term super tuscan.

The Antinori Family has been making wine for 600 hundred years

This wine was the first sangiovese to aged in barriques, the first sangiovese to be blended with non traditional grapes (Cabernet Sauvignon and later on the addition of Cabernet Franc) and one of the first wines made in Chianti that did not include any white grapes.

The wine is produced exclusively from the vineyard bearing the same name. A small 140 acre parcel. And since its inception in 1971, it has only been vinified in favorable vintages.

The initial reactions of the Italian wine establishment were, obviously, mixed, yet, from the very start Tignanello was immensely successful in the international markets, and soon it was hailed as one of the prized Supertuscans.

Ever since 1982, the blend has been the one currently used : 80% Sangiovese, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc.

In the cellar of La Greppia in Parma we had this last bottle from the 1988 vintage. A wine almost 30 years old. It was complex and lively still. Very pronounced tobacco with almost a curry powder like aroma. The fruit was not lost. Blackberry and jammy notes. The wine was silky. It was the icing on the cake for an already amazing meal. .

Ill always remember this meal and this bottle of wine.

Lambrusco

First of all let me say I love bubbles and can happily drink sparkling wine all day.  Im a firm believer in pairing vintage champagne with every course of a meal.  So naturally I love the mostly dry, slightly earthy inky sparkler known as Lambrusco.

Lambrusco has had a bad rep in the united states. Real Lambrusco is nothing like the insipidly sweet wine that was originally popular in the 1970s (I blame you mom and dad). It can be made in several different styles but they all similar in the respect that they are phenonenmal when paired with the rich, fatty salumis and cheeses from their shared region (They also make Lambrusco in Lombardy but Im focusing on Emilia Romagna here.)

I tried several different labels of Lambrusco, only one had I tried before. But as Ive expereinced countless times before the place, the people and food really affect how a wine tastes and the experience

I had had this lambrusco before in my wine bar in Boca. I remember the first time I tried it. I was skeptical but  it was brought to me by one of my reps that was a “Cool Girl”. Meaning she knew all the cool wines and hip winemakers. Like the stuff people were drinking at much cooler places other than Boca Raton. I tried it, and this  was my first real impression of Lambrusco. Earthy, slightly sweet, great acidity. Fun. Easy drinking. Perfect Boat Wine (all I need is the boat). So its only natural that my first Lambrusco in Bologna was the first Lambrusco I ever had.

This one was had at a tiny “restaurant” off a green market. Its bright acidity went beautifully with the salumi. Sadly this was some of the most disappointing cured meat that I had on the trip. Still better than most I have had in Florida. So yes, I can complain about better quality than 99 percent of  I can get at home but sub par for the area.

So this was special. The upside down bottle in his hand is straight out of the barrel and wasn’t quite to maturity. The finished product was great, fruity,  and fragrant of perfume that is reminiscent of berries and cherries. The whole experience at the vineyard and then winery was amazing.

So they make the lambrusco that comes in the chalkboard bottle that you can write messages on for gifts. Since I wasnt planning on trying to take sparkling wine on a plane (it may be a myth that the bottles explodes, but I have had it happen), I decided to try the otello. This bottle had the most tannins out of the ones I tried, which I really liked. Lots of strawberry and blackberry aromas on the palate.

This wine was suggested by the Owner/Sommelier/Waiter/Chef(I suspect) of a teeny tiny place in Modena.  This was on the lighter side and definitely had more acidity than the previous lambrusci (I like that as a plural).  It had a fun tart cranberry flavor with sour cherry on the finish. It was really great with the octopus appetizer and crab pasta I had.

 

 

One Afternoon in Dozza Part 2

 

Castle Entrance

Enoteca Regionale dell Emilia Romagna

In the center of Dozza is the the fortress “Rocca Sforzesca”, constructed in the 15th century, its been turned into a museum open to the public, the first floor is the Enoteca Regionale dell Emilia Romagna. Its a combination museum/wine shop/wine bar. The only wines available are from the local region and they have over 800 wines available for purchase.  Entrance to the museum cost 5 Euros, entrance to the wine shop is free.

Researching the shop I read about wine classes and sommelier guided tastings. None of those things were available the week I was in the area. The “wine bar” was not what I expected. There was a self serve enomatic machine, and the staff seemed disinterested in suggesting any wines to me.

Even with the meh service the Enoteca was a wonderful experience. It was great walking around (in a castle) reading all the different labels and seeing wines made from grapes Ive never heard of.  I also learned that there are way more producers of one of my favorite wines from the area (Lambrusco) than I ever imagined.

Ive never been a big fan of these machines. They take all the romance out of having a glass of wine poured for you. 

In addition to the amazing and extensive selection of wine, there are a lot of gourmet food products to purchase. Balsalmics from Modena, olive oils , jams and locally produced dried pastas.

10-30 yr old Balsalmicos

This definitely wouldnt fit in my luggage

 

One afternoon is Dozza Part 1

I first heard about Dozza in the book “I Broghi Piu Belli D’Italia” (The beautiful small towns of Italy). The medieval town is only about 30 minutes by car away from Bologna.

One of the Pathways to Rocca Sforzesca

I was interested in going to Dozza for two reasons: the town is covered in Murals and is pften refered to an open-air museum and the Enoteca Regionale dell’ Emilia Romagna, which is a combination wine muesuem, shop and bar.

The town has “Festival of Painted Walls” every two years where are artist descend on the city and put up new art work so the town is constantly changing.

These pictures don’t do this mural justice. The colors are so vibrant in real life

Had to take some selfies infront of the beautiful artwork and show off my awesome ear muffs

So many different styles in this tiny borghi

Dozza is definitely worth a day trip to wander around the tiny town and see the huge amount incredible art covering most the walls and archways