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Clodagh McKenna's Florence

Clodagh McKenna's Florence
It’s so hard not to dish out a torrent of superlatives in appraising Florence but I will do my best.
 
Just back from one of the best gastronomic weekends of my life, the weekend was in Florence, Tuscany.  Like any eager food writer I did my research before the trip to find out the best places to eat. I must have done something right because not one failed in delivering salivating moments. So here I share with you my two-day itinerary:

Friday night
Checked in to our hotel ‘Loggiato Dei Serviti’. This hotel is great, situated on the Piazza SS. Annunziata which holds the famous statue of Spedale degli Innocenti by Brunelleschi. The rooms are pretty, spacious and ours had a beautiful view of the Duomo and I kid you not there is a classical music school behind the hotel so each morning we woke to the sound of an orchestra. Our double room was 130euros a night and the service was so friendly and helpful, I will definitely be checking in there again.

Saturday
We started the day with coffee and freshly baked pastries in Cibreo. An historical establishment in Florence, a haunt of famous food writers from all over the world. It’s an elegant small café with cozy red velvet seats, white linen dressed tables, fresh flowers and pastries that will make your toes curl and have you ordering seconds no matter how full you might be.

After breakfast we headed to the ‘Museo di San Marco’ a former Dominican convent adjacent to the church of San Marco which now houses this museum. The museum contains many stunning works by the famous painter Fra Angelico. When the friars' cells were restructured between 1439 and 1444, he decorated many of them with frescoes meant to spur religious contemplation. Don't miss the famous Annunciation, on the upper floor, and the works in the gallery off the cloister as
Clodagh McKenna's Florence
you enter. It costs just 4euros to enter.

We spend the afternoon at the Mercato di San Lorenzo in the Piazza Mercato Centrale. A covered food market with 2 full floors of food stalls. Stalls sell dried mushrooms, fresh vegetables, tripe (which is a local speciality), olive oil, cured meats and after an hour of wandering lustfully around the market my stomach begins to plea for food! So I make a bee line for a stall called ‘Nebone’ which was recommended to me by the Slow Food convivium leader of Florence. Nerbone is famous for its cucina povera ("poor people's food") since the Mercato Centrale opened in 1874. You can try trippa alla fiorentina, pappa al pomodoro, or a plate piled with boiled potatoes and a single fat sausage. But the mainstay here and what I order is a panino con bollito, a boiled beef sandwich that's bagnato (dipped in the meat juices) and served with salsa verda. We find a spot at the end of the counter and devour the sandwich with a glass of wine from a plastic cup. It was delicious street food at its best and cost 7.50 euro for the two of us.

That night we dined at ‘Coco Lezzone’, a restaurant which I had read about in Lori De Mori’s book ‘'Flavours of Tuscany'. It’s a tiny trattoria hidden in a tangle of alleys near the Arno. We were seated on a long communal table in a pocket-size room wrapped around a cubbyhole of a kitchen whose chef, according to the restaurant's dialect name, is allegedly, a bit off his rocker. The place is full with local intellectuals, journalists and artists and a relief not to see a tourist in sight. They are famous for their pappa al pomodoro, which my boyfriend Sebastiano had; it’s a tomato bread soup and it was delicious. I had Farfalle with fresh peas – and we both agreed that it was the best pasta dish we had tasted in a long time. For main course we shared a crocchette di filetto (veal-and-basil meatloaf smothered in tomato sauce), it was so full of flavour and the quality of the meat was superb. For dessert we had one of Florences most traditional dessert ‘Cantuccini’, a glass of sweet local wine served with biscotti’s – you dip the biscotti’s in the sweet wine. Note that the trattoria doesn’t serve coffee or take credit cards and you must book in advance.

Sunday:
As we are out way through Saturday we skip breakfast and walk the city for 3 hours to take in all the historical sites of Florence. For lunch we go to q.b., a modern and very hip eatery for local artists. White tiled walls with very cool black enamel light fixtures and white wooden chairs. We start with a plate of Bruschette with Lardo di Colonnato (the best lardo in Tuscany) and follow with a bistecca alla fiorentina and a bottle of Chianti by a producer called ‘Masseto’ who is the most famous wine producer In Tuscany. The perfect way to end our trip….


Florence Address Book:
Coco Lezzone: Via Parioncino, 26. Tel: +39 055 287 178
q.b.: Via de Ginori 10, Firenze. Tel: +39 055 211 427 www.quantobasta.eu
Nerbone: Inside the Mercato di San Lorenzo. Tel: 055-219-949Open for lunch only

Mercato di San Lorenzo: Piazza Mercato CentraloOpen 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday

Hotel ‘Loggiato Dei Serviti’: Piazza SS. Annunziata 3. Tel. +39.055.289592 www. loggiatodeiservitihotel.it
Cibreo: Via Andrea del Verrocchio. Tel: +39 055 234 1100

RECIPES:

Pappa al Pomodoro

Serves: 6

Ingredients:
400g stale bread
1 large onion, diced
150ml extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1kg ripe tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped
black pepper
1.5 litres light chicken or vegetable stock,
1 small bunch of leaves basil

Method:
Place the bread in a pre-heated oven at 150oC for two minutes to dry out, remove and break in to small pieces. Put a large casserole dish or saucepan over a medium heat, drizzle in a good dollop of olive oil, followed by the onion, cover and cook until soft. Then stir in the garlic, cook for a minute and pour in the tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly. Liquidise the tomato base and then return to the pot. Stir in the hot stock, bread, another dollop of olive oil and basil leaves and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the soup is very thick. Serve warm with a drizzle of olive oil and some freshly grated Parmesan.

Tuscan Salsa Verde
This salsa is delicious served with meats, fish or even as a sandwich filler.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

4 fresh basil sprigs
1 sprig of parsley
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 anchovy fillets, chopped
2 tbsp capers
100ml extra virgin olive oil

Method:
take the leaves of the basil off the stem and place in a food processor. Follow with all the rest of the ingredients and blend until you reach a smooth consistency.
Clodagh McKenna's Florence
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16 June 2009
By: Clodagh McKenna
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