Sam’s Kitchen – Brown Butter Pasta with Mizithra Cheese

Sams Kitchen Mizithra and Brown Butter Pasta

Back in college, K and I used to dine at a fine Italian restaurant called Old Spaghetti Factory. Okay, it’s not really fine dining, but it’s what we could afford while in school. The dish we used to always order was smack dab in the middle of OSF’s menu with a gold border. I was spaghetti with brown butter and mizithra cheese, and the restaurant claims Homer ate this dish while writing the Iliad. The dish is so flavorful – nutty, salty and delicious.

I’ve never been able to find mizithra cheese until I stepped into a Whole Foods recently. This sheep’s milk cheese is similar to parmesan, but more fragrant with a creamy white color. I was able to get a piece of the cheese for only $1.20.

Here’s a VERY simple recipe I made up for spaghetti with brown butter and mizithra cheese.

Ingredients:

1 package thin spaghetti
4 tbsp butter
3/4 cup mizithra cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Dry parsley for garnish

Directions:

Sams Kitchen Mizithra Brown Butter

Cook spaghetti so that it’s al dente. In a separate pot, brown the butter and add in the salt and pepper. Toss the spaghetti with the butter and plate in a dish. Add the cheese and gently mix. Sprinkle parsley for garnish then enjoy.

Sams Kitchen Mizithra Shave Cheeze

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Rome – Day 4

Rome Florence Day Trip

K and I landed in Florence, the birthplace of Italian Renaissance. We conveniently planned this on a Monday since most museums in Rome are closed on this day. The main purpose of this trip was to see the David at the Academia.

We started the day early at the Termini station where we purchased our fast train tickets. Usually a train to Florence could take about 3 hours, but the fast train (about 88 euros) got us there in about 1.5 hours.

Rome Florence Galleria Accademia

We waited at least 2 hours to get into the Academia. Note –  Book your reservation in advance! This gallery is small. The only main attraction here is the famous sculpture of David by Michaelangelo (which I couldn’t sneak a picture of). There were a few other statues and paintings, but nothing too famous.

Rome Florence Steak

An hour later, we were out… and hungry. We scoured Florence for its famous Bistecca Fiorentina, a t-bone steak seasoned with high-quality olive oil. We found some for 50 euro, some for 30. Alas, a steak for 20 euros. K got the trademark dish, while I had the spaghetti carbonara, pasta with an egg and pancetta sauce. You know, you get what you paid for. The steak was satisfactory. Perfectly medium-rare, but too tough and flavorless. The carbonara was pretty good, but it could’ve use more pancetta. More “bacon” always makes things better.

Rome Florence Ponte Vecchio

We were going to do the Ufizzi Gallery, but we didn’t want to stand in another line AND I figured we’d be sick of museums after this trip. So, we headed for the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval bridge filled with shops. A few snaps here and there and then we were off to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore. This church is probably the largest structure in Florence. The domed cathedral in it’s gothic style is Florence’s crowned architectural jewel. The entrance was free, so we took a peek inside. It is massive, but for some reason, they didn’t let us into the dome, so I don’t have any good pictures. For 3 euros, you can also take an elevator up the tower for a city-wide view, but we, unfortunately, didn’t have the cash.

Rome Florence Grom Gelato

I did, however, have enough cash for gelato. While roaming through the streets of Florence, we found a HUGE crowd around this gelato place called Grom. I can never turn down ice cream, so by instinct, I stood in line. They had such interesting flavors, but the one that caught my eye was salted caramel. “Oh yeah, that’s what I’m getting,” I thought. K got coffee. Man this was good. The caramel was very dark and rich, almost bitter, but slightly sweet. The coffee was super strong, as if we were drinking an actual espresso. I can’t say this was better than Giolitti’s, but it’s definitely different.

The one thing I regret not doing in Florence is buying something. Florence is famous for its leather, so I should’ve purchased a pair of boots or a small cross-body bag. Leather is pretty cheap here. K got a small wallet for 10 euros and I could’ve got a pair of real leather boots for 30 euro. Ugh, I’m kicking myself. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

Rome Rupubblica Circle Pan

We headed back for Rome in the early evening and caught a few more sites before we headed for dinner. We checked out Piazza di Popolo and Piazza del Repubblica. Both are large traffic circles that are beautifully lit at night time.

Rome iVascellari Amatriciana

For dinner, I tried to make it to this restaurant in Trastevere that Anthony Bourdain went to, but it was closed! We landed at this other cute restaurant by the Tiber River called iVascellari. We started with a spinach and cured ham salad with some fresh pecorino cheese and really good olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Spinach in Rome is nothing like the spinach back home. The leaves here are larger, thicker and heartier. For our main course, we had the cacio e pepe, spaghetti with parmesan and pepper, and the amatriciana, rigatoni with a tomato and dried pork cheek sauce – both are very traditional Roman dishes. I’ve had tons of pasta on this trip and this dinner was the best. The pasta was perfectly al dente and they were both seasoned perfectly. My cacio e pepe was way better than the one I had our first night. It wasn’t drowning in a mysterious cream sauce. It was buttered and topped with tons of shredded parmesan. And the pepper in the dish, which is the main ingredient, was freshly ground and not overpowering. The amatriciana was very flavorful. You could taste the sweet chunks of tomatoes and the hidden pieces of salty pork in each pasta.

And that was the end of day 4…

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Colosseo – San Francisco

Colosseo Burrata SaladColosseo Ristorante & Bar Italiano
414 Columbus Ave
(between Vallejo St & Stockton St)
San Francisco, CA 94133
Neighborhood: North Beach/Telegraph Hill

Rated: ♣♣♣♣

Hi everyone! Sorry, it’s been a looong time since my last post. I’ve been away on business then away again for Comic-Con. Now I’m finally home and will go back to the regular schedule of postings.

One Friday night, K and I tried to grab a bite at Tony’s, but was told there would be a 2 hour wait. So, we ditched that plan and decided to stumble upon any Italian place in North Beach. While walking along Columbus Ave, a waiter reeled us in by saying “Real Italian food! Our staff is from Rome and we make our own pastas. Come on in!” How could we resist? We were quickly seated at one of their outside tables in front of the restaurant for easy access to people watching and enjoyed a tasty meal under the city lights and a cozy space heater.

The scene:

The service was amazing in the beginning, but then it slowed down towards the end of the meal. It took about 3 tries before we could waive down a waiter to bring us a box and our check.

Despite the lacking service, I love the ambiance of the restaurant and the option to sit at a table on the sidewalk, although other restaurants in North Beach have the same option. San Francisco’s “Little Italy” does its best to give visitors a taste of Roma. The good thing about Colosseo is that now, you can get a seat quickly since the restaurant opened just a few months ago (they took the place of Figaro). I expect a line out the door once more people discover it.

The food:

I am very impressed with the food. Their ingredients are undoubtedly fresh and their menu is so extensive, I feel like I need to come back at least 20 times to try everything that caught my eye. They must have 40+ different pasta featured in the menu and being the indecisive person that I am, it took about 10 minutes before I decided what to order. It wasn’t too pricey either. Total bill without drinks and tip was about $50.

Arugula with prosciutto, burrata cheese and aged balsamic vinegar – This. Was. Amazing. I swear… It is probably the best salad I’ve ever had. It outshone the entrees! And, YES. A salad can be that good. The arugula was so fresh and peppery and the ball of soft cheese sitting on top of the bed of greens was so creamy and mild. Burrata cheese is a cheese made from mozzerella and cream, giving it a smooth buttery texture. This cheese is the star of this dish. The salad was topped with some high-quality prosciutto and sweet, aged balsamic vinegar.

Linguine with Seafood – This, too, was delicious, but I don’t believe the pasta in this dish was homemade because all of the noodles were the exact same size in shape. The sauce was brothy and had a hint of wine. Great dish for bread dipping. I could be wrong though. Also, I was very surprised when the bus boy asked if we wanted cheese on top because you normally do not add parmesan to linguine/seafood dishes.

Gnocchi al pesto – Even though it took me so long to figure out what I wanted, I ordered what I usually get at any other pasta restaurant – gnocchi al pesto. The gnocchi is definitely home-made. The pasta had bite and was super rich with the different cheeses and olive oil.

All-in-all, I was very pleased with the meal for even just dropping in without looking at reviews prior. I’d go back just for the salad and maybe try their lobster raviolis.

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Park Chow – San Francisco

Park Chow Smiling NoodlesPark Chow
1240 9th Ave
(between Irving St & Lincoln Way)
San Francisco, CA 94122
Neighborhood: Inner Sunset
(415) 665-9912

Rated: ♣♣♣♣♣

I’ve been coming to Park Chow ever since I was a kid. The hook? Warm ginger bread cake with pumpkin ice cream and caramel sauce. First opened in 1997, it’s a good sign the Asian-Italian-American fusion restaurant is still packed after 13 years.

The scene:

The restaurant has a very home-y feel to it. The tip – request to sit upstairs by the fireplace. It’s very romantic and a great space for small parties. I usually have my holiday dinner with my friends in that part of the restaurant. The restaurant is dim and cozy, mostly because of the space heaters and the fireplaces.

The food:

I cycle between a handful of dishes – garden pasta, Smiling Noodles, Thai Style Noodles or the Eggplant Parmesan. All very delicious. K also likes to get the Short Ribs with Polenta – this, too, is outstanding.

Farfalle w/peas, asparagus, tomato, cream – What’s great about Park Chow is that they sell half orders. I wasn’t too hungry so I opted for the mini order which only cost me $7.50. Although it had cream sauce, the pasta was very light. Peas and asparagus were fresh, as expected. Old peas are no bueno.

Smiling Noodles of Chicken & Prawn w/bok choy, mushrooms, curry, black beans – Such a Park Chow classic. This pasta dish has been here for as long as I can remember and it’s still a hit. They use a linguine pasta and place it in a broth-like sauce. It’s tangy, mildly spicy and refreshing. The best part? Dipping your bread in the broth.

Warm Gingerbread w/Pumpkin Ice Cream and Caramel Sauce – I’m sorry I don’t have a photo of this yet. Last time I came here, I was just way too full to get dessert. Trust me, I’m regretting that. Anyway, the ginger bread is amazing. So fresh, you can tell it’s homemade. The crust of the cake it a little crunchy, but the center is soft and airy. It’s strong in ginger flavor, but it’s completely balanced with the mild pumpkin ice cream and caramel sauce. You have to order this if you visit.

I have a few tips when you eat here. Call ahead to put your name on the waiting list. Park Chow has never taken reservations, but you can call 20 minutes ahead of time to put your name down… especially since the restaurant is always crowded. I also recommend their breakfast menu. They make a bomb salmon benedict. Have that with a glass of their fresh squeezed, and very tart, lemonade and you’re set to have a wonderful rest of the day.

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