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Wood-Fired Pizzas and More at Pasquale Jones

April 29, 2017

Pasquale Jones calls a corner just north of Little Italy home.  Sandwiched between trendy Nolita and more traditional Italian American enclave, Pasquale Jones is a beautiful modern restaurant featuring deliciously wood-fired pizzas and other dishes worth a trek.

Ponder over the small plates for a nibble.  For example, the warm braised leeks might suit your fancy one evening.  Served with walnuts and shards of parmigiano reggiano, this was a lovely  light starter.

A bite of pasta is never a bad idea but make sure you share it though to save room for the main star of the restaurant.

The pizzas of course!  The margherita pie is a great equalizer and judge of the quality of sauce and dough at any pizza spot.  Balance is key when it comes to sauce and as for the dough, I always like to see a few blistered on the crust for that true wood-fired kiss.

As a person who prefers white pies, the better pie was the little neck.  Studded with briny bites of little neck clams, the pie was bright with a squeeze of lemon and parsley.  I will be returning here for a bite of this very soon.

It’s easy to make a dinner with simply pizzas and overlook the rest of the menu but the wood oven fired entrees are worth paying attention to.  Specifically this beautiful pork shank for two.  Unbelievably tender, the meat fell off the bones with a light pull from the fork.  A simple plate of arugula salad thoughtfully accompanied the meaty entree in case you were looking for some greens.

As for dessert, well, there really aren’t any.  It’s a bold move but I appreciate a restaurant that knows its strengths.  To end the meal, the kitchen offered just one choice, poached seasonal fruits with homemade ice cream and pistachio crumble.  A beautifully simple way to end a delicious meal.

Pasquale Jones | 187 Mulberry Street, New York, NY 10012 | http://www.pasqualejones.com

Omakase at Shuko

April 23, 2017

Shuko is right around the corner from the apartment but not exactly easy to find with the nondescript door.  Took a bit of planning to secure the reservation but finally managed to check off another omakase from the list.

The menu was simple enough, a straight forward sushi only omakase or a kaiseki experience with both small plates and sushi.  We of course opted for the kaiseki but that wasn’t all though.  We were then given the choice of upgrading our experience with a few supplements, playfully drawn out on a small menu.

Once the hard decisions were made, we just sat back and waited until the plates started to arrive.

First, a homemade mochi bite with pistachio, miso and shiso.

Followed by refreshing salad of dungeness crab with cucumber yuzu.

Next was a decadent ball of chopped toro with Beluga caviar and a side of homemade sweet milk bread.

The Spanish mackerel with bonito sauce, shiso and daikon was followed with a beautiful plate of ocean trout with spicy mushroom, ikura and crispy trout skin.

Next, we moved onto some hot dishes.  Warmed lobster pieces were served on top of carrot puree with savory bacon bites and snap peas.

We had unknowingly ordered more lobster from the supplemental menu, a plate of spicy lobster with green and white onion and lotus root to share.  More lobster never hurt anyone right?

The last of the hot kaiseki dishes was a small plate with buttery veal with ramps and baby turnips.

A small bowl of consomme before we move onto the sushi portion of the meal.

A nice fatty piece of toro to start things off…

then skip jack…

and dorado…

and spanish mackerel (one of my favorite pieces of sushi)..

That was followed by fluke with seaweed..

… a piece of sea bream with ume…

… striped bass with bright yuzu…

And a lovely sweet piece of scallop.

A beautiful piece of uni was up next.  Always a favorite at any omakase, this was no exception.

While we savored the uni, we watched as the chef worked on meticulously removing meat from a tuna bone.

A hand piece with singed toro was deliciously decadent.

Soft shelled crab made an appearance on a sushi piece.

And was followed by a delicious piece of spicy sea trout crispy rice.

A simple tuna roll…

And a one bite of ume and shiso wrapped in paper thin lotus root marked the end of the sushi service.

A sorbet palate cleanser was followed by a slice of warm apple pie with bay leaf ice cream.  A bit of Americana touch to a traditional kaiseki meal before we were sent on our merry way into the night belly full of sushi.

Shuko | 47 East 12th Street, New York, 10003 | https://www.shukonyc.com/

Late Winter Visit to Blue Hill at Stone Barns

April 4, 2017

It seems extremely appropriate that I should post about my meal from Blue Hill at Stone Barns right after finishing the Chef’s Table episode about Dan Barber.  Sadly, both were long overdue so the sequence of events is merely an excuse for my inexcusable tardiness posting these pictures.

JZ and I spent a magical afternoon exploring the grounds of Blue Hill at Stone Barns late February last year.  We spent some time meeting the various farm animals on the property including a flock of sheep and their minder, a vigilant enormous white dog.

Before we knew it, it was time to start our culinary journey inside the beautifully anointed restaurant, white table cloth and all.

There are no menus here, only little books describing all the seasonal ingredients that we will be feasting on.

We start with a delicate array of farm vegetables in their most basic element.

Then an aromatic sprig of fennel frond…

and sweet delicate carrots, top and all.

Radishes so thin that they are translucent…

was followed by picked asparagus with egg sauce.

We were then presented with a beautiful sculpture made with crispy kale and cabbage.

We then savored a number of treats made with all sorts of winter vegetables, house made speck and liver sandwiched between chocolate.

Of course, we had to work for our food because otherwise it would be too easy!  Trying our hands at foraging for tiny cheese sticks in a hay stack…

This was followed up with stunningly colorful plate of beets, almost like stain glass.

Next up were more beets, this time in the form of dainty burgers, two bites at most.

Ash smoked rings of acorn squash came presented on a t-rack, not quite what one expects for food to show up on…

More fun presentations… little cones filled with chicharrons.  Now if only I could have hoarded that entire board for myself…

The next little bite of cheese came with a prop and a show and tell.  Not wanting to waste anything on the farm, even the fruit leftover on the branches and bones used up from cooking are repurposed to make ashes to age the cheese.

We were finally finished with the small bites and now onto the meatier courses like this succulent pork belly…

and roasted bone marrow that I will always want more of…

and surprisingly hearty spinach salad that was a wonderful contrast to the rich marrow.

One more plate of cured vegetables and fish before we were whisked away…

into the belly of the beast where we enjoyed our next dish.

Perched on a two top table in the corner of the kitchen, we watched in fascination as the chefs moved so elegantly with a sense of purpose around the bright kitchen.  So this is where the magic happens.

We were presented with a brioche made with Barber wheat, specially designed for Blue Hill.

And with that, our time in the kitchen was up and we were ushered back to our seats and presented with the next few courses.  This savory taco was made with kohlrabi and filled with fresh vibrant herbs and fantastically grilled swordfish and corned beef.

A simple bite of tendon ushered in the final savory courses…

A make your own burrito station.  This was no ordinary burritos though… the almost dark purple colored crepes were airy and light, made with pig blood and the toppings were various parts of the pork, from the jowl to the belly.  Fresh herbs for us to snip onto our burritos with scissors of course.

And finally, we finish with a hearty salad of winter greens dressed with a drippings of a candle made from beef tallow.  Unbelievable.

A little little tasting of single udder butter with our salads… whipped light as air yet so full of flavor.

A little break before the desserts start…

First up, a beautifully baked sweet beet cake that was almost too pretty to eat…

And a loaf of almond cake for us to share.

And finally, the last two bites of an epic meal…

Blue Hill at Stone Barns | 630 Bedford Rd, Pocantico Hills, New York,  10591 | https://www.bluehillfarm.com

Sampling Vegetarian Fare at Superiority Burger and By Chloe

March 18, 2017

I never thought I would be happy with a meal without meat.  Thanks to a few new spots that opened up in New York within the last 18 months,  I quickly discovered that bliss could be found in an entirely vegetarian dinner.

Superiority Burger in East Village is a tiny operation with only a few cramped seats for those who choose to dine in.  For the most part, people grab the goodies to go or to enjoy them on the benches at Tompkins Square Park if the weather is nice.

There are only a few options each night, with a core lineup of sandwiches and burgers and rotating sides and salads made with whatever is in season or fresh at the market that day.  The veggie burger is the headliner, served with muenster cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomatoes on a soft Martin’s potato bun.

Even though the veggie burger is the star, it’s not entirely a blind substitute for a meaty cheeseburger.  I found myself gravitating to the  Superiority wrap instead.  Filled with Koda Farms brown rice, tofu, cabbage and some sunflower seeds for crunch, this flavorful wrap made me forget that there was no meat at all.

The Sloppy Dave with frizzled onions on top did a great job of fooling the meateater in me as well.  Then again, what’s not to love about a sloppy saucy sandwich that reminds you of childhood dinners?

Some of my favorites at Superiority Burger are actually the sides.  The burnt broccoli salad with eggplant, red chile and coriander vinaigrette is always on the menu for a good reason.  The flavors are punchy and bold, not to mention the colorful plate is a feast for the eyes as well.

A few other sides that were on the menu one night I visited included braised broad beans with grilled sourdough and grilled zucchini with yuba and chiles.  If you have never had yuba before, it’s quite a treat.  This delicious by product of making soy milk is chewy and takes on whatever delicious vinaigrette drizzled on top.  Superiority Burger uses this ingredient quite beautifully in a variety of different ways so be on the look out for yuba on the menu.

Another delicious side that I had there was a vegetarian surf n’ turf take on shrimp scampi.  Hearty potatoes roasted to perfection was mixed with seaweed in a delightful garlicky scampi sauce.

And my favorite part about meals at Superiority Burger is the dessert.  Brook Headley was the pastry chef at Del Posto and it’s pretty obvious that he knows his way around this section of the menu.  Each day, he prepares a sorbert and a gelato, sold separately or in combination.  Sometimes, it’s classic flavors that we all know and love, and other times, he whips up some of the most delicious gelato with the most unusual flavors.  There’s no menu or timeline so you will just have to stop by and try your luck!

If Superiority Burger embodied the spirit of East Village, then By Chloe was the perfect representative for West Village.  Located right off of Bleecker, this popular vegan spot is always packed even these days with more than four locations in the city.

So what to get here?  Well, you can never go wrong with a guacamole burger.  The black bean quinoa and sweet potato patty is garnished with guacamole, tortilla strips and their delicious chipotle mayo on a whole grain bun.  Pretty darn delicious.

The pesto meatballs sub is a great option for those craving a little Italian.  The meatballs are made with portobello mushrooms and vegetables.  Topped with cashew mozzarella and almond parm, the sandwich is quite beautiful to look at as well.

One of my favorites at By Chloe is actually their kale caesar.  The salad is topped generously with avocado chunk, tomatoes, and delicious roasted shiitake bacon.  Maple wheat croutons add a sweet crunch to round out the salad.  I am pretty sure it’s not healthy but who cares when it’s this delicious?

The fries here are air popped so a little healthier than normal but I personally would opt for the vegetable sides like this delicious brussels sprout salad studded with pomegranate seeds or the also not quite healthy spinach kale dip.

So eating vegetarian (or even vegan in the case of By Chloe) is actually quite delicious.  The colorful and flavorful concoctions that highlight fresh local vegetables can make you forget that there is no meat anywhere to be found.  The best part is that I now actually crave these meatless meals.

Superiority Burger | 430 E 9th St, New York, NY 10009 | http://www.superiorityburger.com/

By Chloe | Multiple Locations | http://eatbychloe.com

 

My DC Bites: Rose’s Luxury

March 15, 2017

It’s not a secret that Rose’s Luxury is a popular restaurant and still remains so even after so many years after opening.  Even in the middle of January chill by the size of the line outside the restaurant over an hour and half before it even opened.

Despite the trouble we had to face in order to snag two seats at the bar to watch the action first hand, I am happy to say that this was still one of my favorite meals of 2016.

We started the meal with a warm mini loaf of house made potato brioche with luscious butter and bacon salt.

The menu here is well edited, with only a few dishes in each section.  You don’t always need a never ending list of options when each is executed so well. We started with a few small plates like the charred smoked eggplant and carrots with panko fried onion rings and a yogurt sauce at the bottom.

We also really enjoyed the refreshing and crunchy salad made with spicy pig ear with mango and cabbage.

Of course, we had to try the signature salad made with the unusual combination of pork sausage, habanero and lychee.  The sweetness of the lychee balanced the sharp heat of the habanero and the salty bite of the pork sausage.

We moved on from the appetizers to heartier dishes starting with a confit of melt in your mouth goat over Carolina golden rice risotto.  This Southern take on a risotto had us lapping up every last kernel of rice.

There were only two pasta options that night and after much debate with the chef who was nice enough to humor us throughout service, we had to get both.

A beautifully simple cacio e pepe with hand cut chitarra was excellently executed.  Buttery and cheesy with a kick from the pepper, nothing better.

Well actually, the penne with calamari in a luscious vodka tomato sauce put up a good fight.

Full of delicious pastas, we moved happily onto the dessert portion with a semifreddo and ice cream.  The key lime semifreddo with grapefruit, celery and brown butter was an unusual dessert but quite refreshing end to a most excellent wonderful dinner.

Everything about this little restaurant that could on Barracks Row was absolutely adorable and enduring and made for a magical night in the Capitol.

Rose’s Luxury | 717 8th St SE, Washington, DC 20003 | http://www.rosesluxury.com/

The Lounge at Gabriel Kreuther

February 19, 2017

Gabriel Kreuther opened a little over a year just north of Bryant Park.  The sun drenched beautiful dining room is elegant and still one of my favorite spots in Midtown for lunch.

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Fancy beautiful soft cocktails is a great start to lunch…

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Followed by a generous serving of house made silky smooth liverwurst with grainy mustard and pickled kirbies and a disc of unctuous foie gras torchon.

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From there, move onto the seasonal salad.  Like the beautifully colorful salad of acorn and butternut squash with jewel like pomegranate seeds scattered throughout below.

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There is also an entire section of tart flambees for when I am in the mood for something a little more substantial.  You can’t go wrong with the classic, made with smoked bacon, creme fraiche and caramelized onion but the hens of the woods mushroom is also a winner.  Crispy thin crust, these are made to share with the table so I still have room for the entrees.

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There are some amazing choices in the entree section.  For the winter season, the red wine braised tripe gratine with puy lentils is hearty and satisfying.  For those less adventurous, they also have one of the best duck confit I have ever had as well as at least two fantastic fish options.

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Desserts here are fantastic if you have the room for it.  One of my favorites is the grand marnier baba with fresh mango, vanilla ice cream and lime granita.  For when I am in the mood for chocolate, the rich decadent chocolate tart with chocolate sorbet does just the trick.  Just as beautiful as the dining room.

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Gabriel Kreuther | 41 West 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036 | http://www.gknyc.com

Between Slurps of Ramen and Crunch of Fried Chicken…

January 19, 2017

Oops… somehow I found myself so behind on the blog!  And because of an incredible and growing backlog of entries, I am forced to condense a few delicious bites from the end of 2015.

Starting with ramen slurped at a Japanese import, Mr. Taka in the LES.

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Even though noodles were priority, I can never pass up wings especially soy glazed ones.

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And for the main event, delicious bowls of ramen, from hearty classics like spicy tonkatsu and spicy miso to a suprisingly light and refreshing yuzu shoyu ramen.  Delicious and satisfied slurps heard all around the table.

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Almost clear across town from Mr. Taka on the outskirts of Chelsea is Jun-men Ramen, a welcomed addition to a ramen desert.

Not surprising, more wings and some buns this time before we dove into the noodles.

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A bowl of classic tonkatsu is kind of like a magharita pie that you must judge a pizza place by.  This bowl could make or break the whole impression.  Luckily, the bowl here didn’t disappoint.

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And for something a little more unexpected, a bowl of ramen topped with uni, porcini butter and truffle oil.  This is definitely not for the faint of heart.

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And finally we threw in a plate of Jum-men fried rice for good measure.  Laced with Chinese sausage and kimchi, this was a pretty strong contender for kind of an after thought.

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And when I wasn’t too busy slurping down bowls of ramen all across town, I took my eating adventures into the fried chicken realm.

The first stop was at Streetbird, all the way up in Harlem.  A casual rotisserie serving some pretty finger licking delicious fried bird.  Not a bad spot to meet up for dinner on a weeknight with friends who live in the UWS.

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The sides available were a little all over the place, ranged from Asian stirfry..

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to classics like a skillet full of blistered mac and cheese to cornbread and crunchy fries.

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For somewhere a little more centrally located there is of course David Chang’s Fuku Plus.  What launched as a restaurant serving only fried chicken sandwich in East Village quickly expanded to a second location in the Chamber Hotel in midtown with a much more robust menu.

In addition to the classic fried chicken sandwich with its comically outsized fried chicken to bun ratio, they also created chicken bites with a mild jalapeno sauce and a mouth numbingly spicy chicken fingers.

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Of course there is the obligatory salad, this one actually quite beautiful and photogenic with its bold colors and groupings of like colors.

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A sleeper here is the juicy Lucy, an appropriately named burger that was oozing with fatty deliciousness and melted cheese.  Served on a soft potato bun, this went down a little too easily.

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And a final look at the full spread…

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Mr. Taka Ramen | 170 Allen Street, New York, NY 10002 | http://www.mrtakaramen.com/

Jun-Men Ramen | 249 9th Ave, New York, NY 10001 | http://www.junmenramen.com/#home

Streetbird | 2149 Frederick Douglass Blvd, New York, NY 10027 | http://streetbirdnyc.com/

Fuku Plus | 15 W 56th St, New York, NY 10022 | https://fukuplus.momofuku.com/

Maison Premiere’s Secret Garden Brunch

December 4, 2016

The garden at Maison Premiere is like a little secret hide away with its canopy and whimsical garden furniture.

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It’s absolutely perfect on a fall afternoon for brunch, starting off with a cocktail or two.  One of the best is the fully loaded Bloody Caesars with fish stock.

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The spicy cocktail is best accompanied with a beautiful tray of plump oysters and clams…

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And a little seared scallop with beets and cream.

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And finally onto the entrees.  Two poached eggs with gently poached oysters on a bed of tender leeks and potatoes are served with crusty French bread.  The creamy egg yolks bursts as soon as you cut into it, enrobbing the barely cooked oysters and little jewels of trout roe.

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Another delicate choice that is a bit lighter is the absinth cured gravlax.  Served with trout roe and potato latkes, these translucent colored salty bites of fish are a sophisticated version of the typical New York brunch of bagel and lox.

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Linger over the delicious drinks in the secluded garden while soaking up the rays of sunshine.  No better way to spend the afternoon catching up with a friend.

Maison Premiere | 298 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211 | http://maisonpremiere.com/

My Italy Bites: Venetian Delights

October 11, 2016

Last minute change at the end of our Italian adventure led us east.  All the way east to Venice.

We started our impromptu day trip by stumbling into Hostaria Vecio Biavarol just a turn away from the train station.  Cappuccino for both of us to perk ourselves up in order to explore the city.

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The cute little wine bar featured little nibbles and we couldn’t resist a few bites.  No reason why prosciutto and salami can’t be breakfast right?

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From there, we meandered leisurely through the windy streets of Venice for the next few hours.  Luckily, most of our walks took us away from the tourist traps but instead through some quiet neighborhoods where we found cheap wine shops and local artist galleries.  We didn’t meander aimlessly though.  I was determined to find our way to La Palanca, a small eateries a ferry ride away.

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Even though we had shown up past lunch time, there was still a line waiting to be seated at the popular restaurant.  We contemplated sacrificing the view for the sake of our stomachs but luckily, we persevered and were treated with this amazing waterside seat.

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We started lunch with a mixed seafood platter.  Filled with vinegary filet of sardines and anchovies, rich white fish salad and swordfish carpaccio so thin that it was translucent, I could have devoured another plate of these delicacies.

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We followed it up by sharing the cuttle fish special cooked in squid ink.  Served with crispy squares of polenta, these might not look like the most beautiful photogenic dish but it was a winner with us as we mopped up every last bit of the sauce with bread.

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Even though we had one less day in Milan than previously planned, this trip to beautiful Venice was just what we needed.  Otherwise, we would have missed out on the charming streets of Venice and the fantastic meal seaside.

Hostaria Vecio Biavarol | Fondamenta dei Tolentini, 225, Venezia, Italy

La Palanca Giudecca, 448, 30133 Venice, Italy

My Italy Bites: Last Bite of Piedmont at I Bologna

September 26, 2016

Our last meal in Piedmont ended up being one of the most memorable of the whole trip.  Because of a misplaced wallet and last minute cancellation of our Airbnb in Milan, we almost decided to forgo our reservation at I Bologna.  Luckily for our taste buds and stomachs, we made the right call and arrived at the trattoria/agriturismo.

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Located right outside of Asti, this family owned trattoria offers homemade regional cuisine that changes daily in a comfortable and elegant dining room.  Everything is cooked by chef Giuseppe Bologna with his mother making the pastas, a true family affair.  There was no menu, only the order of courses outlined outside of the main dining room so we simply sat down and surrendered our stomachs to I Bologna. 

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Our lunch started with a simple plate of melon and prosciutto.  The ripe honey melon slice was exquisitely sweet, a beautiful contrast to the salty almost buttery slices of cured meat.

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More sweet and savory combination appeared next in the form of sauteed mushroom and sweet peaches.

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Just as soon as we were done, a beautiful bowl of agnolotti filled with veal and pork appeared.   These delicate little handmade purses were almost too cute to eat but we inhaled them, one bite after another.

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Since there can never be enough pasta, onto the next!  Known for being the home of pesto, this particular bowl of pesto and tagliolini took pesto to another level.  Made with lemon basil, the pasta offered such an unique scent that we could not stop inhaling the aromatic scent.  This was by far our favorite bowl of pasta on a trip filled with pasta.

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We concluded the meal with a plate of bonet, a specialty dessert from Piedmont made with amaretti cookies and rum.

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A little popsicle of lemon and melon and some homemade shots of limoncello drew a period on this fabulous meal at Trattoria I Bologna.  It was just what we needed to take our minds off of the mess that was our Airbnb and to really enjoy our last bite in this lovely delicious region of Piedmont.

Trattoria I Bologna | Via Nicola Sardi, 4, 14030 Rocchetta Tanaro AT, Italy | http://www.trattoriaibologna.it/?lang=en