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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Lookie whose blog I found today: Carlo Middione, an Italian chef extraodinaire

Carloskitchen While having my latte this morning, I suddenly had a craving for biscotti –you know, the proper, porous, Italian kind, with only almonds and not much else? The ones that are so hard they are damn near inedible until dunk into a cup of hot coffee? No, I wasn't thinking of the American Biscotti which -though not nearly as icky as American-style Scones (aka the Doorstop Variety)- are cakey, dense, and can be filled with any number of weirdo ingredients.

What's all this stuff about biscotti got to do with this new blog I found? Well, the best biscotti in San Francisco are from this little restaurant called Vivande on Fillmore St. The chef and owner of Vivande is Carlo Middione. I googled his name this morning, hoping to find the recipe for those delicious biscotti of his, but what I found instead was the man had a blog!

When I first moved to San Francisco I sublet an enchanting flat on Clay st with an open view of Alta Plaza park. Carlo Middione's Vivande Porta Via on Filmore st. was only a couple of blocks away, serving a deceptively simple menu of delicious home-style Italian food -I followed Patricia Unterman in her Food Lovers' Guide to San Francisco there. Vivande became my favorite canteen, a place I could drop by when I wanted a simple plate of Tagliatelle with just a kiss of soulful Ragu, or a decadent Venus Jewel Box, a pale yellow pouch of ham, peas, and the most delicious Béchamel sauce. The to-go counter -the porta via part I understand- was also often a lifesaver on busy days, where I could pick up Putanesca sauce or those gnarly-looking but most supremely addictive Hand Pies filled with chicken and mushroom for a quick meal.

But the best thing at Vivande, for me, was their biscotti (ok the Earthquake cake was right up there too!). I had to have one to begin my day properly. But over the years I went there less and less. I kept moving farther away, first down the hill to Green st, then a bit farther out in Pacific Heights, and then out of town all together. I hadn't been back there in so long I almost forgot about the place. But how lovely that it's those wonderful Biscotti that brought this restaurant and the chef back to my attention again.

I spent the morning reading through the posts on his blog, and what a hoot they are! Carlo Middione is a wonderful teacher, I once had one of his cookbooks –paging whoever borrowed it years ago from me, I want it back, NOW!- and still remember how easy to follow the recipes were. His blog has the same instructive spirit, but also got a load of spunk and highly opinionated opinions that make for such a fun read -start with his post on how to make Polenta his way and see if you find him as neat as I do.

I have to get back to the restaurant one of these days –I hear a bowl of pasta and a chocolate 'earthquake' cake calling my name, and of course a bag or two of those biscotti to take home!

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