Culinary Concierge

culinary concierge, blog

ViaMedina is a culinary concierge service providing private chefs, cooking lessons, exclusive events, and interactive food and wine tours.

Posts in Food
Fire it Up! Guanciale Fresca

Summer is here, and especially in Italy that means finding new and creative ways to not have to use your oven so that you stand a chance of surviving the searing heat of the season. Plus, while Italy might not have the same tradition of grilling and barbecuing as the United States, there are still plenty of ways to get your cook on outside and make it a pretty spectacular event. 

It's still fairly commonplace for homes in Italy to have an outdoor cooking area, and many include a wood fired oven. That's right, it is really just that idyllic around here that people have pizza ovens in their backyards that they can just fire up and do some incredible cooking with. Yes friends, everything you've heard is true and yes, you are entitled to the jealousy raging in your belly. 

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Traditional dishes of Tuscania

Our adopted home of Tuscania is about 80km north of Rome and 30km south of Tuscany, in an area known alternatively as Tuscia, Maremma, or that stuff you pass as you leave Rome to go to Florence.  As such the culinary roots of the area are an extensive tangle of Roman specialities like pasta (cacio e pepe, amatriciana and our favourite mystery, carbonara) combined with some of the canonical Tuscan dishes like cacciatore, acquacotta and porchetta. There are also some pretty incredible offal and organ dishes within this library that, while not for everyone, are still a really worthwhile thing to try out. 

For a little town there's a lot to choose from, and recipes will very according from one family to another. And trust us, this is in no way a definitive list; we'll keep adding as we go and if anyone has a dish that is a must, we'd love to hear from you. 

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Veal Heart

I know, I know, it's another post about something that you'll probably think is gross. The heart. Because you're all lovers, not fighters and you think that eating a heart is just about as close as you can get to your favourite scene in Hannibal (I hear series 3 gets awesome, by the way). But like many other things, I think that once I've explained how I prepare it and how great it can be, you'll be convinced to try it yourself. It really is a fantastic cut of meat and I very much encourage you to try it out. 

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Sego Ciambellone

I was really delighted and frankly surprised by all of the feedback that our post about preparing and using tallow (or Sego in Italian) received since we published it. It's great to think that people are perhaps warming to the idea of learning about different fats again and that some of the stigma attached to using animal fats is perhaps starting to be lifted. That, and they did look cute wrapped up in their hipster brown paper. 

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Sego, some truths about food blogging and an apology

The image above is of beef fat which, when rendered, becomes what we call tallow in English and sego in Italian. Our contemporary opinions of animal fats, which range from the dismissive to the squeamish have resulted in a steady decline in the use of them. We have grown to favour a spectrum of alternative fats: on the one end are oils like Olive, Coconut and Avocado which are all admittedly delicious and carry with them a range of health benefits. On the other end are so called 'healthy' fats like margarine or its like, which are not so much healthy as they are simply unrecognized as having any business in the human body and thus tend to leave as they came, undigested and unchanged. 

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Preserving Tomatoes Part 2: Homemade Ketchup

The origin of ketchup is actually incredibly fascinating and tells the story of immigration, ingenuity and the power of food to tell the story of a people. Honestly, I'm really not lying about this. Because we could never do justice to it, we encourage everyone to head over to Dan Jurafsky's piece about ketchup's evolution from a pickled fish brine to a thin mushroom type sauce to the sweet tomato nectar we all know and love today. And while it's more (much more, really- read the article!) than tomato sauce, our modern ketchup is also much more than the store bought paste we've all become used to slathering on our burgers.

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Touching a Nervetti

I've cooked a lot of different meats in the confines of a kitchen. Much of it has been the standard stuff: grilled steak, braised shortribs, roasted legs of lamb.  I have also cooked some not so typical offerings like headcheese, brain custard and crispy ears because they are both delicious when done right, and I firmly believe in using every part of an animal in order to make its consumption as close to ethical as possible. Until coming to Tuscania however, I had not however even thought about cooking tendons. They have never been on a menu and no supplier in England or America has ever offered them to me. When we slaughtered the latest cows at Casa Caponetti, I bagged them up and put them in the freezer in the 'save everything, use everything' spirit; mostly however, I labeled them Future Mark's problem. 

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