I was looking at the latest GQ issue and I saw a recommendation for a 1998 Barolo called “Vigneto Arborina”.

It sounded good so I investigated it a bit.  The Robert Parker site reviewed this wine a few years ago and this is what they say:

11) Barolo “Vigneto Arborina” (Elio Altare)- $90 – 15 points (two 1st, four 2nd, one 3rd) – 93 rating Deeply colored. Fragrant nose of ripe cherry fruit is bold and expressive, but also shows some volatility. Quite backward on the palate now; youthfully tannic with great fruit, cedar and tobacco, tremendous richness and complexity. There’s lively acidity as well. Perhaps just a touch too much alcohol. One of the most backward wines tasted, this huge Barolo will start to reward in a decade – or two! Great candidate for cellaring. “

It definitely sounds a good wine to purchase either for yourself or as a gift for your wine expert friends.  It took me a while to find a place that has it.  I found it available at Bassins.com. There is not direct link, but you can just search for “vigneto arborina” and you will get the right result.  It’s selling for $60.  I am definitely ordering a bottle.

Review: La Spiga (Seattle)

January 28, 2007

[Note: this review applies to the “new” La Spiga – after they moved to the new location on 12th and Union]

I had dinner three times at La Spiga in the past couple of months.  I wanted to post a review earlier, but I felt I needed to visit the restaurant a few times before writing it.  I usually don’t do that, but given the circumstances I made an exception.

Before I go too much into the details.  Here’s my short scorecard (scores 1-10):

– Service: 5.5
– Food: 7
– Ambiance: 9
– Value: 7.5

Final take:  La Spiga new location is just awesome. The place is great and I like the modern industrial yet not-too cold feel.  But a restaurant (especially a great one) should be more about the content than the container. In other words service and food should be the main characters and this does not seem to be the case at La Spiga.  The food still tastes fairly authentic and fresh. Some dishes are better than others, but they consistently lack of “personality” – to me it seems like that there is not much love being put in the cooking.  The service is average at best, again there does not seem to be much passion in the air.  The value is still pretty good, the food is still fairly authentic and prices are good (especially when compared to other rip-off Italian restaurants in Seattle).  Now if they stopped being stingy with some of the dishes the value would be even better.

My main recommendation would be to cut back the number of choices on the menu and focus more on the execution.  From the service side it seems that there is not a consistent oversight of what’s going on.  With such a big place and so many waiters there needs to be a better system in place to guarantee an higher level of service…I have not seen this in place.  The good news is that it should be easy to fix. 

Short recap about the three times we went.
visit #1:  I went with some of my friends (and respective wifes).  It was a week after they opened in the new location.  The service was somewhat slow and the food was a hit or miss.  The good news is that we got a good break on the price, so overall it ended up being a positive experience…although without the price break I would not have been an happy customer.
visit #2:  Wow…this was a disaster.  I think it was the worse experience ever (ok…maybe second all time after a domican restaurant in the Carribeans a few years ago).  We were there for three hours, courses got lost, food was cold, waiter disappearing…I mean everything was a mess.  It was such a failure that I could not write a review at that point.  I needed to go again after a few weeks.  I had to give it a second third chance.
visit #3:  We went back last week.  It seemed that things had settled a bit and the experience was decisively better than the previous time.  It is about time to write a review. 

Service
In all of our visits the services has been average at best.  We had 5 waiters in the past three visits and none have been too good.  Many times you have to ask things a few times (not acceptable), but my main concern is that it seems that waiters don’t honestly care about the customers and they lack passion.  I saw the owner still attending the table.  With such large staff that should not be the case.  The owner should be supervising what’s going on and make sure that everyone is up to standards.  It seems that motivation and discipline are not where they should be.

Food
The good news: the overall quality of the food is still good.  Dishes feel fresh and authentic.  The not so good news is that I did not feel the “love” in the dishes, they lack “personality”.  This is a little difficult to explain and definitely an intangible, but it’s something that a few people I went with shared.  The piadina is still very authentic and the classic italian meats are a must.  The pasta are a hit or miss.  The gnocchi are plain but good (especially if you spice up the sauce), the risotto definitely need a kick.  The passatelli are pretty good soup/appetizer.

Ambiance
I love the new place.  They did a great job.  I was concerned that it would lose the cozy feeling that the previous location had, but I think they were able to keep the place faily cozy, although it’s ten times bigger.  I like the modern industrial feel mixed with the dark wood tables.  Very nice!

Value
The value is still very good.  Generally speaking Italian restaurants in Seattle are very overpriced and with average quality (aside from Machiavelli) and La Spiga distinguishes itself by balancing authentic quality food with good prices. The other thing is that – like in the previous location – the dishes are sometimes a little stingy.  Come on guys… there is a difference between good size portion and being just stingy! (example:  one of my friend ordered the “passatelli in brodo”…it was supposed to be a main entree…it turned to be less than a cup and she had to order another entree)

All in all you should pay a visit.  It is a place I would go with a group of friends.

Osteria la Spiga on Urbanspoon

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This is probably one of the longest names for a recipe! It’s also very misleading. Usually when you think about “saffron” and “shrimp” you think about something fancy and expensive that you can only get in some sophisticated restaurant.

In this post lets dimistify such belief! This recipe is super quick to make (20mins total) and cheap (I used frozen “quality” ingredients). The result is great!

Ingredients:

  • a small package of pasta of saffron pasta – I used half pound of “Rustichella D’Abruzzo Laganelle allo Zafferano”, you can also use different type of pastas (see a few examples at Amazon), but i would reccomend you stick to a long pasta.
  • a cup of frozen peas (organic would be better)
  • half pound of shrimp (the bigger ones)
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil (extra virgin)
  • a clove of garlic
  • pepper and salt
  • A bit of butter (i used half spoon but you could use more or less)
  • 1/2 glass of white wine

Steps:

The basic – add the oil in a nice pan, warm it up and add the chopped garlic.  Let is cooked for a minute or until golden.  At this point add the frozen peas and shrimp (on medium heat).   As soon as you are done, make sure that you get the water for the pasta going.  As mentioned above this is a quick dish.

The basics

Sauce is cooking – after  the shrimp and peas have been cooking for about 5mins it’s time to add the half glass of white wine, black pepper, salt and if you want to spice it up you can also add a few hot chilli pepper flakes.  Let is cook for another 5 mins on low/medium heat (super important – don’t let it dry up!).  At this point you should have the water boiling – start cooking the pasta.

sauce is cooking

Putting it together – after 5 mins you should have both the pasta and the sauce ready (if you have not added butter yet, this is a good time).  Drain the pasta and pour it in the sauce, combine for about a minute over medium heat.

combining the goods

Done – yes.  you are pretty much done.  Time to plate the dish, add some black pepper and serve the dish.

final dish

The dish is officially done.  As mentioned this should not take longer than 20 mins (end-to-end).  It’s a great simple yet sophisticated dish.  I would drink it with a nice dry white wine (chardonnay or pinot grigio).

Enjoy!

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it has been way too long…

January 28, 2007

It has been way too long since my last post.  I have been busy on a few side projects (mostly wishpot) and had no time to post new recipes or reviews.  Anyway, enough with the excuses.  I do have a few recipes ready to go and I will be posting them over the next couple of weeks.

If you have specific requests let me know…