Google maps killed my earlier habit of blogging here about places and food

When I started this blog a fair share of the content related to my travel and food experiences around the world.

Formally blogging is, in my opinion, a fairly involved process to ensure not only the content is relevant, but also the writing is at least properly structured. This, together with the fact that blogging is not a job for me and I have other hobbies too, led me to write only for significant experiences rather than always.

The excitement of writing was drying up over time (it is easy to see in the posting history) when the mechanism to contribute to Google Maps became available.

Albeit reviews on Maps tend to be shorter and a bit “twitter-style” the mechanism to contribute them is so convenient that I ended up being much more active than I was before.

An added stimulus to keep writing there is the monthly feedback showing the level of visibility of my contributions: reviews on Google Maps have a visibility that this blog never reached nor was ever going to reach while keeping its nature of a small side project.

If you are interested in keeping up with my reviews you should be able to find them here

I the end Google Maps contributions might be considered the last nail in the coffin of my writing, but I rather like to look at them just like an evolution of it and a greater value for the community than the earlier model.

2014: eating @ Bar della Crocetta in Milano

I used to eat at Bar della Crocetta since I was in my highschool days and the place was managed for almost 30 years by the same crew.
It was the best sandwich place of the entire city without any doubt: rich, creative, balanced in the mix of tastes.
Just fantastic.
But two years ago the owners have sold it.

three days ago, as I arrived at the door with my wife, I immediately noticed that something had changed: cleaner place, more light, no more sausages in display, female waiters.
In theory all good changes, but I had a negative gut feeling.

The place was almost empty, but it was the day of the soccer world championship final so it was reasonable.

The list of sandwiches got axed: about 70% less choice than in the past.
Also the list of different types of sausages halved.
I went for a classical sandwich (cipollata) that I had dozens of times in the past with the previous owners while my wife got something new based on Praga ham.

Then we started to wait.
More waiting.
After 30 minutes (with 12 customers in total in the place) we finally got the sandwiches and delusion with them.

The taste of my sandwich was just a pale memory of the original one and using the same name is absolutely inappropriate
Cipollata refers to the fact that it is based on onions (cipolle in Italian) but the quantity was so little and the onions so sweet that their contribution to the overall taste was minor.
The melted cheeses were too hard and not well amalgamated.
The thickness of the sandwich interior was about 60% of the old one while price adjusted with inflation was constant. Ans this was the XL version.
My wife complained tha the ham was sliced so thin that is was almost ethereal in her mouth and about the overall lack of taste. This never happened with the old owner.

To summarize: maybe now it is a healthier place, but it is no longer a place worth visiting.
The Bar della Crocetta si dead and anyone that experienced the place in the past should avoid it to avoid getting the same delusion I had.

The cook matters. In large Japanese restaurants even more.

I’ve posted in the past here about my positive experience when eating at Akai Hana in Rancho Bernardo.
When reading some negative comments I was very surprised as they were not matching my experience and I was unable to imagine how it was possible.
This changed one day last July that I was there alone, but accepted a table anyway contrary to my habitude of eating at the sushi bar.

I ordered a few of my preferred types of sushi and because I had no one distracting me from the food I had the time to focus on it.
I noticed several differences in the cutting and the assembly of the sushi compared to the way I was used to in that place, and the taste was not matching what I had just a day before.

I guess that the large difference is tied to the way the food is prepared in a Japanese restaurant compared to Italian restaurants where I’ve never experienced such a major swing in the taste of the food with the exception of changes of ownership.
While in a large Italian restaurant you find a number of people working in the kitchen the preparation of an individual dish is seldom a one-man process end-to-end and the chef supervises the activity of all the cooks so that the end result for a given dish is always the same.
This likely is not the way it works in the kitchen of a large japanese restaurant due to the nature of the sushi preparation.
For sure this is not happening when eating at the sushi bar where the cook is preparing the sushi and sashimi (and several other dishes) end to end without external collaboration.

Lesson learned: I’ll keep waiting for Hiro-san when eating at Akai Hana: they are very kind and let me have my hot tea while waiting.
I suggest that anyone going there gives them a second chance if not satisfied with the dinner at the table and wait for the sushi bar with my preferred cook.

Bernard’O restaurant in San Diego

Yesterday evening a colleague pushed me to go to Bernard’O for dinner.
The dishes in the menu appeared overly rich in the list of ingredients for my general preference when I took a glimpse before entering but looks like it is a fairly common practice in this area making the choice hard for someone looking for simple food.

I was not very hungry so I went for something small and that should fit well with the fact that the cook is french: a french onion soup.

While waiting we were offered bread and butter:
the bread was hot but fairly undercooked (at least for the italian standards) and the butter was absolutely sub par: almost perfectly tasteless.
If I decide to hit my health I want it to be worth and I think this should be a general guidance for everyone.
Skip the butter altogether at Bernard’O.

Then the onion soup arrived.
The first thing that I noticed as soon as I raised the first spoon is that the broth was heavy on taste enhancers.
I wonder if it actually ever had the opportunity to see some actual meat.
The taste was very heavy on pepper while the onion test was almost completely missing: ridiculous for an onion soup.
It’s a classical french dish: it’s not acceptable to have it made like this in a french restaurant.

The restaurant site claims that they won the “best french restaurant in San Diego” in 2008.
Either they changed cook in the meanwhile or I don’t want to try any other french restaurant in the area.

Save yourself the money (the place is not cheap) and the time and avoid it as long as you can.

Dinner @ The Balcony Restaurant of the Bella Sky in Copenhagen

On Tuesday I’ve had a very fatiguing day and I’ve decided to have the dinner with a colleague of mine in the restaurant of the hotel where we were for work.

I sat down at 9pm and after a few minutes a very kind waiter came to pickup the orders.
I selected one of the two available menu (starter+main course+dessert) and my colleague got a starter and a main course with a side dish.

My salmon tartare had almost no salmon taste left after the preparation and was in the range of the 35 grams. Given the taste the small quantity was a benefit.
The salad with roasted goat cheese was good and a fair amount.

Main courses:
I had a beef steak and my colleague a tuna steak; when asked we both said we wanted our grilled food made rare.
Unfortunately it looks like the concept of rare is not shared across the globe as we had only a light hint on pink in che very center of the steak.
The grilled vegetables were ok albeit nothing to write home about and the same is true for the fried potatoes.

The dessert (Crème brûlée with pear sorbet) tasted good, but to arrive to the dessert it took over 90 minutes and the time was split into 75 minutes of waiting and 15 of eating: really too much!

Cost of the dinner: 128 euro with water and without any wine.

Do yourself a favor if you happen to stay in the Bella Sky hotel: take the metro and go to eat somewhere else.

Sushi @Akai Hana

Often time when I stay in Rancho Bernardo I enjoy the sushi bar of this restaurant.
I usually seat near mr. Hiro-san when I’m dining alone as looking at him preparing the food is a great view and an additional bonus to the food.
The best position to have a good vision is his left hand side and not directly in front of him.

I keep away from the americanized dishes and stick to classical ones (ikura, ika, ama ebi, toro, tamago etc.) asking every time for a suggestion for something that is new for me.
I’m always satisfied with the raw fish quality and the cook is very kind even when sometimes I ask for something that is not supposed to be served at the bar.

I strongly recommend this restaurant to anyone in the area that likes japanese food.

If you can’t afford a relevant bill do like I do: little quantity but great quality.
Your mouth and your body will both thank you.

Millemiglia frequent flyer miles program about to restart

Starting January 2013 the miles of the Alitalia frequent flyer program will be accumulated in a new program and will not add to the previous ones.
There it is still time to spend them until June 2013 according to the email I received.

I’ve decided to donate them to my preferred charity the Fondazione Banco Alimentare Onlus.
It’s as simple as sending an email to (as long as you have at least 10.000 miles in your account) with the following data:
Your Millemiglia code
Your first name and last name
The amount of miles that you want to donate
The desired charity from the list available on the Alitalia site: Fondazione Banco Alimentare Onlus in my case.

If you live in Italy don’t forget Saturday November 24th to participate in the Colletta Alimentare Nazionale. I’ll be volunteering here most of the day if you are in the area just drop by.

Dinner @ Bar SU-shin in Hannover

First of all the key message: you can safely skip this place.

I picked up the place based on the review on Tripadvisor and it turned out to be a bad decision.

The selection of sushi is fairly narrow and non everything in the menu was available.
The food tasted ok (better than oriental pseudo-sushi fast food), but nothing to write home about or to warrant another visit.

Getting the bill split correctly was a challenging task: I surrendered after the third failed attempt at getting the right amounts.

Visciolata del cardinale

Yesterday I’ve opened a bottle that was waiting for me for a while.

Visciolata del cardinale is an alcoholic beverage of medium strength (14% vol.) made out of wine, visciole (Prunus cerasus) and sugar.
The scent recalls the german kirschwasser with a clear mark of cherry.
The taste is fruity and astringent.
The sourness of the visciole is strong yet balanced by the sugar.
It’s a great conclusion for a good dinner.

I discovered the visciolata during the summer holiday when I visited the grotte di Frasassi and the surroundings.
While the visit to the caves is great in itself I find always nice to have something good to bring home.

Tagliatelle al burro @ Mangiari di strada

Sometimes it makes sense to blog about a food that is supposedly very mundane like pasta with butter.
In this specific case because it was not a common mass-produced pasta and it was not an industrial butter.

The tagliatelle were hand made in front of the guests.
This makes all the difference in the world: the freshness and the process ensure a very special texture that commercial products can’t match.
If you never tried the fresh pasta I feel sorry for you because you can’t appreciate the difference and are missing a great experience.

I’ve already commented a couple of weeks ago about a great butter: it was great with the anchovies back then and it was great on tagliatelle today.