Dinner with Franklin

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I love the way Italians enjoy their food. After visiting all my recommended restaurants in Verona, I sat down at my favorite place, Enoteca Can Grande, with my friend and guide, Franklin. We let the chef, Giuliano, bring us whatever he wanted. Franklin’s a local. He knows the cuisine. And just to see Franklin swoon over the food made the evening even better than the impact of Giuliano’s fine food and wine. Here are a few of Franklin’s comments as the food came and we ate (perhaps some a bit impolite, but all from the stomach end of the heart):

With the first of many small plates, Franklin is delighted. “Raw Piedmont beef, carne cruda. It is like seeing the smile of a beautiful woman after ten years. You never forget her.”

I ask, “Sublime is an Italian word, no?” He says, “Yes, soo-blee-may…this is sublime.” The wine is Amarone della Valpolicella. It is sublime.

Giuliano brings a plate of various cold cuts — glistening in a way that lets you know it’s nothing but the best — and we ponder: If you had to choose between salami and cheese in life, which would you choose? Both agree that it would be a terrible choice…but cheese. Then we nibble the mortadella with truffle, and it complicates the matter. Mortadella is the local baloney — not a high-end meat. But with the black truffle, it’s exquisite. Imagine calling spam exquisite…just add truffle.

And if you had to choose between white and red wine? Franklin says, “I used to smoke, and I compared white wine and red like cigarettes and a good Cuban cigar. And I enjoyed my Cuban cigars.” Then he gets distracted by the herb decorating the next little mozzarella dish. After tasting a sprig, he says, “Yes, fresh… It’s normally served dried. The chef is a genius, brilliant with mozzarella.”

Then comes the best polenta I’ve ever tasted. Italian cuisine is like a religion — and it’s the quality of the ingredients that’s most sacred. Polenta comes in varieties, like white bread and whole-grain bread. This is the darker polenta integrale, using the entire corn. And it comes with anchovies. Anchovies and polenta go together…a good marriage. It’s the simple things — the anchovies, the olive oil, the polenta integrale, and the proper matching of flavors — that can bring the most joy at the table.

Noticing how Franklin polishes every plate, I say, “You even eat the speckles.” He says, “Yes, I would feel like a sinner not to.” And, sipping his wine, he adds, “And to not finish the Amarone — Dante would have to create a new place in hell. Mortal sin.”

Then comes the pumpkin ravioli. I hold the warm and happy tire of my full tummy and say, “Basta.” Giovanni, looking at my Amarone, realizes we need another bottle. He warns us, “Next I bring you a small cheese course.”

Franklin says, “I’m not so religious, but for this cheese, with Amarone, I fall on my knees.” I agree, saying, “In cheese we trust.” He compliments my economy of words and repeats, “Yes, in cheese we trust.” I say, “This cheese plate takes dessert to new heights.” Franklin, playing with the voluptuous little slices, says, “Even if we do not talk, with these cheeses we have a good conversation.”

I support my happy head with my hand as Franklin pours the last of our second bottle into my glass and we move into the parmesan and the gorgonzola. Franklin, taking the last dribble into his glass, says, “If this was my only wine, I could be monogamous.”

It occurs to me we must have tasted thirty different ingredients — all of them top-quality and in harmonious combinations. Franklin again marvels at how the chef was creative and unpredictable without garish combinations — no gorgonzola ice cream.

Giuliano asks if I’d like anything else. I ask, “Dov’è il letto?” Franklin agrees and says, “Yes, a good restaurant should come with a bed.”


22 Replies to “Dinner with Franklin”

  1. Italy is the one country I have to loose 5-10 lbs before I go. No matter how much walking or hiking we do I always eat more calories in two weeks than I can burn off with any amount of exercise. The most simple food tastes so much fresher and better than any where I have ever been.

  2. “Playing with the voluptuous little slices”. Isn’t this the kind of hedonism in travel Rick usually preaches against? Various cuisines can be found right here in the United States and you do not have to spew carbon into the atmosphere flying around the world to eat it.

  3. Rick….these are the riches of the world thanks for bringing them to our doorstep! I think eating the cheese/food and drinking the wines of Italy IN Italy is the truest way to really understand the terroir. Rick thanks so much for taking the time to post such a marvelous post. Franklin’s remark re; the Amarone is inspired!! Amarone is nectar!!

  4. Thanks for taking us to dinner with you via this blog entry. I really loved it. You have a natural flair for expressing yourself, as does Franklin. This had me smiling the whole way through.

  5. C’mon, Bill…lighten up! “…spew carbon into the atmosphere…” As soon as industries around the world STOP their “spewing” I shall stop riding planes to get to the Nirvana of foods…and, Bill, believe me, it ain’t the U S of A…..

  6. Terroir, a French word which means inventing marketing mythologies about food that leads people to pay very high prices for agricultural products that can not compete with more efficiently produced products from America that feeds a large portion of the worlds population. I will lighten up when people stop thinking that two wrongs make a right.

  7. My sister and bro-in-law are traveling w/you. I will read your blog daily to keep tabs on them. They are Bonnie & Dale.

  8. This posting is again proof that when Rick is in the travel “groove” he is the best there is. Rudy is such a puss in comparison. Now if Rick were to leave his politics at the seashore his posts would be bliss. Don’t forget that at one time ETBD was to be donating a portion of each of our tour fee to some kind of carbon indulgences to make us all feel better for destroying the planet, making the oceans boil and volcanoes erupt, all the while we were cramming our faces full of truffled fatty meats and guzzling ambrosial nectars thousands of miles from home. Bring on the hedonism! I have never had a truly bad day in Europe, so much to learn so little time left. However I know the USA food producers have made immeasurable strides in producing quality niche foods. Please try American olive oils, wines, chocolates, meats, etc etc. While the bruschetta in Civita was indeed kissed by God the tomatoes were no better than my own Ohio grown tomatoes. Then again how could the tomatoes eaten in my 140 year old home taste anything like the ones in Civita, eaten while sitting by the olive press with the dust of Etruscans gently alighting on my bruschetta? Damn the big blue marble, let’s go to Italy!!!

  9. What bill is ignoring is that ETBD does a LOT of tree-planting to offset the company’s carbon footprint. I think his postings are indicative of petty jealousy rather than a real concern for the earth. If he were truly concerned, he wouldn’t be burning carbon using his computer…

  10. Nice post Rick. Thanks. I know your busy but I appreciate reading them. Please keep them coming. Everyone needs to lay off Bill. His original comment did seem harsh and accusational but his point is well taken by any level-headed person. Dissension is America’s greatest natural resource and probably our most desired export. Celebrate it. Don’t get defensive, it just proves him right when you do and reveals this community to be a little more petty than I ever imagined.

  11. More than the fine taste of the food, Franklins attitude about enjoying the small things around you. That is why I love Italy, they are just happy and embrace the small things. And really enjoy the moment of just the simple life.

  12. Planting trees is just a ‘feel good’ way to excuse polluting. Once the damage is done, it’s done!

  13. Eating is the most hedonistic of activities, if you do it correctly. For some, food is merely fuel. For those of us who cherish the experience of eating well, there are few other pleasures in life that compare. Whether I dine (yes, dine) in Europe or San Francisco, the experience of dining on spectacular food and drinking great wines and spirits is one I remember long after I have pushed the table away and thanked my host and dining companions for sharing the time with me. I don’t criticize the motives or the ethics of those who don’t choose to share my joys. Rick’s dinner with Franklin was one I would have gladly shared. Lest I give the wrong impression, one of the most thrilling dining experiences I have had in recent years took place over a shared loaf of bread mated with a good, tangy sheeps’ milk cheese and fresh tomatoes, all washed down with a bottle of generic red wine and followed with an excellent piece of dark chocolate. This all took place on a hill overlooking the harbor in Capri, sitting on a park bench with my wife of many years. Could I have enjoyed a different, wonderful experience elsewhere? Sure. Do i feel guilty for having experienced it all in Italy? Not hardly. Life is about actually living well, about actually smelling the coffee, and about remembering a moment when time actually slowed enough to be enjoyed thoroughly. w

  14. Thank goodness for no gorgonzala ice cream. I did once have a perfectly delicious Riesling ice in Germany.

  15. BILL, you make an excellent point about the importance of limiting our carbon-spewing travels. HOWEVER, please keep in mind that it’s actually not called “America Through the Back Door.” Rick makes a living from writing about, blogging about, and selling tours to …you guessed it…Europe. Not Wisconsin’s cheeses, nor Niagara-on-the-Lake’s (Ontario) wines. So boo-hoo to me, and boo-hoo to you.

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