travel

All’ Antico Vinaio

Here begins my food blogging journey of my year abroad, in Florence, Italy! I am so happy I found All’ Antico Vinaio early on, because it is a gold mind of cured meats and cheeses. Tucked away on Via de Neri, a few streets up from the Arno river, this sandwich & charcuterie shop is anything but unknown. It has been rated by all the top food and travel websites as one of the places to get a phenomenal sandwich in Florence, which also means there is always a line. But, trust me when I say that not matter how long the line, it is worth the wait one hundred times over. All’ Antico Vinaio offers two types of dining; One were you can sit indoors in there intimate dining room with a antipasto platter of meats, cheeses, spreads, veggies, and jams while enjoying one of their many bottles of wine ( This is Italy after all, so I emphasize bottles).

…and this is the small!

Or you can venture a few meters across the street to their original claim to fame, and host of the infamous line, their sandwich shop. Here there are 2-3 men at any given time preparing the freshest, meatiest, cheesiest, most mouthwatering sandwiches with a sense of style and grace I never thought I’d use to describe sandwich construction. For starters, their menu consists of white writing on tall, thin chalk boards at the entrance to the shop. They make one thing, and one thing only which is Foccacia Misto, and rings in at 5 euro (7 if you splurge for the specialty meats). Listed below are all your cheese, spread, and vegetable options (which you can add as many as will fit in your sandwich for still 5 euro). Then listed on a separate board is the shining glory of your sandwich, the meats. It is stated very clearly at the bottom of the list that mixing meats is not allowed nor will it be tolerated. I believe they called it Blasphemy! There are at least 7 different meat options, 8 or so different cheeses to choose from, 6 types of spreads, and a variety of vegetable toppings. It may seem a little overwhelming at first but you will have plenty of time in line to decide, and even if you can’t, the guys behind the counter are super friendly and will even offer to build you their ideal sandwich. Also, while waiting in line be mindful and cautious of the men running back and forth between the restaurants with fresh stacks of their homemade foccacia.

For my first order, and I say first because I know for a fact I will be returning countless times, I went with proscuitto (freshly sliced as I wiped the drool from my face), pecorino toscano fresco, truffle crema, spicy eggplant, zucchini, arugula salad, olive oil, salt, and pepper. When the man handed it to me over the counter the only words I could muster in my state of pure awe and excitement were “It’s so beautiful!”

Now to put this in perspective for you guys, this sandwich felt like I was cradling a small, soccer ball sized baby in my hands. It was wrapped up just so, making  it impossible for any of those delectable ingredients to fall out of the bottom, but leaving every other part of the sandwich exposed for me to dig right in. I did just that, and never looked back.

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The flavors were amazing. The meat was perfectly salty, the cheese had just the right bite, and let me tell you, you know nothing of paradise until you have had this truffle crema. I couldn’t have been more satisfied with this sandwich.

Since I plan to become a regular at this place I will be updating this post every time I try a new combination of love…I mean ingredients…which in this sandwich’s case could very well substitute for love. So be ready, and try your hardest to re-create these back in the states!

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Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America

Craft beer is one of the hottest topics in food, pop culture, and the blog-osphere at the moment. So, throughout the month of July, one of the pioneers of craft brewing in the U.S., Sierra Nevada and 12 other craft breweries from across the country made the smart move to capitalize on this recent trendiness of craft beers! It all started with a glorious 12-pack collaboration between Sierra Nevada and these 12 craft breweries, and continued onto this craft beer tasting festival across America. The variety 12-pack was distributed to grocery and specialty stores across the country, and the festival appropriately dubbed Beer Camp (the best kind of adult-only summer camp) made 7 stops across the country highlighting not only the collaboration brews but the scene of local craft breweries as well. And if spreading the knowledge and mouthwatering-ness that is craft beer across the country wasn’t enough, the proceeds from the tickets went toward supporting the local brewers guilds.

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As a recently proclaimed, avid craft beer junky, I was of course anxiously awaiting the release of this glorious 12-pack and began to panic was I wasn’t finding it in any of my local grocery or specialty stores. But thankfully, through the wonders of social media I reserved the last one from Whole Foods in Portland, ME (one of the stops on the Beer Camp tour) and picked it up during my weeks vacation at one of Maine’s glorious beaches. So lucky me, I got to taste, enjoy, and dissect each of these specially crafted beers while lounging in the sun with my feet in the sand. Sounds almost too good to be true, and that’s why it only lasted a week 😉

Let me pull you out of your day-dream and back onto the contents of this fabulous, orange box. The promotion of this one-time only variety 12-pack contains 10 bottles and 2 cans, and all suggested to be consumed ASAP to appreciate the flavors of the hops, malts, and barley at their freshest (like that would be a problem).

 

BEERS AND THEIR BREWERS

There and Back: English Style Bitter – New Glarus Brewing Company

Alt Route: Altbier – Victory Brewing Company

Double Latte: Coffee Milk Stout – Ninkasi Brewing Company

Myron’s Walk: Belgian-Style Pale Ale – Allagash Brewing Company

Tater Ridge: Scottish Ale – Asheville Brewers Alliance

Yvan the Great: Belgian-Style Blonde – Russian River Brewing Company

Torpedo Pilsner: Hoppy Pilsner – Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Chico King: Pale Ale – 3 Floyds Brewing Co.

Electric Ray: India Pale Lager – Ballast Point Brewing Company

Maillard’s Odyssey: Imperial Dark Ale – Bell’s Brewing Inc.

Yonder Bock: Tropical Maibock – Cigar City Brewing

Canfusion: Rye Bock – Oskar Blues Brewery

Since I am still somewhat of a novice when it comes to all the terminology that goes into craft beer and brewing (learning more and more everyday!) I can’t comment too much on the methods these beers were brewed with or get into the depths of their components. However, I can give you my opinion on their tastes, flavor profiles, and all-around drinkability! I’ll start with my top 3:

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Maillard’s Odyssey was my #1 favorite of them all because, really, it combined the best qualities of my 2 other favorites; the hopiness from the Pilsner and the richer sweetness from the Stout. It had a great bite and bitterness to it, and wasn’t too heavy so I could drink it all day long if I wanted (and oh boy did I want!). But this bad boy also comes in at a hefty 8.5% ABV, so beware!

The Torpedo Pilsner was on the lighter side, with a nice bite and was just so damn refreshing! With a nice, crisp finish and an ABV of only 5.2% I could keep this one flowing.

Double Latte comes in on the totally opposite end of the spectrum, and that’s what I also liked so much about it. I have never really been a fan of heavier beers and stouts, but this Coffee Milk Stout changed my entire outlook on life! (cue The Grinch voiceover). It’s most definitely a rich and creamy, more dessert-style beer (one will suffice at 7.6% ABV), but I got hooked on the aroma alone!

These next 2 beers stood out to m because 1) I am an avid IPA (of any sort, the hoppier the better) fan and 2) I have never heard of a Maibock before (still a craft beer newbie here).

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The lager base of Electric Ray puts the hops at center stage where their bitterness can come through in the best way. So since hopiness and a nice bitter bite have become one of my favorite qualities in a beer I thoroughly enjoyed what Ballast Point put together with this flavor-packed, 8.5% ABV brew.

Yonder Bock stood out to me because of its cleaner, crisper and lightly sweet flavors, along with my complete curiosity about what the heck a Maibock is. Turns out Cigar City Brewing knows a thing or two about making a damn good Maibock because when I did some background research this beer hit every key-note, and then some, of what the ideal Maibock should be. The delicious tropical flavors didn’t hurt either! Also dangerously light for a 7.7% ABV.

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The Empties

The rest of the Beer Camp family was quite tasty, and I wouldn’t complain if the breweries added these special edition brews to their regular line up. I also enjoyed the variety of cans and bottles. I think Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp was a genius way to bring craft beer to the masses and help spread the word about local breweries across the country.