29th March 2016
Interview: Killian Fox
Dinner with my mom and sister at Bağarası in Bodrum last summer. It’s this very simple meze place with tables outside beneath light-strewn trees. The Aegean mezes – stuffed squash blossoms, wild greens, and olive oil-simmered vegetables – are so good, but the liver is even better. It’s in one of those tourist-free bits of Bodrum that is so serene, not to mention increasingly rare.
Fried shrimp for sure. Perhaps it is not the most iconic dish from New Jersey circa 1990, but eating fried food was a special occasion for us and when we got to go out and eat a mountain of fried shrimp doused in hot sauce, that was the best thing ever.
I actually think what happens before I even get into the kitchen is more important than what I do in there. Spending time in markets and choosing gorgeous local produce cultivated thoughtfully or meat raised responsibly is so central to a delicious final product. My greatest kitchen talent is probably the restraint it takes to let the ingredients speak for themselves. I just provide the seasoning and heat!
Gricia (pasta with guanciale, black pepper, and Pecorino) with artichokes. And roasted chicken (a properly roasted chicken is a glorious thing) with potatoes.
I recently visited Acetaia San Giacomo near Parma and came home with a potentially lethal amount of vinegar. The traditional aged balsamic is wonderful, of course, but I have been practically drinking their Balsamela, a sweet, tart, and thick vinegar made from apples. I put it on cheese, salads, meat, dessert, and sometimes just eat it with a spoon.
Pretty much every Roman kitchen comes furnished with basic utensils, a testament to the fact that there’s no need for an elaborate set-up to cook the Roman way. A warped aluminium pan, a pot for boiling water, a roasting pan, basic knives, a pasta strainer and a cutting board will do just fine. The classic moka, another standard-issue instrument in Roman kitchens, makes the worst coffee so what I couldn’t live without is my own coffee set-up: grinder, French Press and Chemex.
Ada Boni’s Talismano della Felicità. There are a zillion recipes and it’s a huge tome that’s so cumbersome it has caused more than a few spills!
Salt meat overnight. My boyfriend is currently writing a book on meat and knows everything that happens on a cellular level, but I can tell you it makes a huge difference in the final product.
It would have to be Turkey because the biodiversity of the country is mindboggling and the varied geography, microclimates, and differing cultures means there is a huge variety of ingredients to work with. The cuisine of the Aegean coast, rich in olive oil and fish and vegetables is wonderful, but so is the bulgur and lamb and spice-rich cuisine of the Hatay and everything in between.
I cannot stand canned hearts of palm or raw rhubarb (the wild version is a seasonal snack in Turkey). I eat everything else.
When Pulp Fiction’s Jules Winfield (Samuel L Jackson) encounters Big Kahuna burgers: “the cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast”.
I love Tavernaccia da Bruno near Ponte Testaccio and Stazione Trastevere. The family run place opened in 1968 and serves the most satisfying carnivorous dishes like brisket or suckling pig baked in the wood fired oven. Their wine list is wonderful and the desserts are great and actually I love the pastas, too. What makes a good thing even better is that the staff is so nice. There’s none of that special treatment and polite service reserved for regulars-only nonsense that is too pervasive in this town.
Bad and arrogant wine service annoys me perhaps more than any other form of incompetence in a restaurant. As a lifelong member of the hospitality industry, I find it mind boggling that even fine restaurants in Rome cannot pull off proper wine service and seem incapable of acknowledging a woman’s professional expertise at the table.
After a long day of touring in Rome, I often head to the bar at Salumeria Roscioli for burrata and Champagne. In Rome, these things are only relatively indulgent. At counter in London or NYC the investment would be two to three times what Roscioli asks, but here such a snack is seen as quite extravagant. In the late fall, I visit the same counter for pasta with butter and white truffles and a bottle of Barolo.
##TastingRome @roscioliristorante A photo posted by Katie Parla (@katieparla) on
I eat the old-school Roman breakfast of pizza bianca, a simple flatbread seasoned with salt and olive oil. Before the industrial cornetti trend descended on Italy in the 1970s, Rome’s local breakfast was a sweet bun or a slice of pizza, and as an eternal pizza lover I reach for the latter. I follow this up with a double espresso.
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