Best meals 2011: Le Logge (Siena)

Thanks again to my friends Marina and Francesco who treated me to this incredible dinner at Laura Brunelli’s Osteria Le Logge in October of this year…

I’d eaten at Le Logge many years ago but not since the Brunelli family brought chef Nico Atrigna (right) to Siena from Campania in the mid-1990s. Laura Brunelli (left), whom I’d never met, also dined with us.

Parisi Slow-Cooked Egg with Dashi Broth, Licorice, Chives.

Note the intense yellow orange of the yolk. Parisi feeds his chickens goat milk to obtain the rich flavor and color. The best egg I’ve ever had, hands down. (See Katie Parla’s excellent post on Parisi.)

Marinated Anchovies with Tomato and Spring Onion.

Ricotta Pudding with Eggplant and Thyme Cream.

Ox Tongue with Cured Cinta Senese Shoulder Served over a Spinach Orzotto. (Cinta Senese is Siena’s heirloom striped pig, smaller in size than most hogs, making for ineffably delicate salt-cured pork.)

Veal Roulades Stuffed with Escarole and Pine Nuts Served over a Raisin and Onion Ragù.

Lamb Confit with Dried Fava Bean and Swiss Chard Sauce.

What did we drink?

Except for the Gianni Brunelli 2004 Brunello di Montalcino, all of the wines from Thursday night’s dinner at Le Logge came from my generous friend Francesco’s cellar (see below).

Giorgio Grai 1982 Alto Adige Cabernet

In nearly every region of Italy where I’ve tasted, I’ve met winemakers who cite Giorgio Grai as their mentors. I met the man once, many years ago, in New York at a tasting of his wines at Le Cirque. Now in his 80s, the tireless Italian master continues to consult and make wine (and drive race cars). Elegant, refined, polyglot, polymath… I think of him as the James Bond of Italian wine. Francesco called him from the table and we shared the immense sensorial and intellectual pleasure inspired by this wine, still very youthful in its development.

The acidity and freshness in this wine were brilliant and its focus and precision awe-inspiring. Ripe red fruit with notes of cinnamon and eastern spice and a gentle menthol note that emerged with aeration. Where other expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon make me yawn, this wine made me cry…

Baron de Ladoucette 1983 Pouilly-Fumé Baron de L

This wine was actually the opener but ubi major, minor cessat… I have to confess that I had never tasted Ladoucette: Francesco informed me that the winery’s Baron de L is considered one of the great (if not the greatest) expression of Pouilly-Fumé and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine shared its last breath of life with us, rewarding us with richness in mouthfeel and flavors of lemon custard and freshly baked pie crust and a gentle aromatic note of country herbs. With aeration, it started to wilt but its last gasps of vitality were thrilling.

Gianni Brunelli 2004 Brunello di Montalcino

When Francesco asked Laura Brunelli which vintage of her family’s wine we should drink, she and sommelier Mirko agreed that the 2004 is in a moment of grace. Its current openness shared that signature zinging acidity of Brunelli’s Sangiovese, with plum fruit and intense minerality and just a touch of savory (think carpaccio not filet mignon). Gorgeous wine that will probably close up again soon.

Duckhorn 1983 Napa Valley Merlot Three Palms

Francesco inherited his Americanophilia from his father, whose happy memories of the American liberation of Italy during the second world war, said Francesco, spurred his father to go west. Knowing that I’m from California, Francesco brought the Duckhorn as a homage to my origins. It surprised us with bright red fruit on the nose and honest acidity. But the dominance of wood in the mouth disappointed me. As balanced as it was otherwise, the wood sat on top of the wine, lacking cohesion with the other elements. Alas… America’s love affair with oaky wine always leaves me scratching my head…

I was so happy to meet Francesco and his lovely wife Marina back in June in Apulia, where he and I were both judges in a Southern Italian wine competition. Their familiar Paduan cadence brought back memories of my many years at the Università di Padova. Francesco is the president of Vinarius, the association of Italian wineshop owners. I enjoy Francesco’s company and conversation immensely and his tales of the late and great Italian wine importer Lou Iacucci had me on the edge of my seat. Here’s the link to his wine shop, just off the Piazza del Campo.

1982 Giorgio Grai made me weep

Except for the Gianni Brunelli 2004 Brunello di Montalcino, all of the wines from Thursday night’s dinner at Le Logge came from my generous friend Francesco’s cellar (see below).

Giorgio Grai 1982 Alto Adige Cabernet

In nearly every region of Italy where I’ve tasted, I’ve met winemakers who cite Giorgio Grai as their mentors. I met the man once, many years ago, in New York at a tasting of his wines at Le Cirque. Now in his 80s, the tireless Italian master continues to consult and make wine (and drive race cars). Elegant, refined, polyglot, polymath… I think of him as the James Bond of Italian wine. Francesco called him from the table and we shared the immense sensorial and intellectual pleasure inspired by this wine, still very youthful in its development.

The acidity and freshness in this wine were brilliant and its focus and precision awe-inspiring. Ripe red fruit with notes of cinnamon and eastern spice and a gentle menthol note that emerged with aeration. Where other expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon make me yawn, this wine made me cry…

Baron de Ladoucette 1983 Pouilly-Fumé Baron de L

This wine was actually the opener but ubi major, minor cessat… I have to confess that I had never tasted Ladoucette: Francesco informed me that the winery’s Baron de L is considered one of the great (if not the greatest) expression of Pouilly-Fumé and Sauvignon Blanc. This wine shared its last breath of life with us, rewarding us with richness in mouthfeel and flavors of lemon custard and freshly baked pie crust and a gentle aromatic note of country herbs. With aeration, it started to wilt but its last gasps of vitality were thrilling.

Gianni Brunelli 2004 Brunello di Montalcino

When Francesco asked Laura Brunelli which vintage of her family’s wine we should drink, she and sommelier Mirko agreed that the 2004 is in a moment of grace. Its current openness shared that signature zinging acidity of Brunelli’s Sangiovese, with plum fruit and intense minerality and just a touch of savory (think carpaccio not filet mignon). Gorgeous wine that will probably close up again soon.

Duckhorn 1983 Napa Valley Merlot Three Palms

Francesco inherited his Americanophilia from his father, whose happy memories of the American liberation of Italy during the second world war, said Francesco, spurred his father to go west. Knowing that I’m from California, Francesco brought the Duckhorn as a homage to my origins. It surprised us with bright red fruit on the nose and honest acidity. But the dominance of wood in the mouth disappointed me. As balanced as it was otherwise, the wood sat on top of the wine, lacking cohesion with the other elements. Alas… America’s love affair with oaky wine always leaves me scratching my head…

I was so happy to meet Francesco and his lovely wife Marina back in June in Apulia, where he and I were both judges in a Southern Italian wine competition. Their familiar Paduan cadence brought back memories of my many years at the Università di Padova. Francesco is the president of Vinarius, the association of Italian wineshop owners. I enjoy Francesco’s company and conversation immensely and his tales of the late and great Italian wine importer Lou Iacucci had me on the edge of my seat. Here’s the link to his wine shop, just off the Piazza del Campo.

What did we eat? Click here to find out. Thanks again, Francesco!

The best meal in Italy so far: Le Logge, Siena

Honestly, the meal, earlier in the week, at Valter Scarbolo’s Frasca in Friuli was an all-time great. But dinner last Thursday in Siena with friends Marina and Francesco at Laura Brunelli’s Osteria Le Logge was one of the best meals of my life.

I’d eaten at Le Logge many years ago but not since the Brunelli family brought chef Nico Atrigna (right) to Siena from Campania in the mid-1990s. Laura Brunelli (left), whom I’d never met, also dined with us.

Parisi Slow-Cooked Egg with Dashi Broth, Licorice, Chives.

Note the intense yellow orange of the yolk. Parisi feeds his chickens goat milk to obtain the rich flavor and color. The best egg I’ve ever had, hands down. (See Katie Parla’s excellent post on Parisi.)

Marinated Anchovies with Tomato and Spring Onion.

Ricotta Pudding with Eggplant and Thyme Cream.

Ox Tongue with Cured Cinta Senese Shoulder Served over a Spinach Orzotto. (Cinta Senese is Siena’s heirloom striped pig, smaller in size than most hogs, making for ineffably delicate salt-cured pork.)

Veal Roulades Stuffed with Escarole and Pine Nuts Served over a Raisin and Onion Ragù.

Lamb Confit with Dried Fava Bean and Swiss Chard Sauce.

What did we drink? Stay tuned…

Italy day 1: Trattoria Il Pozzo, one of my all-time favs

Above: twilight in the Val d’Orcia (Orcia River Valley) is stunning. The sun was setting as my friend Ben and I arrived yesterday evening.

Whenever I come to Montalcino, Trattoria Il Pozzo in Sant’Angelo in Colle is at the top of my list. It’s one of the few classic trattorie that has remained unchanged since I first came here nearly twenty years ago. The cuisine is traditional Val d’Orcia fare, no frills and no fuss. And while the arista di maiale (the roast rack of pork loin) is excellent at Il Pozzo, one of the highlights of any trip to Montalcino is always the restaurant’s fiorentina, the Tuscan porterhouse (made from gigantic Chianina cows slaughtered young).

My dinner at Il Pozzo always begins with an assortment of crostini: chicken liver and spleen, tomato, and caramelized onions.

Pinci or pici are traditional hand-rolled long noodles, made with just flour, salt, and water. I like mine with ragù.

Ben had his with mushrooms. Also very good…

We had our choice of steaks: I would have liked to order the large one with the tenderloin, but in my book it’s the striploin that counts (more flavorful) and I didn’t want to overdo it on my first night in Montalcino.

Now that’s one MEAN PIECE OF STEAK!!! I’ve been to Il Pozzo with winemakers in the past and the ladies who own and run it are always cool about bringing your own wine. But last night we just did a simple old-school, food-friendly “locally produced” Sangiovese.

Trattoria Il Pozzo
Piazza del pozzo, 2
Sant’Angelo in Colle
53024 – Montalcino (SI) Italia
Tel. 0577.844015
closed Tuesdays

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I am currently blogging from Le Logge, a classic Montalcino mainstay, and the ONLY place I can find to get online in this town!

I can’t find a listing on Google for Le Logge (man, this place is old school, but how cool is that, that they have free wifi? Some German girl at an enoteca down the road overheard me asking about internet and hipped me to it. There’s no sign or anything.).

So I’m just reading the address from the street: 1 Via Giacomo Matteotti.

That’s 2005 Canalicchio di Sopra in my glass. I think that Canalicchio may have declassified some of its Brunello in 05 (a warm vintage) and this wine is drinking really well right now.