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Sunday, 19 October 2014

A Minor Epiphany at Cococo

Italy is not a country of half-measures. 

Nor are Italians a subtle people. Be it food, architecture or upscale vehicles, all must be brighter, sleeker, and packed with more panache per cubic centimetre than its predecessors. This boisterous joie de vivre is juxtaposed against a paradoxically serene landscape of molar-like mountains, vast stretches of cropland, and positively Jurassic trees. 

North American experiences of Italy have thusly tended along the lines of "Eat, Pray, Love" or "Under the Tuscan Sun." (or even that Barilla pasta commercial where a sexy Italian neighbour saves the day)  In other words, one cannot possibly visit Italy and not be rocked by a life-altering epiphany. 

Promises of epiphanies in hillside villas are better fodder for Hollywood popcorn flicks than they are for realistic holiday experiences. When teary-eyed revelations failed to appear, I faced a singular, universal truth. Italy is home to some damn fine gelato. 

When the plug on my gelato-powered respirator was rudely yanked away, though, I gasped for my next hit. Twice daily gelato runs were too soon a distant memory. 

Sweet and timely consolation arrived as a scoop of white chocolate lemon and cinnamon bun gelato at Cococo. One could slip into the tired tirade of "that's not how it would taste in the old country," but that's not the point. These flavours very well may not ever appear across the ocean, but the lemon sang of fleeting sunshine. The cinnamon captured autumn's wistful urgency. Each voluptuous spoonful may as well have been narrated by Sophia Loren's throaty purr. I am not sure whether I discovered the meaning of life in Italy, but it's pretty darn clear that Cococo scoops a mean gelato. 

Cococo Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Close to Home at Rostizado

Food and language are entities of the same genetic stock. Both are capable of the most sublime expressions and nuances and, under optimal circumstances, present as vibrant layers. Presently, I am writing this in Milan's central train station, where multiple strata of languages are slow-smoked spices, undulating and reverberating with life. Despite the din, it all somehow makes sense.

If these layers could somehow be transmuted into scents, they then might come close to capturing the olfactory aura of Edmonton's Rostizado. Rostizado is the second-born sibling to vivacious Tres Carnales, but don't you dare compare the two. Rostizado is to Tres what wood-scented afterglow is to sun-warmed sand. What Billie Holiday is to Tito Puente.

Recently extinct Roast Coffee House's bones are long gone, and the broad timbre of Rostizado fills the antediluvian room with zest, camp, and laughter that veritably bounces off the warehouse ceiling.

The wait is long tonight, as one must gamble against the clock - pitting the timing of one's hunger against that of another. Fortunately, a stridently strong El Emperador seizes one's attention with velvety low notes of vanilla, herbaceous interjections of amaro and tequila, and an overt agenda of basil.

Smoked Salmon Sopes arrive not a moment too soon. Toothsome cornmeal discs cradle a worthy cargo of russet, cured salmon that whispers, rather than shrieks, captivating tales of mesquite and tequila.

Frijoles Charros are almost a meal unto themselves. How such hearty fare could spring fully-formed from the brow of a tropical country is paradoxical yet fortunate. Meaty beans and zippy cilantro chase away any evening chills, and little nubs of queso fresco are curiously reminiscent of squeaky curds that one would find in proper poutine.

The finale: Rosti-Pollo and Rosti Puerco (i.e., chicken and pork). Perhaps hours of flame, smoke and spice have caressed and coaxed each cut to a succulent coda. Piquant pickled onions and crisp pickled carrots impart colour and crunch. Each bite of tender flesh at once evokes layer upon layer of nuance, inflection, and luscious subtext - no different than the crust, mantle, and core of multifarious languages that are present so many thousands of kilometres away at the train station.
Good food, like language, captivates, challenges, and convinces one that there are certain universal truths. That Rostizado has their culinary priorities straight is doubtless one of them.

Rostizado - By Tres Carnales on Urbanspoon


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