Featured Restaurant: Ristorante Al Porto, Milan

During my recent visit to Milan, Italy, I asked a friend who is a Milan native for a restaurant recommendation.  He did not hesitate to send me to Ristorante Al Porto, a delightful seafood restaurant located near the Piazzale Antonio Cantore, about a 25 minute walk or 10 minute taxi ride from the city center (Piazza del Duomo).  As I entered the restaurant I realized that I may have needed to reserve ahead (but didn’t), as it was quite full of customers (always a good sign!).  However, thankfully the kind hostess, Signora Barbara, was able to offer me a seat at the raw bar, which ended up being the best seat in the house!  Where else do you get to watch as the chefs skillfully prepare each plate of “crudo” one at a time?  It was immediately obvious to me that the seafood there was as fresh as it can get, as I drooled over the beautiful display of oysters, sea urchins, langostines, sashimi grade fish, and accompaniments.  I knew I was in for a treat.

The ambiance of the restaurant is such that although you know its a bit high-end based on the menu offerings,  it is very relaxed and unpretentious.  I love this type of restaurant, where I know I can enjoy my food along with the other customers who are there for the food and not to “see and be seen”.

First things first- wine!  The hostess promptly offered me several choices of wine by the glass, and recommended a lovely white to pair with my seafood dinner.  It was an Italian wine from Tuscany, Sauvignon Melaia.  It had a mild acidity, and was very light and easy-drinking, pairing well with my meal.

Now to the food, oh the food!  As a first plate I ordered the shrimp cocktail (cocktail di gamberi).  It consisted of small very tasty shrimp dressed in a creamy dressing.  I was not expecting the sauce, but it was very good, slightly tangy and not too heavy so as to allow the flavor of the shrimp to dominate.  The shrimp were very clean-tasting, sweet, and tender; exactly how shrimp should taste.  For my second plate I ordered the spaghetti with clams and dried fish eggs (spaghetti alle vongole con uova di pesce essiccate).  This dish was amazing, as the pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, the clams were juicy and perfectly steamed, and the dry fish roe surprises by adding an unusual brininess and slight granular texture to the dish.  Is your mouth watering yet?!  Or as the Italians say, “mi viene l’acquolina in bocca”.   My only regret was that I was too full to order more of the first and second courses; next time I will definitely order the “crudo misto”, a gorgeous dish pictured below.


Shrimp Cocktail


Spaghetti with clams & dry fish eggs


Crudo Misto


Massimo “Max”

It would be a sin if I had skipped dessert, so I had to take one for the team ;).  While observing the food preparation throughout dinner, I had my eye on something special.  Massimo, or “Max” was carefully and artfully making individual panna cotta one by one as the customers ordered it.  It was difficult to decide between the one with fresh berries or caramel, but I chose the caramel because it also came with fresh strawberries on top.  A win-win!  This dessert was as delicious as it was beautiful, see photo below.   They even gave me a selection of sweets compliments of the house, and wrapped it for me to take home for breakfast the next morning!


Caramel Panna Cotta


Mixed sweets from the house

To summarize, I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone who loves fine dining and seafood.  You cannot go wrong here, with the combination of ambiance, superior quality food, customer service, and kind staff who will treat you and feed you like royalty.  Don’t miss it when you visit Milan!  Buon appetito and cheers! 🙂




The Proper Storage of Cheese

Have you ever bought a beautiful wedge of cheese, wrapped it in plastic wrap and left it in the fridge, only to come back a week later to discover it has gotten dry, crumbly, and tastes like plastic? Such a disappointment, especially when you were looking forward to enjoying the cheese and may have spent a pretty penny on it. We are here to help! Here are some tips to help you keep your living, breathing, sweating cheese in its happy place before you eat it and go to your happy place 😊
1.) Don’t overbuy– Only buy as much cheese as you can eat in a week. Otherwise you are at risk of regretfully having to throw out the less than fresh leftovers. It means you may shop a little more frequently, but its worth the trouble since cheese tastes best fresh.
2.) Preventing mold– you can rub the cut surfaces of cheese with olive oil or vegetable oil to help prevent mold. If mold does grow, it will grow on the oil, which can be wiped off and the cheese rinsed under warm water.
3.) Eat cheese at room temperature– it will taste better this way! Unwrap the cheese and allow it to breathe out of the fridge for one hour before serving.
4.) Consider using cheese paper– yes, that paper you’ve passed by many times at the local market, wondering if you should try it; but, nah… it’s a little pricey. They also make cheese storage bags made from the same “formaticum”- a two-ply material consisting of a wax-coated paper and a thin porous polyethylene plastic that allows moisture to wick but not totally escape. Your cheese needs to breathe and it needs moisture to avoid drying out. I have personally tried these papers and I have to admit, I love them! Especially for specialty cheeses that I bring home from my travels, it keeps them from taking on a plastic flavor. Be sure to date the cheese on the label of the paper or bag. As an alternative to purchasing cheese paper, you can instead first wrap the cheese in wax or parchment paper, then place it in a partially sealed plastic bag. Be sure to use a new paper each time you unwrap the cheese and re-wrap to store it. This is because the cheese will sweat on the paper, decreasing its wicking ability.
5.) Store cheese in the vegetable crisper section of your refrigerator. This area tends to maintain a more stable cold temperature.

If you happen to be in the Dallas-Fort Worth Area, and want to try some cheeses from around the world, check out the Scardello Cheese shop located on Oak Lawn Avenue (they also have a smaller location in the Dallas Farmer’s market). This delightful shop features an impressive selection of both domestic and imported cheeses, as well as wine that you may order by the glass or purchase as a bottle to take away. They let you try samples of the cheeses, and offer a delicious and imaginative lunch menu. I love this place for a girls lunch; it is quiet and intimate so you can catch up without having to shout across the table. Oh, and yes, they carry cheese paper! My favorite cheese recently purchased there was their L’Amuse Gouda. I asked for something with some nuttiness to it, and this delivered with an amazing slightly crunchy texture, a hint of butterscotch, and smooth finish. Have you ever wondered what makes some aged cheeses have a little bit of crunch or tiny white crystals in them? Lance, the cheesemonger at Scardello explained to me that these crystals are actually either tyrosine or calcium lactate crystals (aged Gouda has both). Cheese crystals form when protein chains in aging cheese begin to break down. Many people confuse cheese crystals with mold or yeast growth. However, crystals are not harmful and in fact add a little extra crunch and complexity to the cheese flavor. Scardello Cheese also offers cheese classes, a cheese club with monthly deliveries to your home, and cheese trays for your next get together. So grab your favorite bottle of wine and find an excuse to host a wine & cheese night ASAP. Cheers!


The 411 on Truffles (the fungi)

Sought after by gourmet chefs, cherished by foodies, hunted by pigs and dogs; for decades, truffles have been the subject of myths and thought to have magical qualities. Perhaps because these delicious fungi are unique in their flavor and aroma, and exquisitely finicky, making them difficult to cultivate. Truffles are ectomycorrhizal, meaning they require a symbiotic relationship with the roots of specific trees to live. They occur in the wild in areas where the ideal conditions exist in terms of humidity, temperature, soil acidity, and tree roots species. Truffles are indigenous to the northern and central Italian regions of Umbria and Tuscany.

Truffle Varieties

There are three types of truffles commonly found which are differentiated by the season in which they grow to maturity. White truffles are pungent and are found from September to December; black (winter) truffles (tuber melanosporum vitt) are earthy and found from December to early March, and the delicate aromatic burgundy truffles are found from September to December. Summer black and white truffles can be found from May to August.

How are truffles hunted?

The “original” truffle hunters were pigs, however the pigs had a tendency to eat the truffles. Today there are dogs which are specially trained to hunt truffles, and in Italy these pups are rewarded with bites of parmigiano regiano cheese. The traditional truffle hunting dog is the Lagotto Romagnolo, however any intelligent and motivated dog breed with a good nose can be trained to hunt truffles. There are even schools in the United States which offer such dog training.

lagotto dog

Lagotto Romagnolo, a truffle hunting dog

Why are truffles so expensive?

Because truffles are only available a few months out of the year, and are finicky in their growing conditions, they tend to be pricey. So far attempts to cultivate them have been disappointing; although they have finally had some success in Australia.

How to use truffles in cuisine

Fresh truffles should be cleaned with a dry toothbrush. Use a metal slicer to thinly shave truffles over pasta, risotto, eggs, or polenta. Resist the urge to cook them! Cooking will destroy their delicate flavor and aroma. When not in season, you can still get some delicious truffle flavor by seasoning with truffle salt or truffle butter (read the ingredients). But buyer beware– products labeled as “truffle oil” very often are made with chemicals that mimic the aroma of truffles but are not made with actual truffles.

Where can I buy some truffles or truffle products before I leave Rome???

Finally, I get to tell you about my favorite gourmet food shop in Rome, Italy. Volpetti, located in the Testaccio neighborhood of Rome, is a foodie’s paradise (as is the neighborhood, which is full of delightful family run restaurants with authentic Roman specialties, plus a bustling food and produce market- the Testaccio market). Not only does Volpetti carry fresh seasonal truffles, but they also have an impressive selection of gourmet food products, highly-rated Italian wines, pasta, biscotti, parmigiano regiano and other aged Italian cheeses, prosciutto di San Daniele, and balsamic vinegars that are aged to a sweet honey consistency. If you happen to be a truffle-aficionado, there is one cheese that you must try at Volpetti- their pecorino with black truffle. It. Will. Change. Your. Life. Volpetti is located about a 5 minute walk from the Piramide metro station (metro line B).


I had the good fortune to meet the owner of Volpetti during my last shopping binge, and he was kind enough to educate me about the different truffle varieties. Matteo Tomljanovich has been in the food industry for a number of years, and brought his entrepreneurial spirit to the Volpetti shop in 2015 when he bought the store from the Volpetti family. In addition to running the salumeria, he has revamped the family’s restaurant located next door, reopening it as the Taverna Volpetti. The restaurant and wine bar (in the former Volpetti Piu cafeteria space) serves a buffet lunch with daily specials cooked to order, and serves aperitivos and dinner in the evenings. I had their pasta carbonara for lunch during my last visit, which was cooked perfectly al dente and had a melt-in-your-mouth carbonara that left me dreaming about it for days thereafter. Hit up Taverna Volpetti for lunch, then take your shopping bags over to Volpetti to get your favorite gourmet foods vacuum-sealed and ready to take home on the plane. Their cheeses will keep in their vacuum-sealed packages for up to 3 months in your refrigerator.