The Jealous Crumpet

A sweet little blog


New Menu at BRAVO Cucina Italiana

2To be honest, blogging can be a lot of work and often I wonder if it is worth the effort. And just when I decide maybe I don’t want to do it anymore I get invited to a dinner or tasting and I decide I like it again.

My latest food-venture was at Bravo! Cucina Italiana with fellow food blogger C.C. Fridlin. We attended a tasting of the restaurant’s new menu, which included a wine pairing.
4We started with Zucchini & Eggplant Fritti with lemon aioli and pomodoro sauce. Yum! I’m sort of allergic to eggplant, my throat and mouth itches, but dang I love it, so I ate some anyways. I actually preferred the zucchini with this dish, so I minimized the allergic reaction. The first wine of the evening was 19 Crimes, which paired nicely with the appetizers.
11I had the pleasure of dinning with Maddie, a spunky 5 year-old with a yen for lemons. Seriously, this girl loves raw lemons, she ate them by the bowl full and still wanted more! She is also very adventurous, tasting a bit from each dish. I know a lot of adults that could learn eating lessons from this young lady.BravoOur second appetizer, Ricotta & Ciabatta, was heavenly. I’m a huge fan of dishes that you assemble at the table. I know it’s weird, but I love it!5Next came the Antipasti Salad, which had a nice, tangy red wine vinaigrette. It is also gluten free, which can be hard to find sometimes.
6Next came the wine wines and Spicy Shrimp & Clam Linguine. I honestly feel terrible for people that can’t eat seafood because this dish was divine. It had a nice slow burn that crept up on you at the end of the bite.
7Next came the Linguine Carbonara! It was perfect for summer, creamy with hints of white wine. You can also add a sunny side up egg to it for a dollar. What a deal!
9Haricot vert (green beens) framed the Grilled Chicken with Sun-Dried Tomato Goat Cheese. The chicken was tender and cooked to perfection, but the veggie-holic in me especially liked the green beans.
8At this point I was pretty full, but the food was so good that I kept on eating. I really enjoyed Decoy’s Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a nice pairing with the Bravo! Ribeye. The steak was wonderful, but I went crazy for the polenta and balsamic roasted mushrooms. I’m salivating just remembering it.
10The last entree of the evening was Citrus Marinated Chicken, which was skewered thighs on a bed of orzo and vegetables.  Since it was thigh meat it was especially rich and flavorful.
12Maddie was quite excited when dessert came. See her patiently waiting with her spooned posed for attack! I don’t blame her as it was a delicious: a warm butter blondie, topped with vanilla bean gelato, cookie butter caramel and sugared pretzels. There were but a few crumbs left by the time we were finished.
13Everything was nice and it is good to know that Bravo’s talented team is always working to update their menu. It is worth mentioning that the staff was truly spectacular. They were prompt, friendly and very informed about every dish.
15There was very little food left by the time we were finished. It was all very good. Thank-you Huntsville Bravo and Tiffany Jordan for inviting me!! Thank-you also to C.C. Fridln for keeping up with all of the plate names. You are so much more organized than I am! Please visit C.C.s post here.

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An Unexpected Ume Wine Festival

feature_1aOn my recent trip to Japan, I visited the village of Tanabe specifically to tour the shinto shrine of Kumano Hongū Taisha. As we walked up the 158 steps to the shrine we noticed many people carrying tiny, white packages covered in red writing. We finally asked a woman what was in the package and she told us they were umes, a fruit similar to plums. She enthusiastically explained that the temple was having a ume festival at that very moment and directed us to a table covered with the packages. feature11We noticed a crowd gathering at the entrance of the shrine so we walked over to investigate. To our delight there was an elaborate ceremony going on to kick-off umeshu or ume wine season. In the states we call umeshu plum wine, but apparently this is a misnomer. Umes are similar to plums, but not actually plums. Here is a diagram explaining.

Here is a diagram from the Choya Umeshu website explaining the differences.

Here is a diagram from the Choya Umeshu website explaining the differences.

We respectfully stayed in the back of the shrine watching the festivities, but I suppose our obvious tourist appearance made us stick out and several people came up to us to ask where we were from and if we were enjoying the ceremony. This drew more attention to us and a short time later two Japanese news stations came over with cameras and started interviewing our friends, Matthieu and Barbara, who speak Japanese. My husband and I were pretty glad to not be able to speak Japanese in that moment. My interview would have been sad and short, “hello”, “I’m sorry” and “thank-you very much”.feature5Unfortunately our lack of speaking/understand Japanese did not help us escape media coverage. We soon found ourselves being handed boxes of umes and through gesturing were asked to join the ceremony by pouring the fruit into a large bucket. We stood in a long line of people solemnly pouring boxes of plums, that aren’t really plums, into a container as cameras and microphones captured every moment. As I stood in line, acutely aware of the cameras focusing on me, I wondered why I had worn such an ugly shirt that day and why hadn’t I bothered to slap a little bit of lip gloss on. The day before, when there was no national coverage of my vacation, I was so pulled together. Jeez. feature10Despite my nerves and insecurities I was quite honored to be asked to participate in such a formal ceremony. I managed to get my umes in the container without tripping over myself or spilling any on the ground. feature6After successfully placing the umes into the barrel (under the scrutiny of spectators and cameras) we receded to the back corner of the shrine to watch the rest of the festival. Many people spoke, which of course I couldn’t understand and men in suits lined up and poured alcohol over the umes and carried leaf covered branches into the shrine. feature7There was even a beautiful dance performed by two women in kimonos and headdresses. They danced with bells, making them ring only at specific moments. I had no idea what was going on, but despite this it was stunning and I actually felt moved by the elegance of it all. feature8Toward the end of the ceremony the head priest of the shrine brought us gifts for attending the ceremony. I couldn’t believe it! At this point I desperately wanted to be able to speak Japanese to so I could fully express my gratitude. I bowed and say “Doumo arigatou gozaimasu” over and over, but that didn’t quite convey my gratitude at people’s amazing generosity and kindness. The ceremony ended with everyone toasting with a small glass of plum wine. I learned that Japanese for ‘Cheers’ is ‘Kanpai’ which literally means empty cup.feature9A baby at the festival over indulged and passed out. Ha ha! Just kidding. She was playing with an empty cup and fell asleep, but I thought it was a funny picture.



Later that evening we enjoyed a glass of the wine in our hostel. Kanpai!!feature3When I got home to the states I bought some umeshu at the grocery story. It made me all weepy and nostalgic for Japan. It is delicious and if you haven’t tried it I highly recommend giving it a go, especially the Choya brand. Their website has many delicious cocktails to make with it, though I like it just straight and chilled. umeshu