I have so many posts to write I don’t even know where to start. I’ve yet to write about my lovely trip to the Isle of Wight this summer. There’s so much yet to write about other recent travels to Sweden, Lyon, Glasgow. I still have to tell you about the final of the Cous Cous Fest. I have recipes to post, restaurants to write about. I recently went for lunch at the revamped Savoy and I have yet to write about that. It’s all a bit silly isn’t it? No matter, it’s all stuff I love to write about and I shall do it soon. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it too.
Today I am going to write about something a little abstract, as I find I have been thinking about it a lot recently. A Solo Sicilian Lunch at Syrah, San Vito Lo Capo. The meal itself was funny for its own reasons (solo female diner in Sicily might give you a hint) but the food was lovely, and very inspiring. I’ve found myself gathering ingredients to recreate it this last few days.
So, what’s so interesting? Sicily is an island (yes, we all know that), so there’s lots of seafood as you would expect but the almond is ever present in the cuisine. There isn’t much dairy, but they create almond milk and almond cream and use these instead. And they are delicious. Nutty and rich, gripping the winding busiati pasta, buffering shellfish, thickening sauces. Pleasantly grainy, and velvety too.
On my last day, I really wanted to experience some of the local cuisine that I hadn’t experienced yet. I had had busiati with trapanese pesto (made with almonds, tomatoes, garlic & basil) but wanted to try it again, and otherwise, was open to everything except cous cous, for I had had a lot of that.
The restaurant had other ideas.
I went to Syrah, recommended as one of the best in the town by people who knew what they were talking about and had been there the night before. I am guessing, in hindsight, that a solo female diner was an unusual prospect.
I perused the menu and asked for advice, then made my choices. They were rejected.
No, you shall not have that! You have to have some cous cous! I have had a lot of cous cous this week, I would like to try something else. But our cous cous is very good! We have a whole menu of it!
I really can’t I am sorry. Ok, have instead our special busiati with pancetta, mixed seafood and almond cream. I’d rather have the trapanese pesto? No, I insist. Have our special. OK.
For mains, I queried the veal, I was curious. Well, yes, you could have that but have the local red tuna with almond. But, I am already having a seafood starter? I’d like the veal. No not the veal, have the tuna. His voice was fierce, he was determined, I faltered. OK.
Wine, I would just like a glass please of something local, perhaps a Nero d’Avola or a Grillo. Have a chardonnay from a local grower, it’s very good. I have had that one already it wasn’t to my taste, no thank you. Do you have a Grillo? No, it’s ok you should have this chardonnay, it’s very good. But really, I don’t like it, I have had it already. Don’t worry I will pour you a glass, it’s fine.
I sat slightly anxiously, with a glass of wine that I didn’t like, watching the smiling people around me share their meals wondering what in the name of god have I signed up for. Two dishes I didn’t want were coming to my table. A glass of wine poked fun at my tastebuds. It felt like a hostage situation. I wanted to leave.
The starter arrived. It was enormous. It smelled beautiful, of the sea with the sweetness of tomatoes and a nutty background. The pasta was so good, great firm texture and great flavour. So much fresh seafood and that pancetta was as good as I’ve had. The almond cream was terrific. It was all very good indeed but so big. What to do? I ate half, I just could not take any more and left it. I had been eating so much all week you see, judging the cous cous competition.
The waiter came to clear my table. Didn’t you like it? I did, I really did, but it was so big, I couldn’t finish it. That is a normal portion for us here, he said. I felt bad.
Dejected I awaited my tuna, wondering how I could digest it, and sipped my unwanted chardonnay watching the happy tables around me converse.
The tuna came, in an almond crust with a wedge of lime. A little overcooked for me, I like it rare, it was nevertheless gorgeous and I ate every bit. Carb free too, I could just manage it with a green salad on the side to keep me hydrated.
No dessert, I was so full now, after 6 days of endurance eating, crowned with this very good, but very big meal. That was that.
A perfect Sicilian experience, great food, local specialties, told what to do. I want to recreate each dish and learn more about their cuisine, and go back.
The only thing I don’t forgive them is the wine, but I am glad that they forced me to try their specials, even if I did age a few years in the process.
If in the area, do go. It really is very good.