Biannual list of top posts always diverse

You need hold your breath no longer. That much anticipated list revealing most-read blog posts over the past year is here.

While the brutally murdered Helen Madarasz was a real person, at one time I believed I invented her ghost refusing to leave the site of her former home in Brackenridge Park. So many keep reading the post six years later, even I am starting to think she might really be haunting the park.

My readers seem to be as Alamobsessive as I am, fretting over proposed plans for Alamo Plaza. Every time I think the plaza will remain fence-free and historic gems on the west side of the plaza will be spared, renewed threats arise. That barely watercolored-in white rail in the background of the image above is a fence. Just to be safe, please consider signing the San Antonio Conservation’s Society petition at change. org.

venison at Fricska Gastropub in Budapest

Thanks for taking trips with me; you seem particularly drawn to food. We fell hard for Fricska Gastropub in Budapest, and our taste buds feel vindicated with its recent receipt of Bib Gourmand recognition from Michelin. (And, yes, sister Susan, I promise to get to food posts from Italy soon. She has been whining about being sent into so many churches first. But it takes a long time for postcards to arrive from Italy, and the Alamo keeps interrupting.)

Margarita Cabrera

Like many of you, cannot wait to see Margarita Cabrera’s ‘Tree of Life’ take root on the Mission Reach of the San Antonio River near Mission Espada.

So here’s your top 12, with the numbers in parentheses representing the rankings six months ago:

  1. The Madarasz Murder Mystery: Might Helen Haunt Brackenridge Park?, 2012 (2)
  2. Forging consensus for the Alamo Comprehensive Plan: Don’t fence us out, 2018
  3. Postcard from Budapest, Hungary: Currently suffering from case of miss-you-Fricska blues, 2017 (3)
  4. ‘Tree of Life’ bears bountiful crop of tales from the past, 2018
  5. Please put this song on Tony’s pony and make it ride away, 2010 (4)
  6. ‘Just the Facts:’ A fence by any other name still smells the same, 2018
  7. Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Wishing these dining spots were not 600 miles away, 2016 (8)
  8. Morning walk turns into thematic parade through San Antonio’s heritage, 2018

    San Antonio Livestock Show & Rodeo’s Western Heritage Parade
  9. How would you feel about the Alamo with a crewcut?, 2011 (10)
  10. The Curse of Madarasz Park: Another Ghost Wandering in Brackenridge Park, 2014
  11. Postcard from Mexico City: Pausing for a playful food break at Mercado Roma, 2017

    fried charl taquito amuse bouche at Seneri in Mercado Roma in Mexico City
  12. Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: Where fiestas erupt all the time, 2017

Thanks for stopping by, and feel free to chat back. We’ll wind up this round-up with a fiesta in Oaxaca.

Postcard from Parma, Italy: City’s cuisine living up to its namesake ingredients

Chef Roberto Pongolini is among the growing number of chefs who walk away from the pressure-cooker kitchens of a Michelin-starred restaurant. The chef closed his La Cantinetta in favor of an intimate contemporary bistro, Borgo 20. The informal setting is extremely comfortable and affordable.

The riso al parmigiana di collina at Borgo 20 is without a doubt one of the most memorable dishes ever to enter my mouth. Similar to a risotto but made with parmesan aged 29 months (yes, it does only get more incredibly flavorful with age) spiked with smoky bits of crispy pancetta counterbalanced by the sweetness of a prune or two on top. A dish that certainly bore repeating on another visit.

And the chef also bravely has tinkered with the traditional pizza, although the menu refers to its altered state by another name, pandiro, as a warning to purists. Using multiple grains and flours, the dough for pandiro lowers the speed limit of slow cooking. It is left to rise for five days with a wonderful result – a crust that somehow is rendered both thick and airy light, yet crispy on the outside. And, again, we had to have this more than once. We sampled one blanketed with Parma prosciutto and one with salad-like seasonal vegetables.

But wait, we also had our favorite dessert so far at Borgo 20. We have failed to become huge fans of Emilia Romagna’s Lambrusco, but Borgo 20 turns it into a refreshing, not-too-sweet sorbet topped with extremely drunken cherries. And, yes, it was just as good melting on our tongues on a subsequent visit.

Another neighborhood spot offering casual comfort at lunch time was Kimera. The squid ink pasta was studded with the contrasting paleness of tender calamari; fresh ricotta was smoothed into a rich tomato sauce in another pasta dish; and fresh asparagus brightened a creamy riso. A basil panna cotta was a perfect springtime dessert.

Normally, I wouldn’t include a first-stop restaurant selected only because it was nearby and we were starving, but Tiffany Wine Bar offers a surprisingly nice selection of salads. Thinly sliced bresaola, cured beef, served with fresh fruit and radicchio presents an ideal counter to so many regional heavy dishes. Tiffany also sits at a great corner for watching locals walk and pedal by on the narrow streets.

Trattoria Corrieri is one of the Parma classics that everyone says you must try. The massive gathering spot for huge tables of locals on weekends made for great people-watching, but we blew our ordering. We needed to order what they all did, but we placed ours before having time to spy on neighboring tables. This is the place to order heaping platters of thinly sliced meats and the traditional accompanying fried bread. Locals follow that course with a bowl of shared pasta. Mal-ordering aside, the convivial crowd made it worthwhile.

Our only stumble was our most expensive meal. In the kitchen’s defense, the owner (?) seemed to be having a bad day created by the police outside threatening to tow his car. The pretty salad was a great starter, but… amazingly for Italy, our pasta at the touted Gatta Matta was way overcooked. The pair of scallops in pureed cannellini was perfectly cooked, but even the pasta was overwhelmed by the quantity of the sparingly seasoned puree.

The photos above include shots of the huge wheels of parmesan cheese found at shops everywhere. Specialized stores offer primarily a combination of fine meats and regional cheeses.

And one thing we have yet to consume, at least not to our knowledge, is as prevalent as pork – horse meat. Parma does not shy away from its consumption. Not only is horse meat commonly found in butcher shops, but carne di cavallo in some format is on the menu of almost every restaurant in Parma, from the lowliest to toniest. The regional favorite is served tartar. Maybe next time?

For now, I’m dreaming of that Borgo 20 riso.