Tag Archives: food

Brash Service, Great Food in Tuftern

I am not sure if Harvard Business School has visited them yet, but there are two brothers that have a restaurant on the side of a random ski slope in Zermatt. Restaurant Tufternalp has been there for years. They serve only minestrone soup and slabs of Swiss mountain cheese that the owner slices with a cheese knife that has specific measurements for slicing so as not to give too much or too little. In addition they serve small sausages of local mountain animals if you choose. The owner also has a rotary hand-cranked bread machine that slices bread into perfect slices. That’s it, that’s the deal. Nothing more. The business economics of this kitchen are remarkable. No waste, no excess that can’t be sold the next day, and no adventurism that could affect the profit and loss. Just simple.

But then there is the service. It’s basic- they don’t really care, they are just there and you are there. It’s simple fare. Take it or get back on your skis. There is no, “Hi, how’s everything? Can I help you?” Not even a moment of thanks. No smile or welcome. It’s almost his signature. You go there because there are no surprises. It’s cheese and sausage and soup. He will be gruff and miserable. I work with my brother. I don’t know you. Even though you visit here every year. Take it or leave it.

I think the guy, the miserable one, secretly drives a Ferrari and wears Armani suits and helicopters into the restaurant each morning just to go through his shtick. Maybe he is a comedian at night. I am not sure how it works on a spiritual level but he makes money, he has no extra costs and he sure doesn’t care if you like him or not. Catch him at the slopes at Tuftern. And say I sent you. He really doesn’t care!!


A morning to remember in Barcelona

A Morning to Remember in Barcelona

We got into Barcelona on the Friday along with the commuter traffic but it really was a pretty smooth journey in.  There is only one thing to look for when you come in from the airport and that is the Sagrada Familia – now in its 134th year of restoration and due to finish in 2026.  On a side note, I have to say, and I am surprised, that they have not put up a Sagrada Familia in Las Vegas.  Let’s face it, if they were to do that it would be done in three months!

But seriously I love Barcelona.  I think what I love most about it is that there are no real iconic sites.  No major distractions to clog up your day.  Yes, there is Gaudi, Parc Güell, the Olympic Village, the Frank Gehry fish in Barceloneta, and Las Ramblas, but it is a city that is just so relaxing because you kind of wander through the neighborhoods without the need to see the Eiffel Tower, Roman Forum, St. Peter’s, the Tower of London, etc.  I grabbed a couple of hours sleep, took a bike tour of the city which was an absolute joy (Un Cotxe Menys Bicicletes), hung out a little bit at the beach area (the cleanest city beach in Europe), and walked back through the El Born district and Gothic Quarter.  In between, I got lunch at the La Boqueria market and had razor clams and more razor clams (navajas).  03

The Feast of the Jamon

The Feast of the Jamón

My daughter recently got married and among the many things that we had to eat, we elected to have a serrano ham on the bone as part of the entertainment. Why the Feast of the Jamón? Jamón serrano is a true cornerstone of Spanish gastronomy. It is a type of cured ham that is generally cut into very thin slices and can be seen at any good tapas bar in Spain.

So the wedding was fabulous and the food was delectable. As I had predicted, the jamón was getting a lot of activity. I have two dear Spanish friends who live in Madrid and were at the wedding. At one point, one of my friends noted that the catering assistant, which the caterer had respectfully provided, was not properly cutting the jamón. He stated, “I cannot take it anymore. I have to give this guy a red card and get him off the job. He’s killing the ham!” (Which was already dead of course). Within 5 minutes, he came back with a bright red t-shirt, and his brother sharpened up the knife but remained in his suit, sending the assistant on his way. The cutting of the ham began in earnest. In quite an extraordinary display of expertise, no matter how many times people came to the ham, because of the thinness of the cut and the way that he moved around the bone, we had ham all night long.

There was only one glitch, someone came up to him and said, “I love prosciutto.” He looked at them appalled and said, quite defiantly, “This is the feast of the jamón and prosciutto is for sandwiches. Jamón is to be consumed with the finest red wine. Prosciutto can be complimented with Coca-Cola!”

I got my ham from LaTienda.com. It was fabulous. If you really want to splash out and pay serious money you can get the jamón iberico but for me, the serrano was fine. Best of all, we all got to see an artist perform for the best part of 3 to 4 hours. Thank god the party went on until the early morning!

The Feast of the Jamon

The Feast of the Jamon The Feast of the Jamon

Roman Ways

Roman Ways

I confess – I love Rome.  Not so much the Colosseum and St. Peter’s (and I ADORE those places) but rather just walking around through the piazzas and the tiny streets that connect them all together like an ancient necklace. This is my take on the many ways to enjoy Roman Ways.

There is that famous adage: “Roma non basta una vita” which means “A lifetime is not enough,” but I will assume that most people have about three hours for a brief walk through time. Usually I and my companions start my walk in the piazza in Santa Maria in Trastevere and end up at the Piazza del Popolo. It is a walk that spans every conceivable period of Roman history with stops on the way for shopping, cappuccino, and gelato. It is a walk crammed with fountains, a Roman arena here and there, and ancient pillars. It is the story of Rome – it is the story of a city we have come to adore.

The main piazza in Trastevere is where we find one of the oldest churches in Rome, Santa Maria, which has walls dating back to around 300 A.D. It is not a bad place to start. Across the Ponte Sisto bridge, which connects Trastevere with the beautiful Via Giulia, we see Michelangelo’s dome of St. Peter’s in the nearby distance. We are heading to the Piazza Farnese to see the Farnese Palace, designed by Michelangelo, and now home to the French Embassy.  On an evening stroll you can often see the magnificent frescos inside, designed by the famous painters, Annibale and Agostino Carracci.

This square is dripping with history. The two bathtubs in the fountains were pulled from the baths of Caracalla. Caravaggio, the painter who had a terrible temper, had a bad argument there with somebody after a tennis game, and argument that resulted in a death. As a result, he fled Rome. I guess you would!

Right next door is the Campo de Fiori. The best slab pizza in town is at the Forno. The fountain–one of many we will see today–is stuck at the end of the square, because what looks like Darth Vader is taking up the center space. His name is Giordano Bruno and he was unceremoniously burned alive here in 1600 for outrageously suggesting that the Earth was not the center of the universe.  Shame on you Giordi!

Campo de Fiori is abuzz with a local market most days and cafés and restaurants surround the outside of the square. It is a real hangout at night. At the bottom of the square is where Julius Caesar was assassinated in 44 BC. Yeah, it is a wild square the Campo de Fiori.

Across the busy street, passing the biggest mortadella (real healthy) in the world, we pass a Renaissance palace, the Cancelleria, and we wind ourselves into the fabulous Piazza Navona.  Here we have a formal introduction to Bernini, the cool and iconic Baroque master of the Pope, and Borromini, the brilliant and very depressed foil to the master himself. This place is loaded.  Inside of this square, there is: a medieval church, a beautiful Renaissance church, a Roman statue (the Pasquino – the original Talking Head), the ancient Domitian stadium 20 feet below ground (and still visible in some places), an Egyptian obelisk, a Baroque fountain (The Fountain of the Four Rivers), and the beautiful St. Agnes in Agone by Borromini. In between all of these landmarks, it is not a bad idea to grab a gelato at Tre Scalini. The tartufo is crazy good!

Gelato done, there is no time to lose. Out of the square and passing the senate building we wander into the spectacular Piazza della Rotunda. It is a breathtaking moment. The Pantheon is staring us down. This is the most perfectly preserved Roman building in the world. It is an extraordinary site as you spill out from the narrow street. There is a steady flow of tourists and Romans walking back and forth and around this magical building with a hole in the top. It is the basis for the great Brunelleschi dome in Florence and Michelangelo’s dome at St. Peter’s. The building, now a church, is also home to Rafael and the kings of Italy…and it is free to get in.

It is a short walk from here through the back streets of Rome, past the Palazzo Chigi, before you spill out onto the craziness of the Via del Corso and up to the Spanish Steps along the Via dei Condotti. There are more designer shops on this tiny street than there are in all of Manhattan, it seems! Here I enjoy heading to the Café Greco to grab an espresso and a tiny sandwich. At the base of the Spanish Steps, there is another fountain, this time by Bernini’s father.

We are getting close to the end of the walk. What better way than a stroll down the very chic Via Babuino to the Piazza del Popolo. To the right are the Villa Borghese gardens, and at the Piazza del Popolo, you can see clearly down the Via del Corso to the Piazza Venezia and the slightly awkward looking “wedding cake building”, Altare della Patria, designed to symbolize the unification of Italy in the 19th century. Beyond the wedding cake is the Forum, Michelangelo’s Capitoline Hill, the Jewish ghetto, and in the distance, the Palatine and the Colosseum.But that is another day.


Roman Ways ≈ Rome_Peter_Spanish_Steps 100815 Roman Ways Peter Jones Pietro Place

I’ve followed up my insiders’ guide to Ashland, Massachusetts, with a tour of my second adopted home-town: Boston!

A lot has changed in Boston over the past few years, (hello, artisan coffee and cheese) but one thing remains the same: this city dominates in athletics. Whether your an superjock or a sensualist, Boston is ready for you!

Don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel for Pietro Place in Boston, Massachusetts and dozens of other video blogs!

The Airline Blues

When you get on a plane, do you ever think about how bizarre it really all is? We queue up and are herded into our designated sections of coach, premium coach, emergency exit priority seats, business, or first.

The plane essentially is a long narrow tube with varying degrees of comfort depending upon what you pay. We pray for upgrades to try to escape the nastiness of coach and use miles wherever we can to increase the likelihood of better seating and then get ready for the long journey across the Atlantic or Pacific or down the east coast. We expect to be served the worst food in the world, are grateful for the small bag of peanuts (unless there is someone on board who has a peanut allergy in which case you are forbidden from that small pleasure), pay for dreadful wine and warm beer, purchase the earplugs that are so bad that it’s not worth the cost, and put up with for the most part dreadful service from flight attendants who really gave up liking their jobs 30 years ago.

Well good news on the food front. Airlines are starting to understand that there is revenue to gain in food. Most people on long haul don’t invest in sandwiches or carry on food at airports. Wolfgang Puck and Gordon Ramsay have made inroads here but we still anxiously wait for the moment when we are handed the menu and pick the plastic chicken with congealed rice.


Now overseas airlines are offering special cuisine food. On Air France you can choose from a variety of food options. There is French cuisine foie gras, duck confit, or Asian healthy or the usual but dramatically improved vegetarian options. Different from the past is that they charge you more for this service. The cost is between $20 – $30. But the food is actually decent and it’s worth it simply to watch the passenger in the seat next to you with the congealed and shriveled piece of over cooked meat (animal not known) stare at your appetizing concoction longingly.

It’s being rolled out in Europe first and American carriers, ever slow to move on this, are evaluating. Evaluating! This is a business opportunity. You can make money and have well fed happy fliers in coach. Hang on. Let’s not rush into this. They are our clients after all!!

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