Never would I have thought I would be able to celebrate my birthday in Florence, the city where we spent our honeymoon 21 (!) years ago . . . especially during these pandemic times.
As it turned out, a family wedding in the US, Bryan's work in Europe, and Hong Kong's extremely rigid three-week quarantine requirement (at the time) caused us to spend three months in the US and Europe before returning to Hong Kong.
My birthday happened to land on the Italy portion of the trip. We took a few days off of work to spend my birthday weekend in Florence. After a jam-packed day full of museums, a "mercado" lunch, and a rooftop tour of the Duomo, we were ready to take a break and enjoy a nice, elegant meal at Il Palagio in Florence.
Il Palagio is a 1-Michelin starred contemporary Italian restaurant located in the Four Seasons in Florence. Chef Paolo Lavezzini is an Italian chef who spent 10 years in Brazil, and considers his food to be influenced by both his Italian roots as well as his time in South America.
The Four Seasons hotel and the Il Palagio space are both beautiful. We arrived early and enjoyed a lovely drink in the outer foyer area before heading to our actual dinner.
The menu has a la carte options as well as a few tasting menus 135 and 150 EUROS per person. To make things easier, we decided to go with the tasting menu as well as the wine pairing.
We began with a beautiful box full of surprises. As the server opened one drawer after another, we were delighted with these beautiful initial bites: a beetroot tart cracker, intricate crisp topped with cheese and ginger, a green porcini mushroom flavored bite, and a mushroom shaped potato.
A fresh loaf of bread was irresistible, especially with the pungent olive oil and my favorite grissini, or crunchy breadsticks!
Mediterranean Amberjack with apple, endive, and butter
Risotto + Pasta
One of their signature dishes: Lightly Smoked Risotto with roasted greens, spelt, and rye.
One amazing thing about having a birthday in November is that November is white truffle season! We took full advantage since we were in Italy for several weeks during the month of November.
White alba truffles should be eaten with something really simple, usually a simple butter pasta, steak tartare, or eggs. Here, we had it with a simple butter pasta.
Fish + Meat
Sweets: Desserts + Mignardises
Tangerine "snow" palate cleanser
Green Apple and Lime Ingot: a beautiful layered "tart" with an olive oil biscuit “crust”, pesto cream, apples, and a black olive crumble.
Mignardises were lovely. Tangerine bites with a white chocolate-like covering and liquid inside were delicious. Of all the single bites, the chocolate anise bon bon was both of our favorites (surprising to me, because I don't like anise!). I found the marshmallow to be too sweet, and I enjoyed the apple tart as well.
Bryan always asks for an amaro or chinato if he's at an Italian restaurant. He has tried many different kinds, so he's always pleasantly surprised if a restaurant has something new he's never had before.
What a special way to cap off a really lovely birthday. It was a long meal, and we were one of the only tables left by the end of the night.
In this current state of the world with its endless travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, it's really really hard to predict where I will be at my next birthday. So I certainly cherish the unusual opportunity to be able to celebrate my birthday in Italy this time around.