Photos Courtesy of Maria Hines
Before opening her third Seattle restaurant, Agrodolce, on December 21, Food & Wine Best New Chef 2005 Maria Hines traveled to Sicily for research. Here, highlights from her eating tour.
The island of capers, olives, tomatoes, anchovies and lemons—what’s not to love? I have always been drawn to the sun-drenched flavors of the Mediterranean. You can see the influence on the menu at my first restaurant, Tilth. I got the idea for my second restaurant, Golden Beetle, after traveling through Morocco, Greece, Beirut, Istanbul and Cairo. Now I want to explore Sicily for my third restaurant, Agrodolce, which translates to “sour and sweet” in Italian, and is one of the key flavors in Sicilian cooking.
My journey started in the old city of Syracuse on Sicily’s southeastern tip. I had no plan, no map, no one else with me on this adventure. The only connection I had was to my organic olive oil producer, Marino Olive Oil, in Ferla. I started using Marino this year when my importer first got ahold of it. I love its round, buttery flavor and spicy finish. It’s a family-run operation and my contact there was a partner, Katia Marino. She’s only 26 years old! She showed me true hospitality in the Sicilian way. When Katia picked me up, the first question she had was, “Did you eat breakfast?” She asked if I would like to go eat, and I said “I’m good.” And 30 minutes later she said, “Would you like to stop for breakfast?” And then we got there and she said, “Would you like to eat now or after we see the property?”