Finals days…

I’m so sad right now after reading this post from the bus2alps blog by Max Widmer:

“The sun is beginning to set on your time abroad. Cracks of purple and pink are breaking your fading skies to fragments, and you know it’s almost time to leave. Soak in this moment and reflect on the ride. You lived here. You jumped in the ice-cold water of culture shock back in January and allowed the water to warm. Espresso became less bitter as snippets of Italian were absorbed into your vocabulary. Salt-less bread became the norm and Mozzarella melted in your mouth. You made friends named Pino and Massimo, and you kissed them on both cheeks. Family style at Gatto never failed you and the limoncello shots were always free. You stopped noticing the churches and their bells and the gypsies that swarmed like pigeons. The accordion outside became the default ambience, and fresh foccacia the accompanying scent. You lived like an Italian even though you didn’t look like one, but the food tasted just as good. And while every weekend was somewhere new, going home meant Florence. That’ll be different now, but so will you.”

That just put me over the edge as if I wasn’t already depressed after just coming home from my final class cooking in food & wine. It was the first part of our final – the “practical”. We split into groups last week and each group was assigned a dish that we’ve already made to make again and perfect and pair a wine with it. My group made the chocolate spoon cake. And we really undercooked it so it was like a gooey brownie (one thing I definitely am looking forward to when I go home are gooey fresh pastries). Four courses were made and we all made extra so I had at least two servings of each dish. There was the pesto pasta with green beans & potatoes, ginger shrimp with farfalle, grilled swordfish & mediterranean veggies and then our cake! Everything was super delicious and we all got to hangout and chat for the last time. I’m going to miss everyone in my class so much I made so many friends and I truly love all 15 people.

Food & Wine Dinner

I figured I would post this to my blog. It is the paper I had to write (very informal paper) about the dinner we went to with my food and wine class last week! Enjoy!

Last week, I went on an organized dinner with my Food & Wine Pairing class. We met at a cute restaurant right in the middle of the Santa Croce square called Boccadama. I showed up hungry and ready to eat because I knew we were about to have four courses of delicious Italian food, and wine to go with each dish! My friends and I sat at the end of one of the long tables that was set with multiple forks and different size wine glasses. When the waiters (who were formally trained and dressed) put a basket of bread in front of us, we all kind of looked around wondering if we should have any or try not to fill up because we knew what was ahead of us. Together we decided not to have any before our first course came…but that decision changed after about three minutes.

After a quick introduction by our teacher, we were served our first course! It was a traditional Tuscan antipasti. The plate came with a few pieces of salami, a piece of bruschetta, a crostini with chicken liver and a slice of prosciutto. Served with the first course was a chilled white wine named Rayet. It was from the Laimburg region in northeastern Italy. The wine was made from Pinot Bianco grapes in 2008. It was a D.O.C. classified wine and had 13.5% alcohol. The Denominazione de Origine Controllata classification means the wine was produced in a specific region, it followed a given recipe and yield and sent in a sample every year to certain wine tasters. In short – this wine was delicious! It was definitely one of my favorites from all that we’ve tried in class. It had a light yellowish color and smelled slightly of apple juice. It was somewhat low in brilliance and after tasting it I found it was very light and had a clean finish. The wine was definitely not dry, but not too sweet, and had a fruity taste. The wine complemented the food when tasting them together. I didn’t think the wine enhanced the food in any way, it was just a nice refreshing match.

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Once we were finished the first course, the waiters brought out the next dish: Pasta integrale con pomodoro e ricotta – translation: wheat pasta with tomato sauce and ricotta cheese. So good! I was expecting it to be a small dish but it was a good-sized portion, one I would normally eat if I were just having pasta for dinner! I thought about if I should eat the whole thing or not because I knew a meat course was coming and of course dessert but I just dove right in and cleaned the plate! We were served another white wine with this course named Gewurztraminer, which was also the type of grapes, and it was from the Laimburg region. It was made in 2011, classified D.O.C and was 14.5% alcohol. It had the same color as the first wine, pale yellow, but was very dull with no brilliance. It had a floral smell and was heavier than the first wine when tasting it. The wine was semi-sweet and it was a bit too heavy for my liking. I surprisingly didn’t think it went that well with the pasta as the wine became more sour when they were paired in one bite.

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Next came the third course – artista con mele e patate meaning pork with apples and potatoes. We were all a little skeptical about apples but then realized we normally eat apple sauce with pork chops at home so it couldn’t be that weird…and it wasn’t! I loved the apples layered on top of the pork it was unusual but perfect. The roasted potatoes were seasoned well and just what I wanted. This course came paired with our first red wine of the evening. The name and grapes were the same: Nero D’avola, and was from the Terre Sicilane region. The year was 2012, it had 13% alcohol and was classified I.G.T meaning it was just one step down from the D.O.C wines. An Indicazione Geografica Tipica wine is produced with grapes all coming from the same region. It was a very deep red, almost purple color that had Earthy smells. The wine was surprisingly light and low in tannins yet somewhat bitter. I also noticed there was a strong after taste. In my opinion, this was the best wine and food combination because when eaten together the wine actually tasted different and became more sweet and for me, more enjoyable. This is one of the my favorite things about this class – when the wine tastes different with and without the food! I think it’s so cool! Overall I loved the dish and wine and hope to have something like it again one day.

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After three courses (and three licked-clean plates) I somehow still had room for dessert. I had a delicious piece of apple cake! With our final course we had a white-gold dessert wine called Ambar. It was from the Sicilia region and made from Moscato grapes. The classification was I.G.P (same as an I.G.T.) and had 15.5% alcohol, and dessert wines don’t have years. It was orange-ish in color and smelled like oranges too. It tasted of apples and oranges and was very thick, like all of the other dessert wines I’ve tried this semester. The food and wine were a very good pair, as they both tasted of apples! Together, the wine tasted more acidic but was still very enjoyable.

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I’m so glad I got to experience a four-course real Italian meal paired with wines. It was a great experience and a lot of fun to relax and eat and drink with the new friends I’ve made while studying abroad! 🙂

Typical Tuesday

It’s Tuesday night and I am fully satisfied after my food & wine class. Tonight we cooked three dishes as always (2 courses and dessert) and got to try out first dessert wine! We had pasta with a tuna ragu, leek & panchetta fritatta and fried dough strips! I helped cook the pasta dish, and I have to admit I was a bit skeptical of it and if I were home there is zero chance I would have even tried it, but the past 3 weeks I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how much I’ve enjoyed each dish so I tried it and didn’t love it, but liked it enough to get seconds 🙂 If I were to make it at home, which I hope to once I’m back in the states, I would just do it without the olives. I’ve been meaning to write about the INCREDIBLE gnocchi we made last week. I’m not even sure why they were called gnocchi because it was just big balls of spinach and ricotta cheese. I’ve been dreaming about them for a week now and keep saying I’m going to make them here for my roommates but haven’t gotten around to getting all the ingredients and what-not. I basically only eat pb&js and pasta when I’m home because it’s just easy.

This morning I had my travel writing class, which I always dread for some reason (because it’s at 9am) but I always end up enjoying. Today we were given an object that we had to feel with our eyes closed and then write about the journey it took us on. I had scissors and they didn’t take me on a journey so much as they reminded me of how much it stinks being a lefty in a world full of rightys. Then we went to the San Lorenzo cloisters, which is literally my backyard, and I learned that Michelangelo designed it! How crazy. Something I see out my window every day was designed by one of the greatest artists in history.

I tend to dread Tuesdays because I have three classes, starting at 9 am but they’re probably my favorite day now! I can’t complain about a day ending with a free, three course meal and wine!

Central Market

This morning I had an early class and then decided to check out the Central Market for the first time! It is ridiculous that I haven’t gone yet considering it is about 10 feet from my apartment (I really have a great location!) and is probably closer than the grocery store I’ve been going to. The first couple weeks I didn’t go because I couldn’t find it. Whoops! I don’t know if it’s just me or the fact that I’m American, but when I think of a “market” I think it’s outside. I knew it was close to where I live and would try to search for it but the only vendors that are outside are all selling clothing and fake Hermes bags. Then once I had my Food & Wine pairing class our teacher took us on the tour and showed us the building the Central Market was in. And it is a huge building in fact, right in the center of the clothes markets I walk through every day on my way to class. I wonder if I ever would have found it if it wasn’t for her? I’d like to think so but I’m not sure.

So today I finally found the time to go. I only had 4 euros on me and was just in the search for eggs (le uova). When I went inside the market for the first time I was completely shocked. Nothing in Italy seems to not shock me though, now that I think of it. It’s basically like a shopping mall, but with food. There are just a million different booths set up all around and little cafes with bars selling sandwiches or pizzas or whatever. Fruits, vegetables, homemade pastas, meat, FRESH meat like with the rooster’s head and gobbler still on it, nuts, oils, chocolates, pastries, everything! It was magical. I spotted the nuts and remembered I’d been craving almonds so I bought 100 for 0.50 euros. I thought that was a deal! I kept walking around until I found the eggs with a sign for 1.50 for a pack of 6. I’m not sure if that’s a good price or not because I forget what I bought them at the grocery store for, but I figured I’d take a shot at bargaining. I never know if people understand English or not so I just held the eggs in my hand and held out 1 euro and just kind of shrugged, trying to say, “This is all I have but I desperately need eggs” and he took it! Such a good feeling! If I had more money on me I would have gone crazy trying to get away with as many deals as I could. It’s like going into the supermarket and paying whatever you want for everything. As I was walking out I saw some packaged, real-life, OREOS! They were only 0.50 euros but I figured I’d keep the 2.50 I had left in case I needed something desperately until Thursday, when I leave for Switzerland!

My travel writing class is seeming to progressively get more interesting and I’m enjoying it more than I thought I was going to two weeks ago. Today we basically just went over the reading (which was surprisingly enjoyable) and then got to leave for 45 minutes and write about observing a person/people. I went to a cafe/bar (they’re called the same thing here) and wrote about a woman who met a man there and I’m pretty sure they were having an affair. Then we all read our little essays to the class and I wasn’t even nervous to share my writing, which is usually not the case! So far it’s been a good day 🙂

Classes Started

Two days of classes have already passed! I am obsessed with all my teachers and I can already have a conversation in Italian (an easy one!). Yesterday was Monday and I only had one class – Italian. I was kind of nervous going to it because I heard the professors speak only Italian, but my roommates reassured me that wasn’t true because how else would you know the simple words they were saying. Well they were wrong.

My professor walked into the room the first day and handed out the syllabus, asked “has anyone taken Italian before” and 10 heads shook “no”. Those were the last English words I’ve heard from her. I was absolutely mortified that first class when she just kept speaking Italian and I was so confused it like hurt my brain. I’m not used to being confused in class! But somehow, I got it. And now, two days later I can tell you my name, my age, where I’m from, the months, days of the week, seasons and tell time. WOW. I guess this really is an accelerated class! On Tuesday we had to stand up and talk about ourselves and that was only the second day! I’m so excited to learn so much more. I have this class every day and I’m really glad. Side note – my professor is the trendiest, coolest lady ever! She has the best shoes and makes a funny noise when someone slips and speaks in English and I laugh every time.

I found out today that Tuesdays are my busy busy day. I have class 9-11:30, 3-4:15 then 6-8:30. It’s not too bad because they’re all spaced out, but that many hours of classes in one day, even in Italy, is a loooonggg day. I started the day with Travel Writing, another class I was really looking forward to. It was really early in the morning for me (because I’ve been sleeping in so late…maybe I’m still jet lagged?) and the teacher had a British accent, which I obviously wasn’t expected so I was really thrown off from the start. We didn’t do much in class today, but overall it seems like a class I’ll enjoy and we get to walk around the city a lot and journal. It does have a bit of an “english class” vibe to it and by that I mean we were talking about narratives and themes (dislike) but whatever, I’ll live.

After that class I came back and napped and it was amazing.

Then I went to my Italian class again where we did our little speeches about ourselves and proceeded to not say anything in English. Rough life! Before my final class of the day I finally made it to the grocery store. I picked up eggs, oranges, bananas, grape jelly, turkey, bread and green tea all for 13 euros, which I would consider to be a deal but I’m not really sure.

My food & wine pairing class aka THE BEST CLASS EVER I CAN ALREADY TELL, was at 6. I made a lot of friends in that class right from the start! YAY! One girl was from Newton, MA – small world. The professor was wearing a purple shirt, purple eyeshadow, eyeliner and glitter so I knew I’d like her right from the start. She told us we’d be cooking every class and then eating and pairing wines. Amazing. This first class she prepared for us the poor man’s meal of pasta with onions and chile powder and I don’t like 2 out of those 3 ingredients but surprise, surprise, it was delicioso. She paired it with a rosé which was great too. Then we went on a walking tour around the city, stopping at all the best chocolate, gelato, wine etc places. We also went to the top of a department store (I forget the name but I’m definitely going back since I didn’t have my camera because who woulda thought that is where I’d end up on my first day of the class) where you get a whole view of the city and it looks like you can touch the Duomo it’s so close! We finished the tour early because it was raining but nothing could put a damper on that class (pun intended).

So Tuesdays may be my busiest days, but they’ll certainly be the best! Tomorrow I have Italian Culture & Society to look forward to, along with more Italian. Oh, and it’s the same teacher for both classes who I’m obsessed with so that’s a plus.

CIAO!