Surprise ending!

Last night was our API Goodbye Apertivo! So sad. It was at this really good apertivo place that we’ve been to before but it was a little different because all the API kids had a different buffet than the people that were there on their own. AND we couldn’t have alcoholic drinks haha so we told the bartender to just make us something fun and he made what we concluded were raspberry mojitos (minus the booze) and they were super delicious! Might be my new favorite drink! By the time we sat down the food was kind of cold cuz it had been outside and there wasn’t much left so we were kinda bummed but decided we mine as well go get dinner. After some consideration trying to think of our favorite place we decided to try something new and ended up at a restaurant called Il Teatro. The service was kind of slow it took like 20 minutes for them to even notice we were there but once we ordered and got our food it was well worth the wait!

Everyones food was amazing and the wine was one of the best I’ve had! I had just come from my food & wine final (so sad saying goodbye to that class) so I was being annoying and trying to pick a good meal that would work well with the white wine. I got this really great spaghetti dish (hey Mom & Dad I like spaghetti now!) and it didn’t end up being the best match but oh well it was fun trying! They also brought us a bunch of different types of bread with our meal. Once we were all done it was kind of late and we needed to get home to study so we tried to signal the waiter for our check saying, “Posso pagare?” She came over and started asking us why we were leaving so soon and that we need to have another bottle of wine yadda yadda yadda so we told her we needed to study and then she felt bad that we’re “students and have so much stress”…little does she know of the 4 month vacation this has really been…

About 5 minutes later we’re kind of irritated because it’s taken so long to get our check but she just brings us some bottles of water and gives us all spoons. Then she comes back with these huge pieces of tiramisu for each of us! It was so sweet! She was saying complements of the chef so that you can go home and study with a full belly. How nice! The dessert was awesome and everything always tastes better when it’s free so all in all we had an amazing night! Unfortunately it was one of our last nights all eating together with friends from the API program.

Tonight I have been studying for my LAST FINAL! It’s Italian, which I really like and seem to understand well, so I’m not stressing too hard over it. Tomorrow is my last day in Florence and I couldn’t be more upset, I’m just trying not to think about it!

Arrivederci!

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! 🙂

Under the Tuscan Sun

This past weekend was so much fun! My program had an organized trip to many little places around Tuscany that me and my roommates went on. It was just Saturday to Sunday so we had the beginning of the weekend to relax and just hangout. Friday night we made dinner at home and watched She’s the Man, which none of us had seen in forever and quickly remembered how hysterical it is! What happened to Amanda Bynes, she’s crazyyyy now!

The trip left early Saturday morning for Siena. It is a small town and we learned a lot about Catherine of Siena during the tour. There is a beautiful church set up on a big hill that is basically the biggest thing in the town. We finished the tour at a large piazza where we then ate lunch – single slices of pizza! This was the first time all semester that we’ve just been able to eat a slice and it was so nice and a little reminder of home. The slices were huge by the way – like 1/4 of a pie! We ate our slices in the piazza and layed in the sun. I actually fell asleep for a couple minutes just sunbathing. It was nice and relaxing and fun to see a new part of Italy that is so different than Florence yet so close!

From Siena we headed to thermal baths in Rapolano. They were just like those in Budapest but a little smaller and there were more outside. Even though it was a Saturday the spa wasn’t that crowded because it is starting to get warmer and people are heading to the coast! Yes it was around 70 degrees outside but the thermal pools were still amazing to be in…not too cold or too hot! We lounged in the water for a couple of hours before leaving for the hotel. The API ladies had told us they were giving us dinner at the hotel but everyone was kind of like ya ya ok sure because every time we’ve had an organized “dinner” with the group its been just an appertivo buffet that is over crowded and not enough food. However, at 8pm we went to the lobby to check it out and there were set tables. So we sat down and were immediately greeted by a woman spooning pasta in our dishes. Amazing! The pasta was delicious and not even a small portion and my table got seconds! I was so satisfied I didn’t even need anything else, but then came the chicken and potatoes, then salad (the Italians have weird timing with their salads) and then chocolate cake dessert! I was so full it was beautiful. After dinner we all walked into town to this bar that was inside and outside and there was live music under the bridge we were on so that was nice. It was a great ending to a great day and I was excited for the next day!

Sunday we woke up and left for Cortona – where the movie Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed!!!! If you’ve seen the movie (and if you haven’t you must) I don’t need to explain the beauty of the town. The busses dropped us off at the bottom of a huge hill, where Cortona is located, and we had to take little vans up to town because there was a rare car race going on through town. Of course we had a tour and then got to stop and see some of the antique cars. They were antique racecars though, not like the ones you see in parades, and it was exciting to watch them race around the windy roads. After Cortona we went to Castello da Verrazzano for a wine tasting. At this point we were all very tired and a little cranky because they told us it was going to be a short bus ride and it was 2 hours long. Getting off the bus there was a lot of complaining but as soon as we made our way to the Castle gardens everyone shut up. It was absolutely gorgeous filled with lemon trees and fountains and a nice old British lady gave us some history about the castle and the Verrazzano family. We went on a quick tour of the wine cellar then were seated in a grand terrace for the tasting. We tasted 4 wines – 1 white, 2 red, 1 dessert (ew) and had lots of appertivo to go along with it. Prosciutto, salami, bruschetta, olive oil, quiche, biscotti, salad and olives were just a few of the things that were passed around our table. We drank and ate for about an hour and had so much fun meeting the 5 other girls that sat at the table with me, Bre and Michelle. They were all so nice and all from different places and I’m sad I didn’t get to meet them earlier in the trip 😦 The wine tasting was definitely my favorite part of the trip!

2 bad things about the weekend:

1) I somehow managed to get allergies for the first time in my 20 years of existence! As soon as we got on the bus Saturday morning it was like flipping a switch – my nose was uncontrollably running, eyes water, I couldn’t stop sneezing (and I have obnoxious sneezes) and my throat was sore. It was awful. I barely slept Saturday night because I kept having to wake up to blow my nose. Thankfully it didn’t ruin my weekend and I stil managed to have a ton of fun!

2) I forgot I needed to charge my camera battery. So when I turned on my camera in Siena it started to die so I knew I couldn’t take my pictures. So I basically could only take like 1 picture at every place.

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Tuscany Bike Tour

Jill & Justin are here! It’s been great seeing family faces and in the last 3 days I’ve had some new and delicious foods/wines/experiences!! Saturday, I picked them up at the train station and we went to see the apartment they are staying at – so pretty! It’s bigger than what they expected and has this awesome deck that’s HUGE and overlooks Palazzo Pitti! That night we went to a small restaurant (for those in Florence, 4 Leoni) that is known for their pear ravioli so me and Jill both ordered it and Justin got a beef stew that he really liked. The bruschetta there was also delish! It wasn’t really ravioli as much as just stuffed pasta in random shapes and had such a unique flavor! The portion was tiny (only about 5 pastas) but worth it because it was so tasty! After dinner we headed over to Golden View Open Bar which is right on the fiume Arno (Arno River) and had amazing views of Florence all lit-up at night!

Sunday we walked around most of the day and tried (and failed) to get bargains at the leather market. Some guy told us the leather jackets were FREE so of course we tried them on and were convinced he was giving them to us but then as we were about to leave he said “240 euro” so we were like “BYE!” I took them up to Piazzale Michelangelo that has a gorgeous views of the city and then we got dinner at a cute place in Piazza San Spirito. Jill had gnocchi in a truffle and cheese sauce, I got rigatoni (which is ziti here) with tomato sauce and cheeses and then Justin got TRIPE! As in stomach liner. He said it was good but me and Jill were both a little queasy looking at it.

Yesterday we did a Tuscan Bike Tour with a really great tour guide. The forecast said 57 and sunny but it was probably low fifties and rainy/grey all day…of course until the minute the biking was over! We met in the city at 9:30 and took a van all the way out to the countryside to a medieval castle that is still run by a count and countess. The family produces wines and olive oils and we got to tour the winery and taste some wine and oil! Both were really good and even though it was rainy and gross out everyone was perfectly happy. After about an hour tour of the castle we started the biking. It wasn’t a hard route, despite the very first hill that was steep and left me out of breath. We rode through the countryside and saw vineyards and gardens and basically exactly what you picture when thinking of Tuscany. Half-way through the ride we stopped for lunch at a small local restaurant. There were five pastas to choose from and me, Jill and Justin all got the pasta ragu. First time I’ve had ragu sauce since I’ve been here actually now that I think of it! Ragu sauce is just meat sauce by the way. It’s about the same as bolognese sauce and then theres pomodoro (tomato) sauce. Back to the meal..it was great and a nice touch to have authentic homemade Italian food out in the hills of Chianti. The second half of the bike tour started out in a torrential downpour that thankfully didn’t last long. There was a point of a really big hill and just about everyone decided not to bike up it but get in the van that was following us for a lift up haha! At the top of the hill we got back on our bikes for the last 15 minutes of biking. The tour was so scenic and I had an amazing time! The tour guide was from Dublin, Ireland and hilarious!

Jill got better pictures on her camera but here are a few from the day!

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!

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!