Update

Alright, here’s the deal.

Since I last updated, a few things have happened. I would say I’m gonna keep this short and sweet, but we all know that’s not happening, so why pretend.

1. I turned 23. Not super exciting, actually was freakishly similar to turning 22 (spent the weekend alone with the dog, made my own cake, generally basked in the glow of quiet and frosting and wine).

bdaycake12

2. I have 2 part-time jobs at 2 non-profits. I think I mentioned that, so really I’m just saying…I still have them. They’re both kind of fake full-time jobs in that I pack about 40 hours worth of work into 20, which translates into a Saturday that is 90% sleep. And while they are both really great jobs, it gets a little difficult after a while to not feel like a part-time human being. I’ve also decided I consider my job too much a part of my identity. Not really sure how to fix that yet.

3. I applied to grad school for food studies.

4. I got into grad school.

5. I officially enrolled at Boston University and will begin my MLA in Gastronomy (Food Policy concentration) program this fall. I’ll be a part-time student, because I’m trying this new thing where I don’t get myself into 7 different jobs at one time. It’s a whole new world.

Preach.

Aside: Grad school applications were not hard and it was one of the most anticlimactic things ever. I got an email on a Friday afternoon on the train home telling me I got in, I said “oh good, so I can start planning my fall now,” signed some papers and that was it. I think this means I’m an adult. Or something like it.

6. I went back to Florence with my brother for Christmas. We ate all the gelato. I had a few panic attacks. Not necessarily in that order.

me & the bro in san gimfirenze IMG_0457

7. The Boston Marathon happened. And then the Friday lockdown happened. So that was deep-down-in-your-soul terrifying. But it also showed how wonderful, strong and generally badass the city of Boston is, and that was pretty greatΒ wicked awesome.

8. I just went to NYC for work and remembered why I so, so, so dislike it. But I ate amazing things like morel vinaigrette and roasted radishes and porgy (the fish), so that made up for it. Also spent most of it talking about the amazing organization I work for, so it was mostly a plus.

fresh mozz at EatalyIMG_0600

9. I’m going to South Africa in a week to visit one of my best friends who is there for Peace Corps. Because I don’t pay rent and I’m 23 and I can! Also so that I can start planting seeds about how awesome Boston is and all the reasons she should move there post-PC. True story.

Is this post a little disjointed? Probably. My brain doesn’t have much capacity left to fit in anything else. Thus the blogging hiatus. I’d like to say that’s going to change, but it’s not. I’m not shutting the blog down or anything, but I’m not going to be updating with any kind of frequency or regularity. Just FYI.

Here. Have some gratuitous pictures of Florence.

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Okay.

It is SO good to be back. And by back, I mean back online. The language that I have been using in the recent past is far too adult to be published, but let’s just say…I didn’t have internet and I was NOT happy.
But absence makes the heart grow fonder, no? I have been in desperate need of an outlet to babble about food on. Don’t get me wrong, I love discussing the Gothic elements in the works of Washington Irving and the Middle English dialect of Chaucer…but I need to write about food.
Classes are back in full swing, and it is increasingly more apparent that I overbooked myself this semester. Now, pre-Florence Gillian would have multiple panic attacks and drop a class faster than a baking pan of cookies without an oven mitt, but something about me has definitely changed. I am shocked, quite frankly, at how much more relaxed I am about everything. As much as I talked about “adopting the Italian lifestyle”, there was always a little voice in my head that said, “oh please, you know you will just go back and turn into that crazy control freak perfectionist you always are.” And yes, that is still very much a part of who I am, but I feel just a little more clear-headed about all the work I have to do. I may not get everything done perfectly, but that’s okay. It’s a ridiculously liberating thing to know that not being perfect about everything all the time is okay.

So, food? I’m still going to write my senior thesis (someone please explain to me HOW I am a senior in college??) on my hero (heroine?) M. F. K. Fisher. If you haven’t read any of her works, you must! Her writing is so pleasurable to read, even after hours of poring over literature anthologies with font size 0.2, I open up one of her books and immediately feel relaxed.

In less than 24 hours, I will be in my professor’s office with 3 topic ideas for a paper and I have to “sell” them to her. Y’all, I’m shakin in my Rainbows! So I am going to enlist your fabulous opinions, if you don’t mind πŸ˜‰

Why do you think food writing is important? What do you get out of reading about food – be it a blog, a cookbook, or an anthropological text (that last one applies to….um, me?)?

I will post pics of my roommate’s & my AWESOME hippetastic room soon!

Oh yes, it’s good to be back.

~Namaste~

[I apologize for the photoless post – Herman (my big laptop) was not moving all too swiftly tonight. He just got internet back, so maybe he’s feeling a little overwhelmed.]

When In _______, Eat Like the _______-ans.

Due to my impending trip to my study abroad program’s offices to be trained in all things Peer Mentor-y, I’ve had my time in Florence on the brain quite a bit lately.
Ok, that’s a lie, I think about my 3.5 months on the greatest city on earth on a hourly daily basis. But roll with me on this one.
I thought I would compile a definitive list – according to me, at least – of the absolute must-dos while abroad…and the other stuff that if you somehow fail to fit in to your packed, globe-trekking schedule, you won’t be in tears about once you’re home. And then I started typing the first item on my list….and it became a post in and of itself. If you haven’t guessed already, it’s about food.
You had to have seen that one coming. Yes, number one for me is *drum roll*…food. I know you’re sitting there saying “well duh, this coming from the food writer wannabe/culinary-school-student-to-be.” But hear me out.
Well, wipe that drool off the keyboard and then hear me out.
Food is a pretty important part of experiencing a culture. And by pretty important, I’m talking in the Top 3.
It usually goes by unnoticed, and perhaps that’s as it should be, but the way one goes about eating has a lot to do with his/her culture. Why, for example, are there millions of take-out & delivery services available from restaurants in the U.S.? Because we the people keep up a go-go-go lifestyle, and convenience is often a top priority. We may enjoy a PB&J sandwich, but it’s probably while also replying to 50 emails, holding a conference call, and/or making plans with friends concerning what to play during recess in a couple minutes. Further more, the ubiquitous PB&J – arguably a truly ‘American’ recipe – is ideal because it’s cheap & quick to prepare.
On the other hand, we have bella Italia, where places to dine specifically and exclusively for lunch abound. Their hours are usually somewhere between 11 & 2, give or take, but this is not to cater to a wide variety of schedules – it is so for people to enjoy a 2 hour lunch. Unlike the U.S.of A., where food accompanies conversation – and the quicker, the better –  the conversation accompanies the food in Italy, which is afforded several reverent hours. The pace of life is slower, the meal times truly appreciated. Yes, sandwich shops exist where you can drop in and get a quick bite to go – but you will usually find such establishments double as a wine bar, where as early as 11 AM little old men are enjoying a deep red glass of Chianti and chatting with the owner behind the counter. Merely by stepping into such a place, you are observing – and partaking in! – the culture. And I haven’t even started on the food itself yet. 
This part is somewhat obvious – what people eat is, of course, part of who they are. And their culture is also [duh] an important part of who they are, so it’s a double dose of cultural immersion. But, let’s face it, the real fun is on the menu. While back home, your younger brother is chowing down on turkey & swiss on rye, you are about to dig your fork in to a hearty plate of fresh pasta, doused artfully with homemade tomato sauce and crowned with real parmeggiano-reggiano
And don’t forget the bread on the side! Or maybe it’s a big steaming bowl of my very favorite ribollita (the presence of bread goes without saying). 
Either way, a far cry from that little Wonderbread-clad sandwich on the other side of the Atlantic.
Call it a bunch of rambling, but all of this is to prove a point. Yes, eating in a new place can be scary. (Cacciucco, anyone?) But it’s an important part of getting to know that new place so everything else in it can be, well, less new & scary! I learned a lot more than just what the best kind of cheese is when I ate in Italy. (It’s fresh pecorino, by the way. At least I think so.) So please, before you throw up your hands and spend whatever precious little time you have abroad consuming a steady diet of ham & cheese sandwiches (don’t get me wrong, they have their place – just not 24/7!) – try something new. Even if you have no idea what you just ordered. Even if the waiter tries to translate and you think it might be something with a a beak, 3 legs and a dorsal fin. You might discover a new favorite I-must-eat-this-every-day food! You might also discover a new I-will-never-touch-that-foodlike-thing-ever-again food, but that’s okay too. What I can guarantee is that you won’t regret your choice of going out on a limb and trying something brand new. I do recommend bringing a friend – for fun photo ops and, if that second scenario turns out to be the case, to share her inevitably delicious plate of whatever-it-is. 
Now, I’ve given a great deal of time to explaining all this. And yes, it is because I love nothing more than talking about food and Florence, but it is also because I’ve been there, too afraid of new food to enjoy the whole cultural experience of dining. The regret I had about my first trip to Italy – spent hungry – was tangibly painful, and this time around, I was not depriving myself of that again. I learned a lot the second time around, but I’m lucky I got a second time! Heed these words, and you won’t regret a single minute of your trip. You’ll just live each and every one.

Buon Appetito.

~Namaste~

P.S. – See you in Austin!!!

One Month Back[iversary]

Coming home after 3.5 months in Italy is easier said than done. It’s been exactly one month today that I have been home, and I will level with yall – it hasn’t been getting easier. With the exception of the constant cloud of cigarette smoke around every corner, I miss everything about Florence. Daily trips to Mercato Centrale, aperitivo at Kitsch, gelato at Percho No, the Duomo. And don’t get wrong, I LOVE my car, but I miss walking everywhere. It’s been harder than I think I’ve let on, and not in ways I expected. Though I of course miss the food that I will always consider the best in the world, it’s so different here that I knew what was coming and it hasn’t been as hard on me (though my waistline may disagree – SO much processed food!) What has surprised me is my newfound passion about the importance of natural foods and supporting locals; it’s never been so important to me before. I also feel the frequent urge to tell people here to chill out!! The slower way of life there only became more evident when I got back and had a new view of how absolutely manic life here can be. I feel…restless. I’m glad to be home and have the chance to recuperate from an insane [and insanely amazing] semester and rest before the upcoming one kicks me in the butt, but at the same time, I miss the challenges there, especially speaking Italian. Man, do I miss having to struggle to think in a different language! I know some people who are going there soon. My one piece of advice: live it up, every single moment, and don’t be afraid. It’s just such an incredible place – Italy can change a person. I can’t wait to go back.

In honor of my one-month-backiversary, I thought I would change it up and show you my absolute favorite pictures taken in and around Florence. 

Heavenly doesn’t even begin to cover it.
~Namaste~

Recap

I’m slowly resurfacing from my death flu – I can sit up for longer than 5 minutes, good sign!! I knew I was sick when all I wanted to eat yesterday was white bread and mint chip ice cream, because the thought of spinach made me want to gag. Something is definitely wrong with that picture.
All semester long, I was trying to brainstorm how to solidify Gillianasana as a food blog – not just a short-term study abroad blog. It’s too much fun to give up!!! But, of course, the best way to do that is to…uh, keep writing it? Doh! So yes, here I am–to stay.
But before I really step back into reality, let’s recap my last day in Firenze!
Sunset from our kitchen. Aka, Florence telling us it loves us πŸ˜‰
Last trip to Casa del Vino…
Tried a new gelato place, Gelateria dei Neri. Passion fruit and soy hazelnut. SO good! The passion fruit was creamy, not sorbetto, but the flavor was really strong. The hazelnut almost tasted cocoa-y?! Loved it.
Ciao ciao, Duomo!
For our arrivederci dinner, the 4 of us went across the street to our favorite place for aperitivo – 8 euro for a drink and buffet with really decent food. Not amazing, but really good (again, Italy = hard to eat badly). I normally get prosecco, but it was our last night, so I branched out–
My first cosmopolitan!
It was alright. I’m less of a liquor fan, I guess. But give me sparkling wine with my Italian buffet any day!
And then, the time had come. The air was filled with a mixture of sadness, anticipation, nostalgia. 
Our last gelato.
Perche No – the best of the best. Soy chocolate and coffee crunch. It was…bittersweet.
It’s hard to gauge how I’m dealing with being home so far because this evil flu attacked me and threw me way off, but so far: the strawberries don’t taste as good, the toilet seats are lower, and the people have funny accents. I’ll keep you updated; I know you’re on the edge of your seat.
I have some product reviews coming up, and will get to work on that restaurant page pronto!
~Namaste~

The Eve of Our Leave

Twas the night before leaving Florence, and all through the house,

There was plenty astirring; it was time to move out!
Clothing was flung into suitcases without care,
Praying that all of our stuff would just fit in there!
It took weeks to get the idea of leaving stuck in our heads;
Oh, how we will MISS our lives here that we led!
Taking blankets to Indipendenza, where in the sun we would nap,
Chasing mosquitoes around the apartment with many a “SLAP”!
We ate pasta and pizza, platter after platter,
But with all of the walking, none of us were much fatter πŸ™‚
From Grom to Vivoli and of course Perche No,
And don’t forget Vestri – oh, so much gelato!

Shopping in Florence is truly without peer —
Just make sure you’ve got exact change for the cashier!
The vendors in San Lorenzo often think they’re quite slick,
But after 3 months, you know it’s the same old boring shtick.
We bought watercolor prints, scarves, and jewelry galore –
How odd it will be to have to shop only inside stores!
Restaurant critics we quickly became,
That we couldn’t go to them all is truly a shame.
Even though my face swelled up when by bugs I was bitten,
And I’ve been in closets bigger in size than that of our kitchen,
Aperitivo, wine tastings, Fiorentina “football’,
The Duomo and the David made up for it all.
What will my Tuesdays be without a trip to Casa del Vino!
How will I survive without my prosciutto and pecorino?!

And of course the two men who toyed with our hearts,
Beloved Mario and Sergio, who made soup a real art!

Perhaps I won’t miss the cigarette-smoke-filled air,
But dear Mercato Centrale – I could have lived there!

And API excursions – how could we forget those?
Venice, Rome, and Tuscany–although that first one drove us a tad psycho πŸ˜‰

And our own adventures were always a blast,
Verona, Bologna, and Barcelona (we saved the best for last!)

Livorno, San Gimignano and Lucca all twice,

What can I say? I found Italy quite nice πŸ˜‰

I learned so much about history and food and wine

(But try to take me into one more church and you will surely hear me whine!)

We were never in lieu of more sights to be seen,

From the Arno to Boboli, and everything in between.

My favorite sight, you ask, in this city to see?
Giotto’s Bell Tower, unique, graceful, and lofty.

But time has come to bid Florence “ciao, ciao” with a kiss,
With no doubt in my mind that it truly will be missed.
I’ve started to feel like an experience sponge –
It’s time to wring me out, I’m done!
Reverse culture shock is nervously anticipated,
Although to see my family, friends and dog I will be so elated!
I’ll remember the pasta and gelato with glee,
And every other crazy time I had with the roomies.
It goes without saying that I will be back,
For Italy is just not something my future can lack.
So before I board my plane to leave this incredible place,
And perhaps with a small tear but a smile on my face,
Io dico “ti amo Firenze, la mia cara citta – 
Per sempre tu rimarrai nella mia anima!”



~Namaste~

The Case of “The Lasts”

Ugh, I hate this part. You know, the one where everything you do is “the last.” Last load of laundry in our crazy machine [it secretly wishes it were a rocket ship – you should hear it on spin cycle). Last shopping trip in the market. Last time I have to climb the never-ending stairs to Italian class…ok, maybe I don’t hate every part. Those stairs at 8 in the morning were not exactly a treat.
After I got my grade on my Italian final – all good πŸ™‚ – I came home for some overnight oats!
Before you go to bed, put oats in a bowl and pour an equal amount of liquid (I’m a fan of almond milk) over them, and maybe add a dash of cinnamon. Let them sleep in the refigerator and when you are both awake, the oats will have absorbed the liquid and be soft – voila, no-cook oatmeal!

(There are different ways of preparing them; some people add more stuff to it the night before. That’s why they’re so fun – lots of different ways to experiment!)
Before…
After: all mixed up with some vanilla yogurt.
This was exceptionally good today – it tasted like snickerdoodle cookie dough! The perfect way to prepare for my cooking practical, the second half of my final for that class where we actually have to cook for and be judged by our professor.
We set his table up all pretty:
We were split up into teams to tackle 3 courses of 4 dishes.
Course 1: BREAD
Not just bread – stuffed focaccia and pizza.
This was the focaccia we made a couple weeks ago for our “green class.” It’s amazing, and this time it was even better. The spinach is sauteed in a little olive oil and garlic to add flavor and it worked – the spinach-garlic combo sang through the bread. The mozzarella (use fresh buffala mozzarella – it’s a little fattier but you can use less to get a powerful punch of flavor) was perfectly stretchy, and the dough was juuuust dense enough to hold up it’s filling but fluffy enough to be like eating yummy, doughy, pillows. 
Another team made pizza margherita – tomatoes, mozzarella, basil. This was very probably the.best.pizza. I’ve ever had. The flavors was perfectly balanced and so fresh. The crust was the right thickness – not cracker like but not like you were getting more crust than ingredients in your mouth at once either. The sauteed the tomatoes in garlic and olive before topping the dough to bake – this is essential for non-soggy pizza, because if you just throw the raw ingredients on the top, the water (that makes up most of the veggie) will release and make your pizza WAY to heavy to eat. The cheese was golden but not gummy or too crispy and with the basil was SO good. Yup, will be making this when I come home.
Next course: Pear-filled ravioli in a walnut-herb sauce with pecorino.
PEAR!
This was very tasty. The pasta was a little undercooked, but I actually like overly-al dente pasta (yes, I’m odd). I wish the pear had been blended with the pecorino and then filled, the ravioli with just chopped pear felt a little sparse to me. But the walnut sauce was SO good – walnuts, parsley, and basil. You couldn’t really taste the walnuts, at least not unless you looked for it, but that is actually kind of the goal. Like pesto – it’s not ALL about the pine nuts that you add to it, but if you took them out you would know. It really did work well the sweetness of the pears. As my professor commented – “amazing”.
Dessert: MY TEAM!
[Thanks again blogger for the sideways picture. It’s not funny anymore.] 
Crema di amaretti – I also made it here.
Gosh, I love pretty food.
The filling is very similar to tiramisu – we used the double boiler method to kill any salmonella ickiness in the eggs as we beat the. Here’s what we did: Separate the whites from the yolks of your eggs (it’s one egg for every 2 people you are serving). Get your double -boiler going; when the water is simmering (NOT full-on boiling!), use a hand-mixer (or one of those fancy-schmancy Kitchen Aid mixers that I can only dream about owning) beat the yolks with cane sugar (tablespoons=number of eggs used) until it’s nice and creamy. Set it aside to cool. Get your water a-simmerin’ again, and repeat the process with egg whites (no sugar) until they form stiff peaks. Not sure what that means? I didn’t either. Get them to the point where if you turn the bowl upside down, the egg whites don’t move (and please use a second bowl underneath when testing this…). Let those cool as well. Fold in marscapone cheese with yolk-sugar mixture gently. Then add the egg whites. 
This is where I added a couple teaspoons of cinnamon. I remember thinking it would be good the first time we made it, and I wanted to do it for the final. My teacher loved it! Yay! Nothing like feeling innovative in the kitchen to make me smile:)
Now, look at the consistency you have. You want something tiramisu-filling-like, very light and creamy. We made the call to add a liiiiittle bit of whipping cream (whipped with a little lemon juice and a pinch of salt to get it fluffy!), and that really made a huge difference. We used about 125 grams of cream, and we were making for 14 people – so you really don’t need much.
To plate, dip two amaretti cookies (they’re like little almond biscuits, I will have to consciously search for them in the States when I come home – I’ll keep you updated!) in strong coffee mixed with just a few drops of milk and sugar. Sprinkle the top with coffee (instant here is fine), chocolate chips and cocoa powder. Voila! better-than-tiramisu goodness.
Our professor’s comment? “Delizioso!”
He gave me a big hug when I left and that was when this whole “I’m actually leaving” business hit me. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! DON’T MAKE ME GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Ahem.
SO, after class I wandered over to the Ponte Vecchio to do some window shopping. I have been searching for a necklace with the Florentine fleur-de-lis crest, and I knew if I would find it anywhere, that’s where it would be. The Ponte Vecchio is known for its jewlery, specifically marble and gold. Honestly, I really can’t stand gold, but I was still hopeful. It was looking pretty dim at first; all I could find were charms the size of my pinky fingernail at the low, low price of 122 euro – which is, what, maybe 150 dollars? Ugh. I was feeling like giving up, when I crossed to the other side and found it.
Yay! 6 euro, and I already have a chain πŸ™‚ Ain’t it perty?
For the first time this week, the sun was out! I have been planning on returning to Piazzale Michelangiolo to get some better pictures because a) the day we went it was cloudy, b) I have a new camera!!, and c) the combination of my carberrific lunch + the joy of finding my jewelry left me with some newfound energy to burn!
The walk there is lovely.
[Ponte Vecchio]
Remember the funky trees?
It’s quite a hike to get there…
And just when you think it’s over…
But it’s worth it.
Even though I’ve only been here for 4 teeny months, I still call it ‘mine.’ Not that it only belongs to me; more in the way that it has made such an impact on me. It’s home.
Dinner tonight was long-anticipated. We planned to go to Cibreino – “the poor man’s Cibreo.” Cibreo is one of the most important (and most expensive) restaurants in Florence. The chef is world-reknowned for his take on Italian food. Simply put, it’s a big deal.
Cibreino is a little trattoria around the corner from Cibreo that offers a limited menu for a MUCH smaller price. Same kitchen – fewer options.
I was excited.
We got there at 7, when it opens, and all breathed sighs of relief when there was a table for 4 ready and waiting. The trattoria is a very small room with only 8 or so tables, so we were a little worried. It was also mostly tourists – and we were treated as such, which was a little annoying but to be expected considering the fame of this place.
After much debate and some help from our very entertaining waiter, I ordered:
It was a veggie-fish soup. Very well spiced and I loved the fish that was in it – no idea what it was called, a kind of white fish that looked a little bit like tuna (different taste though). It was a little brothy for me, but it was so well-seasoned that it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of it. They also brought us a “surprise” bowl of the minestra di pane – bread soup – that is very similar to ribollita. That was awesome – tasted just like Thanksgiving stuffing! Ah, the wonders of sage.
At the end of our class today, my cooking professor was talking about going to restaurants. He said the best way to judge a restaurant is by its appetizers and dessert – how they start and end a meal. He emphasized the great importance of dessert and ending a meal on a sweet note, because there’s always room for sweet! (You understand now why I enjoyed this class so much?) I was feeling inspired and so Alaina and I split the flourless chocolate cake.
Best. Decision. Ever.
This was one of the best chocolate cakes EVER. Very thin but SO dense and moist. I could have eaten an entire cake’s worth of it. But, aside from the phenomenal flavor, I also appreciated the portion size – it was a perfect dessert. Wonderful taste but not overwhelmingly huge so as to make you waddle out of the restaurant. Well done, Cibreino. Well done.
What fabulous plans do we have on our last day in Firenze? Pack, pack, pack – print boarding passes – and then pack some more. Ah, the glamour of life abroad.
And I loved every second.
~Namaste~

Stomaching It

There is nothing like walking the streets of Florence with a gelato in one hand and new shoes in the other. Not even the rain can bring me down.
Dark Chocolate + William Pear from Vestri.
Vestri’s dark chocolate goes beyond just ‘gelato’…it’s like another dessert within itself, it’s so good. 
I haven’t posted in a while because, well, there hasn’t been much to post about! I had two finals on Monday which I think went pretty well overall, I was pretty well-prepared and knew what to expect. To be honest, my semester here is about so much more than studying, I’m not too stressed. Don’t get me wrong, I studied and read and took my classes seriously, but in the grand scheme of things, my classes were only an iota of my time here. SO MUCH has happened these past few months! It is sad that it’s the end, but I am ready to start reflecting on it I think. It’s a lot to take in, for sure.
Monday night I had a date (gasp!) and we went to Pepo, a place right by the market that was on the to-go-to list but we never made it.We’ve done pretty well getting through it, though!
I ordered:
Tagliatelle vegeteriane – just pasta and veggies. Keepin’ it simple – hard to go wrong with that!
It was yummmmy (although it could have used a little parmesan). The pasta was perfectly al dente – mushy pasta is one of my biggest pet peeves. The veggies held up their texture as well. A little oily but overall very tasty!
Tuesday was a bit of a rough day. I spent most of the night swatting at the mosquito buzzing in my ear, but unfortunately my efforts did not keep the nasty little thing from eating me alive. I must have at least 8 bites in various places right now. Ick. I came home from Italian and went back to bed. Got up to eat something…and went back to sleep again. Whoops! I think I must have needed it though; my throat had been a little sore for a few days and I needed a little more rest to fight it off. I spent the remainder of the day staring out the window at the torrential monsoon-like downpour outside and telling myself to start packing…and then doing crossword puzzles instead. Just one of those days, I suppose. 
3 of us went to the farewell aperitivo API held for us at a nearby restaurant/bar. I wasn’t expecting much, but…ouch. It was just sad. It really wasn’t aperitivo – we had to pay for drinks if we wanted an alcoholic one. Diet Coke is not what you drink at aperitivo!!! The food was some over-oily pizza, which actually didn’t totally suck, but it only came out every 10 minutes or so and the 50 students that were there jumped on them like hawks when they came out. There was a rice-veggie salad type thing that had what I swear was chopped up hot dog. Seriously, I understand cooking for a large group is hard…but it’s not that hard. Fail.
Came back and attempted to study for Italian…aka, listened to Michael Buble and caught up on blogs & email. The final really wasn’t bad, and I was right to not be concerned about it, we had basically done everything on the final at some point in class before. I only wish we had had more listening assignments; that’s really my weakest point. Just don’t have a big enough vocabulary yet. I’m going to keep working on it, though; it’s such a pretty language and I’d love to be fully fluent!
After coming home and passing out – had another bad night sleep-wise – I woke up and got to the day’s activity: shopping. I don’t do much shopping at home (aside from food, of course), so I like to take advantage of having a city full of great shops while I can. Especially since the prices are usually so good – I can get birthdays and Christmas covered in a snap!
For lunch, Alaina and I had plans. Scary plans. What could be scary about lunch in Italy, you ask? One word: stomach. Cow stomach, to be precise. It’s crazy popular in Florence; their “fast food” comes in the form of lampredotto, a sandwich of boiled stomach (not tripe – that’s the 3rd stomach; lampredotto contains the cow’s 4th stomach…you hungry yet?) and served with a green, herby sauce on a roll.
Looks totally and completely innocent, no?
Ok, here’s my opinion: taste-wise, it was actually pretty good. Very much like roast beef, but the difference is really hard to explain. The texture, on the other hand…hmm. Slimy. Slimy, slick, and not at all pleasant. We both took two bites before giving up. We just couldn’t stomach the stomach!
I was in desperate need of something to take the slimy-meat memory out of my mouth – and it just so happened that we were right by Casa del Vino! Considering I hadn’t gone this week (Monday is my usual sandwich day but I had my last Sergio’s date planned for then), it was perfect. I got the very first sandwich I ever tried, waaaaay back in February:
Anchovies in a parsley-olive oil-garlic mix with fresh pecorino. And the reason why I fell in love with this place came rushing back. It was gone too fast, but I enjoyed every last bite.
Packing is an overwhelming act. I think I’ll go pour myself a glass of wine.
~Namaste~

Brain Food

Whoever said “absence makes the heart grow fonder” must have known what it’s like to be without internet for 3 days. I never realized how much I love writing this blog until it was taken away! Which I suppose would be the cloud’s silver lining. [I swear, I’m not trying to jam as many adages into one post as I can.]
Sunday was spent sleeping and studying. Yup, finals week in Italy ain’t so different from finals week at home! Except for at Converse I don’t walk by the Duomo on my way to take it or go to Sergio’s for lunch afterwards…alright, so it’s a little different.
All that studying required some serious brain food:
 Chocolate-orange yogoats
Arugula + cannellini beans + pecorino + balsamic.
My brain felt better.
My roommate Alaina’s parents got here (on Mother’s Day – che carina!) and generously invited all of us out to dinner with them! We went to Ristorante Aqua al 2, recommended by API and my roommate Sam who went here early on in the semester. They are known for their “samplers” – of salads, pastas, meats, and dessert. If you order a sampler, they bring you 3 different dishes, chosen at random. I split a salad sampler and a pasta sampler with my roommate. I snapped a picture of the salads, but even my beloved LuLu couldn’t quite get a clear shot (stupid restaurant lighting…):
From left to right: corn with cherry tomatoes, mixed greens with tuna and capers, and fennel with chicken and radicchio. I think the fennel one was my favorite – I liked how it was hard to tell the chicken apart from the fennel, it made for an interesting presentation.
The pasta samplers were not in any way photogenic or pretty, and they were passed so quickly it wasn’t worth the picture. The first pasta was fusilli (the spiral pasta) in a creamy green sauce (probably pesto) with what we think was tuna. It was good, probably my favorite of the 3. The second was farfalline (little bow ties) in a tomato sauce with mushrooms – good, but kind of blah and unimaginative. The third was a little hard to tell – it was rigatoni in a sauce that I thought was sun-dried tomatoes and eggplant but we couldn’t tell if there was meat in it. I checked the menu again online and I’m pretty sure it was just veggies, but it’s Italy – chi sa? (who knows?) Either way, it was very tasty – definitely had red wine in the sauce. You know that rich, deep flavor that you get when you cook with wine? Mmmm. Not just for drinking! There was a cannelloni (big tube pasta) stuffed with ricotta and spinach which was good, but again, nothing special. Not bad – but nothing I couldn’t find at home pretty easily.
The meal itself was not fantabulous perse, but this was one of those instances where the atmosphere and company was so nice, it was a truly pleasant dining experience. Thank you Alaina’s parents!!!
Afterwards, we went to Grom. No explanation necessary.
Melone + fiordilatte di menta (basically, creamy mint)
New May flavors!!!
I LOVED this combo!!! I’ve had melon with mint leaves sprinkled on top, and this was the perfect recreation of that in gelato form. I have no idea why they work so well – they are both really sweet, but I think it’s something about the cool mint and the fruity melon that just…works.
Study, study, study…
~Namaste~