Yes, actually, I can.

You’re going to have to do indulge me bit – I have some ranting to do. But I do hope it is mostly relatable ranting!

 

So I’m 21. Almost 22 actually, but that’s splitting hairs. I have gotten the sense that the years from 20 to 22 are somewhat awkward. You’re not a teenager, but you’re still not old enough to be considered a “twentysomething.” Sure, you can drink legally, but the initial excitement over that dies down pretty quickly. (And studying abroad the year before where drinking starts from the age of 12 makes it even less of a big deal.)

You don’t have much. In my case, you’re pretty much stuck with a few hesitant glances at the register when you try to buy wine, and a fancy college degree that comes with just enough knowledge to need more than a part-time job flipping burgers but not quite enough experience to qualify you for any kind of “real job.” And the cherry on top? Even while you go about doing what you know you can do, there is a constant presence of someone “older and wiser” (read: condescending moron who think age = intelligence) peeking over your shoulder telling you how to do it.

Pardon my French, but – it’s a huge pain in the ass.

I was one of those kids who always seemed a little older than she was, probably because I’m generally pretty quiet and have always been more interested in sitting at the “adults’ table” and listening to their conversations than playing with crayons and eating chicken fingers. I told you I’m a nerd. But apparently, I stopped growing at around 17 and to most people, I look like I’m still there. I can’t even tell you how many people have asked, “Oh, you graduated this year? Do you know where you’re going to college?” I have tried to laugh it off, but really, it just pisses me off. I’ll recognize that a big part of it may be that in the summer I don’t wear makeup all too often and I’m often dressed to workout (usually because I’m either going to or already have and you are seeing me between showers), but to a certain extent I just find it ridiculous.

 

This has been a real struggle for me, and one of the worst things about it is that I’m not altogether sure why it gets to me so much. Any fellow grads having this issue? Let me hear from you. I feel pretty unique in this, and not in a good way.

I suppose I’m a little burnt out. College to me felt a little bit like a race to the end, and after I won the race and got my trophy, life went back to normal. I feel like I’m still standing in the middle of the race street in my running clothes, clutching my trophy for dear life, while a bunch of important-looking people push around me to get back to work. No matter how many times I try to stop someone and show them my very shiny trophy, they just brush right past like I’m invisible.

Sorry. I’m an English major – I’m prone to very imaginative metaphors. Go with it.

 

There are some days when I just feel like taking a megaphone, heading to the top of the Pru and shouting “I AM SMART AND I HAVE DONE LOTS OF THINGS AND AM GENERALLY A VERY QUALIFIED HUMAN BEING.” Or something like that. It just seems to me that people forget what college was after a few years, and no longer remember the constant-idea-making-machine they were after holding that diploma.

Look, I’m not saying I don’t know things. And I’m not saying I don’t have a lot to learn. And I’m not saying I don’t look like my 18-yr-old brother’s girlfriend when I am on the elliptical in my high school gym shorts.

But you know what? There’s lots I do know too. I probably even know more than your mom about certain things [ohsnap]. I clearly know enough about writing and food to have 1) written a blog about it for almost 2 years and 2) to get my own column about it. I certainly did not spend 3 months of my life reading American cookbooks from the 19th century and throwing around words like subversion and domestic ideology to come out not being somewhat of a know-it-all on the subject. And let me tell you, if you can successfully master the Italian transportation system in three months, you should be able to put it on your resume. I can’t say I haven’t considered it.

 

To the world – please stop underestimating the recently graduated. We’re really very capable and have quite a bit of knowledge still fresh in our brains. And to my fellow racers – may you find a very pretty place to put your trophy, and may you find a way to happily become one of those people around us walking to work. Emphasis on happily.

 

“I can do it just fine, thankyouverymuch” Spaghetti Limone Aglio Olio

Serve with a loaf of good crusty bread and a triumphant twinkle in your eye.

 

  • 1 lb fresh spaghetti (linguine or tagliatelle will work as well)
  • salt (for water)
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 6 – 8 cloves of garlic
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 – 4 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • scant 1/4 c grated parmesan cheese

Fill a large pot about 2/3rds full with water. Add a sizeable palmful of salt. Bring to a boil.

While you’re waiting, peel and either chop or smash (smashing is more fun) the garlic cloves. Then, because water takes forever to boil and you’re old enough to have heard the whole watched-pot proverb about a million times, zest your lemon. Chop it in half so that it’s ready to be squeezed. Go ahead and chop up that parsley, too.

Add pasta to the boiling water and cook until just al dente (a little undercooked is best).

In the meantime, heat the olive oil in a medium-large skillet. Throw in your garlic and keep smashing it around with your spoon. Let it cook until golden. Inhale. A lot.

Go drain your pasta – fresh pasta cooks in minutes, so it won’t need to be in there long.

Remove the pan with the now-golden-brown garlic from heat and add the parsley ( and red pepper flakes, if you wish). Add the pasta to the pan and toss it with the lemon zest, lemon juice (start with half the lemon and add to taste), and some fresh pepper. Top with parsley and cheese.

Serve to much impressed oohing and aahing and tell them you learned this recipe in school, where you also learned how to time-manage and generally be a self-efficient adult. Or just let the flavors speak for themselves. Either way, they’ll get the message.

 

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College-age Nonmutant Perhaps-Ninja Turtles

No turtles were hurt during this process. Well, no live turtles, anyway.

On Wednesday I mentioned a certain turtle-y challenge. On Friday, TGIF took on a whole new meaning.

You see, I showed my friend these adorable turtle pretzels on Kirbie’s Cravings (via Tastespotting, as per usual) and it was all over after that. We had to make them.

Now, yeast is on the ingredient list – but don’t let that deter you. I was a little anxious during the entire prep process because I don’t have a whole lot of experience with yeast – at least, not any recent experience. Unless eating my mom’s yeast rolls at Christmas counts?

Ahem. Alright, take off your rings, don your aprons, and tie back your hair. Let’s do this thing.

I followed the recipe exactly (except for one thing, but I’ll get to that later), so I won’t repost it here. Besides, a picture is worth a thousand words!

It calls for 4 1/2 cups of flour, so if you’re low, you might hop to the store. We did!

To begin, mix 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 teaspoons salt in 1 1/2 cups of warm water. I didn’t have a thermometer, so I just figured out the water tempt he old-fashioned way – stuck my hand under the faucet and waited until it felt like bath water.

Sprinkle a packet (2 1/4 tsp) of active dry yeast on top and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Tick tock, tick tock…

While you waiting, melt 2 oz of butter in the microwave. Please use butter – we want these turtles gross-margarine-chemical-free and not resembling the turtles from the Gulf.

When the 5 minutes are up, add in the butter and flour. You can try to mix it with a spoon, but after about 5 seconds I saw that it was time to go Ms. Frizzle on this dough – get messy!

Knead, baby, knead!

I had to add a little water when it got on the tough side. I really had no idea what I was doing, because the original recipe only has directions for a stand mixer, so I just guessed. After about 5 minutes, I figured it was good enough. Place it in an oiled bowl and let it rise for about 55 minutes.

While you’re waiting, I highly recommend following our lead and making grown-up animal mac & cheese. No, that is not an oxymoron.

 

More turtle love!

The very cute mini cheese grater I bought in California as a joke ended up coming in handy. Worked pretty well, too!

We used a combo of parmeggiano (the good kind – no Kraft here, thankyouverymuch) and this Amish Colby Jack cheese. No idea how much we put in. All I did was cook the pasta (salt your water!!) until slightly undercooked, drain it, and then return it to the still-hot pot on low heat. Add in the cheese – reserve some of the parm for topping – a little milk (we had skim), and some garlic salt and pepper. The garlic salt makes this go from “good” to “we are making this again. soon.” Don’t forget it! We also threw in some frozen broccoli. Hence the “grown up” mac and cheese.

I served mine over some arugula with extra parm on top. Seriously, make this. It was so good. Next time, we’re adding tomatoes and red onion. Maybe some spinach.

Hungry hungry hippo!!

Ok, so your dough is probably about done rising now. I have no real spatial abilities, so I trusted my roommate when she said it looked about double in size.

I cut the dough into 16 “equal” pieces – they weren’t very equal, but we were fine with having a few babies. So, roll each piece out long. It will help if you do this on a floured surface! Then spiral them in to look like snails, like so:

You’ll want a cup of water on hand to make the layers stick. Just don’t drink it.

Now, pinch a head, feet, arms and tail out of the dough.

Mine.

Emily’s.

For obvious reasons, she was in charge of the turtle-forming after that.

Right about here you should get your oven preheating to 450 F and start some water boiling. If you remember to read things, you will put 2/3 cup of baking soda in the water. I did not, and there is a bowl of baking soda in a drawer under our counter feeling quite unhappy and useless. Oops.

Basically, you’re gonna blanch the turtles before baking. When your water is boiling, drop them in for 30 seconds and use a slotted spatula/flat spoon to get them out. I had to do one at a time because our pot is small and I’m not good at multi-tasking, but if either or neither of those is true for you, I’m sure you could do multiple at a time.

Swim towards the light, little guy!

This maybe because I forgot the baking soda, but they expand like WHOA in there! I ended up baking six at a time because that’s all that would fit on my Silpat (aka, the fancy French reusable silicone nonstick baking sheet. You see why it’s just called ‘Silpat.’).

Beat an egg as your roommate continues transforming snails to turtles, and brush some over the pre-baked turtles. (They should dry relatively quickly after their, um, bath.) A brush would be great, but we didn’t have one so I just used my fingers. You’re gonna bake ’em anyway, germs schmerms.

The directions said to bake them for 6 – 7 minutes. We had to keep them in there for at least double that time  – I’m thinking the lack of baking soda in the blanching water had something to do with that.

A little too blonde after 6 minutes.

But definitely tasty!

Once they’ve cooled, you can use a toothpick, fork tine, etc to poke little holes for eyes. We had some cupcakes sprinkles hanging around…

Red eyes = tired turtle?

This one was looking right!

Tell me this is not the cutest turtle you ever did see!

I did the first batch plain, but in the second and third I tried some toppings. Because it’s me and I have to play with my food.

Coarse sea salt

Rosemary

Brown sugar & cinnamon

The brown sugar definitely won our hearts over – but all of them were absolutely delicious! And really pretty easy – in fact, if you have a fear of working with yeast, this would be a great intro recipe. Trust me, I have no idea what I was doing and they are better than edible! We are definitely making these again – I did NOT measure out 2/3 cup of baking soda to just let it sit in a bowl under our counter. Nope.

Moral: Make these, because they will make you smile.

And don’t forget to spring forward!


A Backwards Christmas

Christmas is my favorite holiday ever. I even like it better than my birthday – and don’t worry, I will get to that too. 

But first – can we just talk about the blizzard that is currently covering every inch of Massachusetts?

 

 

The dog loves it…

 

…even though she comes in every time shivering.

She loves when I wrap her up in a towel almost as much as when I take her picture.
*coughNOTcoughwoofwoof*

Our perty tree. (The bottom half of the lights just fizzled out…but you don’t notice that at all. Not at all.)

 

 

 

Christmas morning was filled with presents, hiding from my dad’s video camera, and monkey bread made with extra dough my mom used to make her grandmother’s yeast rolls the night before.

 

Cinnamon-sugary, doughy goodness! The phrase “melt in your mouth” came to mind.
After presents and general Christmas lazing, my parents, brother and I set out in our three-year-old Christmas day tradition: we go to a movie and have an early dinner at Legal Seafoods.
This year, we saw The King’s Speech. MAN, it was good. It was wonderfully well acted and I fell in love with Colin Firth for the 12387654th time. Oh Mr. Dahcy!

We like going to the Park Plaza Legal’s in downtown Boston for the ambience. I pretty much just go for the rolls. They have wonderful fish, of course, and the restaurant’s been a favorite of mine for….um, pretty much as long as remember. I was the six-year-old who drooled over lobster and shrimp cocktail – clearly, I’ve always had impeccable taste 😉 Unfortunately, the menu seemed more boring than usual – they must have changed chefs recently. It really wasn’t a problem for me; I barely slept the night before and was still suffering from a food hangover, so I just got an appetizer and stole bites from my generous fam.
Continuing the holiday journey backwards, Christmas Eve is probably my favorite day of the year. Good moods are in abundance, and I get to bake my happy little hands off! My mom has always hosted a party on Christmas Eve and we have a Honey-Baked Ham, her sweet potatoes (the droolworthiness of which was previously discussed here), and the party-goers bring their favorites. This year the spread involved baked beans, hot chicken salad, scalloped potatoes, roasted brussel sprouts (one of my faves!), and green beans. Unfortunately, no pictures are to be had…because I was a little distracted.
By this:

Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle.

 

And Sticky Toffee Pudding (so good, it has to be capitalized).

 

Yes, I made both. From scratch. I baked for two days. And I was happy as could be.

The trifle was something I had years ago at a friend’s Thanksgiving and became obsessed. It is one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. I usually make the pumpkin mousse part with sugar-free, fat-free pudding mix and cool whip, and the gingerbread out of a box mix. But this year, I made it my mission to make my dessert as real-food-full as possible. It tastes better, costs less, and really is better for you.
For the pumpkin mousse layer, I used Kath’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie recipe, just making the filling. It was perfectly spicy and thickened up beautifully overnight in the fridge. 2 things to keep in mind – 1) it is a good idea to make this well-beforehand, and 2) the mix will seem soupy before you add in the beaten egg whites, but don’t fear! It will set!
For the gingerbread, I used a recipe out of a (gasp!) Weight Watchers cookbook! [This one.] They actually have some really good recipes, regardless of whether you are on the WW plan or not. Their turkey chili is to live for. And, the gingerbread recipe called for 6 tablespoons of real butter and all real food ingredients, so I wasn’t worried. It was delicious!
I did not, however, use real whipping cream. I really didn’t want to use Cool Whip, because it does seem like a bunch of crap I really don’t want in my body, but I still wanted to make the dish a little on the lighter side (sticky toffee pudding is, um, NOT), so I used truwhip. It actually worked really well and tasted delicious and  quite frankly, I really like how those whipped toppings taste – and I know I’m not alone!

As for the Sticky Toffee Pudding, you may remember my first encounter with this dish that redefines delectable? It was the restaurant that I am going to work at this summer just 3 minutes from my aunt & uncles’ house in Georgia. It was a gooey, caramelly, thick plate of goodness, the likes of which my tastebuds had never before experienced. I decided right then and there that it would be the perfect birthday present for my brother. His birthday is in October and I am 1) never at home for it and 2) never sure what to get him, so I always bake him something, and this was definitely a good belated birthday present. The sauce, however, calls for 2 cups of heavy cream, and that was a bit much to keep just for the 4 of us alone, so the Christmas Eve dinner was the perfect occasion. It took most of a day to prepare, but damned if it wasn’t worth it. And, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy spending most of my day toiling over a cake to be enjoyed by others. It’s kind of my favorite thing to do. Ever.
It’s basically a super-moist cake made with dates and heavy on the molasses, which is then drenched in a bath of rich toffee and served very warm.

Good as it sounds? Nope. Better.

On with the rewinding!

Wednesday night, the fam and I ventured into Boston to see an improv show – anyone familiar with Sassy Gay Friend? If you’re not, you really should be. He is absolutely hilarious and I desperately want Saturday Night Live to create a sketch just for him. His YouTube videos are addicting – you just never get sick of watching them! I have them memorized and I still crack up when I watch them. Anyway, the actor is a Boston native and was doing a live show at a small improv company where he got his start (he’s actually from my hometown – one of Dedham’s finest!) The show made me cry with laughter multiple times, and I really wish he was my Sassy Gay Friend.

The theatre is right in Boston’s North End, which is our Little Italy. Italian restaurants (authentic ones – Olive Garden is a swear down there) line the streets from all sides, and you only have to choose one. That’s actually more difficult than it sounds – eenie meenie miney moe would serve you well. We chose Ristorante Fiore, mostly because we were getting cold and hungry and it was on the same side of the street as the theatre. We didn’t regret our choice.

A really tasty bottle of wine was ordered (because I can drink in public now – amen!), although the olive oil didn’t taste as “fresh off the boat” as I would have liked. I think Italy ruined olive oil here for me. Damn.

 

I ordered the bombolotti al forno, which was housemade pasta (an absolute must – any Italian restaurant that doesn’t make their own pasta should be embarassed, in my very snobby opinion) with a simple marinara sauce and housemade sausage topped with regiano and goat cheeses. Oh dear pasta gods.

 

The goat cheese just put this over the edge of delirious deliciousness. I actually asked if I could have it without the sausage, mostly because I just can’t eat much meat anymore and it doesn’t appeal to me much – but the waiter was mildly horrified and convinced me. I was happy he did; it added a ton of flavor and had the perfect sausage texture – tender and juuust crumbly enough with a slight kick of spice. I was so distracted by the wonderful homemade pasta that I didn’t think to take a picture of it, which I regretted sorely after I realized it, because it was beautiful! Bombolotti is very, very wide and thick tubes of pasta but this restaurant made several little tubes inside each piece – it kind of looks like the wheel-shaped pasta before it’s cut into individual wheels. A wheel log, if you will.
That probably makes no sense, so obviously you must go as soon as possible and try it for yourself. Hanover Street, on the left side. Trust me.
What is it about homemade pasta? I hate to say it, but I think it’s just something you have to experience. It has a different density, a different mouthfeel…it’s just so much more satisfying.
Anyway, where was I? Pasta gets me so very sidetracked. Oh yes, the Christmas break rewind. Well, I flew from Atlanta to home on Saturday, cutting my Christmas vacation at home to a mere 2 weeks instead of a blissful 3. But there is a method to my madness.
That restaurant that I mentioned I will be working at this summer? Well, it’s more of an internship than work. To attend the CIA, I have to have 6 months of hands-on food prep experience – read:I have to chop vegetables for 12-15 hours a week. Which I am totally fine with – the trick was finding a place that would have me! I found my “in” at this restaurant that is a couple miles down the road from my aunt & uncle’s house in Lilburn, Georgia called Three Blind Mice. It’s a really cool restaurant and the chef is super nice and was very accommodating for my situation – and every one on the kitchen is very supportive of my goal o be a food writer! I’m always a little apprehensive to tell chefs that I want to be a food writer; I expect the “oh, so you want to tell me what’s bad about my food for a living?” response. Thankfully, food writing is really becoming an established literary genre and the immediate thought was that I would write a book – that’s more than a career goal, that’s kind of a life dream of mine. But they made it sound a lot more possible than I believe[d] it to be, so yay!
So, last week I worked a 9-hour and 7-hour shift, two days in a row, followed by a 4-hour shift (Thursday was totally dead for the dinner hour and I was pretty much useless). I peeled and deveined shrimp for 2 hours straight. I took over the salad station. I made enough hummus to fill the biggest stainless steel bowl I have ever laid eyes on. Oh, and I learned how to use the torch that caramelizes the sugar on creme brulees. That was pretty cool. And I learned all that after just 3 days – get excited for this summer, when I will impart all my new knowledge to y’all!
[And I do expect to have enough material for a book after this summer. I’ve started taking notes. Definitely have a good cast of characters.]
Before that was finals and the presentation of my senior thesis. You know, the 20-page paper that determined whether or not I would graduate with the degree I’ve spent the past 3 years of my life working for? Yeah, that one. It owned my soul for the past 3 months. It felt like I gave birth to a child when the last copy was printed. But, it also kicked ass and I am now the proud owner of an intense amount of knowledge surrounding food writing and food in World War II America. If I ever got to write a longer thesis or a research book, I would totally devote it to examining how food in the 1940s helped shape American cuisine & food attitudes as they are today. It’s completely fascinating.
In fact, I actually enjoyed the research involved. Even though at one point I had over 30 post-it notes covering my desk and over 30 (yes, 30) library books on food covering my floor, printer top and window sill. It was so interesting, and it let me learn all there is to know about M.F.K. Fisher, the woman who basically founded American food writing as a genre. But she is more than a food writer – and you don’t have to subscribe to Bon Appetit or have an entire bookcase of cookbooks or even watch Paula Deen to fall in love with her writing. Her books apply to everyone. If you are in need of a New Year’s resolution, let me help you: read The Art of Eating. At the very least, The Gastronomical Me. If she doesn’t capture your heart, she will at least arouse your tastebuds.
And the week before that…I turned 21! I would say that all the responsibility and freedom that comes with being able to drink makes me feel different, but….um, I kind of spent the first half on my 20th year in Italy, going to wine tastings and aperitivo. But, I do not drink to get drunk, because I think that’s stupid and disrespectful to the drink – especially with wine, it’s someone’s career to craft every ounce that goes into that bottle. It’s not made to be chugged, thankyouverymuch.
Ok, off my soapbox.
Well, that’s my recap for the month. Miss me?
I know I was a bad, bad blogger during this semester. But please understand, I took 5 classes – 3 literature classes, 1 senior thesis, and chemistry – and balanced [barely] 4 jobs on the side (I blog for my school, I do some study abroad work for my awesome study abroad company, API, I work at the Writing Center on campus, and I’m the Italian tutor). It might sound like I’m blowing my own horn…and, well, I kind of am. I’m actually a little proud that I made it through in one piece, with all limbs and GPA in tact. But, I am definitely not proud of the neglect this blog felt, and hope to remedy that immediately and into the new year. I will be moving into the senior apartments for the Spring semester which means that I will actually HAVE A KITCHEN! It is very difficult to put my excitement about that into words – but I promise to try. I also don’t have classes on Monday or Friday, which is a first (and last!) for me. I really feel like I’ve lost my blogging mojo, and have every intention of getting it back.
That said, I will return tomorrow with a super easy and tasty one-pot, quick and warming dinner for all of my fellow blizzard shit-ins!
~Namaste~

Unexpected Austin

Wednesday, August 11th 2010: Wake up far too early for a sunny day in August. Eat some melon. Head to airport. 
Destination: Austin, Texas.
Purpose: Training as a Peer Mentor for Academic Programs International.
[Just wanted to set the scene for y’all. Why the James Bond writing style?…If I told you, I’d have to kill you.]
Once I passed through security – always a barrel of laughs, that process – I proclaimed it breakfast time. And whaddya know, but there was a UFood Grill in the American terminal. I have heard of this particular restaurant and have always wanted to go, but all its Massachusetts locations are in downtown Boston, and it’s not easy to just hop down there. (Mostly because I refuse to drive in Boston. I value the lives of myself and my car far too much.) It’s a super casual dining place that features all health-focused fresh foods – AND tart frozen yogurt. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I have a frozen yogurt, erm, problem. The problem being that I love it and will get it at pretty much anytime of the day or night, irregardless of actual hunger. It’s usually worth it.
But, I also saw they offered smoothies, and that sounded perfect so early on in the day. I grabbed a yogurt and the Mango Madness smoothie – mango, banana, and orange juice.
It was a little heavy on the OJ flavor, but it was pretty tasty. And it made me happy to see a substantial healthy breakfast option in the airport. It made me smile.
I had a layover at OHare in Chicago, and was equally as successful in finding a healthy lunch option!
It was lacking in the protein department, and was seriously screaming for some avocado, but it was really fresh and tasty. The cilantro made ALL the difference, and I was really impressed that it was even there! When I think of airports and herbs together, I see a flight attendant asking me if salt counts. Go OHare and cilantro!
Got to Austin and eventually found the other 3 Peer Mentors who were with me – we were on the same flight the whole time!
I’m just going to say it now: I have never, EVER in my life experiences humidity like I did in Texas. It was what I think rain forests and green houses are like. It was intense and inescapable. But I actually kind of liked it – the air conditioning never felt too cold! 
Despite all the heat, we still saw plenty of runners and bikers and strollers out and about, sweaty and smiling. It was impressive. Insane, but impressive.
After getting to the hotel, my roommate Gab and I chilled in the room and literally talked for 2.5 hours straight. She had studied with the API Toscania program, and it was absolutely incredible to share our mutual Italy experience/adventures. In fact, the entire time in Austin was like the best therapy I could have asked for in the transition back to home life. I loved hearing about everyone else’s experiences and even though we all went to different places, we all had the common ground of loving every minute of it and it was amazing to connect with that. It was just the coolest group of people. I kinda wish we got to work together more as Peer Mentors. But before I get too wish-washy…
On to the FOOD. We definitely ate well in Austin. The first night, we went to a Tex-Mex place. As we should have.
 
[Insert here bowls of some seriously delicious salsa, guacamole, and queso. I always thought queso was just glorified melted Veleveeta cheese….I was wrong. It’s amazing.]
I went with the fish tacos for my entree. It was a tough choice, but I’ve always wanted to try them, and I do love me some grilled tilapia. It was a good choice 🙂
The corn tortillas were soft (my fave!) and tasted homemade, and I never thought I would say this, but the best part of the dish was the Chipotle Ranch dressing drizzled on top. I usually opt for no dressing, because the plate typically arrives drowning under a cloying, bland, cheap-tasting white goo. But this was unlike no other ranch I’ve ever tasted. It was light but wonderfully creamy, well-spiced but not too hot, and accented the dish without taking any other flavor away. Basically, exactly what a sauce should be. One of the best tex-mex experiences I’ve ever had. (The only one that was better was a seafood enchilada in downtown Boston when I was around 9. It remains in my head as one of the tastiest seafood dishes yet to reach my mouth. I could eat one right now.)
After dinner, the group of us wandered around downtown Austin (ha! that rhymes with Boston!…maybe I need to get out more.). Austin is such a cool city! It reminded me a lot of Charlotte, North Carolina which I was totally not expecting. Most of our group ended up doing a bit of bar-hopping on the [in]famous 6th street, but my 20-year-old status and very tired self prevented me from doing the same. Luckily, my roommate and one other girl were also still 20, so I wasn’t alone. Yay for the youngin’s!
After a none-too-restful night, I awoke groggy but excited to get started. It was so great to actually meet the people I had emailed obsessively and see the building where that rather hefty check was sent to. The API Staff is just awesome. And a lot of them are Gillianasana readers, which just makes me grin like an idiot to know. [Hi everyone!!!] And the office decor is SO cool. The creative director Mark is, well, creative. It’s really colorful and fun, and I have plans to decorate my future apartment a la API. You’re all invited to my housewarming party. Bring chocolate.
We went out to lunch & I had my first one of these:
A fried pickle! And the consensus was that it tastes like…um, a fried pickle. Yep.
Dinner was really exciting. Like, really really exciting.
Italian! What else would get me so excited?
[That was some delicious focaccia. Nothing like the focaccia I had in Italy…but delicious nevertheless. Crispy, cheesy, chewy. God I love bread.]
Remember my first garganelli experience? I loved the shape, and when I saw it on the menu simply done with a tomato & basil sauce, my mind was made up quite quickly.
Simple is always a good way to go.
The dining experience in Austin was really fun. Great food + great conversation. It was, well, great!
And lo and behold, what was across the street from this Italian restaurant but a frozen yogurt shop. I was all over that like white on rice.
This was my first experience with pay-per-ounce fro yo, and I must say, I am jealous of those of you who have one nearby. Although my wallet sure is happy without them.
But who can say no to this??
Not I. 
I went the next night too.
The next and final day, we all gave our presentations about our personal study abroad experiences. It was so much fun to hear everyone’s, and made me want to go back. And then go everywhere they went. Global tour, anyone?
Earlier, we met with our program managers, aka the person I stalked via email for 3 months when I was dealing with the massive amount of paperwork involved. [Note to all those study-abroad hopefuls I just scared: most of it is now done online. I am jealous.]. Mine was absolutely awesome, despite the fact that I emailed her 3 times in a row in a period of 10 minutes, and it was so cool to meet her (and see a pic of her adorable son!). 
Another highlight was lunch.
Turkey+sprouts+lettuce+tomato+mustard+”avocado”. Apparently in Texas, when you see avocado on a menu, it means guacamole. Only one more reason I love Austin. More places should adopt that principle.
But dessert basically eclipsed everything else. There is a “cookie delivery service” nearby that the office orders from often, understandably. But the kicker? The cookes are delivered fresh from the oven.
In one word? GENIUS.
That was hands-down the best M&M cookie I’ve ever had. It was all gooey and melty and warm and if I didn’t have enough reasons to up and move to Austin, this would do it. I want to open a fresh-from-the-oven cookie delivery service. Seriously. Possibly one of the best business strategies I’ve ever heard of.
After our training was all over (*tear*), a small group of us decided to check out Barton Springs Pool, which is a public outdoor swimming area with natural water. (I don’t know how else to describe it; by “natural,” I mean not chlorinated. So before you start giggling about the concept of “unnatural water”…shutup.)
[I love that there is an award for “Best Swimming Hole.”]
We ran back to the hotel and I fought with the hotel printer, and before I knew it, it was dinner time! We met at a tapas bar (we were going for barbecue, but the was an hour-long wait, and it was already 8 o’clock. Not happening.).One of the group studied in Barcelona, so needless to say, we asked him for recommendations. I
went vegetarian.
It was some fresh bread with some of the best grilled veggies I’ve had – and I have had a lot! It was leeks, artichokes, and asparagus in smoked olive oil + sea salt. The leeks literally melted in my mouth. That romesco sauce on the side was none too shabby, either. I wanted to partake in the bottle of wine, but that pesky age limit and my conscience stopped me. Oh, to be in Italy again.

It was really a great trip. Even better than I expected, and I was pretty excited to begin with! The job will be a lot of work, but studying abroad is something I’m pretty passionate about & I think it will really be fun. 
That wasn’t the only surprise; the trip seemed to trigger a bit if reverse culture shock. Perhaps it was all the talking about living in our respective countries and how much we loved and grew from it, but either way, I came home happy but a little hurtin’. But what it really did was remind me of what a crazy, confusing, beautiful experience studying abroad is and, for me, was. And I’d do it all over again.
Thanks, Austin!
I think I’ll be back 😉
~Namaste~
[P.S. – if anyone read this earlier, my mouse clicked the “Publish” button of its own volition when I was halfway through writing it. Hate it when that happens.]

The Maine Thing

Um, yeah, remember a few weekends ago when I went to Maine? Well, remember how I promised to return with pictures? Yeah, blogger fail. Better late then never, though!

Family friends/former neighbors of ours bought a little cottage just a couple hours out of Mass. around Ogunquitt, Maine. The cottage was super cute – small, but cozy rather than claustrophia-inducing, with lots of light and they’ve decorated beautifully. Look how cute!
Our hostess called this her “Martha Stewart moment.” Love it.
We arrived just in time for lunch – and a lovely lunch it was!

Pasta salad, FULL of veggies. This was absolutely delicious! It is originally from the Silver Palate cookbook; I am planning on making it again (and again, and again….) and probably tweaking it here and there. I do love me a good pasta salad.
And fruit! 

Including these gorgeous local raspberries:
Even better than they look.
Now, why on earth would anyone go to Maine in July? 
The BEACH, of course!
It was a perfect beach day. Just look at this sky:
To get to the beach, you have to walk over some beautiful marshland. It made LuLu very happy – she is a much more cooperative camera when there is beauty to be documented!
Chillin 🙂
See the sailboat?
This struck me as very….biblical. The light, the tree…I don’t know. 
After lazing in the sun, we took a quick drive to Perkin’s Cove, a.k.a, the tourist haven. But it sure is perty!
I could not get over the restaurants there. I wanted to go to so many! We passed a French bistro located inside an adorable little cottage that could have easily been a B&B…or Snow White’s house. Forget eating there, can I work there????
We went to a really wonderful place for breakfast, Roost Cafe.
In an old barn, they created a quirky, fun ambience!
They even bake their own bread & pastries! I must have seen this bread basket get changed 3 times or so as we ate. And if I wasn’t in love already…
Check the menu.
Honey lavender granola????

And then, I saw the pancakes…
It was over. One order of the blue corn pancakes with Maine blueberry compote, comin up!
They were SO tasty and unique. Delicately crispy, and the corn meal gave it a great mouth feel and rich flavor. Actually, the chef came out and asked me how they were – the high humidity was apparently really messing with the pancakes’ rising. It took all of my composure to not follow him back into the kitchen and learn more. I was fascinated. I wanted to ask for a job. They have a great location, it’s a super fun space, they make their own bread and have amazing pancakes. After I graduate from culinary school, can I call you? 
Should you ever find yourself in the York area on US Route 1, you MUST stop. It was a great dining experience.
Brunch (it was around noon when we left) was followed by some serious antique shopping. In 90 degree weather. With humidity. But there was some cute stuff!

Our visit ended in the best way possible.
Peppermint soft-serve ice cream – with the necessary chocolate jimmies.

And I didn’t even mention the lobster we had for dinner….oh yes. We lived well in Maine.

~Namaste~

Over-The-Humpday Challenge DEBUT!

I told you I had fun stuff planned! So, from now on, every Wednesday I will have an Over The Humpday Challenge to overcome. For the very first OTHdC (c’mon, you know you love the acronyms), I was very excited to put a new-found ingredient to some good use:
GARLIC SCAPES!!!
I first saw them on Angela’s blog, and then I spied them at our weekly farmer’s market with a sign that said “Last Week!!” and snatched a big ole bag of them up….with no idea what in the world I would do with them. Luckily, destiny called and lo and behold, the stand that sold the scapes had little recipes printed out from garlic scape pesto. Sounds like a good plan to me.
After reviewing the recipe, I decided to just use my regular pesto recipe and sub the basil & garlic clove for just the scapes. Into the food processor went:
-12 garlic scapes
-2 T pine nuts
-2 T extra virgin olive oil (pesto is raw, so the more flavorful the olive oil, the more flavorful the pesto!)
-5 T parmesan cheese
-pinch coarse salt (we actually didn’t have any, but it is recommended – makes it easier on the blades)
-water (about a glass) to add as needed
I did chop up the scapes to help the food processor a little. 
WHOA these babies are strooooong! This pesto was uber-garlicky, to the point of being spicy, but I and my taste testers thought it was great! I tossed it with some whole grain fusilli with a bit of basil torn and sprinkled on top:
I like to think my cooking professor in Florence would be proud 🙂
I made it a second time (SO many scapes!) and instead of pasta, threw it in a bowl with a can of cannellini (white) beans, fresh tomato, and black olives – this time adding a touch of ricotta cheese to the sauce. Again, success! We had plenty left over and ended up using it as the sauce for a bag of tortellini for dinner. TOO easy!
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Garlic scape pesto: a dip, spread, sauce, side dish, main attraction, snack, omelette filler….oh, the list goes on. 
OTHd Challenge: Garlic Scapes? Accomplished. 
~Namaste~

Restaurant Review: Bella Luna

Instead of letting everyone in the house abandon me and leaving me to stalk the aisles of Whole Foods for dinner (not necessarily a bad thing, really), my mom invited me to her dinner date with a friend. And then put me on restaurant-search duty as the resident foodie of the fam. I was more than happy to oblige 🙂
I had read about Bella Luna, a funky restaurant/lounge in Jamaica Plain in a feature in the [Boston] Globe. It  was described as “satisfyingly groovy” and had a menu to match, so we figured, why not??
I couldn’t have described it better myself.  You walk in to a somewhat dimly lit space, most of the light shining out of big paper mache star lamps. The decor was funky, just shy of kitsch, and the service was great. Our waiter had an impressive knowledge of the wine list, too. Best of all, they have outdoor seating under bright red umbrellas. I love sitting outside. I think it totally ups the atmosphere and makes for an even lovelier evening meal.
If we weren’t charmed yet, each seat had a different plate with its own hand-drawn design:
Clearly designed by some aspiring artists. TOO cute!
And I loved the bottle the water was served in:
A restaurant I just went to recently did this too…maybe this a becoming a trend in the US restaurant scene?
To start, we 3 split an order of some seriously awesome fried calamari. For all you skeptics out these, I usually don’t like fried food because it tends to make me violently ill, but I couldn’t resist one golden, crispy bite – and it was SO good. Some of the best I’ve had.
We also split the Mediterranean Duet, warm pita bread with raw veggies and 2 dips: classic hummus and a spicy eggplant dip:
The hummus was only so-so, a little too creamy-chickpea-y for me. What can I say, I need my tahini and GAHLIC! But the eggplant dip was ca-razy good! Heavy on the ginger and with quite a kick of spice, and really tasty. The other two helped, but I pretty much dominated this plate.
For my entree, I just got a big salad – love me some arugula!
The shrimp was lovely and fresh, and the cheese was deliiisssh. Arugula and sharp cheeses like prmeggiano were basically made for each other. It also had pumpkin seeds, which I totally loved! Such a fun extra flavor addition. It was in a very simple lemon vinaigrette, which I felt needed a little work – it was a little too much like straight lemon juice. I think just a spice or two added to it could really make it incredible. But I was a very happy leaf-eater with this salad.

Mom got this beauty:
Arugula, goat cheese (!), cherry tomatoes, red onion and garlic oil.
Ok, I don’t know what kind of crack they put in their crusts, but this pizza was one of the best I’ve had. And I’ve had what I consider the best – fresh from the oven, in Italy, after making it myself. But this was up there. The crust was that perfect thickness and the arugula + garlic oil made it herby and delicious. I had a slice and then a couple more teeny tiny slivers when we brought it home. Whoa.
And Mom’s friend Barb (and just in case she reads this…HI!!!) got the wild mushroom ravioli:
I had half of a bite of my madre’s bite because it’s me and I avoid all things involving peas like they’re mosquitoes (and, actually, ravioli…but that’s another story), but the bite I had was some seriously phenomenal ravioli. The earthy mushrooms + creamy sweet cheese filling flavors were just spot on.

Dessert came in the form of lemon sorbet and tiramisu. Now, I will say that this is one restaurant where the “judge a restaurant by their desserts” rule does not work. We had great appetizers and wonderful entrees, but I was quite disappointed in the dessert. The sorbet, although refreshing and lemonade-like, had a very odd texture. It was almost like freezer burn-icy on the outside (which had a watery flavor) but then oddly chewy on the inside. Sorbet, to me, is supposed to be smooth and almost creamy, at least easy for a spoon to dig in. This was almost gummy, and there was nothing inventive about the flavor. The tiramisu was even more of a disappointment – I mean, I realize I’m horribly biased, but still. The sponge in the middle was watery and weak tasting, and the whipped cream on top tasted very artificial. And the chocolate syrup was no better than Hershey’s out of a bottle – not that that doesn’t have it’s place, but come on. That place is not tiramisu! I tried [multiple times] to take a picture, but the sun had long since set and LuLu wasn’t having it. Clearly they should just hire me to be the tiramisu chef! Haha, jk jk (sort of ;).
Dessert aside, it was a lovely meal with great conversation and company, and that is what a meal is supposed to be.
~Namaste~

Restaurant Review: Sagra

Thank goodness I have a family who can eat Italian food any day of the week.
Tonight, we decided to try out a brand new restaurant tht’s just opened up in my town (Dedham, Mass): Sagra.
[For anyone who lives farther away in Mass, there is another one in Somerville!]
Now, not gonna lie, part of the reason we went was so I could look into job opportunities – I want so badly to work in an Italian restaurant! If nothing else, to talk to patrons and use all my food-talk to explain the wonderful dishes. And wonderful they are!
No good Italian restaurant lets a table be without bread.
This was goooood. Garlic bread, light on the garlic. I actually liked that – it makes it more versatile, so anyone opposed to having garlic-breath (or just someone on a date) won’t have to worry. It was very much like focaccia, although the texture seemed a little denser to me than usual. Maybe it’s just their way of preparing though. The beauty of bread is that the same 4 ingredients can make SO many different things!
Oh, and also, that it goes with cheese.
This is not just any cheese. This is ricotta spiked with parsley and orange zest in a ring of olive oil. The olive oil was very light in flavor, which I didn’t totally dig, but this ricotta was pretty incredible. The orange and parlsey combo gave it such a wonderful, fresh flavor! It meshed really well with the creaminess of the cheese. Forget cream cheese – I will have this on a bagel, please!
To start, we ordered my absolute favorite – bruschetta tradizionale. I have been craving it lately – honestly, I’m surprised I haven’t made it sooner myself! Bread + olive oil + fresh veggies. Hard to go wrong.
And Sagra’s was no exception. I loved the grilled bread, and the added arugula underneath (I always eat the garnish!). Could have used a little basil, but that’s my only issue. I love the funky-shaped plate it came on, too! At this point, I was starting to worry that I wouldn’t have any room for my dinner…
But I can generally make room. Especially when goat cheese is involved.
I was feeling some greens, so I ordered the Spinaci Caprino salad – spinach, radicchio, goat cheese, Turkish apricots in a raspberry vinaigrette. I added grilled shrimp to it, because…well, it’s shrimp. That’s just a given.
This made so happy. Unlike SO many restaurants, the amount of dressing was perfect – enough to taste it and, well, dress the salad, but not so much that it was overwhelming [or caused soggy spinach….serious pet peeve of mine.]. The goat cheese was good goat cheese, and the sweetness of the apricots and raspberry complemented the bitter radicchio very well. It was massive, but I ate most of it 🙂

My mom ordered a verdi misti (mixed greens salad) to start [she needs her greens too]:
A truly excellent simple salad. The dressing was just a balsamic + oil, also very well proportioned. And the best part was the addition of fennel! LOVED it. Really added a nice crunch and fresh flavor (yup, I stole several bites ;).
Her entree was too pretty not to show off:
The special risotto: Golden Beet risotto
The risotto was very well done, with a very strong parmesan flavor – very much like mac & cheese with rice instead of pasta. You couldn’t really taste the regular beets – but you sure can see them! That yellow thing would be a bog ole roasted golden beet – and it was de-LISH. We’ve already decided to look for it at the Farmer’s Market (which opens next week – I’m.SO.excited.). It was a little sweet, with a nice smokey flavor from the roasting, and went so well with the strong cheese flavor and rich creaminess. On top are “hen of the woods” mushrooms – I’d never heard of that type of mushroom before, but they sure were tasty! I just love that deep, earthy tasty of mushrooms. Again, a perfect addition to this dish. A little fresh parsley and black pepper, and my mom was quite content. As was I to steal a bite or three.
My brother got a rigatoni pasta dish with broccoli rabe (which I always forget how much I like, but I do!), red peppers, and sausage. He was unimpressed, but I loved it – took my right back to Florence. AND, our waitress studied abroad in Rome when she was an undergrad and, well, I get really excited when I meet someone who’s had a similarly amazing experience in Italy. We bonded over mutual loves of Nutella.
Speaking of Nutella….
Nutella Bread Pudding. Boom.
I’ll be honest, it wasn’t as hazelnutty as just straight chocolatey, but that did not stop me from helping my brother polish the plate clean. This was lick-the-plate good (I refrained…but it wasn’t easy.). Although I have one teeny tiny criticism – that white scoop was supposedly “hazelnut semifreddo,” but it was really gelato/ice cream. Semifreddo is much more mousse-like, light and airy. It was definitely hazelnit though – it had big chunks of what tasted like caramelized hazelnuts in it and was heaven on a spoon. As was most of this. Cakey, chocolate, melty, moist…if you go and just get this, that would be acceptable. My cooking professor always told us that you judge a restaurant by its desserts – and in this case, Sagra gets a big fat 4 stars.
Why have I never made bread pudding before? Hell if I know, but I think it’s high time that changed. Mission: Bread Pudding is ON.
~Namaste~

Restaurant Review: Gran Gusto

What to do when you’ve just returned from a semester in Florence and are itching to go right back?
Go to one of the best Italian restaurants nearby.
Enter: Gran Gusto.
Located in Cambridge, Mass., Gran Gusto is owned and run by native Napolitani. Chef Giuseppe Castellano was generous enough to bring a taste of his home country to my home state, and boy am I grateful. Everything is homemade – from the focaccia slices brought in classy metal conical baskets, to the pasta and pizza, to the classic Italian dessert offerings. Oh, I was home!
After reading the menu and listening to our waiter (who spoke to me in Italian – I wanted to hug him!) list the specials with a certain flair that can only be described as veramente italiano, my parents each started out with a salad – and I stole plenty from each of their plates.
This is baby spinach, fresh asparages, roasted red peppers and a slice of what I am mostly sure was an aged pecorino (but might have been a good parmegiano reggiano…my tastebuds’ memory is failing me). It was all dressed up in a light oil-and-vinegar dressing and drizzled with a touch of balsamic. It was just lovely. The freshness and different flavors of the veggies, the sharp pungent taste of the cheese, and the sweetness of the balsamic was Italian simplicity at its finest. 
I should also mention the wine – my parents ordered a really nice red from Montalcino and gave me sips. YUM! Oh, I miss a glass of wine with dinner. It really makes the whole thing more satisfying.
For our entree, my parents and I ordered the same thing – boring, yes, but it sounded SO good!
Fresh fettuccine with morel mushrooms (some of the best funghi in the world), spinach, and baby squid called calamarelle. I heard squid and I was there! None of us were sorry, either. The pasta was perfectly al dente. The sweetness of the squid melded beautifully with the earthy mushrooms flavor, and I was just so happy. There’s just something about a wonderful plate of fresh pasta that gets me grinning every time.
No picture, but my brother ordered a pizza with ham, mushrooms, olives, artichokes, and the mandatory fresh tomato sauce and bufalo mozzarella. Though I’m quite sure no slice will ever top the pies we made in cooking class, this was as authentic as it gets. My dad said it really took him back to his childhood, when he could wander down to a pizza place that used the fresh tomato sauce and mozz. The boys at the table were quite satisfied 🙂
When dessert time rolled around, the words of my beloved cooking professor resonated in my head: “The true way to judge a restaurant is by its dessert list. The way the chef chooses to finish the meal is very important.”
Couldn’t agree more.
My brother went with the tiramisu – one of our mutual favorite desserts. The thing I love about tiramisu is that it’s always a little different every time I taste it. This was no exception. Though I still prefer our rendition, this was good with a thicker than usual layer of cocoa, giving it a really nice deep cocoa-y flavor. 
My parents, hankering for something lighter and fruity, went with the delizia limone:
A wonderfully light lemon sponge cake with a chilled lemon cream in the middle and a couple big fat slices of strawberries hiding!
I ended up helping them out a lot with this – I love that it was chilled! It turned the tart lemon, sweet cream and airy cake into a light lemony cloud of dessert perfection. And the strawberry slices in the middle were like finding buried treasure!
If you live anywhere in the vicinity of Cambridge and have a hankering for bell’ Italia, or even just want to brush up on your Italian language skills, take a trip to Gran Gusto. It certainly helped this homesick Florence-sick chick!
~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~