Saturday, March 26, 2011

St Paddy's Day in Ireland.

I wanted to go to Dublin for St Patrick's day since I was actually in Ireland and thought the festivities would live up to all expectations of what it was like to be Irish, or at least in Ireland on March 17th. However, John and Sheelagh's trip was coming soon to an end and I wanted to spend the rest of the time with them. Plus, mum was raving about the Dunfanaghy parade. The day of course, began with an obligatory full Irish breakfast - always so stuffingly delicious. 
Sauteed button mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, potato cakes, Irish sausages, Irish bacon and black and white puddings. Wheaten bread, soda bread, and potato bread on the side with a poached egg. And a big cuppa tea. 
a plate for one. 

The town showed a good turn out for the parade, despite scattering showers. It was amusing, at least, and over before you knew it. There's only one road through town so you can't really miss it, but...yeah. 
 decked out and ready for some action.
 the Lord Mayor of Dunfanaghy! Yes, he is the Lord Mayor. 
 Indians in Ireland?
 mini ponies in the town square.
 Youth band.
then the antique cars. and the tractors. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

First Meal in Ireland.

So after living, eating and drinking my way through Italy for the last year, what did I have as my first meal in Ireland? Rose Petal Risotta, brought from Italy
 as well as some 24 and 30 month old Parmigiano Reggiano from the farm in Colorno as well as some slices of Culatello di Zibello from Al Vedel.

Still not sick of it. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Goodbye Italy, Hello Ireland.

I thought leaving Italy meant I would be able to stop playing ignorant whenever I didn't want to understand a situation. "I don't speak Italian very well" always came in very handy whenever necessary - regardless if I knew or not. I thought moving to Ireland would mean understanding everything, English signs everywhere, people understanding what naturally came out of my mouth and not having to translate every thought and sentence before speaking them out, horribly. But, as we arrived in Ireland in the Dublin airport, there were signs everywhere that were completely incomprehensible. Not even a double-major in Spanish could help translate these. Even with the pictures, they were unpronounceable. Oh well. 

"Grass Fed: A Few Beefs"

Even though it was written a couple months ago, at the end of last year, I recently came upon this article and really enjoyed it. I thought it, in the three different episodes shared by the author, summed up a lot of the thoughts that I have. Thoughts that stemmed from before I went to UNISG, while at  UNISG, even more so while at UNISG, and still continue after UNISG despite all the answers I was looking to find while there. As I tried to explain in my thesis, I don't think these questions have answers. But....interesting enough to consider and to think about...thoughts?


Biking like a local and Parmigiano Reggiano, one last time.

Before leaving Colorno, I wanted to take Mum to see where the local parmigiano reggiano was made and where we bought our fresh ricotta. We didn't have a car, so off we went on our bikes. At first, Mum was a little wobbly - she said she couldn't remember the last time she rode a bike, but I'm pretty sure it was just her shaking in fear as the huge trucks wooshed by us as we tried to share the single lane road that gave us about 3 inches until the grass sloped into the little river along the side of the road where the muscats scamper and splash about. We survived though, mum was a trooper, and we got two chunks of parmigiano reggiano to bring home. With Arina's innate-Dutch-bike-riding confidence, I gained my own bike-riding-slash-owning-the-road-confidence on the little country roads around Parma. I think Mum too felt like a local riding around the Italian countryside.

like a pro. like a local. 
Unfortunately, Caseificio San Salvatore was robbed a couple weeks ago. I don't know how they managed, but according to the Gazzetta di Parma newspaper, about 6 or 7 people stole 350 wheels of parmigiano reggiano that are worth....150,000 euros!! I could not lift or carry one of those if I had worked out for months to train for a body building competition. Apparently these people arrived at 9:30 at night, disassembled the security system and covered the camera, then proceeded to pass the wheels through a back window where they transferred them to a truck. It may seem a bit early to carry out a robbery, but the cheesemakers have to start working by 5am so they are asleep early.
made it back to Colorno safely.
am I a creepy photographer?
If you could see the look in the cheese maker's eyes, you could feel his heartfelt pain in his loss. It was so incredibly sad, even unfathomable what happened. According to Alberto, he has insurance and the wheels have traceability, so hopefully he will get them back, or some money, but that doesn't return the time and effort of the last past years he put into making these cheeses every morning.  You'd think for such a regional, traditional, and artisanal product that people would have a little more respect. It's disgusting.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Graduation Day.

 "Here’s to all the places we went. And all the places we’ll go. And here’s to me, whispering again and again and again and again: iloveyou." - John Green.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Finished. Almost.

Thesis defense presentation is done. Boh! I think it went ok. I was nervous, obviously, but Arina assured me that I said everything like I had when I practiced with her so that was nice feed back to hear. Usually I feel as though I black out and don't remember a thing I said until I sit back down and realize it's over (re: Parmigiano Reggiano talk). The examiner's questions weren't too hard, and surprisingly sounded like they actually read our papers. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mum Comes to Italy: Modena (aka Osteria Francescana)

Massimo explained to us how UNISG appreciates food and likes to teach us whereas if he taught at ALMA, he would take their money from teaching the class, but they wouldn't get anything out of it. Teaching and living should be two-sided, giving and taking - learning together. 

By the time we arrived in Modena, everything was closed for lunch. We wandered and wandered until we headed back to the main piazza. I don't know if it was because it was Monday and everything was closed, but I didn't like Modena as much as the other cities of Emilia Romagna. It is much smaller and definitely does not cater to as many visitors as Verona or Bologna. The main reason we went there, ok the only reason we went there, was to have dinner at Osteria Francescana - rated #6 in the world and #1 in Italy - my UNISG graduation gift. Chef Mossimo Bottura came to teach us one afternoon and inspired many of us with not only his food, but his philosophy towards cooking and life.
After ringing the doorbell to enter, we stood in the front room until we were brought to our table. Each of our coats were taken and the two girls stood there with them, in silence, until we sat down. Awkward. Massimo came out and talked to every tables and would come to explain what each of the dishes were. Servers would bring the dishes to the tables out together, so that everyone was served at the same time. Glasses of water were never empty, never even half full, as they were constantly refilled as though the servers couldn't walk by without pouring some water. The wine list was incredibly heavy, with mostly Italian wines but ranging in an enormous stretch of prices. 
11,500 euros for a bottle of wine. no big deal. happy graduation.  jk.
Mum had the traditional tasting menu and I had the classic. I thought everything was perfect. It was a lot of food although I wasn't completely stuffed by the end of it. It was very meat heavy though and would have been nice to have another vegetable dish in between, but that's not very typical Italian. Everything was "typical" but reinvented very creatively. 
Massimo's take on spuma di mortadella - served with fluffy, salty focaccia, pistachio and I think mayo?
top 10 dishes that changed cuisine: foie gras popsicle covered in hazelnuts and almonds with aged balsamic in the middle
my non-nut foie gras served with aged balsamic, freshly ground black pepper, course salt and greens
my leeks with black truffles - can actually smell the truffles when they were placed on the table. and they tasted like truffles. take that ristorante diana. and your armpit.
my parmigiano reggiano 5 ways.
mum's tortellini en brodo
my "soup" - Massimo's take on pasta e fagioli - foie gras, rosemary foam, parmigiano crisp that tastes like the "pasta"....amazing. maybe my favourite. 
mum's bolognese
my ravioli - Massimo's take on cotecchino e lentiche - typical italian dish served on New Years Eve, but now in pasta. 
mum's short ribs served with truffled jerusalem artichoke and creamy potato
my bollito misto...non bollito - head, tongue, cheek, belly, tail, and cotechino. 
"orange salad" shot with Massimo in the background
vanilla ice cream with warm cherry sauce.
chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and a fruity film. 
another dessert tray. profiteroles, fruity gel, chocolate truffles, cream cake, and chocolate with pop rocks!
Delicious and perfect. We even got a book of the restaurants in "Les Grandes Tables du Monde."I think this was once in a lifetime though. I loved it. 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mum Comes to Italy: Bologna

Our next stop was to Bologna. I love Bologna and wanted Mum to see it too because I knew she'd like it just as much. Sundays in Italy though meant that most places were closed so the city wasn't quite as alive as I had remembered the last time I visited. It was still wonderful to stroll aimlessly throughout the streets, staring in disbelief at the intricate details in the architecture and creak our necks as we looked up at the massive, yet incredibly old buildings. Mum mentioned that she felt small in the city and pondered over the possibility of men erecting such grand buildings so many years ago. We ate in Eataly and lost the calories by climbing a never-ending staircase up a tower to overlook the city (impressive views, but I think Bologna is much prettier from the street). Despite the antique interior feeling of the tower, the stairs had no backing, which gave glimpses of the potential fall below. I don't consider myself to be scared of heights, but I walked up the steep stairs looking only up, feeling blind and helpless. If it wasn't for our motivation not to give up having already walked up so many flights, I would have been completely unable to go any further if I looked down.
wondering if we should keep going...
Bologna from up up above
We climbed it.
We wandered under the shade-providing porticles which block out the summer soaked sun and the humid winter rain. I wondered why Irish architects didn't think of such a thing with all their annual rain....We looked everywhere for silver bridesmaid shoes and we stopped outside the church in the main piazza to watch a parade go by, celebrating Italy's 150 years of unification.
confetti everywhere!
Later, amongst the empty, quiet streets, we came upon a gelateria (per Catherine's suggestion) with an incredible line outside where we each had a cone of two flavours. delicious! 
For dinner, we got a reservation at Diana - which the NYTimes, Mario Batalli, Food & Wine, etc all talked about, so I was looking forward to some typical Bolognese food. The restaurant was busily packed, brightly lit from large chandeliers, and it seemed like a scene out of the 1950's. The servers were formally dressed and carved meat off carts served table-side. Mum and I figured we should order the mortadella appetizers - so she ordered some sort of mortadella with parmigiano reggiano and I ordered spuma di mortadella. Her plate arrived - an obnoxiously large amount of cubed pink meat with three slivers of cheese. 
Mum just laughed.
Mine was a pot of mortadella pate with a large romaine lettuce leaf sticking out, served with three thin slices of toasted bread. 

Maybe the cubes of mortadella were unappealing to look at, bright pink with white spots of fat, maybe it is the disconnect between the amount of meat and the amount of cheese, maybe it was the association of mortadella with the gross bologni in America, maybe it is the chewy texture - but it was just too much meat and not even presented well with any effort. The spuma was nice as a pate, with a mild flavour and soft texture, but it was also too much for one person. Oh well, we thought, with our "when in Rome" mentality, we tried. We wondered if mortadella is still popular with the Bolognese locals, or if it's on the menu as such for the tourists. Not to be compared with anything found in America, I like the flavour of mortadella, I have a better appreciation for it, but mostly when it is sliced thinly. Next, our pasta courses came. Mum ordered rigatoni with melanzane, pomodori and mozarella. 

I ordered tagliatelle with tartufo. 

Mum took one of the shaved truffles off the top to taste it, as did I.....we tasted nothing. Maybe it tastes better with the pasta. Twirled the pasta with the black truffles and tasted nothing. The truffle tasted like soggy paper and all I could think of when I ate it with the pasta was "armpit." I took another bite and refused to eat anymore. The waiter came over and asked if anything was wrong and I said this isn't good. The headwaiter came over and assured me that the truffles were fresh, that it was the right season for them, and that he had just shaved them. I said, I know, but this is not good. The taste of the pasta wasn't even rich with creamy butter. He looked at me utterly confused as I refused to be tempted into eating it. Somewhere inside, I too was confused as I hardly ever send anything back. But this was not edible and not worth it. He asked me if I wanted anything else and I said no thank you, just a check. Maybe if the appetizers had been better I would have given something else another shot, but even Mum's rigatoni was ok, but not amazing. What a disappointment. Maybe we ordered the wrong things (is that even possible to consider? Shouldn't everything be good?). Trying to give them the benefit of the doubt, I started to doubt my own culinary taste - maybe I don't know what truffles should taste like - but these thoughts about this dish couldn't be justified. I think that I do know**, and these freshly-shaved but not-fresh truffles tasted like absolutely nothing. Armpit. I'd like to think I know more what truffles taste like than armpits....

**confidence regained the following night

The next day, Bologna was bustling. The food markets were sprawled onto the little streets. We wandered around the shops until we headed to Modena.

love the food in Bologna
so many types of mortadella!
(oh, and Mum did like Bologna as much as I knew she would).