Month: January 2015

“Do you like Fernet?”

What is becoming an increasingly “common” setup. Something to taste. My BKR bottle nearby. But this time there was a DNA test! Ah! For the past week, I have taken a trip down memory lane back to sophomore year of high school. That’s right, CHEMISTRY. Lots of abbreviations and squiggly lines. I have to say I am quite thankful that I am a native English speaker (sorry, guys) and didn’t have to re-learn terms like “triglycerides” in another language. Yikes. Our professor was this petite woman with a not-so-petite attitude. Like a “no BS, I’m a scientist” kind of attitude. She cruised through a PPT with almost 200 slides with ease. When someone answered a question incorrectly, she just said, “No.” She wore the same shirt for 3 days in a row. One day during a particularly long session including some remarks on what exactly is an omega 3 anyway, we paused to contribute to her personal research on the perception of bitterness. Bitter foods just so happen to be pretty much my favorite kind …

The 1st (Annual?) Foodbook Swap

The loot up for grabs.  Back at a pizza party in December, an idea was born. I noticed a hefty stack of books and magazines on Francesca’s shelf that quite looked intriguing. It made me think of a hefty stack of books and magazines of my own sitting unattended on my desk back home in California. So, we arranged to have a swap of sorts. After the Christmas break, there would be an afternoon of tea and shortbread cookies in the shape of a cow and the opportunity to trade texts with someone else from the university. The idea was pretty darn simple–pass along good book mojo in return for something equally exciting. Maybe a cookbook from Georgia? Or a German guide to entertaining from the 1970s? I brought back some copies of Lucky Peach, My Berlin Kitchen, The Sweet Life in Paris and Medium Raw. They were all snapped up quite quickly. And I came away with an issue of Mood magazine that I am quite excited to sink my teeth into (get it? a food magazine? teeth?). …

A Study Trip Down South: Calabria

Flashback to Morocco with this serious appetizer set up at Il Vecchio Castagno (The Old Chestnut). I think I should describe what this is starting clockwise on my plate. So. Zucchini. Pickled cauliflower. Couldn’t get enough of that. Provola cheese stuffed with cured meat. Pork literally shaved off the rib at the table. Pickled pear. Olives. Ricotta in a cute lil’ basket. This week I went on my first study trip–a marathon of eating pasta, meeting artisan food producers and Slow Food representatives, taking notes/ photos and eating more pasta in the region of Calabria. My new favorite things are ricotta and chestnuts. And pasta made with sauces involving nuts. The order of our meals typically followed this pattern: 1. Appetizer. Cured meats, cheese, you know. 2. Pasta course #1 3. Pasta course #2 Interlude. The Italians go outside and smoke. The children are restless. 4. Meat course #1 5. Meat course #2 Interlude. More smoking. Bathroom breaks. 6. Dessert 7. Liqueur 8. Espresso After 24 crazy students plus two “tutors” in charge of corralling the madness touched down …

The Slow, Slow Food Revolution

Can you judge this book by its cover? Before Christmas break, I overzealously checked out several books from the UNISG library when I had the realization that the kind of books I usually purchased on my iPad Kindle app (food memoirs! anything and everything Michael Pollan!) were available on the second floor of my building. Of course I ended up toting them all home in my backpack because I let them accumulate some dust on my coffee table for a few weeks rather than actually read them. Ok. So. This book. The Slow Food Revolution. I’ve gotta tell you, for my first book about the history of the snail, it was the wrong choice. It was a serious hodgepodge of Petrini’s own memories as told by a ghostwriter and awkward Italian translations. Let me back up. What this book did deliver was a little bit of insight into how the superstar community organizer/orator CP and his red-leaning buddies in Bra utilized leftist outlets of communication to start an organization based on the pleasures of eating and drinking…which …

Slurping Sounds Welcome Here

My very neat and orderly tasting/note-taking setup. Don’t mind my spit cup. Yesterday and today I had a crash course in tasting olive oils led by a jolly old man from Tuscany with a perfect mustache. His strategy was a little bit like one’s journey of alcohol consumption in college–drink the cheap stuff first (Andre! Franzia!) so that you can appreciate the good stuff later. You may be anxiously wondering about the strange and potentially disturbing title of this post. Well, when you taste olive oil, you take the tiniest sip but then encourage a very violent entrance of air into your mouth via a slurping noise to help disperse the oil droplets over all of your taste buds. Everyone was a bit self conscious to do this until the professor slurped away BIG TIME and then, poof, social anxiety gone. The first thing we tasted, that tricky dog, wasn’t even olive oil! It was peanut oil! This is where the spit cup comes in handy. I then learned that the cheap-o olive oil that I grabbed at the grocery store one day is …

A Bureaucratic Triumph, Part 2

All of the lights are green. All of the lights are green?!? Two months ago (give or take a few days, I’m not into math), I moved into my little appartamento in Bra. Today, I have internet. Seem crazy? Benvenuto in Italia! This process is so weirdly complicated that it comes up in conversation about as often as the weather. Just because it was such a long/windy/loopy road, as was the process of obtaining a residence permit, I thought I would, again, share with you all some highlights (really, more like lowlights) of this virtual journey. 1. You are informed by your chosen internet service provider that sometime, somehow, someday, you will receive a mysterious text message from the sky telling you (read: you do not get to choose) when an appointment will be scheduled for a technician to come to your house and install the modem. 2. Two weeks go by, nada. You go in the store and chastise this person who really is not responsible for the lag time but you do it anyway. Then …

43 Hours in Healdsburg

My inaugural pilgrimage to the SHED was every bit as amazing as I anticipated. Don’t you love it when that happens? The NYT has their 36 Hours travel columns, there was that movie where James Franco cut his arm off after 127…but I am neither of those things so here I am to relay my quick trip up to H-burg (I’ve decided to call it that, just roll with it) with my mom for a few days before I pop back over the Atlantic to Italy. Note: this place is only one hour from San Francisco. On a road trip, obviously the job of the DJ/ navigation system manager stokes hunger, so I requested/demanded a stop at Farmstead Restaurant in St. Helena on the drive up. Last December, I took a “Full Circle Tour” with my parents of Long Meadow Ranch’s organic farm and vineyards before sitting down for a delicious lunch filled with persimmons and olive oil inside the tasting room, but this time I wanted to go peek into their restaurant. Sufficiently farm-chic decor, don’t you think? We …