It's a long, long way from Hawaii to Italy. Living in the land of pasta, pizza, and wine is everything that you might imagine, but one thing remains true. You can take the girl out of the island but you can't take the island out of the girl
Friday, October 30, 2009
You know you're vip (very important pals) when...
...it's the beginning of the work week and an email announces that so-and-so's birthday is in exactly 2 days and well, can you come over? Oh, and it's going to be a surprise.
Spur-of-the-moment gatherings are one of the things I miss most since moving away from the islands, and I'm sure we've all experienced the sudden invite where you're caught between a yes or no. Yes, as in I know I have to wake up early for work the next day but as long as I stick to one drink only...sure. Or No, it doesn't matter what day tomorrow is because a birthday is a party and a party means food and food means....so when should I show up?
Another page in the cheese monkey chronicles
On Wednesday night we ate so much cheese and drank so much wine that I was sorry I had not worn stretchy pants - I must've put on 5 pounds just by looking at everything. Mortadella, salame, mostarda; speck (cured trentino ham), tuna-stuffed olives, pickled onions; fat, juicy grapes, clementine oranges and fresh pineapple; it was one thing after another as bread continued to be tossed [incoming!!] on the table. The host kept pulling jars of stuff out of his pantry and all I'm thinking is that with friends like these, how can you go wrong? We set the gold standard for hump day, I think.
Some sort of runny goat cheese that smelled so divine when I inhaled. Scoop to serve.
The MotH with his Eddie tshirt. Altogether there were 8 types of cheese. Whoa smelly!
You know that you're really good friends when layer after layer of cured meats are handed to you with nothing more than a simple "help yourself".
Red all evening long until it was time for cake. Jaddico was especially wonderful to me. www.tenuterubino.com/en/articles/red-wines/jaddico-red-wine-doc-brindisi.html
If the cake was any bigger than this I would have cried. Any BFF stories to share?
O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, And I'll no longer be a Capulet.
Well Julie girl, I can't explain just why he had to be born a Montague, but I might be able to show where he does hang out when not lurking under your balcony, and let me tell you, it ain't very far. Andar per goti is the veronese version of a pub crawl. Andar (to go) per goti (for glasses of wine) can only mean one thing - a heck of a great time in the old streets where Shakespeare's tragedy took place, and this is what we set out to do in fair Verona...
One day in Verona
From dimly lit hole-in-the-walls, to osterie, to restaurants, 6 randomly chosen locations from Slow Food's guidebook share the spotlight in our quest to discover who pours the best. Salud!Cin-Cin!Okole Maluna!Kampai!Mabuhay! It was a BLAST, with only one bad apple out of the whole bunch. The wonderful thing about all this is that Verona's old center is restricted to pedestrian traffic, thus creating the perfect opportunity to what I can only describe as a great way to lose the crowds and enjoy this breathtakingly beautiful city on an intimate level. Images of Verona intermingle with glasses of Amarone, Valpolicella and Soave, punctuated with “distractions” because we all know a girl can't go to an italian city without exploring the gelato, cheese, pastry and/or shopping scene. Beginning from the tourist-packed Piazza Bra at one side of the arena (B) and finishing at another (M), the map below lists all of the spots included in our itinerary. Initially we had planned on taking the train but realized that precious time would be wasted in getting there. You just can't do Verona in less than 6 hours! The large pay-park named Arena (A) is where our journey begins and is a short distance from Piazza Bra. Loads of photos, getting chased and proposed to by a gladiator, and a video clip (yeah I know it's so disco!) is included at the end, so without further ado, let's begin the tour.
C) Vista of Santuario della Madonna di Lourdes from Ponte della Vittoria
The Adige river winds around Verona's medieval center like a snake, offering amazing views like this one from Ponte Vittoria. Tree-lined streets along on this side of the river make for a lovely stroll until we get to the first stop.
D) Trattoria Pane e Vino
Rotten eggs first. This place left me with such a bad taste in my mouth that I had to spit outside. As the owner rudely stated: "If you can speak italian then you can read the italian menu outdoors. This is a trattoria, not a place for wine and nibbles!" Well then, your name shouldn't be bread and wine, genius.
E) Ostaria A Le Petarine
With no less than half a dozen old guys hanging around indoors, I honestly can't say that I would have walked in here all by my lonesome, but this is exactly the sort of locale where you mingle with the regulars for cheap goti of wine or go for a little more depth without breaking your wallet. We ordered a glass each of Amarone and Valpolicella - 4.30€ total - and tried to decipher the local dialect as we drank and listened in on the small talk.
F) Osteria Al Duomo
Up to this point we were only drinking and taking advantage of the free bites just to see what each place was like. I wish I could have stopped the tour right here because the aroma coming out of the kitchen at Osteria Al Duomo was simply to die for! Hot, steamy waves of hearty polenta, ragu and mouth-watering victuals seemed to be directed our way where we sat at the entrance. If it weren't for a set itinerary I might have said screw the rest and let's just eat here. The chef's assistant, a pleasant young woman, acknowledged us as soon as we walked in, poured our glasses of wine and went about her cooking tasks (we had a clear view right into the kitchen). Within a few minutes another person showed up with this huge bag of taralli and we were given a bowlful. Nothing fancy, but it was the courteous service which makes gems like these so nice to return to. One thing that I took note of was the plaque on the door as you leave. URTAR (oor-TAHR) is dialect for spingere - push - which if you've already guessed I got all wrong! Hey, after the 3rd glass things were looking pretty hazy, but I was determined to save my appetite for something more. On the way to our next stop we passed a wedding group and I made like one of the guests.
G) Osteria Monte Baldo
Jackpot! The mother lode! Monte Baldo, bubbling with high energy and happy people going in and out of the premises, was exactly what I had in mind for andar per goti. A neat little display case with all sorts of 2-bite snacks greets your eyeballs as soon as you walk in. I nabbed a spot up front and center at the bar, we ordered our wine and after a bit of hesitation (I have this thing about "digging in" without asking first), one by one a delicious morsel became the makings of a miniature meal. Tiny mortadella-stuffed panini, pizzas, meatballs, tarallucci...this time I went with a white wine - Soave - which was great with baccala mantecato (codfish spread) and a hard egg with a strip of anchovy. Hard-boiled eggs were also within reach on the counter, and I noticed this offering at another osteria. We drank and munched to stave off the hunger pangs, then went on to the next stop.
H) Osteria Al Carro Armato
Three down two more to go. High ceilings, pale walls, and large windows let in the afternoon sunlight - such a contrast to the dark, intimate corners that we experienced at the previous addresses. I needed something with more substance to counter my umpteenth glass of Valpolicella and ordered a plate of nervetti (veal tendons) with onions. Delicious stuff.
I) Osteria Sottoriva
Finally, the last one! I'm sorry to say that crumb-coated meatballs and lightly seasoned chicken wings (tetteciucciidiei sp?) - delicious all the same - were all I could manage with my wine. We sat and vegetated with the full knowledge that our tour was only half over. We still had to see the main sights, buy cheese and omiyage gifts to bring home, see Juliet's house! I took over 150 photos...what a fool to think that I could finish this post in a couple of hours. Looking forward to another Andar per goti but this time with friends. If any of you expats happen on this post and want in, drop me a line!
J) Piazza delle Erbe
K) Juliet's Balcony
So I yelled, "JULIET!!!!!!!!!" And this couple turned to look straight into my lens. Perfect shot. I dunno who they are.
L) Palazzo dei Diamanti
The Diamond Palace, so named because the exterior walls consist of marble blocks carved to represent diamonds.
Upon learning that Chef David Chang's first cookbook (aptly named after his Momofuku empire) was scheduled for release in the latter part of October, I figured it was time to start cranking up the heat. I've been keeping my eye on this korean-american chef for awhile now, because apart from the outpouring of opinions (both good and bad) dished by foodies and critics alike, Chang's food is still something to take note of. The one item that has garnered so many gaga-gushing reviews is the Bo Ssäm, a communal feast to be shared with your bestest friends in an attack of "the Beast", an enormous piece of succulent pork (braised for at least 7 hours to melt-in-your-mouth perfection) where the presence of 'allies' proves exactly what friends are for in the first place. But wait, there's more, because along with that tender, juicy pork comes pickled korean vegetables (kimchi), korean soybean paste (ssäm jang), lots of white rice, delicate oysters on the half shell and last but not least, a pile of fresh butter lettuce leaves to wrap everything within. Wow! Just writing this turns me on so bad.
Two things. If you're going to attempt this at home, please don't leave anything out. If oysters aren't your bag, you'll be missing out on an essential part of the meal. Same goes for the pickled korean veggies. You don't like cabbage and bold flavors in general? Well then go get yourself some nuked grub from a gas station market. Bo ssäm is one of those foods where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. To quote Chang himself, "Pork, kimchi, oysters..it's the f***ing magic combination."
I followed the recipe found on NYM (link below), cutting the amounts down to 25% which gave us some leftovers. Obtaining most of the ingredients shouldn't pose a problem if you have an asian food source nearby, but I sort of had to "wing it" on the ssämjang sauce. With only gochujang/kochujang (korean chili paste) on hand, I followed a recipe for ssämjang which incorporated gochujang and a few other ingredients. If all else fails, I suppose sriracha sauce would do in a pinch, but definitely not ketchup!
Bo Ssäm recipe - New York Magazine: http://nymag.com/listings/recipe/bo-ssam Ssamjang recipe - Korean Food: http://www.trifood.com/ssamjang.html
> Braising the pork. The recipe says to braise uncovered, but I noticed that an hour into cooking time, things started looking a little dry so I put the lid on. Unless it's pancetta, much of the pork at the supermarket is totally devoid of its fatty skin, so adjust likewise if a) your pork butt or shoulder is looking pretty lean and b) check from time to time to see if it needs some water. Of the 6.5 to 7.5 hours suggested cooking time, my 2½ pound piece needed only 4 hours until it was easy to pull apart. At this point I would also like to add that the brine solution asks for a lot of salt and sugar in relation to the liquid. I found the pork slightly too salty for my taste but I've read several comments that Chang's food does lean on the salty side for some palates. Hey, it's bold flavors man! Personally, I would cut the amounts of salt and sugar by a third the next time around, and place a piece of cotenna (pork rind) on top.
The components. Clockwise from bottom: lettuce, shredded pork, noblesse oyster, pickled kimchi cabbage, pickled kimchi daikon (turnip), rice and ssamjang sauce in the center.
The order of construction, as seen on Anthony Bourdain's chowdown with Chang via youtube: pork, kimchi, oyster, with the rest of the stuff thrown on top I suppose. Any way you choose to layer is totally up to you, but boy did that ssamjang go well right on top of the oyster. This is total finger, hand, kimchi-sauce-dripping-down-your-chin food, where the sight of all that spiciness and protein will make you giddy with expectation. Anyone up for a wrap-n-roll party at my house? Chapchae and haemul pajeon? BYOB.
So...the lawn is done. The shower (and a double-sized one at that) scrubbed down. The floors mopped. The "kids" bathed, dried, and nails clipped. The monstrous old fennel cut down and ready to cart away. The kumquat fertilized, dinner done (oxtail soup), and the terrace swept for the 10th time because the "kids" think it's perfectly okay to leave the chestnut peels after devouring those that fall in the yard. The best part? Having my lardo d'Arnad photo featured in an italian restaurant and hospitality magazine, Italia A Tavola. MotH tried to find the October edition at the magazine shop, but they don't carry it (I guess it's for professionals). Still, I'm pretty stoked, and was sent a pdf copy of which I've snipped a part here. The subject is of that wonderful lardo d'Arnad which I do keep stocked from time to time in the fridge. Isn't it time for Campari? Jessica must know that she had it good on that assignment.
Before anyone gets the notion that Luini is some hot male model that I encountered in Milan, let me set the record straight - Luini is no model, but heaven help me if we were neighbors. The Luini that I speak of is a place where they make the best panzerotti in the city, and no visit is complete without eating not one, not two, but at least 3 of their broke da mout' savory fried pastries. As mentioned in the previous post, I was a very bad girl in Milan. The plain truth was that if I could eat fried pockets of yumminess without guilt, why not go a step further and cook carnitas? Sometimes all it takes is a little Luini to get the ball rolling.
It just dawned on me that the last post titled in giro a Milano (going around Milan) was written in March 2005 and although we've gone into the city on other occasions, this past Saturday came with a dual purpose. MotH and I met with the blog authors of Slippah Time!, two of the truly most gracious hosts that I have met - ever! This will be a lengthy, drawn out post covering where we went, what I ate, and ultimately ending with the biggest surprise of the day. The second reason for Milan was a flat out mission for asian cooking ingredients (near impossible to obtain in Lecco), and as much as I had seen lots of positive things written about Kathay in italian forums, nothing, NOTHING could have prepared me for the treasure trove of stuff that lay beyond those doors. The place rocks! The deeper I went among the aisles, the better it got, and all I kept silently saying to myself was oh my god, oh my god, oh my GOD! It took 6 years to finally get my arse in here? As luck would have it, I was in good hands with my very own personal shopping guides. [F & S, I owe you big time.]
I see, I want, I eat
The panzerotto. A harmless pocket of fried dough with tomato and mozzarella. Or prosciutto and mozzarella. Or spinach and ricotta. Or, or, or... Words cannot describe how great these are. Just remember that 3 (2 fried and 1 baked) is the minimum, otherwise you're weak.
Baked panzerotti. I think Hawaii folks could appreciate these as they're reminiscent of flaky manju cookies. Totally different filling-wise of course, but there is something about that half moon shape which makes them impossible to resist. We got one with berries and cream and another with figs and nuts. The dough crust was tender and flaky, with the right amount of filling. To tell the truth, I liked the pastry crust better. I bet they use lard (strutto). Bad girl!
Zucca in Galleria. For coffee. Gorgeous place. Next time, I'm going in heels and doing a proper sit down. You gotta live a little, right? Smart girl.
I am a chocolate gelato-loving monster
What else is there to say? Gelato in Italy is something that I take for granted. You find your favorite places and avoid the rest, but in unfamiliar surroundings there's that element of risk that maybe, just maybe, this gelateria will rock your world. We had a double scoop - paprika chocolate and dark chocolate - and it was so good that I cursed for joy. Bad girl.
I'm ashamed to admit that even if Milan is the biggest city nearest to Lecco, I really haven't made the effort to get to know her. This historical building is just a few steps from the duomo, but again, it took someone else to point it out to me. See what happens when you live closer to Bellagio and Clooney? Speaking of which, here is G-man himself in front of his villa. Click to enlarge if you don't believe me. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/3499325
Asian ingredients shopping spree
Full description of foodstuffs on flickr
Wanna know where to find nam pla or patis in Italy? Enormous goya, bok choy, pandanus and bamboo leaves? Hangiri (those wooden mixing bowls for sushi rice), chinese wooden cookie molds and NOH chinese bbq seasoning mix? I can only speak for Lombardy, but Kathay is thee place to go. As I investigated the aisles in disbelief, inwardly I was smiling at the thought of never having to worry ever again about luggage weight restrictions whenever I return with goods from back home. No italian customs agent pawing through my mochi rice, sesame seeds and italian panties because he thinks I may be smuggling in electronics. Honey, you can't eat those things. Wow! That leaves more space for portuguese sausage and poi!