Turning 20 in Italy
It was my birthday on Thursday, and this weekend was an absolutely lovely way to usher in a new decade!
Wait, let me not get ahead of myself... first things first. Michele is an amazing cook. I've said it before, and I will say it again. Every night at dinner is a new and wonderful treat, traditional to tuscany or traditional to Italy. Last Tuesday we had Pasta alla Casa, one of her inventions with tuna and tomatoes and basil tossed with spaghetti for the primo, mountains of steamed asparagus doused in new olive oil and sprinkled with cracked pepper, and chicken provencal with tomatoes and olives and paprika for the secondo
Wednesday night, a preface to my birthday, we had penne tossed with ricotta and zucchini and peccorino for the first course, and yummy meatballs with different sauces for the second:
I can't wait to bring this tradition back with me - there is something unbelievably comforting about knowing that there is a hot meal waiting for me at the end of the day that I find a great deal of peace in. I am so excited to make all sorts of delicious pasta and delicious roasted vegetables, and of course I am so excited to eat it all with a few glasses of Chianti.
My birthday dinner was lovely, it was really for me and Chelsea (whose birthday is today) and everyone chipped in to help. In attendance were Michele, Vieri, me, Chelsea, Kristen (a friend of Chelsea's from home), Michi and a friend of hers from her language program. Michi, my Japanese host sister, made beautiful origami napkin roses.
Dinner started off with a saffron and sausage penne with fresh sage and rosemary. It had a similar flavor combination as the risotto I made a few weeks ago in cooking class. I loved it! The sage and rosemary really complimented the sausage, and I had never had any type of pasta like it.
For the next course, we were in for a total treat. Michele started making eggplant parmesan before I woke up, stewing the tomatoes for the sauce and salting the eggplant to get all the extra water out of it. It was SO worth the time, it was delicious! We also had buttered peas with parsley and roasted pork and roasted beef. We started the night with Prosecco, and moved to red wine for the main meal.
The cake was wonderful - I am getting the recipe from Michele. It was a walnut cake, and it was deliciously moist and rich even though she swears that there is no butter in it. She served it piled high with lightly sweetened fresh whipped cream. Chelsea and I blew out the candles (the first time staggered, the second time in tandem) and cut the cake together as well. We had a wine called Fragolino, which tastes like fragole (or strawberries).
Michi and Michele and Vieri had also gotten Chelsea and I wonderful gifts. Michi gave us a calendar for 2012 - perfect, because my fat cats calendar ends in December - with recipes for 12 traditionally Tuscan first course, including Ribollita and other favorite soups. Michele and Vieri got us each a beautiful Swarofski crystal necklace, with a heart-shaped pendant. It was a lovely dinner party, but the night was not over...
Chelsea, Kristin and I met up with another friend, Sara, for drinks. We ended up playing kings with a drink I had never had before called a Japanese Iced Tea - yes, it looks like the toxic waste from the Simpsons, but it tasted delicious (and was really strong). We didn't even realize that a friend had come along from home!
Friday, Alicia came into Florence. Naturally, we ate the best of the best all the time. We started off with a cappucino, and ended up at I Raddi for lunch - where both my mother and father have been - with some delicious wine and pasta.
We walked around, and caught up on each other's lives, before we went to an Enoteca, or wine bar, for an early evening toast:
For dinner, we went to Acqua al 2 - a place known for its blueberry steak. Alicia started off with a spinach pasta, while I tried their salad sampler which came with Greek salad, Caprese (tomatoes and fresh mozzarella tossed in pesto) and a balsamic chicken salad (sorry the photo is so blurry, they had the lights down low). And then we tried the blueberry steak - AMAZING!
The next day, I forgot my camera, but there were 2 new culinary discoveries to mention. First, I finally went to I Due Fratellini, a wonderful hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop with delicious creations. Check out their menu (try not to drool on your laptop) http://iduefratellini.com/immagini/EnglishMenu.pdf. We also went back to my favorite restaurant - Trattoria da Ginone - for dinner. I tried their ossobucco, and I was in heaven. It was flavorful and tender and I wish I could order it again - alas, seasonal menus are delicious but fleeting. It was a great weekend with a great friend! All in all, I couldn't have asked for a more relaxed way to usher in my 20s, even if I did miss everyone from across the pond.