A Travellerspoint blog

London

Days 1 and 2

At 4:45 am on Friday, October 29, I woke up and met Catherine and Kelsey in front of the school. We caught a cab, and headed over to the Florence airport, and by 9am, we were in London! London is a super cool city, and Kelsey's friend Natasha showed us around for the first part of the day. We saw a cool market, some street performers and a funny name or two:

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Later that day, I met up with my roommate of the past two years, and good friend, Tessa Slovis! Naturally, we went to a pub to start off my time in London.

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After the pub, we went out for Indian food for the birthday of one of her friends. We followed that by yet another pub.

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The next morning, I woke up and was impressed by the view of ol' London town from Tessa's apartment.

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She too had fall break, so we had a great English breakfast and bid our goodbyes:

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After Tessa, I met up with Natasha, Kelsey and Catherine to see some of the big sights... I only really made it to one, Big Ben. I am not all that patient, and was too excited by the vibes of the city to spend time doing touristy things for too long.

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That evening, I met up with another close friend, Alicia. We headed to Camdentown, an awesome neighborhood in London. I would describe it kind of like the VIllage, in New York. There are tons of little shops, and an entire area dedicated to little stalls for world foods. One of the things I learned is that for all the things one can accuse them of (murder, cultural obliteration etc.) the colonial powers did a great job taking the food of the colonized area with them. The stands in Camdentown reflect this well - curries from India are especially good. I tried 3, and Alicia had her own two:

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We then met up with my lovely cousin Elliott, and went to see his show. It was the last night at Heroes, and Elliott was totally on!

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But the night wasn't over yet! The Traveling Spoon can't be finished with only 1 dinner, so I grabbed a Doner Kebab - a kind of a gyro thing, meat wrapped in pita and stuffed with a red cabbage, smothered in yogurt mint sauce. YUM!

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And as if 3 curries and a doner kebab wasn't enough, I only had 3 hours left in England, so I grabbed fish and chips. SCRUMPTIOUS!

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I had about an hour and a half of sleep, and then I was off to Dublin!

Posted by Traveling Spoon 05:55 Comments (0)

When it Rains, it Pours

Illness, Rain and Midterms

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A long time ago, the Morton Salt Company popularized the phrase "When it Rains, it Pours" - I don't know who the advertiser who came up with the slogan was, or what was going on in his life, but the man could not have been more right. The illustrator, however, totally ruined his intentions. A more accurate drawing for the sentiment would have been:

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As I mentioned, my weekend was spent in bed, in a hostel, in Venice. Upon returning home, I was less distraught but I have still been sick all week. In terms of literal raining and pouring, it has been torrential here today and yesterday - the 2 days that I have site visits with classes. I have already written 2 papers - one in Italian - and have another to finish today. I have a midterm this afternoon, and two tomorrow, before my call with President Spar and then packing for fall break. I'm spent. BLAHHHHHHHH

Posted by Traveling Spoon 00:28 Comments (0)

A Death in Venice...

... just kidding, it was a head cold

“Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous- to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit, the absurd.”

So this weekend I went to Venice. I had heard many things about this city - that it was easy to get lost, that the canals that crisscross its fish-shaped geography gave off a peculiar smell, that a man named Aschenbach followed an illicit lover to his death through the winding alleys... to be honest, I can't really tell you if any of these things are true, because I spent the majority of the trip in bed with the worst head cold I have potentially ever experienced.

The whole trip can't really be summed up that quickly, of course. Early Friday morning, Chelsea and I left the warmth of our beds to venture out and head towards the train station - Santa Maria Novella. Before we left, my host mom gave me some breakfast:

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We waited in the cold... and waited... and waited, because a member of our group was delayed and then had to go the ATM, eventually arriving around 15 minutes later than we wanted to leave. By the time we were all together, we had to hustle to get to the group (who were meeting earlier than the train) but we got there in time. Before we got on the train, I had second breakfast - 2 cheeseburger from McDonalds. I wouldn't have done this (just lying, I love cheeseburgers) if I hadn't needed to do research on the rumor I heard that there were 2 new Italian burgers... ITS TRUE! "The burgers (there are two), are made with all Italian produce and will go on sale today for at least seven weeks. They feature unusual toppings - one has artichoke spread, Asiago cheese, and lettuce, while the other will feature Italian olive oil, onion and smoked pancetta."

The 2 1/4 hour train ride was uneventful, and we hopped on a water taxi, and looped around the city from the train station to the Venice Biennale - the spectacle that we arrived to see. The Biennale is kind of like the Olympics of contemporary art, and while most students were there just to see the show for a day, me and three friends stayed longer to see the city (or so I thought...). Friday was spent looking at art: after an entire day walking around in heeled boots looking at contemporary art, here is my synopsis. As far as messages go, the pieces either shove one down your throat or don't have any message that can really be discerned (perhaps I'm just a simpleton and its "art for art's sake" as one of the girls I was with snarkily remarked). As far as materials, you can safely assume that you will see a whole lot of plywood, steel bolts, video stuff, potentially some light work (or potentially no light at all)... anything that is "different" - to be honest though, they mostly blur together in my mind, so very few were actually different. Here are some of the gems that I'm told are Great Art:

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Some of the pieces were cool to look at, and those I appreciated. I also loved the presentation by Korean artists, though - a play on lures and camouflage that had soldiers with guns wading through a forest of bright fake flowers. At first you couldn't see the soldiers at all, but once you saw one of the muzzles of the guns poking out you begin to find them hiding in the innocent backdrop. There were also two beautiful sculptures in that same room. Each was a giant plastic person that looked sort of like a crash-test-dummy, interacting with the mold they were cast from. One dummy had his mold by the throat, and had a fist raised to punch its face - a powerful image of breaking the molds we come from? Or something like that? PLEASE TELL ME THAT I CAN READ ART AT ALL... The other dummy was died bright pink (all the rest were white), and it lay reclining in the lap of its mold - like a mother? Or that famous painting of Jesus lying in Mary's lap?? I've gotta be close on that one, right?

My favorite things at the show, though, weren't in the galleries... DSCN1548.jpgDSCN1547.jpg

Anyways, by the end of the day my feet were killing me, a girl I was with was snapping at me for everything I said, and the cold that had began earlier in the day felt like it was really setting in. We checked into our hostel - it was GREAT!

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I really wasn't feeling well, so I took the bed in the main room, and let the other three have the bedroom. We went to dinner, but by that point I was fading fast, and couldn't really eat, so I wrapped my gnocchi (something that is rarely done in Italy), and promptly returned to the room, where I "slept" for about 12 hours...

Here is where I stayed for the entire next day, by myself, watching American TV shows in Italian...DSCN1554.jpg

Anyways, bunches of beautiful photos from the taxi back to Florence in the gallery on the blog - check 'em out!

Posted by Traveling Spoon 00:11 Comments (1)

"Cock? Is that the word?"

When your host mom learns swears

Dinner tonight was spectacular - we started with fois gras, which I was not so into, and a sweet French wine that I didn't enjoy either. The Primo was a a fresh and light pasta, penne tossed with raw tomatoes, olives and basil, smothered in parmesan cheese. Then we enjoyed a raw artichoke and parmesan salad, polenta, roasted fennel with cheese, kebabs with spicy sauce and wine Wine WINE!

I've mentioned before that I love my host mom's slip-ups in English, but tonight was the best. Her brother-in-law was at the table, and in trying to tell me and Chelsea a story, she said "He is a... how you say... a cock..." Needless to say, after all the wine, we burst out laughing and told her that she had made a mistake. We explained what it really was, and she had a good belly laugh too, but then when I told her about my Dirty Italian book. When I brought it to the dinner table, she started spouting things, in a thick accent, such as "Lets go for a good fuck" and "My boss is a dickhead". Love life? I do.

Posted by Traveling Spoon 13:14 Comments (0)

Rub-a-dub-dub, Thanks for the grub!

A Cooking Class in Italy

Last night I took my first cooking class here! Each week or so, there is another one, and for a tiny fee (really, completely reasonable and totally worth it) you can learn to prepare whatever it is that is being made that week. As I mentioned in the post about the talent show (which, by the way, I won), I have been signed up for these classes before. I signed up for two: one to learn how to make pasta, and one to re-learn how to make gnocchi (ask Mike, the last time we tried they ended up tasting great, but it was the potato massacre of 2011...), but I missed the first one because I forgot what day of the week it was (I knew I had class on Tuesday, but I forgot that it was Tuesday) and the second one overlapped with the talent show. Luckily the Student Life Office - which is perhaps the best office at Syracuse - switched it over to this week. The lesson we learned last night was on risotto!

I know I've been posting lots about the food here, its only right considering the title of The Traveling Spoon, but today I will also be posting recipes! I have done my best to get the conversions right (in Europe, they measure everything by weight. If you watch Alton Brown on Good Eats, you will know that technically weighing things is a much better system, but as I think its significantly more likely that you have tablespoon measures at home than a mini-scale, I figured I'd switch them over). I also wrote them in English, for obvious reasons. These recipes are super easy to make, like REALLY REALLY easy, and turned out delicious... and if you are in the New York area this winter, I will be cooking them again so come over!

Menu:
Risotto alla salsiccia e zafferano (Risotto with Sausage and Saffron
Risotto ai funghi (Risotto with mushrooms)
Scalloppine di pollo al prosciutto e formaggio (Chicken Cordon Bleu, or Chicken Cutlets Stuffed with Ham and Cheese
Creme Brulee

Risotto with Sausage and Saffron - Serves 6
Ingredients:
+ 1 3/4 c. short grain rice, such as arborio
+ 14 ounces of sweet italian sausage
+ about 1/4 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you may need more on hand, just FYI)
+ 1 medium red onion, minced
+ red chili pepper flakes (as much as you like, about 1/4 teaspoon is good for me)
+ 3 1/2 c. HOT vegetable stock (the amount depends on the humidity, the rice etc. but plan for about this much. It needs to be hot as you add it!)
+ a few strands of saffron (its quite expensive, so really don't overdo it)
+ 1 c. grated parmesan cheese (don't use the shaker kind, it has all sorts of other stuff in it. Grate it from a block, its worth it)
+ 2/3 c. fresh chopped parsley
+ 3 Tablespoons of butter
+ Salt and Pepper

1. Take the bindings off the sausages, so it is loose meat, and mash it with a fork.
2. Heat a large pan over high heat. When hot, turn the heat to medium-high and add 1/2 the olive oil and all of the onion, and sprinkle with a little salt. The salt helps pull the water out of the onions, which makes them caramelize better. cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are golden.
3. Add the sausage meet, breaking it up as much as possible, and the red pepper flakes. Cook for another 5 minutes. In addition to mixing the flavors between the onion and the sausage, this step renders - or removes the fat - from the sausage. After 5 minutes, drain the sausage and onion over a bowl and discard the fat drippings.
4. Return the sausage and onion to the pan with remaining olive oil to the pan. Add the rice. The rice will absorb the flavors and oil, and will turn translucent. Once this has been accomplished turn the heat down to medium low, add about 1/2 c. of broth at a time, allowing all of the broth to be absorbed before adding more. After 1 c. has been added, add 1/2 a cup and saffron. Continue by adding broth 1/2 c. at a time.
5. Remove from heat while the rice is al dente. Note: this does not mean hard. I don't care what my dad says, if it crunches, its not done. "al dente" means it hasn't reached gruel consistency, that you can still tell that its rice and it hasn't become soup. DO NOT UNDERCOOK IT... at the same time, DO NOT OVER COOK IT. The best way to meet this strict requirement? Cook over a lower heat! The slower it absorbs, the more time you have to catch it in between rock-like-rice and pudding.
6. Add butter and cheese, and mix. The mixing makes it creamier, and its well worth a few minutes of stirring for the outcome. Mix in parsley at the last minute, as you don't want it to get bitter.

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Risotto with Mushrooms - Serves 6
Ingredients:

+ 1 3/4 c. short grain rice, such as arborio
+ 14 ounces white button mushrooms, cleaned and cut in thin slices (1/4 of an inch).
+ 2 ounces dried porcini mushrooms, place in a small bowl and just cover with hot but not boiling water - let sit
+ about 1/4 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (you may need more on hand, just FYI)
+ 3 garlic cloves, smashed as roughly chopped (try to make them the same size, so you don't get some burnt and some raw)
+ 1 medium red onion, minced
+ 3 stems of thyme, roughly chopped
+ red chili pepper flakes (as much as you like, about 1/4 teaspoon is good for me)
+ 3 1/2 c. HOT vegetable stock (the amount depends on the humidity, the rice etc. but plan for about this much. Make sure its hot as you add it!)
+ 1 c. grated parmesan cheese (don't use the shaker kind, it has all sorts of other stuff in it. Grate it from a block, its worth it)
+ 2/3 c. fresh chopped parsley
+ 2 Tablespoons of butter
+ Salt and Pepper

1. In a large pan, add 1/2 the olive oil, and brown the garlic, chili pepper and thyme. Once they smell good (don't let the garlic burn) add the mushrooms and cook for about 5-10 minutes, or until the mushrooms are soft. Remove from pan.
2. Add the rest of the olive oil, and the onion, and sprinkle with a little salt. The salt helps pull the water out of the onions, which makes them caramelize better. cook for about 5 minutes, or until they are golden.
3. Add the mushrooms back to the pan. Drain porcini, and save the broth. Chop and add porcini to the pan.
4. As before, add the rice, it will absorb the flavors and oil, and will turn translucent. Once this has been accomplished turn the heat down to medium low, add about 1/2 c. of mushroom stock at a time, before continuing with broth, allowing all of the broth to be absorbed before adding more.
5. Remove from heat while the rice is al dente. Note: this does not mean hard. I don't care what my dad says, if it crunches, its not done. "al dente" means it hasn't reached gruel consistency, that you can still tell that its rice and it hasn't become soup. DO NOT UNDERCOOK IT... at the same time, DO NOT OVER COOK IT. The best way to meet this strict requirement? Cook over a lower heat! The slower it absorbs, the more time you have to catch it in between rock-like-rice and pudding.
6. Add butter and cheese, and mix. The mixing makes it creamier, and its well worth a few minutes of stirring for the outcome. Mix in parsley at the last minute, as you don't want it to get bitter.

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Chicken Cordon Bleu - Serves 6
Ingredients:
+18 ounces chicken or turkey breast, sliced crosswise (ie the short way) about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
+1/2 pound of good melting cheese, sliced (if you like sharp, go with cheddar, if not try something like fontina)
+1/2 pound ham, sliced (prosciutto, honey glazed, spicy - whatever floats your boat)
+ 1 1/2 c. dry white wine (like a pinot grigio)
+ 4 Tablespoons of Butter
+ 2 eggs, scrambled
+ about 2 c. flour
+ about 2 c. breadcrumbs (if they aren't seasoned, add about 1 Tablespoon each of salt and pepper)
+ Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for frying, make sure you have enough)
+ 1 1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
+ Salt and Pepper

1. Put a slice of chicken between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Sprinkle a little water on top, and with a meat pounder (or the botton of a clean can, or a heavy frying pan, or a rolling pin... anything that has some good weight to it and a flat side) SMASH it. Pound all the pieces out as thin as you can get them without ripping holes in the meat, they should be almost translucent.
2. Salt and pepper one side of each flattened cutlet. Take one piece - seasoned side up, place a slice of cheese and a slice of meat (fold it so it doesn't hang over the edges). Put another slice of chicken, seasoned side down, on top.
3. Dredge the little chicken-cheese-ham-chicken sandwich in flour. What does dredge mean? Cover it with flour, so it has flour all the way around, and then pat any extra off.
4. Dip the floured chicken-cheese-ham-chicken sandwich in the eggs.
4. Dredge the egg-and-floured-chicken-cheese-ham-chicken sandwich in the breadcrumbs.
5. Place on a cutting board. Take a chef's knife (the big kind), and rest the blade CUTTING SIDE UP on the cutting board. Using the side of the blade, pat all the edges together around the meat to seal the little package. You have to do this BEFORE the egg dries, or it won't seal. This step keeps the cheese from oozing out of the chicken later.
6. Heat a frying pan over high heat. When hot, turn heat to medium high and add about 1/3 c. of olive oil. Fry the little things until they are nice and golden brown, flip and do the same to the other side.
7. Put the browned meat into a baking tray. Split the parmesan equally, and heap in a little pile on each piece. Place a little butter pat on top of each cheese pile, and then pour wine next to the chicken. Bake at about 375 for 10 minutes, or until it smells divine and the cheese is melted.

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Creme Brulee - Serves 6
+ 1 c. and 2 Tablespoons fresh cream
+ 1 c. and 2 Tablespoons milk
+ 1/4 c. sugar
+ 1 Tablespoon flour
+ 4 egg yolks
+ 1 whole egg
+ a vanilla bean, split
+ zest of 1/2 a lemon (in long strips, not grated)
+ browning sugar

1. Heat to a boil milk, cream, vanilla and lemon zest.
2. In a metal bowl, beat eggs, flour and sugar until pale yellow.
3. Add a little of the hot liquid at a time - GO SLOW OR YOU WILL END UP WITH SCRAMBLED EGGS
4. Place metal bowl over boiling water, a double-boiler, and whip until thick and creamy.
5. Pour into molds and let cool.
6. Sprinkle with sugar, and slowly burn until melted.

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Posted by Traveling Spoon 00:34 Comments (0)

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