Friday, September 21, 2007
Insalata di polpo grigliato finocchi e arrance € 9,50
Grilled octopus, fennel and orange salad
Collo di pollo ripeno, cibreo di rigaglie, zucchini a scapee € 9,00
Stuffed chicken neck, chicken giblets sauce, fried and marinade courgette
Salumi della macelleria “Chini” e selezione di crostini caldi €10,50
Cold cuts from the local butcher and selction of warm croutons
Tonno del Chinati (carne di maiale) con fagioli zolfini e cipolla di Tropea €9,00
Pork meat cooked as tuna “zolfini”, white beans and red onion
Terrina di pomodori e mozzarella, melanzana impanata e fritta €9,00
Tomato and mozzarella cheese terrine, aubergine fried in bread crumbs
Tagliatelle al nero di sepia con seppie e puree di piselli €9,00
Homemade black noodles with cuttlefish and sweet pea velouté
Stracci di pasta con cinghaile in umido, uvetta e pinoli € 10,00
Homemade pasta with stewed wild boar, raisens and pine nuts
Pappa al pomodoro con insalata fredda di sedano € 8,00
Tuscan tomato and bread soup with celery salad
Ravioli ripeini di melanzane con passata di pomodoro fresco al basilica € 9,00
Homemade aubergine ravioli with fresh tomato and basil sauce
Risotto mantecato al pesto di basilica e crema di caprino al timo € 9,00
Risotto whisked with basil “pesto” and ricotta cheese perfumed with thyme
Pesce del giorno con contorno di verdure di stagione € 17,00
Fish of the day with seasonal vegetables
Rotolo di coniglio alle olive e dragoncello, bietola saltata all’aglio € 17,00
Roasted rabbit stuffed with olives and tarragon, sautéed swiss chard
Maialino da latte brasato al Vin Santo, verza all’aglio € 17,00
Sucking pig braised in Vin Santo desset wine, savoy cabbage with garlic
Pollo del Valdarno in fricassee con fagiolini e cipollotti € 18,00
Local chicken braised with vegetables, lemon juice and egg yolk sauce, green beans and baby onions
Sella d’agnello in casseruola con sedano brasato € 18,00
Pot roasted lamb saddle, green beans sautéed with tomato
Costata di manzo nostrano, insalata mista (min. 2 pers.) per 100g. € 4,00
Local T-bone steak, mixed salad (min. 2 pers.) per 100g
Selezione di caprini di “Santa Margherita” e pecorino di “Corbeddu” € 10,00
Selection of local sheep and goat cheese
Fagioli all’olio – White beans with extra virgin oil € 5,00
Fagiolini in umido – Green beans sautéed with tomato € 5,00
Insalata mista – Mixed salad € 5,00
Patate arrosto all’alloro – Potato baked with bay-leaf € 5,00
19 September 2007
A couple weeks ago Genesis and Patrick took a trip to Venice. I got a taste of what it would be like to be all alone. I didn’t think I would have any problem with it and I didn’t, although, I will say I slept with my window closed for the first time. Now, they are days away from finishing up here at the restaurant. They will travel a little before heading back to the states. All I have to say is, if you have been dreading the added cost of living arrangements while touring the Italian countryside, I have two rooms that are lying empty for the next 6 weeks.
10 years ago I traveled to Italy for the first time – and until this trip it seemed like my last time. While visiting Venice and Turin I met Elisabetta. We became fast friends and I even thought I might have attended her wedding…but time and money – especially money did not permit that. It’s 10 years later and while I consider her a good friend, I hadn’t spoken to her much. We sent letters and traded a couple emails throughout the years - the very last time was when I first arrived in San Francisco. After arriving here in August, I sent an email letting her know I was in country. I am lucky to have use of my sister’s Italian mobile phone (THANKS GINA) because last week she called!
Elisabetta is really an amazing person. If I’m not mistaken, she speaks some 4 languages. My host 10 years ago is another Italian named Paolo. Well my real hosts where his parents Enrico and Carla. It is Carla and Elisabetta’s mother that were friends so naturally their children were friends as well. I must have made a big impression on Carla because Paolo said that for years after my visit she still spoke of me. Carla has since passed on but I think of her very fondly and miss her. Although she didn’t speak any English (just Italian and French), we seemed to communicate well with the use of an Italian-English dictionary and spent many afternoons together running errands and sightseeing. Paolo, Elisabetta and I had a great time together and I left Italy thinking we would all be lifelong friends. Paolo and I kept in touch a little more than Elisabetta and I have. It was a blow to learn that some years after my visit, Paolo and Elisabetta had broken their friendship. Prior to coming to Italy (the second time) I had tried to convince Paolo to contact Elisabetta but I don’t think he had attempted it. Luckily, Elisabetta was not at all hesitant. I gave her Paolo’s mobile number and she called him that same evening. I am happy – no ecstatic to report that they have reconciled and we are planning to get together as soon as possible. Leave it to a woman to do what a man can’t (hehe had to add that in there).
Currently I am planning to meet with Elisabetta in Nice, the French Riviera for some sun and sand (if the weather agrees). I have Saturday and Sunday off and, as I missed a chance to head out last week due to illness, I am hoping to make the most of this “leave” time. Because Patrick and Genesis are leaving, I think next week I will not be afforded my day and half off…maybe just one day while we figure out the work load with less two bodies in the kitchen. September is supposed to be a busy time for the restaurant. Already this weekend we are closing the restaurant to other guests because we have wedding parties. I keep questioning the weather because it is a lot cooler than it should be. Today after lunch service the temperature dropped and it was (excuse my “French”) butt-f*ck cold. And while I will be here to watch the leave change and drop, I should expect rain rather than snow. If anyone’s adept at checking for a weather almanac of Chianti, I’ll be pleased to find out what the weather pattern has been the past years.
This post is an accumulation of posts that I meant to type. Paolo, the restaurant owner, who, when I first arrived, had been on holiday, has since returned and getting time on the computer is hard to come by. I have been gifted with the use of John’s laptop which he sent via the post. Of course the idea was that I would use it to blog but prior to that, I had to get my fill of Spider Solitaire, watching the movies he loaded on the laptop as well as the DVDs I brought and Free-Cell before I could really use it for what it was intended. Unfortunately for the past couple days, the internet in the kitchen office is down and I have not been able to check email – I feel so cut off!
In addition to mailing me the laptop, John has en route a box of goodies which include candy bars, and an order of Jelly Belly flavours at my request. As it turns out, Italian candies suck. The guys here are crazy about Jelly Bellies. I’m thinking a distributorship for Jelly Bellies might be profitable in Italy.
I know the lot of you is thinking I don’t have much to complain about being in Italy but you must understand how remote it is where I am. I live above the restaurant. My day is as follows.
Get up and shower and be in at 9:15
Prep from 9:15 to 11:30
Family meal from 11:30 to 12:00
Lunch service from 12:15 to 3:30 (sometimes 4:00)
Downtime from 3:30 to 6:15
Dinner prep and cooking of family meal 6:15 to 6:30
Family meal from 6:30 to 7:00
Dinner service from 7:15 to 10:30
The downtime is spent writing, online (if possible), napping, laundry, and/or watching movies. I have spent one afternoon laying out in a grassy field trying to get a tan. Patrick and Genesis have spent it walking/hiking or running – I’m not that ambitious.
The town of Montevarchi is 14 miles away. There is only one bus that goes in that direction in the morning at 7:39 am and one bus that comes back at 1:39 pm. So you can see that going to town during down time is not possible without asking someone to give me a lift. The guys use their downtime to play soccer on Play station or nap. I am reluctant to ask them to take me to town. I did ask Francesco when I got a hankering for mint gelato but he turned me down – actually there was a lot of bribing with future Jelly Bellies and a Rubik’s Cube ®. I have to respect that they want to rest too. Days off mean the opportunity to do some traveling. I have since been to Montevarchi numerous times to shop at the Ipercoop, purchase TIM cards for the mobile phone & go to the craft shop for embroidery floss. I have traveled to Florence and met up with Gina’s in-laws. Corrado took me to Montalcino one evening for dinner and sightseeing. I had hoped to go to Rome but was unable to due to illness. So you can see that the 1.5 days I get off is an event in and of itself. There is no corner store I can walk to, to pick up snacks – unless you count l’osteria where I can purchase vino ½ a mile down the road. I have discovered that the wait staff will give me Cokes ® from the bar if I ask nicely. I can get a sugar fix with the desserts we serve but after a while it gets old. I’m not at the point where I am drinking nightly, but I can understand how it can happen ☺.
I’m not unhappy but there are a few things that can make the time pass easier…hint hint…naw, actually they’ll just add to the weight of the bags when I leave.
Well it’s official, I’ve been in Italy one month and I got to say, it’s been nice but I can’t wait to go home. I knew I was starting to get old back in 2004 when, while on holiday, I couldn’t wait to go home. Prior to that, whenever I was on holiday, I never wanted to go home. It’s not that I don’t like it here, I do…very much. It’s as it was when I first arrived in San Francisco…I missed my friends (still do), driving, and moreover, the familiarity of things. Knowing where and how to get the things I wanted and needed. At least in SF there were regular buses running. At Badia A Coltibuono, it’s quite remote, very backwoods and no, I have not rethought my preference to live in the country versus the city. Only my dream of the country life included a pick-up truck and an old dog…well my old dog.
Speaking of getting old, I turned 33 yesterday. “How exciting!” you must be thinking...actually I woke up with a bad backache. I took some Tylenol® for it and had my morning café and went to work. Around 10:30 or so, I started to feel hungry…no ravenous. Almost to the point where I didn’t think I could hold on for another moment longer…but I did. We had our family meal at 11:30 but I couldn’t eat more than a few bites. My stomach felt queasy so I thought to take some mineral water – for the bubbles- to settle my stomach a little…it didn’t help. I ended up excusing myself to go back to the house where I proceeded to upchuck all that I had eaten, which was not much. I know you’d expect me to do a little praying to the porcelain throne on my birthday but not before I’d even had one glass of wine! I felt instantly better and went on to lunch service. I knew I was in trouble because: 1. I hadn’t eaten much and 2. what I had eaten I threw up and I was right. Towards the end of lunch service I felt woozy. I even had to sit down for fear of fainting…and if you know me, I am not one to faint. I used my between service downtime to get some sleep…feeling better for it. When I went back for family meal I ate a full meal and all seemed well. Uncle Junior (Corrado) had made me a fig tart for my birthday which we shared and each had a glass of Moscato di Asti. I went on to dinner service but all during I felt sluggish. Towards the end, my back ached considerably and I knew that there was no way I would be going to Rome for the weekend as I had planned on. Friday morning I didn’t get out of bed. I spent the day in and out of consciousness and resting my old weary bones. I made it out to family meal at 6:30pm but went straight back to bed afterwards. By Saturday I was feeling much better, ate family meal at 11:30 and went in to work dinner service that evening. Incidentally, I turned 23 in Italy when I was here 10 years ago. Perhaps it’s a trend for me.
Graduating Summa Cum Laude
The school used to have a different “honors” system where in order to graduate with honors; you would have had to have collected an honors recommendation from 80% of your classes. Unfortunately there was a flaw in this as the recommendation was entirely at the instructor’s discretion. You could have earned an “A” in class but not have gotten “honors”. There is a good reason this system was put in place. There are times when a student, who may not be academically successful, really puts in the effort and thusly deserves the extra recognition…however, as it turns out, because “honors” was at each instructor’s discretion, some didn’t think it was worth their time. Others though classroom only courses (those without kitchen time) didn’t warrant honors so it was difficult to gain that very much needed 80% of classes, which turned out to be 16 (or 17) out or 21 classes. When I had first started in Aug of ’06, my first instructor did not inform us of the honors system. As it turned out, in my first 4 classes, Basic Skills, Safety & Sanitation, Food Science & Nutrition, I did not get any honors, although I got all “A”s. I was determined to graduate with honors but it was not meant to be. As soon as I saw my non-honor classes reach that magic number of no return, I lost all enthusiasm. But the school has since changed the honor system and is not basing it on grades (yippee!!). I was in the clear having reached my last class with a 4.0 GPA…now in comes the hullabaloo.
My last class which was the Careme Room, Restaurant Production, had us cooking for the public. Each day, simply by coming to class on time, and not leaving before we are dismissed, as well as coming in full uniform, we received 5 points. In addition to the 5 daily points there were a couple competencies as well as the final exam. In my mystery basket competency, I scored 72 points. (not bad but not great). In my other competency (cooking eggs 3 ways, making & cooking pasta, cooking beans perfectly, making brown sauce, etc…) I missed a couple points because I failed to make a sauce. Granted I could have very easily did what many other students did, which was have one person make a large batch of, pasta, sauce, etc… and take some of that and claim it as my own to get my competency checked off, but I didn’t. Thus, I missed a couple points for sticking to my guns. The day prior to the final exam, I asked the Chef Instructor if I could take a peek at my progress. I knew that I had missed some points but was confident that I would still come out with an A…my confidence was shattered when I discovered, as per his record keeping system, even if I were to get a perfect score on my final exam, I would finish the class off with 90 points. One point shy of an “A”. As I scanned through my points, I found that I received 4 points instead of 5 on one of the days in addition to the points from my competencies. The reason for the 4 points? On the first day of class, we were told to line up so chef could check our uniforms. This included our chef coats, and pants, commis hats, neckerchiefs, aprons, side towels, name tags, correct shoes and all black or all white socks. This is where I failed. I was wearing white socks with a blue stripe. NEVER once have I had an instructor check my socks…so I got one point docked. I did not find out how I did on my final exam until after I was already in Italy. About a week or so after I arrived I checked my grades on my student portal. Indeed I had gotten a B for that class shattering my perfect GPA. I had already accepted that I did not score as well as I could have on my competencies. I was ready to accept that if I did less than perfect on my final exam, then I totally deserve my “B”…however, after writing to my instructor and finding out that I had a perfect 100% on my final, that it was that one point for the blue stripe on my sock that kept me from graduating with a 4.0, I had to take action. I wrote to the Head Chef in charge of the academic program, explained my case and asked if that one measly point could be considered. Chef W was already familiar with me personally from the time I volunteered for an event around Thanksgiving/Christmas to the other times when he substituted for absent instructors as well as greeting him in the hallways when our paths crossed. He also admired some salt dough work I did in my Advanced Garde Manger class…but he never wrote back.
A couple weeks after firing off that email I checked my student portal as I was surfing the net on an off day and discovered that my 3.9 whatever GPA had been changed to a 4.0 and that my grade for my final class was now an A from a B.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Bridging the language barrier
One of the first questions I am asked when I announce that I am going to Italy for my externship is if I spoke Italian. My answer was always, “A little - but I was told that the kitchen crew spoke some English.” I would have to say that my command of the Italian language is less than stellar but with the help of some language study “tapes”, I have been able to greatly improve my understanding, if not my conversation. Most times I can pick up on the gist of what is being said.
My friend, Paolo said that Tuscany is the birthplace of the Italian language and that he feels it is the most beautiful sounding of all areas – he also said that Tuscans speak a little differently from the rest of Italy. For example, “Coke” might sound like “Hoke”. Well that’s just perfect…I’m picking up Italian from a crew that doesn’t quite speak the way the rest of the country does.
Actually most of the Italian I am learning in the kitchen is food related…then there is the “kitchen” talk. It’s “Madonna” this and “Madonna” that…no, they aren’t referring to Guy Ritchie’s wife. If you need to know the context, I would have to say it was more along the lines of “Mother of God!”
As I grow more comfortable in the kitchen, I have joined in with the jokes (when I understand them) and pranks of the kitchen. Last night I started to teach Francesco some choice English phrases…well American phrases. Before you start to think the worse, get your mind out of the gutter. I didn’t teach him anything bad. Of course, he did run these phrases by Patrick just to be sure.
Fo’ shizzle, my nizzle.
I find this one hilarious….so did Patrick. When Francesco asked his what it meant, his first reaction was to laugh for having heard it actually come out of Francesco’s mouth.
Same shit, different day.
I broke each one down and explained what each one meant…it’s only fair as they may be things he might not normally say or god forbid use them out of context.
Another colourful phrase heard in the kitchen, which I am unsure of the origin is “Non capito cazzo.” Translated it means “Don’t understand dick”. Quite similar to the American phrase “Don’t know dick.”
I also help the guys with their English. I have corrected the usage of certain words and phrases. Danielle has told me that he appreciates that I do this because he plans to do a stage at a restaurant in SF. Just last night, Danielle told Francesco to “Suck my balls.” I told him what he said was right and the meaning is understood however, “Suck my dick/cock” was a better phrase…which then led me to explain the synopsis of “GI Jane”. In particular the scene when she’s getting the tar beat out of her and she utters the famous phrase. By the way, the Italian release of “GI Jane” is titled “Soldato Jane”
You have to wonder...
As well as the comb and waddle...
It's gotta be said that...what the heck occured at the moment when someone thought, "Heeeeyyy, let's eat the comb, waddle and testicles of this rooster."
(Is that to-the-point enough for your Jeremiah??)