Thursday, October 25, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
For the first 6-7 weeks in Italy, I had been posted at the antipasto station. The other two students had already rotated through the stations: antipasto, pasta & entrees, and had settled into their particular stations by the time I arrived. It was understood that I would get a go at the other stations when they departed. However, when Corrado left in mid September, it left an open slot in the dessert station. While Genesis and Patrick were still here, whomever wasn't busiest would put out desserts. Now that they have gone, there has been a significant shift. Initially Daniele had moved to desserts preparing chocolate torts and such for service while I handled antipasto by myself. We each have a day and a half off per week and with Patrick and Genesis gone, that meant there was only a staff of four on a daily basis - except on Saturdays and sometimes Sunday mornings when everyone was on board. After a couple weeks of Daniele at desserts, I was shifted there. On Tuesdays & Wednesday mornings when Johnny is off, Chef Andrea is at his station - entree. Andrea takes over Francesco's post, pasta station, when he is off on Thursday evenings and all Friday. When Daniele is off, I move back over to antipasto and Andrea is at desserts.
Andrea promises that I will have a chance at every station but I have my doubts. Lunch service is usually busier and not the greatest time to have a newbie. The couple of times that they tried to get me in at dinner service it had been so slow it wasn't much of an experience. I have been very observant as far as what goes on in pasta station and even made a couple orders of risotto one night. I know how to plate just about every dish but have yet to get hands on from start to finish with each dish.first
Desserts has been fun. I had always said that I didn't want to be a pastry chef because I prefer not to be pigeon holed in just sweets. This still holds true, yet there is an undeniable pull towards pastries...you just don't get the same ooh's and ahh's with savoury food as you do with desserts. Dessert station has me making:
Cantuccini - little almond biscotti which we serve with vin santo.
Semifreddo - a terrine of first a layer of chestnut paste, then a mixture of ricotta cheese, Italian meringue, whipped cream and chestnut honey with roasted and candied whole chestnuts buried in the center.
Bavaresi - a pannacotta consisting of a reduction of lemon, orange and grapefruit juices, creme anglaise, gelatin sheets and whipped cream. We also candy the peels of the citrus fruits to serve on top after we unmold them.
Chocolate and pear torts - fresh pears are peeled then cooked in a simple syrup. A chocolate crust is rolled out and fitted into springform pans then prebaked. Home-made pomegranate jelly is spread over the crust then pear halves are laid in. The tort batter is poured in and all is baked into chocolaty goodness.
Vanilla and Chocolate gelato as well was the candied orange that is served alongside it.
Nut bread - chock full of hazelnuts, pinenuts, almonds, and raisens which is served on the cheese platter.
Today I was tasked with shelling a 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) bag of pistachios. I'm only 1/2 way through and already know the pain will rival any Nintendo thumb I ever got back in the SuperMario days.
This is what you do when you have too much time on your hands...this is an approximate layout of the house in which I am living. Genesis' and Patrick's rooms are now empty. To the left of the TV room is Sunil's domain. I have seen it but cannot recall the exact layout in order to add it. If you haven't yet noticed...what is missing is a kitchen. Not only does Sunil's pad have a kitchen...albeit small, he also has a bidet!
If you knew me (as in seen me daily) before coming to Italy, you may have noticed in the photos that I've slimmed down some. For the first time EVER, I actually weigh less than what my driver's license says I weight...and consider that I lied on my DL. It's not really from any effort on my part. Of course I have 14 hour days (you're thinking "but you have a break in between lunch and dinner service" - yes I realize that but I'm counting from the start to the end OK?!) and am on my feet for at least 8 of those hours...also there is no chance whatsoever for me to run to the border for some Taco Bell. I only have two meals a day - lunch at 11:30 and dinner at 6:30. "Breakfast" - if you call it that, is an espresso. My main beverage is water...I get a choice between plain and bubbles...I do get the occasional Coke - and not the diet one...as well as flavouring my water with some Crystal Light (THANKS JOHN!). I eat PASTA and BREAD and CHEESE just about everyday...no, actually everyday...and I sneak in a scoop or two of gelato when it comes out of the machine. Who said you can't lose weight eating carbs?
The other weighty concern I have is my luggage. I arrived with two large suitcases as well as a rolling carry-on, my camera bag and the backpack which I consider my "purse". One of my large suitcases came just under the 50 pounds I am allowed and the other was 7 lbs over. I paid $50 USD for that 7 pounds. I have tried earnestly not to add to the things I'll have to take home. Most of my purchases have consisted of edibles and things I will use up while I am here such as shampoo. But I have gained a laptop, tripod and a chicken. I have used up some products I brought...soap, toothpaste, moisturizer, etc...so that should lighten up my bags a little. I already knew that I wasn't going home with the whetstone I brought and I'm also leaving all my side-towels. The kitchen shoes I brought will be tossed...it's showing wear and don't want to bring back the crud that's stuck in the grooves. I brought 6 chef coats with me. Four are from school and two my sister Kentra got for me when I first started on the culinary track back in '05. They have my name embroidered on them. I will most likely leave two of my school jackets here. One I will have the restaurant staff sign and one I will keep for memories. Corrado (Uncle Junior) had been wearing jackets left by previous students and has expressed interest in a jacket. I am unsure if I want to leave any of my chef pants. With my weight loss they are a bit big...but I also don't want to have to spend money on new pants. If you are thinking along the same lines regarding the jackets...I will not be wearing jackets with the school logo when I start working for another kitchen. They will either provide me with jackets or I'll have to buy plain unmarked ones.
I may dump my blue jeans. They are ridiculously baggy on me. That was the one thing that upset me about losing weight. I had purchased some new pants in Hawaii (before I arrived in SF) and after a couple months they were falling off my hips. I hadn't worn blue jeans in over a year - practically the entire time I was in SF...and finally bought a couple pairs to wear in Italy...now they are falling off! Losing weight sucks in that all the new clothes I have bought no longer fit!
I can't see losing much from my knife kit - and it's the heaviest thing I brought! But I'm sure there are few ounces that can be skimmed in the form of veggie peelers and silicone spatulas.
The one thing that I want and I know will be a big problem is the "dryer". I did a pretty extensive search to see if I can purchase one just like it in the US or online and I have had no luck. Anything similar is ridiculously expensive. Any chance you brought one back with you Gina? They are super cheap but bulky. It will cost me the additional fee of an extra bag...BUT I WANT IT SOOOO MUCH!
Monday, October 15, 2007
The Bitter End
While I had always wanted to come to Italy for my externship, one of the reasons why I had considered going to New Zealand was because of the time of year I would be out here. August in Italy is very nice but I knew that towards the end, I would be going into the start of winter whereas if I were in NZ, it would be the reverse. It is now getting quite cold. In fact, at the start of this week, all the outdoor dining furniture was put away and the canopy that covered the larger outside dining area was taken down.
Back towards the end of September, early October when I started to feel Jack Frost creeping up on me, I had inquired about the radiators in our rooms...moreover, why the radiators in our rooms did not give any heat, and was told that usually the heat was not turned on until the beginning of November as Italy buys some of its electricity from France and that the government usually tries to wait until digits fall off before turning on the heat in early November. Well I guess we are lucky enough to be remote in that we have our own boiler and that the powers that be, namely Paolo the restaurant owner, decided it was cold enough to start it up. The first day he told us to make sure all windows were shut because the heat was on I got excited but it was not to be as nothing was coming through. Sunil spent at least an hour on my side of the house showing me how to open valves to let the air out so the radiators could fill with water but still nothing. Then the boiler blew up - but that's another post. After the repairs, and the technician came to make sure that all the radiators were filling up just fine, it is just my luck that the three heaters I need to work the most, the one in my room, the one in the bathroom and the one in the hallway between my room and the bathroom DO NOT WORK. I guess I'll be needing that 3rd down comforter.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
All by myself...
Today I got the news that Elisabetta, Paolo and the rest of them won't be able to come to Badia A Coltibuono to visit. Each having their individual careers, and with a travel time of 5 hours each way by car, it would be time to go home the moment they arrive. Instead, I will be visiting the city of Torino (Turin) after I've left Badia A Coltibuono. There is the porcini mushroom festival as well as the slow food festival. I can visit Venezia for a couple days while I am in Torino as well as Elisabetta's other family home in the mountains. I did plan on going to Paris with Jeremiah but his plans aren't solid as of yet and he might actually stay on until the end of November as his is a paying gig and mine is not.
I also got the chance to use one of the goodies that John sent me in the latest care package...the S & B Japanese curry. When I went back in for dinner service, I was told that we had no pasta - we use Barilla brand for family meal...the home made stuff is reserved for the guests of the restaurant. So I was asked to think up something for supper...S & B Curry! Turned out we didn't even have any chicken to add to the curry so it was strictly vegetarian with potatoes, carrots & onions. Francesco used the jasmine rice I had but instead of steaming it, did it up risotto style. It wasn't bad. John only sent me the spicy curry so I was afraid it might be troppo picante (too spicy) for the gang but it wasn't. Turned out the real problem was that it was too temperature hot. They aren't accustomed to eating food piping hot as I am. It was liked by all who tried it. Only Martina was not willing to give it a try...perhaps she can't take spicy...or she doesn't care much for curry.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
One month to go
As of tomorrow I will have exactly one month left of my externship. I can hardly believe that two months have passed. The restaurant closes its doors on November 11 – the end of the season. There is an end of the season dinner on November 4 apparently getting drunk is on the agenda. My plane ticket back to San Francisco is for November 6 but I am unsure if I will be on that plane. I had some plans to travel a little before heading back. I know for sure that I will be going to Torino to visit Elisabetta and Paolo…and now my new friends Filipo, Elisabetta’s husband, Valentina, Elisabetta’s friend whom I met on the Nice trip and Max, Elisabetta & Filipo’s downstairs neighbor. Max is a wine maker and is acquainted with Lorenza Di Medici – the matriarch of Badia A Coltibuono. Elisabetta is always scheming to try and get me to stay in Italy permanently…or at least for a longer stretch than I have been. Ten years ago, she thought that I could find work in Italy teaching English. Now, she thinks that she may be able to hook me up with a friend who is opening a restaurant. While a fantastic notion, I think I want to head back to the US of A.
I realize that I had only touched on my travels in the last post. Truth is, after traveling, there is some necessary recovery time before I can begin to write about it (aka, I get lazy)…also, I wasn’t quite able to post photos to accompany those posts…but now that I have flickr pro up and going, I should be able to do both.
This past Friday my package of goodies from John arrived. In addition to the expected Jelly Bellies and tripod, he sent me:
M & M’s
Baby Ruth bar – which I gave away to Francesco (more on this later)
Kasugai Wasabi Peas
Crystal Light on the go packs
Spam Hot & Spicy
It was too much fun having the guys taste the strange foods. The jalapeno Jelly Belly was met with much shrieking…as was the wasabi peas. Francesco jumped on the Baby Ruth bar. Not because he loves them…in fact, he’s never had one– Baby Ruths cannot be had in Italy…but because he had seen it in the Goonies movie. The next day I asked him if he had eaten it and he replied that he didn’t plan on eating it but keeping it as movie memorabilia. I told him to eat it…and that I would send him another one for him to keep and never eat if he wished.
The tripod, along with the Ipod, Ipod speakers & laptop are on loan from John. He’s been very generous about hooking me up to make my time here more comfortable. The tripod is the solution to the fact that I am rarely in the photos I take. I’ll return them to him when he gets back from deployment. The kicker, he had a layover in Milan on Sunday but because it was just a few hours, we agreed that I wouldn’t make the trip to Milan to see him.
My immediate plans upon returning to California, was to start the process in which I would work aboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines ship that cruise the Hawaiian Islands. My graduation ceremony is on December 8th. I don’t know if I want to hang around SF for a month paying for a room just to make graduation. I might head up north to Seattle to hang out with my sister – if that invitation is still open. A good portion of my plan was to team up with a friend from school, Jeremiah. He’s currently in London doing his externship but aside from the occasional message via Myspace.com, I haven’t been in contact with Jeremiah, and am unsure if we are still on track. Last I heard we were going to visit Paris together but I think out timing is off.
I was gifted some Euros when I first arrived. I still have much of it left and plan on having some to take home. If you didn’t already know, this is not a paying gig. They house me and feed me but that’s about it. I am currently playing the exchange rate game. I discovered that I can exchange my Euros for USD via Paypal.com. The value of the USD has been falling against the Euro. If I give the sous-chef say, €100, he Paypals the same amount to me where I can choose to have it exchanged to USD at the current rate…where I would get $142.86. So here is where it becomes a game…when do I make the exchange? A trusted source tells me the USD will only continue to fall and that I should make the exchange at the latest possible time…which would be right before I leave.
Other than bottles of wine, I have not accumulated many things here. I had a slight problem with one of my bags being overweight when I left SF and I am counting on the fact that I have used up some products and will most likely leave some things as well as throw some things out to lighten my load. While in Nice, I made the mistake of telling Elisabetta that I liked chickens. Lo and behold, I am now the proud owner of a rustic French pottery chicken purchased in Antibes. I also have the laptop and tripod to bring back.
Flickr Pro Achieved!
I was trying to post the mosaic of this collection as the link but have yet to discover how...Gina help!