Friday, November 09, 2007


Iron Chef Challenge

Yesterday after getting up at an ungodly late hour (don't you love being on holiday) I ventured out to see the city. I walked a couple blocks to catch a bus but on the way down, my eye caught an outdoor market on Corso Racconigi. I got out on the next stop and walked back to the market. It was glorious and I spent an hour perusing the stalls.

I had text messaged Paolo to ask if he wanted me to pick something up from the market. He had earlier apologized for not having much in the refrigerator as they have been much too busy to go to a market to restock. He said it was unnecessary but if I wanted to, I could pick something up...especially if I wanted to cook. I was very straight forward with him when I said, "I'm on holiday, I do not want to cook." I told him I'd pick up something and it would be a surprise and he'd have to figure out how to cook it. I specifically said Iron Chef. Unknown to me, the Iron Chef phenomenon was unknown to him - of course a visit to fixed that.

I picked up some fresh young artichokes still on the stem, a large bunch of cime de rapa (broccoli rabe), beautiful mushrooms and a package of orecchiette pasta as well as pomegranates, sweet grapes, and clementines. I carried my purchases home but found there was no space in the refrigerator for them all. That night, I surprised Paolo with my shopping and he made a nice supper of fresh artichoke salad with Gran Padano cheese and the pasta with the broccoli rabe. He said he had never cooked the broccoli rabe before and that he would surely purchase some again. We opened a bottle of Chianti that I brought from Badia A Coltibuono and made plans for the rest of the broccoli rabe, artichokes and mushrooms.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Arrivederci Toscana

I have left Badia A Colitbuono. My externship officially ended on Friday, Nov 2nd, but I worked until Sunday the 4th. The restaurant was closed for dinner service as that night , the owner was taking the entire staff to dinner - it is the "end of the season" ritual. I was forewarned that there would be mass drunkenness and that was the real reason we were also closed the next day. I will say that of the three cases of wine we brought only two were opened and it wasn't as bad as I was brought to believe.

On Monday I was left all alone on the property. Even Sunil, who lives above the restaurant had gone to Sienna and left me the key to the restaurant so that I can make myself something to eat. I would think that this was my chance to go ape but I had fruit in the morning and made some rice, eggs and reheated some leftover pork (you thought I was gonna say Spam right? The pork was pretty dry and I should have made the Spam). I was online for a little bit but mostly spent the day packing.

I had to pack for Tornio, as well as Seattle. My plan was to leave my two large suitcases in Prato with Irene, taking my smaller rolling case to Torino. I would return from Torino taking all with me to San Francisco. Initially I had thought that I would not be allowed to take two checked bags with me to Seattle and would store the second bag in the SF airport while I was in Seattle but it turns out, Alaska allows two checked bags and I will be taking all to Seattle with me (get ready Kentra).

I got a lift from Andrea and Johnny to the Montevarchi train station and from there I bought a ticket to Firenze Santa Maria Novella station. I would check the times then purchase a second ticket to Prato Centrale where Irene would pick me up at 7pm. I am always nervous about traveling on the trains since my first day in Italy. I easily loaded my bags (which included, two large suitcases, one smaller carry on size rolling bag, a matching tote bag, my camera case, my purse and a tote bag that carried the wine and my French chicken) onto the train in Montevarchi. When I arrived in Firenze, I got everything out and found a luggage cart on the platform. Lucky me! What I should have done before loading everything on was check if the sucker was rolling right. Turns out the wheels were locked and I once again offloaded everything. I went and purchased my ticket to Prato then went looking for a cart as well as a restroom. I found the luggage storage area which cost 3,80 Euro per bag for the first 5 hours but I had only one hour before my train to Prato and really only needed someone to watch my stuff while I used the ladies room. An attendant saw me lingering and asked if I needed some help. I asked where I could get a cart and was about to ask how much it would cost when, he brought it around the counter for me as well as loaded my bags on it. And it didn't cost me a thing. Bravo. He then told me the bagno (restroom) was at Track 5. I was on my merry way when I discovered that one, the restrooms were pay restrooms (not a big deal) but the doorway to the restrooms would not allow my cart-o-bags through. So once again I offloaded my bags to just inside the door, paid the ,70 fee to go past the gate, and whizzed as fast as I could. When I came back I was happy to find that my cart was still there.

When the time came, I loaded my bags onto the train - at S.M.N. station it is not a problem as it is usually the first or last stop. Meaning, the train sits on the track for awhile so you can take some time loading and unloading. UNLIKE when I was getting off the train in Prato...I had all my bags by the door and after waiting for the bulk of passengers to exit I started to unload. Irene met me at the train doors and was assisting but the doors closed before I got my last bag off. I panicked! NOT AGAIN! Luckily there was a girl wanting to kiss her man goodbye and she hit the "open" button and I was able to get my last bag (and myself) off the train.

I stayed the night with Irene and Umberto. We had dinner at home (Irene's risotto was really good but Umberto's mom's eggplant pickles were awesome). Opened up the bottle of Cultus Boni I brought and watched a DVD while drinking some Vin Santo and nibbling on cantuccini that I made. In the morning, they brought me to the train station and I caught the first train from Prato to Picenza (via Bologna and Modena)then transfered trains to Torino (via Voghera and Alessandria). Paolo and Nausica picked me up from the station, brought me to Corso Monte Cucco, made me some pasta, left me the keys and a map of the city as well as some instructions on where the nearest supermarket is and what bus to catch to the city center. I have since, taken a shower and surfed online. I should be going now.

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