Misadventures in the Alps

March 23, 2010 · Posted in Travel · 2 Comments 

Besides looking for a rigorous academic experience, one of my motivations for studying abroad was going somewhere I could ski basically at will.  Growing up in Chicago there isn’t exactly a surplus of great ski-able terrain anywhere close by.  Milan, however, is different.  It is extremely close to a small mountain range called the Alps, which, turns out, happens to be pure evil.  That’s right.  The mountains are evil.  Or at least out to get me.

My first, short trip was to Champoluc, a decent sized resort about two hours north of Milan.  It was a bunch of full-time students at Bocconi and me…not really knowing any of them.  We got off to a late start and hit the mountain late.  In true Italian fashion, before the first lift was done, they were already talking about where and when to have lunch!  No…I was there to ski.  Eat later.  Thankfully there were a few guys who shared my philosophy, so we broke out on our own.  The rest of the day was pretty uneventful until I had to take the buses home.  No direct bus exists (this happens more than once – it’s horrible) and at the station where we switch, not three minutes has gone by since the first bus left that I realize my brand new camera is on it.  Begging the assistance of a fellow traveler, I call (or rather she calls) the bus company.  I arrange for my friends back at Champoluc to meet the bus and talk to the driver…see if they can find my camera.  All of the calling back and forth took well over an hour and a half…most of it was trying to explain to the bus company what we were actually asking of them.

Now, for those of you paying attention, you’ll realize I’m still in Italy.  I am not getting this camera back.  It’s going to disappear like charges against Berlusconi…

Yet somehow…somehow…it turns up.  My friends pick it up, and I get it back. This served as a warning shot from Fate.  I should have listened.

But I very rarely listen.  So I sign up for the school ski trip to La Thuile.  Three days of boarding, drinking, eating, and very little sleeping.  To tempt fate even further I sign up to go heli-skiing on Sunday.

We arrive Friday, January 29th and ski for the afternoon.  As the day ends a terrible storm rolls in and some of the worst white out conditions I’ve ever skied in move in around us.  I was losing people less than 30 feet away from me.  My group ended up trapped at a closed ski lift with no way out – they had to reopen the lift for us so we could ride it up and ski down properly.  At the top, a kindly ski patrolman met us to make sure we didn’t get lost again…

Dinner Friday night began like this:

And ended like this:

After cursing every decision we made Friday night, we struggled to get up a bit Saturday.  You may recall the storm from the preceding paragraph – which is obviously going to make for some great powder the day after.  Cloud cover was extremely low Saturday morning, covering the base.  No one wanted to go up but Agnese and I…and about halfway up the mountain the cloud breaks and we’re in brilliant sunshine.  Do we call anyone?  HELL NO.  This is our powder.  We suffered to get it, it’s ours.

And for about 8 glorious runs, it was.  Powder up to your knees, unbroken, light and fluffy.  At times the spray was so tall it was cascading over my head.  There is almost nothing like that in the world.  Just you, alone with the mountain, breaking fresh tracks.

After soundly thrashing the mountain for a few hours we stopped into a little hut to have vin brule…hot spiced wine…which is something the US ski resorts need to start importing immediately.  It’s about 50x better than hot chocolate on a cold day on the slopes.

After lunch some fellow boarders (including an Army Ranger) wanted to go off-piste…said they had some good powder that no one had touched for at least weeks.  We jumped in under the gondola and promptly sank up to our waists in fresh snow.  They were right – no one had touched this stuff.  Here’s a shot of Carlos stopped partway down:

Everything is all fine and dandy until the line starts to squeeze in on us.  There’s really only one way left to go.  We’re about ten minutes from the bottom of the slope and literally 30 feet away from an open meadow.  We head through some trees until we reach the final squeeze…a tight cut between two trees.  I’m third to go, catch an exposed root slightly, and land not especially hard or anything.  Something twinges.  When I come up, I hold up my left hand, ski over to Adam and announce “I think my finger’s broken, I have to go now.”  Very matter of fact.  Time to go.  Carlos boards with me to the emergency station, where we confirm it is not broken but merely dislocated.

Pretty sure your finger doesn’t do that normally or naturally.  So without pain killers the nurse yanks my finger back into place, at which point my body does something bizarre.  From both elbows to the tips of my fingers, my arms go numb, and my hands twist and contort into a weird position.  I can’t move either of my hands for at least 15-20 minutes.  When I can finally get them back to normal they put this contraption on it that makes it look like a much more serious injury than I think it is at the time.  ( I say that because about six weeks later it’s still swollen and I don’t have full range of motion back in it yet…)


Clearly I am thrilled at this point.  Does this injury keep me from staying out until 4:00 a.m., dancing on tables and banging on the ceiling with the rest of the Bocconi students?  Sure it does.  Sure.

We will never be invited back to that resort.

Sunday of course was absolutely perfect weather, and so I wasn’t going to stay inside.  Instead of boarding, I decided to help some newbies learn to snowboard – they only grabbed my right hand a few times during the day.

At this point I’m 0 – 2 on the slopes, Alps are winning.  Juan, Kathy, Marco and I decide to head for a quick ski weekend nearby a little town called Bergamo.  There’s a direct bus from Milano to Castione del Presolano, so this is going to be easy, no problem.

At 6:30 in the morning we struggle to get to the bus station only to find out….there’s no bus.  This direct bus turned into a train to Bergamo, tram to Albino, bus to Clusone, a bus that went partway to Bratto then back to Clusone, another bus finally into Bratto.  At this point I was convinced we were going to have to ride a donkey into town eventually…  It was pouring rain and we were all thoroughly soaked upon arriving at our hotel.  All’s well that ends well though, because we found a very nice relaxing spa to spend Friday night at.

Saturday was pretty awful to start.  I’m riding the lift up with Marco who has never skied before.  It’s white-out conditions, so bad we are losing the chair in front of us.  Marco starts to get very nervous, and on the outside I’m trying to calm him down.  Telling him this is normal, no big deal, tutto bene.  On the inside, I’m convinced we’re all dead.  No one is making it down from this little adventure.  After about two hours we finally make it halfway down the mountain, to the restaurant where Marco more or less decides that’s it for the day.  Can’t say I blame him.  The sun eventually does come out and we get some nice views of the surrounding areas.

Sunday was much better, having gotten a light dusting of snow the night before.  Crystal clear skies greeted us, and the surrounding landscape looked even more amazing than the day before.

All is going well and good at this point.  The day’s fantastic, weather is nice, skiing was good.  AND lo and behold – a direct bus home does exist!  No more ridiculous antics just to get somewhere!  We can all sleep the two hours it will take to get back to Milano.

About halfway home, I wake up with a start, like you’d see in a movie, obviously realizing something important.  I smack Juan and ask:

“Juan, Juan, do you have our passports?  Did you take them from the hotel?”

“Um…..no.”

Our passports were still at the hotel, now an hour away in Bratto.

You know what that means – unintentional ski day in Italy!

That Tuesday we packed up, me, Juan, and Kathy (Marco was still curled in the fetal position from the weekend) and drove back to Bratto.  Once again we encountered white-out conditions in the morning, with most of it clearing up by the end of day.  So…when you can’t see anything…and are not worried about losing your dear friend Marco while skiing…the bottles of red wine look ever more appealing at the restaurant on the mountain.

After a verrrrrrrrry long lunch, the skies cleared a bit and we were greeted with this:

Now all the wine and beer at lunch was speaking to us this afternoon, and what is said was “Stop for grappa.  That will be fun.”  Thankfully it had snowed Monday so there was lots of powder to cushion any afternoon spills.  And, being ridiculous Americans (ok Juan is Puerto Rican) we decided that our last run down was going to be shirtless.  Just gloves and pants.  Sometimes, when grappa speaks, it’s best to listen.

For my last and final appearance in the Alps, I was going to do it right.  My dad was coming in, and for a long weekend we were going to ski the real deal.  The broad consensus amongst my fellow students was: Zermatt, in Switzerland.  So on Thursday, March 4th, we boarded our train.  At our connection in Visp, the change in atmosphere was notable.  The train from Visp to Zermatt was two cars, packed with skiers.  Everyone had ski gear, people were drinking “Austrian herbal things” out of little shot bottles, and it was in general a boisterous affair.  Dad promptly fell asleep.  Something about how he hadn’t slept on the flight over, I don’t really know.  No cars are allowed in Zermatt so our little electric taxi picked us up and took us to the Hotel Firefly where they greeted us with a welcome drink.  I think everywhere you go should include a welcome drink but that’s just me.

Friday we walked out of our hotel to head to the resort and were promptly jumped by a bunch of Swiss guys who stole our wallets and taunted us in German.  Well I suppose technically I just made that part up.  It’s just the most expensive place I think I’ve ever been.  It’s almost $20 for bread at dinner.  Ridiculous.

Besides from the fact that the mountain hadn’t seen snow since December 1st, it was an amazing trip.  It’s hard for it not to be when you’re skiing under the Matterhorn.  For the most part I’ll let the pictures do the talking here –

A little serving of medicine

Chez Vrony

One shot of the spa at Hotel Firefly

Overall the trip was absolutely amazing.  However, this being the Alps, and the Alps hating me, something had to go wrong.  Let’s review shall we?

1 – Lost camera

2 – Dislocated finger

3 – Left-behind passport

4 – Massive case of food poisoning on Saturday night.  Just massive. Ruined the next two days.  Fantastic.

I can’t wait to go back to the Rockies…

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Chocolate crawls, EATaly, and the end of Fashion Week

March 4, 2010 · Posted in Travel · 1 Comment 

On February 26th, it was the end of Fashion Week, I had been out almost every night until 4:00 a.m., and this was to be no exception.  My friend Andrea Pattarini was in town (you’ve met him before…) and so of course we had to hang out.  And that’s how you find yourself dancing at 3:30 a.m. with people you’ve just met, ruing the fact that you have to wake up at 8:00 to make a bus to Turin.

But, wake up four hours later I did.  Three quick shots of espresso and one brioche later, eyes burning from a week’s worth of a lack of sleep, I was ready to eat some Italian chocolate.

Except, in typical Italian fashion, they canceled an international chocolate festival the WEEK BEFORE for some weird combination of stupid reasons.  It may or may not be rescheduled depending on….well depending on whether or not they feel like it essentially.  Nevermind all the lost revenue and pissed off people who’ve booked hotels, flights, etc.

Our first stop in Turin (Torino in English, home of Fiat, 2006 Winter Olympics) was EATaly, a concept developed somewhat in conjunction with SlowFood.  It’s essentially a giant supermarket specializing in small-batch producers and super premium foods at affordable prices.  I will save the rant on how organics don’t actually cost more over time and how we mis-price all sorts of things when making food decisions until I return to Chicago…for now let’s just talk about how this is one of a select few Utopian food stores I’ve visited in my life.  When you walk in, there’s a giant diagram of what food is in season during what months.  You know, so you don’t eat asparagus in the dead of winter.  Because IT’S NOT SUPPOSED TO GROW THEN!  Sorry…I digress.

A section of the wine cellar – you could bring your own bottles and fill up right from the cask!

Fresh bread…

Stuffed pasta waiting to happen…just add ricotta, spinach, some herbs, bottle of red…

Eat your heart out, Dr. Atkins, you quack.  I could kill you with a thought!  Or a tray…  A hamburger wrapped in bacon isn’t a meal.  A hamburger wrapped in bacon served over a bed of pasta is.  Or something like that…

Here’s a little sample of my meal that day – braised veal served alongside buttery mashed potatoes.

They also had a great kitchen gadget section where I found this amazing contraption:

Basically it’s a grill with four hot zones, and each one of those football shaped grills rotates away from the heat for more precise cooking.  They also raise up and down to control heat exposure.  Perfect for cooking competitions.  Bring it on, Kyle and Alex….

After EATaly we toured Turin – looking for a selection of chocolate shops and antique cafes.  This was more of the “cultural” aspect of study abroad as we’re doing it over here.  Following a couple of Italians around, eating chocolate, drinking cafe, and finally drinking a half coffee half chocolate creation called a Bicerin, created in Torino.  If Starbucks made good coffee drinks, this is what they would make.

And of course, in true Italian fashion, our group split up, was late for the bus, made the bus move to come pick us up (we were over an hour away from the pickup point at pickup time) and we finished with a mad dash through the outdoor farmer’s market before boarding the bus and sitting in traffic for a couple of hours.

Oh and because it was Saturday…I ended up going out again until about 2:00 (an early night) and then sleeping through almost the entire day on Sunday.  Made myself an American breakfast and showered about 4:00 in the afternoon.  Proper.

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It’s a small world…

February 22, 2010 · Posted in Travel · 2 Comments 

Quick post – few updates on things happening over here in this magical “internet land.”

This blog is currently being read on four continents, which I’m pretty happy about.  So – to my one reader in Australia – please keep it up!  And pass along to friends!  To my two readers in Asia – also please keep it up!  I promise to come back sooner if you do.

To my Italian teacher who today in class announced she had read my blog – grazie!  That was not in any way expected and totally caught me off guard.  E veramente un piccolo mondo…  So Loredana – please feel free to pass on to your friends!

So that makes N. America, Europe, Asia & Australia.  I have a few S American friends who are currently in Milan.  Just FYI you’re on the hook when you return.  I would appreciate that fifth continent.

A site in Aspen wants me to do some restaurant reviews for their database.  A small step but a step none-the-less.

So – I will keep trying to entertain, and you keep posting on Facebook, emailing to your friends, and spreading the word.   A big thanks to everyone who’s read so far, it means a lot.

After a quick ski day tomorrow I will be back with a post about Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava.  Okay mostly Vienna and Budapest…

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Spaghetti Carbonara, or how to host a proper lunch.

February 14, 2010 · Posted in Recipes, Travel · 4 Comments 

Taking a cue from my sister’s blog here, with a personal note:

Spaghetti Carbonara is my favorite pasta dish and most likely holds the #2 spot in my all-time list of favorite dishes.  Like, ever.  At first I thought I liked it because of it’s inherent simplicity, humble beginnings, and surprising harmony.  In general, I like things to be simple, and rely on the freshness and quality of their ingredients.  And the surprising bit – I like it when dishes and flavors surprise, or the combination turns out much better than you’d expect.  Perhaps the best example of this is the Wasabi Caesar salad at Elevation in Aspen, CO.  When you say it, you’d think that wasabi and Caesar would be a no go.  But then you take note of the fact that a proper Caeser is supposed to have a healthy dose of pepper and be slightly spicy. And if a subtle amount of wasabi helps in that endeavor then it just might work.

As for humble beginnings – spaghetti carbonara was, according to the most popular legend, created for charcoal workers in the area around Rome.  It is a Roman dish, even though a restaurant in Rimini has claimed it.  It doesn’t show up until post-WWII.  Another popular iteration states that the charcoal workers created it themselves, and the original recipe doesn’t have pepper.  Instead flecks of charcoal actually made its way into the pasta, and when the recipe was introduced elsewhere they added pepper to maintain the same look.  And then, for you secret society freaks out there (myself included), there did exist a mostly harmless Italian society called the Carbonari

Come to think of it, I’m going to start calling anyone who likes Carbonara the new Carbonari.

But then it hit me – why I like this recipe so much.  It’s basically bacon and eggs tossed over spaghetti.  It’s a no brainer.

Ingredients:
  • Pancetta – not bacon unless you really have to.  Guanciale is the original I think but pancetta is more accessible to most people.
  • Eggs
  • Spaghetti
  • Parmigiano-reggiano – both finely grated and cut into thin strips
  • Fresh cracked black pepper

Preparation:

Saute up the pancetta until it’s nice and crispy, set the pan aside.

In a small bowl, crack a couple of eggs and finely grate some p-r cheese.

Cook the spaghetti, enough for four people.

Mix it up.  All of it.  It’s good.  Top with fresh cracked pepper, salt, and thin shavings of p-r cheese.

Most recipes will be more precise than this one, but you need to adjust the amount of eggs, bacon, etc to suit your own personal tastes here.

You should probably drink this with a bottle of red wine.  I know it doesn’t totally seem like red’s the obvious choice, but it’s a serious meal, and serious meals deserve to be had with red wine.  Osso bucco?  Red wine.  Chicken cutlets?  White wine.  Need I go on.  Again, serious wines for serious meals.

And please, no onions, peas (seriously America, peas?), broccoli, or anything else ridiculous like that.  Keep it simple here people.  If you’re doing it well, it should look like this:

That’s if you’re doing it well.  If you want to do it right, you’ll go to Mantova.  You may remember this little town as the place Romeo was banished to.  It was also the seat of the Gonzaga family, who ruled large chunks of northern Italy for many years.  And last but not least, it is the home of Andrea Pattarini, a friend of mine who studied at Bocconi last year and did his exchange in Chicago.  He tempted me by telling me his mom made the best Carbonara.  Well….this I had to see.

At the end of the Foodyssey Jenni and I traveled to Mantova to visit Andrea and his welcoming parents.  Carbonara was to be lunch on Sunday so we had some time to kill Saturday night.  Andrea took us around and showed us the town, and we actually went out to a sushi place that had recently opened in town.

Sunday morning started with an aperitivo of prosecco and Crodino and some delicious little snacks at the local bar.  The closest thing to our bloody Mary brunches they’ve got over here.  When we walked into the kitchen at home, this is what awaited us:

Yes, that is a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino on a table covered with fine China and a white tablecloth.  They were not messing around here.  This was going to be the real deal.  You’ve been given instructions above for how to cook – now sit back and watch the magic unfold.

Cooking the pasta…

How about a little more bacon?

Mix it up.  It’s good.

When I die, I won’t see a white light.  I will see this.

I’ve made Carbonara a bunch myself, and it’s different every time.  I think that’s how it is when it’s your favorite dish and you have exacting standards for yourself.  It never quite comes out right.  But her Carbonara was perfect.  Perfectly al dente, just the right amount of saltiness from the pork, slightly creamy consistency from the eggs.  I’m pretty sure I ate close to 8 pounds of pasta that day.  It was the quintessential comfort food experience.  And then it got even better.

Apparently everything you’ve heard about Italian hospitality isn’t quite accurate.  It goes beyond.  After our bottle of Brunello we opened a 2005 Amarone di Valpolicella.  Mrs Pattarini doesn’t enjoy red wine so much so she opens a bottle of champagne.  After the wine is done, Mr Pattarini decides it’s time for Armagnac.  A 1970, unopened bottle of Armagnac to be precise.

And then an unopened bottle of Ron Zacapa XO.

And then a Moscato grappa.

I’m pretty sure those are all my glasses.

This is what we drank for lunch that day – Ron Zacapa, Armagnac, Grappa, Valpolicella, Brunello, and Champagne.

Thankfully, we were taking the train back.  These all went down straight, in gigantic bourbon glasses.

As the warmth engulfed my entire body, I couldn’t tell if it was from the Carbonara, the hospitality, the wine, grappa, armagnac, or rum.

I did know, however, that when people speak of La Dolce Vita, and they speak of good food and great peoplw….

This is exactly what they have in mind.

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Cafe con Giorgio Armani

January 28, 2010 · Posted in Travel · 4 Comments 

When visiting Milan one must stop at least once by the Armani megalopolis that is his flagship store, cafe, restaurant, another restaurant, club, hotel, spa, theme park, water park, movie theater, farm, nuclear research facility, space shuttle launching pad, race track, football stadium, symposium, palace and petting zoo.  (The truth in that sentence stopped somewhere around “hotel”)

So Jenni and I did, and had coffee and cocktails at his new cafe that just opened.  All sorts of beautiful people walked in and even dressed somewhat nicely I felt like I had been cleaning horse stables all day or something.  Quite a few old guys with small dogs and fur coats.  Then in walks a man in black velvet with perfectly combed, bleach white hair.  I whisper to Jenni “I think that’s Giorgio Armani himself”  She refused to believe me but he was walking around and as he was, every employee was jumping.  Finally this 6’3″ blonde used-t0-be-model gets up and says “Buona sera Sr. Armani.”

Damn – we were having coffee with Giorgio Armani.  I could have reached out and touched his exquisite velvet…whatever you call what he was wearing.  But I did not.  Story doesn’t end there.

I go upstairs in the bathroom, and as I’m washing my hands, guess who comes out of the bathroom and washes his hands next to me?

Emilio Estevez!  The Mighty Ducks man himself!

No, really, it was Giorgio Armani. So I said good evening and ran out before he could force me into a modeling contract or something absurd.

Jenni was there, she’ll tell you.  She was the one who called the fashionista’s name.  She was like “Giorgioooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

True story.

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Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh….Milano!

January 20, 2010 · Posted in Recipes, Travel · 1 Comment 

My passport is almost a full ten years old, and needs to be renewed in 2011.  About 8 years ago, I also washed it.  Yeah, I know I know.  But that doesn’t change the fact that I washed it.  So it’s a bit frayed and, as I discovered in Istanbul, the part near the picture is actually starting to come apart.  The kindly border patrol agent (Round ’em up, as fast as you can, with one truck, or this country’s gonna be way too big!) at the airport wouldn’t let me pass for about 15 minutes because he didn’t trust it.  Several supervisors were called over, all of whom looked at him like he was an idiot because my passport’s only been stamped about 15 times in the past few weeks.

My favorite part was when he asked me – “Where are you from in the States?”

Me – “Chicago”

Him – “But you’re going to Milan.  Why are you going to Milan?”

You’re right buddy, because everyone leaving Istanbul should be going immediately home.  Ya’ jerk.

Then, on the plane, I get up to use the bathroom, and one of the two lavatories has been marked “occupied” for almost 20 minutes.  There was a very long line to use the facilities so I counted.  I knocked on the door to no answer, so I start thinking there’s a terrorist on board putting together some sort of bomb!  After several attempts to ask the stewardesses what was going on, one finally spoke enough English to tell me the bathroom was out of order.

Needless to say, after being taken for a ride several times, I was so happy to land in Milan.  Almost immediately I started smiling again and felt better.  There’s just something in the air over here…

I found my apartment very easily, got settled in, and met my roommate Abby when she showed up.  Per Facebook, I immediately bought several bottles of wine and started enjoying the fruits of the land.

Despite the dollar being worth about 1 Euro cent, wine is still super cheap over here.  So too are Belgian Ales.  My favorite beer, Chimay Blue, costs about $9 in the US.  It costs 1 Euro 50 cents over here.  Fantastic.

Apertivo

Milan so far has been cold and rainy, so I haven’t gotten too many shots of things outdoors.  Which means I’ve spent my time indoors, usually in bars or restaurants.  And usually at apertivo, one of the greatest things ever invented.

Basically you pay for your drinks and get an unlimited amount of buffet style food from about 6 to about 9.  The more crowded the place, the earlier it tends to end for some reason.  The buffet isn’t going to have the best pastas, but the pizzas and contorni (sides, veggies, etc) are always good.  You won’t find meats either.  But you will get incredibly full for the price of a few beers, which is nice.  Apertivo has been about a four to five times weekly occurrence.

Tall Italians

Quick side note here – there is an unusual species of people here, one I am not used to.  This idea of the “tall Italian.”  We’re talking ladies about 5’11, 6 feet and guys 6’2″, 6’3″.  Very interesting – at Easter mass in Tropea in 2003 I was the tallest person in the building by at least a foot.  Tropea is in the very south of Italy, FYI.  Up here it’s different – I don’t stand out at all.

The Food

I mean come on, that’s what we’re doing here, isn’t it?  This is supposed to be a food blog and I’m in ITALY for Pete’s sake!  We practically invented food!

Speaking of the invention of food, let’s dispel with a little food myth right off the bat.  The Chinese did not teach the Italians how to make pasta.  Please.  Let’s take a look at this from several angles shall we?

1 – The myth says Marco Polo went to China and brought back recipes for making noodles.  However Italian cookbooks predating his visit to China contain recipes that call for pasta.  So chronologically that’s a big fail.

2 – Let’s look at noodle construction.  While certain similarities do exist for the most part Chinese noodles look and taste nothing like Italian pastas.  I like Chinese food and noodles, but they’re not the same.  So on texture, appearance, and taste large differences exist.

3 – Rice noodles.  Both cultures use rice extensively and yet the Chinese make rice noodles and the Italians make…not rice noodles.  Why didn’t this technique transfer over?  I don’t know.   Probably because the Italians already had their system figured out.

Points 2 and 3 are more or less observational but point 1 can be fact-checked, so if you disagree go do that…

Now.  Where were we?

Ah yes, we were making a poor man’s Bolognese sauce and sneaking sips from that big magnum of wine you see in the background.

Instead of taking the full three or so hours I caramelized some onions, browned some ground beef and pork, and simmered with some tomato sauce for about 30-45 minutes.  Then topped with some fresh ground pepper and freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano and served over bucatini pasta.

Here’s my fellow Booth student and newly acquired sous-chef Toshi working some cheese magic over a beautiful spread:

When all was said and done, we laid it down like this:

I mean, picture kinda says it all.  That’s about how we’ll be doing it from here on out.  Much more of that to come.  Spaghetti Carbonara is on deck – Toshi wants to learn how to cook a bunch of different Italian foods so we’ll be working our way through some traditional dishes here.

After my Italy for the gourmet traveler book showed up, I had a list of places to check out in Milan.  By far my favorite so far (and, will probably remain for the time I’m here) is Gastronomia Peck.  It’s a specialty food store selling all different kinds of cheese, meats, steaks, seafoods, chocolate, tea, oils, coffee and on and on.  They won’t let you take pictures, but at the cafe upstairs there are no such rules.  So here you go:

Prosciutto e Mozzarella

Lasagna Bolognese

Due cappuccini.

Peck is an absolute must-go and will be re-featured here.  I will give a much more descriptive run-down of the food after one or two more visits.

In the interest of time I’m going to stop here for now.  In the meantime since these events have taken place, I went snowboarding in the Alps, ran into Giorgio Armani himself, made spaghetti carbonara, gone inside the Duomo, and may have set up an interview with an MD from one of the Italian banks.  So that’s what we’ve got to look forward to.

But now I’m heading off to Modena, Parma, Bologna, and Mantua.  Back in a week!

Ciao tutti!

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