Friday, March 5, 2010

One girl's food is another girl's shoes

I apologize for the lack of postage yesterday; there was a good reason, which you will shortly see!

Sleeping in on Wednesday was a very good decision, because I woke up yesterday feeling considerably less hatred towards my alarm clock, and was actually alert throughout class. Listen to your body before it screams at you! (That was written on some post-its my mom got from her massage therapist. Post-its don't lie!)

Then of course, it was OAT time. I had a particular experiment on my mind this morning involving this:
Pineapple yogurt
And this:
Succo tropicale! (mango-pineapple-papaya-passion fruit-apple-orange juice)
Now, ok, before you go running around shouting "This girl is putting JUICE in her oatmeal?? What kind of crazy Italian crack is she on??????" - let me 'splain. No, there is no time - let me sum up. (Princess Bride? Anyone?) In all reality, how different is putting the juice of fruit in oats versus the actual fruit? Um, not very different at all. Same flavor, without the texture variety. It's like making a smoothie and throwing some oats in. Which, if I had a blender, I would try - I've heard it's yummmy!

Thus, TropicOats was born...
It's a...girl?

It was quite tasty. I think it would be better cold, as overnight oats perhaps. Tropical fruity flavors call for colder treatment, I think. Would have been amazing with some fresh mango! I probably wouldn't jump to make it again, but that's more because I am berry/applesauce oat addict.

I then proceeded to take a nap on the couch. Thrilling, I know.

Instead of having class today, my cooking class was going to a restaurant with several other of our teacher's cooking classes to have a typical vegetarian Italian dinner (hence the lack of posting yesterday), so I was trying to stay extra-balanced (oxymoron?) with eating today. I didn't want to get there bottomed-out starving and eat so fast I wouldn't even taste it, but I obviously wanted to be good and hungry for it! Ah, the complex politics of eating!

All that to say, I had a salad for lunch.
Skillet-grilled zucchini, cannellini, arugula. Good stuff.

I was desperately seeking somewhere to venture, and I hit the jackpot! I was on, which is a website with recommendations/tips/recipes/etc for vegan and vegetarian food, and it's international! They have a list of veg/vegan restaurants and health food stores in Florence, and on it I found....the Italian Whole Foods. Much smaller, no food bars or anything, but a small market chain dedicated to natural/organic foods. A.k.a, my mecca. Cha-CHING!

I dragged my roommate out with me, got lost a time or two, but eventually we found it. It's farther than it looked on the map, but that's probably a good thing, because I'm pretty sure I actually heard my wallet crying when I walked out. I was fully expecting tear stains on my euro bills. Some girls buy designer shoes, others expensive jewelry...I buy organic food.

It was SO exciting - don't worry, you will see my loot as it is consumed ;) 

Marissa and I were feeling like it was cappuccino time, so capps it was:

I swear, it's like medicine.

Not gonna lie, it was a struggle to not eat dinner at my usual 6. I do ok if we're out and about, walking around, but at home it's like a dinner bell goes off in my head. 8 AM classes are NOT conducive to the Italian late dinner, let me tell you. But I managed with a pb & j and a little cereal.

I was, of course, the first person to arrive at Dino. My professor was there and I love him, so I enjoyed just listening to him. I asked him about how this dinner fit into our class's emphasis on nutrition, and this restaurant is apparently known to cook with a lighter touch. He also gave me a tip that I will share with you: If you want to check the quality of a restaurant, look at the waiters' shoes. If they take the time to take care of themselves, they will do the same for the customers. Shiny shoes=good food.

We had the WHOLE restaurant to ourselves - there were about 70 hungry American students in total. After we were all seated and our professor gave the "yes, the wine is free, but please don't get hammered" speech (unfortunately very necessary - and I'm quite doubtful it was observed by the majority), the meal began.
(Please excuse the less-than-brilliant pics; I was hungry and not very patient with the camera.)

For the anitpasti, there was bruschetta:
My fave! Still not as good as the kind we made in class, though.

FRESH pecorino (my true cheese love):
Have I mentioned you need to try this? Because you do.

And fagioli all'uccelletto, which is a dish if white beans in a sauce of tomato, garlic, and sage:
The beans were amazing, akin to what I would consider Italy's version of baked beans.

For primi piatti, we had garganelli alle verdure di stagione (a tube-shaped fresh pasta with sauce of seasonal vegetables) and risotto al taleggio:
I adored the pasta shape! The pasta was very interesting; I tasted some spice that was reminiscent of India, curry or turmeric maybe? I liked it MOLTO.

Taleggio is essentially the Italian brie. Less stinky, quite mild, but I like it a lot. I found this risottto a little underwhelming, probably because I was expecting...well, I don't know, something insanely flavorful, I suppose. It was pleasantly simple, and smelled great; the flavor itself was just rice and creamy cheese, neither of which do much for me. It was a big hit with others, though, so it's very much a matter of opinion.

This restaurant is known for 2 things: their eggplant parm, and their tiramisu. So, quite clearly, secondo piatti was melanzane alla parmigiana:

This was pretty amazing, I will say. I do like eggplant parm but have only had it once or twice because I can't stand how most restaurants serve it: breaded, fried in crappy hydrogenated oil, and piled with cheap provolone cheese and mediocre tomato sauce. This was...not. The eggplant was so soft and tender, the only way to know that it was in fact eggplant was its flavor, kept very much in tact. The tomato sauce was super fresh. My only complaint was that the cheese had made a kind of stale crust and felt too much like it had been sitting out for a while (which, considering there were 70 of us, is entirely possible) - but there wasn't an abundance of it, which I was very grateful for, and the flavor it added was good.

Dessert. The course I had been waiting for. On our first day of class, my professor explained that he really didn't approve of typical tiramisu because it calls for raw eggs. (I'm thinking he's not so much a fan of cookie dough then either...probably the single point upon which we completely disagree.) There is away to serve tiramisu, however, by using a double-boiler method to make the cream. This restaurant is known to use that method, and I was very excited to see how different it was.

(One picture was too yellow, the other too blurry - I figured between the two, you could get the gist.)

The entire night the waiters had come around asking if we wanted more, except for dessert. Cruelty at its finest.
This was some damn fine tiramisu. There was come kind of spice added that I couldn't quite put my finger on - a cinnamon/nutmeg/clove flavor that was just subtle enough that I couldn't figure it out. Hmm, experiment time? I think so.

The wine served was a classic chianti; I probably had about 3 oz over the whole night. I only like wine in teeny tiny sips throughout the meal. It was quite tasty though! I still feel like a dunce about wine though, and I think I'm going to start reading up on it a bit. If I'm going to be a wine snob connoisseur, I'm going whole hog - go big or go home, people.

All in all, it was a lovely meal. Not mind-blowing amazing, perhaps a bit underwhelming, but a wonderful experience as a whole.

I was not at all paying attention to the clock last night. I started a crossword puzzle online, made some tea and put on some Michael Buble and BAM! it was 2 AM. Whoops. Three cheers for sleeping late! 

I'll be back soon with more food commentary and general ranting - ciao ciao!



  1. Yeah I know I am prejudice but your writing makes me laugh out loud. And I wish I had gone to your banquet instead of mine last Saturday- It may have been a highly recommended restaurant in New Orleans, but the dinner was totally unremarkable. While your eggplant parm sounded good.