Thursday, May 30, 2013

Vignola Is Farther Than Carpi! You Know That, Right?

Well, if my first bike trip got bad reactions, it only got worse when I said that I was biking to Vignola.

As you might be able to see, Vignola is 24.5 kilometers away from this starting point, only about 4 kilometers farther than Carpi. Not too dramatic a difference.

Of course, we didn't quite realize the path that we had set out on. The bike route website had two options to get to Vignola: one a straight bike path, the other along a river. We chose to do the river one first.

It started to get weird just a little ways in. We found this decrepit building that was kind of horrifying up close.

It was also surrounded by this forrest.

It felt like we were in the middle of a fairy tale.

Which was cool, except for the fact that witches are usually part of fairy tales. And it felt more than likely at that moment that an evil witch was living in that creepy building.

Most of the first leg of the journey looked something like this. Or like some grass that had been stomped on a little and named a bike path.

After what I thought had been at least 15 kilometers, we reached this sign that told us otherwise.

20 kilometers to go.

We passed lots more pretty stuff.

And then we saw some bulls on the side of the road. Just hanging out. Not enclosed. Just chillin'.

The goats must be a little less trustworthy. They were put behind bars.


Entering the city of Vignola.

I wanted to go to Vignola pretty much only because there is a pasticceria there that is famous for its "Torta Barozzi," a kind of flour-less chocolate cake with rum.

Well, wouldn't yah know, they're closed on Mondays!


So we went to another little bar for foodsies. I ordered a prosciutto crudo and fontina panino. Good, but I thought I deserved a larger sandwich after a three and a half hour bike ride and four euros.

Vignola was a very cute town and I hope to get back there before I leave. And maybe get a slice of Torta Barozzi because, really, I just want chocolate.

On the way back, we took the non-nature path and came across this crazy model city that someone had made.

Not sure what it was for, but it was quite impressive nonetheless.

All of the sudden, we heard loud music playing. We turned right and ended up at some kind of carnival. Again, not sure what the surprise amusement park on a Monday was about, but still entertaining.

I couldn't decide if this "ride" was awesome or just weird. They load children into these giant bubbles and then put them in the water to roll around.

Yup. Still not sure what my opinion is.

The highlight of my day might have been the stop we made on the way home. Vignola is famous for its cherries so when I saw the sign for cherries, sour cherries, and strawberries, I turned down the little dirt road. I bought these awesome "duroni"--sour cherries.

But that wasn't the highlight! When we got to the farm stand, there was a kitty that trotted right over to us and I got to play with her for a whole ten minutes.

Day made.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Stuzzica Gente!

This past Sunday was a kind of food fair in Modena, called Stuzzica Gente. You paid 13 euros for a ticket and got to try an array of foods from different participating restaurants around the center of town.

I was so distracted by the idea of food that I forgot to take a picture of our first taste: gnocco fritto. Thankfully, Victoria eats slowly enough that I got a picture of her last bite.

I swear Magda is not in pain in this next photo. She's displaying our second stop which included water, naturale o frizzante.

She went with classic naturale. Good choice.

Next, pizza tricolor: a pizza with a pesto crust, tomato sauce and mozzarella.

Then we had some artisanal beers.

At La Mamma Pizzeria, we had pasta with a sausage and cream ragu.

I think this a half smile indicating happiness to be eating, but a little bit of disappointment with serving size...

Next, we headed over to L'Erba del Re, one of the three restaurants in Modena to have at least one Michelin Star.

I was pretty excited, until I saw the so-called "hamburger" they were giving out.

It was so dang small!!!

So small you could eat it in one bite.

That is not a hamburger.

I thought that it was pretty good, but Victoria was not as impressed.

Lambrusco! You chose between two kinds--I got amabile, the sweeter one. I loved it. Mostly because it tasted like cranberry juice.

Gelato was next on the list, but I forgot to take a picture. It wasn't very exciting because we had to get "fior di latte" and "crema"which are basically two kinds of gelato that both taste like frozen cream. I mean, it's good, but I want exciting gelato.

Then, I took the first successful shot of my life. Mostly because I think there may have been two drops of vodka in the whole shot. The rest was juice.

But look at me go! I'll totally be ready to turn 21 by the time I get back in the US...

That was it. Then I continued to make my way through the newest season of Arrested Development!

Good day.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Franceschetta 58

Mmmmmmm bread basket. And Victoria's arm.

I'm on a mission to get to as many restaurants as possible before I leave Italy. I've got a long list, a short amount of time, and an ever shrinking wallet, but I'm still going for it!

A few days ago, my friend and I went to the Franceschetta, the sister restaurant of Osteria Francescana. And also a significantly--for reals--cheaper version.

And it was delightful! The restaurant is adorable. There are plates hanging all along the wall of the tiny rectangular dining room and everything is mismatched. Each customer has a different plate and glass set and each table has different table cloths and whatnot.

The food was amazing. We shared everything so they brought us little bowls to put our servings in. And most things were presented in mason jars. I tried hard not to comment on the hipster-ness of this fact.

We got a pea soup with awesome cheese-y bread crumbs and mint on top.

Next this salad with asparagus, zucchini, peas, and fava beans.

Then, this masterpiece. Not 100% sure on what was involved exactly. It was a baked egg with asparagus and some kind of amazing truffle stuff. It wasn't foam and it wasn't cream, but somewhere in between. And beyond delicious.

We licked that ramekin clean. So much so that our waitress commented on our gluttony. It was worth it.

For dessert, this Pistachio Crostatina (mini crostata). My friend is the baker at the Franceschetta and presented us with this beautiful plate.

I'm starting to feel really self-conscious about my now apparent lack of baking skills...

These candied almonds came out as a special offering from the kitchen. They were sweet, salty, and spicy all at once.

A very delicious meal.

Can't wait to get to the next restaurant...


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Notte Bianca, Cooking, and Pretty Skies

It has been incredibly beautiful in Modena these last few days.

I mean, we are are heading into a weekend of rainy days, but I sure have appreciated the recent blue skies.

This past Saturday was "Notte Bianca" ("White Night") in Modena. Pretty much every city has its own, and on this night, all the museums are free and there's a bunch of other stuff to do.

Modena's involved free museums, dancing competitions, artist open markets...

And this random street filled with random open garage-style rooms.

Normally, these rooms are closed, but on Notte Bianca, each had either a band or some weird art thing set up.

And they usually had some free wine and beer inside too. And potato chips.

AND, whether the room had a band in it or not, there was music blasting from inside. I mean that each room, at most five feet from each other, had its own music blaring into the street.

It was so crowded and so loud that it felt like I was in a club.

Look at all those people! If this was Modena's Notte Bianca, I can't even imagine what Milan's or Venice's was like...

Haha this guy in the bottom left corner looks like he walked into Notte Bianca by accident.

Italians certainly know how to party. There were a bunch of children hanging out of their windows partying along with the people on the street. I guess they start young.

In other news, I've been cooking!!!

God I missed that. The other day I made a meal for our Italian studying party. It was 50% eating, 45% chatting, and maybe 5% studying. Part of the 5% might also include bathroom trips or something...

Quinoa salad! Haven't had this stuff since I came here. It was a welcome change. Quinoa with wilted chard, thinly sliced raw carrots, grated parmigiano, and a lemon-y vinaigrette.

Roasted eggplant, roasted asparagus, mozzarella, and burrata drizzled with 35-year-old balsamic.

I wanted to make these bars, but with cherries instead of blackberries. It's cherry season over here and they are everywhere!

First, just look at these eggs.

I almost thought I was doing something wrong with the batter because the filling was so much more orange than the one from the blog.


So. It's kind of obvious that I'm out of practice. I wasn't paying much attention and should have realized some of the red flags in the recipe. First, my pan wasn't big enough. I'm used to all recipes being cooked in 8x8 or 9x13 pans and that every baking dish I buy will fit to those dimensions. Lesson 1: they don't measure in inches here, so those pan sizes don't exit.

Well, my pan was too small so the bars were burning on the outside before the center was cooked. And there was an insane amount of sugar in the recipe. Way too much. Lesson 2: Always double check a recipe for red flags. An adjustment is almost always necessary (or at least won't hurt).

I definitely want to try the recipe again with the correct pan, less sugar, and less butter.

Another day, I introduced some friends to an American style breakfast: scrambled eggs, biscuits, and hash browns.

I was very nervous about making the biscuits because my friends' oven doesn't have a temperature. You can only turn it on and off.

Asia was kind enough to test the heat for me with her hand...

They turned out well! My friend Magda had brought back parmigiano reggiano from Parma, so these were the inspiration for the meal.

Mmmmmmmm I love scrambled eggs. Takes me back to my kitchen table in New Jersey.

Here are some more shots of the pretty blue skies we've been blessed with.

I'll look at these pictures while it rains this weekend. Maybe I'll take this opportunity to study for finals.

Or not.