Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Adventures With Gigi

My friend Victoria lives with a hostess named Gigi. Gigi is hilarious and also completely insane.

We've taken two car trips, one to Mantova and one to "Parma" (I'll explain the quotations later). The above picture is one of my many failed attempts to get a good picture of the picturesque entrance into the tiny town of Mantova.

You can't tell from my pictures, but you arrive on a bridge so that there is water surrounding you and the city up ahead.

I swear it's really pretty and doesn't involve Gigi's head in the rear-view mirror.

It was a very cool little town.

We were admiring this little garden when a group of young tourists (we're talking 5th grade) entered.

We fled as fast as we could.

We walked around the town for a while, and eventually came across this street: Giovanni Arrivabene. Translation: Giovanni arrives well. I'm still curious if this was actually someone's name or someone had run out of famous Italians and needed to start getting creative with street names.

Mantova is famous for mostarda and tortelli di zucca. The first is a kind of candied fruit that is made with mustard seed. The second is pumpkin/butternut squash ravioli--AKA my favorite food on the planet. Or at least my favorite kind of pasta.

For lunch, we started with a plate of cheeses and mostarda. This plate has fig and pear mostarda. I forgot to take a picture, but we also pumpkin and apple mostarda.

It was delicious.

And the pumpkin tortelli were also amazing. They make the filling with the pumpkin mostarda so it gives it a really complex flavor--sweet, savory, and slightly spicy at the same time.

And served in a simple butter sauce with parmigiano grated over top.

Mantova also has a traditional dessert called Sbrisolina. When Gigi first tried to explain it to me, all she could come up with was "ummmmm crumbs and almonds. Yeah, crumbs...and almonds. You'll see."

Well, she could not have been more accurate. I got a tiny version, a Sbrisolina. And it was just that, crumbs and almonds.

After we found Gigi (she had left her phone at home and we luckily found each other while wandering around the city), she wanted to show us the Palazzo del Te. We weren't supposed to drive this close to it, but Gigi decided no one would mind us breaking the law.

The next trip that we took was to Parma. Or, at least that's where I thought we were going. I knew I was in for a unique trip when we started driving on the very scenic route.

For about an hour and a half I had no clue where we were. My phone had no service and there were no road signs.

Though, it was certainly pretty.

This dog was wondering what we were doing intruding on his property.

Yep. This continued for a while.

Most of the trip involved us driving through the mountains, becoming hungry, passing a bunch of viable restaurants, stopping at restaurants closed on Tuesdays, and then finally deciding on a place in Albinea, a town in the province of Parma.

When we asked Gigi about going to Parma (as in the main center that was certainly likely to have an open restaurant), she responded "oh, it's all Parma." Hence the earlier use of quotations.

And then she didn't like the restaurant we ended up going to after two and a half hours traveling through the mountains anyways. The tortelli were not up to par. However, I'm still thankful that Gigi was willing to drive me to all kinds of new places--places I would never have seen without her lack of directional skills.

In other news, I've decided that I want to go to culinary school in Italy. You know, if I get accepted to a school and all.

I've chosen ALMA as my first choice. I have an interview there on June 14th.

The school happens to be located in Colorna, Parma, and Gigi graciously offered to drive there so I could see it.

The school is located in the Palace.

And there is this pretty garden outside.

Fingers crossed over here.


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