Posted by: francescacoviello | November 5, 2010

Back to Reality…

The month of October was pleasantly hectic. Unfortunately, I had been somewhat disconnected from blogging between traveling, preparing for midterm exams, and relaxing for fall break. Here is a weekly recap of my experiences from this past month.

10/4 – 10/10 :

Three visitors arrived in Florence on the 7th, which was discussed in the previous post (we ate, a lot.) The morning of the 8th I was assigned to take pictures at the Apicius kitchen for my food photography class. Two classmates and I met chef Paul Salmeri at 8:30 am, and set up a shoot for 3 separate dishes. Chef Paul has been cooking for the Santa Cristina cookbook, a website that features different recipes used with Santa Cristina wine, which is very popular from the Tuscany region. He prepared a pasta dish with garlic, saffron, chili peppers and white wine, as well as a pork tenderloin with baked cinnamon apples and a date sauce with red wine. The third, a veal pate with vinsanto wine and figs. This was my first opportunity using my new camera – and even though it was very early in the morning, I was very anxious to use it . We photographed the initial ingredients, the process of him cooking and the final product, it took over 3 hours but it was worth every minute. The assignment for class required us to organize and edit the pictures in post production. Although we each shot all three recipes, we were asked to choose one recipe that included 6-8 pictures. I submitted for the veal pate, and my contribution is now featured on the site! (click to see).

That weekend (amidst the feeding frenzy with my boyfriend and his family) my roommates and I took them out around Florence. It was a friday night so we hopped around to a few lounges, and eventually ended up at YAB, You Are Beautiful – glamour club.. I would love to know who came up with that clever title. It was the prime location for people watching, as we observed all the euro-fashion and agreed that the Italian men are itty-bitty people, who wear really tiny clothing. The goal of the evening was to show Gordon and his sister what the secret bakery is all about. After less than an hour of loud music and faux-hawks at YAB, we made way towards Via Corso Tintori, at approximately 2:30 am.

Now, there are 3 secret bakeries in Florence, one is located outside of the city center, the other near Via Ghibellini, and the third is the only one we have ever been to. These secretive pastry shops open at 1:00 in the morning to bake good’s through the night for the local caffe’s and panini shops. As people leave the bars near Corso Tintori, the aroma of sweet, hot cakes fills the air and attracts all the intoxicated locals. When we finally arrived at the secret destination there were several groups of people crowded around the sidewalk, some holding the conspicuous white goodie bags, other’s with expressions of satisfaction. On the frosted glass doors read a sign in english “PLEASE BE QUIET!” As if we were involved in a doughnut-drug deal, we knocked on the door ready to order 8 nutella doughnuts. The man poked his head out to let us know it would be another 20 minutes because they were still in the fryer. (The secret bakery is not an actual store, it’s more like a mini warehouse with prep tables and ovens). We debated whether or not to wait, when suddenly… a sheet of water poured down on us. The angry people who lived above the secret bakery clearly didn’t appreciate the late night business operation. Hence the sign on the door – we actually whispered our order, but we were standing in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Which was 2:30 in the morning, I don’t blame them for dumping a bucket of water on a bunch of loudmouth’s outside their window). Luckily we didn’t get too wet, so rather than discussing the wait, we happily parted with lemon scented sugar doughnuts to avoid any additional mishaps.

10/11 – 10/17 :

SOUP WEATHER

The dinner at Il Santo Bevitore (mentioned in previous post) was one of my best dining experiences in Florence. This contemporary Italian restaurant put so many overpriced “trendy” New York City establishments to shame. Everything about Il Santo Bevitore was on point, from the ambiance, friendly and knowledgeable wine stewards and menu selection. To start, I had the red bell pepper soup with a pecorino croissant and chive (pictured). For dinner I ordered the curls of pasta with ‘nduja of Spilsby and pecorino cheese, which was extremely spicy but delicious. Dessert was my favorite – a dark chocolate soufflé with pineapple cream.

“Soup Weather” was a huge part of October, and will certainly play a role in the weeks to come with the cold air moving in. The soup from Il Santo Bevitore was consumed for pleasure, but soon started a trend as I fell ill following that meal. The day after eating there we boarded the Florence sightseeing OPEN TOUR BUS, which is extremely touristy and something I never imagined partaking in. It was really cool to see the entire city, but it was very chilly sitting up top. Out of nowhere, my health took a turn and my body felt weak. Being sick is never fun, especially when everyone visiting is sick too! Soup was plentiful.

That weekend I traveled to Amsterdam with my boyfriend and our runny noses. There are many preconceived notions about the city, so I was a bit unsure of what to expect. We had an early start leaving the Florence train station at 6:30 in the morning to arrive at Pisa airport in time for our 9:30 flight to Eindhoven. Eindhoven was an hour bus ride from Amsterdam, so after a train, a plane and a bus, we finally made it but without any hotel or hostel reservation. We lugged our bags around in search of a decent place to stay, but found mostly dumps. As soon as we got a hold of a map we found a direction and eventually booked 3 nights at the Boutique View Hotel, located in the heart of cultural Amsterdam. It was a charming spot, and we could walk everywhere from there. Despite what Amsterdam is known for, I was completely blown away by the beauty and cleanliness of the city, the hospitality by the people, and the variety of gastronomy. The food in Holland was UNBELIEVABLE, overall the most unexpected dining in any city I’ve ever been to. Throughout the course of the weekend we had… chickpea soup, lamb kebab salad, rosemary roasted potatoes, asian ginger chicken wings, falafel, beef stir-fry, spicy chicken satay, seared scallops, pumpkin soup, grilled goat cheese salad, brownies, cheesecake, YUM. I’m a huge breakfast critic, and I was a little disappointed with the Dutch pancakes, which I ordered with bacon in them. I was willing to take a risk by getting the savory pancakes, but didn’t realize the bacon was going to be raw. On the other hand, the best eggs benedict I ever had in my life was in Holland and I never wanted it to end. I could cut into the english muffin without a knife and the hollandaise sauce was perfectly creamy and not to citrusy. That must be why they call it HOLLANDaise. Get it? 🙂

Sacha, a former International student at UT (who dated my boyfriend’s roommate a few years ago) is from Amsterdam and met up with us during one of our many meals. She explained how there is really no such thing as “Dutch” food, rather they mush everything together. Other than a few staples like Bitterballen, which is a fried snack containing a mixture of beef, broth, flour, butter and seasoning. We indulged in these little treats with Sacha, and discussed how the Dutch have adopted the cuisines from all over the world and perfected them. It was a really interesting learning about her culture, knowing that she spent time studying in Tampa blending in with Americans. As our lunch date came to an end, Sacha went on her way, mounting a bike and pedaling off with the rest of Amsterdam.

Despite the rain and the long line at the Anne Frank house, Amsterdam far surpassed my expectations by being such a standout city. The super liberal mentality is not just about allowing illegal things to be legal – Amsterdam is an eco-friendly, laid back place where a balance actually exists. I would love to go back during the Spring when the tulips are in bloom, and would definitely visit more museums. Seedy areas like the Red Light District are easily avoidable, there is so much to see and do in Amsterdam, I recommend it as one of the must see city’s of Europe. “The Dutch know what’s up.”

10/18 – 10/ 24 : BORING. Midterms all week, which was not easy to study for after a weekend of wallowing in Amsterdam. At least I survived, and was more than ready to relax for 10 days in Positano.

…(Details of FALL BREAK  in next post)…

10/25 – 10/31 :

The final stretch of fall break. After staying in Positano for the majority of the time, we visited Rome for 2 nights – one of my other favorite cities. It was weird spending Halloween in Rome and not celebrating for the first year in my life. I love Halloween, but that’s the price I had to pay for studying in a country that doesn’t acknowledge American holidays. At least the Italians believe in All Saints Day, which follows Halloween so we were given an extra day of vacation.


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