Friday, June 3, 2011

Last day of class, Last day in Florence

Friday June 3, 2011

First, I would like say Happy 20th birthday to my brother Pat!

Today was the last day of class. It started out with a final that was made up of multiple-choice questions and a few short answer questions about the Italian culture and recipes we made in class.  There was also a cooking section of the final, as well.  Chef Tommaso chose the Risotto with Asparagus recipe we had made our first week of class, for our exam.  He measured all of the ingredients for us while we were finishing the written part of the final.  We had to make the risotto by memory (which was easy for me since I make risotto a few times a month at home!).

The other groups seemed to be finishing up their risotto very quickly, even those who had started after me, Liz, and Erica.  Chef Tommaso began to worry us saying that he thinks ours may be over-done.  We were a little nervous, but I kept reminding myself that he has been impressed with most, if not all, of our recipes. Plus-- I am Queen of risotto!!!

After about 25 minutes we finally finished up our risotto with asparagus and plated it!

Chef Tommaso was ready with fork in hand and immediately stuck his fork into our risotto dish, even though I was still setting up the plate.  He took a bite, said nothing.  Took another, mumbled something, and then took a third, and still said nothing.  No facial expression.  Nothing.  Our immediate thoughts were that we over cooked it, or there was not enough salt!

He went over to the group behind us and tried theirs.  When he finished trying their risotto he explained that he said nothing about ours because he wanted to get to the other groups while it was still hot.  And then he held up our plate, pointed, the great words “This is perfecto!!!”  We had made the best risotto out of the entire lab!  It was cooked to al dente and had a perfect creamy texture. AND the perfect amount of salt!!!! We had finally done it!!

At the end of class we said our goodbyes and took a class picture.  This was undoubtedly my favorite class I have ever taken.  Better than any undergrad and graduate level class, by far!  It was something different instead sitting in a lecture room.  I got to do one of my favorite things to do in the world, cook!  And what no other place to do it than Italy!

After class Becca, Erica, Liz and I went to a famous sandwich shop for lunch known as the Oil Shoppe.  I got a sandwich on wheat foccacia bread with turkey, roasted eggplant, roasted tomatoes, provolone cheese, and pesto.  It was DELISH!

After, Erica and I made one last loop around the leather market.  We each bought another purse—not planning on it.  BUT it was such a great deal!! Way too good to pass up!  Before heading back into the apartment Erica and I saw Ronnie from Jersey Shore!

I went on my last run around the city and now doing last minute packing and then off to our last dinner and gelato here in Florence!!  Our bus leaves at 10:15 PM from Florence and will arrive in Rome at 2:30 AM.  It’s going to be a loooong night.

One last Ciao from Florence!

Molly Jean

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Blueberry Steak and The Secret Bakery

Thursday June 2, 2011

Aqua al 2 was amazing!! We ordered a pasta sampler to start out with, which included 5 different pastas, chef’s choice.  The ones chosen were a broccoli and rigatoni pasta, strawberry risotto, artichoke and fusili pasta, and gnocchi with a roasted red pepper sauce.  Of course the gnocchi was my favorite!! I absolutely loved the roasted red pepper sauce!  We had asked to have the strawberry risotto included in the sampler, but I was a bit disappointed.  But it gave me a new recipe idea to try at home for my next risotto creation!!

Broccoli Pasta

Strawberry Risotto

Pasta with Artichokes

Gnocchi with a roasted read pepper sauce

Next came our steaks!!  Four of us ordered the Balsmic steak and four, including myself, ordered Aqua al 2 famous blueberry steak so that we were able to share.  The steak to was cooked perfectly medium-rare. 

The blueberry sauce was incredible!  It was not too sweet and did not over-power the steak at all!  Who would have thought blueberries would taste so great with steak??  But, I must say, after trying the balsamic steak, I liked it much better than the blueberry.  The balsamic reduction sauce was the perfect sweetness and just so incredible.  It is something I may have to try with steak at home!

blueberry steak

cooked perfectly!

Balsamic Steak

We also celebrated Liz’s 25th birthday at the restaurant.  Lacey and I were sneaky and slyly asked the waitress if there was anything that they could put together, dessert-wise.  The waitress insisted on a dessert sampler.  When they brought out the desserts with a candle we all sang happy birthday, including the other restaurant guests!! Judging by Liz’s surprise look and smile, she had no idea what was planned!

birthday girl!!

Dessert sampler: cheese cake, chocolate cake, custard tart, and tiramisu

After the restaurant we headed over to Kakuya for some drinks.  Most of us ordered their specialty, Dragoons.  It is an incredibly strong beer with high alcohol content, so me being a lightweight, I ordered by usual half pint.  When it began to get late we headed over to Space, a famous club in Florence. 

Baby Dragoons!

We danced the night away, and our huge dinner, to make room for the secret bakery!  There are a few secret bakeries in Florence.  They are not supposed to be open at late hours, so there is s sign on them that says, “please be quiet.”  But, the few scattered around Florence supply late nighters coming back from the clubs and bars with their wonderful, straight out of the oven pastries for 1 euro or less.  I ordered myself a Nutella filled croissant.  It was definitely worth staying out late for!!

enjoying my secret bakery!

Nutella filled croissant!

As I mentioned in my last entry, today is an Italian National Holiday, marking the day Italy abolished the monarchy and became a republic. So there is no class.  Just packing, studying for our final, and getting in our last few meals and gelato!!


Molly Jean

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Ganzo, Wine Tasting, Last "real" day of class

Wednesday June 1, 2011

Yesterday for lunch I joined Becca and Erica at the Ganzo for lunch.  The Ganzo is Florence University’s “dining hall.”  It is set up more like a restaurant.  Once you are seated you are brought a basket of bread and water!  You are also handed a sheet you are to fill out to place your order.  You can make your own salad or Panini., order their pasta of the day, or a dessert.  I chose to build my own salad, which comes with greens, 5 choices of toppings (I chose pear, cucumber, onions, grilled chicken, and walnuts), and a choice of dressing. 

The salad was amazing!!! I feel like it has been days since I have eaten a plate of veggies.  The salad was HUGE, so I think I’m set on my veggies for the remainder of the week!!

Later in the evening was the wine tasting.  We went to a place called Pozzo Divino.  When we arrived we were taken to the basement where six other people were sitting that were joining our group of nine for the tasting. The basement used to be where prisoners would hide during the Renaissance. (fun fact…)

Lacey, Me, Missy, Erica

The beginning of the tasting we ate Tuscan bread with extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany, as well as a 10 year aged Balsamic vinegar, and parmesan cheese.  We were explained the origin of the olive oil and vinegar, how it was prepared, and the ingredients.  

Soon we were given our first wine, which was a Tuscany Chardonnay (Serparo Leonardo Chardonnay).  We were taught to look, smell, and taste the wine. If you are able to read your watch through the white wine, then it is perfecto!! They discussed the difference between French and Italian Chardonnay in that the Italians do not have to put theirs in barrels to preserve (therefore making the Italian chardonnay way better, of course…).  The wine was excellent!!  With the wine we were served Parma Proscuitto, which is what we had learned about in class yesterday!!

Looking at my watch through the Cardonnay

The second wine was a Chianti Classico, Tuscany’s most famous wine.  The bottle was labeled DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita)   meanding that the grapes and ingredients are from Tuscany and prepared in the chianti region.  Chianti Classico must be made with 80% Sangiovese grapes, and the readt can be prepared with any other fruit.  The Chianti we drank contained cherries and flavorings of the wood from the barrel, which gave off a slight peppery taste.

Chianti Classico

After discussing the Chianti we were given two different salami’s to taste. We were to leave some of the Chianti to compare with the next wine, Super Tuscan, a red wine blend.  This was my favorite.  It contained green pepper, which I would have never been able to pick out if I was not told.  It also contained vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Super Tuscan- red wine blend

Our group with Pino!

After we finished we headed over to Grom’s for Gelato and then off to Galleria dell Accademia to see the famous David.  Admission was free tonight!! We went to see David immediately.  I was in awe as to how enormous the statue was, and the details were so specific.  You could see the veins in the hands, the indentations of bones and muscle.  We sat for about 10 minutes in awe of this gorgeous statue, reading from Audrey’s Rick Steves book!

After Erica and I decided to ride the carousel in Piazza De Repubblica.  We had been wanting to ride it since the day we arrived in Florence.  We were please to have crossed off 4 things on our list of things to do
1. Eat and The Ganzo
2. Wine Tasting
3. The David
4. Carousel

Today was our last true class before we take our final on Friday.  Tomorrow is an Italian National Holiday.  (June 2nd marks the day in 1946 when Italy voted in a referendum to abolish the monarchy and become a republic). 

We cooked Pannacotta and Veal Marsala today!! Erica and Liz worked on the pannacotta while I worked on the veal.  I had to remove the fat on the veal and then pound the veal to about ½ centimeter thick, which helps to make the veal tender.  Next I dredged it in flour and fried in a little butter and olive oil until medium rare, which is the typical way Italians cook the veal.  After the veal was cooked I added the marsala wine and 1 ladle of vegetable stock we made with water, celery, onion, and carrot.  The sauce had to reduce to half and then I added butter at the end to make the sauce creamy!  When Chef Tammaso acme to taste, it was the first time he did not tell us to put in more salt!!

The pannacatta was amazing!! It was easy to make, as well.  It is made up of  equal parts milk and heavy cream, as well as sugar, gelatin, and a vanilla bean.  These ingredients are heated in a sauce pan and then put in small tin serving dishes to be refridgerated.  Different sauces are usually put on the pannacotta.  In the winter chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffle are most often used.  In the summer fruit sauces are used.  Today we made a red wine reduction made with chiatni red wine, sugar, and 1 cinammon stick, reduced to half.  The sauce turned out beautifully!

It is raining right now L hopefully it will clear up so I can roam the town before a fabulous dinner at Aqua al 2 tonight for some blueberry steak and celebrating Liz’s (belated) birthday!!


Molly Jean!