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Spring Break Memories

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Even though I graduated from college over two years ago, I’ve still managed to plan a little getaway every March or April, even if it’s just for a long weekend. Last year, Evan and I planned to visit New Orleans, a place that has long been on both of our bucket lists.

Unfortunately, our flight was scheduled to depart Denver the day after the area experienced record snowfall (19.5 inches, to be exact). Needless to say, we didn’t make it to New Orleans but we’re hoping we have better spring break luck this year!

Next week, we’ll be spending two nights in Naples and a night in Sorrento, and I can’t be more excited to explore Southern Italy!

Image via best_italiansites

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My Sardinian Food Diary

Friday

Lunch (meat and cheese plate with olives and traditional Sardinian bread)

Our first meal in Cagliari was at Ellusu, a casual lunch spot offering us exactly what we were in search for at the time: reasonably-priced Sardinian food and a table in the sun. Thanks to their charming menu, it was here that we learned how to count to five in Sardinian.

Dinner (swordfish carpaccio, calamari and fried sardines, seafood couscous in spicy tomato soup)

Fork is the less expensive restaurant of Chef Stefano Deidda, who also owns the one star Michelin restaurant Dal Corsaro right next door. We had a very impressive dinner here but the swordfish carpaccio and our friend’s seafood risotto were definitely the stars of the meal.

Saturday

Breakfast (cappuccino)

I admittedly ate way too much during this trip so I consistently woke up every morning still feeling full from the night before. Most mornings, I just opted for a cappuccino and had my first (very large) meal of the day at lunch.

Lunch (Sardinian cheese plate, seafood linguine)

My favorite part of our lunch at Sa Schironada was the cheese plate, which was placed on top of several layers of Sardinian bread – a type of flat bread with a cracker-like texture. The place had an enjoyable atmosphere and it was fun to watch the cooks at work in the nearby kitchen, however, this was one of the more touristy restaurants we went to during our stay.

Dinner (lobster ravioli)

Still content from lunch and much to our waiter’s disapproval, I chose to only have lobster ravioli rather than both a primi and secondi. We were placed in an extremely quiet dining room (at 8:30 pm we were still really early for dinner) but by the time we were nearly finished with our meal locals began filing in and strangely, the sound of American country music filled the restaurant.

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Sunday

Lunch (mozarella panzerotti)

An on-the-go bite for lunch from one of the cafes along Poetto Beach. A panzerotti is basically a fried pizza turnover: satisfyingly greasy and the perfect fuel to get one through a moderately easy hike.

Dinner (seafood salad and calamari, traditional carbonara, bites of assorted desserts)

Our last meal in Cagliari was at my favorite restaurant of the whole weekend: Crackers. Despite the name, the place has an old fashioned atmosphere complete with white linen tablecloths, nicely dressed waiters, and meals brought to the table on rolling carts. The ever-smiling Roberto and his wife took great care of us and their radicchio with thinly sliced octopus salad blew me away. A great end to our food-filled weekend.

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Hiking to the Punic Roman Temple

 

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All three of us were in awe when we rounded the bend and were greeted by this sight

On our last full day in Cagliari, we decided to be more active and try to work off several seafood pasta meals. We began our efforts by climbing to the top of the Torre dell’Elefante, a 31-meter tall limestone tower that was built in 1307.

Perhaps one of the more grotesque details of the tower is that several decaying heads of prisoners were once displayed over its door. Luckily, heads no longer decorate the Torre dell’Elefante but it does offer an incredible view of the entire city.

Our next adventure involved hiking the scenic seaside trail to the Torre del Poetto and the Tempio Punico but I don’t think we were expecting it to be quite so difficult to find the trailhead.

We had to take a bus to Poetto Beach but thanks to a broken ticket machine (of course, there was only one in the whole bus station) and a large crowd of beach-bound teenagers, it took us almost an hour to finally get on the bus.

We were then dropped off at the wrong stop so in order to find the trail, we ended up walking more than double the length of the entire trail. While I was definitely cranky throughout our search for the trail due to my poor choice of shoes (I don’t recommend hiking over rocky terrain in Keds), once we began climbing the hill I found that the views were more than worthy of an extra blister or two.

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Spring in full bloom
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Overlooking the Torre del Poetto while Evan set up his Go-Pro
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The Tempio Punico Romano – built between the 3rd and 2nd century BC!
Bologna · Culture · Food · Italian Culture · Restaurants · Uncategorized

Behind the Scenes of a Gelateria

img_9503After dinner and drinks with a few friends a couple weeks ago, one of my friends suggested that we get some gelato for dessert. We ended up at Gelateria delle Moline – a business that has been in the same family for three generations.  After a couple of us began gobbling up orders of the Italian version of an ice cream sandwich (you get to choose two gelato flavors to place inside this deliciously deadly, homemade brioche bun – SO GOOD), we began talking with one of the owners, Marco.

After a couple minutes of polite chit-chat, he asked us if we wanted to see what it’s like behind the scenes of a gelateria. Of course, we gave an enthusiastic yes. Marco explained that they make all their gelatos fresh every day, which was quite incredible considering how tiny the kitchen was.

He said that the process was actually very simple and involved making a large amount of base (which consists of only milk, eggs, and sugar) then adding flavor into some of the base, which varies depending on what type of gelato he’s making. The flavors can be any combination of various chocolates, fruits, nuts, and cremas. And that’s it – simple and authentic Italian gelato.

Marco told us that the most popular flavor at the shop is the caffe (coffee) but he said he doesn’t like coffee much so he prefers the crema, a super creamy gelato that tastes like custard. He may be the first Italian I’ve met that doesn’t like coffee! Nevertheless, Marco was a part of the most memorable gelato experience I’ve had since moving here and I’ll definitely be going back once the weather gets warmer.

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The base is whipped up every morning in this giant mixer
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This is where they store the base before adding in different favors
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Melted chocolate that is cooling down so it can be added to the base
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Thanksgiving in Italy

img_4192Thanksgiving Day was like any other day here in Italy. No national holiday kept people from going to work or students going to school, there was no parade filled with oversized balloons, and no giant meal was had. Instead, we had tickets to a concert that night so heated up some leftover chili from the night before.

The next day was Black Friday and while there were several stores advertising sales all weekend, there weren’t outrageous lines outside electronics stores, shops didn’t open at 3am, and there certainly weren’t any stories about people being trampled over the latest “it” product on the news that night.

But don’t worry, we were good Americans in the end and celebrated Thanksgiving (turkey and all) – we were just a couple days late. Saturday was our designated celebration day. A giant Thanksgiving potluck was planned through Evan’s school and in order to gain entry, we had to either bring a dish or pay 10 euros. So, of course, we brought a couple dishes!

We decided on making stuffing and the traditional sweet potato casserole. Our task was made much easier than it would have been if my mom hadn’t sent a box full of American goodies a couple weeks prior, complete with Pepperidge Farm stuffing and marshmallows to top the casserole (best mom ever). All that we needed to pick up was celery, onion, milk, and sweet potatoes – and it’s with the sweet potatoes that we ran into some trouble.

Apparently, sweet potatoes aren’t grown in Italy and after visting our local grocery store, two markets, and a produce stand, I was starting to worry that we’d have to choose a different dish. Finally, we poked our heads in to a tiny convenience store located on a side street in between our apartment and Evan’s campus and tucked on the top shelf in a corner – sweet potatoes!

The shop owner told us he gets them shipped in from Israel since Americans and Israelis are always asking for them. In the end, he saved the day and we were able to make our dishes without further issues.

Evan’s school put on a great Thanksgiving dinner complete with twelve turkeys, many pumpkin pies made in springform pans (all student housing seems to be equipped with cheesecake making materials but not pie making materials), and background music that began as country tunes and quickly turned into Christmas classics.

It seems that on this Thanksgiving I should also be thankful for the Americans (and Israelis, apparently) before me that pestered shopowners for sweet potatoes.

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What I’m Thankful For

img_1976Although it may be cheesy, I think it’s important that on my first Thanksgiving outside of the U.S. that I share what I’m thankful for. I’m very fortunate to have a long list this year, but here are just a few things that I can think of, in no particular order:

  1. All the adorable cat videos constantly popping up on the internet (yes, I am that animal-obsessed)
  2. Our little Corte Isolani family of three
  3. The great people-watching just outside our door in Piazza Santo Stefano
  4. Evan’s ability to make me laugh, even when I’m trying not to
  5. 2 euro pizza slices at Due Torre that I indulge in way too often
  6. My cats (Chub and Stinky) and a VERY generous Chris that has been taking care of them while we’re in Italy
  7. The fact that Skype exists so I can talk to my parents “face-to-face” on a weekly basis
  8. My group of friends from middle school that I still talk to multiple times a day in a Facebook message (a.k.a. “the message”)
  9.  Long talks about nothing over wine, meats, and cheeses
  10. This wonderful nine months that I get to spend in one of the most beautiful places in the world
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The Markets of Bologna

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Mercato delle Erbe

In addition to the many stalls selling fresh fruits and vegetables, oversized cheese wheels and meat, and of course lots of Italian wine, part of this market has been transformed into a food court. This isn’t an average food court though but instead, it offers some of the best affordable “fast food” in Bologna. It also happens to be the largest indoor market in the city.

Mercato di Mezzo

This market is a great spot for lunch and it’s also the closest market to our apartment so I tend to be there a lot. There are lots of stalls selling sandwiches, seafood, pastries, fresh pasta (both in dishes that you can eat right there at one of the communal tables and weighed out for you take home), plus much more. It can get pretty busy around 2pm with all the locals and tourists on the hunt for lunch, but any other time it’s a great spot for a quick bite.

Mercati della Terra

Unlike the other two markets, this one is only open on Saturday mornings. It’s quite a ways from the center of the city but is right next to the Bologna Museum of Modern Art (MAMbo) and one of my favorite cafes, Ex Forno. About twenty stalls fill the piazza outside Cinema Lumiere selling anything from fresh fruit and vegetables to local beers and fried fish. When we went they also had a live jazz band which made the market feel extra special.