Thursday, September 13, 2007

Some generalizations on Italian food and drink

I don't really know where to start, since I've been eating Italian food for a few years now, and some of it isn't so exciting anymore. Also, I make a lot of it at home now, too.

Probably the best thing about Italy for me is the cheese. I mean, a lot of the other food is amazing, but it's reproducible at home. The cheese just isn't (and I've tried). Actually, we've had some luck locating acceptable substitutes for some of the Italian cheeses we eat when we're here, but they're always either difficult to obtain (i.e. from the Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley, which is closed on Sundays, random holidays, etc.), or ridiculously expensive. After a while, it's possible again to eat the "creamy" gorgonzola in the US and not think about the really creamy gorgonzola we've left behind. And we usually bring some stracchino and parmesan with us to last a little while. But the variety of cheese that is all so fantastic and almost guaranteed to be delicious no matter which one you pick, that almost doesn't exist in the US, and certainly not in Davis. Loris thinks I should open a Cheeseboard Collective of my own, but then again, I also need to open a bakery, and a restaurant, and a deli, etc.

OK, on to other things. The meat here is generally pretty good, but as I don't usually eat meat in the US, it's hard to describe it, or compare it. Some of it is just too spicy for me. Although I ate it anyway. And speaking of spicy foods, I ate a dish of pasta with garlic and red pepper that I wasn't sure I'd survive. I was certainly proud of myself. I would like to develop an ability to eat spicy food, although I probably won't ever enjoy it, but just to get by when, for example, I'm a guest and have to eat what is put in front of me.

We haven't eaten a lot of vegetables here (see my post on vegetarianism), but of course the ones we eat are always delicious. We've had some roasted peppers, a ratatouille (at least, I think that's what it was), stuffed onions (with meat, of course), green beans, eggplant parmesan, and to be honest that's all I can remember. This vacation has been really low on vegetables, considering that theoretically, it should be the time of some serious harvesting.

We've been to dinner twice in the fort. The first time was for a fish dinner, which was pretty decent. We ate whole sardines (I think), which were not worth the time it took to remove the head, skin, and bones (and then keep fishing little annoying bones out of your mouth), two delicious fish steaks (one was salmon), and a variety of other seafood (calamari, etc.). And a dish of mussels, yum. The only vegetables that appeared here were some heavily battered and fried squash and eggplant. Which were good. But heavy. The other meal was a pasta dinner, where I ate the aforementioned spicy pasta and pasta with tomato sauce (which was, sketchily, the only veggie of the meal). This was preceded by a dish of meat. Spicy meat. In retrospect, that was probably the spiciest meal I've eaten in a long time. And the pasta was followed by a slice of apple that was, once again, heavily battered and fried. Another heavy meal. But good.

What else can I talk about? The delicious chocolate budino? The delicious goat milk ice cream we had at Manuela and Franco's? They also made us three pizzas, one with gorgonzola, one with olives and cheese (not sure if there was some sort of white sauce), and one with raw onions. They were all good, and served with real German beer from a mini-keg. It was quite possibly the best beer I've ever had, as the carbonation was different from typical beer carbonation - more like root beer, softer, less harsh, and taking a lot longer for the foam to go down. Once again, the meal started with meat, although I thoroughly enjoyed this meat. Speck from Valle d'Aosta, and some type of salami (NOT spicy). Yum. I'm not sure I've ever had speck before.

And that is my "brief" outline of the food in Italy on this trip. I'll add another post if I remember some other things.

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