It's been a week since my last blog and so much has happened I can't believe I let the time fly by. Since I've already missed so many details I will fill you in on the highlights.
Monday we had our first turn at central kitchen. We arrived excited to find out where we would all be working and a little anxious about what this really entailed. I was designated to the meat course and the accompanying contorni. This was kind of a big deal since in the kitchen the meat prep and service is the more glamorous of jobs and comes with bragging rights. Little did I know that I would be prepping chicory leaves and carrots for the better part of two hours before I even got to see a piece of meat. However once service started I got to plate and serve the main course that was eaten by 300 of my peers. It was a fantastic day, Chef Bruno was very proud of our smooth operation in the kitchen and later by the great feedback we got from the rest of the school on our food.
Later in the week we had another field trip. For this one we stayed in our own region of Emilia-Romagna and went to visit one of the best producers of pecorino-romano in the area Ronato Brancaleoni. He and his wife own and operate a cheese cellar called L'Abbondanza.
The website for their place is www.fossadellaabbondanza.it - it's definitely worth a look. He has perfected the production of cheese in what's called a cheese cave. It is literally a thirty-foot hole in the ground that dates back to the 14th century and is used to store cheese for up to a year in order to ferment to the perfect taste and consistency. For lunch we visited his home and got a front row seat to Italian home cooking. His wife was a gracious and lovable woman who let us come into her kitchen and watch her prepare recipes that had been handed down to her by her mother and grandmother. The meal began with a plate of salumi and baskets of homemade flatbread along with bowls of pickled vegetables. From there there was a soup course, a pasta course and a course of braised meats that could only be described as hearty winter fare. Along with the bottles of red wine that kept appearing from the back, every one of us was ready for a long nap by the end.
The week ended and then it was time for a fun weekend away. Chelsea and I made plans earlier in the week to spend the weekend in Bologna, however when I say we "made plans" I would take that lightly. We basically just decided to go, packed a bag and left without a moments notice to an itinerary. That would prove to be the fatal flaw in our plan as we ended up having a 36 hour misadventure and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. We got into town around 2pm, waaaay behind schedule. We planned to go immediately to find a hotel but instead we got side tracked by the amazing and humongous street market and ended up shopping for four hours. By the time we figured that finding a hotel would be a good idea they were all booked. Literally, every hotel in town was completely booked up because of a city-wide art festival that was going on; obviously Chelsea and I had no idea that this was going on that weekend. Thankfully we eventually and at the last minute got a hotel and went to eat dinner and party. Here is where our next disappointment happened.
We were starving so we chose a restaurant in utter desperation and as such, ended up with such an awful meal it may have scarred my unwavering devotion to all things Italian. The meal was such an insult that we almost walked out, and the worst part was that we ordered everything the waitress suggested! Now I've been a server for, let's just say a while, and if I suggest it and you order it it is going to be damn good! Not only were our meals suggested by the waitress, but they were lasagna and spaghetti bolognese for God's sake! We were in BOLOGNA! I have had better lasagna from a box and that is not an over-exaggeration. We almost left the city that very moment and had a serious conversation on whether or not to throw in the towel and make the journey back to Colorno with our tails between our legs. However, we decided to be positive and make a night out of it anyway, after all we couldn't come back to the rest of the group with such a lame story about our weekend. So we did what we do best and we went out on the town and partied. We ended up having a fantastic time and meeting a group of locals who bounced us around the Bologna bar scene all night until the sun came up. At that point Chelsea and I somehow got our act together and got to the train station promptly at 7am.
And here is disappointment number 3. When we arrived red-eyed and giggly to the train station, we were greeted with the horrific news that there would be no trains leaving Bologna for Parma, or Milan (same train line) until further notice. During the night it had begun to snow and the weather took a turn for the worse right about the time we got to the train station. Now this is Itlay, and no one gives much of a crap about you and your inconvenience. So inconvenienced and at that point stranded we were. So we did what any good American tourist would do, sat ourselves down with the nearest locals, made friends and drank beer until the trains started running two and a half hours later.
Arriving home in Colorno at midday we both went straight to bed to recover from our rediculous weekend, and although we didn't have the most perfect time, we had one hell of a good story.