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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring Break: Five Women Making Their Way Through Rome and Venice

      Hooray! Family/Spring Break week was absolutely fantastic. Not only did I get free meals and a few prizes, but I spent the week with my awesome mamma, sister, aunt, and cousin showing them around the beautiful city of Rome and a short trip to Venice. Here's how it went...

      Saturday I had gotten up early to do some dishes and clean a bit before my family got here. All of a sudden, we heard our doorbell ring, and since we weren't expecting anyone at all at to come to our apartment that day we ignored it. Then, we heard someone banging on our door, so I figured I should check it out. I opened the door and there was my mom! It turned out they didn't have the address to their hotel, but they had my address so they had the taxi drop them off here! After we reunited and I changed out of my pajamas, we went to the hotel to drop off their stuff. Then we did a nice walk around St. Peter's Square, up to the Castel Sant'Angelo, walking, talking, laughing, and window shopping a bit. After a while, we got tired so we all took close to a 3 hour nap, then freshened up. We walked then to Piazza del Popolo (the People's Square), then to the Spanish Steps, around to the Trevi Fountain, and found a very cute restaurant with a view of the fountain down the street. We had delicious food, great wine, and talked all while eating our yummy yummy food. They all were happy with the great Italian food they ate. We got gelato to end the great night and slept well.

Mama, Emily and Kathleen wishing on the Trevi. 

      The plan for Sunday was to to to mass in St. Peter's at 10:30am, but there was no way to cross the street to even get to the square because there was a marathon taking place! So many runners were whizzing by past the Vatican, with just as many people cheering on the sidelines. It was unfortunate that we missed mass in the morning, but cool to see the runners throughout the entire city during the day. So, we went for breakfast, and walked to Piazza del Popolo, and saw the marathon there as well as Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and Winnie the Pooh! It was almost as if we were in Disney again! We took the trek up to Villa Borghese park, which overlooks Piazza del Popolo and almost all of Rome. Our main objective was to get to the actual villa to see the art exhibit, but we took our time meandering through the beautiful, lively park. There were people riding bikes, children playing in the grass, guitar players, and couples having picnics throughout the park. By the time we got there, the ticket person told us we couldn't get in, and had to pre-pay for tickets Wednesday (that was the second strike-out for the day). We walked through and found our way out of the park, walked to the Metro and made it to mass at the Vatican at 5:30pm.

Racing around the Vatican.

      Mass was a very interesting experience (good-interesting). Were we sat was cool enough, right next to and almost underneath Bernini's Canopy. It seemed like a very long mass, especially because it was all in Italian, but it was fantastic to sit there, in St. Peter's, with so many different people, speaking many languages, from different backgrounds. There was also beautiful music sung by a group of young singers, making the place full of beautiful music.   
      After mass, we took the metro to the Re di Roma stop, and found a quaint little family-owned restaurant, and at the BEST Italian food I had had to that day; Fettuccine with grilled salmon, wine, everything so delicious. The dinner wasn't just spectacular tasting, but all 5 of us laughed and talked about the family vacations we took together, including Mexico, Florida keys, Disney, Michigan, Scotland, Ireland, and mom and Carol talked about Bass Lake. It was so funny just sitting here all talking and laughing. After that great meal, we went to the infamous POMPI! Mom, Emily, Carol and Kathleen were very impressed by the fantastic tiramisu and coffee, and we all tried the different variations that were ordered (strawberry, classic, and banana and Nutella). Great way to end the night. We taxi-ed it back, and my mom commented on how terrifying it was that they were all depending on me to get around, and how weird that it was that i was the youngest of us all and apparently "directionally challenged", even though I am not. I had to sit in the front seat of the cab as well, because I also apparently "speak Italian", if you count the few words I know.

The three daughters at POMPI.

All of our delicious desserts! Yummmm.

      Monday was such a busy day, starting at the Colosseum. Even though I've been there once before, it was still awe-inspiring to see the gigantic structure and think about its history. After a while spent in the Colosseum, we made our way to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, which were cool, even if everything is in ruins it was interesting to see it for yourself after learning about it in school. After a quick lunch, we made our way to the Pantheon, and picked up University of Rome sweatshirts because it got sooo chilly really quick. The Pantheon is also amazing to go to multiple times, because you always are still surprised at how big and ingenious it is. This is where Rafael's tomb is, Vittorio Emanuele (first king of Italy who also unified all of Italy), and his son and daughter-in-law (Margherita, who was the inspiration for pizza Margherita). Afterwards, we all made our way to St Louis of the French church where paintings by Caravaggio are on the walls, as well as to Piazza Navona, where there are artists everywhere displaying their beautiful talents.

Near the Colosseum (or Roman Forum?)

      Tuesday was extremely long, because we went through the Vatican Museums, which took about 4 hours. I had been there once before, but this time we got the audio guides, which helped immensely in knowing what was important and in giving interesting background information. We went through the museums, the Sistine Chapel, and were about to drop dead by that time. Before going into the square and the basilica, we ate delicious paninis, and gelato at the famous Old Bridge gelato shop, which definitely hit the spot.

      When Mom, Carol and Emily walked around the basilica, Kathleen and I took to the stairs to climb up to the cupola, or the top dome which overlooks so much of Rome at every angle. I love the views from here, so I had an excellent time climbing up, however out of breath we were from taking the stairs the entire way, about 551 stairs all the way to the top. Thank goodness it was cool outside, or we would have roasted in the tiny stairways! It was, once again, an incredible view, and I'd even do it again.

      Wednesday morning we woke up super early and made our way to the Villa Borghese art museum, which was larger than I had expected, and a little more boring than I had expected. However, there were some very interesting sculptures and paintings that I enjoyed looking at and learning about. After, the four of them all went to the Leonardo DaVinci Museum, where there are some of his inventions made, which you can touch and move and figure out how it works/moves. I had already gone with my Travel Writing class, so I passed in order to sit in Piazza del Popolo (right by the little museum) to soak up some wonderful sunshine. We tried then to go to the Catacombs, but they were closed on Wednesdays (of course, the day we want to go), so we decided to got to the church of the Cappuchian Monks. This was an experience everyone should have, however creepy it was. Under the church there were the "tombs" of the monks, but it was more of rooms full of bones-literally. The walls, ceilings and floors were decorated with the bones of the dead monks, taken apart to create almost-beautiful designs. You were even lucky enough to see full skeletons of some monks, Yuck. It was cool to see, but very gross and morbid. After that experience, we went shopping, and then tried to find a place for dinner, but couldn't find it (probably it was closed), so we settled on a different one, where some of our food came in the pans they were cooked in.

Beautiful trees in the park.

The Villa in the park Villa Borghese.

      Thursday morning was very stressful for me, as we settled on meeting before our train to Venice at ten to 7, but my wonderful family decided to be 30 minutes late, giving us less than 30 minutes to get to the train station and to get on our train, which I thought was almost impossible. We caught a cab, thinking it would be faster, but we hit a few traffic blocks, and made it to the station with 5 minutes to spare before the train left, getting on the train with about a minute and a half to spare. I almost had a heart attack, being so nervous that we would miss it, but I guess it all turned out okay. 

      We got to Venice and were AMAZED. We found our hotel down a little alleyway, and walked around taking picture after picture of the beautiful water, bridges, gondolas, buildings, everything.  Also, we ended up taking our first gondola ride late that afternoon, which was spectacular. Our gondolier took us around through the little waterways, showing us Napolean Bonapart's house, Marco Polo's house, and many other landmarks. I couldn't tell you which pictures were of which houses, but it was beautiful and great to hear about it. We also learned from Fabio that the right side of the gondola is shorter than the left, which makes up for the gondolier's rowing, or however he moves the gondola. Also we learned that there are over 200 churches in Venice, as well as over 400 bridges, connecting all the islands together. The pictures I took were absolutely beautiful, I wish I could share ALL of them with you! Afterwards we had "happy hour with a bottle of Belini (Prosecco [sparkling white wine] and peach juice.. to die for), and went to dinner.

Gondolas by the edge of the canal, what we first saw after arriving. 

The "street" (more of an alley-way) to our hotel.

What the window of our hotel room looked out onto.


Gondoliers taking a break.

On the gondola!

View from the gondola on the canal.

      Friday we were contemplating what we were going to do, and decided against a ton of art museums, because it was absolutely gorgeous the entire time we were there, 65 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. So, we went to the famous St. Mark's square, as well as into the basilica of St. Mark, which was full of beautiful mosaic masterpieces covering the whole of the walls and ceiling, as well as a fantastic view from the balcony overlooking the square. The large bronze horses on top were the fake ones, but they were gigantic to stand next to, and impressive to look up to from the ground. We also made it to Santa Maria Gloriosa di Frari church, which housed the famous alterpiece Assumption of the Virgin by Titian, as well as Madonna and Child with Saint by Bartolomeo Vivarini, among others, also housing the monuments to Titian and Antonio Canova. It was fantastic. That night we also had a wonderful, but expensive, meal. Kathleen had lobster spaghetti, Carol and Emily had shrips, and mom and I had flounder, with Gorgonzola gnocchi = DELICIOUS! It also turned out that our waitress skillfully de-boned the fish right in front of us, with only a fork and a spoon. Delicious!
This is us walking through the "streets" of Venice. 

St. Mark's Square from the top of St. Mark's church.

The girls not afraid to whip out a map when we got lost. 

Gorgonzola gnocci.

Delicious fish!!

      The next day we walked around for an hour before our train back to Venice, and bought last minute souvenirs. Train ride home, they all packed, and got a yummy speghetti meal by the spanish steps, a great way to end a spectacular week!
      Emily, Carol and Kathleen left on Sunday, and mom and I went to Via Appia Antica, where the catacombs were located. Our guide was a bit quirky, but he was very informative throughout the tour. It was incredibly interesting to hear that so many people, mostly children, were buried here, the only Christian cemetary. Eventually when Constantine came to power, but so many people before that were buried there. After the tour, mom and I got ourselves pretty lost, got some lunch at a little cafe, and found our way to the bus, meeting 2 couples here from France, communicating interestingly in English, French, and my little Italian, and a family from Arizona with two young girls. 
      After we got back, we got gelato, yet again, I did my homework, and mom slept here, and I walked her to the train in the morning, where she went to Florence until Wednesday. 

xoxo Erica

Friday, March 18, 2011

My New Reason for Life.

My roommates have introduced me to the BEST food combination ever. Just take a look. 
I am sure you will see what I mean. 


xoxo Erica

St. Patrick's Day!

      Hey all! This past week was midterms, so nothing really exciting happened as I was furiously studying. Last night, however, was a great night.
      As you all know, the 17th of march is St. Patrick's Day! However, you may not know that it is also the anniversary of the unification of Italy, which happened in 1861. So, yesterday was the big 150th year celebration! There were many more people out at night than usual, there were museums open for later times, fireworks at the Colosseum (which I missed by 2 minutes, who thought that Italians would be on time the one time that I wasn't?)
Me in front of the Colosseum, AFTER the fireworks.

      Last night, though, me and my roommates decided to celebrate St. Patrick's day, since it was mostly one of our favorite days of the year (especially me!). So we went to an Irish pub called the Abbey Theater, who was to have live music at 9:30 that night. Another huge reason for us going there was because they had CHEESEBURGERS. We had all been craving cheeseburgers and French fries for the longest time, and decided that the day after we were done with finals was a good time to reward ourselves with these deliciously unhealthy treats. And let me tell you, they were worth every calorie! Also in honor of St. Patty's day, my roommate talked me into trying a Guinness! Just after I tasted it I thought about my Uncle Pat, and how proud he would be that I liked it! We stayed for the band, which turned out to be just 4 guys (playing a wooden flute, a guitar and a fiddle) playing at a table while drinking, who we could barely hear over the people in the pub, but they did sound great, and I had the urge to get up and do a jig (almost!). It was overall a fun and laid-back night with Irish music and crazy fun people to laugh at!

 Finally, our cheeseburgers!



Me and my 1st Guinness.

 The band from across the bar. 

And gelato to finish off the night, of course!

Next week on Erica's Blog: Mamma, Emily, Kathleen and Carol visit!!! only 18 hours until they arrive in Italy!

Hope everyone had a fun and safe St. Patrick's day!
xoxo Erica

Monday, March 14, 2011

Another Post About Food.

Hey! So I was sitting here thinking about how hungry I am and craving the dinner I had the other night. Me and my roommate Melissa were craving some red meat, so we decided to make some delicious steak and fried/breaded vegetables. So, we got some steak, and went across the street to the market to get zucchini, asparagus, and broccoli. Melissa decided that she was in a mood to make a rub for the steak that she makes at home in Mexico, so here is what we made:

1 egg
4 cups vegetables (asparagus, zucchini, and broccoli, for example)
1. Crack the egg and whisk it until it is all mixed together.
2. Put flower in a separate bowl.
3. Boil water and veggies until they are cooked but still firm, and drain water out
4. Coat the veggies in the egg, then cover with flour
5. On a heated pan, coat bottom with oil. Cook the veggies in the oil until all brown.

2 (or however many you want) pieces of steak
Soy Sauce
Olive Oil
1. Mix equal parts mustard, soy sauce, and olive oil.
2. Before cooking, coat steaks in the rub, making sure to get the entire chunk of meat coated.
3. Cook meat on the stove in a pan until it stops moo-ing, or until it is cooked enough for your liking.
4. Remove from heat and eat!

I didn't take a picture, as the food didn't last long enough, but if (or when) we make it again, I'll be sure to document it! Enjoy!

xoxo Erica

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Day in Perugia.

     This past Friday, I went on a school field trip to the region of Umbria, which is just north of the region Rome is in (Lazio), to the beautiful town of Perugia. While in Perugia, we got to experience many yummy things including a cooking lesson, eating, as well as infamous chocolate from Perugia.
      We took a 2 hour bus to Umbria, and arrived at a Bed & Breakfast called Casale S. Bartolomeo just 20 minutes outside of Perugia. Upon getting there, we learned about the owner's life and the story of the B&B's creation. Him and his wife, along with their 2 young daughters, used to live in Rome. However, after the birth of their second daughter, they realized they were tired of the smog, traffic, hour-long drive to work, and their cramped apartment, so they went on to flip their lives upside down and move just outside of Perugia, in the middle of beautiful scenic landscape.
Side of the B&B with an old bike.

      After a tour of their beautiful B&B, we got to cooking. The man was and still is a chef, so his kitchen was fully stocked with supplies and utensils for cooking a fabulous meal. First, it was me and 2 of my roommate's jobs to cook the lasagna noodles, then set them out to dry. After that difficult task, we took to walking around, and looking at the great jobs that our classmates' were doing. Some were rolling meatballs, cutting up cheese for our appetizer, cutting up Speck (thicker cut of prosciutto), and others I did not see. Our final menu was as follows:

- Dried Sausage
- Cheese
- Bread
Delicious appetizer.

1st Course:
- Polpette aromatiche agli spinaci
(Spinach Meatballs)
Meatballs before they were cooked.

Meatballs after they were cooked.

2nd Course:
- Lasagne al radicchio
(Radicchio, Spek, and beef lasagna)
- Bread and Olive Oil

My roommate Jorgi putting the pasta in to cook! 

My roommate Cindy setting the noodles out to dry.

Spinach for the meatballs, raddicchio for the lasagna.
All the ingredients for the delicious lasagna.

My roommates Melissa and Ashley cutting up the speck and cheese for the lasagna.

Speck=yum. Reminds me of bacon from home.  :)

The innards of the lasagna (minus the speck).

Assembly line production of lasagna.

Before the lasagna was popped in the oven!

Lasagna all cooked and ready to eat!

- Vino Rossa
(Red Wine, of course) 
Not pictured.

- Mousse al cioccolato
(Chocolate Mousse)

      The entire meal turned out great, especially with us making it ourselves! We felt very proud of ourselves for making such food masterpieces, that the food tasted that much better. the meatballs were covered in a red sauce, which complimented the soft, yummy spinach ball of flavor. The lasagna was a little to radicchio-y, but it was overall very delicious and extremely flavorful. We were surprised at the end of the mean when we were told that the owner's wife made us the chocolate mousse, which was utterly to die for. It was the perfect amount chocolaty and creamy, that was not too fluffy it would float away. A great surprise that was just as delicious as the rest of the meal was.
      After helping clean up, we said our "grazie"'s and our "ciao"'s, and headed back on the bus for the 30 minute ride to Perugia. While there, we were able to walk up the the main city center, which was beautiful, with many store-lined streets, and a great over-look of amazing scenery.  The most important shop, though, was Perugina. This fantastic chocolate shop had walls of chocolate, and enough to overwhelm even me. I ended up getting a Baccio bar (which Perugia is known for, the chocolate with nuts in it, much like the gelato also), raspberry chocolate bar, and a chocolate mousse bar. They all taste delicious! I have not yet finished all of them, but I am not sure how much longer they will last!

Music was being played in a park not too far from the main square.
Inside Perugina- chocolate galore!

Me with my chocolate in front of the shop!

      After the last of us made our difficult chocolate decisions, we piled on the bus for the 3 hour drive back to Rome!

(This is me sharing what I was given by the owner, and is the exact words of what he gave me. Sorry I don't have the steps for everything, as I was not there for every step of every part of the meal. Sorry!)

Lasagne al raxdicchio
250 gr lasagne noodles
200 gr smoked scamorza slice (beef)
80 gr Parmesan
3 heads/balls of radicchio
200 gr speck (prosciutto) slice
Cream, pepper, onion, butter, oil, salt
Besciamella sauce (50 gr butter, 50 gr flour, 500 gr milk; salt, pepper, nutmeg to taste)

Polpette aromatiche agli spinaci
Meat (Beef): 1.3 kg
Spinach: 1.3 kg
(cook spinach in a pot over the stove with some water)
tomato sauce 1.5 kg, prepared with fried onion, carrot and celery
bread: 7 slices (pancarre)
Eggs: 4
Nutmeg and salt to taste

Mousse al cioccolato
For 6 people
300 gr dark chocolate
6 eggs
Butter (just a bit)
Milk (just a bit, usually less than half a glass)
1. Melt the chocolate in a large saucepan with the butter and milk. When it becomes creamy, take it off the heat and let cool
2. Take two bowl; divide the eggs putting the yellow part in one and the white in the other.
3. Whisk the yellow part of the eggs in the first bowl
4. Add the melted chocolate to the eggs (chocolate must not be hot/warm)
5. Whip the egg whites until it looks like snow (a bit solid)
6. very slowly add the whipped egg whites to the yellow (already mixed withe chocolate), and mix using a wooden spoon, turning it on itself (as you would use a screwdriver turn off a screw)
7. When you finish mixing everything, put the mousse in the fridge. The longer the mousse stays in the fridge, the better it is (suggest prepare it the day before serving)

Hope you enjoyed!

xoxo Erica

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Temple of Tiramisu

TIRAMISU. It's just a word, but it's making your mouth water, isn't it?

      Last Thursday night (the 3rd), when I was in Florence with my dad, everyone from my school went on a field trip to POMPI. No, I did not misspell the place Pompeii. Pompi is known as the Temple of Tiramisu, as you could probably guess why. I was severely upset that I missed this amazing food experience, so I went with a couple friends to this wondrous haven of desserts on Thursday afternoon. This place was so amazing. They had a wall of fridge/freezers for take-home treats, and an area where you can get some delectable gelato.
      The day was perfect; warm temperature, the sun was shining, and a light breeze blew around. Because it was such a beautiful day, we chose to sit outside. We got the menu, and it was exactly like how my friends had told me; choose between strawberry, pistachio, Nutella and banana, or classic tiramisu. What a predicament!
      I finally chose classic, and figured I could taste Cindy's strawberry! I also chose a cappuccino to accompany my dessert. The name of this restaurant is definitely accurate. This was the best tiramisu I had ever tasted (and that includes tiramisu from Clara's).  I will just let you see for yourself what my experience was like.
My tiramisu.



Cindy's strawberry tiramisu and fancy coffee drink.

Me and yummy-ness.


Now, go make some tiramisu.

xoxo Erica