Sunday, September 20, 2009

Spotted

The true test for M has finally come. A true professional gastronome is now in our midst. When prompted with the following: buying clothes or buying food, M opted for the latter. Our food whore is well equipped with a fermenting stomach, an expanding appetite, and sea salt and baslsamic vinegar flavored heartburn to boot.

Happy Eating! XOXO

Monday, September 14, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Food Nostalgia

“Ah, food and its ability to make you feel warm, cozy, and homey all over.”

This past statement has resounded tremendously within the last year, specifically because although I am in the best food region in Italy, I am essentially in a deserted abyss of sheer monotony.

My ideas of Italian fairytales and romanticism were squashed soon after I realized that I would have to live one year without easy access to Mexican food and Mexican ingredients, which is a heavy contender for #1 on my top foods list. The closest thing to Mexico, food wise, is a kebab and that’s an oxymoron at its finest.

Surviving on the occasional international first class delivery of contraband refried canned black beans and corn tortillas, I have become, no scratch that, my classmates (many hailing from equally large cities and of various ethnicities sharing the same desperations) have become THE iron chefs of recreating classic comfort foods, with the obvious substitution of ingredients. So margaritas are made with rum, salsa is made with basil, quesadillas are made with piadinas, and mashed potatoes have turned into polenta. The magnitude of the food's offness is quickly disregarded by the nostalgic thoughts that swirl in our heads and fill the food holes that arise from being thousands of miles away from home and an array of ingredients at our disposal.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Political Rambling of the Day

Here we treach the dangerous waters of the heated health reform debate that is encompassing everyone's minds in the United States. The following article takes it a step further by tackling the understated food crisis and its implications on the future of American health. Michael Pollan, as always, is striking and honest and poses you to make a difference in your own life and in others as well.


Always remember that you can make a difference. Be vocal about your opinion.

Poor Little Piggies

This little piggy went to the market.
This little piggy went to school.
This little piggy got the swine flu, Oh, no!

Coming from the pig lands of Parma, where the air permanently smells of sultry Prosciutto crudo; it's been disheartening with the sudden rise of the swine flu to read numerous articles of consumers deathly afraid of eating pork. This statement couldn't be further from the truth. Keep eating your pork. I should receive a commission from the National Pork Board, as this sounds more like a public service announcement.
Just to be clear: The only way that you can contract the swine flu is if you are in direct contact with an individual or a farm that has been infected.

Oink, oink, oink.

Where's Waldo?

Apparently, everywhere in the world. I found this is off a side street in Dublin, Ireland.
Keep on looking for those Waldos.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

This Is Palermo

Learn to look for beauty amongst perceived ugliness...











Monday, September 7, 2009

Stop Picking Your Nose and Start Picking Some Fresh Food

What ever happened to all of the U-Pik places in Miami?
Oh right, they were bought out by big corporations and turned into now mostly empty housing developments.
Wow, Miami Dade County's got some great priorities.

Long gone are the days when Saturday mornings were spent in the U-Pik fields of outer perimeter Kendall picking strawberries and other such delights. Recently, U-Pik locations have begun to sprout up again in parts of Homestead. If picking isn't your thing, but you still want to control where your food comes from and its track mileage (According to statistics in Food Rebellions, food products travel on average between 1200 - 1800 miles before reaching your plate. Now, that's a scary thought.), consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or Farm Fresh Miami; where for the fraction of what you pay weekly at say Publix, Winn-Dixie, or Sedano's, you'll get fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables every week.

Happy Picking :)

I Don't Like to Namedrop But...

This past weekend I had the great pleasure of having a lovely tasting lunch with my fellow colleagueas in Modena at Massimo Bottura's Osteria Francescana, which recently earned the #13 spot on San Pellegrino’s list of World’s Best Restaurants. We had the privilege of the chef’s personal attention as the restaurant was opened exclusively for us. We went on a sensorial journey through Bottura’s traditional childhood diet redone to fit the standards of molecular gastronomy, which is at the core of his food philosophy. Each dish was specifically created to capture the whole true essence of either a certain ingredient or experience from Modena. Walking the beautiful artsy streets of Modena after our divine meal, I couldn’t help but notice his food resonating in the city. The following quote from Bottura sums up the message that he conveys through his magnificent food: “Test your tongue. Eat to remember. Eat to share.” I discovered that one can truly become drunk off of food, and subsequently spent the rest of the day in a state of euphoria.

What is molecular gastronomy anyways?
It is the scientific approach to understanding the properties of food and then applying those results to create something completely unique and creative. It is a new way of approaching food, proving once and for all that food can indeed be special and can create strong emotions.


The Indulgent 10 Course Meal
- Deconstructed panino mortadella - 
A nostalgic trip to the days of lunchroom dates and recess mates: warm gnoccho bread is accompanied by a tangy, airy mousse of mortadella, and streaks of pistachio and garlic cream.
- Foie gras ice cream bar -
Chilled meat of foie gras with a center of 40 year-old balsamic vinegar on a miniature popsicle stick is coated in toasted hazelnuts and almonds. Gives corndogs a run for its money.
***My favorite dish***
- Leek tart -
This dish alone is deserted island material and would be especially nice on cold winter days. A braised leek tartlet is infused with black truffles and dehydrated porcini mushrooms.
- Parmigiano Reggiano five ways -
It is a sensorial ride through the life of Parmigiano Reggiano: cream / 24 months aged, demi-souffle / 30 months aged, foam / 36 months aged, crisp / 40 months aged, air / 50 months aged
- Pasta fagioli compression -
Five layers of creamed perfection includes veal and foie gras, pancetta and radicchio, maltagliata crust, cream of beans, and air of rosemary
- Ravioli cotecchino -
Inside-out at its finest: Ravioli cotecchino is steamed with Lambrusco wine gel and served with a dollop of black bean sauce and oil essence of black pepper
- Guanciale -
A portrait of a cow in a pasture: Veal cheek with jus of veal served on top of a bed of potato cream and ground extract 'earth', made from mushrooms and black truffles, with a side of 'chlorophyll', made from zucchini, peas, and spinach, and mostarda gel of wild apple
***Most interesting dish***
- Sweet and sour garden -
Cold and hot, sweet and sour and earthy, crunchy and soft. A celestial stroll through Maria Luigia's summer home garden.
- Chocolate cherry trio and/or deconstructed zuppa inglese -
- Petit fours -
An artist's palette of miniature Murano glass sweets
Visit San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants to check out the other restaurants that made the list.
*Thank you Ingrid Paronich (New York City, New York) and Alicia Wolf (Houston, Texas) for the pictures.  

I Licked A Fish and I Didn't Like It

Sitting in the corner of a long classroom listening to the lecturer from the Food and Agricultural Organization, I started feeling sick, not in the cute way that makes you sniffly and pink, more like the kind that sends your stomach into knots and creates an impenetrable ball of phlegm at the top of your throat that can’t decide whether it wants to go up or down and instead plays ping-pong with your tonsils. The suffocating heat made it hard to breathe and the ping-pong game even more unbearable. Beads of sweat began dripping down my forehead while my face turned a bright flamingo pink. I was just praying for a breeze, something to stop this horrible feeling. I couldn’t concentrate on what the gentleman was saying and then my thoughts drifted away. I ultimately found myself thinking of the culprit that got me in this predicament to begin with. Could the ping-pong ball be a black phlegmy ball of macerated sturgeon eggs? Now I know the reason why I waited 21 years to try caviar. The more the thought ran through my mind, the more sick I felt until I could not bear it any longer and off I went running out of the room to the nearest bathroom stall, which thankfully was less than 30 feet away and unlocked. I had just about enough time to pop the lid up before the black swirly mess of gastric juices came spewing out of me. Two minutes of relief were followed by yet more intense spewing and then finally the ultimate relief came. I immediately rinsed the cottonmouth feel out of my mouth, but ultimately spent the next 4 hours of the trip with the taste of day old unrefrigerated rotting fish. And I don’t even like fish. Never again will I eat you caviar. Not even if you are dressed up in your finest suit and served to me on a golden platter encrusted with Swarovski crystals in the presence of Queen Elizabeth. “Thank you, your Majesty, but I might just vomit on your newly purchased Persian rug.”

So again, you may ask, how did I end up in this predicament? The day started off splendidly, with no signs of vomit in the forecast. We headed out early in the day to visit an olive oil producer and then we found ourselves at the caviar farm at around 11:00 am. We had a run around of the farm, and the basics – how, when, why, where, what, and who. We even walked on planks like bad pirates that had stolen some booty amongst 20 foot sturgeons. Slimy little blokes. Although the company seemed harmless enough and the employees were humble. I never grasped why you would spend 8 – 9 years and all that money raising ugly fish sourced from the Caspian Sea to then kill them for their eggs. Oh, wait that’s right, the immense profit. Sounds inhumane to me. Although they were nice fellas, I didn’t get as much enthusiasm from them as I have from other places we’ve visited. They weren’t cooing at the fishes, or dressing them up and putting them in pageants.

So fast forward to the actual eating part. In true fishermen style, our lunch was served on a long wooden table. Before the main act was brought out, we had a helping of various smoked fish, just plopped down on the table for us to grab and go. Scene at the table: survival of the fittest or if describing our class a regular feeding at the pig farm. Anyways, they had Coca-Cola in the cooler, which eased me up a bit. Made me think for a slight second, that maybe these guys were okay. Oh, how easy the viceful fall. Drum roll please. Here it comes. A tin can probably 2 ounces big. In my mind: god, that’s really it? A tiny portion was laid out on spoons and it was time to eat. I acted all cool, but in the pit, I was extremely scared. I waited until everyone ingested their helpings and saw no strange reactions, there were even some orgasmic faces and second helpings. I felt safe, and amidst a background conversation of what constitutes authentic caviar pie, I ingested the spoonful. The tiny eggs popped in my mouth like pop rocks and then as I felt them sliding and squirming down my throat to make their final descent, I gagged a bit, but knew it would be okay. The spoonful left a strange coating in the inner lining of my mouth and the taste of pure fish was not appealing. I washed it down with some sparkling white wine in order to thoroughly cleanse my palate and then faked a smile.

A picture's worth a thousand words, but a food memory lasts forever...


Oh Yeah, Give Me Some of Your Dark Brown Rich Goodness

Never ever say you don’t like GUINESS until you have properly tried it in Dublin.



HAPPY 250TH BIRTHDAY GUINNESS!!!!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Carnivore's Salute: The Hamburger

A protective shell,
Two round, plump, and golden buns
Soft on the inside

Crisp on the outside
A perfect little package
To hold it all in.

The main attraction:
Small beefy, brawny granules
do mesh willingly

Jeer excitedly
A flip-flop, sizzles galore
Charcoal marks glisten

Firm to the touch,
Look how it stands so proudly
In all its glory!

Hunky, piece of meat
Enticing and inviting
Ready to be vamped up

An orange yellow square is
Sliced off a large rectangular block
Covered in black waxy skin

A sharp aroma
is carried through the room,
robust and nutty.

Plopped on top,
it timidly wilts away
as the heat engulfs it…

Crunchy, watery
a spring green layer placed
like a coverlet-

Two fleshy brick-red
wheels catch their balance on top
their juices trickle down

For the finale,
the interior of the shells
are decorated with fanciful creams

Yellow, red, and white
Flavors both tangy and sweet,
Add a savory touch

Art in a bundle.

The Best Hangover Cure Just Got Better

All die hard Coca-Cola fans please read:

http://tastingtable.com/entry_detail/everywhere/457/Soda_cultists_seek_out_%22hecho_en_Mexico%22.htm

At least we are one step closer to getting all of that high fructose corn junk out of our hair and skin. First food mission upon my return to the United States: find this magical Coca-Cola and buy tons of it. Thankfully, the European Union has a ban on the use of high fructose corn syrup, I'm safe until further notice.

Postcards from Parma

My city wakes me from my dreams.
Little black dress, skyscraper heels, smoky eyes, plump red lips, voluptuous hair, and slick smooth legs.
Ready, set, go, here I come my beautiful city.
The night is young; the people on the streets are fresh.
Welcome to my city, where the streets slither endlessly in a myriad of shapes leading to hidden alleys and secret gardens under the soft groans of the massive ancient buildings.
Clacking of boots is heard for miles under the cool, wet cobblestone streets.
Sweet, raw smell of cigarettes singe my nostrils as cyclists whiz by.
Ding, ding of the bell. Ciao!
Cars rush by in a state of emergency.
A couple quickly sneaks into a covered space to steal a kiss.
Passions ignite like fireworks and their energy is transferred to me through the ground.
Hanging hams entice with their erotic appeal
Long, lean, robust, fleshy, raw, pink.
Windows of cheese stand proudly in all of their glory
Silky, smooth, round, white, yellow, creamy
Drawing you in like a fly to a lamppost.
Vegetables and fruits glisten juicily under the fluorescent lights.
Snow rain falls
Whitest white
Falls cold on my lips
Tastes fresh and sweet like watermelon in early summer.
A choreographed dance
Umbrellas of all colors appear.
No worries, not even hail can keep me away from my city.
Bars and restaurants lined up on the streets show images of
A white haired Nonna with her apron splashed red,
A few dozen friends and a feast of food,
Some tables,
Chatter,
Abstract paintings,
Bottle corks unscrewed,
Wine being poured,
Swish, sip, ahhh,
A toasted to good times and good friends,
Clink, clink, chin, chin,
Jokes and laughter,
Scent of olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes fill the air,
Dishes dance by making mouths water,
Crusty, chewy, warm bread rolls onto a table and quickly disappears,
Hams flop onto tables,
More bottles are passed around,
Some water as well,
Fizz, swish, sip,
Cleanses the palate,
Rich risotto, pillowy tortelli, and a sinful rhubarb red jam tart,
A dark, rich, earthy espresso to cap off the night.
The ultimate destination, a hidden lounge on an unnamed street in some discreet neighborhood along a river in town.
Time for some dancing and more libations.
The music smoothly sways our bodies from side to side,
Lifts our spirits,
Feelings of floating up to the stars.
Flag a yellow taxi, homeward bound,
Watch the city slowly fall asleep through the window of a cab.
Morning is upon us, as fresh new light peaks through the cold gray shutters.
A new day begins just as exciting and unexpected as the previous with new adventures to be experienced, stories to be told.
Heat engulfs the kitchen,
The pan sizzles as fat sloshes to and fro,
Clack, splash, three times,
Green and red are sprinkled like confetti,
Plop, sizzle, plop,
Eat in silence and breathe in a new day in the city.

The Beginning: The Ramblings Of A Hungry Artist

So what is gastronomy anyways? Ah, everyone’s favorite question.
It is incredible how many times I have found myself in the following situation within the last year:
Introductions ensue, blah, blah, blah …
Anonymous: “So what do you do?”
Me: “I study Italian gastronomy.”
One of the three following scenarios usually occurs:
1 - “Huh? Astronomy, that’s interesting. I didn’t know there was a difference between Italian astronomy and all other types of astronomy.”
2 - “Wow, that’s amazing. I have so many questions. You must know really good food. So that means you are learning to cook right?”
3 - Blank stare, half smile. “What’s gastronomy?”

Initially, I felt like a broken record having to explain what I was studying. Now, I find it both amusing and extremely disheartening that the majority of people I speak with don’t know the meaning of the word and automatically assume that it refers to cooking. This idea got me thinking of the true definition of gastronomy, or at least my version of it. It initially was a daunting feat leaving me with 7+ pages of ramblings, but I eventually had my light bulb moment which made everything extremely clear.

Gastronomy is not a revolution or a movement; it is not something specifically reserved for the gourmet or the elitist. Gastronomy is essentially a simple way of life. When more importance is given to food, everything falls into place a little better. Unfortunately in these times, food has been pushed aside and taken for granted. Thankfully, with the insurgence of food safety issues and problems with quantity and quality, gastronomy is becoming a necessary part of academia that will be useful for the uncertain future. Gastronomy can be divided into many different levels and has the flexibility for having different meanings for different people.

In order to continue the previous conversation, let’s take scenario #3; Anonymous still has a ‘deer in the headlights’ look:
Anonymous: “What is gastronomy?”
Me: “Have you ever had an emotional or spiritual experience with food (a meal, a food item, etc.). Examples: Mark cried at Massimo Bottura’s explanation of gastronomy. / After hours of hunting in the Tuscan hills, we stumbled upon the mystical white truffles, so poised, proper, and perfect. / The scent of garlic reminds of home and cooking with my parents. --- If the answer is yes, then that is gastronomy.”
Anonymous: “But what do you study in class?”
Me: “Gastronomy is an interdisciplinary realm of study that encompasses a vast area of subjects. These may be subjective and since food is such an intricate part of human nature, it is bound to pertain to all aspects of life. The study of gastronomy is both an art and a science and not particularly more bound to one or the other. It is a science when studying it through Food Technology and an art when studying it through the History of Italian Cinema. The following figures, among many others, can be considered heroes of gastronomy: Massimo Bottura, your grandmother, Anthony Bourdain, Big Bird, your local butcher or cheese monger, Remy the rat from Ratatouille, Carlo Petrini, the Slow Food snail, Michael Pollan, Martha from the fruit stand, and Virginia Woolf.”

The following blogs are the perfect examples of common people, gastronomy, and daily life. Check them out today:
Things That Piss Me Off - http://badthings.blogspot.com/ --- Offers an array of information on food politics, while being funny and knowledgeable. He includes takes from his personal life that relate to food.
Michael Ruhlman’s Notes From the Food World - http://blog.ruhlman.com/ --- Offers an array of topics from photography to vacations to how-to recipes, among others. It is equally accessible and entertaining to read.
I personify more intensely with the creative aspect of gastronomy, so for me the next best thing to actual food is both reading and writing about it. Words are extremely powerful and they are able to transmit the emotion, intensity, and power of food. The food blogs mentioned above are very different and show two diverse sides of the food world showing that the subject is universal, that everyone is capable of having an opinion about food, and that it is present in our everyday lives. Both blogs are opinionated and on-spot. The blogs offer something for everyone and have the capability to inspire new ideas and experiences.

This concept of gastronomy is what led me to create this blog (or as I like to call it - my sequences of ramblings). Now, I challenge you to find your best inner gastronome and I hope that you find my blog entertaining along your journey.