Thursday, February 23, 2012

How Sweet It Is...

Life is sweet right now. Just purely, wonderfully sweet. Today we FINALLY had beautiful weather...60 and sunny!! I think I reached a state of pure bliss when I was able to eat lunch outside... a moment I've long been waiting for.  And if that wasn't enough, this afternoon we went on a walking food tour of Florence in cooking class.

Our first stop was Il Re Gelateria, our teacher's personal favorite, where we got to watch a world renown gelato master/creator make gelato from scratch to finish right before our eyes. I never want to go to another gelato place again after seeing how fresh and pure his gelato was... Strawberry gelato which consisted of only fresh strawberries and simple syrup. THAT'S IT. I was amazed, and it was so delicious! This is how fresh he makes all of his flavors. He was telling us all about how he loves experimenting and has made every flavor from mozzarella to olive oil... so strange I know, but he said they were a success!
Gelato machine

World renown gelato maker
Final presentation
As if the gelato demo and tasting wasn't enough we then proceeded on our tour to a little hole in the wall vino e spuntini (wine and snacks) place where we were served the most delicious spread of food. The crostinis were amazing. Natalie and I will definitely be their new regulars.

Selection of Tuscan Salami and Bread
Crostini with sausage and stracchino cheese
Crostini with fennel, Gorgonzola and honey, and crostini with mild cheese, sundried tomatoes, and eggplant
Life really doesn't get much sweeter than this.


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mardi Gras, Venetian Style

Carnevale, the Italian way of doing Mardi Gras, is a huge 2 week long celebration in Venice that leads up to Fat Tuesday every year. I've never been to Mardi Gras so it would be wrong for me to attempt to compare the two but to give an idea its like New Orleans but with beautiful masquerade masks and elaborate costumes in place of the beads and well, what comes with the beads...

Murano Island
We arrived in Venice just in time to head to Murano, the famous glass blowing island, for lunch and a little glass demonstration. Having heard that Venice was known for their seafood I decided to order the salt crusted sea bass... sounds pretty normal/safe right? Well let's just say I had the entire restaurant staring at me when the waiter brought this to the table....

Though extremely skeptical at first and terrified of the astronomical price this thing must have been that I somehow managed to completely overlook, I managed to recover from my embarrassment. After watching the waiter literally break its back bone and slice into the thing, I somehow ended up with a decent looking, edible piece of fish (definitely some of the best I've ever eaten).

After my fishy experience we set out for a quick glass blowing demo before heading to the big celebration. We stumbled upon an empty glass blowing warehouse and had a private demonstration, getting to see a man transform a piece of 600 degree Celsius glass into a beautiful horse.

Glass Blowing Warehouse
Once back on the main Island, after waiting in line to go to the bathroom for almost an hour we got our faces painted and headed to party.

The little windy streets were packed full of people in costume all leading to the big square, the heart of the celebration. Almost everyone was in costume and wearing masks. I could have people watched for days. The ornamentation and flamboyancy of the costumes were AMAZING (and occasionally slightly frightening). I was truly mesmerized. There was so much to look at between all the performances and the characters, not to mention the beauty of Venice itself. Everywhere you looked could be a painting. I can't wait to go back with my family in April without all the crowd.

We ended the night with another wonderful meal where I once again recieved a whole fish presented to me at the table. I thought "grilled sea bass" would be a safer choice but I guess not... At least I know it was fresh...

All in all I loved Venice and had so much fun at Carnevale. It was definitely an experience I will never forget and probably never see anything like it again.


Monday, February 20, 2012

10 Reasons Why I Love Florence

10. Buying beautiful, authentic, "made in Italy" calf skin boots from the cutest little husband and wife

9. Having to walk through a vintage clothing store to get to my Fashion Design class every week. Talk about inspiration...

8. Natalie and I having to rinse our undies and socks in the shower AFTER washing them in the basketball sized washing machine we have because it left them sudsy and turned them brown...

 7. Falling in love with the amazing work of a little, old local artist. And sitting on the floor of his hole in the wall, one room studio for almost an hour talking to him about his work and trying to pick just one of the 20 paintings I wanted to buy... I'm currently trying to work up the courage to go back and ask if I can paint with him.

6.  Getting to learn the ways of the infamous Italian cuisine cooking delicious delicacies every week which we then get the reward of eating.
Crepes Florentine Style

Coccole and Cecina Al Rosmarino

 5. Having a Chocolate fair a 5 minute walk away from our apartment for the past 2 weeks with about 20 tents full of everything you could ever imagine covered in every type of chocolate... I don't even like chocolate that much and I was in heaven.

 4. Eating one of the most delicious yet simplistic treats of my life at the chocolate fair... fresh from the market strawberries with whipped cream and dark chocolate drizzled on top... Good thing I only discovered this the second to last day of the fair...

3. Spending a beautiful Friday wandering around Florence with my best friend and stumbling upon the city's endless hidden treasures like a roof top bar with an unbeatable view like this... (made that 4 euro cappuccino totally worth it)

 2. Evidence that I am meant to attend school in Florence.... a cappaccino/ coffee vending machine in all the school buildings.... I guess T. Swift's request in the movie Valentines Day to have a cappuccino maker installed into the school wasn't that silly after all...

1. Thanking God every second of everyday for how blessed I am to have this incredible opportunity as I try to take advantage of it every single day.

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." -Colossians 3: 15-17