Food Adventures

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

At the bar this morning, I overhear two men discussing the benefits of sugar for the brain. As one of them is pouring sugar liberally in his small cappuccino, he turns to the other one and explains that the brain needs sugar. The cappuccino, of course, will serve to wash down the sweet pastry covered in powder sugar. No Atkins diet! This is just one of the reasons why I love this country!

In the morning class, we make tiramisu and an orange cake with chocolate sauce. It's interesting that we make tiramisu, probably the most famous Italian dessert worldwide—on our last day of cooking. I had not really missed tiramisu, but it was good to make (and taste!) one. In the next class, we proceed to make a fritto misto, a collection of fried everything: veal liver, carrots, lamb brain, sage, zucchini, balls of semolina cooked in milk. It all tastes delicious (yes, even the brain), but it's difficult to appreciate it on a day when the temperature is over 100F and the humidity seems equally high. In the afternoon, we go to Andrea Bianchini's chocolate shop for our last day of baking class. The shop is across town from the school, so I have to run in the rain (the first rain I have seen so far in Firenze), all the while making sure I don't slip and fall on the stones since the bottoms of my tennis shoes seem to be covered with grease. I arrive drenched, but we do get to taste some divine chocolate. We learn the technique of tasting chocolate: take a small bite of chocolate (well, if you can ever take a small bite of chocolate), spread it all over your mouth with the tongue, take in some air through your mouth and pay attention to what happens in the back of your mouth as you're swallowing the chocolate. Yum! My favorite is the milk chocolate with sea salt. We taste Palomino, a very rare Venezuelan chocolate, produced by a single estate, but we all prefer the other types of dark chocolate as the Palomino tastes somewhat acidic. We get an intro of the process of producing chocolate and even make some bars as I try not to lean against the 18,000 euro pieces of equipment.

In the evening, we go to a party in honor of two of the chefs from the school whose cookbook just came out. For each recipe, the two chefs present their own interpretations of a classic Tuscan recipe. The design and photos are gorgeous and it's hard to believe that the book was designed by students. The photos make the food jump off the page.

The last day of class is over and tomorrow and the day after we take our exams: first a written one and then a practical one. I can't believe this cooking adventure is almost over and I am sad to leave this magical city and the wonderful school. But I am glad to come home and put to use what I have learned and share the outcomes with you.

P.S. All this week, Roberto Benigni is reading Dante in the square in front of my apartment. Aaaah, Firenze in the summer!


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