My First Time in an Italian Gym

After a desperate weekend of not feeling too great about myself, today I went and signed up for the gym.  I was so enthusiastic that after a reception where I stuffed my face with mini sandwiches, I made my way to the gym for my first work out in an Italian gym or palestra as they are called here.

I decided to start out slow after over a month of not exercising any more than simply walking.  So I did 25 minutes on a cardio machine that somewhat resembled an elliptical machine.

Now let me tell you a few things about Italian gyms, based on my first observation.

First off, you need to have a medical certificate to join.  Luckily, I could get one of those at work (they call it a medical certificate of fitness for non-competitive sports, makes me feel like weak sauce but alas I’m not competitive in sports.  So be it.).   It was sort of a waste of time.  The doctor asked me if there was anything wrong with me.  I said no and she promptly signed the form… One of the many markers of Italy’s inefficiency (not that the US isn’t either).

So with my medical certificate, I signed up.  The gym has a rule that you should bring shoes only to wear inside the gym.  I’m not sure how strict this rule is but on the first day, I figured I would follow the rules.

Shoes packed in a Zara bag, because I’m classy like that.

Then for storage… you need to bring a lock.  Italy is not like the US.  You can’t just go to Target and pick up a lock, a pair of socks, sunscreen and some peanut butter.  I had no idea where one goes to buy a lock in Rome.  Luckily, Cornell in Rome saved me and just gave me one to borrow.  They also mentioned I could have gone to a locksmith.  Who knew?

Case in point.  I now have a lock in my possession.  Hooray!

So after locking up my Zara bag that held the green flats I wore to walk to the gym, I jumped on the first familiar-ish looking machine in sight.  After fumbling with the buttons, I figured out how to enter all the information.  I was good to go.  From here, I realized three things:

  1. I am horribly out of shape.
  2. I forgot a towel.
  3. Italian men are ridiculous.

Let me elaborate on the third point.  Italians are really animated when they talk, which I appreciate.  The gesticulation carries on to the gym.  They’re also really obvious about certain things, like wearing short shorts and shamelessly checking out ladies.

I’m sure I’ll have some better observations when I made my way to the weight room tomorrow.  Wish me luck.

Cena di Domenica

Let me start by saying that this title might be grammatically incorrect.  Surprisingly, being in Italy has yielded little opportunity to learn Italian.  However, I might leave fluent in French.  Today I spent the majority of the day reading reports in French, who knew I still can read it… but google translate helps… On to Sunday… Domenica!

A new tradition has started.  Well, at least, I hope it’ll catch on.  Inspired by the Biscotti Queen and her family, the grad students and I have decided to start a Sunday Dinner tradition.

My roommate and I both love to cook.  So it sorta works out.  Plus, he’s Sicilian and doesn’t fool around.

Now this wasn’t your average Sunday Dinner.  It started around 3:00pm and ended around 8:00pm, and it was amazing.

It started with an unorthodox, antipasti.  Not meats.  Instead, cream puffs.

Nancy and I love sugar and she stopped at a bakery before arriving.  They were amazing! Some were filled with lemon cream and others with a chocolate cream.

To die for.  So while Nancy and I munched on cream puffs and waited for the others to arrive, Joe started making primo piatto.

Once Lis, Kyla and her friend Giuseppe arrived.  We were ready.

Spaghetti ai Frutti di Mare

Delicious!

After some sitting and chatting, I made secondo piatto.  It ended up being some strange version of saltimbocca. Thinly pounded chicken breast, rolled with prosciutto and sage, cooked in a butter wine sauce.

Not bad.  For contorno, rosemary roasted potatoes.

 

Nancy and Lis both brought dessert.  However, I only remembered to photograph what Nancy brought (other than the cream puffs):

Some sort of delicious crostata! I was pleased.

After dessert and coffee, we were sufficiently full and basically ready for the night to be over.

Next time, I want to make primo and leave the meat making to someone who knows what he’s doing.

Roma, Roma, Roma

Apparently, soccer football is a big deal around these parts.  So when some fellow interns asked if I wanted to go to a soccer football game, I couldn’t say no.

Roma vs. Napoli

Sounded great!  Then I found out we were sitting in the “fan section” and I was overly worried, because everyone told me the Roma fans are CRAZYYYYYY.

 

In reality, it wasn’t bad.  Not nearly as much shoving and hooligan-ing as I imagined.  But that probably had to do with the fact that Roma lost and did not score once.  Boo.

But I had fun with some new friends, a new scarf and some Birra.

I promise I'm not actually drunk. This is just a bad (but the only) photo of me

 

For next time, I’ll make sure I’ve learned all the words to this song:

 

 

Florence

Florence was beautiful!

More beautiful than I remember it being.  I had been once before around 10th or 11th grade of high school with my parents, but only for a day.

This time, I had two days.  Even that wasn’t enough.

But here’s a rundown of the weekend.  We left Rome at 7:00am, after a three hour bus ride we made it to the Charterhouse right outside Florence.

All sorts of beautiful.  Then we headed into Florence (after accidentally leaving an undergrad locked in one of the rooms… oops… he made it to Florence in a taxi).

Then, first on the agenda was climbing up the dome of Il Duomo (the cathedral).

500 steps.  Not bad.

Machal, me and Nancy at the top!  We grad students stuck together 🙂

Fantastic view!

After the climb, we headed to the Galleria Degli Uffizi.  I couldn’t take pictures inside but there were amazing pieces of art.  I could take pictures from outside the window though.  This is from the Visari Corridor, which is on top of the Ponte Vecchio.

Gorgeous!

After the Uffizi, we basically had the night off.  First, we had coffee in a 19th century tea room with two professors!  Sadly, we couldn’t take pictures in there but it was beautiful and everything you would want out of a 19th century caffe and tea room.

Then, Nancy, Machal and I went back to the hotel to take a shower and figure out what to do for dinner.  Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of dinner so I’ll spare you those shannanigans and skip to Sunday.

In the morning, we had a tour of the city with a Professor from Syracuse University.

The clock and the train station was super cool:

One of the stops was an old train station that has been converted into a modern art museum.  One of the installations was a house made of bread:

Literally, Italian crusty bread…

Then later, we had some free time, so we headed to the Accademia Gallery to see Michelangelo’s David, among other things.

Again, no photos allowed.  After a quick lunch, we raced across town to go the the Ferragamo Museum.

I love shoes.  I thought it was pretty cool.  If only I could afford a pair of Ferragamo shoes.  After Ferragamo, we made our way to the Church of Santa Croce, where many great Italians are buried (i.e. Michelangelo, Galileo, Machiavelli).

Michelangelo's Tomb

By the end of all this, my feet were killing me.  Standing in one place listening to explanations is killer on the feet.  But I will say it was totally worth it!

Now I’m back in Rome, hoping my internship can finally start now that all the paperwork is done!

Food and the Pope

This weekend was full of food.  All delicious of course.

Friday night dinner with Nancy and my apartmentmate, Joe.

I had Rigatoni al Agnello

and Artichokes

I ate meat.  It was delicious.  I don’t really feel bad.  I have no intention of turning into a carnivore but I love lamb.  And honestly, when in Rome…

Then the next day, Nancy

Kyla

and I walked around Trastevere.  It was lovely!  Great view!

Along the way we stopped for lunch.

Pomodori e mozzarella

In America we have ketchup and mustard in packets on every table.  In Italy, they have olive oil and balsamic vinegar in packets.

A much better choice if you ask me.

Later that night, we had a gathering at our apartment.

Lots of cheese!  and wine…

Delicious!

Then this morning, Nancy and I headed to the Vatican with the intention of going to the Vatican Museum (since it’s free the last Sunday of every month).

Instead, we hung out with the Pope

There he is!

After some more walking around and lunch, I headed home and took a nap.   I woke up with a sore throat.

Please don’t let me get sick!  My internship needs to start ASAP!

Figuring Things Out

So I’ve been in Rome 4 days.  But here are a few things I’ve learned.

1.  Supermarkets are expensive.  Fruits and Vegetables are much cheaper at the market at San Giovanni di Dio.

All this fruit for less than 2€!  Plus some sort of weird cabbage/kale looking thing and a lovely eggplant.

2.  Don’t try to walk home from San Giovanni di Dio without consulting a map.  I got lost, blisters ensued, I ended up just getting on the tram after an Italian woman gave me directions and scolded me for getting lost.

3.  Walk like you know where you’re going and people think you actually you know where you’re going.  I’ve been asked for directions at least 5 times in the past 3 days, to which I reply “Io non parlo italiano.”  Then they look at me disappointed and walk away.

4.  Crossing any of streets in the rotunda

in front of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele

is scary as hell!  You kinda just have to walk whenever there’s the slightest gap between cars and hope the on-coming traffic stops.   Certainly not as pleasant as seen in Roman Holiday:

I feel like when I comfortably cross that street, I’ll know I’m comfortable in Rome.

5.  Today I went to get a medical certificate.  Because I can walk quickly, the doctor knew I was fit to start my internship.  Great!

6. How to use public transportation.  Well, sorta, I got the tram down.  Next, the bus…

7.  Coffee first thing in the morning is amazing.

I broke down and bought a coffeemaker (moka) at the market yesterday.  12.50€ I’ll take it!

Things I still need to figure out:

1.  How the heck do you make it from 1-2pm lunch to 9-10pm dinner without gnawing  your arm off?

2.  How to pronounce things in Italian.    Daniele, we may have to have a video chat date so you can teach me how to properly say guanciale.  Yes, I have carbonara and amatriciana on the brain!

3.  How to actually speak Italian.  Work in progress.

Toaster

Who doesn’t love toast?

Luckily, I have a toaster in my apartment.

Looks normal right?  Well I spent the better part of 10 minutes figuring out how it works.  I pushed down, pulled, turned nobs.  Finally I figured out how easy it is.  Slip the toast in, turn the dial and when it’s done, pull it out.

I could have sworn I bought some jam, but apparently I didn’t.  So instead I had cheese on my toast with a side of yogurt and green tea. I don’t know if I was just hungry, but this cheese tasted amazing!

Strangely enough we don’t have a coffee maker.  As much as I love coffee, this just means I have to go to a bar/caffe to get coffee.  I’ll survive.

After a getting ready and going to the Cornell in Rome campus to print some internship stuff, I decided to wander.

I walked around aimlessly, and it was great.

After a while, I picked up some lunch:

and sat in a piazza to enjoy.

Great view, right?

The did some more wandering.

 

Finally, when a borderline creepy Italian man hit on me, I decided I was tired and headed home.

Now, I’m going to do more internship prep to see how soon I can start!

 

Fall Cake

It feels like fall.  That’s probably because it is.

Lately, we’ve had daytime highs of 43F.  To most Californians that would sound like winter.

Most mornings it’s below 30F.  Most Californians (including my former self) don’t even know what that feels like.

Regardless of what fall looks and feels like, I generally have a vague idea of how fall tastes.

At work, there is a cake called the Fall Collection.  I’ve never tasted it in it’s full glory, but I’ve tried pretty much all the component parts: Gingerbread Cake, Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake, Caramel Pecans and Vanilla Buttercream.

Sounds like fall.

I was inspired to recreate it.

I won’t lie.  This was sort of a process.  It pretty much requires two days since the cheesecake has to cool completely and set.

BUT totally worth it.

Start with the cheesecake.  I used good ol’ Paula Deen’s recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake.  I’m not 100% pleased with the recipe, I think it could use a little more spice.  But definitely not bad for my first try at cheesecake.

I didn’t have a springform pan, so I greased and floured two round 9″ baking pan and lined the bottom with wax paper to keep it from sticking.  After baking and letting it set overnight in the fridge, I used a knife along the edge of the pan and turned the pan over.  The cheesecake slipped out pretty easily.

The next step was the gingerbread cake.  Using this Food Network recipe, but adding extra crystallized ginger.  Great flavor, but would like it to be a little less dry (or maybe I just overbaked it a bit).

While your gingerbread cake is cooling, start making the caramel.  I’ve never had my caramel turn out right.  This time it did!  It was great!  Thanks to Yummy Supper!

Toast the pecans and mix it with the caramel.

Then the layering can start.

Start with the gingerbread cake.  Put it on a plate, remove some of the cake to make a little well for the caramel pecans.  This will keep it from overflowing.

Next, place the pumpkin cheesecake layer.  My cheesecake had a little bit of a well in it naturally (mistake maybe?), the well allowed me to pour more caramel pecans in there and keep them from flowing out.

However, if you, unlike me, make perfect cheesecake that is flat on top, you can create a barrier with buttercream that will keep your caramel from flowing all over the place.  Which leads to the next step, frosting.

Make traditional vanilla buttercream with butter, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract.  Frost the cake all around.

Lay it on there thick, because we could all use a little more buttercream in our lives.

Mexico

Sometimes we all do things we regret.  This week I did a few, or maybe  just one.

I didn’t tell my parents I was going to Mexico.

Big mistake.

They freaked out after not hearing from me for days.  My mom called the Cornell Police Department to report me missing.  It was a fiasco.

But I don’t regret going to Mexico.  It was pretty much amazing.

I seem to have anxiety attacks prior to flying, but luckily I had delicious Ghiradelli Chocolate from Foodbuzz Tastemakers to calm me down.  Definitely don’t regret eating those.

I also don’t regret spending my fall break doing research.

I met interesting people.

Tried interesting things… like Pozol… Corn and Cocoa beans milled together, then made into a dough that is then dissolved in water to make a thick drink.

I definitely thought I would regret drinking that after I saw where the water came from.

Also saw some crazy things

Saw thought provoking things

and some really beautiful things

and in the end, I’m glad I went.

Let’s hope our report isn’t a complete failure.  I’m thoroughly concerned for a whole slew of reasons I really don’t want to get into.

Let’s just say, sometimes I think I care a little too much.

Green Cake for Your Half Birthday

Okay, it’s been a while since I last posted, but let me tell you… I’ve been a busy bee.

I haven’t really mentioned this before but aside from taking classes and writing my exit project, I also thought it would be a good idea to get a part time job.  Being the foodie that I am, I applied to work at a patisserie.

Sounds fancy, I know.  It is.  Sorta…

3 days a week, I’m surrounded by butter pastries.  It’s amazing.  Not only that but it’s fun all around, and I get to watch the chef make incredible goodies.

So basically, I’ve forgotten to take pictures of things but largely I haven’t had time to make anything aside from the most boring meals ever known to mankind (and in my world that basically means large salads with every vegetable and grain I can possibly add to it).

But today, at work, as the chef was making a chocolate cake with marzipan filling and green buttercream for a little boy’s birthday, I was reminded of something I made a few days ago.

A bright GREEN half birthday cake for my (Irish) former (but still near and dear) roommate, Christina (aka Boo).

The cake was a delicious Almond Raspberry Layer cake with green cream cheese frosting.

It tasted delicious.  It looked ridiculous.

But then again I think that’s a pretty good way to describe our friendship.  Amazing, but also pretty ridiculous.

Happy Half Birthday, boo.