It's been almost two whole years since Ollie and I returned from our cross-country Odyssey. And perhaps mom and dad are wise to worry that I might get a little stir crazy being in one place for too long. Well, luckily, I love my work. And I do take little trips from time to time. And every so often, a bigger trip: miracle of miracles, I managed to take a break from all of my jobs (I think I'm up to 6 now) at the same time for a trip to my friend Jen's wedding in Tuscany. Time to take a break from local food work, right? Nope. Research. Of the eating and drinking variety. Unofficially.
Up in the hills outside of Florence, I spent a week scarfing and sipping and swimming and dancing and toasting and pausing at every gelateria within a 20km radius for a piccolo cone of the local specialty. Pasta, pizza, wine, bruschetta, my new favorite Pappa al Pomodoro... all local and delicious. I couldn't help myself. Good thing my bridesmaid's dress was a size too big to begin with.
After much celebration (and a little hangover nursing), it was off to visit another dear friend in Viterbo, before I was to catch my flight home out of Rome. Though we'd been culinary and salsa dancing buddies since our days living in Mexico, I hadn't seen Alessandra since I stayed with her on my bike ride through Des Moines. Just as importantly, we were long overdue for a cooking session at her family's home in Italy -- I'd been hearing about her parents and beautiful hometown for years and both sounded impossibly perfect. And wouldn't you know it, I happened to be in town in between two of the regional cooking tours she was leading this summer. Perfect.
Ale picked me and my limoncello-laden suitcase up at the tiny local train station and we zipped off to her parents' house just in time for a tour of her dad's vineyard and hazelnut and olive groves before we joined a small group of visiting friends to make biscotti with her mom. (Lots of pantomiming ensued, as I speak only slightly more Italian than her parents speak English, but with good food and wine and people much of the talk was about the food and wine, which conveniently comprises the bulk of my Italian vocabulary.) Then we all sat down to play some crazy Italian card game and sip on her dad's homemade white wine while our dinner of zucchini flower foccacia, roast chicken, onion blossoms, and summer squash cooked in the hand-built outdoor oven just off camera.
Seriously, mom and dad, am I secretly Italian? You can tell me.
After a few more days of indulging in stellar Italian food, and even catching a EuroCup soccer match (though the British goalie was cuter, I felt compelled to root for Italy as we devoured homemade sausage and mozzerella and wine with Alessandra's parents the night before I left), it was time for me to head home. But something tells me I'm going to be breaking my pasta maker back out soon....