Foodie Diaries

2013 has not been good to me so far. What with mom’s surgery and the ever-increasing stress of work, time seems to be flying by, and yet, crawling. Nothing significantly good seems to be happening. I have some tentative plans happening for the hols, but nothing’s confirmed yet and things are looking dicey on the travel front, which makes me cranky and mean. Travel is my drug, do not wean me away from it! :(

As I’m not going anywhere, all I can do is look through my pictures of past trips and reminisce, to feel a bit better. Of course, I look through the Italy pics most as they are the most recent. Just looking through these pictures makes me wanna go back to Italy! Unfortunately, I really didn’t do justice to the food when I went there this time, but now that I’m back in Dubai, I’m eating (and cooking) Italian food a lot and wishing I’d had a better appetite while in Italy!

Bruschetta

Bruschetta

When I first tried bruschetta (in Dxb somewhere), I didn’t like it very much. “Tomatoes on bread?! No thank you!” I used to turn away and make barf-faces. I also used to pronounce it brus-shetta. I am less ignorant now! Not only do I know that it’s pronounced brus-ketta, I have also come to appreciate the simplicity of freshly chopped tomatoes on warm bread with a drizzle of olive oil.  Of course, I have Italy to thank for this change of heart! I’m not sure how they did it, but it was the best bruschetta I ever had! Maybe they put pot on their tomatoes instead of basil! :P

freshly made pasta with lamb ragout and deep-fried artichokes

freshly made pasta with lamb ragout and deep-fried artichokes

Fresh pasta in itself is delicious and I’d have been happy with a simple aglio e oilio, but this dish was something else! I’d never tried fried artichokes before. It was crunchy and delicious and added a lovely dimension to the smooth pasta and melt-in-the-mouth lamb ragout.

The restaurant is an elusive lil place about 5 mins away from the Spanish steps. The Palatium sits very inconspicuously in a corner and we actually missed it and only found it on our way back, while walking dejectedly at not having found the place!

Best. lasagna. EVER!!

Best. lasagna. EVER!!

 

Rome, being a tourist hot spot,  is filled with restaurants and cafes selling you substandard food which will leave you disheartened and think Italian food is overrated. This is why we (and when I say “we” I really mean my friend R, cos I did no research at all :P) did our research on where to go beforehand so we wouldn’t be disappointed. But the problem with these lovely places is that they’re all hard to find! Rome has a numbering system for their establishments which, if you try to follow, will lead you around in circles. It took us almost an hour to find this elusive lil place called Trattoria Luzzi, and we were famished and ridiculously late for lunch by the time we found the place. But I had the best, most succulent lasagna there and their tiramisu was to DIE for, so having lunch at 5pm didn’t seem so bad (in retrospect!).

Btw, you know what’s weird about Italians? Their hot chocolate…. is pure hot chocolate!!! 

WTH!

W.T.F!!

Now while I love my chocolate, I cannot pour pure melted chocolate down my throat without gagging! No, really! There IS such a thing as too much chocolate! Unless you’re Italian I guess!

I have a lot more pictures (please check the album on this post), but I’ve got a sudden craving for chocolate (wonder why! :P). So until next time… Ciao!

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Deception

Right before leaving for Italy, I heard all these crazy stories about the place that slightly freaked me out. Apparently the place is rife with thieves and muggers who use ancient monuments as their allies for their dark deeds. I have heard of a man who stood staring in awe at the Colosseum while someone walked by and nicked his wallet from his pocket before the poor guy could even say Caeser!  I also read various articles cautioning readers against leaving  their belongings in cars as it was possible that the cars could be broken into and the belongings stolen. Considering we were renting a car, this worried me all the more!

Owing to all the things I heard and read about the place, I was extremely careful (bordering on paranoia) in Italy and kept my money distributed between difference pieces of luggage. Even whatever I carried on me, I kept distributed, with a few euros in my wallet, some in one boot, the rest in the other… (told you! Paranoid!). But I had no reason to worry. Everyone in Italy was charming and nice and very excited by a visitor from Dubai (looks like Dubai’s marketing has reached Italy as well! :P). The ladies were kind and friendly and the men flirtatious and amusing.

On my very last day in Italy, we had gone to St. Peter’s Basilica to watch the La Befana parade. After lunch, my friend R and I took the metro to get back to our hotel. It was crowded that day, and it was a bit of a struggle to get into the trains. I was right behind R and inching towards the door when suddenly an old lady pushed in front of me. She looked around 60, was dressed conservatively in black, with red lipstick and badly applied golden eyeliner on her lids. I was a little taken aback, cos this was the first time someone had cut in front of me in Italy! I was used to better behaviour. So I said ” okayy..?” and she looked back at me and frowned, before pushing on ahead into the train. I got in as well and stood beside R and we started chatting. 

The old woman was standing a little away from us. She promptly came forward and started speaking to me. She asked me where I was from, whether I was from Spain (we got asked this question a lot, apparently Indians and  Spanish people look similar), when I shook my head and said India, she said ” aahhh! Indiyaaa!” and then was saying something more when suddenly, something fell down between us. R and I looked down and R exclaimed ” OHMYGAWD!! THAT’S MY WALLET!!!!”

The lady was talking to ME to create a distraction so she could steal from R!!!!  Sneaky huh! It was extremely lucky for us that the lady had a bad case of butter-fingers that day (God’s intervention really!). But she played it tres cool! Acted like the she had nothing to do with it, like the wallet had decided to jump out of R’s purse and into her slippery hands! She kept talking to us like nothing was wrong and we were just too shocked to react!  She left the train at the next stop and that was that!

Every time I played a scenario of us being mugged or robbed, it was always of some delinquent guy with a hoodie and a gun, demanding that we hand over everything to him <insert menacing tone> “OR ELSE!” Never in my wildest imagination had I pictured a crazy old lady trying to get the better of us!

So… the moral of the story is… beware of old ladies!  CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

CONSTANT_VIGILANCE

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Feeling Blue!

Where we buy our tickets for the blue grotto

The ticket “booth” :D

“You have to sit on the floor!”  “The flooooor?! But it’s wet!”

“Wet? Ah, it’s all natural water from the sea!”

“Does that mean I won’t get wet?!” I muttered to myself. But I had to sit down at the bottom of the wet little dinghy anyway. There was no other way to get into the cave, it was nearing high-tide and the opening was almost too small even with all of us laying down flat. The oarsman (in my worry of wetting my bottom with “natural seawater”  and the thrill of getting into the cave, I forgot to ask his name, so let’s call him Ricardo shall we?) was quite a character! I was with my two travel-buddies, they were sitting on one side of the rowboat, and me on the other, with Ricardo standing in the middle talking to us in a loud booming voice. If the tide allowed it, we could go into the blue grotto, if not… *shrug*

The tiny entrance to the cave

The tiny entrance to the cave

I was sitting with my back to the entrance, but when I craned my neck back, I could see that the entrance was hardly anything. Then Ricardo asked us to lay down flat and he crouched down low as well. I didn’t think we could get in there, but Ricardo somehow managed to pull us inside with a rope and we went from bright sunlight to sudden darkness in an instant. I blinked a couple of times to get my bearings and sat up. Ricardo rowed us deeper into the cave and then he yelled “look back!” and this is what we saw.

Inside the Blue Grotto

Inside the Blue Grotto

It was amazing! My eyes widened and my skin tingled. Where was all that light coming from?! Why was the water so brilliantly blue?!! But before I could even begin to think of all this, dear Ricardo started singing. He had a powerful voice, and whatever he was singing in Italian worked its magic. Of course, there were other boats in there, and when Ricardo started singing, the others joined in as well! The sound of their voices echoed around us and sounded magical and surreal in this dark cave with the strange blue water.

We came out of the cave and back to real life way too soon for my liking. But our manager at the hotel, Mario (who was shamelessly flirting with us and said I’m to be his second wife :P) said he has a boat and asked us to visit in the summer cos we can go swimming there as well!

So if anyone can sponsor my trip to Capri, please mail me and I’ll sort out the rest of the trip for you! :D