Sunday, July 19, 2009

Florence Trip Report - Part 1

Hotel

We stayed at Bed & Bed Peterson for six nights, at 59E/night. We found this great little hotel through recommendation on Fodors.com travel talk. They don't normally offer breakfast, but I believe due to the length of time that we stayed at their hotel, they gave us a small continental breakfast during our stay, which we gladly welcomed! There is an espresso machine and a small refrigerator in the common area which all of the guests can use (there are four other rooms in addition to ours), so we only had to purchase some fruits and yogurt for additional breakfast. There's a small grocery store that sells fruits and basic breakfast food within 5 minutes walking distance from this hotel.



The room was roomy, bright with big windows, and clean. The location though is a little bit out of the way. It's about 5-10 minutes walk from the main Santa Maria train station. We decided to take a bus sometimes from in front of our hotel to our destination, and walk back to the hotel because the weather was warmer than what we had expected for June (in the high 90's).



The owners were kind and very accommodating. I had requested to borrow a hair dryer upon booking, and while I was there, they realized that they had to purchase a brand new one because all of the supplies they had were checked out. I thought that was unnecessary, and was grateful that they went out of their way to do this!

Activities

1) Chianti Wine Tour with Tuscan Trail


I found this tour through internet search and was extremely happy that we booked with them. At 75 Euro/person, this was the most economical tour that I was able to find.



Todd Bolton, a California native who has called Florence his home for the past 7-yrs, took us through 2 wineries, about 30 minutes outside of Florence, where we tasted probably 8-10 wines and a couple of olive oil.

We also stopped for a lunch at a nice restaurant between the first and second winery .



This was a very nice and convenient all-inclusive package, which also includes the cost of transportation from Florence and back. I took the Robert Mondavi Tour while Red and I visited Napa last year and I can say that we got a lot more out of Todd's session! I highly recommend his service and would book him again in a heart beat if we return.


2) Bologna Cooking Class with Illaria De Fidio

I also found Illaria through many web searches. I was originally booked with Cook in Italy, but then she accidentally booked her vacation days on the day that I was going to be in Florence. Lucky for us, we found Illaria. Illaria runs a charming Bed and Breakfast in the heart of Bologna, and teaches cooking classes to some of her guests who are interested.


She started our day by taking us through the market. We arrived sharply around 10AM, and we walked to the nearby markets.

She walked us through all of the different shops that she usually frequents and gave us overview of the all variety of pastas, meat, cheese, and vegetables.

We even got to sample some of the cheeses and the fancier cousin of (American) cold cut meats!


Then we started making our homemade pasta, ragu sauce, and veal ala Bolognese. It really started with a very simple ingredient: flour, eggs, and water.

Depending on the weather (humidity and temperature), Illaria can sense how much flour and water ratio! Now, that's quiete a skill!

While it sounded very simple, this was the most difficult part! You make the dough first.

Then... ROLL it with the palms of your hand... for what felt like an eternity!

The pasta must be thin enough that you can see through it, of course, ours was uneven, and not thin enough!

We ran late because we couldn't get the pasta to be thin enough as Illaria would like it to be! So we went ahead and started cutting it.



The key here is that you should put just enough flour while handling the pasta that once you cut it, it will nicely seperate itself when being gathered into a bundle like this picture.


After this was done, boil the noodle in a big pot of boiling water with salt. No oil, just salt.

On the same time, we also made the ragu sauce and the veal cutlet with prosciutto & parmesan cheese.

The ragu and the veal parts were pretty simple!

Needless to say, the technique is very similar to what I would do here.

Get very thin slices of meat, dip them in eggs and roll them onto bread crumbs-- and pan fry them! Now, the parmiggiano and the prosciutto made them a little fancier!

After slaving away in the kitchen for about 4 hours, we finally got to enjoy our fruit of labor with Illaria!

Next installment: Restaurant in Florence...

6 comments:

oishiifood said...

Looks like a delicious adventure! I'm especially jealous of your pasta! I would love to learn to make it some day! Can't wait to read about the rest of your time there.

JoernandAllison said...

Hi! I found your blog, and really love it! My husband and I travel frequently to Emilia Romagna, and have been interested in a cooking course. Your class looks fabulous! Looks like an amazing trip!
Is it okay if I add your blog to mine?

h2babe said...

Thanks for the comments, I have been scrambling to put these notes up because we've been so swamped since we got back.. but I will work on adding more every weekend.

Allison, yes, feel free to add my blog to your blog! Thanks for visiting!

Kate said...

H2babe, I still have not received an email from you for the cookbook contest you won. I made a blog spot (I saw your response, but no email), sent a twitter, and am commenting on your blog as well. I need a mailing address for ya. My email address is on my profile. Thanks! Kate / WarmOlives

toddogg said...

You make me feel hungry now .

Scope said...

Great pics. It's a pity there ain't too many street scenes at Florence... I really love to take a look of the streets.