Saturday, February 18, 2012

Italian Cooking Classes and Wine!!!

Weekends like this make us truly realize how lucky we are to live in Italy.  Saturday we spent the day at a local winery with friends learning to cook a four course Italian/German meal, drinking wine bottled right there in the cellars, and enjoying the company of our Italian hosts who serenaded us on guitar following our meal.  It was an amazing day!
The group: Nate, Leslie, Allison, Tom and Anne, ready to cook

I must expand a bit on the menu, to give you a full idea of how amazing the day was. We started by preparing the meat dish: osso bucco, which, once settled in a bed of carrots and onions was covered in wine and cooked slowly over the course of 3+ hours.  We then learned the art of making homemade spinach spaetzle (more German than Italian) which once cooked, was served with a gorgonzola cream sauce with speck (Italian bacon).  Our appetizers were equally as delicious…. Young asiago cheese encrusted in polenta and hazelnuts and heated until gooey and served with a warm berry sauce.  They were amazing!!!  Once the osso bucco was done cooking, it nearly fell off the bone into the accompanying creamy saffron risotto we had also whipped up.  As if we weren’t stuffed enough, we were then taught the art of crepe making.  The whole meal was to die for and best of all, my husband was totally enthralled by the whole thing and insisted we buy a spaetzle maker the next day at the Italian grocery store.  He replicated the spaetzle dish a couple days later! Wahoo! 
The guys are focused... women supervising

Making spaetzle!

Osso bucco ready to be cooked

The finished product with saffron risotto!

Cooked spaetzle
As if the meal wasn’t enough we were treated to more amazing Italian wine.  We are getting so spoiled!!!!!  We were taken into the cellar; an amazing large room  with arched ceilings and a large table in the middle for hosting dinner parties (we are returning later this week) and of course rows of wine barrels.  We were given samples of wine straight from the barrel while learning about the history of the winery and the process of wine making, all the while drinking with the owner.
The cellar

Wine pulled straight from the barrel

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We’ve now become good friends with the owners, who are going to start hosting these cooking classes once a month!  I’m thrilled to learn some more true Italian recipes to impress friends and family with when we return J  What an amazing time!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

2012 Begins

We were lucky to get to see both of our families over the holidays.  The day after Thanksgiving Nate flew to Georgia for JumpMaster school (Yay, one free ticket to the states!) and a few days later I flew to Oregon.  After his three-week course, we met up in Iowa and spent the week before Christmas with Nate’s family, then flew to Oregon and spent a week there.  It was great to see everyone and nice to have two weeks together (without work) something that is very rare.  Nate flew back to Italy on New Year’s Day and I spent a few extra days in Oregon watching my sister play basketball.
Snowshoeing at Crater Lake

Night out in Iowa City with Nate's sister and brother-in-law

Got to see our first grade teacher, Mrs Dane

Sweetest niece and nephew and the best uncle

Canoeing at Klamath Lake

The guys came prepared

Time at the lake cabin

            Once I returned to Italy, Nate and I had 6 days together before he again left for field training in GermanyL  We kept things pretty low-key, having friends over for dinner and settling back into our house.  With Nate gone, I took advantage of some day trips with girlfriends.  I went skiing for the first time in Europe at a local place named Folgaria.  It was great to get out for the first time this season, but unfortunately, up until the last few days, our local ski areas have been hurting for snow and it was pretty bare.  We still had a good time, with great weather and excellent drinks on the mountain after a day of skiing.  Nate somehow finagled his way onto a “Jump” list and got to come back to Vicenza for two nights so he could participate in another jump at the local Air Force base.  Just so happened to be my Birthday as well, so I didn’t have to spend it alone.  He managed to make it back from his jump in time to take me to dinner…. what a guy! ;)  Bright and early the next morning he went back to Germany for another two weeks of training. 
Skiing at Folgaria

Not much snow :(

Enjoying time together at home

The girls and I set out for a day in Bologna the next weekend.  After an hours drive, we arrived just in time for lunch and found a small local place my friend had been, that serves a three to four course meal of their choosing.  It was a wonderful relaxing time trying the famous local fare.  The owner took a liking to us, closing the place down and insisting we stay and continue drinking wine with him.  He even tapped into his special wine collection and treated us to special dessert in honor of my birthday.  We definitely made it a leisurely lunch, leaving the restaurant well after 5pm and finally setting out to see Bologna for the first time that day.  Of course by then, we needed a cappuccino and happy hour was almost underway.  We wandered the streets for a short while then found ourselves in another cafĂ© sipping wine and enjoying the warm after the freezing weather outside.  Though we didn’t see as much of Bologna as we intended, it was a memorable day and we had a great time. 
Birthday lunch in Bologna

The restaurant owner reeealllly liked us

Beautiful city at night

Neptune Fountain
Nate returned earlier this week, so again, we’re getting settled back into our routine and preparing for his Change of Command at the end of the month.  I’ve been making some headway at the hospital, volunteering with the Red Cross since the Army has restrictions on working as a new grad without experience.  Frustrating? Yes, but at least I’m getting some experience and hours in now.
            Nate heads back up to Germany this week for a couple of days and returns just in time for our weekend trip to Paris…. a belated birthday/ Valentine’s Day celebration.  Since neither of us have been there, we have a full itinerary of sites to see and places to visit.  Can’t wait!