(Wrote this a week ago)
Ciao a tutti!
Currently I'm sitting on a bench in Modena near the Piazza Roma which basically is front of their version of west point. It's beautiful and I can hardly believe how amazing this past week has been. Nor the fact that tomorrow means I've been in Italy for four weeks already!! I thought I'd be missing home more but I'm really enjoying my time so it's flown by!!
Last week Florence was amazing. I learned a lot of neat tricks, most previously mentioned, and observed how to make a couple of things that I roughly estimated amounts of for recipes sake. But that's probably the key lesson I learned, never serve something you haven't tasted and for that matter, you better taste it along every step of the way. Start with a few base ingredients, namely butter, wine, garlic, and salt, maybe some rosemary or a dash of sugar, in some combination, and add as you please.
Another neat lesson I learned, unrelated to cooking in a sense, was the leadership that the second-in-charge chef exhibited, though completely in charge when Daniele wasn't present, whom we affectionately called Yuisan. He did a crazy amount of things on his own because he was the only one who knew how, but whenever possible he taught his underlings what he was doing and no matter how stressful the kitchen got, he always was able to crack a joke and smile. All the meanwhile, expecting excellence. I find that the combo of being able to laugh and expect near perfection to be a rare combination. I really came to enjoy watching him work and learned a great deal more than I think he will ever know, beyond just the kitchen and extending to how I want to be when I'm in charge of something in the future.
Enough about him though, the rest of the kitchen was amazing to work with. They opened their hearts to me. From the amazing Toshi and his magic with coffee and dinners, to the sassy Sofi and her great conversations/teaching moments, to the kind Elena with her always encouraging my efforts to speak or understand Italian, to the marvelous Francesca with yummy treats and inspiration to follow my heart, or thoughtful and patient Ida and our late night walks, I really was very very lucky to start off in a kitchen like that of Da'Pescatore. If you get a chance, go to their restaurant. The food is amazing and you won't be disappointed. They even took me out to an amazing cocktail Cuban themed bar for shots that were works of art (you picked the fruit you wanted and the Einstein doppelganger bartender created a neat arrangement of liquids and fruit dipped in toppings) and to a amazing gellateria that had WONDERFUL pistachio and coffee flavored gelato. (Instagram'ed)
Below are some things I think you might find useful. I'm getting hungry so I'm going to bike back home and eat. I'll update you soon on how INCREDIBLE my experience in Modena has been!
Fun facts I learned:
-when using the smaller red onions that come from Calabria to make cream of onion soup, cut off the dark purple area as that part is very sweet (good for salads) and will color the soup too much.
-when cutting onions, to help prevent crushing and therefore crying because of oils, pull the knife toward you instead of chopping down of the onion to slice it
-to create that fancy kind of tear drop shape of sauce on a plate, place the back of the spoon on the plate and tip the top of the spoon (end opposite the handle/most concave part of the oval for lack of a less technical way to put it) and drag it along. Practice with even distribution first, then to make the tear, dump more at first and drag. Literally Sofi practiced with water on the counter near the sink after Yuisan taught us this as she was in charge of doing that with the sauce for one of the polpo dishes.
-to aid in the consistency of mashed fennel (served with the ricciola dish they make and drizzled with the Yuisan Mystery Glaze, check out recipe post, it'll be updated soon), add a little mashed potatoes, cream, butter, and cheese)