Apparently I never told you about the surprise birthday trip I organized for Luca a couple years ago.  I have a bad habit of giving presents that I would like to receive myself, and this was a prime example: a long weekend in Zurich (with stopover on Lake Como) and tickets to a Luciano Pavarotti concert.  I got the idea while watching the 2006 Winter Olympic opening, during which Luca mentioned that it would be nice to see Luciano live sometime.

Unfortunately there were a couple of snafoos along the way – it should have taken only 4 hours to drive to Zurich, but there was roadwork and ended up taking 8 hours.

When we finally arrived, our hotel was nice, on the top floor overlooking the river Limmat and positioned  literally 10 feet away from a church bell tower that  rang the hour every hour, conveniently reminding us (and the rest of Switzerland) what time it was –  even at 5 in the morning.

Nonetheless, we were hardly ever in the hotel and enjoyed ourselves exploring the city, taking a boat tour of Lake Zurich, shopping on the famous Bahnhofstrasse , etc.

The concert was on Sunday evening and we mistakenly took the wrong train in the complete opposite direction of the stadium.  Incredibly stressed that we were going to arrive too late and they wouldn’t let us in (we still needed to pick up our reserved tickets at the box office), we ran around asking for help and finally found a train engineer whose grandmother was Italian and could explain to us which train to get on.  Sweaty and hot, we arrived at the stadium a half an hour late to find the entire place deserted.

The concert had been cancelled.

Vacation from hell, right?  Happy birthday Luca!  So we went back into town and had dinner at a Spanish restaurant where the waiters were mean and openly discriminatory towards tourists and to top it all off they charged us $28 for a dinky plate of unsavory grilled vegetables.

All in all it was an educational experience and we laugh now looking back on the trip (though at the time it really wasn’t funny).  Here are a couple pictures of the highlights.  I wish I had one of the empty stadium!

Surprise Birthday Party

Last night Luca organized a surprise birthday party for me!  How exciting.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a surprise birthday party before.  It was a low key event, but highly enjoyable nonetheless.  I thought we had plans to go eat pizza with Luca’s parents, but when we went to pick them up, Luca’s mom had prepared an elaborate birthday dinner and two of our friends were there waiting for me!  They gave me a beautiful Guess leather handbag.  (It’s kind of like this one, but beige leather instead of gold). 

The dinner menu included: 

Chicken Aspic (slices of chicken rolled with carrots and peas under a chicken stock gelatin)

Roasted red and yellow bell peppers with bagna cauda (olive oil, anchovies, lots of garlic, all slow cooked together into a flavorful sauce)

Crepes filled with Porcini Mushrooms, Ricotta and Bechamel & Crepes with a Spinach Ricotta filling

Roasted Goat and Lamb with a Mixed Green Salad

Assorted Artisan Cheeses

Two Birthday Cakes!! 

And of course, lots of wine and digestives afterwards.


Celebrate Good Times, Come on!

Hey all–my computer is waiting for a part to be sent in the mail, thus the lack of entries lately! Thanks for all of the birthday greetings! My good friend/housemate/classmate Jen and I actually have the exact same birthday–isn’t that hilarious?!? We hosted a major bash at The Seven-Five-One (our house) on 9 Jan Oh 4. Joe and a bunch of girls from school came over for an elegant evening of food and wine–complete with a birthday hat scavenger hunt, balloons and festive streamers. We consumed 10 bottles of wine and some other random carbonated beverages, and it was a fantastic birthday all-in-all!

Dave and I had a fantastic week in San Francisco over the New Year Holiday!! Mad pics coming soon. We visited XOX Truffles, drove down Lombard St. and ate at about 20 different great restaurants! In other news, I’ve changed plans again about what-to-do-when-I-graduate (surprise, surprise: this happens about every 2 days). The ultimate goal for now is to find a fabulous, high-paying job at a world class hotel in the SF and an extremely hot, low-rent apartment in North Beach; as it doesn’t really make sense to move all the way back across the country after living here for less than a year. There’s still a ton left to explore here on the West Coast, so whether I end up in San Fran or some other coastal town, I’ll definitely be here in Cali for at least another year. So if you haven’t visited yet, you’ve got some more time!

Babies and Laundry

So we went to the French Laundry (two weeks ago now) and I STILL feel like truffles are coming out my ears! Those of you who are unfamiliar with the Laundry should know that it is one of the best restaurants in the world and consistantly wins a massive amount of praise from critics around the world! (And oh, the drama of making a reservation! Luckily, we live close enough to walk down and reserve a table in person!)

Chef Thomas Keller (the chef de cuisine) is a very talented, world-renownded gourmand who has done quite a bit to give this restaurant the reputation that it has now. For example, he orders all the butter used at the restaurant from a special farm in Vermont–what’s the big deal, you say? The farm only owns THREE cows (Daisy, Sunshine, and one other…). They ship their butter, unsalted to the FL, where the staff HAND CHURNS it with fleur de sel before presenting it to their guests. It is–by far–the most exquisite-tasting fat I’ve ever consumed. He is a perfectionist, to say the least, and even stores his fish on ice in the same direction it swims in the ocean! We were lucky enough to get a reservation during truffle season, and so partook of the Truffle Tasting Menu–only available for a few short weeks. Picture this: Nine courses, starting with Scrambled Liberty Valley Duck Eggs with Perigord Truffles and Toasted Brioche and finishing with White Chocolate Velours, Dark Chocolate Sabayon, Black Truffle liquid center, perigord truffle syrup and ruby red grapefruit sorbet (pictured below), and mignardises.Dessert.jpg I think my favorite course was the Truffle Wellington(which doesn’t look so hot in the picture, but imagine an entire black truffle wrapped in puff pastry!): Fondue of walla walla shallots and sauce perigourdine–the third course. The desserts weren’t amazingly wonderful, but by that time(five hours later), who wants to think about food? Words can’t describe the experience…

sydney2.jpgIn more exciting news, Phoebe had her baby!!! Congratulations!! I can’t wait to go see her at Christmas–Dave and I have planned a mini road trip to their new place for a Christmas visit. Everyone is already arguing over whose chin Syndey has–Phoebe’s or John’s! What do you think?

I was officially elected Team Leader of Greystone’s 1st All-Female Baking and Pastry Program today! Woot! Speaking of which, we have our final Pastry I practical tomorrow, and I should get to bed. Night night!

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