Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Arugula/Rocket

Ok, I dunno if it’s cuz I’m pregnant, but the Arugula here is just AMAZING. Who would have thought something as simple as arugula could leave such a lasting impression on me??
King and I woke up at an obscenely early hour this morning, and were the first people to show up to our hotel’s breakfast (I pushed it to 7:10 but that was the latest I could go). Really nice breakfast buffet – I made a grilled emmantel cheese toast with fresh tomatoes, salt, pepper, and olive oil (they have olive oil packets like ketchup packets here!) – it was really good. And a fantastic spread of all sorts of pastries, danishes, croissants, and juices.
We got on our train to Naples - I love European train stations and the whole rail system by the way.  No hassle of check-in, arriving an hour early, security check, and the train leaves on the DOT. I’ve decided that the natural beauty (at least from Rome to Napoli) was most unimpressive. I remember Austria and Switzerland being lush, rolling hills, with cute houses trickling the landscape; Germany was thick, lush forests of pine trees or whatever those trees are; even France had a very unique countryside. Maybe it’s bc California has a similar climate and similar Mediterranean inspired architecture, but it really didn’t look all that different from my drive from San Luis Obispo on 101 last week. Only until when we went on the local train from Naples to Sorrento did it finally start looking like a different landscape.
Anyway, at the Hilton we had to wait an hour for our room to be ready, so we ate at the poolside bar while we were waiting. The margherita pizza was decent – really nice sauce. We also got a bruschetta, and there were a few leaves of arugula at the base of the bruschetta that I had – so peppery, and spicy and flavorful! I could just eat a bowl of that with shaved parmigiano reggiano and olive oil.
It was siesta time for us after that … I guess thanks to our jet lag our timings are matching those of the Mediterranean. Apparently all the shops close here between 1-4 pm and then open up again to stay open until late at night – 10pm onwards. The main shopping area was so cute, and so bustling with activity. And the weather is freakin perfect. King and I window shopped in random boutiques, and I ended up buying a lose white shirt that will hopefully fit me beyond this week, and King bought a blue Boss polo shirt with a small Italian flag on it. I also really liked this goose down winter coat for 345 Euro – so stylin’ … but can’t justify spending that kind of money on a coat right now. Esp bc there’s no way it’s going to fit me when winter actually rolls around.
I am, by the way, expanding on a daily basis. While 1st trimester was about baby developing all his internal organs, systems … this trimester seems to be geared towards growing larger in size. He’s the size of my palm already, and growing by the day … and it seriously shows on my body. By the time I come back to the U.S. I am gonna look full on preganator!
So dinner was at this REALLY CUTE restaurant called Antica Trattoria. This was clichéd cute – with an outdoor terrace area covered in vines, flowers, with a crazy Italian musician singing love ballads at every table. Ambience is great and all, but me and King were like ‘what about the food??’
It did not disappoint. They started us off with an amuse bouche of sorts of a ‘ricotta melanzane,’ deep fried ricotta cheese with eggplant. Wow, it was excellent. The pomodoro (sauce) with it was so tasty – how can just a simple tomato sauce taste so good? For our antipasti, I got a zucchini blossom dish and King got a caprese salad. I thought mine was ok, bc I couldn’t really taste the zucchini blossom as it was tempura-ed and filled with ricotta. The side salad with slightly sweetened pickled onions was really good though. King’s caprese was really good … I’m not supposed to eat unpasteurized cheeses … so I only ate a little bit of the mozzarella … it was like you could taste the thickness of the milk in the piece of that cheese.
My main dish was an melanzane pomodoro. I’ve realized I’m not one of those people who is crazy abt eggplant in any shape or form – it’s got to be done really well, otherwise I’m really fussy abt it’s texture and taste. I started cutting into my dish, and was amazed at how soft the eggplant was – I was expecting a battle of cutting through the stringy vegetable, but it was buttery soft, and just soooo freakin good. They had a piece of fried parmagiano on top – I LOVE FRIED PARMAGIANO. I remember I accidentally discovered fried cheese at home once when  I was making a fried egg and some extra grated cheese fell into the pan and got slightly pan fried, and I thought to myself, this is amazing … and it was just random cheddar or something. Now imagine that was Italian parmagiano. Yes, it’s 6:30 am as I write this and I’m starving again … Breakfast is our most anticipated meal of the day right now – just passing time writing this blog so it’s 7am already and I can go eat.
My eggplant pomodoro with a fried parmesan crouton. YUMMY!
But the arugula! We got a side salad – just some ‘insalata mista’ (I will never look at those two words the same way again). King took a bite and said ‘you’re gonna love this salad, it’s right up your alley.’ I was having a hard time tearing myself away from the melanzane but tried it, and he was right. I felt like mom when I said ‘Just plain salad leaves and it’s so tasty! Yahan ke vegetables ka taste hi kitna zyaada achcha hai!!’ But, hey, we’re not the only ones who say that!! To quote Eric Ripert, ‘Vegetables in Europe just TASTE different!’
Anyway, so the rest of dinner was great too. Oh, King got some local fish and loved it. You know it’s a great meal when after the initial ‘oh my God, this is amazing’ comments have passed, you’re eating in total silence for the rest of the meal. I cleaned out my dish, and the dessert and petit fours to follow. European portions are so much more doable … granted we’re doing one less course than recommended on a traditional menu.
Today’s plan is just to hang out and kick it. I’m tired of journeying here and there for the last two days. After breakfast we’ll just hang out by the pool, do lunch somewhere (maybe that really amazing and ghetto place Kutu suggested?) … come back and sleep, and then hit up the shops and Il Bucaa in the evening. Tomorrow we can consider doing Capri since we wake up at the butt-crack of dawn everyday anyway. At least we’re still accomplishing enough on this holiday and aren’t just sleeping it away like we did in London, lol.
It’s still not 7 am!!!

1 comment:

  1. additional food notes :
    the house wine at antica was thoroughly unimpressive : it happened to be from Campania (the local region) and was way too tannic.
    my second course which was the fish was just perfectly done true to its Mediterranean style, and very well layered with spinach inside and really really fresh

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