Friday, June 13, 2008

Week 11 - My New Routine

Buon giorno amici!
What a fantastic week I have to report! At the beginning of the week I figured out a few of the basics: where to get food, do laundry and find the post office. The Grand Café is now my internet central. It’s basically the only place between Roccarasso (the town I live in) and Rivisondoli (the town I work in) that has a wireless web point. I have become a regular, of sorts. I find my table, order the “usual” (cappuccino) and set up the lap top.

So my new routine kind of goes like this: I work Wednesday through Sunday. I get picked up by a couple of the boys from the kitchen at 9:20 and start working at 9:30. We do most of the prepping for the day between 9:30 and 12:30. Lunch service goes from about 1:00 to 3:30. Then I get a break from 3:30 to 5:30. I head over to the Café, about a 5 min walk from the restaurant. I’m back at 5:30 to get ready for the dinner service, which starts at 8:00. I catch a ride back from one of the boys and I’m in my room by 11:30, or so. It sounds like a long day, but the break in between helps a lot!

I love the restaurant. There are 3 guys in the kitchen with me. They speak about a dozen words of English between them – but it’s totally fine. They range in age from 19 to 22 and are really fantastic. It’s fun to watch them cook with the Chef. The Chef, Niko Romito is very interesting. He is in his early thirties. He started cooking in 1999 after his father passed away. His approach to Abruzzo products are very different that what you find in the average restaurant of this region. When he first began he had a really difficult time, but never wavered from his vision. Today his is one of the top rated young chefs in Italy. He’s received several prestigious awards and is noted in the famous Michelin Guide. Last week a food critic from Cucina e Vino (their version of Food and Wine) came and interviewed him and photographed several dishes. She loved everything he made for her!

So back to this week – by the end of the week I was put in charge of two dishes. (I have them attached.) Cippola, a dish that comes after the Amuse-bouche plate, and just before the Antipasti. It’s an onion that is first roasted on sea salt for about an hour. Then the center is removed and pureed with pecorino cheese, extra virgin olive oil and a pinch of salt. The puree is put back in the shell and covered with a shaving of pecorino and baked until the top is golden brown. The second picture is called Pasticcherina (little pastries). From top to bottom: shortbread cookie with berry preserve, chocolate covered semi-freddo, bomboli (donut) with chocolate center, licorice crème brulee and chocolate covered lemon granita. The picture is a bit misleading, they are all actually tiny bits. To give you the perspective: the crème brulee cup is about 2” in diameter, about the size of a small shot glass. By the end of the week I actually made all of the components of those two dishes. It was so cool! The funniest part is when the Pasticcherina is called. It’s a dish that comes after dessert when the coffee is served. The waiters come in the kitchen and say (imagine with an Italian accent!) “Maria, due (2) Pasticceria, per favore.” The first time they called it out it was such a rush!

Larry and I were talking about my travelogues when he was here a few weeks ago. I was thinking that they might be a little boring for you now that school was over, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you about the fun history info I was learning. He said not to worry, that the next phase would be just as interesting, talking about my experiences in the kitchen. (I hope he’s right!) As time goes on, and my Italian kitchen lingo gets better, I hope to make a few other dishes. The menu is not huge, but it is very interesting. When a customer dines at Reale, the time it takes from start to finish is about two and a half hours. Consisting of 7 courses (Amuse-bouche, Cipolla, Antipasti, Primi, Secondo, Dolce and Pasticcherina). Quite a dining experience!!

Arrivederci fino alla settimana prossima!
(Goodbye until next week!)

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