Friday, June 11, 2010

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Today was kind of a crazy day.  Not "crazy" crazy, just out of the norm.  Like I said yesterday, Christine's aunt, Kathy, and cousin, Jessica, were flying in town this morning from Idaho.  They had 4 connecting flights to get here, and left Idaho Thursday morning around 9.  Their flight was scheduled to arrive in Venice around 9, so Christine was going to the airport to meet up with them.  They're renting a car while they're here, but Kathy was concerned about speaking Italian to get the rental car, and then reading the road signs to get to the house.  Understandable.  So Christer got a ride to work with Blake (of Blake and Carrie, the family that had the bbq a week or so ago), so Christine could have the car to go to the airport.  I stayed home with Jameson because there was really no point in dragging him along on the hour ride to and from the airport.  Also, Christer and Blake were stopping by during lunch with Caleb, Blake and Carrie's youngest son, because it was his last day of school today and it was a half day so he got out at lunchtime.  Carrie had a going away part to go to and wasn't able to get home, so Caleb was going to hang with us for a bit.  Blake and Carrie also have 2 other kids, but they're both older and go to American school, while Caleb goes to Italian school.  American school doesn't get out until next week.  Jameson went down for his nap, and I hear people bustling around in the kitchen, so I head down to have lunch with Christer and Blake and Caleb.  I walk down, and Christer, Blake, Caleb, AND Christine are all in the kitchen.  No Kathy or Jessica.  Apparently they had a 2 1/2 hour delay in Charlotte, SC, and missed their connecting flight from Frankfurt to Venice.  They couldn't get on standby for the next flight, so they had to wait 6 hours for the next plane to take them to Venice.  That means, that by the time they got here, they had literally been traveling, with the time difference, for over 24 hours.  CRAZY!  So we all had lunch, Caleb hung out, and Jameson slept.  For an unusually long amount of time.  His naps are normally anywhere from an hour to 2 hours and today he slept for over 3 hours!  Christine left to make the trek back to the airport to pick up Kathy and Jessica for real, and Jameson and I played some more.  We had made plans to eat at one of Christer and Christine's favorite restaurants, Le Contrade, for dinner tonight.  Since Jameson would already be in bed, we had the Smith kids come over and hang out at the house while Jameson slept and we were at dinner.  Poor Kathy and Jessica.  They got home, threw their suitcases in their room and got ready for dinner.  Such troopers!

We had a real Italian meal at real Italian time.  We got to the restaurant at about 8 something and left around 11:30.  Dining like the locals!  Le Contrade is in Sacile, the town nearby with the market and the good gelato.  All 7 of us piled into Carrie's SUV and rode up together.  Blake and Christer were real men and squished into the back seat so us ladies could sit up front.  Blake's like 6'3".  Le Contrade means "the neighborhood," and it truly does feel like a neighborhood restaurant.  It's very nice but casual, and sits right in the middle of Sacile, amongst houses and shops.  The owner, Roberto, met us as we were walking up and got us situated on the covered patio.  Christer had told us that they get fresh seafood every day, and tonight on the menu was an assortment of raw seafoods.  Mmmm (sarcastically, of course).  We start with a bottle of prosecco, which is like the Italian version of Champagne, and is sooooo good.  I'm not a big fan of champagne, but all the proseccos I've had have been amazing.  We were brought little espresso type glasses with pureed tomato with cilantro and an assortment of other spices to start our meal.  Everyone knows how much I LOVE tomatoes, but I couldn't just NOT try it on principle.  And, surprisingly, it was okay.  It was like a thick, pureed tomato with added spices.  Next up was the antipasti, or appetizer.  I opted for the lobster salad with lemon and some other thing that we couldn't quite understand.  The waitress tried explaining but something was lost in translation because Christine thought it was chestnuts and I'm pretty sure it wasn't chestnuts.  The lemon is used as a way of cooking the seafood.  They soak the lobster in the lemon juice, and the acid acts on the meat and "cooks" it.  I took a photo journal of our meal tonight, so I have pictures of everything!

The purple thing on top is the same purple potato-type plant in the Philippines.  Connie?  Can you help me out?  The only thing I can think is that it's used in halo halo.  Ube??  Anyways.  Yes, the food was as delicious as it looks.

Christer and Blake shared a raw seafood platter with raw shrimp, fish, and other seafood of sorts.  Oddly enough, both of them opted out of eating the raw squid.  Here's a picture just to get your mouth watering:

We're waiting on our meals to arrive, and Christer, always the life of the party, offers me some raw squid, which I promptly declined.  My look of revulsion only fueled the middle schooler in Christer, so he offers me €5 to eat it.  I decline again, surprise surprise, to which he offers me €10 and notes that this would make good blogging material.  Okay fine, I'll try anything once.  Camera's ready, forkful of raw squid, here I come!

Yeah.  It was THAT good.  It had a nice flavoring to it, if you could get past the sea-life/ocean taste.  It was also really slimy, and only seemed to get slimier with chewing.  It was like slime was coating the entire inside of my mouth while I was chewing on this soft, rubbery hunk of fish bait.  When I took a drink afterwards, I could literally smell that nasty stale fish and ocean smell in my cup.  But you know what?  I tried it.  AND Christer didn't think I would and I proved him wrong.  Now where's my €10 buddy??

Next up, the Italians would have first course, which is a pasta, and then second course, which is a meat.  Us girlies can't eat all that food, so I skipped the first course and went straight for the meat.  I've had so much pasta and vegetables that I've been craving a steak lately.  I'm not a huge red meat eater, but I was dreaming about Outback when we were in Tuscany last weekend, and tonight was my chance to cash in on that dream.

Hands down the best steak I've ever had.  I normally like my steak more on the well-done side, but Italians serve their steaks very rare, so I decided to go a little more with the culture and get it medium, and I'm glad I did.  I almost didn't need a knife, that's how tender it was.

I cleaned BOTH of my plates, which is a huge accomplishment for me.  I'm usually the 4 bites and I'm done type of eater.

One thing I've noticed about meals in Italy is the Italians are big on their beverages.  We had our aqua naturale and frizzante and our prosecco.  Then after you finish the second course, most restaurants will bring out small shot glasses of limon cello, which is lemon rinds soaked in vodka until the liquid turns this beautiful yellow color.  After I finished my steak, Christer and I got espressos, since I haven't yet had a real Italian espresso.  Then, when we ordered dessert, they brought out a dessert wine for everyone to share as well.  I had so many cups in front of me you would have thought I was going to break out with a water glass routine.  (Miss Congeniality ehh?)

Espresso=amazing.  I don't know where it's been all of my life.  I seriously haven't been living.  Grosmi, as you see on the cup, is the brand of coffee used, and is actually produced in Sacile, less than a block away from Le Contrade.

Dessert anyone??  We were going to walk through Sacile to get gelato from the second best gelato store in Italy, but it was already 10:30 by the time we finished with dinner, so we just opted to have dessert at the restaurant and have gelato a different day.  (Plus, some of us had already had gelato with lunch, even though it wasn't exactly the flavors we requested, but that's an entirely different story.  Apparently all the flavors looked the same to Christer, so we were all just served "surprise" gelato.)  This dessert was lick-your-plate-in-public-and-not-even-care good.  Everyone agreed.

The picture doesn't do it justice.  The chocolate looks like pudding, but I assure you it was far better than any pudding I've ever had.  It tasted like melted chocolate that had somehow been infused with lightness so that it wasn't too heavy and seemed to just dissolve in your mouth.

From left to right, you've got Blake, Christer, me, Jessica, Kathy, Christine, and Carrie.

This picture was taken by our (very little English speaking) waitress.  The first one she took was much better, but was super blurry.  You've got Blake, Christine, Carrie, Roberto, me, Kathy, Jessica, and Christer.  This was right outside of the patio at the front of the restaurant.  Roberto was one of the nicest people ever; Very down to earth and just a really sweet guy.  Christer (so lovingly) told him I had a crush and that's why I wanted him in the picture.  He's like 50 something, and married with children.  Christer better watch out for that Golden Karma...I'll get him back eventually.

Tomorrow morning Christer and I are supposed to go for a run, but it's 2am already and I'm not so sure I'll be bright and cheery and ready for a run tomorrow morning.  Us girls are spending the weekend in Venice, so I don't know if I'll have internet connection in our hotel tomorrow night.  I apologize in advance if I'm unable to post, but I assure you I will take lots of good pictures to share.

The evening with friends and family was fantastic.  Everything was just so perfect and exactly what you'd expect a big family Italian meal to be.  We weren't rushed to get out of our table, everyone was so friendly, and the food was fantastic.  Italy is a beautiful country, but the people are what make it special.

Today my favorite thing about Italy is:  Espresso?  Can I have coffee one day and espresso the next?  ehh whatever.  I love my caffeine and Italian espresso is where it's at.

Today my favorite quotes from dinner are:

"Don't kill the spider...spiders are good!" -- less than 20 minutes later, the same vegetarian says in regards to Christine's lettuce caterpillar "ah, you should have just eaten it.  It would have been good protein!"

"We can move to Venice if I can have a work girlfriend."  --  "What about Blake?  He can be your work girlfriend."

"You know what his head reminds me of?  One of those famous bust statues.  That's what I see when I look at his head."

P.S.--Carrie just informed us tonight that Norah Jones is playing in a jazz festival in Saint Mark's Square in Venice on July 24th.  Can you think of a more amazing artist playing at a more amazing venue???  I don't think so.  So freaking excited!!

Note:  I apologize for any misspellings or grammatical errors.  It's super late and I'm ridiculously tired.


  1. UBE!! :) UBE101: It's a root crop that comes in a white or purple variety. It's dry and kind of tasteless when cooked, buuut if you add a diabetes-inducing amount of sugar to it, it becomes the ultimate halo halo topping. Aaand the college down the road is researching ube for its anti-cancer properties. In short, it's the miracle root crop.

    Bet you didn't think I knew so much about ube... but let's be honest, that's just how high my geekiness level is these days :)

  2. raw oh no...I could only eat the steak, dessert and salad. Bravo to you for being brave for trying it!