Then: At 5:30 a.m. on a Tuesday, I was rattled from my sleep with an idea. The sit-up-straight-out-of-bed kind of idea. Instead of setting up shop at one French cooking school, what if I hopped around the European continent and sampled from a variety of courses in different cities and countries? That's how Culinary Hopscotch was born. Follow me on an epicurean tour of cooking schools in countries around Europe and beyond. I'll be traveling and cooking for about three months, so if you're curious about where I'm headed, just ask. Otherwise, I'll be updating my whereabouts in the Twitter section on the right. The culinary crusade starts on January 29, 2010, and I'll be doing it all in a carry-on.

Now: We live in Portland, a culinary capital in its own right. I man the stove chez nous and plan our meals weekly on a colorful pad from Anthropologie. Things have changed a bit from the old school days of Culinary Hopscotch, but it makes sense (to me) to keep it alive. Look for posts on restaurants we visit, culinary happenings in the news, what's on the menu in our kitchen, and more!

Been There, Cooked That

Friday, February 26, 2010

Basta Pasta!

Sorry for the blog delay. This past week provided for a minor commercial break between classes, but have no fear...the upcoming week will be brimming with bloggable material. 

Today, I made pasta in Bologna. From scratch. With just 00 flour and eggs, a wooden board, a matterello, and my own (wo)man power. And I am exhausted. I don't think I'll ever look at homemade pasta in the same way again. Something that is seemingly so easy, and rightfully so based on the two ingredients, is truly an art form when you get down to rolling it out.

It’s not that making fresh pasta is terribly difficult; it just takes skill and patience. There are a series of movements you go through when rolling out your pasta dough, and at one point, I was getting particularly frustrated when I couldn’t achieve the right rolling rhythm. Uncle Alessandro thought it was hilarious though, and despite wanting to club myself with the matterello on a few occasions, he stood there patiently until I got the technique right and was able to roll out my perfectly aerated dough into a sheet so thin you could see Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca through it.

Up until today, pasta came from boxes, and was drier than the Gobi Desert, and Parmesan cheese generally showed up in a money-colored canister, and ironically, tasted like a crisp George Washington. That is all about to change. I know how to do it now, so going forward, I will make an effort to crown the table with freshly made shapes of dried dough when the menu calls for Italian. Why? Because I'm that cool.

The difference in taste between a dry, store-bought pasta and what we made today was incredibly obvious. Incidentally, slaving away over a wooden board, and covering my dark blue jeans in flour, didn't seem so torturous as I lifted each bite of fluffy tortelloni with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano, tortellini soup, and pappardelle Bolognese to my mouth.

After this carb-o-verload, I marched myself straight to the city center through all of the beautiful arcade-lined streets. I needed the walk. Then, I located an inconspicuous food market where I photographed some gorgeous produce, and then I plunked myself down at a café for a well-deserved glass of wine and the chance to read up on beautiful Bologna. Only my gastronomic adventure wouldn't end with pasta today...

My amazing hosts, Matteo & Julie, took me out for Mexican food tonight. Yes, you heard me correctly. I almost collapsed with excitement when I saw the words "taco" and "nachos" on a menu, and my exuberance probably was a little bit exaggerated. But as I learned today in my pasta making course, it's the piccolissimo things in life. Like how two basic ingredients that you always have on-hand in your kitchen can create a golden feast for the eyes and mouth.

La Vecchia Scuola Bolognese

Next Stop: Venice

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