Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Turin Walking Tour

After lunch we had some time to kill before our time slot to see the Holy Shroud.  We decided to walk around and enjoy the beautiful spring day.

We started out at the very center, the Piazza Castello, with its elegant and grand palazzi buildings. 

On one side is Palazzo Madama, which also houses the Museo Civica d'Arte Antica.  So if this is the Piazza Castello, then where is the castle you say?

We walked around the Palazzo Madama and saw the castle facade.  It's actually connected to the Palazzo Madama.  I'm not sure how that came about but it is rather interesting.   

We walked along Via Po towards the Po River.  Via Po is one of the most beautiful streets in the ciy, flanked with beautiful baroque style palazzis, and connected with portico walkways.

We made a left turn off of Via Po and to find the Mole Antonelliana, an impressive landmark building that towers over the city of Turin.  It was originally built as a Jewish synagogue when construction started in 1863.  It now houses the National Museum of Cinema and is said to be the tallest museum in the world.  On a side note, Stef says 'mole' means 'big thing'.  Oh.

We came across this interesting looking artwork while wandering around.

Finally we arrived at the huge PiazzaVittorio Veneto, just next to the river.  Across the River Po, we could see the Chiesa della Gran Madre di Dio, which resembles the Pantheon in Rome.

On our way back to Piazza Castello on the other side of Via Po, we spotted another beautiful church that we had missed before while passing on the walkway underneath.

We took a peek inside.  It was beautiful for just another 'normal' church.

We stumbled into not one but two galleria style buildings.  They reminded me of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milano with the glass dome arcade that lets in lots of light.

I imagine there must be many more gallerias in this city.  These were just the ones we found by accident.

And that was our walk around Turin on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.  So far, we had really enjoyed the culinary and the architecture side of the city.  Next up, the Holy Shroud of Turin.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ristorante Tre Galline, Turino

The first thing Stefano did after we decided to visit Turino was to find a good place for lunch.  Can you see our what our priorities are?

He called up his friend who is a bank director in Turino to ask for recommendations.  We wanted a good Piemontese meal and he pointed us to Tre Galline. 

We parked in one of the many underground city garages near the Castello and arrived after a 10 minute walk.

We were seated and after studying and ordering from the menu, I looked around the traditionally styled dining room.  The tables were almost full and most were locals.  Always a good sign.  The table nearby had ordered the antipasti misti, and here they roll out a cart with a selection of cured meats and slice it by hand for you on the spot.

For the appetizer, Stefano had the fonduta con cardo or cardi in fontina cheese.  The cardo is a vegetable that translates to 'thistle' in English, but that doesn't sound right, does it?  Anyway, it's a fibrous vegetable that looks similar to celery.  We had seen it before in the supermarket but never knew how to cook it.  It tasted ok, but I don't think I'd put it on my list of favorite vegetables.

Next he had a filleto di maialino con carciofi e castelmagno or piglet fillet with artichoke and local castelmagno cheese sauce.  The meat wasn't the most tender but the overall dish was very tasty.

As for me, I had spied the piatto del giorno or plate of the day on the menu.  It is quite common at the cafeteria type restaurants for workday lunches, but we've never seen offered at restaurants like this.  And surprisingly it is offered also at lunch on Saturday. 

I picked it knowing it would be the perfect portion size for me, and it turned out to be excellent.  The tagliatelle con sugo di cortile or 'backyard' sauce, which is actually meat with bits of liver.  I used to hate it when mum forced us kids to eat liver as kids, but this wasn't the same thing.  It was really good.  And then there was the anatra in acceto balsamico or duck cooked in balsamic vinegar.  That was really delicious and went well with the roasted potatoes.  The portion was huge too and I was throughly satisfied.

We decided to skip dessert but along with our coffees came a chocolate treat and candied orange peel.  I just love when they serve coffee with a little something sweet.

Overall, we enjoyed our experience here.  My piatto del giorno was only 10 euro, and cost a third of Stefano's two dishes - great value for money.  We also shared a half bottle of Barbera wine that was really good. 

This restaurant has been around for a long time and it's a good place to go if you want to sample the traditional Piemontese cuisine of Turin.

Ristorante Tre Galline
Via Belleza, 37
10122 Torino
Tel: 011 436 6553
Closed for lunch on Sundays/Mondays

Friday, April 23, 2010

Eataly in Turin

A couple weekends ago, we decided to make a day trip to Turino, just a 1.5 hour drive from Milan.  I had never been plus I had gotten us tickets to view the mysterious Shroud of Turin.  That deserves a post on its own.  We decided to make a day of it and started early.  Well, early for us on a Saturday anyway.

Our first stop, Eataly, a clever play on the words eat and italy, is a marketplace featuring local artisanal food and wine products from all over Italy.  Something food related?  We definitely wanted to check it out.  It took us a while to get through the city to arrive in an area called Lingotto.  When we walked in our mouths just fell open. 

There were rows and rows of pasta, rice, flour, oils, jars of every variation of tomato sauce you can imagine, and colorful displays of fruits and vegetables.  There was an in-house bakery churning out delicious smelling fresh bread.  The pastry counter had a beautiful selection of cakes and desserts.  The cheese selection was huge, there was a big case just for local cheese from Piemonte.  The selection of meat and fish was just as impressive.

And tucked in between the aisles and food counters, were small restaurants specializing in pasta, meat, vegetables, fish, etc. I glanced at the menus and the prices were reasonable.  You could make a little food tour going from station to station.  It was still early for lunch when we were there but I've heard it gets crowded with locals and tourists alike at lunch and dinner.

Downstairs, we found some climate-controlled cellars showing how cheese and cured meats are traditionally stored.  The smell in the Parmesan Reggiano room was delicious.

In the wine section, in addition to the huge selection of wines, you can also purchase wine by the 2 litre bottles straight from the barrel.

And if you're a lover of beer, you have this whole wall of different beers to choose from.

And of course, a place to sit and have a meal paired with beer.  There's also a similar restaurant in the wine section.

We grabbed a basket and picked up some food stuff that didn't need refrigeration since we had a whole day ahead of us.  We also had fun picking out some items to make up a gourmet food basket for a friend's birthday gift.  My stomach was growling but unfortunately we couldn't stop to eat.  We had reservations for lunch at another place. 

But we will for sure be back with more time for the whole experience.  We had discovered a culinary food lovers dream.  If you're in the area or passing by, it is worth a stop.  It is the only place we've seen in Italy where you can find such a variety of gourmet food products, and they are surprisingly reasonably priced.  They also hold special dinners, cooking lessons and tasting events.  

Via Nizza, 230 / 14
Turin Lingotto

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Malaysians in Italy - Lunch in Milan

When you're far from home, no matter how much fun you're having, sometimes you just can't help but feel a little homesick.   And that's what drove me one day last year to google 'Malaysians in Italy', thinking surely there must be others in my shoes.  My Google search didn't turn up anything, but a search on Facebook did.

I first met the Milan members of the group at an aperitivo late last summer.  Since then, we've gotten together a couple times.  It's such an interesting diverse group.  We have among us students, housewives, people working in the fashion industry, travel industry, people from the consulate and government agencies, even a model!

There was a lunch gathering on Easter weekend a couple weeks ago.  The setting was Mei Lin Restaurant right in downtown Milan just a few minutes walk from Castello Sforzesco.  It is mostly a Chinese restaurant however the owner Mr Lau is Malaysian and so some Malayian dishes offered.  I spied on the regular menu on the window dishes like roti canai and mee goreng.

Our group that day however had a special buffet menu prepared for us and it was quite the spread.  Most were executed pretty well, considering.  Well, some of my favorites are missing but beggars can't be choosers here.

- Curry Puff
- Poh Piah or Tipo Involtini Primavera
- Cucur Udang or Frittelle di Gamberi
- Baked Chicken Wings or Ali di Pollo al forno
- Asam Fish or Pesche al tamarindo
- Cereal Prawns or Gamberi impannata di cereali
- Cantonese Fried Rice or Riso alla cantonese
- Fried Mee Hun or Spaghetti di Riso
- Vegetable Curry or Verdure al curry

We spent a couple hours meeting old and new friends.  It's always interesting to find out what brings people here.  We met a E who has been in Milan for 27 years, N who's Australian but is moving to Milan from KL with his Malaysian wife and kids, and several others who came from as far as Genova.  There aren't that many Malaysians in this country so this was a wonderful opportunity to meet each other. 

Thanks to Linda for organizing this.  Until the next time!

Mei Lin Restaurant
Via San Giovanni Sul Muro, 13

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Where to Eat Good Steak in Milan

Specifically, the fiorentina or the Florentine-style steak. 

This restaurant grills up some of the best fiorentina steaks we've tasted and lucky for us, it is right in our own backyard in Milan.  Incredibly, we found the steak here better than a fiorentina we once had in a well-known restaurant in the heart of Tuscany (maybe we were there on a bad day, who knows).

This was my second visit and my friend P from California was in town.  I had boasted about the steak in Italy, how it tasted like real beef, and he wanted to taste it for himself.  I had no objections at all.  It was a great reason to revisit this spot.  We started out with two appetizers for sharing.  A plate of carciofi or artichokes and puntarelle or chicory.  The carciofi were sliced thinly and served with parmagiano reggiano shavings.  The puntarelle salad were also thinly sliced and tossed in olive oil.  Both were simple but good.  We cleaned the plates accompanied with their house-made foccacia.

We were sipping a fantastic red wine, a Voerzio Barbera, from the region of Piemonte.  It was a perfect match for the steak that was to come.  We ordered the fiorentina for two, and tagliata, which from the Italian word tagliare, literally means 'carved' or 'cut.' The meat is cut into thin slices, and drizzled with olive oil.

The fiorentina definitely lived up to its hype.  It was perfectly grilled, very flavorful, juicy and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Our friend declared it 'the best steak he's ever had'.  It was exactly how I remembered it.  I like how that although it looks very rare and red, there's hardly any blood drippings when you cut into it. 


The rest of the world calls the fiorentina T-bone or porterhouse, and that has always been one of my favorite cuts back in the States.  But here the difference is really in the flavor and texture.  It must be the Italian grass and sunshine.

We also had a couple sides to go with the meat.  A big bowl of house-made potato chips, cannelli beans, and a plate of grilled vegetables.

 We were all smiles after the meal.  The food and the company was truly enjoyable.

And amazingly, the price is affordable too.  Our meal, with two shared appetizers, three side dishes and three steak orders, a nice bottle of wine, without dessert, came out to be about 35 euro each.  An excellent value for money in this town.

La Bistecca
Via Aureolo Filippo Paracelso, 5
20129 Milano (MI)
Tel: 0220240347

Friday, April 9, 2010

Where to Eat the Best Pizzocheri in Valtellina

Or at least one of the best. 

Having family and friends in Valtellina, along with the many weekends we spend here, alot of pizzoccheri gets eaten.  I've written before about pizzoccheri, the national buckwheat, potato and cabbage pasta dish of Valtellina, here.   Not surprising is the fact that the best pizzoccheri is found at home cooked by mum.  That's where the real butter and bitto cheese is used, and in high quantities.

When you can't get the homemade stuff, then the restaurant version will have to do.  But not all restaurant version pizzoccheri are made equal.  Some are definitely better than others.  When we have friends in town and want to take them to sample pizzoccheri, we take them to Ai Tigli, in Teglio, the birthplace of pizzoccheri, not far from Sondrio.

And that's exactly where we ended up taking our friends from Milan, after they spent the night in the mountains.  Well, the initial plan was to hike up the snowy trail to a Rifugio Palu and have lunch there, but it the day was just too cold.  So the alternative?  Go eat some more! 

We started out with their affetati misti, which featured lardo that was totally melt-in-your-mouth.  Why does fatty stuff always taste so good?

Then we had the other local specialty called sciatt.  I also described them here and they are basically pieces of the local Casera cheese, coated in a buckwheat flour batter and deep-fried.  They do it well here.  Um... how to describe good sciatt?  It's good when it's 'light' and not greasy even if deep-fried, with a slightly crispy outer layer and soft gooey inside?  Well, I think you just have to eat them a couple times to know.

And then the pièce de résistance, pizzoccheri.  The strands of buckwheat pasta deliciously coated with melted cheese and soft chunks of potatoes and cabbage.  Yes, I've learnt to appreciate this rich dish.  (On a side note, when my dad visited, he actually finished a whole plate of this and loved it.  Totally unexpected considering how different this is from the Asian palate.)

Some others also ordered the polenta with meat, another typical dish of Northern Italy.  It was good too.  We had the Le Tense Sassella wine that is made from grapes grown on the slopes just across the valley from Stefano's home.  A very good yet affordable wine.

 Everyone was satisfied with their meal and vowed to come back.

Ristorante Ai Tigli 
Via Besta, 13 23036 Teglio (SO)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Full Moon at Tana Del Grillo

Spring has definitely arrived, warm sun and flower-filled meadows and all, so let's make this the last snow-themed post of the season.  This actually happened back in January but I never got a chance to blog about it.  Just like in the winter of the previous year, our friends in Valtellina organized a dinner at Tana del Grillo, a mountain lodge in Valmalenco that specializes in wild meat.  They also make sure it falls on a weekend where there is a full moon so we can also enjoy the winter wonderland effect created by the brilliant full moon reflecting off the snow.  And because the lodge is set pretty high up in the mountains, it cannot be reached by car, but on foot or with a snowmobile or snowcat ride provided by the lodge. 

This year we invited also some of our friends from Milan to join us for the unique experience.  We decided to to drive up in the late afternoon so we could have a nice walk to the restaurant.  We figured it would be nice to get some fresh air and exercise while enjoying the scenery before the big dinner.

It was cold, as cold as it looks in the pictures, maybe even more!  We wrapped ourselves warmly and set out for the 6 km or 3.7 mile walk.

Some of us had backpacks.  The restaurant also offers affordable rooms for lodging and our friends from Milan were going to stay overnight that night to complete the winter wonderland experience. 

It was a nice walk although at one point the wind was really frosty.  My face was frozen and I wondered at that point why we opted to walk rather than take the snowmobile ride.  But it was worth it.  I knew what was in store for us at dinner (mountain food isn't exactly low calorie cuisine) and the walk definitely helped build up an appetite and assuage some of the guilt.

Plus there were some snowballs thrown and silly pictures to be taken. 

When we arrived, we had some time to kill while waiting for the rest of our party to arrive so we hung out in a sitting room upstairs and had some drinks.  We ended up being a group of twenty.  A hungry group of twenty.

First came a selection of appetizers.  I was too busy eating and failed to take pictures of everything.  This is the cotechino con vellutata di porri or cotechino in a leek cream sauce.  Cotechino is a fresh sausage made of pork with lots of pork fat.  Not exactly light, but very good with the leek sauce.   We also had vitello tonnato or veal in a tuna and caper sauce (sounds strange but it's good and you can't really taste the tuna), pate di lepre or wild rabbit pate, and affetati misti or mixed cold cuts of prociutto, salami and the like.  Let me say that it was all good and we were almost full at that point.

I don't have any pictures of the first dishes but everyone in our group pretty much ordered one of the following:  
 - ravioli di capriolo or ravioli with roe deer filling
- tagliatelle con ragu di cervo or tagliatelle with venison sauce
- pizzoccheri, the typical Valtelinese pasta dish
- risotto con la pernice rossa or risotto with red partridge

And because we were a large group, in addition to our own individual servings, they also offered us tastings of all the other dishes so we could taste the other ones as well.  Even the 'tastings' were generous, and it felt like we had eaten four first dishes!

And then it was time for the second dish.  I ordered the sella di capriolo or roe deer (not sure the technical term of the deer's back).  I'd had it before and it was as perfectly tender as I remembered.  Some others ordered the bistecca di cervo or steak of deer.  Ok, I can't even begin to explain the difference between capriolo and cervo; the dictionary is not very descriptive.  Does anyone know?

Lastly, dessert... I had a molten chocolate cake that was great.  I was really stuffed by then.  I don't remember what everyone else had.  Finally coffee and a selection of grappa and digestif liquors including the local Braulio.

We ended the night with a snowcat ride back to our car.  Our friends who stayed for the night took a short walk near the lodge, illuminated only by the moonlight.  The next morning after breakfast, they got to ride out on a snowmobile.  It was a fun mountain experience in the snow.

Tano del Grillo
Pian del Lupo
23023 Chiesa in Valmalenco (SO)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Company 10 Year Anniversary Dinner

A couple weeks ago our Milan office reached its 10 year anniversary.  To celebrate, our CEO visited and hosted an employee dinner at Bar Peck, a restaurant in downtown Milan.  I must admit, there was some grumbling because of the inconvenient location (far from the office, no parking) and it being a week night.  But despite that, most everyone made it to the restaurant at the appointed hour and in true Italian fashion, we were all smartly dressed.  Suits and ties are definitely not the normal office attire for us engineers.

Unfortunately, our CEO's flight was delayed an hour so we passed the time mingling and eating way too many appetizers.  There were all kinds of delicious finger food, cheese, breadsticks, meat balls... and the waiters were way too generous with the flow of prosecco sparkling wine.  It was hard to resist the appetizers, as much as I wanted to save room for dinner.  And my friend T ended up having 6-7 glasses of wine before dinner even started.

Finally our guest of honor arrived and we all proceeded to sit down for dinner.  We had special menus for the event and the dishes were translated in English.  Notice the wines served on the left. 

For the sit-down appetizer, a primosale fresh cheese wrapped with grilled zucchini and bell peppers, with artichoke chips on the side.  I liked the vegetables and the chips.  The cheese was to me rather bland tasting.

The first dish was a risotto with zuchinni flowers and parmesan cheese crisp.  It was good, and this is coming from someone who doesn't love eating rice in general.

For the second dish, we were served veal wrapped with speck, a ham from the Tyrol region of Italy near Austria.  It looked fancy, but I found the meat a tad salty.  This was served with a really good red wine - a Morellino di Scansano.  It was the first time I had it and although I'm no wine expert, I can definitely recognize a good wine.  It's too bad I'm such a light drinker!

The dessert creation was delicious.  The presentation was lovely and I really enjoyed it, even though I was bursting at the seams at that moment.  This was served with a dessert wine and followed with a selection of digestive liquors.

It turned out to be a very fun night out with our colleagues.  This was a rare social event where none of the other halves were present.  I think that along with the free-flowing alcohol all night helped everyone let loose a little.  Can you tell which pictures were from the end of the night? 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Buona Pasqua

It's been a while since I last posted.  What's been going on?  Let's see, work has been consuming most of my time and energy during the work week.  And it won't be letting up for months to come. 

Then I decided enough procrastinating and enrolled myself to the local driving school.  I just have to accept that neither my American nor my Malaysian driver licenses can be converted, and bite the bullet and go through the process to get an Italian license.  So it's twice a week when I attend classes in the evening, and then there's the studying I need to do on my own on the weekends and evenings.  I also have to practice driving stick shift again.  I was 17 the last time I drove with manual gears... ugh!  The most difficult part about the theoretical test is the language.  I struggle during class trying to follow the instructor.  Which means I really need to study on my own in order to stay afloat.  And that's a struggle too.  My dictionary is my new best friend.  If only it can take the test for me!

Well, I'm glad it's the weekend.  And not any weekend.  It's Easter weekend!  There's Easter Sunday followed by Pasquetta of 'little Easter' the day after.  It's a holiday so I won't have to go to work, and although the weather forecast is predicting wet and dreary for Easter Sunday, the sun should be out for Monday.  We don't have any big plans.  Tomorrow we're having lunch in downtown Milan with the Malaysian group.  I'm looking forward to meeting new friends and catching up with old ones.  My expectations for the food are not too high (it's supposed to be Malaysian food) which means I just might be pleasantly surprised.  And for the rest of the weekend we will be with S' family in Valtellina.  We just might get one last ski run in.

Hope you have a wonderful Easter holiday filled with lots of chocolate eggs and bunnies!  Buona Pasqua a tutti!

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