I arrived to Milan speedily by fast train which was very comfortable. The weather was still rainy outside but it was beautiful to see all the vineyards and small houses along the way. I also napped so i did miss some of it. After arriving, I made my way to the hostel, trekking 10 minutes in the rain only to find out I could have taken the tram almost directly to the door... first thoughts of Milan, it reminded me of Portland. The hostel was comfortable and they allowed my to check in early, only to find out that I was the top bunk of a triple.... oh well I thought. Starving, I decided to scour the nearby neighborhood for food, only to realize I hadn’t eaten all day and it was 5pm. So gelato it was! Chocolate and hazelnut, it was a delish treat to keep me from murdring anyone. At the hostel, I ordered a pizza and grabbed some wine. There were many young adults, students, and some random travelers as well. Most were under the age of 25, which made me realize how old I actually am. No longer am I the one front and center during the hostel party games, but would rather drink wine and talk. Oi vey. I met a bartender named Sean who was from the UK who was also older, some girls on holiday from their university in Hungary, a teacher from the UK, and some others. We ended up drinking a bit too much, and going to bed early... 2am Italian time is early. Somehow I made it up to my top bunk, excited for the next day when Jess arrived.
Who’s Jess you may ask? Well, she and I were roommates in Portland for the last two years. A Scorpio and a badass, she is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese and knows Arabic. She has lived in South America and in Egypt. She loves food more than most of my restaurant colleagues and she is one of my very best friends. Now, some of you are probably asking, “why the hell would you travel 3 months with someone who you just lived with for 2 years and who is your best friend? Aren’t you afraid you’ll get mad or hate each other or spend too much time together?” And if you’re not thinking that then you are crazy as these were some of the first questions we asked ourselves. The main reason why we decided to do it: why the fuxk not? We both love to travel, and with her back injury from years past, trying to stay comfortable for a long time made it hard for her to do it. So when she got off her meds and found new techniques to help with the pain she told me she was going to travel. I said “Cool, where are we going?”
Sean and I decided to walk around Milan in the morning while I waited for Jess. He’s very nice, but also enjoys chicken tender and fries, plain pizza, and a cold lager. So our food preferences are definitely not the same. We saw the Duomo, the large church in the center of town; a beautiful and intricate marble structure. Kristin had asked me to take pictures of the Milano Starbucks Roastery (she works at the Seattle one.) Sean thought it was a chicken roastery, and I started laughing as he had found the large coffee shop. We also just walked around and got sort of lost, only to find a park with a castle in the middle. That’s when I got the text that Jess was close, so we made our way to the train station. After getting slightly confused as to where she was, Jess and I were fully reunited.
The Duomo in Milano
Customized Vespa for Starbucks Roastery
The castle in the parkCool street artReflecting pool at the castleAncient runes throughout the city
The three of us headed back to the hostel, Jess and I decided to relax and have some wine, figure out some of our plans, while Sean went for a rest. I had done some extensive research on places to see, eat, and do, especially as it was Jess’ birthday the day before. We decided to go to dinner at a homestyle trattoria, a restaurant that is cheaper than bistros, but also with a small menu. And it was delicious. Homemade pasta, peppers stuffed with tuna, local red wine. We were in our element. The pasta has anchovies and olives: salty, savory and wonderful. The “not risotto” pasta cut up into small pieces, had tomatoes and shrimp, reminding us both of paella. Both were great, but we kept wanting more of the anchovy one. Our final dish was a guinea hen leg stuffed with spinach and cheese and wrapped with prosciutto and a side of potatoes. We were stuffed so we took the guinea hen and ourselves back to the hostel.
The next day was raining, again. I thought it would be interesting to see the science museum, where some of da Vinci’s projects were located. When we arrived, they told us that the section was closed. Disappointed, we decided to go anyways as it was still obnoxiously raining. We enjoyed some parts more than others, including a display on how to make Parmesan cheese. They had a large copper bowl (like two people could fit in it) and a mirror on top, reflecting the video of how the cheese was made. We were entranced and almost started watching it a second time. We then continued through, learning about airwaves, telephones, steel working, and then we hit the climate rooms, which were culturally terrifying to think about, but also showed beautiful artworks of the land.
Afterwards, feeling starved (again, common theme) we went to find some pasta, only to find the shop didn’t sell any to eat there. So we found place for aperitifs and got over charged for two glasses of Prosecco and snacks (20€ may not sound like a lot, but you can get bottles in nice restaurants for less than that). After all of this, and just enough food in our bellies, we decided to make our own pasta, with prosciutto, asparagus, capers, and Parmesan cheese. We found some fresh noodles at the store and brought it all back to the hostel.
Now, having worked in restaurants for almost half my life, being a sommelier, and just loving food in general, I know flavors. But Jess knows flavors. She is also a very good cook as well, so she whipped up this concoctions, me acting as prep cook, chopping to order. One her problems with cooking is portion sizes, and how much is needed for two vs eight. Including the leftover guinea hen, we had enough food to feed a small army. Which was nice as we had the leftovers for lunch the next day.
Thinking of something to do besides staying in, we decided to check out a wine bar called Champagne Socialist. Now, I was not familiar with this term, but it stems from the UK, and via Wikipedia “the phrase is used to describe self-identified socialists, whose luxurious upper middle-class or "preppy" lifestyles contradict their political convictions; this is typified by their supposed consumption of the drink champagne.”
So obviously if Wikipedia says it, it’s true. But with a slogan of “drink today, revolution tomorrow,” it seemed like my kind of place, so we wandered our way up to its location... FINDING IT COMPLETELY PACKED AT 8:30. We were pissed. And thirsty. We grabbed a table, only to realize that we probably weren’t going to be waited on. But the selections? The bottles on the wall? The fact they only had one American producer and they’re from VT!? (La garagista winery form Bethel, VT). We had to stay. So we stuck it out and it was worth it. Even with the crazy daschund, barking and it echoing throughout the 30 person bar. Starting with glasses to see if we wanted to stay, a bottle of wine caught our eyes on the wall. Cheap and an orange style (skin contact white wine) we were trying to find out how to get it, when Jess decided to grab the bottle and just ask. There was a wine tasting going on, the it was hard to get to the bar to even ask, coworkers flowing from behind the bar and in front, it was hard to tell who worked there. But the server came back with the bottle chilled and asked “do you know about this wine?” We responded with, “No, it just looked good.” He gave a chuckle and opened it for us. We started chatting about how we found the place, how busy it was and how we work in the industry as well.
Anyways. The wine was amazing and I thiiinnnkkk we got another bottle. Bubbles? Pet Nat? Confirmed. Pet Nat. Petilliant natural. We ended up closing the place down with a friend or coworker helping them close from the chaos of the night had occurred.
Wine by the glass list.
Needless to say we slept well that night. But we also had to wake up early to see if we could get into the Fernet Branca distillery.
If you are reading this and thinking “wow these girls drink a lot, that isn’t too healthy,” well we do. It’s part of our jobs to know wines and pairings, but it’s also something we enjoy. We’re not guzzling down bottles of cheap tequila at 8am, we’re enjoying and talking about wine. Half of this trip was based around food and drinks, which Michelin restaurants can we hit up, what natural wine bars or restaurants have selections we know nothing about, and what can we learn that will influence what we do next in our food industry careers. I am a food industry professional, this is what I do.
We woke up early, with one of the 15 roommates at our hostel seeming to be moaning; us trying not to laugh we got ready and headed out. Now, many places and visits in Italy require a reservation to visit. Why is this needed? We don’t know, but we didn’t have one se we thought we’d try our luck just going in. It didn’t work. They guy at the front essentially scolded us in Italian saying we needed reservations and we can’t even be there. 🙄Having drank enough of it in my life, it was probably for the best. It wasn’t until we were outside that I realized I should have asked the Fernet representative in Portland to help us out with the reservation. Oh well, some things weren’t meant to be. So we walked back to town, visiting a luxurious cemetery where there were very intricate gravestones and mausoleums. All we could talk about was how if there was a zombie apocalypse we’d be fine there as everything was so heavy on top that they wouldn’t be able to get out. Hahaha. We also saw a black cat guarding everyone as well.
We still had time to kill before our 1pm lunch reservation, so we did what any smart tourist knows to do, walk around and get “lost.” Now we both have Italian phone plans, so we have google maps meaning we never got too lost, but it was fun walking around, checking out buildings and etc.
Fountain with Hippo bust outside of the aquarium
For lunch, I made reservations at a Michelin awarded restaurant called 28posti meaning 28 seats. The restaurant in simple, but stylistic. The space was constructed by inmates from a local jail, a project to help them gain skills for after. They also work with different non profits, posting the photos around the building. The chef, Marco Ambrosino has worked for NOMA in Copenhagen and the ethical thought process behind the food shows. Between the creativity and plating, the tastes and the wine pairings, it was a phenomal meal. But who truly struck out beyond the crowd was the sommelier, Alexia Poletti. 1. Finding a woman sommelier is like finding a woman mechanic, hard to do but they’re around and they usually kick ass at their job. 2. She as younger, mid 30’s for what a standard of young is in this career path. 3. She nailed every pairing and was the nicest human being. Not only did the wines match perfectly, but after Jess told her that we both worked in food and I was also a Somm, she brought out some other fun wines for us to try.
Starters: anchovy macaroons with green sauce on an actual rock. (Don't eat the rock)
Raw tuna in endive cups
Proscecco to drink
Ferment vegetable salad with basil oil and dill
Spaghetti with fermented miso (those guys did the tasting the night before at the bar we were at!)
Lamb1 pâté style
Lamb meatballs on the bone
Desserts: compressed melon, white chcolate and rosemary
The bonus wines. Anforgettable amphora wine
Another fun dessert wine
I regret to inform you that my posts will all be far behind. Every time we have been taking trains or public transport, the last thing I want to do is type out 2000 characters on my phone. But I am trying. Milan was hard as we did a lot in a short period of time. The ending of which was that we got onto a train to Parma, capital of gastronomy in Italy and where some of the best damn ham and cheese are from. And som of the best people. Ciao! Joya