So I'm back. I'm just back from being given 10 days of paid vacation after working a little less than a month of my rigorous 12 hour work week. The U.S. does not quite have a good grasp on this fantastic method yet. It is more like we'll give you 260 days and apres a prize of 10 days is rewarded left to worry about what craziness one might fit in with the only time for oneself. Now that just isn't right.
My vacation started by my little sis Shaina tagging me in Paris and scurrying away to Ferrara, Italy to have me find her in return. My cousins (Susie & Schmitty) catch up with us there and then allied with me back to Paris. It was quite a whirlwind, but left me happier than ever after seeing English speaking family ….even if I did give up my bed for a yoga mat. The awesomeness of the past week is quite overwhelming, so I will separate them into a couple different posts. First, of course, in true Stein fashion:
Start: Ferrara Italy
1.Breakfast at the hotel is very telling of what Ferrara is like. They love you through their food. The spread at the “continental” breakfast included three types of cereal, three types of croissants, fruit, eggs, juices, breads, cured meats, cheeses, cafes, etc etc. Yes, this is breakfast, and yes it is never too early to eat cured meats apparently. Schmitty rejoiced while Susie and I rolled our eyes. We later made up for the lacking consumption of lunch meats by taking as many nutella packets as we manage without weighing us down too much while running from breakfast patrol.
Break for what fancy pants Shaina calls Drinking Chocolate. I had to remind her that we are American and we call this stuff hot chocolate pudding.
2.I don't understand how these Ferrarians make any money. Well, at least in the restaurant business. Not only do they pile on food and practically give it away, but this is THE common method of doing business. We're not just talking special occasions, and if we are, then everyday at 5 or 6 o'clock is Thanksgiving. Welcome to the “apertivo”. Early evening marks the time for folks congregate at their local cafes to have a cafe or a drink. And after ordering a drink, then they bring you free food. We are talking cheeses, breads, olives, pastas, sweets, chickpea baked deliciousness, and more. I don't get it. Its like they feed you because they don't want you to eat dinner and give them money. But then you do. And then you get dessert.
4. Gelato. Tourjours. Everyday. All the time. The owner greeted us with a painted on smiled so big and honest that you knew the gelato couldn't be anything less than fantastical. Each day this woman gets up and makes her gelato from scratch. By charging just under 2 Euro for quite a generous portion, and like all other peeps in the food business here, she makes little profit....I am sure of it. But, here, money seems to take a backseat and pleasing others is the primary aim. The loves what she does, and she does it well. We talk to her for some time on our last day, with people on one side who know no English and in return people who know zero Italian. But we smile, and it isn't faux, and we we try to understand each other through flailing our melty gelato-covered hands. We take off on our bike gang just happy that someone cares. Even if it is means wearing loose clothes for a day or two.
1. Meeting up with one of Schmitty's co-workers from back in the US of A and his friend, we were directed to Le Pain Quotidien for Brunch on Sunday. The place was extremely familiar, as they have a few scattered throughout NYC, and the rest of the world. Although I have never spend so much time in any restaurant back in New York. We enjoyed the company so much, I think we began to forget about the food but enjoy it at the same time, if that makes any sense. We discussed the many differences between Americans and the French, debunked a couple stereotypes and confirmed a few others while laughing and of course sometimes crying. From time to time just remember make looking forward to your food as much as your company and vice versa....and make it last as long as you can. For the French this is a social hour, a feeding hour; a time of luxury developed from something you need to do anyway. Only here do you pay twice as much for a cafe if you want to sit. Because you will sit for hours.
2. The French got me at their first croissant au buerre. The Italians got me at pumpkin ravioli with nutmeg. But no one does a home cooked vegetarian feast like the Codoni-Schmitt-Steins. On our first full day in Paris, I showed Susie and Schmitty the amazingness of the French outdoor market. The endless stands filled with fresh vegetables, chickens (de-clawed and de-feathered, unlike my frigo), wheels of cheese, whole fish, flowers....basically anything you might possibly need for one killer dinner party. The cousins were surprised to find how friendly the French were; everyone was patient and helpful....especially the lady who gave us ballin advice on a great brie. Of course there is always one in the bunch and this one was the damn ginger lady who basically told me to screw myself. Fine. Ill make some other ginger lady 50 cents richer. But that didn't stop our supreme glee from smelling and perusing the market while buying up all the veggies for the upcoming veg filled dinner we desperately need after way too many apertivos and gelatos. As a shout out to my Californian roots, we snatched brussel sprouts, pumpkins, spinach, carrots, and potatoes to make up our veggie meal. Brie de mieux, a baguette, and a bottle of wine later we were finished. We baked oatmeal raisin cookies and c'est la vie....we needed that one. My roommates laugh at my semi-vegetarian ways, but they secretly want in. I mean how can you find anything better than roasted root veg? God, I'm California. And I love it.
3. Their last night, we head out to a recommended restaurant by a local and my friend KK joins us as well. We found the place after searching for 30 minutes in the rain and jumping into a few puddles. The restaurateur took a liking to me over the phone when I incorrectly placed my reservation as StephaNIE and not aStEPHphanie. She is currently my favorite funny French person so far, calling Scmitty a baby when he couldn't finish his cheese and me bizzzare for trying a piece of fromage blanc avec mon chocolat gateau. She truly made the night even better if that was possible. She never gave us look to indicate that we were stupid, ignorant Americans, but rather joined in our our fun. We were happy to have another practically at the table. Schmitty sprang for the ultimate French meal complete with foie gras, steak tartar, and fromage. Everyone enjoyed our three hour meal, except maybe the other Parisians listening to our boisterous laughter and the sight of our sharing of foods. It was a blast, and not only did no one look at us strange for hanging out until almost midnuit, but we had trouble getting the check.
4. The Grand Finale: Singing and Dancing as we pop open Champagne at la Tour Eiffel on the hour. It began to sparkle and we enjoyed a beautiful night in Paris. Paris at night is so beautiful I even forget that its fucking cold. The cousins made the night even better hand selecting a bottle of “golden” champagne at the Paris' answer to Target. It was DELICIOUS. A few macarons later we commence singing and dancing like the boisterous Americans we are so proud to be.
Coming Soon: Dance/Music/Enteratinment......You don't want to miss this one folks.