Strung Out on Caffeine

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I got up this morning, had a quick breakfast, and headed out into the town. One thing I’ve quickly noticed about Turin is that it’s people love their chocolate and their coffee. They’re everywhere, and in fact you can (and should) get both together!

I can’t begin to tell you how many cups of espresso I had today. Right now I’m actually writing this strung out on espresso… At some point tonight I’m sure I’ll crash and it’ll be ugly. But for now I’m going with it.

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My first stop today was the Museum of Italian plunder, otherwise known as the Egyptian museum. I knew the British plundered, and the Germans plundered, and even we Americans have plundered, but I never thought of the Italians as plunderers. I’ve usually thought of them as the ones being plundered, although it seems to me now that it’s the Greeks who fill that role more often.

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Anyway, it really was an impressive museum. In my pictures you can see the book the dead (would love a Readers Digest condensed version), and lots of statuary and canopic jars. I didn’t take pictures of the mummies… something seemed wrong about that.

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After visiting with the Egyptians, I found my way to Porta Palazzo, which is a big open-air market. It’s basically divided into two parts, half of which is a big flea market. In the other, they sell fresh fruits and vegetables and a few other fresh foods. Among the latter, I would note the presence of live snails, although I didn’t buy them. I opted instead for loquats, which are tasty, yet hard to find at home.

By this time it was noon and I needed lunch. I haven’t found the guidebook to be especially helpful here, and decided to just go on my own. I looked at a lot of cafés but nothing really impressed me, and then as I was meandering down a side street, I found a little enoteca (Mille Vigne) that looked interesting. I went in and sat down and they offered me a choice among two primi and two secondi. And wine of course. One good sign was the absence of anything English here… It was all pure Italian, and very local, which is exactly what I wanted.

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Lunch began with a glass of white wine that I didn’t love. After a few sips the proprietor came over and said that he wasn’t happy with the wine and took my glass away and replaced it. I was impressed by that, because I hadn’t expressed any dissatisfaction at all and he really didn’t have to do that. Eventually they brought me tortellini with cream sauce and prosciutto. We then switched courses to eggplant Parmesan and a barbera d’asti. All of the food was fresh, bright, and tasty. The wines were outstanding, and I want more. Which means I’m going back tomorrow.

During the afternoon, I went to some stores and did some shopping, although I haven’t made any purchases yet. I mostly just plotted what I’m going to buy.

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Like many other places, there is a tall precarious tower in town, and as I have a predilection to climb hazardous structures when I travel, I of course went up. Unfortunately there was an elevator, and everything was very stable, so it was all rather disappointing as I prefer more dangerous scenarios (see prior post from Vienna). The best thing about the elevator was its glass construction, which reminded me of Willy Wonka. I want chocolate *sigh*

For dinner I tried to visit a restaurant recommended by the enoteca, but they had no seats. Fortunately the proprietor suggested an alternate venue, Quanto Basta. I can’t say enough good words about this restaurant. The service was outstanding, the proprietor was friendly (and patient) and the food was delicious.

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Bread and grissini. The Sicilians said Sicily has the best bread, and so far I can’t disagree. The bread there is rich, flavorful, covered with sesame seeds, and has a depth of flavor that I haven’t found elsewhere. The grissini here are very light, fresh, and just fantastic. Not the stale rods of desiccated bread I have previously experienced.

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Amuse bouche: roast cippoline onion, split and filled with sausage. Outstanding.

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Antipasti: fried potato croquettes with veal sausage and a sauce of capers. The potatoes and sausage were equally light and balanced. This was the best course of the evening, which isn’t to detract from anything else. It was just frankly spectacular.

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Lasagna of asparagus. This wasn’t a lasagna in the typical sense, rather it was two layers of pasta stuffed with large chunks of asparagus and cheese. The effect was somewhat akin to a giant raviolo, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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The secondo was grilled veal steak with pears cooked in wine. The sauce was delicious, the meat was tender. I think I should cook more fruit and meat together, because it they go so well when they are right, and tonight they were.

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I wrapped up with a moscato and a zabaglione cream served with caramelized sugar. Divine.

And an espresso.

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