[The above image explains what happened to my photos from September 15th, meaning that this entry will be very light on photos. No food, for instance; just some photos that I took on other days or stole from friends' flickr accounts. As this entry carries little in the ways of visual enticement, I wouldn't blame you if you stopped reading right now. Or perhaps right now. But this is a full entry, so I hope you keep reading.]
As I turned left after stepping out of the train, 75% of my field of vision was taken up by a huge Coke Zero banner looming overhead on the distant wall that designated the end of the platforms and the start of the ticketing & waiting area.
Welcome to Milan. We have Coke Zero. You must buy it.
As we neared the end of the platform I recognized a familiar, smiling, bespectacled face. It was Sara (previously seen in Paris), who had come to rescue Morten, Kåre, Diana and me from the Coke Zero overlords by welcoming us into her cozy and colorful apartment for the next two nights. It was very generous of her to give up her living room to the four of us, three of which were strangers and—for all she knew—could've been vagrants that I picked off the street. But the chances of me finding two Norwegians and an Asian American on the streets of Italy would've been pretty low. And I think Sara trusted me, even if her mother was afraid that we were crazy and would pillage her apartment.
- Patrice and Sara, taken by Diana
After introducing us to the man of the house—her wine-loving husband Patrice—and the feline of the house—the shy and rotund Grimalkin (who made his grand entrance by doing a frighteningly good impression of a rock lying underneath Sara's bedsheets)—we all sat down at the dining table for feeding time, also known as "lunch." Sara laid out a spread of simple and delicious foodstuffs—burrata, thin slices of grilled pepper and eggplant, speck, cantaloupe, green salad, and fresh sliced bread. The burrata is what I remember the most—puncturing the thin skin of the mozzarella pouch, giving way to an oozing pool of sweet mozzarella-flavored cream. Dear, god, it was beautiful. It's like cheese with a hidden surprise. Of goo!
- Photo taken by Diana
The six humans left Grimalkin alone to explore central Milan. We started at the Duomo, a very large and eerily spiky cathedral that would've been more beautiful if not for the huge-ass banner stuck to the bottom portion of its front face. Then again, even without the banner we would've been too distracted by the hoards of people milling around us and the noise spurting forth from the colossal stage set up diagonally from the Duomo for MTV Italy's 10th anniversary concert. After spending some time staring at the stage from the way, way back where one could never see the actual humans who were performing, we moved on to...anywhere else.
First stop was Pasticceria Siciliana whose windows were full of molded marzipan in shapes that straddled both ends of the weirdness spectrum. You could get a lump of sweetened almond paste in the form of an apple (not weird). Or a slab of meat (kind of weird). Or a bunny (not too weird). Or a Pikachu (wtf?). We ignored the multi-colored marzipan sculptures and went for the freshly filled cannolis (I know cannoli is the plural form; pardon my anglicization) dipped in crushed pistachio. I was never into cannolis before then, but that cannoli was easily the best one I had ever eaten. My dream cannoli would have a sweeter shell (oh, you know me, diabetic-in-training), but aside from sweetness I liked everything about Pasticceria Siciliana's light and super crisp deep-fried shell, although its awesomeness only shone through when coupled with the perfectly sweetened creamy and smooth filling (made of ricotta cheese, maybe).
Sara directed us to Peck, like an Italian version of Fauchon complete with an impressive underground lair of wine (so many magnums, they could crush humans), exorbitant prices on just about everything (here's your opportunity to pay a buttload for steamed vegetables), and Pierre Herme-style pastries (methinks I saw an ispahan). Upon Sara's recommendation I bought a jar of sundried tomato paste and a jar of walnut mashings (thankfully nothing that I needed to take out a second mortgage for), which I intend to eventually deliciousify some pasta with.
More walking took us through Castello Sforzesco, which—assuming there is only one castle in Milan—may be referred to as "That castle in Milan" (at least, that's what I called it before I found out that it had a real name). It's huge. It's brown. And it looks like it has a lot of holes in it, which were once used by archers to shot arrows through, or for pouring boiling oil and water to scald enemies, or all of the above. The holes were uniform and numerous—I suppose a lot of arrowing and boiling of human flesh went on during the time that the castle was in use. Sounds like an effective combination home security/ torture/killing system.
Through one of the gates we could see a courtyard full of round tables decorated with yellow tablecloth accompanied by stylish looking seats. By the back wall were more seats, some occupied by...stylish looking people. We figured that someone who was very rich or important (or both) was going to have their marriage in the castle. Crazy. I wouldn't want to get that bill. Or maybe the cost would be so incalculable that the payment would take the form of eternal damnation by being repeatedly arrowed and boiled.
At my request we walked towards 10 Corso Como, a hip, fashionable and pricey store that I wouldn't normally visit (hell, not like I'm going to buy anything) but made a point of checking out since my friend Michelle immortalized it in her flickr username. The store, which is semi-tucked behind a door that looks like it could merely be hiding a parking garage, is further hidden behind a plant-filled couryard around which also lie a cafe and what may have been a gallery. The store's contents (clothing and accessories-focused) most reminded me of Paris's Colette over any other place, which in turn doesn't really resemble any other store I've been to. Browsing through the store's rooms felt more like walking through a curated gallery than a place to browse the racks in search of a simple white dress shirt. But you could buy a white dress shirt, probably for a few hundred euros.
"I feel so cheap carrying this IKEA catalog!" whispered Sara, clutching to the complimentary catalog she picked up from an IKEA display on the street, as we walked within 10 Corso Como's glimmering walls. Or did I made up the glimmering in my head? ...No, I think it was actually quite silver and shiny colored in there, which contrasted against Colette's gallery-white walls. I tried to not think about how my presence in the store was bringing down its level of fashionability. After leaving the store and sitting on a ledge to rest our feet for a while, Sara pointed out a group of young, stylish, rich Japanese men who had walked out of the store, or the pages of a fashion magazine.
If I were mega rich and 20 pounds lighter, maybe I would shop there too.
I grabbed a small cup of pistachio and strawberry gelato (my flavor combination of choice) from Viel on the way to 10 Corso Como. Nothing mind blowing, but satisfying enough. Besides, I had to fill my "one or more cups of gelato a day" quota or else I would suffer from that affliction called "weight loss."
We went back to the apartment for a little breather, which took the form of sprawling out on the couch and living room floor, thinking about how exhausted we were, then realizing we had to go out to dinner. Damn meals, so inconveniently timed to occur when the body resists movement.
But since the body also wants food, we willed our bodies to align themselves perpendicular to the ground and took a quiet walk to Trattoria al Sodo, one of Sara's favorite neighborhood restaurants. Even though I lost my photos, I surprisingly took...notes. The tip of a pen touched paper and recorded details about the meal. Not very good details, as you will see (and not entirely legible either), but I'll try my best to recreate the mass of pixels that is now nonexistent through the magic of word mashing.
We started off with a few appetizers—culatello con burro e pane casereccio (nicely layered choice cuts of ham made from loin of pork that glowed pinkly, with homemade bread and butter), prosciutto e salame di cinghiale con fichi caramellati (wild boar salami and ham with caramelized figs, aka bits of super concentrated sweetness) and crostini toscani (chicken liver canapés, old Tuscan style, not that I know what old Tuscan style is). My favorite was the chicken liver canapé, because the only thing better than butter on bread (or olive oil on bread) is mashed up meat and/or organ bits on bread. Unfortunately, I haven't developed much of a taste for ham yet (although I did eat it because ham is made from pigs, and pigs are inherently tasty, which should mean that ham is inherently tasty, except it's not, and...I think there's something wrong with my logic) and took more of a liking to the caramelized figs. Those figs probably would've went nicely with the canapés if I had thought to combine them. Hm. Oops.
My main course was coniglio in potacchio con patate saltate, stewed rabbit with sautéed potatoes. Thankfully, the rabbit in stewed form didn't resemble the cute, fuzzy woodland creature, meaning I could focus on enjoying the moist, tender meats and not feel guilty about eating something that was once a cute, fuzzy woodland creature. If you've never eaten rabbit before, it tastes a little bit like chicken. Hell, everything does. Maybe somewhere in between chicken and stewed beef, and with many little bones that once made up its cute, fuzzy woodland creature body...
I don't discriminate. I'll eat you even if you're adorable, as long as you're tasty. I wonder if food tastes better if it was once cute. If only I knew what penguin tasted like...
The other five diners at the table also ate stuff (risotto and pasta pop into my head), but my notes kind of ended there and degraded into doodlings of a floating bunny head exclaiming, "I'M DELICIOUS!" and a potato with stick-like arms and legs shouting, "I"M A POTATO!" You can see where my brain went that evening. I blame it on the rabbit.
For dessert I had the blancmange (almond milk pudding) with caramel sauce laced with a hint of some sort of alcohol. The blancmange had the puck-like shape of a panna cotta but tasted like...not a panna cotta. Or a panna cotta if it were much lighter and had a strong almond flavor. The blancmange tasted good (as long as I avoided the alcohol-y sauce), but in the category of puddingly and wobbly foodstuffs, my heart belongs to panna cotta.
I forgot to mention that our table shared a bottle of wine. Or two. Or more. Or it's not so much that I forgot, but that I don't have much to say about the wine since I didn't drink much of it. I tried more wines on this trip than on most other trips (the one to Saint Emilion probably being the most wine-centric) thinking that maybe, just maaaybe, due to a misfired neurotransmitter my taste buds would snap and my brain would finally appreciate the rush of heavenly flavor and scents and visions of Jesus and whatnot that wine had to offer me. Of course, no revelatory snapping of the senses occurred and after taking a sip of red wine I was mostly left with the feeling of something unpleasant embedded in the back of my throat and an artificial warmth spreading over my organs. Oh, alcohol, you're so funny! Ha ha ha WHY DO YOU HATE ME?!
Sigh. I can't will myself to like bitter things. My body responds with, "DO NOT WANT." I appreciate the efforts of my friends to turn me into a wine lover though, or at least not a wine hater.
Trattoria al Sodo was a great place to go to for our medium sized group. Warm, relaxing atmosphere, friendly service, and of course, lots of good food. It slightly steps over the line of what I call an expensive meal (although that depends on what you order and you won't necessarily get three appetizers), but I thought it was worth the price.
And then we finally got to sleep, with Diana and me sprawled out on the cozy sofa bed and Morten and Kåre tightly snug on the neighboring air mattress, feet dangling over the edge. Comfort probably would've been better distributed if the guys had taken the sofa bed, but Diana and I were having some respiratory problems that we figured would be slightly alleviated if we were better elevated above the floor. Which may not have been true, but it was a good excuse to secure the sofa bed.
Via Torino, 1
Multiple locations in Milan
Trattoria al Sodo
Via Giovanni Paisiello, 22