Tales of a wandering lesbian

Southern fried

Okay, so Atlanta, being in the South, has a lot of fried food.  This is true.  I think I had something fried with every meal I ate in my week-long trip.  However…there is also some seriously good food in that place.  I’m talking Atlanta and the lesbian-infused suburb of Decatur.  Here are the highlights from the trip’s food log.  Food pretty much fell into three categories:  Breakfast, veggie burger, and fried.  There was some overlap.  There were also a couple of healthyish meals thrown in for good measure.


My first day there, my hostess, Kelly, took me to one of the best breakfast spots in town:  Highland Bakery.  (It just so happens, it’s gay-owned, too.  Joy!)  I’d been there about 7 years ago when I last visited Atlanta.  It was good then, but now it’s bigger, better and even more delicious.

What’s better than being greeted by a cupcake-laden pastry counter?  Not much really.  Unless it’s a mini-muffin sampler!

Yeah, that was good.

The actual meal was a breakfast sandwich of some kind for Kelly, and the breakfast burrito, recommended by our waiter.  I’ll have to go back to try the Hoppin’ Highland.

Pretty much every day, I headed to the Dancing Goats for coffee and bagels.  Mmmmm, bagels.  I hadn’t my usual bagel fix for over a month, so I was really excited to encounter the hand-made, wood-fired bagels at Dancing Goats.

Not to mention the world-class coffee.  (There are only two Dancing Goats coffee-shops, despite the coffee being sold everywhere.)

And then there were donuts.  I heard there was a place that’s been compared to Voodoo Donut in Portland.  I knew it couldn’t actually be like Voodoo.  That’s not possible.  It was, however, delicious.

Housed in a non-descript strip-mall of a building, Sublime Donuts turns out gourmet donuts.  We chatted with the owner who, when asked for his favorite, waived his arm dramatically and declared “all of them!”  Kelly had the caramel-apple fritter.

And I signed up for a red velvet cake and an orange dream star.

The red velvet was topped with cream cheese frosting and pecans and the orange dream star was filled with creaminess and topped with a delicate, sweet orange frosting.

Next there were the sweet potato waffles at Rise and Dine.  Kelly raved about these things from the second I got in until we had them.  And then a little after that.

She had hers with bacon.  I had mine with Jalapeno cheddar grits.

Turns out I’m a grits girl.

Which I proved again and again, next at The Flying Biscuit.  This place used to be owned by the Indigo Girls.  Now it’s not, but it’s tasty.  I had this:

It was black bean patties, over-medium eggs, tomatillo salsa and feta cheese.  With a side of cheesy grits.  And a biscuit.  And homemade jam.  O. M. Y.  Oh my yum.  This is possibly the best thing I ate in Atlanta.  At least for breakfast.  Don’t be dirty.

The award for most beautiful breakfast in Atlanta came from Rise ‘n’ Dine.  I made a return trip.  This time I had a scramble with tomato, goat cheese and basil.  It came with a beautiful biscuit and house-made, no-sugar-added jam.  It was terrific.  And pretty.

The least delicious, but most interesting breakfast was at IHOP.  It’s been years since I had eaten at an IHOP.  I was a fiend in college.  Currently, IHOP has a 600 calorie or less menu.  I’m really not sure how many people in the house were eating off of it, but my other hostess, Linda, and I were.  Not a bad meal, in fact.  Harvest Nut and Grain pancake, egg substitutes and a banana.

The other quasi-healthy, and much tastier meal I had was at Kelly’s place.  She and her partner cooked for me.  The takeaway from the meal was a recipe for kale chips.  Yep, kale chips.  If you rip kale into potato chip sized pieces, place them on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and then bake at 400ish until they’re crispy, you’ll be delighted.  It’s almost like a potato chip.  But healthy.  And kale.

I’ve since learned that you can add a bit of mustard to give it a zing.  Paired with cheese I brought back from Italy, we had a darn good meal.

For other healthyish meals, I hit ragin’ tacos for a plate of delicious tofu tacos,

and Lotta Frutta, an excellent, exotic fruit smoothie bar.  I had a guana smoothie and a grilled cheese.

The sandwich came with seasoned corn bits that I would, oddly enough, experience a week later in Peru.

Veggie burgers:

I was pleasantly surprised by the presence of house-made veggie burgers on menus all over the city.  Some of these were seriously good.  Some of these were seriously fried.  Some of these were served in restaurants I will not frequent.

The first was at Joe’s on Juniper, a gay sports bar with a great outdoor seating area.

The burger was house made with black beans, and fried.  It was tasty, but fell apart in my hands, which irritates me, truth be told.  I sat on the patio and listened to labor protestors across the street.  My waiter apologized, but I had good time listening to the chants.

That same night, Kelly took me to a fancy burger bar, called Flip Burger.  I only tell you the name so that you will know that it’s the place that serves fois gras.  For that reason, I won’t, personally, go back.  The burgers were good.  Mine might have been fried, I don’t recall, but it was topped with pickled onions, goat cheese, and microgreens.  Kelly had a bacon cheeseburger.

The real purpose of the trip, however, was the milkshakes.  Kelly’s was toasted marshmallow, and mine was turtle.  Neither of us opted for the goose-liver pate option…

While we were there, we ordered a tray of fried pickles.

Yes, they were good.  They were bread and butter, and came with some kind of buttermilk dipping sauce.  I’ve always pictured a fried pickle as a whole pickle, dropped into a deep fryer.  That’s not what these were.  They could have been bread and butter shoeleather, fried and slathered and they would have tasted good.

Much like the fried okra I had a couple of days later at a place called Farm Burger.

This had some kind of chipotle dipping sauce.  I think I liked this veggie burger best of all.  It was fried and fell apart, but it was quinoa.  I like quinoa.  It’s another grain I saw a lot of in Peru…  Paired with the sweet pickles and goat cheese, the burger was nice.  It went down smoothly.  Which is good, because Farm Burger also serves ice cream floats.  I had a ginger beer one.

While the award for best veggie burger goes to Farm Burger, the award for best fried food goes to Watershed.

That’s an okra pancake.  Actually, it’s two of them.  Chopped and battered and formed into cakes, the okra retains some of its former glory, the tapioca-sized seeds bursting in your mouth.  But it becomes more.  It’s far better than the usual fried-okra, which is pretty darn good.  It was delicate and crispy.  It didn’t hit me over the head with its okraness or its fried nature.  It was just simple and good.  Like everything else on the plate.  There was no surplus.  The heirloom tomatoes were simply seasoned with salt and pepper.  The cucumber salad was dressed with crème fraische.  I left full and happy.  Plus, it was at Emily Saliers place, Watershed.  So it was staffed by cute girls, and had a certain lesbian sensibility about it.

While I ate well the whole time, there’s one meal that stands out.  After a long day of writing, I was hoping to grab a piece of pizza and head back home.  Only, on the way to the pizza place, I got sidetracked by a menu in the window of the Iberian Pig.

That’s the pig.  Or it’s A pig.  Might not be the actually Iberian Pig.  Unclear.  What was clear was that the food was divine.  Peaches, quinoa and churros.  If you want more detail, you’ll have to wait.  This place deserves its own post.

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July 22, 2010   2 Comments


Portland is my home base.  In between travels, I find myself back here, staying with or housesitting for friends.  This return trip to Portland has been a string of housesitting gigs, punctuated by forays out into the exciting and quirky spots that Portland has to offer.

Last night I had a free night in between gigs, so I decided to get a room at one of Portland’s landmarks, the Kennedy School.  Part of the venerable McMenamins family, the Kennedy School is housed in a 1915 schoolhouse that was once part of the Portland school system.  In addition to 23 classroom/guest rooms, the property includes a soaking pool, 5 bars, a huge, interesting restaurant and a theater pub.

If you haven’t experienced McMenamins, here’s the skinny:  many of the bars, restaurants and hotels are located on historic properties in the Northwest.  The properties are restored and revitalized, filled with artwork based on the history of the properties.  The feel of the locations is one of history and carnival all in one.  Reality alert:  the restaurants are notoriously understaffed, making for an often challenging service experience, but the overall atmosphere almost always makes up for this.

Yesterday, I checked in to my room – Originally “classroom 4” and now the “Mirror Mirror” room, and headed to the theater for some dinner and a movie.  Along with lodging, the room rate includes free movies in the old auditorium and unlimited soaking in the soaking pool.

The theater is located in the school’s auditorium.

Movie-goers can order pizza, calzones, and a variety of other pub food – as well as beer and wine – to be delivered to the sofas and tables that serve as theater seats.

Yesterday was Wednesday, the day that the Kennedy School holds “Mommy Matinees,” movies for parents to bring their kids without concern for the running, talking and screaming discouraged in other theaters.  I ordered a veggie calzone, staked out a velvet sofa, and turned on my computer to check email while I waited for “The Princess and the Frog” to start.

The movie was completely enjoyable and the surroundings delightful.  And it was great to walk down the hall to my classroom bedroom when it was over.

The room itself was pretty darn cool.  The walls were lined with the original chalkboards, some of which were sliding panels enclosing old-school  coat racks doubling as a closet.  Too cool.

The room was decorated with phrases from the fairy tale “Snowdrop” (you might know it better as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves).  The “Mirror, mirror on the wall” sequence was cleverly written backward on the bathroom wall.

The thing I was most looking forward to was the soaking pool.  Located where the teacher’s lounge used to be, the soaking pool is a beautiful, tiled courtyard area.  The water is the right level of hot, with bubbles running down one length of the pool.  Last night it was a good mix of Portland-style, tri-athlete-looking folks, Rastafarians, steam rising from their hats and dreads, and young families sporting matching racing goggles (kids are allowed in the pool until 8PM, so plan to go later if you aren’t willing to move aside for them).

One of the great things about the Kennedy School is that it feels like one big living room.  It’s almost like visiting a friend’s big, old house.  There’s a lot of room to kick back and relax.  Like when I decided I wanted a brownie and ice cream at 10:00 at night.  I grabbed my computer and trotted down to the Courtyard Restaurant to eat and write.

I sat and listened to a few other people who were chatting and snacking.  And I wrote about meeting a new friend in the soaking pool.  When I’d mopped up the last bit of ice cream I packed up and walked the 50 yards back to my room – where I passed out in a brownie-induced stupor.

My time at the Kennedy school was fantastic.  The property is amazing; the room was original, roomy, comfortable and spotless.  The movie was entertaining and the soaking pool was ultra-relaxing, even with kids walking the perimeters of both.  And the food was good.  I’d say I had one of the best service experiences I’ve ever had with a McMenamins property.  It was so enjoyable that I’ll be recommending the place to my parents next time they’re in town.  It really does offer a genuinely Portland experience.

It’s nice to find new places to have adventures, and nice to be reminded that adventures are in my back yard – wherever I am.

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February 25, 2010   4 Comments


“How was it staying in someone else’s house for a couple of months?”  My bro, Matt is always good for interesting conversation.  “Did you feel like you were imposing?  Would you trade the experience?  Would you do it again?”

When I left Portland for Italy, it was with a certain set of expectations.  I really tried to have as few expectations as possible, but I still tried to prepare myself for certain things.  Like not having a place of my own, or the loss of language and humor.  I expected it to be hard in some respects, in truth the hard is part of what I was looking for.  Stripped of my day-to-day routine and defense mechanisms, maybe I’d be more able to hear the guiding voice I’d finally noticed screaming at me my first day in Barga.  I did find some of that.  I also learned some things about myself I hadn’t expected nor really wanted to learn – painful things that I’m sure will come in handy some day.  (It makes me feel better to think that painful things are of great value.  It sucks to think that they just hurt because I’m a dumb-ass.)

As my return to Portland drew closer, I found myself conflicted.  I had so much enjoyed the time with my Italian family, and had learned a lot, from the way to eat cheese and honey to the way my feelings of inadequacy can color my interactions with the people I love.

I also learned how much I value having a door.  This is a lesson I’ve learned before in work contexts.  But even after nearly a decade of unsuccessfully struggling to secure an office with both a door and a window, and analyzing the status that such an office carries, I still didn’t fully grasp the importance of having an actual door in my everyday life.  By taking this first leap in the way I had, I put myself in a position where I would not have a door of my own in any aspect of my life.  Without an office job or my own house, the symbolism of a door was intensified.  While I blogged about what I ate, and what I felt, I consciously opened myself and my adventure to the world.  While I slept on someone else’s floor, they opened their world to me, and I shared the minutia of my existence, right down to my underwear drying on the radiator.  And I felt both the freedom and the exhaustion that came with it.  I started the journey ready to be responsible for nothing but myself, not fully realizing how dependent I would be on others not only for the shelter I had chosen, but for the many lessons I was hoping to learn.

When I had the opportunity to rent a fantastic, cheap apartment I turned it down.  I could isolate myself and prove that I could do this on my own, but if I really wanted to know about myself I needed to prove that I could do this with others.

Throughout my life I have struggled to find a way to accept the assistance of others without resentment.  To realize that, accepting the nourishment, or even the flat out help of another person is not tantamount to failure.  That I am not weakened when I reach out, but rather strengthened.  It’s a lesson I have learned intellectually, one that I have shared with others, but one that I struggle to embrace in my own life almost daily.  It’s a lesson that I really want to learn on a deep level.  Someday I’d like to be appreciative of a partner who wants to take care of me, instead of resentful.  I would like to feel built up by the gifts I receive instead of torn down.  I feel like that would be a healthy thing.  Seems like a good idea.  I wonder why it’s so hard?  I kind of want to vomit and work-out compulsively while I’m writing this.  Maybe I’ll just eat.  Crap, this one’s hard.

In Italy, I found myself falling into a routine.  Between the metronome of my meals, I unwittingly sought out the regularity that would stop me thinking about my life.  Waking up at a regular time, making breakfast, catching a ride to the top of the hill, writing, shopping, cleaning – these things were welcome distractions.  It was almost the end of my trip when I realized that, halfway around the world, with the intention of changing my life, I had found a way back into the patterns that had made me so unhappy.  It wasn’t until my last night in Fornaci, the last night on my little bed on the floor, that I realized how I had traded an office without a door for a life without a door – that I had traded the lack of control and self-worth that I felt in my life in the US for the equivalent in my life in Italy.

When I returned to Portland, I would have no place of my own, but many friends who would happily invite me into their homes, even give me my own door.  It’s a nice feeling to know that I am welcome.  I have beautiful friends in Italy who opened their homes and families to me.  People who treated me like their sister or daughter or aunt.  They allowed me to see myself and the tricks I play to keep from addressing my own demons.  I have wonderful friends and family in the states who would do the same.  Before I left for Italy I wasn’t often able to accept any of these gifts.

As I prepared to return from my trip I wasn’t sure much had changed.  I still felt out of control of my life.  I still felt pretty darn inadequate.  And, in a fit of self-indulgent misery, I called my mom to tell her how I was feeling.

And a miraculous thing happened.

When she suggested that I take control and book a hotel room so that I wouldn’t have to worry about where I was staying or who I was inconveniencing, I listened.  I heard her.  And I accepted her advice.  Without resentment.  Without thinking that I knew better.  I just saw it for the good suggestion that it was and acted on it.  And I felt better.

Yes, I was choosing to rent a door for a few days, a place where I could retreat and deal with the emotions that were enveloping me.  It wasn’t that I was rejecting the gifts that were offered me.  I was simply taking responsibility for the way I felt and recognizing what part of my life I had control over.  It was what I needed.  The night I checked in, I wondered if I’d find myself withdrawing to a dark place.   When I woke up the next morning, it was with at the intersection of sleep deprivation, jet lag, caffeine withdrawal and PMS.  I was emotional – but energized.

I got a great deal on a fancy downtown hotel that was a few blocks from my old office, which meant I woke up to familiar sights and sounds.  I shot an email off to my friends at the office, the people I’d spent 8 hours a day with for three years, and I headed out.  I spent nearly the entire day with people from the office.  We got bagels and coffee at my favorite places, talked for a couple of hours and then headed to the Indian cart for lunch.  I realized how interesting it was that the first place I went was the place that had been so difficult for me.  Sure it was comfortable.  Yes, I knew the people there.  But there were a lot of dynamics I wanted nothing to do with.  On this trip into the office, I found a couple of things.  First, I was able, and even excited to have long conversations with people I had previously had conflict with.  I was a little more aware of my feelings and how they were coloring the interactions.  And I steered clear of the dynamics that didn’t work for me anymore.

Second, I was able to open up to my friends.

I’m a pretty open person.  I’ll answer almost any question as honestly as I can.  But I rarely seek out advice regarding my personal life.  I’ve often said that I’d rather make my own mistakes than learn from the mistakes of others.  I think I’m finally ready to let that go – at least I hope I am.  My first few days back in Portland allowed me the opportunity to seek help, to seek advice on topics ranging from my next travel destination to my career plans to my personal relationships.  In accepting the support of friends, I felt stronger.

And every night, I closed my door on the world so that every morning I could open it again when I was ready.

There are things you miss when you’re out of your element.  Little things like sounds and smells, bagels and Indian food.  Things you take for granted.  For me, one of those things is a door.  I’m not sure exactly what that says about me, but I’m content just to know that it’s something I need.  Would I trade my time in Italy?  Asalutamente No.  But I think there’s one comfort I’d rather not live without.

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December 27, 2009   Comments Off on Comforts

Home again

The flight back to the states was alright.  The first leg from Florence to Amsterdam took us over the Alps on a clear day.

Alps view

And we got cookies for breakfast.  I like cookies.

Airline cookies

It was a quiet flight; not even close to full, so almost everyone got their own bank of seats.  I grabbed an exit row and frightened the nice flight attendant when he tried to debrief me in Italian.  Two hours later we were in the Amsterdam airport.  I think it’s an interesting place.  It’s got a museum on its upper floor, and has entertaining art sprinkled throughout.

Airport art

What wasn’t so interesting was getting a note at the self-service transfer machine telling me I had to go see an agent.  It also told me that my flight was boarding – an hour and a half before the flight was leaving.  I’d chosen to take the non-direct flight back to Portland in order to have a little more time in Amsterdam, just in case.   The just in case, it turned out was a good idea, due to the combined factors of a Japanese tour group that was waiting in line at the agent desk, and the fact that I’d been flagged for security checks.

When I finally talked to the agent, she looked me up and down, told me I’d just been flagged, handed me my boarding pass and sent me on my way.  I arrived at the gate an hour before my flight, to find the reader board flashing “boarding.”  I thought this was a little extreme, but hopped into line.  The boarding process, it seems, was so long, because each person was being escorted from the line, by an agent, to one of about 6 tall, small desks for interrogation.  “Did you pack your bags?  When?  Where?  Are you carrying anything given to you by anyone?  Anything that you did not make with your own hands?  Anything you did not personally witness being produced in the factory?”

Now, I knew the easiest answer would be “no,” but I have this annoying compulsion to try to tell the truth.  I was carrying gifts from friends.  And while I could see the concern if it had been electronics or chemicals, I didn’t think that a jacket or poster was likely to compromise the international security of the flight.  Still, I’m not a professional, so I said, “well, yes, I have gifts from friends.”  She stopped cold and looked up from the ticket she had been examining.  “You do?”  Based on her reaction I’m guessing not a lot of people give that answer.  “What kind of gifts?”  “Well, like posters, but I packed them and I know what they are.”  “One moment please.”

I found this experience curious.  It was an international flight into the US at Christmas time.  I actually sat next to a woman who was visiting her daughter in Seattle.  Were people not bringing presents home?  Or did the airline really want people lying to them?  What?  One woman standing next to me had gift-wrapped presents in her carryon luggage.  What did she say?  If I couldn’t bring a poster given to me by a friend into the US without creating an international incident, it might be time to reconsider the rationality of our security systems.

The  security woman  stepped over to a man in a blazer with a walkie-talkie.  I understood enough to catch “poster” and “gift,” and was able to smile at him at the right time in the explanation to get a returned grin and nod.  From the extent of the conversation that ensued, I’m fairly certain that the woman who was interrogating me was somewhat new to the position, and being a little over-diligent.  I don’t really speak German, but I’d say the gist of the conversation was, “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.  Move along.”  She returned my ticket, said “Thank you ma’am, have a nice flight,” and I was on my way.  The guy next to me wasn’t so lucky.

He’d been there when I walked up to my little desk.  The poor soul only had carry-on luggage – and brown skin.  “You are visiting your parents?  And do they work?  Only your dad?  What does he do?  And your mother, what does she do?”  He was still being questioned by an agent with a Pakistani accent when I walked onto the plane.  I simultaneously chuckled and shook my head.

The flight from Amsterdam to Seattle was 10 and a half hours.  That’s too long.  ‘Nuf said.  We did have a lovely pasta dish and individual pizzas, as well as personal entertainment devices that allowed me to watch Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince over and over.  It almost made up for the ridiculously tight spaces between seats.  Almost…

There is one thing that makes the re-entry to the US less than glorious – the customs process.  I’ll say that it was better than my last experience in New York, but I was astounded by the baggage claim area and the insane pile-up of bags.

Baggage claim

Apparently it’s common to have luggage stacked 3 or 4 deep, because there was an airport employee stationed just in front of the ramp where the baggage enters the carousel, waiting to position each bag in the mêlée.

After filling out several forms designed to make you lie, and reviewing the forms with at least 3 different people, I had my cheese-laden luggage in hand and was on my way to Portland.  My first ground view of the US made me smile.  I was back in the northwest for sure.

Rainy airport

One short plane ride and I’d be back in Portland.  And that was a nice feeling.

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December 23, 2009   5 Comments

Last pizza

My flight back to the US was an early one from the little Florence airport.  Florence is a couple of hours from Fornaci, and I had to be at the airport by about 5:30 AM, so I decided to spend the night in Florence.  Because the Florence airport is a small, regional one, there aren’t a lot of hotels that serve it.  We asked around, and found one that was about a 5-10 minute cab ride, and was safe and clean.

Deb and Tommy gave me a ride to the Fornaci train station, which I was pretty darn familiar with by now, and I hopped on a train to Florence.  I had a great moment at the Fornaci train station when a woman come up to me and ask me where to find the validation machine for the tickets.  It was a triumphant moment when I was able to understand the question and respond in Italian in a way that was actually helpful.

When I got to Florence – another train station I was pretty familiar with by now – I grabbed a cab to the hotel.  Once I confirmed that the cabbie knew where we were going, I settled in for the ride.  I prefer to sit up front in a cab when I’m alone.   Usually I’ll chat with the cabbie about the town, so I tried in Italian.  He was very nice, and we chatted back and forth, navigating my bad grammar together.  I recommended an art exhibit in town and he told me about growing up just outside Florence.

The hotel was in an industrial zone outside the tourist district of Florence.  When I walked in, I thought it might be deserted.  There was nobody to be seen.  Then a man appeared from an out-of-sight office to check me in.  I was pretty tired when I arrived, so I bid the front desk man “buona notte” and headed up to the room.  The room was Spartan, and I swear there was virtually nobody else staying in the big place.  It was a little creepy riding to the top floor in the teeny tiny elevator.  Fortunately the hotel attached its keys to huge, metal pieces that seemed perfect for use as a bludgeoning device.  This made me feel better.  Kind of.

Blunt instrument

After a long, hot shower, I found myself hungry and wandered back downstairs to seek out a little food.  The website and Rick Steves both showed almost nothing in the area.  I’d need a little help with this one.

The guy behind the desk pulled out a couple of business cards and pointed me down the road a little.  I’d have to walk, but there were a couple of pizza places about 5 minutes away.  “Just go right then left then down to the main street.  You’ll see the restaurants on the other side.”  Armed with my key fob, I headed out into a part of Florence that was different than the Florence I had seen before.

Florence street

I walked quickly, hoping the area was safe and wondering if I should head back and have another Cliff Bar for dinner.  Until I saw a sign for military surveillance.  I was in the neighborhood of a military facility.  Suddenly, everything felt very safe.  I slowed down a little and even talked to a guy in a car who wanted directions.  I wasn’t really that helpful, but I tried.

When I finally reached the main street I was wondering if I’d ever find the restaurants.  There were a couple of American-style strip malls across the way, but nothing that really looked like a restaurant.  I checked the business cards.  Bingo.  One of the restaurants was just across the street.  The sign looked a little like a video arcade.  I was a little skeptical about the location, but I was hungry enough to forgive the strip-mall atmosphere, so I walked inside.

It was brightly lit, and filled with people picking-up to-go orders and long tables of apparent locals having dinner.  I sat down at a table with a salt and pomegranate centerpiece, and considered the menu.


Most everyone was ordering pizza, so I followed suit.  There were margherita, verdure, funghi, and a new one:  parmagiana.  Eggplant parmesan pizza.  Yum.  I hoped it was as good as it sounded.

Eggplant parm pizza

It was.  The pizza was beautifully thin, with tomato sauce, mozzarella, thinly sliced, tender eggplant, and a healthy crust of parmesan on top.  The eggplant was juicy, so I ate most of this one with a knife and fork.  The crust was thin, but sturdy, making it possible for me to cut strips, fold them over and shove them in my mouth with the toppings inside like a little calzone.  I was perfectly content eating what I knew would be my last pizza of the trip (not counting the airplane pizza, which isn’t really in the same league).  I listened to the people around me and watched as the long table next to me ordered dessert.  It looked to be a birthday celebration or something similar.  The table was full of older couples, but the women sat at one end and the men at the other.

I got a preview of dessert as the men, who were closest to me, harassed the waitress over the dessert menu.  My entire trip I found it interesting the role that fruit played in almost every meal.  In people’s homes, a big basket of fruit would be placed on the table after a meal.  In restaurants, fruit was served, whether in a salad form or on its own, as dessert.  Pineapple, “annanas,” was commonly on the menu.  Cut lengthwise into thirds, the fruit would be sliced and served in the rind, sometimes drenched in a liqueur of some kind.  The men at tonight’s table ordered pineapple, except for one, who ordered an orange – which showed up by itself, rolling around a plain, white plate.

I like fruit, but it’s not what I had in mind for my last night in Italy.  I asked the waitress for the “dolce” and she started down a list.  Somewhere along the way I heard “pistachio torta.”  Yes, that one.  I’d had good luck with nut pies.  I hadn’t, however, experienced fluorescent green nut pies.

Pistachio torta

The minute it arrived I knew this wouldn’t be the best dessert of the trip, but, all things considered, it wasn’t bad.  There were even little pieces of pistachio in the unnaturally green gelatin.  Along with the caffe, it was a totally satisfactory dessert.

Last caffe

The pizza was excellent.  Probably ranks in the top 3 from the entire trip.  But the best part of dinner was the fact that I didn’t speak a word of English the whole time.  I don’t want to congratulate myself too much for making it through a few sentences, but it was nice.  My last night in Italy I was able to get myself to Florence, find a place to eat, and even get through a meal in Italian.  Like the rest of my trip, I had help from friends along the way (sometimes a lot of help), and in the end, I was able to do what I needed to on my own.  What more do I need than a place to sleep, a blunt instrument, and a really good pizza?

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December 21, 2009   Comments Off on Last pizza