Garrett is traveling to Sienna and Montignoso Massa and then to a few more places in Tuscany with friends. He'll be back online early next week.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Sometimes everyone just needs a break. We all get to that point where we can go no more...and if we do it's likely we won't be productive nor successful. After World Champs this year I was finished. My mind and body wanted nothing to do with swimming nor even anyone associated with it (I realize that may sound harsh but I always tell it like it is).
So off I went, on an adventure of the unknown. There were a few things I did know however...a few things I would make sure to do and stay true to.
1. Fun. I had had enough of seriousness, enough of focusing, I was determined to kick back and try not to care about anything serious for a while. Enjoyment and relaxation were a must!
2. Learn about food and cooking in every way possible and figure out ways in which my new-found knowledge can help me improve my diet and preparation of healthy food.
3. Engross myself in the Italian lifestyle and culture. Essentially try to live like an Italian...
4. Maintain a decent level of fitness and not gain ANY weight.
With great satisfaction and assertion I can say that all of these have been accomplished. I feel much better about things than I did after World Champs. Weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I'm really happy here...I even feel at home:) My brain power in the kitchen has grown exponentially and my excitement to get back in the kitchen at home and work on some new things has reached new levels. Living like an Italian has been a true wonder and delight. I've made a lot of great friends here, have several Italian families who say they've adopted me and several Italian mothers who call me their Italian Momma haha. Fitness, Pshhh that was easy. I do push-ups and dips throughout the day. When the feeling strikes me I go for a moderately long run, and even get in the water to swim a few times a week. I am eating a lot but it's less frequent than when I am training. My weight is exactly the same, and if I do say so myself...my physique still looks pretty darn good;)
Posted by Garrett at 2:36 AM
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sniff Sniff... I'd venture to say that smell is often the most overlooked sense. Those of you who don't use your shnoz piece to its fullest are missing out like a sail with no wind. A deep inhale through the sometimes booger plagued cavities of our nostrils can often make the grass seem greener, food look and taste more succulent and delicious, the ocean seem more tranquil and appealing, and even love seem more passionate and earth-shattering (trust me, I've experienced these). So go ahead...take that deep breath...you're likely to find some new and brilliant treasures!
When I stepped out of the car in a small parking lot outside 'Prosciuttificio "Valle Oblita"' This factory is set just outside Norcia, which is a very famous town for Prosciutto, and is set atop a huge hill which overlooks a beautiful valley. I immediately knew I was about to enter into a world my nose had never experienced. Waiting to greet me were two guys, Tony and Paolo, who looked as excited about Prosciutto as I would've been when I was five and my Mom turned her back with the cookies sitting on the table...you get the point. After a warm greeting and a small conversation, through the translator and friends who was traveling with me, we cruised into a building that was exuding smells that had never entered my nose before.I knew I was in for a treat. I'd always wondered what the real deal with Prosciutto was. Today was the day for me to get the skinny on the fatty/salt cured pig legs (eat this in small amounts...definitely not good for high blood pressure). First we entered into a cold room that was filled with recently cut pig legs which were salted and laying on large racks. Tadaaaaaaa the white jacket was presented....now I felt like I was really getting down to business (all official and everything)! The first step of the process is to run the legs through a machine which both sprays salt on it as well as presses it to squeeze most of the blood out from between the flesh and skin...sounds tasty right? Next these legs get hung on racks which will be moved into an enormous refrigerated room. I am not kidding when I say there are thousands upon thousands of Prosciutto's hanging everywhere.There are three steps in the curing process which go from cold, to cool, to fresh air (in it's entirety it takes about 14 months). Have you ever walked down a hallway and continually taken a deep breath in until you walk into a room which has a different aroma? Maybe the temperature changed or the humidity level was different too. Now you can somewhat picture my experience walking from one room to another. The smells in here are strong. However, I think the beauty in scent comes from the subtleties. You know what I'm talking about...like when you cook bacon and you can tell when it's done cooking by the sharper scent it exudes...or when a slight rain or storm is approaching and you can smell a hint of dust or dirt in the cool summer air which has been kicked up by a slight breeze. As I perused through each room the scent subtly changed. As the temperature rose and the meats were older, the scent became more soft and almost sweet. What a sniffing wonderland.
Posted by Garrett at 4:37 PM
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Posted by Garrett at 7:40 AM
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Posted by Garrett at 5:23 PM
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
2. I have a ton more to learn about food and cooking.
3. The satisfaction that I get from making something delicious for others is unbelievable.
4. I've honestly never felt as fulfilled after a long day of work as I do after I finish in the kitchen...and yes it is very tiring.
Posted by Garrett at 4:26 PM
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
After dropping our things off at Giuseppe's parent's house, which was a small but extremely quaint seaside condo, we headed to the beach. Within an hour of arrival the wind was screaming in my face as we skimmed over the top of the water in Giuseppe's boat. I was delighted at the beauty of Sicily, the extremely warm and clear water and the relaxed and carefree lifestyle we were living. I realized then that life really doesn't get much better than this...
This trip gave me the opportunity to truly live like a Sicilian. There were zero Americans in this town. The only languages I heard were Italian an Sicilian. I was an island unto myself. The food was outstanding. The first afternoon I got a delicious taste for what the rest of the trip would be like. Friends and family all gathered at Giusseppe's house for meals. The first lunch we had Ocheata fish (which his sister caught the day before), some really small fish that were pan fried and eaten with the skin on, a tomato salad, fresh bread, squid pasta (which his dad caught the night before), and fresh fruit from their garden. Outstanding:)
More from Sicily coming soon:)
Posted by Garrett at 8:21 AM
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Posted by Mark Gale at 3:28 PM
Thursday, August 13, 2009
In a few hours I will be on a train to Sicily. My friend Giusseppi who works at the winery is from Sicily. His parents have a house right on the water with a boat out front. I cannot wait to get there. Everyone says it is beautiful. What's more is that Giusseppi was the Sicilian fishing champion four years in a row and we will be fishing all the time. He tells me we will also be fishing for squid in the night...(I have no idea what to expect from that???) When we're not fishing we will be water skiing, wakeboarding, eating and who knows what else. Two girls--just family friends--are coming down with us and his sister and her friends are meeting us there. This weekend is going to be amazing! I'll report on this when I return:) Ciao
Posted by Garrett at 10:39 AM
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The past few days here have been phenomenal. Cooking here has been very eye-opening and fun...but also hard work. I am learning so much. In addition I have been going out every night with my friend Giuseppe and his friends. Giuseppe is 28 and is the marketing director at the winery. Part of his job is to sell his wine to restaurants in the surrounding area. He seemingly does an incredible job because everywhere we go people love him and are genuinely excited to see him walk in the door. We have been going to three or four different places each night. Most of them are all over in tons of different small towns in the region of Umbria.
Above is a restaurant we went to in the tiny town of Chia. We walked in the door at about 11:30 pm (normally past my bed time!). They were basically closed with only a couple people left finishing their meals. However, they sat us down and brought us a feast. The people in the picture above are the family who owns and runs the restaurant. The mother on the right is the chef, the son makes the pasta and is the waiter, and the daughter does the books and is the hostess. This is typical of how these restaurants operate.
Wherever we go people always ask Giuseppe who I am. When he tells them I am an Americano they ask in an alarming tone what on earth I am doing here in these small towns going to places and acting like a local. When Giuseppe tells them I am a member of Team USA, they cannot believe it and get really excited. They end up bringing us more food and wine than we know what to do with. (Moderation is key here...make the right choices!)
I get taken in the kitchen everywhere and they pull out special items for us like their personal stashes of homemade prosciutto, rare wines and even specially prepared desserts which are not on the menu. What's even crazier is that most times these restaurant owners won't even let us pay for anything. They treat us like kings...I'll try to remember the feeling at 5:20 on a cold morning this winter when I know Eddie is going to pound me at practice!
Here I am holding a delicious home made fetuccini pasta with wild boar that they hunted themselves. Italians sure know how to eat.
Picking fresh sage in the garden for the dish below which is a thin slice of Chianina beef fillet, sage, and prosciutto... in that order (the sage is on top in the picture so you could tell it was part of the dish...when it gets cooked it is in the center). Molto Buono;)
Working a pizza dough...the pizza here is spectacular. I really need to perfect my techniques so I can attempt to make something half as good when I get home.
Posted by Garrett at 10:20 AM
Monday, August 10, 2009
Kitchen life in Italy: We prep lunch, we serve, we nap. We prep dinner, we serve, we sleep. We prep lunch, we serve, we...
Here I am with the owners (Livia and Paolo) of this magnificent estate. They are absolutely wonderful people. They have made me feel like their family and Livia kisses me on the cheek and neck like I am her son haha!
This is the dinner we, the staff, had before the dinner service...nothing much...just stuffed pork with mushrooms, sausage and black truffle...freshly sliced proscuitto...mixed salad...Chianina beef tortellinis with a tomato herb sauce.
Chicken breasts stuffed with Prosciutto and mushrooms wrapped in pig fat. Yum!
Posted by Garrett at 11:46 AM