Thursday, May 26, 2016

Day 21: Actually right in Modena

Day 21:  Modena

Mowing and trimming the Opera02 lawn
POTD:    Two: Dois(Duas)

Weather:  Crisp in the morning, pleasant to warm the rest of the day, actually very warm at 10pm

DB sleeps in, THB is up by 6:15 am and out for a walk; it’s lovely out and THB makes it down to the main road and back up again. THB forgot to bring his i-pod, where he could reflect on Bob at 75 + 1 day.

Two croissants and coffee for breakfast. The group straggles out to the van and the ride into Modena is quieter than usual. Modena is about a half hour away, and the biggest town nearby to the hotel. We’re having a cooking class today. 
Stefano the teacher
Julia the sous-teacher

THB's pasta, note the impact of a bright yellow-orange egg yolk

The collective effort, very few of THB's make the cooking cut

Stefano and Julia (Italians appear to be not all that creative with names) lead us in making tortelli (a version of tortellini except larger?) where we make and roll out the pasta and then fill squares with a spinach and ricotta blend.

Stefano and Julia then demonstrate how to make parmesan and cream “gelato” as an appetizer, a version of crème anglais (half vanilla, half chocolate, with liqueur soaked ladies fingers) for dessert, and how to cook our tortelli in boiling water and finished in butter and sage as the main portion of our lunch. 

An unappealing creme anglais, THB is pretty sure no one will order it the rest of the trip

THB abstains from the wine, eats a small lunch, and then THB and DB stroll the town for a few minutes (business are shutting down for the 3 hour lunch break).

The afternoon included a visit to the Maserati factory, two of the Canadian couples opted for it and enjoyed it a lot. The American half of our group heads back to Opera02 to rest up (and THB to catch up on the blog) during the long break before dinner in Modena. So, we split by country. For the only time on the trip, someone from the group was earlier than we were to arrive at the van: we're 15 minutes early to get on the van and the other two couples are already there waiting to head up the hill to Opera02.

The rest is much welcome, everybody who came back to the hotel slept, some for quite a while! The group is ready to get on the van until we realize one of the members has overslept (she thought the parting time was 6:30, not 6). At 6:05 we’re in the traffic heading to Modena, and we’re in front of the place where we had our cooking lesson and lunch at 7, as planned. No sign of the guides or Canadians, so the other two American men duck into a local bar. It appears many of the others on the trip are not wine drinkers, so they take every opportunity to get “real” drinks…well, every opportunity except putting some bottles in their rooms and drinking on their verandas or ordering from the hotel bar well before we plan on leaving.

Ed note: THB has not spent this many words on boorish behavior by other tour members in all his other posts combined. But wait…there’s more! THB cannot help himself, he’s documenting a bunch of this bad behavior. Arghhhhhhhhhhhh…

Now we’ve regrouped, heard about the Canadians adventures, and inside the oldest salumeria in Europe, Hosteria Guisti. The two other American men go find another bar. This is an old family business (the two in the front room are siblings, maybe 30-ish). At one time (long ago), they alternated weeks being a kosher butcher and a non-kosher butcher. Now, of course, strictly non-kosher.
Sopapillas Italian style

Chicharrones Italian style

THB buys a packet of cookies, 9 for 8E (pricy)

Mr Philiponat bought us lunch 37 years ago in Reims

In the retail store, we are served bubbly and hot puffs (think sopapillas, pretty much dead wringers) with cheese (parmesan and blue) or prosciutto (young and old) placed on top of the puffs (not inside). Yuuuummmmeeee!!!

We go through a narrow corridor, pass by the kitchen and we’re back at another large table, perfect for 14. They serve four tables for lunch daily, you have to make reservations 3 months in advance. Dinner is strictly a pre-arranged and rare event.

We’re privileged, the meal is spectacular, easily one of the best from the first course to the last on the trip (including Spain and Portugal), and we have had some good meals! Simple food elegantly and well done. The wines are of course not really from the immediate area, and also very good (including the one served with dessert, a perfect match).

Dinner: tagliatelle pasta, brisket-style meat and veggies, a crisp salad, ice cream (custard style like you find in the Midwest) with a drop or two of traditional balsamic vinegar on top.

During the meal, one of the Canadian women (our alpha dog and very nice, direct and cheerful) tells what happened to her during the afternoon. She and her husband got separated for a few minutes searching for AVIS (to arrange a car rental when the tour is over), and while she was on a deserted street (it’s siesta time in Modena) a young guy semi-staggered up to her with a cigarette and started to talk to her in broken English: Would you like to give me…and here, she’s thinking, a match? A light? and he continues: a…blow job?

It’s funny in the telling. She’s describing how she was in shock, answered NO loudly and hustled off!! Since I was sitting next to her, I asked her later: did you put your hand on your wallet…YES!

Who let the dogs out? WHO? Who let the dogs out? WHO?

Now the whole table is engaged, and we’re off into stories and comments that are dominated by the 12 year old boys at the table. Some funny, some not, some inappropriate, some not.

Okay, back to Hosteria Guisti: we get a tour (across the courtyard) of the wine cellar and prosciutto and pancetta storage areas. Small, well organized.

Around 10pm we’re found the van and on the way back to Opera02 and THB takes the opportunity to close his eyes. DB now relates what got discussed while THB was dreaming of ice custard with a drop or two of traditional vinegar: one of the 12 year old Canadian boys starts discussing that you can buy underwear that make your balls feel so much more comfortable, a great new design. Hmmmmm….I’m dreaming of a White Christmas, just like the ones I used to know…

DB also relays a discussion with one of the Canadian men about his knowing all about the hidden internment camps being built across the US and how could DB have missed it, it is all over the internet. DB actually researches the internet and let’s just say the sites carrying this “breaking news” are the same ones Pierre Salinger was fond of, the ones that #Thedonaldreadsfaithfully uses as references when the National Enquirer isn’t available, the ones that only anonymity can bring out into the light of day.

Ed note: The latter isn’t quite boorish behavior, still qualifies as tour gossip

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