Friday, May 27, 2016

Day 22: Around Modena

Day 22:  Modena
Pictorial pop quiz: What is this?

POTD:    How are you doing?/How do you do? Como está?, Como vai?, Tudo bem? 

Weather:  Warm, up into the low 90s at times
Luigi, our second driver

The start of the day has been pushed back to 10:45. THB and DB sleep in and go for a walk, 
Artificial ivy

back for breakfast at 8:30. 

Someone on the tour is actually there before us, a first! He’s a business guy from Houston who sold his business and is under an agreement to stay with the company for the first two years after the sale. Time is running down, so he is musing what his next steps will be. Oh, and THB has a croissant, a piece of the local lemon flavored corn torte, fruit with yogurt, and a decaf cappuccino.
A clue to who is holding up the van every damn day
Okay, THB knows you don’t wanna hear much more of this. How late was she? 

At 10:55 we are still waiting for one couple to show up on the van.

Even her Canadian counterparts are getting worried.  A never-ending saga. Well, for THB it ends Saturday night.

It’s a long ride to the first and second stops of the day, we’re there around noon. The first event is learning about truffle hunting, and our guide is meeting us in front of the Michelin one-star restaurant where lunch is planned.

Truffles or treats?

THB doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the truffle hunter, a lot of what is said is loosely translated (i.e., he talks for a minute or two, a few sentences paraphrase in English what he’s trying to explain). It’s hot and we’re exposed. The hunter and his dog actually find three truffles, clearly planted ahead of time. Some days he can go out searching for 12 hours and score a bagel. However, his dog is adorable!

Back to the restaurant, where we have another terrific meal. It’s a lot of food, a lot of wine, and a lot of comments about how much we’re eating and how good it is! 

Amerigo 1934

Alberto, 3rd generation (and his son is also working at Amerigo)

Alberto, the executive chef of Amerigo 1934, explains each course (he’s not working in the kitchen) in pretty good English. 

That's hot!

Polenta with lard and veggies and "tomato jam" - a signature dish and well deserved

Also, as Italians are a lot looser with the pomp of dining, it is very casual for a starred restaurant. 
Great gnocchi

Great asparagus lasagna, no bechamel

Local arctic char, pretty much no one finishes this course


Cubo cioccolate: mousse-like

Croccante semifreddo

Our guide explains that since Michelin uses raters from the country of the restaurants, there’s an implicit understanding of the local customs such as no bread plates or butter in Italy. From beginning to end this is a fabulous meal, the restaurant opened just for us at lunch.

One of the two "grind-masters"

The master control 

From the restaurant we visit a water-powered organic flour mill. Very impressive, especially with ease at which the water release mechanism issues a high-powered stream of water to start the grinding stones a-turning.

The flour is starting to sift out

Down one level, the water is shooting out

The paddles are taking a beating, turning the grindstone up above

Water run-off

There’s an optional shopping stop in a local town near to Opera20; since we’re running at least an hour behind schedule (the late start, the long lunch and getting a bit lost trying to find the mill), no one on the tour wants to shop. We’re back around 5:30, and dinner doesn’t start until 8pm.

THB buys half a kilo of crackers at the mill

THB does a bit of sleuthing and finds out that the two guys hitting the local bars are drinking vodka. 

Sure enough, one of them is at the hotel bar (which is right in the middle of the lobby) having a vodka and Schweppes, so THB has one (well, more like half of one, THB can’t possibly slug them down like these professionals) and DB has a vodka with fresh lime juice (TART!).
We're dining outside tonight

Lamb chops

Dinner starts with a truffle tartare (a lot of tuna and a few slivers of not very flavorful black truffle). The second plate is two pastas: green pappardelle with zucchini flowers (not too good) and tagliatelle with ragu (very good). The meat course is tender lamb chops (not quite as good as “the shack” in the Rioja region), spinach, mixed grilled veggies and a salad to share.  Dessert is one of few THB doesn’t eat: cheesecake with sour cherries (the cherries are good).

Now for the highlights of the dinner:

One of the haughtiest sommeliers ever, young and very proud of his English and disdainful of anything we’re saying. Serves a very mediocre red cab franc from a decanter and then comes around later pouring the same wine from the bottle. Strange, because Opera02 is a winery. Where did Mattia find this guy?

At my end of the table with the Americans, three of them have seen aliens (and not the kind that immigrate, the kind from outer space) and one of them has seen a ghost. Not counting DB, that means all four sitting near me have experience with extraterrestrials.

THB goes to the other end of the table to find out about the Canadians. No aliens, just a number of conspiracy theories: Oswald didn’t kill Kennedy on his own, 9/11 flight into the Pentagon never happened because it’s not on film, the  moon landing was faked (same reason, not enough live footage), Muslim immigrants never have to show their faces because they are allowed to wear the “burka or whatever it is” over their entire face when entering the country or receiving citizenship, and one or two more THB just can’t pull up.

Americans top the Canadians easily in extraterrestrials, the Canadians smash the Americans when it comes to believing alternate views of major events. THB and DB comfortably owning the leadership roles on the leftist view of life, no challengers in sight.

Time for you followers to start humming the theme from Twilight Zone. We leave the table before anyone else…THB thanks the Canadians for safely keeping OUR oil under their semi-frozen tundra until we need it. Much laughter (THB wasn’t kidding all that much…).

Book Review #4: Conquerors: How Portugal Forged the First Global Empire, Roger Crowley. A sprightly version of how Portugal went via the sea between 1493 and 1515 and: routed foreign lands with not that many soldiers, using better weaponry; traveled with a lot of prejudice and not much knowledge; undercut the competition in the spice business; and just missed out in creating a global war with Islam. Lots of sea battles with a focus on a few not-well-known conquistadors. Recommended

THB is repeating these few paragraphs in the blog from his last e-mail because some followers don’t actually get the e-mails:
And, in this post THB takes the opportunity to do some more grousing about the behavior of some of the others on the tour. Probably too much for some (after all, you blog followers are a diverse lot, after all). For the most part, everybody on the tour is pleasant. However, nobody else besides us (and in part this even includes the guides) thinks they are on a group tour, they think they are on a private tour. 

Or put another way, we are the only two that think this is a group tour and collective behavior counts. Counts for what? Hmmmmm....

In any case, this is a long way of saying that THB really appreciates those of you we have become friends with while traveling! There's quite a few of you...and now THB realizes it's a blessing, not the norm.

And, not to leave anyone out:

THB also appreciates the rest of you, too, just in a different way. 

Fresh milk dispenser


  1. I feel like I've gained 10 pounds on your trip---Never seen such great food!!
    Susan Mall

    1. You are lucky, yours are e-pounds. THB has put on the real thing...vegan gluten free until we leave for Switzerland in mid-July