The Baseline

Mosaic of FoodI just got back from a couple of weeks in Italy. Yes, I know you feel bad for me, having to spend literally weeks in Italy, but I assure you that I soldiered through it bravely. As a food writer in Italy, there are plenty of thoughts and conversations about how good the food is. The interesting thing is, though, that it's not that you'll necessarily have the best meal of your life in Italy. I mean, you might, there is certainly the possibility, but the greatest food in Italy is not necessarily going to be better than the greatest food in the US, France, or Japan, for example. 

From my perspective, Italian food (in Italy) has two things going for it: 1) It is very compatible with my American-raised palate, and 2) the minimum expectation for when food tastes acceptable is significantly higher than in the US. This means that getting a cup of espresso is going to mean that you get something very tasty and drinkable, not a big cup of bitter. This means that going to a random cheap pizza place means you get something that is at least comparable to the top 20% of most US pizzerias, as opposed to, say, a Domino's, Papa John's, or Little Caesar's. This means that, if you go somewhere for a random bowl of pasta, you're not going to get plan noodles drowned in industrial-grade tomato sauce.

Oh, sure, you can find places that have terrible food. There are, after all, at least two McDonald's in Rome. But in the bell-curve of restaurant quality, the hump is going to lean heavily towards the right-hand side of the graph. 

That's a big pastry

PastriesI'm doing some travel for business. I got a new job recently (and got married, and went on a honeymoon, and was in a bit of community theatre), which is part of the reason you've heard little from me recently. However, as I'm getting the old posts back, I'll post some more new stuff in the meantime. So, as I said, I'm doing some business travel. In this particular trip, I was staying in Visalia, California, which is near Fresno in a very agricultural part of the state. Behind my hotel, I could see the back of a building with the sign, "Bothof's Bakery." Already, I was tempted. Now, the hotel had free continental breakfast, but I decided to break a few bucks out of my personal money and eat a proper breakfast. The downtown area where I was staying was not one for long business hours, so most places were closed between 9:30 PM and 8:30 AM. However, the bakery was open whenever I dropped by in the morning, which was early as I was still on Eastern Standard Time. The owner, or someone whom I presume was the owner), was very nice and quite talkative. A good sign for a little local bakery. There were two main display racks of goods, one with petit fours and cakes and the like, and the other with pastries proper. The first day, he directed me towards a, for lack of a better term, ginormous turnover, which you can see above. I also chose the apple fritter, as it looked tasty. The fritter was a bit too sweet for me, so I only had a bite of that. But the turnover I enjoyed immensely. The crust was super-flaky, and the cherry filling was delightful. Close observers will note the Starbucks Iced White Chocolate Mocha in the edge of the photo. Now, there are two local coffee houses, one of which I tried an espresso at shortly after consuming the turnover. It was dreadful espresso. Everything I hate about espresso, that had it. And I quite enjoy espresso, properly made. I attempted to go to the local organic shop, but apparently they don't open until 8:30, and by then, it's nearly lunchtime on my EST clock, so I had to skip their potential delights. Still, it's all better than eating at the local Burger King or similar, and I try to do my best to eat locally whenever I travel, business or otherwise. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but the effort is generally worth it.

Podcast 14 - Italian Adventure Part 1

Columns 
After touring the world, Brian is ready to give you the important food notes on Italy. But, no, not all of his notes on Italy, because then what would he talk about next time? That's right, it's a multi-part episode. How many parts? Nobody knows!