We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Buon Anno 2015 !

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had a wonderful New Year's Eve and that today, the first day of the new year, started off on the right foot for you all. Did everyone eat lentils last night and/or today?  And remember to wear some red underwear?

This morning we took the vaporetto to the Lido then walked the short distance down to the beach to watch the annual "Polar Bear Plunge" which is called "gli iberisti" in Italian. I can't comprehend how these people jump into frigid water! One of the women told me it was very invigorating.  I was invigorated enough just walking over there and standing watching them in -2 C temps today!

Last night's New Year's Eve cenone turned out to be beyond our expectations. Excellent food, excellent company, a great night all around.  But, it didn't start out so great, and had all the markings of a monumental disaster. 

As I stepped out of our building headed to pick up our dinner from the caterer around 4:30 pm yesterday, this is the sunset I got treated to.  What a sight for the last evening of the year!

The caterer is located on the complete opposite side of the city, way over near the train station, in the Santa Croce district. The most convenient way for me to get there was to take the 5.2 vaporetto, get off at Piazzale Roma then walk the rest of the way. Knowing I had to pick up food for 4 people, I took my trusty carrello (grocery cart).  It was really cold, I wasn't liking the whole idea of doing this as I started out, but was eager for a good night so off I went.

When I arrived at the caterers, he took one look at me with my carrello and gave me a look of pure horror.  ( I need to interject an important fact here, something I have not mentioned yet. I was picking up the food at the caterers place of business, which is a take out pizza joint. I suspect he wanted to expand his business a little, so he advertised a take out 6 course dinner for New Years Eve.  The menu looked great, the price was very reasonable.  I proposed this to our friends Anne and Greg who would be joining us on NYE, and when they agreed to give it a go, I made the reservations. )

The caterer, Andrea, dressed in chef whites, a red apron wrapped around his waist and a red chefs hat on his head, motioned to a stack of 5 large, long white boxes on the counter. Then he motioned to my carrello and said "What did you think you were doing with that?"  I asked back, " Can we take all the food out and pile it into the carrello? "  "NO. " I understood the emphasis on the period after that word as he said it. I asked if we could slide the boxes into the carrello carefully.  "NO."   I thought for a second he was going to give me the classic hand motion to get out of the shop.  Instead, he walked around a bit, back into the kitchen, back out to  the counter area, then back into the kitchen and back out again. His wife made an appearance. She laughed. I wasn't laughing. Here were 5 very large boxes of food and I had no way to get them home.

Andrea came back out to my carrello and slid the canvas bag part of the thing off it's frame. Then he walked off again, returning with a plastic crate that coca cola bottles get delivered in. He turned that upside down and began duct taping it to the carrello frame. His wife quickly joined in, I just stood there and looked.  Next, he took 2 of the food boxes and strapped them down tightly to the plastic crate. Then he did the same thing to the remaining 3 food boxes.  He duct taped them up. He duct taped them down. He duct taped them all around. He gave it a test drive around the shop to make sure nothing would slip and slide around. He gave me the thumbs up and said "Ok to go!" with a big smile.

His wife asked me how far I needed to go to get home.  "Sant'Elena", I responded.  Oh good lord, she says to me, I hope you make it home by mezzonotte (midnight!).  Me too!

I carefully wheeled my carrello down the street and over bridges as I made my way back to Piazzale Roma.  To do this most carefully, I should have taken the #1 vaporetto home because I could have just wheeled the cart onto the boat without having to go up or down any steps. But, the problem with this is the #1 boat would have taken me 20 minutes longer to get back home. I opted to take the shorter route, and got on the 5.1 boat. I carefully maneuvered my unwieldy cargo down the stairs but had to sit out in the open part of the boat, in the cold frigid night air. It was -4 C last night.

My carrello and boxes

My New Year's Eve dinner and I arrived back home safely.  Mike came down to help me carry it up to the second floor, and then we started unpacking everything in the kitchen. Andrea had very meticulously packaged each of the food courses for person individually in a box. We had 2 big boxes labeled Carne (meat), 2 labeled Pesce (fish), and a fifth labeled Zuppe (soup). I also had a small plastic bag Andrea had handed me before leaving the shop.  Inside each box were separate small containers each with a different course in it.  I can't imagine how much work he had to go through to organize each order.

Our next task was to figure out how we would heat up each of these different courses.  Mike devised a cooking plan and had everything staged perfectly. Our guests arrived, we all got a great laugh out of the whole food retrieval saga, and sat down to a wonderful New Year's Eve Cenone.

I took a few photos of some of the courses, and regrettable, got so involved in dinner that I forgot to take the rest of them. Here are two courses each from both the meat and the fish dinners. Absolutely fantastic meal.

Turkey and almond salad in a parmesan basket

Shrimp in saor

Shrimp with pomegranate sauce and clementines. 

Pumpkin, eggplant and zucchine medalions with proscuitto crudo di Parma and Morlacco cheese.

To end the night, we had a selection of yummy pastries. We were all so stuffed it was all we could do to get up from the table. Mike and Greg braved the cold weather to walk down to Giardini to take photos of the fireworks. Anne and I watched from our kitchen balcony. 

I get some hairbrained ideas now and then, and I must admit doing catered take out New Year's Eve dinner is one of them. Now that I know what the drill is for carrying boxes home, I'd do this again it was that good. I'd take extra arms along with me and just carry the boxes carefully in our hands. 
If I were back in the US, all of this wouldn't have ever occurred. I'd have put all of the boxes in the back seat of my car, or perhaps in the trunk.  But no. I had to pull our dinner home on a duct-taped carrello. It makes for a better story this way! 

Buon Anno!!