Monday, April 22, 2013

Is It Beef?

Mike placing his order for "mit" at Eataly
"I've eaten rotten, filthy food that I knew would make me sick
on many occasions just to be a good guest. I really go out of
my way to eat anything to be a good guest."
~ Anthony Bourdain

"You're not going to believe this," Mike said as we ate dinner last night, "but this dinner is much better than what I had last night." I burst out laughing.

"If I had not just swallowed, you'd have a piece of Vesuvio on your forehead," I managed to spit out between laughs.

We were in the Pasta e Pizza place in Eataly, the Italian uber market that contains mini restaurants in addition to a gazillion food and drink items.  Vesuvio is a pasta shape named for the famous mount, and we were enjoying it with a simple tomato sauce and bufala mozzarella cheese.

The night before, we'd gone to Chez Nani for our last dinner in Avignon.  The menu looked good, and the place was warm and inviting.  They also had a few tables open on a Saturday night, so, we thought we'd stop there.  After studying the menu, Mike decided that he might try the cannelloni because he was sick of the fries that accompanied every other dish.

"The cannelloni, is it good?" he asked the waitress.  She gave him two enthusiastic thumbs up.  Not thrilled about fries, either, I still ordered the boeuf brochette. In addition, I figured we were heading to Italy the next day, and no one does Italian food like Italians.  (Besides, I might add, I had French lasagna, and I wasn't wild about having it float in bechamel sauce.  Ugh.)

At any rate, when they delivered Mike's cannelloni (below), we both stared at it.

"What the hell is that?" I asked. I didn't want to tell him that it looked like Gravy Train. We both continued to stare at it.  

Now, I have to tell you, in case you don't know, that cannelloni are cylinders of pasta filled with something, usually cheese or ground meat, and covered with sauce, usually red. As you can probably tell by the photo, cannelloni frances were not filled cylinders, nor were they covered with tomato sauce.  What he got were sheets of pasta layered with a few carrots, onions, and little ground beef. All of it was swimming in bourguignon gravy.

Cannelloni a la frances

"Do you want a taste?" he asked me half-way through dinner.

"No offense, but NO," I answered probably a bit too quickly.  I didn't want to tell him, but the more he ate of it, the worse it looked.  "Do you want some beef or fries?"
He declined on the beef by ate about half of my fries. "It didn't taste quite as bad as it looked," he said as we left.  

"That wouldn't be hard," I laughed. "It looked pretty awful."

Fast forward to tonight.  We enjoyed Eataly last night, and since it is a block from our hotel, we decided to go back there tonight.  So that you know a little more, let me explain that Eataly was founded in 2007 in Torino (Turin).  It combines the best of the open air food markets, high-end supermarket (like Whole Foods), and food court.  They also have a huge, huge, huge wine and beer cellar.  There's one in Rome, and one opened in NYC in 2010.  I hear they're going to open one in 
 Chicago in September. 

One of the mini restaurants in Eataly

So, back to tonight.  Since we had pasta last night, we decided to try the Carni (Meat) restaurant tonight. (They have meat, fish, vegetarian, pizza/pasta, coffee, gelato, and three or four other restaurants.)

"What does this mean?" Mike asked me about a menu item.

"It's some kind of beef," I replied.  How it was prepared or what cut it was, though, I had no idea.  "Parle inglese?" I asked the gal at the counter if she spoke English.

"No."  Great.  

"Che e?" I think I asked her what that item was.


"Meat?  Beef?" I wondered.  She nodded.  Mike ordered it.

"Beef is safe," he said.

"Pollo arrosto per mi e due prosecco," I ordered.  "Grilled chicken is safer."

We took our wine and went to the table to wait.  Quite quickly they brought Mike's "mit."

"What the hell is that?" I asked. We both stared at the plate (below).  I started laughing, and the waiter just stood there.  "Parle inglese?" I spit out, asking if he spoke English.

The gobbledy-gook Mike ordered tonight Sorry it's blurry. I was laughing.

"No."  How did I know?  Also, at that particular minute, I forgot almost every word of Italian I know.

"Look," Mike pleaded with him, "I don't know what I'm doing. I didn't know what I ordered.  Can you cook this?"

"No."  I was laughing and trying to remember anything in Italian. "Hamburger kook.  NO gobbledy- gook. Usa lime e sale." He pointed at the lemon, mound of salt and lump of meat on Mike's plate, twirled his finger and then walked away.

A few minutes later, a different waiter brought my chicken (below) which was, thankfully, cooked.

Mu chicken...also blurry due to my laughing

 Mike, who hadn't even touched the plate holding the raw meat, tried to reason with that guy.

"I don't know what I'm doing," he said pointing to the plate. "Can you cook this?"

"Parle inglese?" I asked that guy almost simultaneously.

"No." Of course not.

"Boss?  Manager?  Chef?" Mike asked. The guy mumbled something, looked to his left and right, and then walked away.  We figured he was going to get the manager or someone who could speak more than two words of English.

Five minutes passed, and we could see the waiters for that section — including our two — avoiding our area. If we turned our heads towards them, they turned around and walked a different way.  Finally, the first guy had to bring food to the table next to us.  Mike got his attention.

"Please, can you cook this?" Mike asked.  "I can't eat raw meat."

"Caldo, per favore."  I finally remembered the word for hot.  (I do have to admit that I was laughing so hard that I could barely remember English words let alone Italian words. I should get a pass on this.  ;-) )

"No. Gobbledy-gook," he said pointing at Mike's plate. "Hamburger caldo."

"Can I change? Mike was ready to beg. He motioned a change with his hands.

"Caldo.  Caldo." I was trying to help.

"You?  Hamburger?" he asked.  Mike nodded, and the kid grabbed the plate and walked away.

 "He's saying, 'Stupid Americans,'" I laughed.

Ten minutes later, he brought the hamburger (below).

"At least it's cooked a little more," Mike said of the quite rare burger.

"Does it taste all right?" I asked.  I didn't want to mention this (and when he reads it, he finally know it), but I was afraid to ask if it tasted like beef or not.  Europeans do eat horse meat.

The cooked hamburger

 Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the second waiter watching us.  He never approached our area again until after we left.  I don't know if he was afraid of what we would ask or was concerned that I would burst out laughing every few minutes especially after the guy at another table near us ordered whatever it was that Mike had at first. He apparently knew what he was ordering because he put lemon and salt on it and ate it with gusto. Ugh.

Pastries from the Eataly pastry shoppe
 "I guess tomorrow night we'll have pizza if we come back here," Mike said as we left.

We'll see. 

The coffee bar in Eataly

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