I crossed the river into the land of beer

Don’t get me wrong.  I heart Italian wine.  Right now I’m loving all the big, meaty reds.  When it warms up outside, I’ll be ready to return to the world of whites and start a hunt for my favorite prosecco.  (Not that I haven’t gotten a head start on that.)

But I do miss beer.  Specifically, hops-for-days beers that no beer connoisseur would describe as well-balanced.  Balance, pfft.  Why have balance when you can have MORE HOPS.

We did have some luck at Open Baladin last fall.  Now we embarked on a journey across the river in hunt of more beer.

When I say “crossed the river,” I do not mean the metaphorical river.  We actually walked across it.  I mean, on a bridge of course.  This one.

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This was our first foray into Trastevere, an area of the city where the “Romanest of Romans live” according to my sources.  Our first trip, but definitely not the last.

But first a quick Italian pronunciation guide so you don’t go around mispronouncing Trastevere for ages *cough cough* like I did.  Two rules should apply, but alas, an exception I do not yet understand tripped me up.

First, all pieces of words are pronounced in Italian.  This means there is no silent “e” at the end of a word.  Limone (lemon) is Lee-moh-neh.

Second, words are accented on the penultimate syllable.  Carrying through our example, you pronounce lemon, lee-MOH-neh.

Good so far?  So for Trastevere, a word that is literally beyond/across/over the Tevere (Tiber), you pronounce the “e” on the end to make it Tras-teh-ver-eh.

Looking at the penultimate syllable rule, you would think it would be Tras-teh-VER-eh.  But do not be fooled!!  It is Tras-TEH-ver-eh.  Alas, I can give you no explanation.  James even asked his Italian teacher, but she couldn’t give a reason.

Point of the story, I thought I was all “hey I know Italian grammar and I can pronounce words,” when actually I sounded like a dummy.  Learn from my mistake.  #dontsoundlikeadummy Tras-TEH-ver-eh.

Trastevere was very adorable, but we didn’t poke around much.  Our destination, Bir and Fud, was just a hop, skip, and jump from the river.  We walked in and found this sleek bar.  Ah, look at that row of glorious taps.  It wasn’t crazy crowded when we were there, but friends warned us you can’t walk through at all when it fills up.  I believe it.

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Behind the bar is a restaurant with tightly knit tables.  I was glad we had a reservation.

The beer list was not small, but not overwhelming either.  Plenty of Italian beers, but plenty that weren’t.  All beers, 5 euro.  I ordered a Spaceman from Brewfist and wondered if I might actually have a legitimate reason to call it a Spa-CHEM-inSee earlier pronunciation guide.  The beer was hoppy and delicious.

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To accompany the beer, we got garlic & pecorino chips and prosciutto & mozzarella.  All delicious, but I think my pores oozed garlic for a week.

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We split a pizza, which they conveniently pre-split for us.  I was glad we split.  That’s a big pizza.

For some reason, I was fascinated that James has a very methodical pizza cutting and eating technique.  For me, I usually just attack the thing with a fork and knife all willy-nilly.  Cut a random piece here, random piece there.  Pizza in mouth is the only goal.  I don’t think this will change if I eat 5000 more pizzas.  James, however, did a precision strike that you could tell was honed from practiced pizza eating.  It was sort of impressive to behold.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  The man does love pizza.  #pizzasurgeon

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If I had any knock against Bir & Fud, it would simply be that they seemed to be out of a lot of things.  We tried to order an appetizer from their specials list, something involving fried mozzarella and hot sauce.  Out.  For our second round of beer, we both struck out.  I don’t know if this is typical, and it wasn’t such a big deal because they had plenty of other great things to choose from, but we did seem to be hearing that they were out of things quite a bit.

After dinner, we went across the street to Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa, which my sources tell me translates to “But what did you come here for?” or “What the hell did you come here for?”  This was a cozy, wood-paneled hole in the wall with an impressive tap selection.  Beers were 6 euro to drink inside or 4 euro to drink outside in a plastic cup.  I chose an Italian IPA that was a little too balanced for my taste, but not bad.

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All in all, I considered it a most successful first foray across the river.  It felt like–for just a few hours at least–we were back with our people.  Beer people.  I’ll just have to console myself with incredible Italian wines that are a fraction of the cost of what you can get them for stateside.  Poor me.  (Winking angel face.)

 

Rain rain, go away (Restaurant Review: Cul de Sac Wine Bar)

You guys, will it ever stop raining??  I know, I know.  It isn’t snow.  It is still pretty warm here.  But it is starting to feel like it rains every day.

And it is a sneaky rain.  You never know when it is coming.  I can look out the window in one direction and there is blue sky with happy clouds.  The other direction looks like a gray sheet of doom.  I have been at the playground and had a single individual cloud rain on me and then pass.

I’m always surprised by the quantities of thunder and lightening as well.  These aren’t just sheets of gray.  They crackle with electricity.

It seems to rain more often than not on date night.  One evening looked suspiciously dry.  We hopped into a cab to go stroll by the Forum before dinner.  On the way, the skies opened up.  We should have told the cab driver to change location, but we were too busy being amused by him.  He hated everything.  The traffic in Rome.  The food in Rome.  The people in Rome.  And I was hopelessly hoping that the rain might stop before we got there.

We stood on the corner sharing an umbrella (mine) and set off on a very truncated walk.  It was not a romantic stroll in the rain.  It was cold and wet.  I immediately headed to a cab stand to get to the restaurant.  I can’t find it now, but someone had a travel tip that stuck with me:  if it costs less than $10 but makes your life much better, you should do it.  For example, if you are starving, go ahead and get that overpriced airport sandwich.  I’m not traveling, but I think this is an excellent rule to live by generally.

Our destination that evening was Cul de Sac, a wine bar tucked away behind Piazza Navona.  A friend recommended as a fun place to try wines by the glass and local meats and cheeses.

When we rolled up around 2100 (I know, I’m a baller), the place was hopping.  After a few minutes, we were able to get a table in the back.  The space is very narrow with the wines up front and center on display.  Let’s just say that this is not the place you’d like to be during an earthquake.

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You could get bottles, but they did have a nice selection of wines by the glass, I think mostly in the 6-10 euro range.  We got a mixed meat and cheese plate as well.  Although it was quite tasty, I wish we had just ordered individual things.  There was a large selection of cured meats and cheeses, with the region of Italy noted.  I’d definitely recommend as a place to stop in if you didn’t want to pay Piazza prices around the corner.

After some enjoyable glasses, we did take a look at the rain-drenched Piazza Navona, one of my faves.

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I also had the tartufo from Tre Scalini in my sights.  This was eaten crowded by the covered outdoor heater where I technically shouldn’t have been because I only paid for a takeaway.

It wasn’t the date night I had planned, but at least it had a sweet ending.  Hehe.  🙂

Cul de Sac, Piazza Pasquino 73 (Piazza Navona) 00186, Tel. +39.06.68801094

Tre Scalini, Piazza Navona 28 00186, Tel. +39.06.68801996

Monday morning quarterbacking the vacation

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We had a great time in Tuscany earlier this month.  As we prepare for Munich in a few weeks, I’ve been thinking about what we could have done better.  Any travel lessons to apply?  Things within my control anyway.  Off the top of my head, I’d say “have it not rain” and “have Italian restaurants open earlier” would have been significant trip enhancements.  But I digress.

Duomo

Duomo

Plan, plan, and plan some more

I thought the key to traveling with two young kids would be a more relaxed, go-with-the-flow attitude.  I don’t think this hurts, but we should have created a tighter plan within which to go with the flow.

You see, I thought we planned.  We had a place to stay.  We had restaurants we wanted to try and knew their hours of operation.  We had ideas of things we wanted to see.

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Nope.  This was not enough.  We need more solid game plans.  We need backup plans so that I’m not completely thrown when the restaurant that says it will be open at a certain time is not actually open.  We need to think about what sights we want to see, how much time should be allotted to each sight, and how much is reasonable to try to accomplish.

Granted, these plans should be held lightly.  They should not be structured in a way that there will be extreme disappointment if something changes.  We need a plan, but we need to be able to PIVOT.

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Il Campo

It’s OK to eat at home

Instead of hotels, we’ve been seeking out the strategic airbnb.  This time, we stayed at a bed and breakfast type place, but we had our own kitchen.  This seemed great, but once I learned breakfast was included, I stopped focusing on it.  Oh, sure, three meals a day in restaurants with kids would be awful, but two meals sounded doable, why not.

I wish I had focused more.  We had one night where it was rainy and everything was closed.  We ended up with takeout pizza eaten way later than was ideal.  This would have been a good night to have curled up at home.

I think I was hesitant because I wanted it to feel more like a vacation.  You know, a vacation where someone else does the cooking.  I’m also a little leery of doing this too much.  If we are cooking at home, we might not venture back into town or try that one more thing.

But it is an important tool in the arsenal.  You better believe, next time, I’m scouting out not just restaurant locations but grocery stores as well.

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Torre del Mangia

Travel with a wine opener

Nuff said.

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Siena is awesome

You may be wondering about the random pictures throughout this post.  After three days in Volterra and San Gimignano, we stopped in Siena on the way back home.  We took the escalator into town, wandered a little, saw the duomo, had a nice lunch, and ate ice cream on the Campo before setting off again.

I wish we had stayed longer.  Maybe Siena would have been a better base of operations than Volterra.  We spent three evenings wandering around Volterra; I think there would have been more to see here.

Of course, it could have been more expensive.  And we may not have made it to Volterra at all that way.  There will always be what ifs.  I guess we’ll just have to go back.

Any travel tips?  Lessons learned from vacations past?

Restaurant Review: Gotha Cocktail Bar (I was never cool in school)

You know one of my favorite things about being an adult?  No, not being of drinking age.  It’s finally knowing what you like, being ok with it, and acting accordingly.  As Amy Poehler says in her book, it is being able to say, “Good for you, not for me.”  I forgot this for a hot minute the other night and almost wrecked date night.

It started when some folks in the building proposed a happy hour to plan a holiday party crawl in the building at a local wine and cocktail bar.  I was all set to go, but then they had to switch the date and I couldn’t.  When date night was moved to a Monday and snuck up on us, I thought, “why not try this wine bar?”

It was raining when we set out.  These days it always seems to be raining.  We’d been warned about the rainy winters here.  “It’s just water,” previous me thought, “No big deal.”  Current me wants to smack previous me and make her spend days on end with the kids indoors.

It starts raining harder.  Even though we are armed with umbrellas, our lower halves are getting wet.  We’re getting uncomfortable.  We pass a backup location–somewhere we’d already been–and wonder if we should stop.  But no, I decree that we soldier on.  It’s date night!  We can’t “waste” it on something we’ve already tried!!

The rain keeps picking up.  We also keep noticing that everything in the neighborhood seems to be closed.  It is Monday after all, which means more is closed than usual.  If we walk all the way there and it’s not open . . . I can’t even bear to think it.  We press on.

Finally.  It’s open!  And trendy!  And completely deserted.  Seriously, we were the only people there.  More people were working than patroning.

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So we sit.  I belatedly notice, it is definitely a cocktail bar and not so much a wine and cocktail bar.  I’m not a cocktail hater, but I’ve finally realized (with the exceptions of margaritas and bloody marys) that I’m not a cocktail person.  Wine and beer, yes please.  Cocktails, good for you, not for me.

The staff was nice.  We had very generously portioned complimentary antipasto and chips.  But it was cold in there.  So cold.  The trendy door was open.  We were wet and cold.

I got a cocktail and tried to make the best of it, but I couldn’t fool myself.  I didn’t want this drink.  I didn’t want to be here.  But I re-remembered that being an adult means doing what you want.  It was not too late to change course.  So we headed out to the backup location, Obica, and enjoyed a meat and cheese plate with wine in toasty warmness.

So I’m not not recommending Gotha.  My drink was tasty.  (They had a variety of cocktails, almost all at 10 euro.)  The interior was swanky.  I’m sure it is very happening when full of people.  If this sounds like your cup of tea, I say go for it.  Good for you, not for me.  I’m glad I tried it, if for no other reason than the one hour detour made me appreciate, and remember, what I really like.

Demonstrating my uncoolness

Demonstrating my uncoolness

Gotha Cocktail Bar, V.le dei Parioli, 144/146, 00197 Rome, Italy   3493021505 / 068080325

Found yourself in any situations you weren’t feeling lately?  Did you stick it out?  Wisely bail before the situation even arose?

Restaurant Review: Pizzeria Gaudi (ALL THE CHEESE)

I’m always trying to find a balance.  On the one hand, I love love love trying new things.  But I also love the idea of being a regular.  Rolling up and having a familiar table with a familiar waitress.  Maybe not a place where everybody knows your name, but a place that is part of your regular routine.  My parents go to the same restaurant every Friday night and know the owner and I think most of the staff.  My in-laws have a place where the cook starts making their order as soon as they walk in the door.

Post-kids, we did end up with a regular spot in DC.  One morning, I had the inspired idea to hit breakfast at the 24-hour joint (it now closes in the wee hours) around the corner.  Breakfast food is delicious.  Breakfast also feels like a lower stakes meal with kids.  And that’s how we ended up doing breakfast at The Coupe almost every weekend.  We never had a usual waiter or table because of a larger staff and many other parents had the same idea (seriously, it was baby central up in there), but it was a nice part of the weekend.

Two times does not a trend make, but I think Pizzeria Gaudi is going to be one of our neighborhood go tos.  We haven’t taken the kids yet because of the hours, but I think they would be welcome.

I have received a request for more “food porn,” so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking here.

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Fritto Gaudi, an “assortment of fried specialties”

One pizza to share should do it next time

One pizza to share should do it next time

Linguine al Pesto Genovese Rossi and Cavatelli Gaudì

Linguine al Pesto Genovese Rossi and Cavatelli Gaudì

We went back the second time because it was pouring rain and I just wanted a heaping bowl of pasta.  Gaudi definitely delivered.  Man, Italians know pasta.  Perfect al dente pasta with just the right amount of sauce that somehow stays warm the whole meal.

Nobody recognized us the second time.  But maybe someday.

Gaudi, Via Ruggero Giovannelli, 500198 Roma;  06 8845451

Are you a regular anywhere?  Does everybody know your name?   

Fall in Italy

I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately.  Not exactly homesick.  Mostly nostalgic.  It happens generally when I look at Facebook these days and see all the fall fun.  You know what I’m talking about.  Apple picking.  Hay rides.  Halloween costumes.  Corn mazes.  Gorgeous fall foliage.

Over here?  Not so much.  The weather has turned a little cooler (and rainier).  Many plants are still green and even flowering.  The ones losing their leaves seem to have them turn brown and fall off immediately.  I saw a few Halloween decorations in windows, but not much.  We were in a restaurant that was putting up decorations the day before.  At that point, I thought, why bother?

But I’m seeing that fall in Italy means other things.  It is time for jackets, boots, and scarves.  (Although in Rome, they have honestly moved on to puffer coats already.  Temps are usually in the 60s.)

It is time for vendors roasting chestnuts by the side of the road.

And it is time for fall flavors.  I don’t mean pumpkin spice lattes.  Seasonal favorites like cinghiale (wild boar), truffles, and porcini mushrooms.  We got to experience all of these on our trip to Tuscany.  All in one meal even.

We arrived at our B&B outside Volterra in the late afternoon.  The owners asked if we would be eating at their restaurant in town that night.  We had looked at it in the guidebook, Enoteca Del Duca, but written it off because it was described as a good place for a nice and romantic meal.  And it didn’t open until 7:30.

But, in full view of our toddler and six-month-old, they were asking if we’d be dining there.  I almost followed up and asked, “are you sure it’s ok for kids?”

Since people were rested and restless from the three-hour car ride and we were getting a later start into town, we decided to go for it.  After walking around Volterra in the dark for a bit, we made it to restaurant opening time.  Conveniently, we had the restaurant to ourselves for about 45 minutes.

What followed was one of those magical meals where everyone was chill and enjoyed it.  The kids were not screaming or fighting to get out of chairs.  The adults were not gulping food or exasperated.  We were aided by the bread basket and more liberal use of pacifier than is usually permitted.  (For Henry, they are just for sleeping.  Mac still has full access.)

Mac's first time in an Italian high chair

Mac’s first time in an Italian high chair

In fact, we enjoyed everything so much that I forgot to take pictures.  But it was all very delicious.  We had a bottle of the owners Marcampo wine, made from 50% Sangiovese and 50% Merlot, which was not quite as full-bodied as we hoped, but had a great mouth feel and paired well with the food.  Oh, the food!  We started with wild board proscuitto with cheese fondue and a souffle with shaved truffles.  I really like boar, but I find it hard to describe.  I wouldn’t call it gamey.  Just like a more robust, extra delicious pig.  Henry hasn’t met a cured meat he doesn’t like, and he polished off the truffled souffle like it was dusted with M&Ms.  A cheap date he is not.

Henry was less interested in the main course, but no complaints from James and me.  I had the pasta with porcini mushrooms.  It was very delicious, with excellent noodles and a light sauce, but I didn’t lose my head over the porcini.  They just tasted like nice-tasting mushrooms to me.  I’m not sure I could have identified them in a mushroom taste test.

James’s, however, was one for the record books.  He got the pappardelle with wild boar.  He allowed me three bites, and I cannot fault him for not offering more.  First, picture the most delicious noodles you can.  Kind of like your mom’s amazing egg noodles, but uniform and somehow staying hot.  And then morsels of stewed boar incorporated throughout.  Boar that is tender, but has bites with a hint of crispy burnt end kind of deliciousness.  I had a pretty decent boar pappardelle later in the trip, but this dish will be the one against all others are measured.

At that point, the natives were restless, so we skipped dessert and coffee.  Didn’t want to push our luck.  We had other pleasant dining experiences and tasty food on our trip, but nothing where everything came together like that first night.

Restaurant Review: Open Baladin

I have been drinking wine.  I’ve had some amazing wines.  I’ve had some meh wines.  But wine has certainly been had.

Sadly, I cannot say the same for beer.  As I mentioned here, I’ve been disappointed by the beer situation so far.  Granted, we haven’t tried very much.  This is mostly because the beer at the grocery store looks like a light lager fest.  And I’m not hating on light lagers, but there is a time and place.  James finally found a German Helles and it was an almost spiritual moment.

To address this situation, on a recent date night we headed to Open Baladin.  It is the Roman outpost of the Italian brewery, Baladin.  Open Baladin opened in 2009, but Baladin has been brewing since 1996.  We knew going in that they have more than 40 draft beers and supposedly decent burgers.

The place is close to Largo di Torre Argentina (which totally did not have any cats when we walked by.  WHAT??)  It was tucked in off a side street where I may have asked James if he was taking me somewhere to murder me.  But we found it.  We walked in.  We saw this.  Angels sang.  It was glorious.

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The extra cool thing about Baladin is that they serve their beers alongside other Italian microbrews.  No tasters though.  All draft beers are served in 33 cl sizes and cost 5 euro.

The place was definitely hopping, but we didn’t have trouble getting a table.  In what seems to be a trend, we were sat at a table with a “reserved” sign even though we did not have a reservation.  (James tried by phone earlier, but it seems they don’t do reservations for two people.  Although the first thing they asked us coming in was whether we had a reservation. Go figure.)

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You know that thing when you eat out where one person is the winner and one person is the loser?  Meaning someone’s food is always better than someone’s elses?  If you have multiple courses, you may be able to redeem a disappointing starter.

Here, we had three beers each and burgers.  James definitely “won” this restaurant.  Luckily we both won on these homemade garlic and pecorino chips.

 

 

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The ketchup was basically tomato paste.

I had the “singing in the rain” burger which sounded yummy, but I thought it was too red peppery.  James had something with cheese, eggplant, and other stuff which was very delicious.  The burgers were not quite like home, but definitely the best I’ve had around here.  Which isn’t saying much; I’m not really out sampling many burgers.  (Two months in and no trips to McDonald’s yet!)

And on to the beers.  I was disappointed to learn that they were out of my first choice, Follower IPA from Vento Forte.  I was out for hops.  ALL THE HOPS.  (Luppoli = hops.  Luppolata = hopped.)  I substituted with a TSO from Casa di Cura.  It was ok.  Certainly a drinkable beer, but nowhere near the punch-you-in-the-face hops I was hoping for.  James had a Gerica, a lager from Birrone.  It was described in the menu as when the Germans met the Americans.  It was excellent.  Some German sensibilities with American hops.  This was probably my favorite beer of the night.  I would have gotten more of it, but there was no time.  So many beers to try!

Up next, I got one of Baladin’s Opens.  It seemed appropriate given the location.  It was described as a pale ale, but it just tasted a bit off.  James got an espresso-flavored stout.  It was at the suggestion of our waitress, and I was never certain on the name.  It was pretty good.  Very drinkable.  Good for the cooler weather.

To finish, I joked with James that I would get him one of the Belgian beers.  “Haha, like maybe I’ll get you a ‘Triplica Special Edition,’  (from Opperbacco) wait that actually sounds good, I’m getting it.”  It came in a fancy Belgian glass.  I don’t know if I would get it again, but it had nice hops and nice flavor.  It was good for me to end the night with.  James got Baladin’s Nina on cask.  It was smooth.  Kind of creamy.  It didn’t taste super ESB-y as described, but I recall that it was decent.  This round was probably a draw.  I think we were both happier with what we got.

Even with my “loss,” it was a great night.  Considering all of the people there, service was shockingly good.  Like beer came faster than if I had been sitting at the bar and watching the bartender pour it.  Many other restaurants are on our list, but I’m sure we’ll be back.  The siren song of the hops is a strong one.

Thoughts from my “Whole 10”

Earlier this month I did 10 or 11 days of a whole 30.  This is not exactly the way the program is supposed to work, but it can be a helpful tune-up.  I made it through a weekend which I’m proud of.  Now I’m back to normal, but with some modifications.  Here are some thoughts about the process this time around:

If you are thinking of doing a whole30, but know going into it that it is OK to stop early, then you will probably stop early.  My goal was to try it to clean things up, but to stop when it made sense for me.  Which is fine.  But having that attitude–at least for me–almost guaranteed that I would stop early.  I was thinking about this because I’m toying with participating in National Novel Writing Month in November.  I haven’t done much planning, but the program says that can work.  I’m just not sure it will work for me.  I’m mostly hesitant because I don’t have an idea that I love.  And you really need an idea that you love if you are going to commit to 50,000 words in a month.  Part of me thinks, well, I’ll just try it.  Even if I don’t finish 50,000 words, it will be a good writing exercise.  But.  This approach dooms me from the start.  If I allow myself an out, I’ll probably take it.  So I’m not sure I want to announce to all of you that I am committing to NaNoWriMo.  Definitely not yet.  But I’m still thinking about it.

Paleo really is hard to do here.  This is particularly true on convenience food.  If we are out and about, the quickest option is pizza.  I miss having that spontaneity.  Although whole30-ing doesn’t really lend itself to convenience food anywhere.

I just shouldn’t keep chocolate or gelato or anything else too delicious in the house.  I have a lot of willpower about some things.  Not dusting off the bag of peanut butter M&Ms is not one of them.  There is plenty of room for treats when we are out of the house.

I should keep cutting out the glass (or so) of wine after the kids go to bed.  This one is hard.  But I think it makes the biggest difference on how I feel the next day.  I’ve been trying to have more booze free days and focus on more targeted drinking, such as date night, weekends, with friends, etc.

Less wine = nicer wine.  If I’m being more strategic, I don’t want to deal with a 4 euro grocery store grab that turns out to be awful.  So more trips to the legit wine store in our future.

I really should stop eating after dinner entirely.  If left to my own devices, I will nibble all evening.  If I am successful on not having treats in the house, this should help.

I’m trying to do pasta only once a week.  It’s an easy meal.  It is delicious.  But I’m limiting for health and to avoid pasta fatigue.  People who have been here a year tell me this is real, and even though I am scoffing at them right now, I will find myself in the same place.

This helped snap me out of my yogurt-for-lunch rut.  I find cooking paleo dinners pretty easy and Henry and I eat ALL the eggs for breakfast, but I was stumped on lunch.  Now I’m trying harder to have leftovers.  I’m also working to stock more convenient proteins to throw on salads like canned fish, anchovies, and smoked salmon.  Soup season is upon us which should help for leftovers!

So you're thinking about a whole30 . . .

So that’s where I ended up.  Less booze, more lunch ideas, and confidence that paleo is possible in Italy.  If you are thinking about a whole30, learn from my attempts:

  • Prepare, prepare, and then prepare some more.  If you wait until you are starving, you are screwed because paleo is often not quick and easy.
  • Definitely stock up on some make-your-life-easier essentials: ghee, almond flour, coconut milk, coconut aminos, canned tomatoes, nuts, canned fish.
  • Make sure you get enough fat in your meals.  You aren’t supposed to be hungry all the time.  If you are, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Avocados and sweet potatoes are your friend.  Roasted sweet potatoes are really good for feeling comforty when you just want carbs.
  • Let your crock pot also be your friend.
  • Sparkling water with lime is nice for when you get sick of regular water.
Have you ever tried a whole30?  Any other tips?  Would you ever do one?

What is your personal Snickers?

The rest of our stuff should be showing up in the next week or so.  We did a pretty good job packing.  I really haven’t felt deprived.  But of this collection, I am most excited to see:

  • The kitchen trashcan.  Our place came with a trashcan.  It has a step on lid that doesn’t really work.  The bag doesn’t really stay on.  And it is so very small.  It looks like a bathroom can.  Even with mandatory recycling, I feel like the thing fills up every time I blink.  Frequent emptying is probably a good thing given the lack of garbage disposal, but it currently seems a little ridiculous.
  • Tissues.  I also miss nice toilet paper, but I can’t remember if I packed any.  The pipes are so old here that Italy has just decided not to let people have quality paper products.  (My working theory anyway.)  Years ago I had a household ban on tissues.  Why bother if you can just use TP?  And then I rediscovered the pillowy softness of a high quality tissue as it caresses your nose and have not looked back.  Surely there are tissues here somewhere.  I’m just having trouble finding them.
  • The boys’ cribs.  We have loaner cribs right now.  These have been perfectly adequate, but they have bars instead of our chunky slats.  I feel like there has been more pacifier escapage.  The loaner mattresses are so thin you could probably fold them in quarters.  This has made changing sheets easy, but I’ll be glad when they have their nicer mattresses back.

Someone told me that when their daughter was in Italy, she craved Snickers but couldn’t find them.  So her mom would send care packages with Snickers.  I totally get missing things, but Snickers surprised me.  This is the land of chocolate and gelato!  I may have an unhealthy relationship with Kinder Chocolate that I have been indulging.

But now that I’ve been here for a bit, I’ve had a chance to think about what may own “personal Snickers” is.  I do have a few.  Unlike the above, these things are not showing up with our stuff.  Many of them couldn’t come even if I wanted them to.

Grocery delivery.  In the year before leaving DC, we converted to Relay Foods disciples and never looked back.  Before, we had been doing double grocery store duty at the local Giant and then Whole Foods to get the nice meats.  Enter Relay Foods.  They would deliver Whole Foods/farmers’ market quality food right to my front door.  Granted, you were paying WF prices, but I thought it was pretty reasonable.  We paid $30/month for unlimited delivery.  You just filled up your virtual cart and they would deliver it the next day.

I miss it so much.  I feel like I am constantly grocery shopping.  1) We need more food because we’re eating at home more and 2) I have to take more trips because we can’t carry that much.  It’s either what I can carry myself or shove under the stroller.

I’m talk more on this later, but grocery shopping is a pain with both kids.  The stroller is unwieldy.  If I take the stroller, where do I put the groceries when I’m shopping?  I’m hoping some day that Henry can walk there and back, but you just never know with that guy.  And then I’m stuck carrying stuff until I find a personal grocery cart we can buy.

Hops.  They do have beer here.  There is a whole aisle in the store.  But it seems to be pretty much a lager party.  I miss good-ole-American-punch-you-in-the-face hops.  We’ve heard there is a developing craft beer scene here.  I’ll report back when I encounter it.

A variety of takeout options.  Where we lived in DC, we could get a range of takeout or carryout.  For $15-40, I could get Thai, Mexican, Sushi, Greek, Vietnamese, Chinese, or Indian for the whole family to eat in the comfort of my own home.  Which is key with the small kids.  We do restaurants, but it is nice not to have to do restaurants, you know?  And we do lots of cooking, but sometimes you just don’t want to cook.

We had been warned that Rome does not have international cuisine and this has been largely true.  There are two Chinese restaurants in our neighborhood.  We’ve heard of a Mexican restaurant across town.  I’m sure there are others, but you definitely don’t have your pick of everything a few blocks away.

I swear I’m not sick of Italian food yet.  Just in this one instance of takeout.  It would be great to have something other than pizza or panini to grab when we are feeling lazy.  The pizza and panini are pretty amazing.  But OPTIONS.  And you never know if the pizza or panini place is actually open, but that’s another post.

King bed.  We had a king back home.  We opted not to take it.  Our place here is furnished so it didn’t make as much sense.  Also, others told us that it wouldn’t fit.  Even if it would fit in the room, they might not be able to get it into the place it would have to be abandoned by the roadside.  I figured this could be a good chance to test drive a queen; wouldn’t our room look so much bigger if we opted for a queen later?

I miss it so much more than I expected.  I’ve slept in plenty of queen beds.  They aren’t that much smaller, right?  WRONG.  It seems fine to start off.  But the number of times I have woken up about to fall out of bed is more than I’d care to admit.  The day I wake up on the floor is coming.  I’ll make sure to tell you about it, probably in a post with an ill-advised name such as “Queen are the Worst.”

I’m sure there are others, but that is what I’ve missed the most in the first month.  What is your personal Snickers?

Weekend Recap

Happy September, ya’ll!  The long weekend was much appreciated as we continue to settle in.

Saturday

We went to the pool at the Ambassador’s residence.  You have to request a spot in advance and this was the last weekend it was available so I was glad to get in.

The pool was surprisingly cold considering it was about 90 degrees out.  I think this was, in part, because the pool was so deep.  The shallow end was around 5′ and it dropped off pretty quickly.  Pool is always more challenging now that it is man-to-man with no breaks, but Henry had a great time.  We really need to work on some kind of swim classes for him.  Because of the depth, I spent most of the time bobbing with Mac over on the steps.

The grounds were beautiful.  Looking forward to returning for parties.

Take out pizza for lunch that was pretty tasty.

Sunday

In the morning we went on an epic walk.  Down to the top of the Spanish steps, to an overlook of Piazza del Popolo, and back through the Villa Borghese park.  Apparently it was only about three miles, but it felt much longer given the stroller and toddler detours.

Overlook – James says it is a famous one.  Probably has a name that I forgot.

Sunday evening we returned to Ristorante Rossini.  The experience was only so-so, mostly because of limited kid cooperation.  James had spaghetti amatriciana.  I had a salad with bresaola, after I majorly hosed the pronunciation of it.  We had a prosciutto and fig starter.  Henry is pretty obsessed with cured meats now.

Monday

It rained most of the day and was colder so we stayed indoors.  James did venture out for a trip to the grocery store where he was yelled at for trying to use a seat-less stroller as a grocery cart in the store.  We went on a walk in the evening, but cut it short because of more rain.  After the kids were asleep, we did watch a little of Veep Season 3.  Definitely enjoying it so far.  I keep waiting for it to get over-the-top cringy where I feel bad (think British Office), but not yet.