Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gastronomical Training

My mom and I have been preparing for our trip in less than a month, and not just by reading guide books and booking tours.  We've jokingly been preparing our stomachs too.  This trip has become the perfect excuse to start drinking more Italian coffee, include more pasta into our meals, and indulge in yummy Italian desserts.

If you are ever in the Ottawa area, you must make a stop into La Bottega in the downtown market.  They have a wonderful cafe in the back in which two really sweet older Italian women cook all the food in an open kitchen. If you sit at the counter they'll talk to you while they cook. The food is phenomenal and you get so much food for your money (like a huge balsamic chicken sandwich on a fresh focaccia and a salad for $9) . The actual market has everything you need too - cheeses, sauces, pasta, homemade biscotti, and tons of prepackaged Italian snacks.  And most of their store brand products are also so much better and cheaper than what you'd find in your grocery store.  It's my favorite food store in Ottawa, and my mom's and my go-to mother-daughter lunch place.  They also make the most amazing double cappuccinos.

(taken from flickr)
By far the best cappuccinos I've had have been made with Illy espresso beans. I used to go out of my way while studying abroad in Warsaw to the train station just so I could hit up the Illy coffee stand for a cappuccino.  The espresso isn't as bitter or acidic as that of Starbucks, and it has a wonderful smooth, full flavor.

Because Illy is out of my normal budget ($15 for a small canister of espresso beans is a little too steep for my espresso package a month habit), I've been buying Lavazza for years to use in my espresso machine that I have here at school.  It's also less acidic and bitter than Starbucks espresso blends, and it's much cheaper ($3.99 on sale at the Bottega for a bag of ground espresso). 

I was a  little adventurous last weekend.  I went home for the weekend and during our usual trip to La Bottega, my mom and I were inspired by the giant shelf of lady fingers to make our own tiramisu.  And of course my mom disappeared into the living room while I was in the kitchen, so I ended up making the whole thing myself!  It was delicious!  I mean, who wouldn't love a dessert that uses coffee! It's not exactly a 'light' dessert, but it's a delicious indulgence, and I'll accept the extra sinfulness for the sake of gastronomical training!

These almond flavored cookies have a great light flavor and are really good dipped in coffee or tea.  

I love love love balsamic vinegar.  I'll mix it with a bit of olive oil and toss it on a salad or dip my bread into it, or I'll add it into my tomato sauce with a little red wine (if i happen to have any on hand) for a delicious extra flavorful pasta sauce.  I tend to buy the typical jar of whatever tomato sauce is on sale, but tend to find the flavor a little brand, so adding a little balsamic vinegar and maybe some extra garlic adds a great little punch.  

I'm normally a diet coke drinker, but I found these on sale and decided to do more 'research' for my trip.  I bought the Aranciata, which tastes a lot like Orangina. It's essentially orange juice with club soda, and it has fresh, light flavor.  

I love it when international trips allow me to indulge in some foreign flavor, all in the name of 'research'.  Does anyone else have any delicious Italian products my mom and I should try before, or even during, our trip?



  1. If you can find a bakery with Italian baked goods, I recommend trying sfogliatelle, pizzelles, and torrones. Also see if you can try some broccoli rabe as that is a popular green to serve after the secondi course. Speaking of which, you can also have a traditional Italian meal with antipasti (proscuitto and cheeses for example, then the pasta course (primi), then meat (secondi), salad (sauteed broccoli rabe), then dolce (dessert).

    Enjoy your trip!


  2. Mmmmm I lurve Pelegrino!!

    Let me know what's going on with Toronto - I will for sure come and hang out with you in the big city - do you know Toronto well at all?

  3. We have an international cafe at school, and they sell those Pelegrino drinks! They are so yummy!

    P.S. I can't wait to see pictures of your trip! I'm sure you and your mom will have an incredible time!

  4. Thanks for the tips Natalie! I'll definitely have to go on a hunt for deliciousness when I get there!

    SP - I don't know TO at all!!! I've only been there once or twice, and both times to look at U of T for university. I'd love to be able to visit with someone who actually knows the city. The last time I went my dad and I got separated and it turned into a very unfortunate chase around the city to find one another. Didn't make for the best trip.

    Miss Southern Prep - I am so jealous that you have an international cafe! Although considering a coke costs over $2 here on campus, I'd hate to think how much a Pelegrino would cost!