Thursday, October 8, 2009

Drinking in the Atmosphere

I have already come up with three ways to make everybody hate me when we return to the states from Bologna:

1. While in conversation, stop in the middle of a sentence and say, "Now how does one say that in English ?"
2. Say, with great authority, "Of course it's impossible to get a good cappuccino in the States. It really isn't a question of foaming the milk, the issue is one of creaminess."
3. Take foreign words like cappuccino that are in common usage in every 7-11 and McDonald's and italicize them.

Oh I'm sure I'll have lots more annoying quirks to bring home to everybody It's become kind of a parlor game with Bill and me. Nevertheless, the second point about the cappuccino does have a certain amount of merit. While I am actually quite content with the cappuccini I get stateside, I did gain some insight about the careful balance of coffee and milk from Three Monkeys Online, a blog with interesting articles generated from all over Europe. Read the article on cappuccino for greater detail. I actually do think they're right about the texture. It's different here, with more cream and less of that spongy looking foam we get back home.

But that's really such a trivial matter and you know, living abroad without much to do forces one to really focus on What's Important In Life. For instance, right now I am very much preoccupied with the extreme variations in caffe macchiato throughout Bologna. Basically, this drink is espresso with steamed milk on top, and it's a good drink for somebody like me who thinks those little cups of espresso look awfully skimpy. And yet I have gone to a couple places where my macchiato has--shocking--NO MILK AT ALL. Some have a teeny amount floating on top like an oil slick. It's really hard to know what to expect. It's a little like ordering a Coke and sometimes getting a Sprite, sometimes getting a root beer.

Yesterday morning while on my way to Italian lesson Number 3 I passed a bar (caffe to us) that was quite crowded with people standing around the counter. If you see a bar where the counter is crowded, it's a local place. If you see a bar where the tables are crowded (which means customers are paying twice as much money for a coffee as they would at the bar), it's a tourist place. At least that seems true in the morning. Possibly after work anybody and everybody finds those scenic tables irresistable. So, ever the savvy sipper, I stopped in for a coffee. The woman next to me had a beautiful drink in a diminutive cup, an espresso topped with a cloud of creamy milk. I asked her what it was, and she told me it was a macchiato. I told her of my confusion about this elusive drink and she confirmed what I had guessed. It just depends on the style of the barrista.

Of course one can't spend one's day going from caffeinated drink to caffeinated drink. What an empty existence that would be ! An alcoholic drink now and then is just the ticket. My favorite so far is the Spritzer. Assuredly not the 1970's white wine and club soda beverage, but a mix of prosecco (a bubbly white wine, very popular in Northern Italy) and Campari or Aperol, two very bitter concoctions that are always served in mixtures with other things. This is one of those syntheses where the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts and will definitely become part of the repertoire at Casa Impasta.


Eric Riback said...

How wonderfully ironic that a blog by monkeys has an article on a drink named after monks which were named after monkeys.

Here's another irony: It was a German colleague that introduced me to Campari with orange juice. It makes a surprisingly good apertif.

Stefania Impasta said...

My one problem with the Spritzer is that it is one of those drinks that sneaks up on you. It doesn't seem like it would be as strong as it is.