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Balsamico Tradizionale

Sampling traditional balsmic vinegar.

Balsamico Tradizionale is another product controlled by a consortium, this one consisting of producers. Most balsamic we buy in the US is made from concentrated grape juice and fortified by red wine vinegar. Traditional balsamic starts with fresh grapes, crushed to make juice, called ‘must’. The must is cooked for 36 hours before barreling. It is moved to progressively smaller barrels during aging, each made of a different type of wood. As it ages, the water content evaporates, creating a thicker product. Because of this, 100 liters of must only produces 2 liters of vinegar!

Acetaia Proprietario

The vinegar is tested, tasted and monitored through the whole process, ensuring quality and authenticity. The minimum age for traditional balsamic is 3 years, but it can be aged for up to 50. We were lucky to taste a 3-year, a 10-year, and a 25-year vinegar. After 25 years, it’s the consistency of molasses! The taste is incredible, like wine.

24-year balsamic vinegar

Farmhouse Dinner

Diane’s cousins met us at the train station in Schio and were unbelievably hospitable. Southern hospitality has nothing on this. They drove our luggage to the hotel, walked us to lunch and some historic sites around town, helped us buy some necessities at the farmacia, then returned to pick us up for dinner.
There is a farmhouse restaurant in nearby Malo that is owned by a family friend. Normally, it is closed on Tuesdays, but the owner, Sonia,  and her daughters opened the place just for us. It’s near the top of a high hill that overlooks Malo, Schio, and the surrounding area – a gorgeous view when we arrived just after sunset.
With 10 Italians, only three of which spoke any English, we were treated to a six-course family style meal. The wine flowed like water, language barriers were broken, and the farmhouse atop the hill filled with laughter and conversation.
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Eventually, there was nothing more to eat, and we all made our goodbyes. Sonia heard about our love of good, local food, and about Laura’s love of GOATS. Turns out Sonia raises pigs and goats, and wanted to show us.
By this time, it was very dark, about midnight. Sonia slipped on her crocs to enter the pig pen and call them out, trying to entice them with the scraps from our four-hour dinner. No luck. So Sonia insisted that we come in to the pen ourselves. Without any crocs of our own, we walked in with our shoes (which eventually had to be packed in our bags with the rest of our stuff).
We saw goats in the darkness, square eyes glinting eerily, but they were skittish and fled into the bushes. We climbed a steep path toward the pig house and heard an ominously loud rustling and snorting just before a huge disgruntled pig charged out of the house. Sonia yelled, “Andiamo!” And we fled like skittish goats before the groggy pig.
Before we drove back to our hotel, we saw the pigs enjoying their midnight snack, but we never got a good look at those goats. Unfortunately, we took a little of the pig pen with us.
And that’s how we ended up using our bidet to clean pig poo of our shoes at 1:00 a.m.
The dinner menu was as follows:
-Prosciutto Crudo with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar
-Spaghetti with a light Bolognese Sauce
-Tagliatelli with Basil Pesto and Cherry Tomatoes
-Buffet of prosciutto, salami, hard-boiled eggs, lettuce, shredded carrots, olives, turnips, cheese, roasted peppers, grilled eggplant, and more
-Roast Pork Tenderloin (raised by Sonia) with some sort of magical carrot sauce made with pan drippings
-Apple Streudel (because Northern Italy is very close to Austria) and Italian Bread Pudding
Drinks, in order:
-Aperitif of Prosecco and Campari
-Prosecco, Red Wine, White Wine
-Fragolino Vino (Strawberry Wine)
-Caffe with Grappa or Plum Licquor
-Limoncello (made by Sonia and so good) and Licorice Licquor

Trains 2 (or How We Really Didn’t Ride on the Train)

Italian trains running late strikes us again!
On our way to Schio we had a train change in Vicenza. Again, from a high speed train to a regional one, and we should have had about 25 minutes to change trains. Like last time, our train was late, really late, we pulled info the station with about 3 minutes to change trains. We round the departure board, platform 2 Giard. So we ran for platform 2, there was no train there. We read the departure board again, “what does giard. mean?” John asked. Then my Mom saw a sign saying giardino (garden) platforms and an arrow pointing to the left.
So we ran off again following those signs. We found the right platform, ran for the train, got to the door, pressed the button to open the door and it wouldn’t open. Instead the train blew it’s whistle and pulled away. I think we all let out a collective “Noooooo!” as it left us behind. No worries however, the next train was a half an hour away and we made it into Schio just a bit later then planned.

-L-

Confessions

- John and I carry backpacks when we travel to Europe, its easier to carry your things on your back then have to pull them in a suitcase when you are going up and down stairs and over cobblestones. Yesterday, I put on my back pack and couldn’t buckle the waist strap! I had to loosen it about an inch, and I am choosing to take this as a sign that my vacation is going well!! :)
- I am completely flamouxed at how tiny a shower stall can be. It seems each apartment and hotel they get smaller and smaller and somehow we still are able to use them.
- My goal was to have my gelato count be an average of one serving of each day and somehow, despite what my first confession may lead you to believe, I am two days behind. My plan to solve this is to have gelato for both breakfast and for dessert later in the day for the next couple days.
- I think italians are awesome except when it comes to leaving a gathering. Last night we had dinner with family that lives here in Italy (more on that in another post) and towards the end of the night my dad whispered to me that it would be another hour and a half before we would get to leave because of all the goodbyes. In the end, he wasn’t far off but it was only about an hour from the first ‘ciao’ until the last. In America, we would have been home 59 minutes earlier!
- Last night, I used a bidet. Not for it’s intended purpose but instead to wash pig and goat (!) poo off my shoes.
- During the night, I had a dream where peopel talked to me in Italian and I understood. I of course have no way of knowing if it was real Italian they spoke or vrazy dream jibberish that my dream self took for Italian, but either way, I am taking it as a good sign.

-L-