After I wrote and posted the mozzarella and tomato article just now, I realized that the story behind the story was far more interesting, so let me elaborate.
Milan, circa 2009, I was on a business trip around Europe buying garments for product development. The trips are always fast and furious with very little time for ‘personal’ shopping. However, in Milan, we stayed at this uber-hip hotel right across the street from the main Rinescente department store, only this store’s top floor stays open till midnight as they have dining and a gourmet shopping area on the top floor.
This is a typical room in the Hotel Straf, where we stayed. The black leather chair is an automated massage chair that was so comfortable that no one wanted to leave the rooms. And I will tell you that we laughed so hard after comparing notes about how none of us could figure out how to open the door to our rooms (they opened horizontally, like in a warehouse elevator). The decor is completely black, even the bathroom fixtures.
Back to the story behind the story…I got back from dinner late, like 11pm and raced over to Rinascente as I had some shopping to do. My foodie sister (great minds think alike) had given me a list of things to buy her, including fregola, mustarda di fruta and whatever unique dried pastas and dried mushrooms I could find. I was mainly looking for aged balsamic vinegar, which is WAY cheaper in Italy than in the states. It was there I purchased my first bottle of Saporoso…
There was only one guy working in the gourmet department that late. My Italian was pretty much non-existent and his English was minimal, but charades helped greatly. He ended up wrapping each one of my breakable purchases lovingly in bubble wrap so that when I returned home, everything was in perfect condition, even the mustarda di fruta and the balsamic vinegar, which I think of fondly every time I drizzle on my mozz/tomato…
Some of you may be asking what the heck mustarda di fruta and fregola are…mustarda di fruta is a wonderful concoction of fruit and mustard for a great sweet/tangy chutney like sauce for meats. Fregola is a pasta from Sardinia made of semolina dough. It is roughly the size of Israeli cous cous and a popular side dish. I prefer risotto to fregola, but its all a matter of taste. Fregola has a slight nutty flavor to me….
Although it doesn’t look like 10 stories, it is, and the top floor is a foodie’s dream…our hotel was on the side street to the left, just near the Duomo, down the street from the famous celebrity-filled Gray Hotel (I saw Richard Branson entering with hot chicks in tow on the same trip).