Family Dinner with New Friends

I spent the last several days fairly seriously engaged in the work I came here to complete. We wrapped everything up successfully, and I am now preparing to leave Milan tomorrow morning. The final preparations for the deployment of our project included a traditional Italian dinner with the US and Italian teams.

We started with wine at a bar very close to our hotel. My Milano counterpart selected a bottle of Traminer Arimatico, a white wine from a very specific region of Italy and something we all presumed would be difficult to find back in the States. (I have two bottles in my suitcase.) She said it had a unique taste, and she was correct. I have never tasted anything like it. At first, it tastes almost too tangy like a chablis, but then it mellows into its own, a nice balance between sweet and dry.

Italian happy hour seems to invariably include a buffet of meats, cheeses and fruits. The bar we visited provided us with two plates of couscous and a basket of potato chips. This couscous was tossed with tomatoes and herbs. And, surprisingly enough, the potato chips tasted exactly like the Utz I get with a deli sandwich back in Baltimore. It was an unexpected taste of home in my adventure abroad.

We all piled into a cab and rode to what was described as a typical Italian restaurant, outside the tourist areas and someplace where we could experience authentic Italian dinning. We were a large group and were presented with the option of ordering three pasta dishes to share. That made sense for this size of our group. More wine was ordered, and the pasta arrived in waves.

As usual when wine is involved, I cannot remember the names of the dishes. I do know that the first was in a meat sauce, or  ragu, and was tomato-y sweet and salty enough to make me wonder if it was actually an anchovies sauce. The second dish was spaghetti in a tomato and pepper sauce. This was also sweet and very slightly spicy. Everyone got very excited for the third dish and let us know that it was the best of all. And they were right. Again, it was spaghetti, but this time tossed with hard cheese, olive oil, and lots and lots of ground pepper.

We passed the platters around and refilled each others wine glasses and all talked very loudly about our opinions. It's an interesting time to be in Italy with what I believe is the 58th confidence vote for their PM taking place today. We also discussed US politics - Obama's mistakes and our obstructionist Congress and what the Republican Presidential hopefuls are lacking.  My colleague from work artfully explained our current political stalemate in a way that made much more sense than my usual screed. It seems no topic is off limits here, and even if people do not agree, they don't get offended or engage in conversion. We all just kept eating and drinking and talking at the top of our lungs and it did indeed feel very much like a family dinner.

But now I am winding down. My colleague, who has been to Europe several times this year alone, likes to say that sometimes you just want a turkey sandwich. I think I know what she means.

Happy Hour

Evening in Milan

A typical Italian restaurant