Outside My Comfort Zone

Last night I faced my irrational phobia of the subway and won. The Milan metro is clean and efficient and not at all like its US counterpart beyond being underground and covered with graffiti. It is easy to navigate even with all the signage in Italian. There are maps of each line with the stops clearly labeled. For EU 1,50 you can go wherever you want.

We ventured outside Navigli and took the Metro to Duomo Square. This is the area of Milan that everyone has seen in movies with the enormous church, its former courtyards and alleyways now lined with restaurants and fashion boutiques. We did the gawky tourist thing and took a million pictures. Then, as the sun sank behind the walls of the former fortress, we wandered the alleyways window shopping. I did try on a pair of designer sunglasses at the TOD boutique, but was not prepared for the full Milan shopping experience.

Dinner was at a small restaurant that spilled out into the walkway as so many cafes do in Milan. It was an old marble building lined with wine. One of my business colleagues chose a chianti that was full and tangy but not nearly as tart as the chiantis I have had in the US. She has been an amazing resource for me on my first visit to Europe, and not just in the area of wine. She is very patient with my inexperience and provides all sorts of helpful hints on how to navigate foreign terrain. And she does know how to pick a good bottle of wine.

Along with the chianti, I had my favorite Italian dish - raviloi filled with spinach. This came tossed with an unfamiliar butter sauce similar to the sauce I had with Sunday's dinner. And still the only flavor I recognize is butter, but I know there is more to it than that. It is smooth and a little creamy and just a little oily and very very good. The raviolis were tender and filled with spinach and ricotta but not as full as the raviolis my colleague had on Sunday. Still, they tasted incredible. There is nothing like hand-made pasta, tender and slightly chewy. People who have only had dried pasta do not really know what pasta tastes like.

For dessert, there was an amazing selection, including a creme brulee covered with glazed berries, a lemon bomb and everyone's favorite Italian export tiaramisu. I had to try it. And it was nothing like its American rendition. This was a sizable slice of primarily custard covered with a generous coating of what tasted like cinnamon and espresso powder. The custard was rich and very creamy and more milk than egg. There was no hint of sweet cheese in this tiaramisu like I usually get in the States. At the very bottom were two small pieces of cake soaked in espresso that was sharply bitter next to the custard and provided a juxtapostion that was utterly satisfying. The network administrator in our group got the lemon bomb and let us taste. The light cake was covered with a thick layer of cream. The lemon flavor was strong and natural and not too sweet. The next time I see this on the menu, I will definitely try a full serving.

We walked off at least part of the dinner and saw the statue of Leonardo da Vinci. Most of the shops were closed by the time we finished dinner. A quick metro ride later, we were back at the hotel, and I was in bed, wide awake from the tiaramisu but happy.


Ravioli with that buttery sauce

Five minutes later.......

The cafe