Hello from California! — Update


Italian Cooking Class 2 — With Dessert Salami


I’ve been wildly busy; my days are filled with schoolwork, friends, food, some sleep, skyping my mom and boyfriend, photography and blogging, weekend trips, and Florence. I’ve finished blogging about Rome! I have Switzerland left, Vinci, Bologna and Prague, as well as the second soccer game, San Gimignano and Siena. I pour my heart and hours of time into my blog, which is why the posts are flowing  s l o w  and steady.

Anyway, today I had my second cooking class! So much fun!! Here’s the link to my first cooking class.

Ingredients! (Those are gluten-free cookies, an adjustment made just for me ❤ ).

My classmates with one of the chefs (the guy on the very right).
My Nor-Cal people: (L-R) Katerina S., Elizabeth M., Kaitlin J., Cameron F., and that one chef-guy. On the left are some of the So-Cal girls also studying abroad with AIFS.
Preparing the eggplant Caprese salad ingredients.

Mixing the gluten-free gnocchi at my table.

Then rolling them out into strips and chopping them up into little pieces!
Fun fact: the gluten-free gnocchi won’t stick to each other like the regular pieces will.
Our instructor Francesco instructing.

The gluten-free gnocchi and eggplant Caprese at my table!!

Elizabeth M. and Cameron F.’s hand trying to ruin her gnocchi-modelling.
Potato Gnocchi in Sugo al’Aglione (Tomato & Garlic Pasta Sauce).
Francesco demonstrating how to roll up the chocolatey dessert mix that is called “Sweet ‘Salami’.”
(It’s made of sugar, egg yolks, butter, bitter cocoa powder, sweet liquor, and crumbled cookies. They substituted the cookies for gluten-free ones!).
It’s wrapped up in foil, and its shape resembled a piece of salami. It is typically frozen for about 2 hours (but in the restaurant’s super-powerful freezer it only took 20 minutes).
My gluten-free “Sweet Salami” !!
It tasted really good! I had Elizabeth M. taste-test the difference between my gluten-free sweet salami and the regular one — mine tasted chocolatier and she liked it better.
The brave, gluten-free-Italian-cooking AIFS classmates at my table, including Katelyn C., Katie G., Carly B., Jackie P., and Ayla B.
Kaitlin J., Katerina S. and Elizabeth M., my dinner buddies!
I really like the AIFS cooking classes, and the efforts the restaurant (In Tavola) made to adjust to my food-needs was really awesome. I had a great, gluten-free vegetarian dinner with my AIFS people.
The restaurant did remarkably well tolerating me poking into every group to snap pictures and following Francesco about to listen to his instructions to other groups. We ate dinner below the restaurant like last time (see the previous Italian cooking class post here). We even all received little recipe menus afterward, just like last time 🙂
It’s a fun experience — I definitely recommend taking an Italian cooking class, especially through AIFS! Just let AIFS/your program know before-hand if you have any dietary-restrictions 🙂
Tips for Italian cooking classes:
  • Definitely take one!
  • Don’t wear black/clothes you’re worried about getting dirty. It’s unlikely, but it could happen.
  • Don’t walk home alone afterward if it ends late in the evening!!! Have someone walk you. I walked with some AIFS girls that live near my house this time.
  • Bring a jacket for when it gets cold on the way home.

Italian Cooking Class 1 — With Panna Cotta

I signed up to take the Italian cooking class offered through my study abroad program, AIFS!

Ponte Vecchio = Old Bridge.

We met on the Ponte Vecchio and were led to the kitchen of the restaurant “In Tavola” across the bridge by an AIFS staff member. I let AIFS know before hand that I’m gluten free so that they could inform the restaurant and make adjustments for me.


We entered the kitchen through a back street, put on plastic aprons, and right after that the lead chef yelled out “who is my gluten-free?!” I yelled back “me!” and immediately got put in charge of stirring panna cotta on the stove top.

The menu:

  • Ravioli di spinaci e ricotta (Spinach and ricotta ravioli).
  • Sformato di verdure (An artichoke soufflé).
  • Panna Cotta (A cold, Italian custard).

A group of my classmates blending the sformato.

Mikaela and I in our awesome plastic aprons.

My team making the (spinach) ravioli filling.

The teacher/chef demonstrating how to make the ravioli pasta.

We got to use a pasta machine!

We learned how to shape raviolis too! (These are not gluten free)

Since the sformato contained some gluten, the teacher/chef made me an artichoke appetizer.

The sformato.

Sformato di verdure!
After we finished cooking, we were led downstairs to a room of the restaurant where we got to eat the dinner we had made together 🙂

Ravioli di spinaci e ricotta!

The teacher/chef made me my own (huge) bowl of gluten free pasta with tomato sauce — it was really good.

Dinner in a cool, underground room!


And finally.. Panna cotta for dessert! There is some strawberry sauce poured on top (just strawberries and sugar blended into smithereens). I’m a panna cotta fan so I enjoyed myself!
At the end we were given a little booklet with all the recipes we’d made that day.
Tips for Italian cooking classes:
  • Sign up for one!
  • Don’t wear black — the flour can go everywhere.
  • If you don’t get a booklet of recipes, write everything down!
  • If your class ends in the evening, make sure someone walks you home! A classmate walked me home and it was great to not walk back in the dark alone!

Getting the Hang of the City: Welcome Dinner and Travel Orientation

The Travel Orientation was this morning — there as a lot of useful travel tips about buses, trains, flights and exploring, and suggestions on where to travel. I think I’d like to visit the Island of Elba for a day, which was one of the suggestions. I really enjoyed it, and it gave me quite a few ideas on where I’d like to visit. The orientation made me realize just how much help the AIFS office can be with planning trips.

Side note: There’s a train ride to Sicily (an Italian island) from Florence. When the train reaches the water, it is dismantled and put onto a ferry boat, shipped over the water to Sicily, and put back together on the island; all the while the passengers remain onboard!

After the orientation we stopped by an electronics store; it’s interesting how small all of the shops in Italy are. In America we’re accustomed to rows and rows of large, glass windows filled with displays and exposing the interior of the shop. In Italy, it is easy to accidentally pass the shop you are looking for, because the stores here are very small, with perhaps one window and the entrance door. There also aren’t any glaring neon signs — I had to pay more attention to shops I am looking for.

We stopped by a pastry shop, and I bought a cute small heart-shaped frozen pastry (I had to wait at least 20 minutes before eating it).

I had my first class today, Italian Renaissance Art. What interested me most was an introduction into the subject of iconography in art, the use of symbols in artwork. It was getting very cold out, so after class my roommate Kat and I ran home and grabbed extra coats, then went to meet everyone from the program for the Welcome Dinner.

My meal was pretty good, and it was made vegetarian and gluten-free for me 🙂

I recommend letting the AIFS staff know of any special dietary needs as soon as possible, which is what I did. I also learned the words “Vegetariana” and “Senza glutine,” which means ‘Vegetarian’ and ‘Gluten-free,” which I used to communicate to the waiters tonight.

 I had a Caprese salad (tomatoes, mozzarella and basil with olive oil), gluten free pasta, potatoes, and fruit for desert.

 Kat, Elizabeth and Shelby at dinner.

 The whole place was just filled with the students and faculty from the program. (There are about 90 students).

 Creeper photo of our waiter.  A lot of the Italian guys here have this type of haircut, where the sides are shaved and the top is long. There are more extreme versions of this haircut I’ve seen already.

My roommates Kat and Elizabeth and I were pretty tired by the time dinner was over, so we walked home, passing the Piazza Santa Croce (“Kro-Chey”) on the way home.

It’s nice not to need a map when we walk home anymore! We’ve nearly gotten lost about 3 times now. More on that later!

Side note: There are about 5,000 study abroad students in Florence at any given time.

I Skyped my dog Leonard in the evening too: