The Cooking Class and Fashion’s Night Out

On September 18, CEA held a cooking class at In Tavola, which is like a super nice place that offers cooking classes in Firenze.  Emily, Brie, Nicole, Erica and I walked around the Oltrarno for a while looking for the place, because it was hidden on a tiny street that looked more like an alley.  This was not an uncommon occurrence in Europe.

There were only about 20 of us in this class (the whole school could sign up for different days over a week).  We were split into four groups.  Emily and I were in one of the vegetarian groups.  We started with our antipasto, or appetizer, which was caprese di melanzane, or eggplant caprese.  We grilled the eggplant slices and put it on a tomato slice.  Then we put a slice of mozzarella over that and sprinkled basil over it.

Next, we made pasta dough.  You start with a mound of flour, and make it like a volcano, with a crater in the middle.  You break two eggs in the middle and mix it gently together until it’s doughy.  Then you make it into a ball and wrap it in saran wrap for about 30 minutes.

While we were waiting for the dough to do whatever (I honestly don’t know), we made the sauce.  My little cookbook calls it Fresh Mediterranean sauce.  It was garlic, tomatoes, capers, parsley and olive oil in it.  We mixed all that together and let it cook.

Then, still waiting for the dough to be ready, we made tiramisu.  First we had to mix mascarpone with sugar and egg yolk, then egg whites.  Then we had a coffee and brandy mixture that we dipped Savoiardi cookies into.  We made alternating layers of the mascarpone and cookies and sprinkled the top with cocoa powder.

Finally the dough was ready.  Our teacher showed us how to set up the pasta maker and how to cut the dough.  First you cut off a little part of the ball of dough and roll it flat (we actually used those old wooden rolling pins).  You have to run the dough through the machine at different settings, or thicknesses, for different kinds of pastas.  We just make regular spaghetti.  Then we threw it in a pot of boiling water and let it cook for about two or three minutes, not long at all, and then it was ready!

We took our pasta through a storage room and out into a courtyard, then down into a basement that was really a big dining room.  The people from In Tavola had set up our eggplant caprese and tiramisu.  We all got seats and were served the food we had just made.  It was delicious!  Homemade pasta is SO much better than store-bought pasta.  Homemade everything is just better.

We were already talking about walking around town when we noticed that there were a lot more people out than usual.  Then we remembered–September 18 was Fashion’s Night Out!  This is a night when all the designer stores are open, usually serving drinks.  It was started by Vogues Editor-In-Chief Anna Wintour in 2009 for try to jumpstart the economy after the collapse in 2007-08.  There are Fashion Nights in New York, Los Angeles, and Paris, among 25 other US cities and 15 countries worldwide.  2012 was the first Fashion Night Out in Firenze.

We split up to get dressed up (which for me meant without food on my clothes), and met again on via Tournabuoni, which is the fashion center of Firenze, and only a block over from my apartment.  There were places set up in the middle of the street where you could go get a free drink, and all the stores were open and giving out free drinks.  We went into the Ralph Lauren store first.  Via Tournabuoni is also home to such mega-names like Chanel, Bulgari, Valentino, Hermes, and Salvatore Ferragamo.  It’s not like it was really late, but the area around my apartment is usually closed down and quiet by dark, so it was exciting to see it lit up and alive.  In Piazza della Repubblica, a huge stage had been set up (we had seen this on the way to school, how had we forgotten?) and there were people performing.  There was a huge bar set up in the middle of the piazza.  I wanted to buy one of the Fashion Night Firenze T-shirts, especially since it was Firenze’s first year, but they were all sold out!  I got a postcard though.