Friday, January 11, 2013

Our Day in Milan

Milan Cathedral.Milan. The commercial and industrial center of Italy. One of the fashion capitals of the world. We were not sure if we wanted to visit you. There are some people, who think you can be easily skipped on the first trip to Italy, but we did not, and we have no regrets.

Milano Centrale Train Station.We arrived to Milan on Wednesday (November 21st) afternoon by train. Before we boarded the train, I was secretly hoping that our travel companions will be as much fun as Lorenzo was. No such luck. First of all, they took one of our seats, which apparently is not a big deal, but we did not know it and felt uncomfortable at first. And secondly, they had no interest in communicating with us, which I absolutely expected, but still hoped for something more fun.

Streets of Milan.We ended up changing our sitting arrangement so that we would have no travel companions at all (there are usually two pairs of seats facing each other). The ride itself was relatively short, just under two hours. I think that one of the reasons why trains are so popular and well-scheduled in Europe is that distances between major travel destinations are not that great.

Our suite at Hilton Milan.Upon our arrival we took a short walk to the hotel and checked in. Since we only spent one night in Milan, we’d decided that staying close to the train station would be very convenient, and it actually was the case. The Hilton that we stayed in was very nice, and as Diamond VIP members we got our room upgraded to a suite, access to the executive lounge, free internet and free breakfast. The area around the hotel seemed safe, and the added benefit was that subway was close by.

Subway of Milan.After checking in we went to see the famous Milan Cathedral. It was just a few subway stops away, so we spent very little time getting there. The square in front of the church was quite busy — there were a lot of people and pigeons. The cathedral looked impressive from the outside, but I have to say that to me it was a bit less magical than the Florence one.

Inside the cathedral.After admiring it for a little while, we entered the place to check the inside. It looked expectantly Gothic — high ceilings, echoing steps, colorful mosaics depicting biblical scenes, altars, candles. I sat on one of the benches and thought about life; meanwhile Danya tried to take a few pictures despite poor light conditions. We also went to some sort of basement where sarcophagi with the corpses of a few religiously significant people were being stored. It felt a bit creepy.

On cathedral's roof.After that we decided to take a tour of the cathedral’s roof. We found the entrance easily, but it turned out that the tickets were sold in a separate shop, so we needed to acquire them prior to our admittance. The guards gave us good directions, so it was not a big deal (although I still don’t understand why they don’t sell them by the entrance). We opted for the elevator this time around.

Walking on the roof.Walking on the roof was a unique experience. You can’t really appreciate all the delicate details of the sculptures, spires and arches while looking at them from afar, so I am very glad that it’s possible to get so close to them. We also had an opportunity to look at Milan from above, but the day was somewhat hazy, so the view was just OK.

Another view from the top.There were also maintenance repair jobs going all over the place, so Danya was disappointed about the lack of more picturesque views. Oh well. It was still very nice, I am glad we did it. I’ve noticed that many statues had thin long sharp metal sticks attached to their tops. My guess is that it’s done to prevent pigeons from being too comfortable there.

Charleston.When we finished, it was time to eat. We walked around for a bit and picked a place at random. It was called Charleston, and we ended up having one of the best meals of our vacation over there. Since it was lunch, we ordered light — just a buffalo mozzarella pizza and spaghetti with chilli peppers. Both meals were super delicious, and I still salivate when I think about that pizza.

Buffalo Mozzarella Pizza.If I had a chance to eat a single meal from Italy again, it would definitely be buffalo mozzarella pizza. And pasta was just the right firmness. I’ve heard the term al dente so many times, but only at Charleston I understood the true meaning of it. I actually started to make firmer pasta at home upon our return from Italy.

Square in front of Milan Cathedral.We wondered around after lunch for a short while and went back to the hotel. There was nothing much to do, so we just relaxed, read, called Danya’s parents and Aroshka via face-time.

View from the roof.In a few hours we went to the executive lounge for some snacks and drinks. We’ve decided not to go out for dinner and just fill up on the free stuff that Hilton has to offer. And it was actually more than enough, because they had a great selection of snacks (salads, grilled vegetables, bruschetta, fish, olives) and wine was a plentiful as always. We went to bed early to be fresh for our last train ride next morning.

Street leading to our hotel.When we were reading about Milan we saw a lot of references about people gazing and looking at fashionable clothing. However people in Milan did not strike me as extra fashionable. I guess, after living in New York for over 10 years, it’s hard to be impressed.
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Spinach Stuffed Flank Steak

Spinach and feta stuffed flank steak.This was a nice break from my regular repertoire, and it took under an hour to cook. I am not sure I’ll do it again any time soon, but I thought that it was worth posting here just in case.

For stuffing I mixed some feta cheese with a pack of frozen spinach (defrosted the spinach fist of course), then added minced garlic clove, some lemon juice and lemon zest. I also boiled two eggs.

I butterflied a flank steak, rubbed it with salt and pepper, put spinach mixture and eggs on top, rolled the whole thing up and tied with the twine. Then I brushed the meat with some olive oil and put under broiler for 20 minutes.

I served it with baked corn (brushed with butter, rolled in foil and baked in the oven), whole wheat pasta and sauteed spinach with green beans. For the saute I steamed the beans first for a few minutes; then heated a tablespoon of olive oil in the frying pan, added 2 cloves of garlic and fried until fragrant; added beans, sauteed for a few minutes; then added spinach, salt and lemon juice and sauteed for 1-2 additional minutes.

As I said, it was a nice break from my regular stuff. My favorite part was a lemony-garlicky saute, although the steak was Ok too.
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Salmon in Cream

Salmon in cream.I wanted to share this simple, but delicious recipe which Danya’s mom taught me a couple of months ago1. A great thing about this recipe is that it takes very little time to cook, so it’s easily doable on a work day evening. Another good thing is that fish in cream somehow tastes less fishy than for example its grilled variety, which is a big plus for a girl whose husband is not a fish fan. )

Anyhow. You’ll need: Continue Reading

  1. She saw it in some cooking program on Russian TV. []
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Lemon Chicken in Caper Cream SauceIn the light of my husband’s newly found appreciation of chicken, I was very excited to cook a Lemon Chicken in Caper Cream Sauce last night.

Similar chicken, called Lemon Chicken Scallopini, was once my favorite meal in TGI Friday’s, but to my utter frustration it was taken off the menu a number of years ago.

When we were driving home from Boston on Memorial Day, we dined at the California Pizza Kitchen restaurant, located in Foxwoods hotel and casino. Danya ordered Chicken Picatta, which tasted — surprise! surprise! — just like the Lemon Chicken from TGIF.

So, since Danya liked the meal a lot, my mission was to reproduce it at home. I googled “lemon chicken capers”, and the third recipe that came out looked just right. After reading some reviews, I modified it slightly, so here is how I cooked it last night: Continue Reading
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