Cooking with Roberto, Redux

Cooking with Roberto, Redux
I enjoyed my pasta making class on Saturday so much that I signed up for another class with Roberto, of In Tavola, one of the cooking schools here in Florence. This consisted of a tour of the central market (Mercato Centrale), hopefully some demos from the butchers, followed by preparing a meal back at their kitchen.
The central market is located in an iron and glass building completed in 1874 specifically to house the main market of Florence. It takes up a small city block, and supposedly has two floors, although I’ve never seen the second. I find Roberto sitting in front of door 7, our appointed meeting point, casually reading the paper.
“Buon giorno Roberto!. Come sta (how’s it going)?”
“Buon giorno Robert,” he replies. “Sto bene (I’m doing well)”, he replies.
I inquire about the others. It seems we’re waiting on a group from the agency that supplies him with many of the students.
“They’re always late. If one or two people show up late, they must wait for everyone until they bring the students to us.”
I decided to kill the time walking around inside, although this is probably my 3rd or 4th trip here. Today, I’ll be with an expert however.
The group finally shows up and there are 12 of us. About a perfect size as the market is a noisy place, and as we follow Roberto around as he teaches about the various products, this allows us to not be too crowded.
First stop is the fish section, where we learn among other things, how to tell the difference between farm raised and wild sea bass (I think that’s the fish). The Venetian fish market has a much wider selection of fish but there are still more fish here than at your local Kroger’s, plus it’s fresh. Shelf life is one to two days according to Roberto.
Next comes the meat section. We start with a “speciality” shop that. Let me start off by saying that NOTHING gets wasted when animals are butchered here. This shop sold tripe (stomaches), intestines, organs, sex organs (male and female), and although I didn’t see any cow brains here, there was a shop that sold head cheese, which is made from boiling the head and taking the leftovers (or something to that effect). At this point I’m about ready to give up meat and become a vegetarian.
We work our way to a regular butcher shop in time to see them debone a leg of a cow. However here the meat is much more recognizable (steaks, burger, etc). Several other meat shops (fowl, pig) round out our tour of the meats.
The whirlwind continues as we visit a high end olive oil, cheese, and vinegar shop, one of numerous fruit stands, and bread shop. Roberto makes several purchases along the way for our meal back at the kitchen.
We’re finally done at the market so we head back to the kitchen. Today we’re cooking a 4 course meal: bruschetta, a zucchini penne pasta, Italian meat balls (a kind of meat loaf thing), and panna cotta for desert.
More prep work is required for todays meal; many things to be sliced and diced. However since there are 4 of us per workspace it gets done quickly. We start the cooking process and the kitchen rapidly fills with wonderful smells, meat browning, vegetables being sauteed, etc.
Finally it’s all complete and we head downstairs with our appetizer and first course (pasta course). Roberto brings the second course (meat course) down shortly followed by the desert. Once again a wonderful meal, and fun time had by all (well, at least the people at my table).

I enjoyed my pasta making class on Saturday so much that I signed up for another class with Roberto, of In Tavola, one of the cooking schools here in Florence. This consisted of a tour of the central market (Mercato Centrale), hopefully some demos from the butchers, followed by preparing a meal back at their kitchen.

_DSY5229

The central market is located in an iron and glass building completed in 1874 specifically to house the main market of Florence. It takes up a small city block, and supposedly has two floors, although I’ve never seen the second. I find Roberto sitting in front of door 7, our appointed meeting point, casually reading the paper.

“Buon giorno Roberto!. Come sta (how’s it going)?”

“Buon giorno Robert,” he replies. “Sto bene (I’m doing well)”, he replies.

I inquire about the others. It seems we’re waiting on a group from the agency that supplies him with many of the students.

“They’re always late. If one or two people show up late, they must wait for everyone until they bring the students to us.”

I decided to kill the time walking around inside, although this is probably my 3rd or 4th trip here. Today, I’ll be with an expert however.

The group finally shows up and there are 12 of us. About a perfect size as the market is a noisy place, and as we follow Roberto around as he teaches about the various products, this allows us to not be too crowded.

First stop is the fish section, where we learn among other things, how to tell the difference between farm raised and wild sea bass (I think that’s the fish). The Venetian fish market has a much wider selection of fish but there are still more fish here than at your local Kroger’s, plus it’s fresh. Shelf life is one to two days according to Roberto.

Next comes the meat section. We start with a “speciality” shop. Let me start off by saying that NOTHING gets wasted when animals are butchered here. This shop sells tripe (stomaches), intestines, organs, sex organs (male and female), and although I didn’t see any cow brains here, there was a shop that sold head cheese, which is made from boiling the head and taking the leftovers (or something to that effect). At this point I’m about ready to give up meat and become a vegetarian.

The Speciality Butcher

The Speciality Butcher

We work our way to a regular butcher shop in time to see them de-bone a leg of a cow. However here the meat is much more recognizable (steaks, burger, etc). Several other meat shops (fowl, pig) round out our tour of the meats.

The whirlwind continues as we visit a high end olive oil, cheese, and vinegar shop, one of many fruit stands, and bread shop. Roberto makes several purchases along the way for our meal back at the kitchen.

_DSY5204

We’re finally done at the market so we head back to the kitchen. Today we’re cooking a 4 course meal: bruschetta, a zucchini penne pasta, Italian meat balls (a kind of meat loaf thing), and panna cotta for desert.

_DSY5224

More prep work is required for todays meal; many things need to be sliced and diced. However since there are 4 of us per workspace it gets done quickly. We start the cooking process and the kitchen rapidly fills with wonderful smells, meat browning, vegetables being sauteed, etc.

Finally it’s all complete and we head downstairs with our appetizer and first course (pasta course). Roberto brings the second course (meat course) down shortly followed by the desert. Once again a wonderful meal, and fun time had by all (well, at least the people at my table).

_DSY5233

Postscript: On the walk back home along the Arno River passed another group of art students. Saw this shot, liked it, and made it as I walked by.

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~ by l on October 1, 2009.

3 Responses to “Cooking with Roberto, Redux”

  1. Robert:
    I’m sure I’m not the first to urge you to submit your remarkable images for publication. Certainly they should be copyrighted reserving all rights – a very simple matter that protects your work from random use by others. I would think “Wine Connoisseur”, “Gourmet” (or any number of books or magazines) would delight in presenting your striking photographs to accompany articles or on their covers. I am enchanted with your glowing pictures of grapes, wine racks, bottles and luscious food. Artist to artist I surely appreciate your fine graphic eye.

  2. Wow, it sounds so much fun! Fresco, nuevo, divertido y además, sabroso! Y buena compañía! Genial!

  3. Rat
    I agree with your friend Eve, your work is simply remarkable. Your eye for striking images is amazing. Maybe a coffee table book is in the offing? I envy you being able to stay in Italy for so long. I long to get back again soon.
    Spanky

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