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guest post / go away / mulinello milano

It’s day two of C+T Winter Break and Alissa is back! Hooray! You remember her from here, here, and here, and now that she is living in London, she gets to travel in Europe. One of her first trips after landing this fall, was Milan. We haven’t spent much time there, but after this rundown, we might have to. Thank you, Alissa!


Header-DuomoWithin one week of moving from Phnom Penh to London, I decided to test out the rumored cheap flights of Europe (the rumors are true) and pay a visit to Milan. Before heading there, someone told me that Milan was considered the ‘ugly duckling’ of Italy, known for being unattractive and overly industrialized relative to other Italian cities. Whoever bestowed this reputation on Milan clearly didn’t have eyeballs, because this gem of a city is a stunner and completely stole my heart. Two fantastic friends from Phnom Penh – Laetitia and Aldo (who was born-and-raised in the city) – served as my tour guides this trip, and can vouch for the constant stream of ‘Ooooo!’s and ‘Ahhhhh!’s and ‘Mmmmmmm!’s that emanated from me.

Milano is a mix of jaw-dropping Italian architecture and contemporary design, mouth-watering cuisine, a just enough grit to keep it real.Do---Galleria-Vittorio

Pinoteca

Pinoteca di Brera

DO – Art and architecture is the name of the game in Milano. Stroll around and soak in the masterpieces… you’ll need to build up an appetite anyway for all the eating you’re bound to do.

  • Il Duomo
  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
  • Pinacoteca di Brera

 

EATEAT – mozzarella, cured meats, gelato, pasta… it’s best to have 6 meals a day in Milano

Gelateria della Musica: There are an overwhelming number of flavors, but trust me – order the roasted salted pistachio flavor… you’ll be back the next night to sample the others anyway.

Pave: A stylish yet quaint pastry shop in an up-and-coming neighborhood, conveniently located 2 blocks from where we were staying. Sip a cappuccino with the pretty-young-things in town for Fashion Week, and eat an extra pastry for them. Try anything and everything on offer, the pastries are all made fresh on the premises and jams prepared by Pave as well.

 

 

Pave

Pastries at Pave.

Obica: Come here for one thing and one thing only, the mozzerella. We ordered a sampling of 5 to share – burata, stracciatella, delicate, intense and smoked. While we questioned whether we could actually finish it all, there was nothing left but an empty plate and us in a lactose-coma by the end.

Salvia fritta: Aldo introduced me to this Italian treat – deep fried sage leaves. A crazy combination of rich and savory meets fresh and pungent, this is definitely worth a try.

Apertivi @ Mom Cafe: Every evening bars across Milano throw down a spread of appetizers, which are free for patrons to devour as you imbibe an Aperol Spritz or two. Aldo took us to his old university haunt, Mom Café, for this tradition. We filled our bellies to capacity…. well, capacity plus room for gelato.

Mozzarella time at Obica.

Mozzarella time at Obica.

Gelateria

Last stop for the night – gelato, of course!


 

Drink-MilanDRINK – the Navigli district in Milan serves as the nighttime hotspot for bars. Meander along this canal in the night for a festive feel and great cocktails.

Luca e Andrea: a cozy, crowded spot right in the heart of it all. Ask the bartender for a Moscow Mule.

Old Fox Pub: Squeezing in as much as possible, we headed to this English Pub owned by a school-friend of Aldo’s for Sunday brunch before I caught my flight back to London. Eating up shepherd’s pie and sausages, cooked by an Italian, was the perfect way to transition from the delights of Milan back to London. This fantastic pub serves up its own delicious microbrews, one of just a handful of brewers in the burgeoning beer scene of Milan.


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guest post / the ten most delicious things alissa ate in japan

Happy Thursday! Tiff and Cait are still slacking today, and our friend Alissa, who you may remember for Minneapolis and Tanzania, is here to keep us lazy. Good luck reading this and not shoving your face full of Japanese food today.


tuna

Since my trip to Japan, I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of ikigai. Hailing from Okinawa, the word has no direct English equivalent, but roughly translates to ‘a reason to get up in the morning.’ It’s a noun that can be used to describe a wide range of things that bring someone satisfaction and happiness: a hobby, a friend, a lover, a profession. After much existential deliberation, I’ve realized that eating is up there on my ikigai list. As a person who thinks about nutrition from 9-5, I also spend a solid chunk of my personal time ruminating about what I’m going to eat next. When I talk about food, my eyes usually get all big and shiny. And given that my belly typically wakes me up instead of my alarm clock, eating literally is my ‘reason to get up in the morning’.

When Cait+Tiff asked me to do a travel post on Japan, I wasn’t sure where to start – everything about the country blew me away – the culture, the shrines, the design, the gardens… where to begin? But in the end, I decided to stay true to my ikigai.

I give you, the 10 most delicious things I ate in Japan:

Tofu ball at Giro Giro Hitoshina

Giro Giro Hitoshina is a kaiseki restaurant that takes a modern, daring spin on the traditional multi-course cuisine. Committed to innovation and affordability (8 courses for $30), the chef hopes to bring kaiseki to a new generation of diners. The entire experience was phenomenal, but this deep-fried tofu ball in red snapper broth was transformative. Said it before, saying it again: best thing I’ve ever eaten.

Location: Nambacho Nishikiyamachidori, Kyoto

tofu-ballz

Progression of tuna at Sushi Kanesaka

After watching ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’, my mantra this trip was ‘Alissa Dreams of Sushi’, and I ate so much of it I think I did actually dream about it. Kanesaka serves up a 17-course sushi masterpiece, with prices significantly more affordable than Jiro’s joint, particularly during the lunch hour. The highlight was the sequence of tuna nigiri – lean, medium fatty, fatty – all taken from the same delicious fish.

Location: Ginza, Tokyo

tuna-dos

Kagari’s tori-paitan ramen

This creamy chicken noodle soup pushes the ramen envelope and is well-worth the 1.5 hour wait. The setting is also delightful – a friendly, wooden ramen shop with only 15 seats located down a small alley off the bustling streets of Ginza.

Location: Ginza, Tokyo

ramen

Dinner at Doudou

Run by Satoko Sasaki, a little lady who traded in the hustle-and-bustle of Tokyo for a quieter life in Nara, this restaurant of only 7 seats specializes in Japanese home-style cooking. We feasted on grilled butterfly fish, creamy potato salad, roasted broad beans in the pod, and eggplant. Satoko also offers an introductory sake tasting, featuring sakes from the Nara region. In addition to the fantastic food, the intimate, cozy atmosphere of Doudou led to great conversation with other patrons – a physics professor from Kyoto (who said he visits Nara so he can drink beer without running into students!), a couple from Geneva, a business woman from Tokyo, a young man working in finance – and the chef herself.

Location: Tsubaicho, Nara

doudou

Okonomiyaki

Quote from my mom sums it up: ‘Uhhhhhh… This is the best thing I have ever, EVER eaten…… Okiyooki… Okaamaniki… Ookoonoomkia… How do you pronounce it?’ (In case you haven’t tried is, Okonomiyaki is this.)

Location: Sanjo Dori, Nara

okonomyaki-

Duck meatball in duck yolk

After braving the crowds and rain in Kyoto, all we wanted was something warm to eat and a dry place to rest our weary, water-logged feet. In the geisha district of Gion, we slipped into Wabiya Korekido, famous for yakitori (meat-on-a-stick), just as they were closing up. They graciously let us stay, and it was here that I ate the best meatball of my life. As the menu was all in Japanese, I don’t know much about it, except that it was made of duck and we rolled it around in a duck egg yolk before eating it. Superb.

Location: Gion, Kyoto

duck-meatball

Minimart snacks

Everything is so tasty in Japan that even mini-mart packaged food is ridiculously good. Favorites included: matcha (green tea) cakes, salty litchi juice, chocolate pancakes, and beef jerky.

Location: Family Mart, 7-11, Lawson’s across Japan

minimart

Japanese comfort food

Browsing the selections at Kyoto’s Nishiki Market is bound to make anyone ravenous. At first glance, the market seems to be only stalls, but closer inspection reveals a multitude of narrow halls leading to tiny restaurants operating in the back. We saw something looking like tempura and followed the adjacent hall back, hoping to find sustenance. As was the case for about 90% of our meals, we couldn’t read anything on the menu, but at this point in our Japan trip we knew that whatever was put in front of us would be scrumptious. What that ended up being was a giant bowl, filled with savory, slightly glutinous rice and topped with heaps of julienned, deep-fried sweet potatoes and yams. We don’t know what this dish is called but decided it must translate to ‘Japanese comfort food’.

Location: Nishiki Market, Kyoto

comfort-food

Fried chicken

I dragged my mom on an izakaya crawl through the Shibuya district of Tokyo. Navigating through the neon lights of the love hotel district, we sampled amazing yakitori and takoyaki, but the best eats were at a place called 35 Steps. Located in a basement 35 steps down, this izakaya is friendly, lively, and utterly delicious. The best was their fried chicken – perfectly crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and doused in a sweet, spicy sauce.

Location: Shibuya, Tokyo

fried-chicken

Kobe beef

My mom treated me to Kobe beef our last evening in Japan. I have no photos from this meal and I actually can’t remember the name of the restaurant – I blame this on the effects on consuming the most heavenly piece of meat of my life. Kobe beef is sinuously marbled with fat and like eating beef speckled with butter. The restaurant manager told us that he makes routine road trips to Kobe, namesake of this infamous beef, to procure cuts of meat at auction. Cows in Kobe are massaged and fed sake – the belief being that happier cows are tastier cows. This beef ain’t cheap, but worth the yen for the degustation experience.

Location: somewhere in Tokyo (apologies that marbled fatty beef erased all logistic memories of this meal)

The end!