There are times in life when, for brief moments, everything seems perfect in the world. One of those times, for me, was one late summer afternoon on my honeymoon, sitting on the upstairs patio of a café overlooking a busy outdoor market. There was chilled, slightly fizzy white wine on the table, and a small tray with salami, olives, and bread. I remember the long, flowy skirt that I was wearing, and my new husband sitting across from me, a mischievous smile on his face.
When I studied abroad in Rome a few years ago, my travel packet included a primer for ordering espresso from the little museum café around the corner from our classrooms. To begin with, we were warned, don’t order espresso, a term which refers to a technique and not a beverage. Instead order caffè — short for caffè espresso, there’s no other kind — and embellish the word with lyrical phrases to indicate how long to let water seep through pressed grounds and how much milk to add and when.
The first thing I wish I had known before I approached the car rental kiosk: Almost all cars in Europe are manual. The second: European car rental companies don’t really care about silly Americans like me that don’t know how to drive them.
Many young Americans are just like me. I learned how to drive in an automatic car. Five years have passed and I still cannot operate one with a manual transmission. At home, in my good old automatic, this is never an issue. But when I arrived in Europe last fall for a self-guided tour through wine regions in Spain, France, and Italy, my inability to manage a stick shift suddenly became a hindrance. Luckily, one rental company offered a solution to my problem: the Smart Car, which has an automated manual transmission and can be driven in either mode. It was extremely tiny, like a toy car — much smaller than any car I had ever driven. I wondered where exactly I was supposed to put my oversized suitcase. But while it wasn’t the most comfortable ride for a lengthy journey through wine country — certainly not very impressive to roll up to a winery in — the little car took me far.
Most people who profess to hate blue cheese don’t know a thing about it. They see blue veins, and they turn their peacock heads toward the Jarlsberg display. What a pity. If only they would close their eyes and accept a spoonful of Gorgonzola Dolce, then they might think they were eating vanilla ice cream. Or if they accepted a morsel of Cremificato Verde Capra, they might mistake it for lemon frosting.
Not all blues are badasses. Some tread very, very lightly.
Lately, I’ve been dreaming about the cheeses of Piedmont. Like so many borderlands, this Italian region hugs France and sucks the marrow out of two cultures, fusing the best of both: namely, Italian vigor and French romance. Here, you’ll find operatic young goat cheeses rolled in flower buds, along with oozy Robiolias (think: robust Brie) swathed in leaves – fig, chestnut, or even cabbage.
It’s as if Versace had dressed these wheels.
Piedmont, which means “foot of the mountains,” produces more than 50 varieties of cheese, ten of which are labeled Protected Designation of Origin (DOP), a hard-to-garner marker that ensures quality and distinction. MORE