In anticipation of pasta overload, I have Pilates’d and treadmill’d my way through this week in hopes that it might help cancel out the European smorgasbord I’m about to encounter. Wishful thinking, eh? Not that I’m complaining or anything. This foodie is more than happy to jump right into the arms of Italian gluttony.
Made it. We’re in Carunchio. And the hills are alive! It looks like a scene from “The Sound of Music” right outside our window. And I’ll just go ahead and admit that the sight of that lush green landscape – and knowing we’ll be waking up to it for the next week — may have induced age-regressing squeals from the three of us.
But let me back up to this morning.
Austin > NYC
It’s a celebration. We’re on our way to Italy, so Bailey’s and coffee is in order at 9 a.m. That said, we got a little more than disapproving glances on cocktail consumption this morning from a Delta flight attendant who offered unsolicited warnings about the effects of alcohol at high altitudes. But after getting “KINDed” with a box of free snack bars from Jessie – and then listening enviously to the culinary trip we were about to embark upon – she subsequently sent us off with half a dozen mini bottles of vodka. WIN.
NYC > Rome
With a layover long enough to procure lunch in nearby Williamsburg, we booked it to Brooklyn for brunch. After sippin’ a couple of mimosas and popping into one of my favorite local boutiques, we headed straight back to JFK. No security lines. Double win.
The 9-hour flight almost went off without a hitch. Then, about an hour before landing, we watched as a man in the row in front of us reared back over the top of his seat, eyes rolling back in his head. He was having a seizure. Talk about a scary sight. But whaddya know? A paramedic happened to be seated directly in front of him, so he and three other first responders were able to stabilize the guy and avoid an emergency landing. In total, there were at least four medical professionals on our flight — all of whom answered the call when a flight attendant pleaded for assistance. An hour later, Roman paramedics came aboard to greet the man and his grateful wife.
We made it to Italy. And after obsessing all day over whether my bag would make it across the pond, it arrived safe and sound. Unfortunately, it was Jessie’s whose luggage showed up mangled and missing a wheel. But at least the contents were safe.
We made our way to the designated meet-up spot to find our group. Then, after a 3-hour bus ride east into Abruzzo, we arrived at the bottom of a hill in Carunchio. A group of old Italian men on a bench eyed our brightly clad American group as we climbed into a couple of vans to transport us half a mile uphill to the Palazzo Tour d’Eau, our gorgeous restored 300-year old hotel.
We represent Vancouver, Massachusetts, Colorado, Wisconsin, Alaska, Alabama, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois and Texas. In fact, Jessica, Mandy and I have become known as “Texas” collectively. “Texas is here,” is what they say when we arrive at dinner. “Here comes Texas.” And I think we’re OK with that.
The Welcome Dinner
Once night fell, dinner was absolutely divine. The menu:
- popover (fresh puff pastry) with black truffles and Italian cheeses in a saffron sauce
- gnocchiette in a porcini mushroom paste
- wild boar crusted with black truffles and pancetta on a bed of homemade applesauce
- semifreddo; a lemon panacotta-like custard with mixed berries
Check out the welcome dinner gallery for photos of tonight’s meal.