Written by Melanie February 6, 2012
One thing that I have learned since being here is that CIMBA is not your average study abroad program! They provide so many amazing opportunities outside of just normal classes for things like leadership development, cultural experiences, and things that are just plain fun. This week we had an event that encompassed all three of those, a formal gourmet dinner!
Since college students aren’t exactly known for their superb table manners, we had an etiquette training seminar the night before dinner. There was a lot of information to take in! We learned everything from which fork to use for which course, to how to signal to the waiter that you are ready for your plate to be cleared. Although these aren’t skills that I will use back in Iowa City when I go to dinner with friends, it is nice to know that if in the future my company was to send me to another country, I would be able to show respect for their culture and traditions. Also, if I end up getting invited to a royal dinner any time soon, I could hold my own! A girl can dream, right??
The next night everybody got dressed up in their finest for our big dinner. It was really fun to see everyone trade their yoga pants and hoodies for cocktail dresses and suits. Looking out my window at everyone you would swear we were going to a wedding! After everyone was looking their best, we piled in to three big coach buses and headed to the hotel where our dinner was being held. The inside of the hotel was gorgeous! We walked into a large hall where the antipasti (appetizers) were served. The hall was full of waiters, white tablecloths and more food than we knew what to do with!
So now on to the best part, the food! To start us off, there was the antipasti course. This consisted of about 50 different dishes for us to try. There were so many different choices including cold pastas, mini toasts with different spreads, meatballs, shrimp, and spinach pastries, just to name a few. My absolute favorite though was the fried Parmesan cheese, it might have been the most amazing thing I have ever tasted!
After an hour of eating the antipasti and mingling, we were ushered into the dining room. This room had large round tables with beautiful centerpieces and beautiful chandeliers. The room was gorgeous! We sat at our tables (trying our best to remember our etiquette!) and watched in awe as the waiters brought out the first course. First we got a risotto and then ravioli. At this point I was stuffed, but that was only the first course! Then the main course came out, big plates with rosemary potatoes, marinated artichoke hearts with a pesto, and veal. All of the food was incredible and I think everyone ate to the point of physical pain, but we still had the dessert course! The dessert was a flaky, pastry crust with a mascarpone cheese filling. This desert actually made me re-evaluate my rule that all good deserts must contain chocolate, it was that good! Finally, they brought out little saucers of what tasted like Turkish coffee. It was extremely strong, but really good.
After all the food was gone and everyone had taken a thousand pictures, we piled back into the buses and headed back to campus. From the time we left campus to the time we got back it had taken about four and a half hours! It was amazing to be able to experience such a unique aspect of European culture that most of us would never have been exposed to otherwise. The best part? This was only the first of three gourmet dinners that we get throughout our semester here in Italy! I think I’m going to need a few more sunrise runs to prepare for the next one!
Until next time, ciao!