Wednesday, March 21, 2007

VCN Ethnic Dinners go to Vietnam

(Click on the pics to get a larger version) It was a dark and stormy night... and it was exactly like that, it's not just the standard beginning. In fact, the day the 8th edition of the VCN ethnic dinner was set for it was also the day when not one, not two, not three, not even four but for FIVE times the sky of Rome decide to shower the city with hail, each time in a heavier way than the previous one so much that the last one, fell just a few minutes before the meeting time, left a good layer of ice over the street and cars, making it difficult to just walk straight.

In such circumstances, I was expecting a high number of defections and I would had even understood them. Quite surprisingly, in the end, almost everyone made it to the restaurant making a fairly crowded dinner with 18 people. As usual, italians made the largest group with 5 people followed by Germany and USA with 2 each, then Netherlands, Philippines, Norway, Finland, Chile Brazil, Croatia and the first Australian ever... and someone else the country was never discovered. Unfortunately, even if almost everyone showed up eventually, the weather took its toll in the form of huge delays, making the proper dinner start quite a bit late...

The restaurant itself didn't have enough place to accommodate all of us in a single table and so we were divided between a main table and two, smaller, ones. Speaking of the restaurant, located in via Giulia (right behind Campo dei Fiori), it turned out to be the only vietnamese restaurant left in Rome after the closing down of a more famous one near the British Embassy. It's pretty unassuming and barely noticeable from outside, and even inside it's nothing really impressive, made of two relatively small rooms. Putting together a standard menu was somewhat complex, in part due some communication problem with the owner and even worse with the waiters, which made problematic at first the service, but that eventually was reason of amusement more than annoyance.

Food was ok, even if not sensational, the best dish being probably, at least for my taste, the beef with onions and talks were, as usual, lively and cheerful (as you can see...). And while I was pretty much stuck against a wall and basically unable to move, fate made us discover the one who could become the official photographer for our future dinners in the person of Laura, who spent a big deal of time happily jumping around the tables to make pictures (being barely noticed while doing it, I must say, making for a couple of pretty funny pictures) and apparently immensely enjoying herself in the process.

Dinner went along smoothly and before we knew it, we arrived to the end, but apparently no one wanted to leave as we kept going with our talks and having more spare rice brought to the table as an excuse for keeping the tables (not like the owner of the place would had sent us out, anyway). But as always, things must come to an end and a few minutes before midnight we called it over, happy to discover that, in the meanwhile, the weather had improved and, despite the bitter cold (well, in italian terms, but what can you expect in a day when ice had been falling down from the sky the whole time?), we could had made it back home dry.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

VCN Ethnic Dinners go to Egypt

The 7th Edition of the Ethnic dinners saw the VCN gang moving to Egypt (click pics to enlarge). I ended up choosing the restaurant where a former neighbor of mine had worked for a while over last summer, having only nice things to report about the owners and the cook.

Indeed, I went to check the place with Susanne and, even if small, the place looked nice and charmy, especially due the tent-like arrangement of the interiors and ceiling. Arranging the menu was easy and mostly vegetarian friendly, what was complicated was putting together the participants as, due an unnoticed bug if yahoo, my first two messages about the dinner were never delivered to the crowd. So it was that five days before the actual dinner I had still no one attending. Yet, someone finally dawned on me the problem and after I send yet another invitation, this time making sure it was delivered, withing half a hour I had already more than a dozen attendees.

The dinner could had been a francophone dominated one had all the booked ones actually showed up, while eventually only 3 out of 6 did, leaving to the italians (5) the title of largest group, followed by french (3), UK (2) and 1 each for Germany, Belgium, Philippines, Japan, Croatia and USA.

The place itself was not easy to find, somehow off the beaten track in the Piazza Bologna Area, and that took its toll on the arrivals which were scattered over one hour and a half, so much that I eventually the dinner began while some were still missing.

Once started, tho, the dinner went smoothly. Tasty the vegetable Felafel, between good and obscenely good the various vegetable creams that were served as appetizers together with some spicy arab beans that went by mostly unnoticed. The particular arab bread was nice, while the very big mistake was picking some arab wine from Morocco, overpriced and with a dubious taste.

Once the appetizers were, quickly, disposed of, the main courses made their appearance, with mixed results. While the Swharma chicken served with white rice with raisins and pine nuts was so good that I lost the count of the times I (together with others) served myself and the vegetarian cous cous met the general appreciation, the kebab was extremely disappointed, served in big, oily pieces and left not fond memories behind itself once it was gone (above, to the right, the "asian corner" dealing with the kebab cutting task).

The VCN crowd was showing evident signs of having been properly fed by the time the tables was cleared for the last part of the dinner: mint tea accompanied with special arab pastries that, I must say, looked delicious but I didn't even try, having and indulged too much and eventually succumbed to the shwerma chicken. It was about eleven when the group finally disbanded and while the final bill was higher than the last dinners (around 24 for the ones who had taken the wine, 20 for the others) , the dinner appeared to be a success.

Next time: Vietnam.

Monday, March 05, 2007


If anyone is wondering what has happened that is preventing me to write, well, this someone hasn't been reading with attention, or has just happened to find my blog.

One way or the other, the reason why my last entry is dated 26th febraury is that on the 27th Susanne has arrived in Rome and here she will stay until the first days of April. That, together with the fact that I can not write extensively during work time anymore (amazingly, I find myself with something to do at work, and happily so) is also the reason why, probably, I will write only sporadically over the course of this month.

In other news, I've been made an offer about my writing, a very tempting one, but have not heard from the offering one since I've accepted, so either he realized the enormity of what he had done, or he has simply been very busy... who knows.

More in the next news flash.