Travel/Food 2008 – Monza, Day 3

Saturday, 17th May 2008 – Monza, Day 3

Saturday was truly awful weather wise too… We woke up to torrential rain, and it just kept right on all the way through breakfast. By the time we got to the circuit it was starting to look as if Plan B might have to be put into place and they’d be starting the afternoon’s race from championship positions, rather than actually going out to practice. However, as the morning wore on it improved a lot and eventually it was decided that there would be a session and they would all get to play finally. If they hadn’t, it would have been a long way to travel for nothing. First, however, there was the question of parking. The car parking stewards wouldn’t let me into the first of the officials car parks but I didn’t want to go in there anyway. In fact I didn’t want to go into any of the car parks. I wanted to be able to leave again at the end of the day. In fact what I wanted to do was park on the road so that at least 2 wheels were on solid ground and not in the mangrove swamp. Actually, to do that, you just ignore anyone trying to wave you into a field and keep going till you find a space that works. It means more of a walk but that’s fine with me.

Anyway, it simply led to more argument as it turned out, with people getting in trouble for cutting corners and thus gaining huge advantages. However, with 42 incident reports to sort through, the officials had one hell of a job deciding who to take times away from and who they could leave in place. The biggest sufferer was probably Sergio Perez, the freckle faced Mexican being bounced from somewhere very near the front to 14th, halfway down the field. He wasn’t any too pleased, but there was no arguing with the penalty. We decided we’d not wander over there and ask him about it, but instead we sidled off to find some lunch. The circuit has a useful coffee shop/bar just outside the paddock gates, so we popped in there for a plate of pasta, and a cappucino or two, where we ended up sitting at a table with some Italian girls who later sent me a message via Flickr about how they’d been looking at my photos for the last three months. It was a bit odd, a little like being stalked, though not necessarily in a bad way. Just slightly strange…

After that we eventually made our way back up to the press office to watch the first race of the weekend. And what a race that turned out to be. To my great amusement the guy from Autosport was in despair because he was only allowed 450 words for the entire meeting (as in two qualifying sessions and two races) and he had no idea how he was going to explain what had happened, especially if the race on Sunday was anywhere near as exciting. We had to break it to him that it probably would be if previous years were anything to go by. That’s the thing with Monza and F3 cars – the resulting race is usually a slipstream battle of the best sort. Certainly my notes were so dense that it took me three pages to describe what had happened, and some of them made no sense at all. I had to leave one line out altogether because I had no idea afterwards what it actually said, but I reckon between Lynne and I we got most of it – even if she didn’t have anything readable from whatever the incident was either. And thus, once again, we had to head off to hotel and get ready for dinner, while Glyn tried to escape from the trials of officiating. Again, we got him back just as I sat down to take the first sip of my pre-dinner Prosecco.

We were moving a little downmarket now (though only relatively), with the cosy, family-run Ristorante Sant’ Eustorgio, which we’d been to the year before and enjoyed. It was a bit busier and thus rather more chaotic this time around, which made getting a drink to start with was tricky, but we eventually snagged a bottle of Prosecco and settled down to study the menu armed only with a small dictionary and my culinary Italian, which is nowhere near as effective as my French or Portuguese restaurant vocabulary.

After a slight blip I settled for the tortelloni with butter and spinach, as did Glyn.

The other two went for the swordfish bruscetta. It took an age to arrive, but was well worth waiting for when it did hit the table. In comparison to the previous two nights the cooking was far closer to home cooking than to the elaborate food we’d had on the previous two nights but it was just as good in its own way.

The mains were all different. Lynne went for the asparagus, which was a massive plateful of tender green spears, dressed with parmigiano, and was deliciously fresh.

Glyn had the fillet steak, with peppercorn sauce. The meat was cooked just right – for my tastes anyway – rare in the middle, well cooked on the edges and nicely seasoned.

Robert had lamb, again perfectly judged, pink and tender and soft.

And I had the prawns in a curried sauce, with rice. I could have eaten any amount of those massive, juicy crustaceans and come back for more, and the rice was the ideal carbohydrate to act as a vehicle for the sauce. It was really tasty and very like something I might cook myself for friends.

We drank another sasella with the main course, not perhaps as refined as the one at the Derby Grill, but a lovely red nonetheless. And after all that meat/fish/asparagus they wheeled round a massive dessert trolley and wouldn’t take no for an answer, so it was strawberries and trifle for me…

Poached pears for Robert…

Strawberries for Lynne…

And Glyn surprised us all by going for vanilla ice cream! We wondered if the damp had got in or something! With the desserts we drank a Brachetto d’Acqui, described as “a surprising but delicious frothy light red bubbly, liquid cherry with a tantalizing bitter twist in the tail. Perfect as an aperitif or with rich chocolate desserts.” We ordered it because we’d never heard of it and it was a fun wine rather than anything very sophisticated. I liked it enough to want to order some though.

And so, once more, full of food, back to the hotel and to bed.

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