"Dirty Socks," It's Not

SEPT. 8 – PARMA – Until now, my only knowledge of the Italian city of Parma was of its more well-known culinary exports, such as Chicken Parmagiana and Parmesan cheese. In fact, since my childhood, the latter has been known as "Dirty Socks," a nickname given it by my father in recognition of the cheese's strongly distinctive smell. Though we've been here in Parma for less than half of our seven-night stay, I can say with authority that the "cucina Parmagiana" is a lot more that just "dirty socks."

It's a small town, rather quiet and peaceful by Italian standards, according to Michelle. In fact, the Frommers guidebook only has a few pages of description on Parma. But among those pages, it calls the small but charming city "one of the most prosperous" of Italy, a claim supported by our firsthand experience. As near as I can tell, the area's chief industry is food, with prosciutto being one of the main products.

Whatever the case may be, the food is outstanding. Though my father may disagree, I rate Italian cuisine above even that of Paris (but food is such a subjective affair). For my birthday, Michelle took me to Ristorante La Greppia, where we enjoyed three courses of delectable Parmesan dishes. Michelle started with a creamy dollop of Parmesan cheese, served with a wine-poached pear, while I enjoyed a tender, sauteed serving of sturgeon. I continued with a pasta with porcini mushrooms and prosciutto in a cream sauce. For the main course, Michelle savored a chicken breast in a wild berry & wine cream sauce with mashed potatoes and fresh berries, while I partook of a veal cutlet in a hearty sauce a la Farnese (the one-time rulers of Parma).

But for now, I must close. I'm wasting valuable time writing this, when I could be eating!

Next: Terror in New York

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