Travel Archive

Monday, June 24, 2013

espresso granita with whipped cream

granita di caffe con panna

One of my favorite desserts on this planet (yes, we’re going for High Melodrama today, also, it’s that wonderful) is affogato, which translates from Italian as “drowned.” The lucky drowner is top-notch vanilla gelato, and it is draped in a single shot of freshly-pulled espresso. I see you arching your eyebrows and you are full of questions, aren’t you? Isn’t that horribly bitter? Doesn’t it melt the ice cream? How can it be your favorite dessert if it has neither butter nor chocolate with it? All are legitimate concerns but the thing is, when it’s done right — and there really is a magical balancing point between the volume of ice cream and the amount of espresso, that is, sadly, rarely achieved — the resulting mess is a semi-slumped mound of cold and sweet vanilla cream with a trench of faintly bitter latte around it. It is the ultimate grownup dessert — sure, you get the ice cream you’ve been angling for after dinner since you were 3.5, but you also get a bracing hit of espresso, just enough to keep you up past your bedtime, you know, when all the fun begins.

espresso granita, unsweetened cream

Of course, we’re not going to talk about affogato today because, well, you already know how to make it now. Instead, we’re going to talk about the cups of granita di espresso con panna we fell head over heels for in Rome, which reminded me of an inversed affogato. Instead of unsweetened espresso coating sweetened creamy gelato, it’s the coffee that’s icy and sweet and the cream that’s plain and soft. The result is the same contrast of bitter versus sweet, soft versus icy that I love in affogato, but stacked in a cup that you can eat with a spoon as you wander the ancient cobblestoned center of Rome on blazing hot day when even the dapper businessman we passed along the Tiber was licking a gelato cone with the utter abandon of a kid. (Rome, you are wonderful.)

looking upkeeping the kid out too laterush hour in romefrom villa borghese to piazza navonasweet balloons and an e-reader at the vaticanthis is a pizza flour delivery little wanderertonnarelli cacio e pepe

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Friday, June 14, 2013

bowties with sugar snaps, lemon and ricotta

bowties, sugar snaps, mint, ricotta, lemon

So, I didn’t really know how to tell you this earlier, but we’ve gone to roam. I mean, we are in Rome, here, for a week and a half. Why so long? Why Rome? Does it even matter? The itch for travel that was more than an overnight book trip to one city or another was intense, as I remember a time pre-kid when we used to go places all of the time, just following the promise of cheap airfare passable-enough hotels to Vienna and Prague and Paris, just because. But we were scared of travelling with a three year-old because I don’t want to wreck the reputation of the one that’s been assigned to us, but you see, as normal as this makes him, he doesn’t always listen. Sometimes he yells? He’s not so good at airplanes. Or fancy restaurants. But I knew there would be a point where the inconveniences incurred by travelling with a preschooler would feel less of a burden than spending another minute taking a serious family vacation somewhere we’ve always wanted to study up close, to linger in long enough that it might almost feel routine after a few days, and here we are. At last.

places a three year-old will lead youwhy would you eat lunch if you could run, run, run?the only tourist-free view is upone of the many hideous alleys of rome
vroooomsweet feet and a dapper jacket just this old building in our 'hoodespresso granita, unsweetened cream

My obsession with travel, and finding a way to do more of it again, is more of a desire to do things that take me out of my comfort zone. I like studying the way people walk or talk, or even take their coffee, in other places, and I like trying to figure out why. I like learning that everything I thought I knew about something (currently: pizza; soon, hopefully: everything else) was wrong. And I like being far enough away from home that even figuring out small things, like where we might buy some milk, or what all those buttons on the washing machine do (just cross your fingers we did it right, okay?), requires full concentration and at least one furrowed brow. Because while I’m having my mind bent by maps with streets that have no name, or streets that have names but aren’t on maps, things that plagued my brain earlier are neglected, and when revisited, have found a way of readjusting themselves into really no longer a big deal. How could they be, in the bigger realm of things? How could they be, in a place with “alleys” so stunning?

sugar snaps, get extra for cook's snacks

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Friday, September 2, 2011

peach butter

happy breakfast

We spent last weekend in New Orleans. I’d been invited to be on a panel about recipe development at a lovely conference, and we wove that together with a baby-free mini-vacation for our anniversary weekend. We’d only been to New Orleans once before, just a couple months before our wedding in 2005, not realizing how strongly we’d feel connected to the city when our wedding and Hurricane Katrina fell on the same date. Meanwhile, we managed to miss another hurricane — and her damages — entirely back home. We’re lucky people.

streetcar
we called her Irene

When we go away, we always have great plans to walk everywhere and eat freely, hoping to strike a balance. However, that arrangement works out a little better in a city that doesn’t have the still air and intense heat of a preheated oven — summer there is no joke! So, we walked slowly and ate immensely. I wanted to tell you about all of it — the tomato salad with battered Vidalia “chips”! the boudin! the po’ boys! — but when I typed it all together, it was a terrifying thing to behold. I couldn’t even own up to it on a weblog that extols good eating. [Hint: I had at least four dishes smothered in gravy. In three nights!] But I will tell you about the brunch platter that nearly did me in, and had it, it would have been a fine, fine way to go: eggs, grits, fried green tomatoes, bacon, a giant warm biscuit and the owner’s own peach butter made to slather upon it. “You’re going to have to roll me home from New Orleans!” I told my husband, after which we vowed to find healthier fare on our final day (but still ended up with a beignet breakfast, muffaletta lunch and then pralines boxed up as gifts. New Orleans is snickering at me right now, I know it is.)

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Monday, August 15, 2011

tomato salad with crushed croutons

tomato salad with crushed croutons

We spent the last week in what I call the vacation trifecta: among beaches, wineries and farm stands. The vacation was supposed to be a reward for getting my book finished by August 1st. Instead, I all but tried to cancel the vacation when I realized I wouldn’t be done. Despite all of my practice over the last few months, I’m not very good at not finishing things. I don’t like going to bed with dishes in the sink, I’d rather stay up until midnight getting something done than have to start the morning with an old item on my to-do list and I did not want to go on vacation until I finished my project. Oh no. I did not. I might have even dreaded it.

after the beach

everything is prettier on vacation

Thank goodness we went anyway as we had fantastic vacation, I dare say the best one we’ve had since adding another member to our family. As it turns out, when the baby sleeps (in a bed! in a strange place! like a champ! who is this child and what did he do with Jacob?) on vacation, everyone gets one and it also turns out, when you’re really on vacation, any and all promises you made to yourself to get some work done go out the window. Thank heavens for that too. Other signs of a good vacation: I didn’t take many photos. I ignored the stack of recipes I’d bookmarked for Ideal Summer House Cooking (yawn). We went to a different winery every afternoon. I fell asleep with saltwater in my hair on at least three different occasions. I discovered that when my son sings the alphabet, for the P, and the P only, he closes his eyes, reaches his arms wide, tips his head back and belts out a giant “PEEEEAA!” I splurged on local feta and started making crunchy summery salads every night tossed with it and whatever could be diced raw. We had countless ears of corn and at least one lunch of tomato-corn omelets (have you done this yet? Because I’m obsessed with them). There was a birthday breakfast for my husband of skillet baked French toast. There was an accidental recipe of what I’m now calling sugar steaks, and making intentionally. Two batches of dry-rub ribs (a twist on Molly’s rub, McGee’s technique) in the oven, because it’s so, so easy that way. And my future fall obsession came to me early at our daily jaunts to the North Fork Table & Inn Food Truck: chicken posole. It was amazing; I promise to try to recreate it soon.

lots of this

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Thursday, February 24, 2011

spaghetti with lemon and olive oil

linguine al limone

Look, it wasn’t my finest moment but my Happy Valentine’s Day gift to my husband was an epic meltdown over book deadlines and recipe flops and the near impossibility of getting anything done with a toddler underfoot in a kitchen that doesn’t actually fit the two of us. It wasn’t pretty. We ordered pizza and watched How I Met Your Mother.

Now, just in case that story elicited even a wisp of pity, you should take it back right now because the week, it got better from there. First, I realized that my “hey, let’s not do gifts this year” conversation with my husband may have never left my own head when he busted out tulips and a spa certificate. (Oops. I’m a real catch, aren’t I?) Then my very kind agent and editor talked me off the book ledge, they’re good at things like that though I suppose they have to be, taking on nuts like me. The following night, I made an actual dinner that involved those insane green beans and this little spaghetti dish I’ll get to in a bit because you know, it’s hardly as interesting as what we did the day after that:

so, this happened

Here’s where the story could continue in any of the following ways: How hard it was to be away from our little baby for the weekend (so hard! except for all of that sleep!) How quickly we adjusted to views like this, boats like that, beers like this and sunsets like that.

the viewasailbalashirequisite sunset photo

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