It's the last week of the year. You've just eaten at least half your weight in food over the last few days. It's time for reflection; time for New Year's resolutions; time for making diet and exercise plans. Not the time for reminiscing about the desserts you've eaten during your travels, but that's what I've been doing. I don't know about you, the food I ate while traveling, and those with whom I shared a meal, are some of my best travel memories. Similar to my thought process when choosing a book, when I bake or cook something, I ask myself, "Where do you want to go today?" Many of the sweets and savory dishes I make, transport me back to a place I've visited and I love.
Actually, I was reflecting and making plans for 2011. The plans happened to involve food, and travel. I decided to make a list of my best food and travel memories of 2010. As I was compiling the list, visions of favorite chocolate and other sweet moments kept popping up one after the other. I added them, realizing that the list was being overtaken by sweets, mostly of the chocolate persuasion. Another thing I noticed is that those favorite sweets I'd found on my travels, I had quickly recreated when I got home. Many savory ones, I've yet to start.
What can I say? My motto is that because life is short, you should eat dessert first. With that, I'm sharing with you my 10 best chocolate and other sweet memories from 2010. Friday, I will share my best savory memories in food and travel.
When I think of Sorrento, its peninsula, and the Amalfi Coast, I usually think of lemons, the blue sea, and horns honking around each curve of the Amalfi drive. Well that was until my last trip. While peeking into windows of pasticcerie, I continually saw this chocolate cake, topped with chocolate shards and mounted with snow caps of powdered sugar. I had to sample them. The cake comes from the Isle of Capri, but you can find it throughout the coastline, from Naples to Salerno, and maybe even farther south. Even better is it's so simple to make.
Lemons, Lemons and More Lemons
Besides the Amalfi Coast, lemons overflow in my own backyard, or I should say, my aunt's. She has a Meyer Lemon Tree that has been producing hundreds of lemons each winter. She doesn't cook and only uses them for lemonade. I'm in charge of actually cooking and baking with them. I make loads of lemon granita and yearn for Sicily and Tart au Citron to take me to Paris. However, the completely American Meyer Lemon cheesecake might be one of my most requested desserts. In 2011 I'll be transporting myself, and hopefully you, to the Amalfi Coast with lemons, in the forms of limoncello and delizia al limone.
In either case, it was a gelato extravaganza that I still think about in the cold of December. During a July heatwave in Turin, I nourished myself daily with gelato for at least two of my meals. Even though I was so hot sweat pools formed above my cheekbones, I think back fondly about my time in Turin and all the gelato. I can't wait to go back for more. The movie, Eat Pray Love, had women making pilgrimages to Rome for gelato, but may I suggest a movie about a gelato binge in Turin.
Some go to Paris to shop, some for art, some for architecture, some for Michelin-starred restaurants. These are all good reasons, but I go for the pastries. This year I was able to return to Paris and sample pastries from patisseries that opened while I was away, and from my old favorites, too. You don't know this, but too many times I ate the pastry before taking a photo! This is probably a crime against food and travel blogging. Sometimes I'm like a little kid who ignores the card and tears into the wrapping to get to the present. I plan to return again in 2011. One of my New Year's resolutions is to take photos of all the pastries before I eat them.
My contribution to the World Nutella Day celebration was also the most popular recipe post on Food Lover's Odyssey in 2010. A blend of nutella and gianduja from Turin, and a pinch of memories from my first taste of Nutella, this cake takes me back not only to Turin, but also to my very first visit to Italy and to Florence, many years ago.
This dense Italian hot chocolate recipe I had been tinkering with for a while. The reason for all the tinkering was that I had heard cornstarch was part of the recipe but didn't want to put it in. Once I did, though, Venice in February, Venetian masks, Carnevale parades and gondolas floated through my mind with each spoonful of the almost pudding-like drink. It's easier to make than the Torta Caprese and as rich as the Torta Setteveli.
This is the dessert I'm happiest about this year. It makes me think of Palermo and my cousins, especially Francesca. She's one of my youngest cousins, who I've watched grow into such a sweet young girl (she's 10 now). Throughout my visits, she melts my heart by chirping out, "Ti voglio bene, Katy." (I love you, Kathy) For my Italian-American cousin Paula's Sicilian-inspired birthday dinner, I finally recreated this cake. The results were seven sinful layers of delciousness. Although it takes a bit of time and patience to make and put together, it's worth the effort.
Now I get to celebrate two birthdays each year. That of my actual birth in September, and the one to celebrate the birth of Food Lover's Odyssey. Because this blog's birthday is in the Spring, I can now use Spring fruits for my birthday cake. A Fraisier is a typical birthday cake in Paris. While I was interning at a patisserie there, we would have order after order of Fraisiers for birthday celebrations. I'd hold my breath and wait for the chef to approve each cake I had assembled by piping Joyeux Anniversaire in chocolate script on top.
On January 6, France (and most of Europe) celebrates the Epiphany. Right now the patisserie windows in Paris are flooded with these cakes. This past year I celebrated Epiphany by making a traditional Galette des Rois (Three Kings Cake). For the upcoming Epiphany, I'm thinking of a chocolate version.
This year I spent a month in the Dordogne region of France and Bordeaux and fell in love with the area and its little villages. Although I spent most of my time eating duck, I had this croustade aux pommes, a flaky apple tart, too. While finding duck in California isn't as easy for us non-hunters, I can make this apple tart and go right back to the rivers and green castle-topped hillsides of Dordogne.
****For an 11th favorite chocolate memory, check out my article posted today on The Travel Belles: We'll Take the Cologne (Germany), The Chocolate, and The Beer Bike
What is your best chocolate or other sweet memory of 2010?
This post is part of WanderFood Wednesdays. Hop on over and see what other delicious food finds travelers are sharing.