Archive for December, 2007

1,500 miles and counting…

December 16, 2007

cover2007_small.jpgI know you’re out there because I’ve seen you all the way down in Florida, those of you crazy enough to *drive* down the East Coast from New England to the Sunshine State. Yeah, I’ve done the deed too. The only way it can be kind of fun if you stop and smell the exits. Road maps and highway signs tell only half the story, which is why I enjoy carrying a copy of “Drive I-95,” by Stan Posner and Sandra Phillips-Posner. The 4th edition, just out, costs $23.95 at bookstores or online at www.drivei95.com or by calling 888-GUIDE95. (I hate those annoying alphabet phone numbers, which is why I refuse to translate it for you. Sorry).

Some of the invaluable information the Posners impart: detailed services at exits, radio stations, places police officers like to point their radar guns from, Internet availability, pet-friendly accommodations (which Roxy the Doxy greatly appreciates), travel trivia, and off-beat stops. Could you find the Ava Gardner Museum (Exit 95, near Smithfield, NC) on your own? I didn’t think so.

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Mama mia, there’s a bassotto!

December 5, 2007

Padova petI photographed this “bassotto,” the Italian word for wiener dog, in November. I’m guessing it translates to something like “low rider” and that a female would be a bassotta. You Italian speakers can let me know. I was stall-shopping at the Wednesday morning market in the historic center of Padova, a university town about a half hour west of Venice by train. I wasn’t sure if the woman would let me take her picture. I tried to catch her eye to “ask” in body language, but she never even looked at me, so I took that as a yes.

The black-and-tan standard dachshund, who I tried to engage in niceties, wasn’t the least bit interested, as he was too busy sniffing for snacks. I was amused that virtually every breed of dog I saw that day, and there were many, was decked out in a coat. I guess that’s amore!

Gelato, make way for cioccolata calda

December 2, 2007

As soon as Wessel and I decided to spend Thanksgiving week in Italy, I started dreaming of cioccolata calda — hot chocolate. In 1986 (!) I spent a winter in Vicenza, a lovely city about an hour west of Venice, and I was addicted to cioccolata. It’s not so much a drink, but a pudding, always served with a spoon.

The first one I had on this trip was in the university town of Padova, on the piazza across from the duomo. I was worn out, while Wessel was still wandering about, so I stopped at a café. cioccolata caldaThe cioccolata was bellisima! I was in heaven. It was dark, rich chocolate and so thick that using the spoon was necessary. I take mine “senza panna,” ($3) but with whipped cream ($4) is always an option. I vowed to treat myself to a cioccolata daily.

Then a sad thing happened. No other cioccolatas lived up to that first one. One barista in Venice started to pour a powdered package into the cup when I order one. Basta! 

Elsewhere, they had the real goods, but they weren’t as good. They weren’t as rich or thick. It was like trading in the Dean’s Sweets truffle for a drugstore Easter bunny. Still, it’s nice to relive that first tazza (cup) and know that more heavenly cioccolatas are out there.

Coincidentally, today’s New York Times has an article on thick hot chocolate in New York in its Travel section.

For you at-home hot-chocolate cooks, I found a recipe online for thick hot chocolate and it was molta buona!