Italy Part 2: Rome

Rome!  I don’t know where to begin.  I spent most of my Italy trip in Rome, and absolutely loved it!  I stayed in Trastevere, a part of the city that I know a lot of people will say is touristy.  Trastevere is touristy – it definitely had its fair share of American and British students studying abroad.  But beyond that, it felt like a community.  Something was always open, there were always places to grab pizza or gelato, and I fell in love with a particular cafe around the corner from my AirBnB.  The water in Rome is all drinkable, and there are natural fountains everywhere.  A big upgrade from schlepping 6L of water home from the grocery store every other day in Mallorca.

Rome is an amazing city, filled with amazing food, and history.  I walked everywhere, even though I bought a week long transit pass, which in retrospect, I’m not sure is really worth it.  Italy is also notorious for not checking that you bought a ticket – you’re supposed to buy one before you get on the bus and validate it, but it’s really on the honor system.  If you get caught, there are hefty fines, but, if an official gets on the bus you could just as easily get off.  I’m not the kind of person that operates under that kind of pressure though, so I wanted to make sure I could get anywhere easily and not worry about having to find a point of purchase.

In Rome I got to meet up with a friend I haven’t seen from high school, and that was the best.  Aside from the comfort of having a little piece of home all the way across the ocean, it was nice to reconnect, and also not wander around the city like a completely blind tourist.

The woman whose apartment I stayed at was delightful.  She introduced me to the Rome free walking tour, which I totally recommend.  It was a lot of walking, but I got to see a lot more, and with better direction than I would have with just my tour guide book.  If you’re interested, here’s a link to their website.  The same day, I also had the most amazing pasta caccio e pepe, at a restaurant I found based on a friend’s recommendation.  Even better than that was the mascarpone and chocolate-laden coffee I had for dessert.  The restaurant is called Il Brillo Parlante.

In Rome I fell in love with pizza  by the slice, where they have pizza waiting, and they chop off as much as  you want, and charge you by weight, with gelato, and with the cafe near my AirBnB.  It’s called Checco er Carretiere.  I just found their website, and I didn’t know they also are an actual restaurant, but the cafe part was amazing.  The men who worked there were the sweetest, and drew flowers on my cappuccinos.

I could go on and on.  Rome was fantastic.  I would return to Rome, and Trastevere, in a heartbeat!  I think anything I write about it at this point is redundant, and I really want to share my photos, so I’m going to post as is.  The moral of the story is I had an amazing time with amazing people and amazing food, and if you get the chance, you should visit.

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My first gelato in Rome.  In Rome they put panna, whipped cream, on top of the gelato.

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At the entrance to Trastevere.

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Most creative garbage can award goes to this gelato place.

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So many flavors, and I didn’t even capture all of them.

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Here the gelato guy was cranky and didn’t offer me panna.

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Piazza Navona

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Breakfast of champions… a chocolate thing, cappuccino, and a side of whipped cream which I did not ask for but happily ate.

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Inside the Pantheon.

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“Tonnarelli Cacio e pepe con fiori di zucca” – Tonnarelli with pecorino cheese, black pepper, and squash flowers – at a restaurant called Il Brillo Parlante. I went at the advice of a friend. So good!

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Cafe Il Brillo Parlante.  Possibly the best thing I’ve eaten ever.  It’s a shot of espresso covered in mascarpone cheese and chocolate chunks, dusted with powdered sugar.  Stay tuned for my recreation of this recipe.

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Outside of the Colosseum. I didn’t make it in, but, there it is.

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An amazing Sicilian bakery.

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A cannolo {singular of cannoli}, pistachio almond cookies, and a chocolate lobster tail. All amazing.

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The best cannolo I’ve ever eaten. Absolutely amazing.

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We talked a lot about the great architecture of the desserts. All of them were easily cut in half, with minimal crumbling, no smushing, and no collapsing. A+ to these guys.

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Pizza by the slice!! At La Renella in Trastevere.

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Some flavors.

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From my friends at Checco er Carettiere.

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Pretty sure this was Easter dessert. “Cookies” flavored gelato with panna.

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Breakfast from my favorite place. A chocolate filled donut, I think called a bomba, with a beautiful cappuccino.

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Italy Part 1: Naples

I’ve had a half-started post about Naples open for over a week.  Clearly I’m not doing a great job of telling the story of my trip, so I’m going to let the pictures do that.  It was the last part of my Italy trip, but one of the most exciting.  I was really looking forward to eating pizza where it all began!  Naples is safe enough.  There are sketchy people, but friendly people too!  I traveled alone and pretty much always felt fine.  Pompeii was boring.  The gelato was good, not as good as in Rome.  You should go and eat the pizza.  Or better yet, the pizza fritta.  The pizza was delicious, but nothing you couldn’t get at a good Neapolitan pizza place in New York or New Jersey.  Still worth the trip.

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Capri in the distance.

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Supposedly Oscar Wilde lived there.

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Islands from a cave.

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I thought it was pretty.

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More views.

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The pizza!! From L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Sorbillo was closed for Pasquetta, so I can’t compare, but it was good!

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A different view.

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Cheesy close-up.

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Look at that bubble-age! So good!

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Ruins at Pompeii. I think this was the forum.

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Necessary gelato. From this place called Gay-Odum that the tour guide recommended. Decent gelato, really cranky lady working there.

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Naples shoreline.

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Pizza Fritta!!  From Zia Esterina Sorbillo.  Next door to the famous Gino Sorbillo.

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Inside. Ricotta and some kind of delicious pork.

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Again. Delicious.

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Naples panorama. Pop up fair, gorgeous red clay tennis courts, a cruise ship and mountain (volcano?) in the distance.

What’s the craziest trip you’ve taken just to eat the regional food?

Eastern European Poppyseed Cake

Hi again.  I know it’s been a long time since I’ve been here, but I went away for Easter break.  I had 8 days off of work, plus weekends, and took the time to fly over to Italy for a while.  It was so nice, and I’ll share all my pictures.  I have plenty.  I got back last week, and I’ve been busy unpacking and getting re-settled.  An unexpected game of musical apartments is also keeping me on my feet.  The other day I made a poppyseed cake that my family usually eats at Easter, and while I still missed my family, the poppyseed is delicious!!  I found the recipe here, and tweaked it just a bit.  I’ve been trying to post it all week, but the pictures wouldn’t load.  Today I got a migraine at work, and they were nice enough to send me home because I looked so awful.  Now that I’m feeling a lot better, I finally have the time and the bandwidth to share this with you guys!!

It was surprisingly easy, and I’m very happy with how it turned out.  I was super-apprehensive because this was the first time I hadn’t boughten {consider this my formal entry of the word boughten into the English language} it at a very specific bakery.  If you like poppyseeds, I think you’ll love this recipe.  Let’s just all hope we don’t get drug tested for opium in the next few days!

Poppyseed Cake:

Ingredients:

Poppyseed Filling:

  • 1/2 pound poppyseeds {More is better than less.  The poppyseeds are the star of this recipe.}
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup hot milk

Dough:

  • 1 package of yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 2+ cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 eggs, separated.  {Original recipe calls for 1 but I could tell that my dough needed 2.}

Directions:

  1. Grind your poppyseeds in a food processor if you’re going to.  I didn’t and everything turned out fine, so I say save the electricity.
  2. Mix your poppyseeds with the hot milk, melted butter, and 3/4 cup sugar.  Cover and refrigerate.  You should probably use a bigger vessel than I did, just in case it expands.  So anything larger than a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup should work just fine.
  3. Mix the yeast with the warm water and 2 tbsp sugar.  Let stand until foamy.
  4. Mix flour and salt in a large bowl.  Cut in butter using a knife or pastry cutter; your mixture sure look like large crumbs when you’re done.
  5. Pour the yeast/water mixture into the flour/butter mixture and add the egg yolks.  Stir it together and you should have a soft dough.
  6. Knead dough on a floured surface about 5 minutes, until springy and smooth.  If it’s too sticky, knead in a little flour at a time.
  7. Cut the dough in half.  Roll out each half into a rectangle 12x16in.
  8. Spread half poppyseed filling in each rectangle, leaving an inch on all sides.
  9. Fold the 1-inch border over on each side, and press down.
  10. Roll up the shorter side of each rectangle, like a jelly roll.
  11. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  12. Place rolls, seam side down, on the baking sheet and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour, until doubled in size.
  13. Preheat your oven to 350°F {176°C}
  14. Brush the rolls with the egg white.
  15. Cut diagonal slits in the rolls.
  16. Bake in the preheated oven 30-40 minutes, until dark golden brown on top.
  17. Remove from oven and cover with a clean kitchen towel until cool.
  18. Slice when cool and enjoy.
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Combine the poppyseeds, hot milk, melted butter, and sugar. Cover and refrigerate.

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Cut the butter into the flour and salt.

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Dissolve the yeast in the yeast and warm water… let sit until foamy.

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Add the yeast and eggs to the flour and stir.

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It’s starting to come together, into a soft dough.

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After kneading.

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Roll out one half into a 12x16in rectangle. I didn’t use a ruler.

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Fill with half of the poppyseed filling, leaving a 1 inch border all around.

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Fold the border over on all sides.

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Roll up like a jelly roll.

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Let both rolls rest on the cookie sheet in a warm place for approximately 1 hour, or until just about doubled in size.

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Create horizontal slits for steam to escape, and because they’re pretty. Brush with egg whites.

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Bake until dark golden brown. Cover with a clean kitchen towel until cool.

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Ready to be sliced.

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Delicious!!!  Please ignore the sloppy photography… I was too busy devouring the poppyseed cakes.

Have you ever had a poppyseed cake?  What foods remind you of your family and special celebrations like Easter or Passover?