Panettone alla Shake Shack

In the non-existent contest of which country got the better candied fruit flecked holiday cake, Italy has America beat. Fruit cake as we know it on this side of the pond, is an awful thing. Dense, brick-like, and speckled with unnatural-looking, jewel-toned bits of fruit that more closely resemble stale gummy bears, I can’t think of a single person who actually looks forward to receiving one of these or would ever willingly bring one home.

But Italians, well they have panettone. So they win, because panettone, which is soft, airy, fruity in a non-cloying way, and even comes in fun packaging, is, well, awesome.

But as great as I think panettone is, I don’t really like to eat it plain. For me, the perfect panettone eating experience includes something creamy like a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a fat dollop of whipped cream or mascarpone.

Panettone frozen custard at Shake Shack

So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that Shake Shack not only had panettone frozen custard for the month of December, but it was only available on Wednesdays, which is exactly what day it was when I stumbled upon the December frozen custard calendar. (Side note: the awesome holiday-themed calendar also included other fun, seasonal classics like egg nog, spiced apple cider, and figgy pudding) Not only was it Wednesday though, it was the last Wednesday of 2010. During my lunch break, I bundled up, put my rain boots on, and power-walked through mounds of snow, lake-like puddles of dirty slush and icy water to go to the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.

Shake Shack rarely disappoints and this time was no different.  The frozen custard was thick and creamy  with the subtle fruity flavor and sweetness of panettone. And instead of gummy pieces of fruit , this milky, cool treat had fat hunks of actual panettone tossed in it, as if someone had torn them off the domed loaf and into the custard.

It was panettone exactly how I love to eat it, and being the last time this year that I could possibly enjoy it, what better way was there to say arrivederci? See you in 2011.

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Ripe for the picking


A fig practically shouting to be eaten

I’m obsessed with figs. Usually, I only see them in little plastic crates at the supermarket, but during my recent trip to Italy, I saw them fat and ripe, hanging from a tree in my boyfriend’s yard. In the case of the one pictured above, it was so ripe and ready to be eaten, that it simply couldn’t take it anymore and literally burst open, showing off its ruby colored pulp to the world. This wouldn’t of happened if it was my fig tree. That’s all I’m saying.

I do

Three tiers of beautiful merengue deliciousness at a recent wedding in Italy.

I love weddings. No, really. I loooove weddings. I don’t go to nearly as many as I should for knowing as many people as I do that are getting married, but still. I love ’em.

Yes, the vows to have and to hold, love and to cherish, and all that other lovey dovey stuff are nice, but really, I’m there for the food and the party, and of course, the cake.

Some girls dream about trying on white dresses and choosing the first song they dance to with their betrothed. I dream about cake sampling and getting the first slice of the chosen cake.

Sigh. One day.

Pasta perfection

 


Spaghetti alla vigliacca

 

Everything happens for a reason. However, I did not purposely leave the dress I was supposed to wear to the wedding hanging in the closet at my boyfriend’s house so that we would have a reason to go back to Florence and then have lunch while we were there. Really. I didn’t. It just worked out that way.

So there we were, driving back toward Florence from Lucca. Yes, we needed to time everything so that we could be back in time to get ready for the wedding but there were other pressing matters at hand.

“So, uh, where should we eat lunch?”

Deciding that we would rather avoid the nightmare that is driving and parking in the center of Florence, we instead opted for a place just outside of the center, i.e. where I’d be sure to be the only American around.

We had been to Caffe Dogali before, usually on lazy weekend afternoons when we’d wake up late with growling stomachs. It’s a small osteria and bar near the stadium, part tobacco shop and sandwich counter inside with a small dining room in the back and a little square of outdoor seating in the front.

Though lots of people around us (namely awkward looking Italian teens with identical shoes and bad hair) were eating delicious looking panini made with giant pieces of gold-colored focaccia, we both wanted pasta. Continue reading

Wine isn’t the only good thing to come from grapes

A few weeks ago when the news of me going to Italy for my boyfriend’s sister’s wedding became official, one of the first thoughts to rush through my head (and consequently get voiced in an email shortly thereafter) was, “Ooooh! I wonder if I’ll make it in time for some schiacciata all’uva?”

 

Schiacciata all'uva

 

Continue reading

In vino veritas… unless the vino’s boxed

Way back when, during a carefree college semester spent in Italy, a couple of friends and I learned a valuable lesson we’ll carry with us forever: never, ever trust boxed wine.

We were taking a daytrip to the small, mountain town of Abetone and like many of our fellow classmates abroad, thought that adding wine to the equation would be a fantastic idea.

Wrong.

Unsuspecting fools that we were, Daphne, Cortney and I chose the wine on sale, the fermented-Juicy Juice-tasting liquid that came in a box and cost one euro a carton. We bought three and walked out ready for a good time.

Maybe 15 minutes later, as the bus lurched up the twisting and turning mountain road, and the warm, acid Tavernello sloshed around in our stomachs, we realized the error of our ways.

“Pleeease don’t let me puke on this bus,” I silently begged God, “I promise I’ll never drink boxed wine again. Lesson learned. I swear!”

Boxed wine: no longer just for budget-conscious drunkards

And I stayed true to my word, until this Saturday when the $35 dollar wine we ordered at Washington D.C.’s Farmers & Fishers at the Georgetown Waterfront showed up in you guessed it, a friggin’ carton.

“Who ordered the boxed wine?” people at our table asked mockingly, before the Yellow + Blue box of Argentine Malbec was planted in front of me and a couple others.

Cortney, who was on that vomit-inducing bus ride years ago and also at dinner in D.C., looked at me with eyes that said, “Uh oh.”

We should’ve seen it coming, though. F&F is a trendy restaurant with a lot of talk of green this, eco-friendly that and lots of sustainability packed in between. Before we even ordered, our plaid-shirted, gauged ear, shaved-head waiter rattled on and on about F&F’s fresh, farm-sourced ingredients and sustainable ag practices.

“Well the box is completely biodegradable,” he explained when we politely masked our horror and asked about the bottleless wine. “The inside is lined with balsa wood so it doesn’t affect the taste. It actually makes it taste better.

Hmm. Well, uhm, ok. Boxed wine it is, we agreed at the table.

I can always count on dessert to save the day.

The rest of dinner went well, with most of us opting for F&F’s Restaurant Week menu ($35 for a three course meal, boxed wine not included). Mini cheese pizza to split with the group, table-made guac, Chesapeake style Mahi Mahi, and my favorite from this particular food line-up: Key lime pie tartlet.

While everything was pretty good, the dessert stole my heart. Key lime pies just always take me back to the good things about Florida, the few that I actually like, like warm summer days spent at the beach, trips to the Keys and stuffing my face full of tangy, sugary goodness.

In the end, the Malbec-in-a-box wasn’t bad either. After a couple of glasses, we got over the carton stigma and went on with our meal. One thing is worth noting, though: the balsa wood-lined interior. Curious to see what the inside of our box looked like, someone at our table tore it open (once it was empty, of course) and well, there was another surprise: no balsawood, just the standard waxed cardboard you’d find in most boxed beverages.

So, with that being said, I stand by my original lesson learned: never, ever trust boxed wine.