Dessert in a flash!

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Ephemeral.”

Affogato (Italian translation: “drowned”)

An indulgent combination of rich, creamy icecream drowned in hot espresso and – should you be so inclined – a sweet drop of your favourite liqueur (traditionally amaretto, but I’m personally very partial to Frangelico for a lovely hint of hazelnut).

For it to work, however, it must be prepared in the most fleeting of moments…

Dessert, coffee and a nightcap all in one…what more can one ask for?

La lingua di cibo (take that, Rosetta!)

If you could wake up tomorrow and be fluent in any language you don’t currently speak, which would it be? Why? What’s the first thing you do with your new linguistic skills?

As soon as I found this Daily Prompt from almost a year ago, I knew there could only be one answer.

Since I was eight years old, learning basic conversational Italian from my Year 3 teacher Mrs Ciccone (no direct relation to Madonna, alas), I have been in love with Italy and anything and everything Italian. While the twice-weekly, hour-long lessons only lasted one (and a bit) school years, when I began working at an Italian cafe-restaurant ten years later, I was surprised to discover how much of it had stayed with me.

One of my favourite parts of the day working at the cafe was when my boss’ dear Italian father would come by to take care of any light maintenance or cleaning before we opened and patiently wait for me to make him an espresso. He was very shy (presumably on account of his speaking very little English), so he would initially only politely nod his thanks each time I made his coffee. Imagine my delight several months into the job when I handed him his daily espresso, and he looked me in the eye with a shy smile and said “thank you” in very careful English; I responded with a very nervous “prego” and he chuckled and said “bene…very good! – high praise, indeed! From that moment on we were great friends.

I picked up a bit more basic Italian during my time working there, thanks to the authentic Venetian menu, and (as cliché as it may sound) Dean Martin constantly playing in the background. By the time my dream opportunity to visit Italy came true another ten years later, I could greet strangers, ask how they were, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’…and find my way around a menu enough to not accidentally order tripe, or some other ghastly substance (for the record, if you’re not a fan, stay away from trippa).

My first visit to Italy was a bit of a ‘blink-and-miss-it’ trip as part of a Top Deck European Odyssey bus tour, but it was was the perfect introduction and no less a dream come true to find myself at the foot of La Torre di Pisa, gazing in awe at the Duomo in Firenze, tossing a coin in la Fontana di Trevi in bella Roma, or enjoying un giro in gondola in Venezia. 

In 2013 (less than five years later), we found ourselves – blissfully – back in Rome and Florence, only this time around we had a few days to spend in each, which gave us a lot more time to explore these great cities on our own terms. As wonderful (and delicious) as our first six days in Italy were, they were only a prelude to the magnificence of the final part of our trip – a three-day, four-night cooking class and villa stay in Tuscany.

Oh, the memories (i ricordi). I am determined to one day carry out my Frances Mayes-inspired dream of living Under the Tuscan Sun for at least six months (perhaps minus the seemingly-endless renovations part).

Therefore, in order to converse freely with my new neighbours (and possibly avoid being swizzed by dodgy tradesmen), I would love to become fluent in la bella lingua Italiana.  

*Note: I apologise in advance for any errors in my poor attempts at translation – they are completely unintentional, and your corrections are welcome! 🙂

Dear Chef Claudio: a letter of apology

Dear Chef Claudio

I trust this letter finds you well. I wish to take this opportunity to express my sincere regret for the way I left things the last time we met; while I don’t want to make excuses, I would still like to offer an explanation and apologise for my appalling behaviour at the time.

After all the kindness you and Signora Piantini showed us, and the pearls of culinary wisdom you shared over the preceding four days, one would think I could have summoned the strength to look you in the eye so you could see the gratitude that came from the bottom of my heart, yet I was barely able to utter a simple word of thanks.

The truth is, all my words were trapped behind a giant lump that had been forming in the back of my throat since the night before. I was also afraid that if I caught your eye for even a split second, I would instantly turn into a blubbering mess. Instead, I simply shook your hand and gave you what I thought was a polite smile, but in retrospect probably looked more like something between a grimace and a snarl…and I have been berating myself about it ever since.

If I could turn back time and take away the over-emotional-not-good-with-goodbyes side of myself, I would give you a quick hug and then holding your hand, look into your eyes and say “Grazie mille” for the most incredibly inspiring, deliciously decadent and breathtakingly beautiful experience of my life.

Grazie for demonstrating the ultimate in Tuscan hospitality, and welcoming us to your home and restaurant amid the olive groves and vineyards of Figline Valdarno.

Grazie for trusting us amateurs in your beautiful professional cucina, and for sharing your recipes, genius cooking tips plus – above all – your infectious passion for simple, delicious food prepared with only the freshest ingredients. We will never fail at lasagne again!

Yours sincerely,


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Fond memories of #Tuscany

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