Happy New Year! I hope your 2012 is off to a wonderful start. I’m back from Hong Kong and Vietnam, and eager to write a post about that trip, but first I need to finish another vacation post…about the last stop on my honeymoon. Thanks for your patience and I hope you’ve been enjoying the recaps…it took longer than I thought but I hope I did the trip justice!
The last stop on our honeymoon was Venice, that classic city for romantics. One of the best things about being on a cruise ship was that we got to enter the city from the sea, and essentially sail along the entire length of the city. We were advised by the captain to be on deck, as this was one of the most spectacular port entrances in the world.
Approach from the sea.
As we sail down the Canale di San Marco, the city unfolds before us. The architecture is an amalgamation of the fanciful, classic, and ornate, as befits buildings that appear to float on the sea.
Continuing down the canal, we reach St. Mark’s Square, the lagoon-edged main piazza of Venice. The porous, nearly nonexistent border between land and sea isn’t quite as apparent when you’re high up in an enormous cruise ship, but when we were riding a little ferry down the canal, it was undeniable. It was difficult at first to get over the feeling that the boat wasn’t riding low in the water, it was that the city was at sea level. I felt like I was in a bathtub that was on the verge of overflowing – probably one of the least romantic ways ever to describe Venice, but that was my thought!
And a final view of St. Mark’s as we round the bend of the canal and head towards the west end of the city where the big berths for the cruise ships are located. A truly magnificent way to enter La Serenissima.
Iconic gondolas, lined up at the water’s edge.
After disembarking, we made our way to St. Mark’s Square, the natural starting point for visitors. Here, a view from across St. Mark’s Square of the basilica (undergoing restoration work) and the campanile. This was the best shot I could take while trying to crop out the virtually permanent horde of tourists filling the square. I can’t imagine what it’s like at the height of summer/tourist season.
One of the facades in the interior courtyard of the Doge’s Palace: that memorably pink and white building next to the basilica. We wanted to go on the tour that took you through all the secret passageways and rooms of this massive building, but unfortunately it was sold out. The regular tour was still worth it for a great introduction to the history of this singular city.
I took this shot of the island of San Giorgio Maggiore from one of the windows of Doge’s Palace. The colors of the sea and sky were unexpectedly dramatic – I love how tiny the island looks underneath the clouds.
Ok, so I didn’t really look too closely at the statues above when I posed for this photo…
I loved this stand with fresh cherries and coconut, enticing under splashing water.
The view from the famous Rialto bridge. Although the Grand Canal is undeniably stunning, the bridge is too crowded with tourists to do much more than snap a shot and move on. It was more fun to wander the byways and side-ways of the city, and see what curiosities lay around each corner. Despite the labyrinthine layout, we never really got lost – or else we were just really good at interpreting the little map we had!
One of the gondoliers of Venice, poling down a typically picturesque canal. I was taking photo after photo of canals until I realized I’d run out of memory cards long before Venice ran out of beautiful canals. They’re like secret passages: I want to follow each one to see where they end.
You never know when you’ll round a corner and find a charming little footbridge over a tiny canal. There’s pretty much no end to photo opportunities in Venice.
More fruit for sale: they looked increasingly good as the temperature rose during the day.
Another postcard perfect view down the Grand Canal. It was fascinating to see the city shift and show its different faces under the ever-changing light that day. I thought Venice was perfectly ethereal in the grey, misty morning, and almost overwhelmingly Technicolor at bright midday, like I’d wandered into a movie.
Especially when you see things like this. Doesn’t it look like some kind of speedboat chase going on?
What a funny coincidence is this! I travel halfway around the world to see a real estate ad for my hometown! Nice to know they think so highly of San Francisco.
A canal packed with gondoliers waiting for passengers.
And of course, some photos of sweets to round out the post! Some confetti-colored marshmallows in the window of a sweet shop.
Marzipan fruit. I like the little leaves they added.
Super colorful and delicious looking torrone.
A beautiful panforte. Panforte means “strong bread” but it’s more like a cross between a cake and confection, made with fruit, honey, nuts, and spices.
Venice at night. The Grand Canal earns its moniker “Most Beautiful Street in the World.” I loved ending our honeymoon in this city of dreams. It’s a town built for exploring, where your destination is not the goal but the rather the leisurely journey there. A sweet ending to our trip. I wanted to go back the moment I left.
When I got home I received the perfect book to commemorate my Mediterranean trip: Francine Segan’s Dolci: Italy’s Sweets. This charming, painstakingly researched book covers the wide range of Italian desserts, some well known to Western palates and others pleasant discoveries, from cannoli to panna cotta to angel hair pasta pie. Each recipe in the book is annotated with its region of origin and historical notes. Numerous stories, sidebars on local festivals and customs, and glossaries fill the pages, making it a great armchair jaunt to Italy. I found myself eager to go back and visit all the parts of Italy I missed. This is a wonderful regional cookbook and a great cookbook, period.
The recipe I picked to try is what Segan calls an updated version of tiramisu. Fitting, since she notes that this near-ubiquitous dessert originated near Venice. This updated version is made with pâte à bombe – egg yolks whipped with hot sugar syrup – which cooks the eggs. Although Segan first saw this dessert marketed as “tiramisu for pregnant women”, of course this dessert is appropriate for anyone worried about eating raw eggs. The finished custard will keep in the refrigerator for a couple days, and is luxuriously creamy. The recipe layers the custard over savoiardi (the Italian name for ladyfingers) – I used my own recipe from my cookbook.
Ladyfingers lined up, ready to bake. Don’t be shy about the powdered sugar; I think after this shot I did another sifting. It’ll ensure that the tops bake up crisp, while the insides stay soft and spongy.
The recipe suggests assembling the individual tiramisu in espresso cups, but I put mine together in jam jars instead. I thought it would be cute to line the ladyfingers around the edge and fill the center with the custard. However you put it together, it’s a tasty combination.
That finally does it for my trip to the Mediterranean! Now, I have to finish going through the photos for my winter trip to Hong Kong. At least I know I won’t need half a dozen posts to cover it!
- adapted from Francine Segan's Dolci
- 5 large egg yolks
- 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
- 1 cup (225 g) mascarpone cheese
- 1/4 cup (60 mL) heavy cream
- 12 ladyfingers
- 1 cup (240 mL) freshly brewed espresso or coffee
- rum (optional)
- cocoa powder (for dusting)
- Place egg yolks in bowl of stand mixer and whisk with whisk attachment for about 5 minutes until very light and fluffy.
- While the egg yolks are whisking, combine sugar and 1/4 cup (60 mL) water in a saucepan. Heat on stove until it reaches 250 degrees F.
- While mixer is still going, carefully pour the sugar syrup down the side of bowl into eggs. Continue whisking for 15 minutes to aerate mixture.
- Add mascarpone cheese and cream, and whisk just until combined. Filling can now be used or refrigerated for up to two days.
- Break each ladyfinger into pieces and place into an espresso cup, or use two ladyfingers in a dessert bowl. Pour espresso into each cup so ladyfingers are moistened.
- Add a splash of rum if desired. Place a few spoonfuls of the custard filling in each cup. Dust lightly with cocoa powder and serve immediately.