Brek-ing My Heart

I think it’s high time we discuss the toilet situation here. I’ve held off on bringing it up for as long as possible because, frankly, I didn’t want to sound like another whiny tourist, lamenting the lack of clean toilets. In fact – save some interesting toilet differences in Venice to be discussed later – all the toilets I’ve used in Europe have been pretty nice. The problem here in Venice has been locating them.

Yesterday, for example, my dad and I spent half an hour looking for the pesky facilities, but to no avail. I would’ve willingly paid the €1.50 rate (really, I was ready to shove it at someone’s face) to any Venetian public toilet, but I couldn’t find a toilet to take my money! Thankfully, after using my considerable Italian skills (“per favore, dove il bagno?”) to ask a vendor for the nearest bathroom, I was advised to order a coffee at a nearby bar, and then to use the toilet. €6 later, and crisis averted.

Today, though, even before this problem arose again, we happened upon a beam of
shining light, a pinnacle of goodness, a restaurant among restaurants, the solution to all problems tourist: Brek Ristorante and Bar. While searching for wi-fi (broken, along with the air conditioning, at our hotel) to contact my tiramisu instructor for today, my eagle eyes (usually only good for spotting dessert) found this sign:

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It turns out that Brek prints out their wireless password on every receipt – with the cheapest coffee at €1! – and has bathrooms for paying customers. What a find! I should really write a Venice tour guide…though that would probably be my only tip. Along with where to find the best pastries! Anyway, the bathroom situation is clearly not the thing breaking my heart. What is?

Today, I realized that my trip is halfway over. These past 2 weeks have been absolutely incredible, and I don’t even know what I’ll do when it ends. I left Houston right after graduation, so I didn’t suffer the post-college letdown that I’ve heard about. Maybe I’ll be lucky and manage to escape it. But, what if I feel that letdown and post-vacation blues? For right now, though, I’ve decided not to dwell on it, and to enjoy these next 2 weeks as much as possible, a decision made that much easier by…

Gelato! That’s right, folks, I’ve officially become a gelato monster. This is my 6th day in a row enjoying this lovely treat, and I have really high hopes that I’ll never have to stop. Today, on the way to visit the Accademia in Venice, we hunted down Grom gelato!

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Grom is known throughout Italy for its inventive flavors and impeccable delivery. I tried the Caramello al Sale (Salted Caramel) and Pompelmo Rosa (Pink Grapefruit), which were both fantastic.

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The salted caramel was super creamy and rich, with a touch of salt, while the pink grapefruit delivered a fresh, sweet grapefruit flavor, with an icier texture.

Later this afternoon, we bumbled along to the train station, where we bought tickets to Padua for my afternoon tiramisu class! After we got off the train, and survived some bus confusion (I literally tried to get off at every single stop – thank goodness for kind strangers!), we made it to my class at Chef Mama Isa’s apartment. Mama Isa is a sweet, wonderful Italian woman who enjoys teaching small cooking classes. Today, it was just me taking the class, with my dad along as the paparazzi!

My family has actually tried making tiramisu before, but, as my dad admitted today, it was a bit…off. Maybe it was the layers of ladyfingers, the number of ladyfingers, the mascarpone cream, the coffee…possibilities truly abound. In any case, I knew that the very best place to learn the proper tiramisu technique would be in its birthplace – Italy!

As a welcome treat, Mama Isa prepared some amazing focaccia with yellow peppers, along with a tray of antipasti and a welcome spritz!

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To start our class, Mama Isa put a pot of Italian coffee on the stove. We ended up making multiple pots of coffee in order to soak all of the ladyfingers.

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Next, we worked on the mascarpone cream.

First, I beat the egg whites and a pinch of secret ingredient:

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Then, egg yolks and sugar:

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Finally, we combined it with mascarpone cheese:

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Then, it was time to layer! Though you’d think that soaking ladyfingers in coffee would be a relatively simple process, it actually requires quite a bit of technique. There’s a certain consistency that the ladyfingers should reach before being layered on the mascarpone cream…one that I struggled a bit to achieve.

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Once the layering was done, we placed it in the refrigerator to cool.

Since tiramisu needs to chill for at least an hour before serving, I also made zaletti – a famous Venetian cookie. Though I was a bit confused as to what exactly I was making, I realized later in the process that these cookies are very similar to biscotti!

Combining the dry ingredients:

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After the addition of a substantial chunk of butter:

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The logs!

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Finally, both finished products:

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I’d say the second half of my trip started out just right.

P.S. I’m aiming for a pretty early night tomorrow so I can wake up for a train, so I’ll be skipping tomorrow night, but posting twice the next day. Thanks for reading!

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4 thoughts on “Brek-ing My Heart

  1. Hi, Tiffany! This is Amanda. Tim and I was worried about you and Mr. Ho because North Italy had an deadly earthquake, but we heard from Mrs. Ho that you are fine in Venice. We were there at Venice last year and we totally agree with you about the toilet situation.

    From Mrs. Ho, we know that you are going to Rome and we do not want you to miss the 100 years old Gelato shop. It claims to be “The Oldest Italian Gelato Factory”. Their gelato is incredibly good! (Tim particularly like them to add cream on top of the gelato) Beside the shop is the Chinese Christian Church that we went to visit last summer.

    We are not sure whether the shop is in your list, but we really do not want you to miss it. It is near to the east side railway station. Here is their website:

    http://www.palazzodelfreddo.it/palazzodelfreddo_ing.html

    • Hi Amanda,

      Thank you so much for thinking of us! We made it safely to our destination in Italy, so no need to worry. Thank you also for the gelato recommendation! We’ll be heading to Rome tomorrow, and will definitely take your advice. Hope to see you soon!

  2. Baby Tiffany!

    I’m glad you are having tons of funsies in Italy! I’m enjoying your blog very much. It’s making me drool heavily while sitting at my lab bench (because I can’t stop thinking about tiramisu now)… Probably not ok… Also, I saw Paciugo at the airport in Dallas, and I remembered the time we went there to eat tons of gelato and nommy hot chocolate. It was fabulous and it must be repeated when you get back to the States.

    Eat all the food in Italy!
    Jae

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