January 1, 2009

pastries, gelato and more

I tend to set aside thoughts of dieting, low fat preferences and calorie counting when traveling. With my weakness for sweets, goodies from the flakiest butter-rich pastries to the rich and fruity gelato flavors were just so hard to resist. Turning them down has never been in my vocabulary either. It was chilly and rainy when we went on a day trip to Volterra and San Gimignano in Italy but the excitement of being there was enough to make my day. Along the way, we marveled at the breathtaking views of the Tuscan countryside in the fall. In San Gimignano, the pouring rain led us to a gelateria and in its cozy interior we found refuge. This gelato line-up (shown below) greeted us.

I chose a creamy one laced with Nutella while my husband had a wild berry flavor with a deep reddish purple color. Both flavors were rich and intense. With less air whipped in them, the texture was very smooth and denser than regular ice cream.

It was easy to tell and choose the exotic flavors (above) in this colorful gelato shop at the tourist-friendly La Boqueria Market in Barcelona. My pick could easily have been the one with the figs just because I've always been intrigued by its unique flavor. At the Flamenco dance show along Las Ramblas, these flan and creme caramel (below) were just two of the many tempting desserts offered to the diners before the show.

The thickest hot chocolate drink I've ever had (shown above) was great for dipping or dunking pastries especially this crispy palmier and light as air chocolate filled croissant at El Fornet, a popular breakfast cafe chain in Barcelona. I wanted to try some churros, deep fried dough pastries, with the cocoa but unfortunately they didn't have it. Shown below are breakfast baguettes and warm croissants, also at El Fornet.

At the Villa Romana hotel in the Amalfi coast where we stopped for lunch, this light lemon layer cake (shown below) was the perfect dessert to showcase the flavor of the lemons grown in Sorrento and Amalfi. Grated lemon peel were sprinkled on the whipped cream frosting for additional flavor and presentation.

Walking along the many souvenir shops of Amalfi, the window display of this snack bar (above) selling all kinds of tasty treats was hard to miss. We stopped by to look at another one down the lane and finally got a few samples to try. Cute and colorful fruit and vegetable shaped marzipans were also sold here (shown below).

Deep fried then dipped in a sweet and sticky honey and sugar syrup, makhroud date cakes (above) were a favorite snack or dessert in Tunisia. We first tried their unique flavor on a visit to a local handmade carpet shop where they were served with a warm full-flavored mint tea. The pastry dough has a slight grainy texture from the semolina which goes very well with the date filling and honey.
An assortment of European pastries and croissants (above) for breakfast and tea time were always a welcome treat at the Cova Cafe at the ship.

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