chocolate amaro cake

I wasn’t always a bitter person. But my interest in singling out that particular tastebud over other basic ones has grown from what was once adventurous curiosity to a bona fide obsession. It’s a big leap. I had a childhood love of sweets and soft drinks (hello mouthful of dental work), but now I crave the opposite, along with heated spice and saltiness.

And I’m not the only one. Unlike Italians, who have been cultivating and cooking bitter foods for centuries – think of radicchio, rapini, arugula, and dark-roasted coffee “corrected” with shots of Fernet-Branca – American palates are just now getting caught up with them. [Read more…]

refreshing rhubarb lime cocktail

Almost fourteen years ago my son was born in Minneapolis, on a freezing day in May. When we took him home for the first time, I remember carefully treading my way along the walkway from the garage to the side door. Carefully because I was still wobbly from an emergency C-section, but also because the ground was patched with ice and clods of snow.  [Read more…]

italian lemon slush

italian lemon slush cocktail

I can’t imagine there’s anything I wouldn’t love about the city of Venice. Since I haven’t been there yet I remain a vicarious traveler; picturing a sepia-colored city like no other, floating over an ancient network of canals, all those mysterious alleyways winding through a landscape of crumbling palaces.

Twenty-seven summers ago my best friend took off in the direction of Europe, with no real itinerary or return date. I’d planned up until the last minute to go with her, saving all my waitressing cash in a box under my mattress, but drama overrode – it became suddenly necessary that I break up with my then-boyfriend and find a new apartment. How unromantic!

lemon peel syrup for italian slush

Everything worked out fine in the end, but missing that adventure was my regret. In the middle of her travels, my friend called me from Venice; she was running out of money but still hoping I’d change my mind and meet her there in Italy.

I felt a tiny bit jealous that she was in a place I’d only ever dreamed about seeing, until she described the harrowing time she was having there; getting off the train alone in the middle of the night, finding the Piazza San Marco teeming with rats and also a few human ones intent on stealing her backpack and who knows what else.

It can happen in any city anywhere, but somehow, knowing it was less than paradise at that moment in Venice made it a little easier to accept what I was missing.
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