Chocolate in Florence



chocolaate Florence

Chocolate Festival

Susan found a seasonal celebration in a Florence tourist brochure that is the consummation of her fantasy – a week-long chocolate celebration in the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella just a couple of blocks from our apartment. We walked over in the drizzle and found a row of big white tents set up. There were dozens of chocolate purveyors showing chocolate truffles, chocolate bark, chocolate covered candied fruits, chocolate covered waffles, chocolate covered strawberry shish-kebobs, every flavor of chocolate bar, and cubes of gianduia, frutti di Bosco, and every other kind of chocolate.

Even better, every one of the merchants forced us to try samples. A woman from Venice assured us that she made the candies in her “laboratorio” and never sold other makers products, like some other dealers. She had a block of a candy called cremino. In New York, in Morningside Heights, we used to buy this candy from the wonderful local chocolate shop called Mondel’s. They called it Figaro Truffles. This cremino was like the mother lode of Figaro Truffle. It is made of alternating stripes of hazelnut cream chocolate and creamy chocolate truffle. This combination is called gianduia in Italy and is better than anything.

We also bought four jars of fruit conserves from a family called Stringhetto. They had every imaginable flavor and several unimaginable. Once again they forced samples on us. The first was apple and lemon, which was splendid. The second was blackberry, which was overwhelmingly berry-like. The third was amarena, which is Italian for sour cherry, and apricot, which is a perennial favorite of mine. We bought every one that we tasted. Only afterward did I find out that Suzie was thinking of them as gifts, whereas I assume that we’ll eat them all.

Best pastry shop for the best pastry in Portugal

Pasteis de Nata – the best pastry in Portugal

The Portuguese are not picky eaters. They are hearty trenchermen. They also don’t avoid sweets. But the best pastry in Portugal is unquestionably the Pastel de Nata.  Pasteis de Nata are little cream tarts in a flaky pastry crust.

best pastry

The line at the Antiga Confeiteria de Belem

They are rich and wonderful and avoid the too-eggy and too-heavy affliction which affects many Portuguese pastries that originated in pastry

The original purveyor of these morsels of deliciousness is the Antiga Confeiteria de Belem. It is an 18th century bakery that still churns out the pasteis for lines of ravenous customers snaking down the block. Belem is one of our favorite neighborhoods in Lisbon, and we’ll post about its other attractions later, but first things first.