Monday, July 13, 2015

Thoughts on baking

I'll admit it.  I am most definitely a pastry fiend.

I have always had a sweet tooth.  As a toddler, I was found on numerous occasions with a slightly guilty, somewhat unapologetic chocolate smeared face; an empty box sitting next to me.  

Cleaning out containers of mascarpone was another favorite past-time, which is doubtless the reason why Tiramisu will always be my absolute favorite dessert.  It reminds me of childhood, it  reminds me of home, it reminds me of Italian summers and it reminds me of my Mom, whose traditional Tiramisu recipe (handed down to her by my Italian ancestors) cannot be upstaged by anyone in my eyes.

Over the years, my taste has altered a lot:

I prefer savory over sweet.  
I am not a big chocolate lover.
I don't really like cakes.  
I evolved from baking constantly (something which always helped me to relax and momentarily cease my ever-frantic stream of consciousness) to cooking often.

I was known as the baker of the family, but this changed as I became much more interested in the more experimental and creative aspects found in cooking.

Nowadays, I don't eat or enjoy sweets half as often as I used to, and since moving to New York last summer I have not baked once in my apartment; something which a few short years ago would have sounded absolutely ludicrous to me.  

Me, a former passionate and highly invested baker, living a life without baking??!

Truth be told, I miss baking like hell sometimes.  

While baking, I could always concentrate fully on the manual task at hand and zone out every (negative or positive) influence around me.  I could exist in my own world. Even in a large, homey kitchen very often loud and busy with the sounds of family, friends, relatives, neighbors- I could exist quietly.

I don't want to say that I have given up on baking for good, because I most certainly have not. Personally I cannot wait for the day to come around when I can call myself a baker again.

One thing that never changed for me, was my love for pastries.  
In fact, my love for pastries has only grown stronger, and become more refined.  

My favorite pastries will always be Italian pastries, and perhaps I'm biased.  But I really don't think so.  Whenever I visit Italy I usually consume multiple pastries a day.  What can I say, maybe I'm making up for the 96% of the year I am not in my favorite country and therefore lacking access to said pastries!

So imagine my surprise this year when I recently visited Portugal for the very first time, and I found myself firstly in awe of and secondly falling in love with the traditional Portuguese pastry scene.  Naturally I conducted research by indulging in a LOT of pastries.  And somewhere along the way I decided I needed to write a post on the topic.  I admit I didn't know much about Portugal in general before I traveled there.  However I had no idea that  I was about to be so impressed.

All I can say is, the Italian pasticceria scene has found an opponent just as worthy and deserving of high praise in the Portuguese confeitaria scene.  And I'm okay with that. 

All photos included in this post showcase just a mere fraction of what Portuguese bakeries are capable of.  You're welcome.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

revisiting the west

At the beginning of June I returned to Europe for a short trip home and then some.  

Visiting Galway + Connemara was top of my list of things to do as I wanted to see my family there and reacquaint myself with my favorite part of Ireland- the West.  

The West of Ireland has never not been my favorite, and if I was to move back to Ireland at some point in the future or even just own a home there someday, I wouldn't have to think twice about it.

It's my very personal opinion of course, but the West to me means peacefulness, nature, open space, purity. It represents the most authentic, traditional Ireland and it is overflowing with beautiful fields, sheep, lakes, mountains, forests, hills.  

It's the one place in which I find it easiest to think and breathe.

The quiet + abundant nature is something I miss while living in such a big, busy city as New York.  I didn't even realize how much I truly appreciated and missed it until returning home!

Now everyone go visit. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

last weekend // some thoughts on friendship

Last weekend I had the pleasure of one of my oldest friends Anna coming to visit from Ireland.  We have known each other since the age of 4, went to elementary school together before going our 
separate ways for high school, then reconnected in university, like so many of my early childhood friends.  

Reconnecting with Anna has always been easy as pie, and for that I am thankful.  I cherish those friendships to which distance and time have absolutely no effect.  Whenever we manage to meet, which is rarely very often or regular, we simply pick up where we left off and it feels entirely natural and comfortable.

That said, this was the first time one of us had visited the other abroad, and it was also our first trip together (we traveled to Boston from NY for two nights and two days).  

In my experience, I find that traveling with friends is nearly always the best way to learn about them.   It is also when friendships grow the most- travel companions seem to share an inexplicable everlasting bond.  It's almost like sharing a series of secrets and in-jokes, many of which result in silliness and uncontrollable laughter.  It also brings out the truest self.

I was extremely happy upon realizing that Anna is just as big a food and coffee lover as I am, and this, along with our common love of the arts, exploring and hipster spotting, made for a hilarious and fun journey together.  

Some highlights of her visit + our trip were:
perfect coffee at Sweatshop in Williamsburg, probably my favorite of all the Australian cafes here in NY

being spoiled rotten at Diner in Williamsburg with a delicious and always interesting brunch (thanks to my wonderful genius of a chef roommate R.)

aftermath of good coffee at one of my favorites Bibble & Sip, together with two of my favorite people Katie + Ben

taking in a beautiful sunset on the roof of the Met

enjoying some of the absolute best sushi I have ever tasted at Thelonious Monkfish in Boston

creeping on some recent graduates of Harvard

good coffee at Thinking Cup in Boston

My own personal highlight of our trip; the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 

last sunny coffee break at Render Coffee in Boston's South End

I am already waiting in anticipation for more travel adventures with friends <3