Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Coffee Semifreddo in Trieste

I ate well on my visit to Trieste last month - very well in fact - including the coffee semifreddo above (recipe at the end of the post.) I owe my culinary good fortune there to these two people - Chiara Giglio and Furio Baldassi. Chiara is a food blogger who lives in Trieste and writes "La Voglia Matta" and Furio is a journalist with Trieste's daily newspaper, "Il Piccolo." In addition to writing news stories, Furio is also a restaurant reviewer and knows all the best places to eat in town, while Chiara acted as our own personal tour guide. The enthusiasm she holds for her hometown was contagious, but then again it's easy to love Trieste, with its great food, historic caffés and beautiful sights. 

The night we arrived we were in luck. It was the first night of a wine tasting for Vitovska wines (see this blog post here for more info about those wines) The tasting was held in the Salone Degli Incanti, along the waterfront. 

The huge hall was once the site of a fish market, and was also used as a stand-in for Ellis Island in the Godfather 2 movie.

In addition to wines, we sampled lots of different foods, including these mussels resting on a bed of sweet and sour anchovy puree.

 You can't visit Trieste without stopping at Miramare, the 19th century home built for Austrian Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian and his wife, Charlotte of Belgium.  Unfortunately, he lived only briefly in the castle before being assigned to reign as emperor of Mexico, where he was executed in 1867.  

Another beautiful castle to visit is Duino, built in the 14th century. Unlike Miramare, it's still inhabited by the owners, who open up many of the rooms to visitors. The elegant staircase was designed by Palladio, and you can also view the piano played by Liszt here.


Right across the way from Duino are the ruins of an even earlier castle that dates back to the 11th century. 

 Both Miramare and Duino are located on the rocky cliffs overlooking the Gulf of Trieste, where the waters were clear and inviting. 

 Trieste's port is a busy one, for shipping as well as a mooring spot for cruise liners. Standing guard at the water's edge are the statues of two seamstresses, or "sartine." 

 Trieste's Piazza d'Unità is the largest seaside piazza in Europe and is flanked by elegant buildings on three sides, and the Gulf of Trieste at the other. 

Sunsets can be spectacular as you look out to the Adriatic from Piazza D'Unità.

 While it's hard to tear yourself away from the water's edge, there's so much else to see in Trieste, including a stop at the castello San Giusto, named for the city's patron saint -- 

 And the cathedral of the same name, dating back to the 1300s. 

 Roman influences are evident throughout the city, including this arch, and remains of a Roman amphitheater.

The Irish poet and novelist James Joyce also lived here for a while, and the city has honored him with a statue by its Grand Canal.

 Trieste is also known for its coffee (Illy coffee was founded and is still based here) and its historic caffés, including this one -- the elegant caffé Tommaseo.

But just because you're at a caffé doesn't mean you have to order coffee. A glass of prosecco, which was born in this region of Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, is always welcome, and comes with a selection of munchies - a common occurrence at bars in Italy.

 And speaking of food, Furio directed us to a restaurant called Ego, where we enjoyed an exquisite meal, including a first course of these homemade orecchiette with the tiniest, most delicate squid I'd ever eaten. 

Another day we ate at "Trattoria Dei No," - again recommended by Furio. This dish of mixed seafood atop panzanella is a sample of the delicious food that awaits diners there.

 The seafood is great in Trieste, but so is the meat, since the city has long been a crossroads of Slavic and Italian culture. One place you'll find the Slavic culinary influence is the much beloved Buffet de Pepi, a 100-year-old restaurant featuring all things pork, including this platter of mixed cuts. It's not the way I normally eat, but it's an experience not to be missed.

 Back at home, I had to try to recreate the coffee semifreddo I ate at "Trattoria Del No." It may not be the same as enjoying it in Trieste, but until I get back to this beautiful city on the Adriatic, this will do just fine.

Coffee Semifreddo

4 egg yolks

2/3 cup sugar

3 - 4 Tbsp. instant espresso mixed with 1 1/2 cups milk 

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup coffee liqueur or rum or amaretto

1/4 cup chocolate covered candies or chocolate covered espresso beans, crushed

amaretti cookies, crushed, for sprinkling on top.

Beat egg yolks and sugar until thick and light yellow in color. Mix the instant espresso with the milk, then combine with the egg yolks. Place the mixture in a pot and cook over low heat, stirring all the while until it increases in volume to nearly double.

Remove from the heat and add the liqueur.  Pour into a bowl and place in the refrigerator until it cools. Once it's cool, whip the cream until it holds its shape. Fold into the cooled egg mixture, then stir in the crushed chocolate covered candies or espresso beans. Pour into individual molds or a rectangular loaf pan. Place it in the freezer at least six hours and preferably overnight.

To unmold, take a hot washcloth and place it on the bottom of the mold for a minute or two. Make sure you have a dish on the underside, so the semifreddo doesn't slip onto the counter. Don't keep the washcloth on too long, or you'll melt the semifreddo. Take a knife and run it around the inside rim of the container, and the semifreddo should slide out of the mold. Serve surrounded by more coffee, and with amaretti cookie crumbs on top. Sprinkle a little instant espresso powder on the rim of the serving dish.

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