The Best Pastries in Florence!

best_pastriesAs a follow-up to our recently renovated Best Food in Florence blog, we are bringing you a new food-themed “Best Of”: the best breakfast pastries in Florence!
So you think something covered in sugar is always good, eh? Well, ok, it is. But we’re not satisfied with “good,” what we are searching for here is Greatness.
In fact, doing some research for this post, I stumbled across an adorable blog post by Tiana Kay called “ITALIAN CROISSANTS SUCK,” which I read with a chuckle because I know exactly what she means (and nothing puts a damper on a morning like a crap pastry!). Sadly, there are some pretty lame excuses for breakfast pastries out there (the pre-packaged, stale, hard, and defrosted varieties), but there are also really good ones! I promise. I have made it my life’s mission to find them, and I want to share them with you.
 
This post obviously required a lot of on-site research, with endless taste testing and re-taste-testing until we KNEW we had a solid list of locations.
No need to thank us.
This is what we do.
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Blog Updates: Best Food in Florence!

It has been entirely too long since I updated our Best Food in Florence post. Frankly, I’m embarrassed. It’s one of more useful blogs we have, if I do say so myself, including tips, hints, and all the necessities before we even get to the food. Writing about the food is always my favorite part and usually involves me leaving immediately afterwards to revisit one of our favorite spots. This new version has some new favorites along with the classics we still love. Really, you can’t go wrong with this list, whatever your price point and for however long you’re staying. I eat at pretty much all of these on a rather regular rotation and have for years! They continuously impress, so I hope you feel the same!

The Best Food in Florence
burrata

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Tips on Food & Eating in Italy

Italian_salamiOk guys. Time for me to vent. Pet peeve numero uno comin’ at ya.
It really rubs me the wrong way when tourists arrive in Italy and expect to find the same dishes (cooked the EXACT same way) they enjoy in Italian restaurants at home. Most ethnic cuisine that has made its way to America ends up changing a fair amount on our shores. In Japan, for example, I highly doubt they serve the Philadelphia roll. And a chimichanga is something that has never graced a real Mexican table. So while Italian food in America is, without a doubt, inspired by the food in Italy, there are things on an American-Italian menu that just don’t exist in Italy (at least not EXACTLY as they do at home).
 
I was reminded of this over an English lesson with a friend who works at a local Florentine restaurant. She and her fellow waitresses laughed at the idea of spaghetti and meatballs. You heard me right. Possibly the most Americanized Italian food ever, the quintessential spaghetti and meatballs really doesn’t exist in Italy (well at least not in a version that any American would recognize). Another famous dish that stumped the waitresses is the well-known (in the good old USA) fettuccine alfredo. There is a restaurant in Rome where this dish was invented and while it has really taken off the States, it is rarely on menus in Italy.
 
Now, there’s nothing wrong with these items being ordered and enjoyed (I mean pasta covered in melted cheese is hard not to like), but you should be aware that if you go to a restaurant in Italy that makes them (with the exception of Alfredo’s restaurant in Rome), chances are they’re just doing it because they get asked so often or because they are appeasing American tourists. Let’s keep in mind that it’s a big country with a wide range of gastronomic traditions that vary dramatically in cities barely 50 miles apart. In fact, most Italian-American cuisine is based on food from only one city, Naples. Perhaps in Naples you’ll fit right in, but don’t expect any Florentine to tell you that there is not “that big of a difference” between these two culinary traditions. For Italians, the difference is huge!
 
So this week, I want to try and get some better food knowledge out there. Now this is really to follow up on my intro information on how to pick the place to eat, how to order and in what order to eat all these delicious things in our Top Ten Tips for Studying Abroad blog. If you’re lost, perhaps start there.
 
Below is a list of food items that are:
#1. Unknown in the Italian gastronomic world (so take note if they appear on an Italian menu and maybe consider not ordering them).
#2. Fake friends: words that sound like an English word we would expect to find in food and yet are not at all what we think.
Or #3. Food items we rarely see on American menus but are often the most delicious ingredients on an Italian menu and sadly get skipped for lack of familiarity!
I hope in the course of this list to also impart some important Italian cuisine knowledge so while you’re here you are sure to eat some REAL Italian food.
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What is in Season: Black Cabbage (Cavolo Nero)

Cavolo_Nero_RecipeThe cold weather is here in Italy and all those hearty winter veggies are starting to show up at my local market. One of my favorites—for its flavor, health benefits*, and versatility in the kitchen—is the great cavolo nero, also known as black cabbage.
 
Before coming to Italy I had never even heard of this leafy green vegetable, though I may have unconsciously seen it wedged in with the other dark winter greens. I probably thought it was some unknown kind of cabbage or even kale. In fact, the great black cabbage goes by a slew of other names that echo this easy-to-make mistake, including Tuscan Kale, Tuscan cabbage, Italian kale, and, my favorite, dinosaur kale. The “dinosaur-ness” of the dino kale is not in reference to the plant’s size, which, by the way (overlooking my rather modest sized bunches), can be up to 2 feet long! The dinosaur refers to the leaves’ very particular texture, which is distinctly bubbly and rippled and in fact, rather t.rex-like. Once I learned this, I had a hard time seeing anything other than the skin of a triceratops sitting in my fridge, but I am working on moving past that and the below recipe has really helped.
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Gluten Free in Italy? No Problem.

Gluten_free_recipeWhen it comes to food in Italy, my rule is: “try everything!” This becomes a bit harder once I learn what certain things are (sorry trippa and lampredotto, you never had a chance), but in general, I try and stick to it. I often feel a little bad for vegetarians traveling in Italy (Pancetta! Supplì! Bistecca!), and extra sorry for vegans (in Italy this eating concept is now generally recognized though not totally understood). However, there is one unexpected faction of diners that should have no fear eating their hearts out in Italy: visitors with celiac disease. Your immediate thought may be: “I am sorry, but are we talking about the land of pasta and focaccia?” And I say to you: “Yes, yes we are.”
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