Veni, Vidi, Amavi – Florence

Ahhhh, Florence! Edwin has proclaimed it as his favorite Italian city and I don’t blame him. It has the feel of a small city with museums, landmarks, and restaurants galore. We took the train from Venice to Florence and arrived at the NH Firenze hotel in no time. We immediately dropped off our bags and began to explore.

Attractions

Bomboli Gardens

Ponte Vecchio

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We knew we had to start our exploration by visiting the Ponte Vecchio. Luckily it was a short walk from our hotel and on our route to the Bomboli Gardens. The Bomboli gardens were a beautiful sight to see. There were fountains, greenery, and scenic views galore.

Galleria dell’Academia

You know we couldn’t come to Florence and not see David in all of his glory. Sure I’d seen his picture in books but seeing him in person, all 17 feet, is a quite a sight. The Galleria dell’Academia itself was a small museum, compared to other Italian museums, but the lines to buy tickets/get in wrap around so do yourself a favor and pre-order your tickets. They tickets will be waiting for you and your predetermined time and it will grant you fast access to the museum.

Uffizi Gallery

The Uffizi is a beautiful building in and of itself that holds work from some of the greatest artist to ever live. We were able to see artwork from Botticelli, Giotto, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and Raffaello. Don’t leave Florence without a visit.

Giotto’s Bell Tower

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The bell tower next to the Basilica is composed of 414 steps and this one (unlike the one in Venice) does NOT have an elevator. Not gonna lie, we had to stop here and there to catch our breathes but the sights from atop were unbelievable. The bell tower itself is considered to be the most beautiful bell tower in Italy.  It is said to have been built more for aesthetics than functionality. Don’t let the climb scare you away, it’ll be worth it, I promise! You can also preorder the ticket for the Basilica and Duomo beforehand in order to save you from standing in the sun for a long time.

Santa Maria del Fiore Basilica and Duomo

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3rd largest church in the world

Foodie Goodness

Culinaria

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Culinaria is a small restaurant with Mediterranean influences. It had a variety of tagines, hummus, and veggie-friendly dishes. We ordered the pork stuffed with plums and the veggie spaghetti which was something out of our comfort zone but it totally converted us and convinced us to make our own zucchini noodles at home. To finish off our meal we had the  “out-of-this-world” homemade tiramisu and enjoyed every last bit. Our waiter, who was wonderful, helped make our experience even better. He told us about his childhood in Oaxaca, Mexico and even spoke with us in Spanish! As a final treat he shared with us his mother’s homemade limoncello which was the best limoncello we had in the entire trip. If you’re looking to experience different cuisines, make your way over to Culinaria and enjoy a wonderful meal.

Ditta Artigianale

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Mercato Centrale

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If you’ve been to Eataly then the Mercato Centrale will feel awfully similar. They have many tables in the middle of the market with food stands all around the perimeter. The stands have pasta, steaks, burgers, pizza, dessert, and many other options. We ordered a pizza and while we waited bought some drinks and arancini to start the meal. It was a good meal but would probably explore other options before coming back.

I’Brindellone

I’Brindellone was our FAVORITE meal and we say that without hesitation. We knew when we walked there and were turned away because they were booked/all full capacity that we were in for something good. We made a reservation for the following day and couldn’t wait to come back. When we arrived for dinner the second time, we were immediately greeted at the front door and walked to our table. We knew from a post by Georgette (Girl In Florence) that we were going to order the truffle pasta and bistecca a la florentina. For the sake of our health we decided to order burrata with arugula and tomato and it did not disappoint. Then came the stars of the night – the pasta and steak. Mind you the steak was not for the faint of heart as it was about 3 pounds and the smallest one available so we took one for the team and ordered it anyways. The steak was flavorful, tender and a perfect protein to accompany the pasta. If you ever find yourself in Florence make sure you make a reservation at this restaurant and go indulge in a Florentine staple.

Shopping

Digerolamo

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My one request for Edwin on this trip was that I get a handmade leather. Since it was the Ferre Agosto (August break) many restaurants and stores were closed for 1-2 weeks at a time. Lucky for me Clara from Digerolamo came back to her store the day before we were set to leave Florence. I walked into her store/workshop and immediately knew this was what I was looking for. She was ever so gracious and accommodating, she answered all of my questions and made me feel very appreciated. I was very excited and nervous to place my order but it all went super smoothly. Inside the store you could see the workers doing their craft in such an artistic and unique way that is rarely seen nowadays. Clara informed me that since my purse was going to be made-to-order she would have to ship it to Chicago. I had wanted to carry it around in Italy but can now say that it was worth the wait.

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Bloggers with fab blogs about Florence:

Georgette from Girl in Florence

Nardia from Lost in Florence

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Delicious Chocolate Stout Cake

I recently shared some of my home baking experiences on my Insta stories. I love to bake all kinds of goodies for friends and family. I’ve been getting a lot of requests for the cake I recently made so I decided to share recipe here. This cake is chocolaty, moist, and delicious without being overly sweet.

Chocolate Stout Cake*

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Ingredients

Cake

  • 1 cup stout (I used Hitachino’s espresso stout but you can also use Guinness)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cups sour cream

Chocolate Ganache

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rum (optional)

Kahlua Whipped Cream*

  • 1 cup Whipping Cream
  • 1 tbsp Sugar
  • 4 tablespoons Kahlua (feel free to use a different quantity or type)

Cake Directions

  1. Preheat your over to 350*F
  2. Butter two 9-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, and then butter the paper.
  3. Bring the stout and butter to a simmer in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Once it has simmered, turn off the heat and add the cocoa powder. Whisk until the mixture is smooth then let it cool.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Set this aside.
  5. In a stand mixer, beat the eggs and sour cream using the paddle attachment. Once the eggs and sour cream have incorporated, add the stout-chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and beat just to combine.
  6. Next, add the flour mixture the the liquid mixture and beat briefly on slow speed.
  7. Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans and put it in the oven.
  8. Bake the cakes for approximately 35 minutes or until a tester inserted into center of cakes comes out clean.
  9. Lastly, let the cakes cools for about 10 minutes then turn the cakes onto a cooling rack and let them cool completely.

Ganache Directions

  1. Bring the heavy cream to a simmer in heavy saucepan over medium-low heat.
  2. While that is heating, place the chopped chocolate in a glass bowl.
  3. Once the cream has simmered, turn off the heat and add it to the bowl with the chocolate. Let the cream sit in the bowl for a few minutes so it can melt the chocolate.
  4. After a few minutes, whisk until the mixture is smooth then let it cool.

Whipped Cream Directions

  1. Place all three ingredients in a stand mixer with the wire whisk attachment.
  2. Whisk on high until stiff peaks begin to form.

Assembly

  1. Place 1 cake layer on plate/cake stand. Spread the ganache over the cake. Top with the second cake layer.  Spread the Kahlua whipped cream over the top and sides of cake.

*Recipes used and/or adapted from: CHOCOLATE STOUT CAKE by Epicurious & Kahlua Whipped Cream by Sugar & Soul

Weekend in NOLA

Laissez les bons temps rouler (Let the good times roll) …

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Last year my family and I decided to take a trip down to NOLA during the Memorial Day weekend. We loved exploring a new city and experiencing southern hospitality.

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Everywhere you turned there were sauces left and right. It was so fun to see all the different varieties that have been created.

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Don’t let the line out the door scare you! The Gumbo Shop was one of our favorite meals during our trip. I ordered the creole combination platter and my husband the chicken po’boy. Both were a wonderful introduction to authentic southern specialties.

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How could we come to NOLA and not eat beignets at Cafe Du Monde. Fried pillowy goodness dusted in powdered sugar – how could we say no?!

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District: Donuts. Sliders.Brew

Another line that was worth the wait! We visited the Magazine location of District for some donuts and coffee for breakfast. Their unique donut creations and delicious coffee had us coming back the next morning.

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Although we didn’t see too many crocodiles during our swamp tour, we were able to see 2 (or 3) going about their daily lives.

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After our swamp tour, we decided to ask our tour guide for recommendations to the best local crawfish boil  – and that’s how we made it to Kenney’s Seafood. We had an assortment of seafood and some cold there that were very much appreciated given the humid weather.

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Oak Alley Plantation … the “Grande Dame” of the Great Louisiana River Road

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Our last tourist stop during our trip to New Orleans was Oak Alley Plantation. We really enjoyed learning the history of the plantation, exploring the grounds, and have a nice cold bourbon drink.

Welcome to my page …

 

Italian Door
Roaming through the streets of Rome

Come on in …

I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a lifestyle blog for a while now so here goes nothing. I’m a proud Mexicana, born and raised in Chicago. I went to college in California (Pomona College, chirp chirp!) but I always knew I had to come back to my city.

My husband and I began dating back in 2007. From the very beginning, food has been a major part of our life. Sometimes we go to the trendiest restaurant and other times the local taqueria is the 5 star meal our hearts desire.

Join us on our journey as we taste food, explore cities, and enjoy life.