Sunday, October 14, 2007

What is Panforte?

Strong bread, of course. (Pan is bread and forte is strong.) A return trip to Morgan & York yesterday yielded a treat I had not encountered before: Panforte Nero from an Italian maker. It was a small flat cake in a really beautiful medieval wrapper with nice art, and I wasn't sure what it was. I almost balked when it turned out to be $11.00 - the clerk apologetically pointed out that the difference between the dollar and the euro was making imports quite pricey right now, and the cakes had just come in. This web page has a picture that gives an impression, although the image doesn't do the wrapper justice. Unfortunately, the page is in Italian.

Well, it was delicious, and I was very happy to have spent the money, because I believe I can make these. I'd heard of it, of course, but medieval desserts, as I believe I've mentioned before, are not my forte. It turned out to be a chewy fruit and nut composition, very dark and spicy. My friend thought it tasted like mincemeat; my wife was immediately put in mind of fruitcake, which she dislikes. (My friend and I ate half of it happily while still on the trip; my wife made a face and began looking for a drink to get rid of the taste.)

Coincidentally, we ran into our old friend Becky, formerly Arianwen, who lives in Ann Arbor, and she and another friend had just gotten back from Italy. Also on the European front, I bought a small bottle of Noilly Prat, the original French dry vermouth. I didn't realize it was affordable, never having encountered anything more exotic than the familiar (and very satisfactory) Italian version, Martini and Rossi. I haven't tried it yet, but will report if there is a substantial difference - some authors on cocktails say yes. Quite a post medieval topic, but perhaps readers will find it interesting.

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