For my Recipe-of-the-Month, I have chosen Cjarsòns della Valle del Bût (Pasta Filled with Fruit and Herbs), my absolute favorite version of cjarsòns in all of Friuli. This recipe was adapted from one at the now-closed Ristorante Salon in Piano d’Arta. Visit Flavors-of-Friuli.com for the recipe.


I was feeling so loopy after the complimentary sgroppino at Osteria Al Vecchio Stallo the previous night that I had no trouble falling asleep. As I had predicted, the heat finally kicked on in the evening, and the room became quite warm. But despite the excessive heat and the rather firm bed, the sheets were softer and the blanket lighter than what I had grown accustomed to in my Trieste apartment, so I slept very soundly during my final night in Friuli.

In the morning, I awoke bright and early, ready to finally be on my way. Once showered and dressed, I headed downstairs to the breakfast room, where the buffet was spread with a substantial array of choices: fresh rolls, croissants, and pastries; several types of cereal; the obligatory packaged toast; fresh fruit; orange and grapefruit juices; and my favorite yogurt, the runny European-style Carnia brand, of which my preferred flavors were frutti di bosco (mixed berry) and albicocca (apricot). This morning I went with an apricot yogurt, a roll with some apricot jam, and a glass of orange juice.

As I sat eating my breakfast, I noticed two young men at a nearby table. They were clearly American, something I seldom saw in Friuli, and I was curious to find out their story. Typically, in the rare instance that I came across someone speaking English, I would find a way to strike up a conversation. But today there was no time to linger. I had a train to catch and still needed to finish packing, so I scarfed down my food and hurried back upstairs to my room.

I didn’t generally buy many souvenirs when I traveled, but this year I had taken to purchasing every Friulian and Triestine cookbook I could find, so I needed to make room for these, along with a few other items such as an Illy espresso cup, a hunk of ricotta affumicata, a box containing a pitina (salami dredged in cornmeal), and two spiny spider crab shells that I had persuaded waiters in Trieste and Muggia to wrap up for me to take home for a photo shoot. In my efforts to stuff everything in my bags, I ended up discarding three pairs of socks and two pairs of underwear that were all developing holes, although this didn’t noticeably lighten my load.

I did finally manage to cram everything in without needing the plastic grocery bag that I had carried my extra food items in yesterday when leaving Trieste. But my backpack was stuffed to the brim, my collapsible nylon tote bag overflowed, and my rolling duffel was unbelievably heavy, weighed down by my stack of cookbooks. As a test before I departed, I attempted a practice overhead press, to see if I’d be able to lift the suitcase onto the luggage rack of the train. I failed miserably! Maybe I would luck out, as I had on certain past trips, and a chivalrous Italian would step in to help me.

I checked out of Hotel Principe around 8:00am and crossed the street to Udine’s train station, where I boarded the train for Vienna. When I found my assigned seat, there were already three American girls in my train compartment. Considering how infrequently I had encountered Americans in this part of Italy, it was a bit strange to see two groups in one day. I soon learned that these girls were in college, on a fall break from an exchange program in London. They had just been sightseeing in Venezia and were now en route to Salzburg.

With no one offering to help me, I somehow managed to stow my duffel bag by lifting it to chest height, stepping onto the seat, and using pure momentum to hoist it onto the rack. I spent the early part of the journey chatting with the American girls. When they got off the train in Villach, Austria, I switched to a window seat, where I could watch the brilliant autumn colors of the passing countryside. I had expected the train to be packed, but it wasn’t, and I had the compartment to myself for the remainder of the trip. For lunch, I polished off the rest of the snacks I had brought from Trieste—some bread and cheese, a yogurt, and a banana—saving just the smallest bit of bread and cheese for my final breakfast.

The train arrived at Wien Südbahnhof by 2:00pm, right on schedule. Since I had never been to any of Vienna’s train stations before and was not very familiar with the city, I studied my map closely before arrival. As I often did when arriving in a foreign city, I pretended that I was on my then-favorite TV show, The Amazing Race, and navigating to my destination! From the station, it was a 15-minute walk to the nearest subway, and then after a few stops, a short walk to Hotel Austria, where I would stay one night before my flight home.

While checking in, I requested a taxi to the airport the next morning, scheduling it for 5:00am since I had a super early flight. I was given the same room as before, small with a private bath down the hall. The shower and toilet were inconveniently located in separate rooms, though it was nice to have them all to myself. Covering the twin bed was a fluffy, yellow down comforter, and there was also a separate daybed/sofa and a mini fridge. When I had stayed there three nights at the beginning of my trip, I had had some difficulty with my key, but thankfully the hotel had since fixed the lock and the key now worked fine.

As soon as I had settled into my room, I headed back out in the hope of procuring an afternoon snack. Since my two days in Vienna five weeks earlier, I had been looking forward to returning to Buffet Trzesniewski, a tiny sandwich shop just off the Graben, where I had enjoyed an assortment of yummy finger sandwiches, prepared with egg salad and toppings such as shrimp, bacon, and smoked herring. But when I arrived again at the address, I was dismayed to find the shop closed for the day.

So I spent the next hour and a half wandering up and down the Graben, around Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s Cathedral), and to the Hofburg Palace. Along the way, I stopped at Café Demel and picked up a slice of sachertorte to go. At the beginning of my trip, I had made the rounds of several of Vienna’s historic cafes, including Demel, where a slice of dobostorte had been part one of my lunch that day. Part two of that indulgent lunch had been a slice of sachertorte at the famous Hotel Sacher. Having read about the feud between the two cafés over which sachertorte may be called the “original,” I wanted to experience both for myself.

With an early morning flight looming, I didn’t feel up for a late dinner. Plus, the greasy musetto in Udine the night before hadn’t settled well, and I just couldn’t stomach the thought of more sausage—or wienerschnitzel or goulash or meat of any kind. Nor did I relish the idea of sitting in another smoke-filled dining room. So I copped out and grabbed a slice of spinach pizza at Pizza Bizi on the way back to my hotel. It was only 4:30pm, but I wanted to try to get to bed early.

Back at Hotel Austria, I stopped at the guests’ computer desk in the lobby to check my email and was excited to find a message from my best friend. Once I had returned to my room for the evening, I set both my watch alarm and the hotel’s alarm clock for 3:30am, testing the latter to make sure that it functioned properly.

A short while later, I tucked into my slice of sachertorte for dessert. Like the one at Hotel Sacher, this cake was dense and a bit dry, perhaps even more so given that Demel’s consisted of only one layer compared to Sacher’s two and therefore contained half the amount of jam. My goal was going to be to create a moister cake following the recipe given to me by Pasticceria Penso in Trieste. In addition to adding ground hazelnuts to the chocolate batter, their trick was to douse each cake layer in Maraschino liqueur before glazing with the apricot jam and chocolate ganache.

With nothing left to do, I went to bed around 9:00pm and fell asleep within the hour. However, the room was extremely stuffy. I woke up around midnight feeling restless and sweating under the heavy down comforter. I stayed awake for a couple of hours trying to suppress my nervous energy. After finally falling back asleep, I managed to doze on and off until my two alarms sounded.

In the quiet of the early morning, I took a quick shower, dressed, ate that last bit of stale bread and cheese for breakfast, and set to repacking for the final time. I had stored my ricotta affumicata and pitina in the mini fridge overnight and needed to bury them in the bottom of my luggage. I knew that the cheese had been sufficiently aged, though without a label, I didn’t trust that it would pass through customs without being questioned. And I knew for certain that the salami was banned. But given that these items were crucial for my book, I decided to take the risk of smuggling them into the country. I managed to force everything to fit, placing my carefully wrapped spiny spider crab shells at the very top of my nylon tote bag so they wouldn’t get crushed.

Once I was all set to depart, I went downstairs to the lobby to wait for my taxi. I was a little early, but so was the cab, both of us arriving exactly at 4:50am. The ride to the airport felt a bit harrowing, taking a mere 15 minutes compared to the half-hour trip from the airport when I had first arrived.

When I got to the airport just after 5:00am, the ticket counter was still closed. Eventually things began moving, and I allowed myself to settle in for the journey home. I caught my 7:25am flight to London Heathrow, where I almost didn’t make my connection due to a crazy-long line at security. Fortunately, my connecting flight had been delayed by a half hour, so I just made it. Eleven or so hours later, I arrived in San Francisco, my final trip to Friuli at an end. Now it was time for the real work of publishing Flavors of Friuli to begin!

For my Recipe-of-the-Month, I have chosen Frittata di Funghi (Mushroom Frittata), in honor of the Festa dell’Asparago di Bosco, del Radicchio di Montagna e dei Funghi di Primavera. Held every May in the Carnian town of Arta Terme, this festival celebrates three local bounties of spring: wild asparagus, mountain radicchio, and spring mushrooms. Visit Flavors-of-Friuli.com for the recipe.

Since I had gone to bed so early the night before, it had taken me hours to fall asleep. When I finally drifted off, I experienced a bizarre dream: my fiancé playing with marionette puppets that had floppy pieces of sushi at the end of the strings! I awoke at 4:30am, full of nervous anticipation over my impending departure. With my brain anxiously running through mental checklists to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, I lay there in the dark for two hours, waiting for my alarm to go off.

Once I had showered and dressed, I crossed the street to Pasticceria Penso one final time to find the Stoppar family busy preparing the day’s sweets. Italo and his son Antonello were putting the final touches on a batch of sachertortes. Italo’s other son, Lorenzo, was rolling out puff pastry for apple strudel, and Uncle Giovanni was busy frying another batch of krapfen (doughnuts).

They persuaded me to wait for them to come to a stopping point so we could take some photos together. So I hung out there for an hour, at which point Antonello began scrabbling around the kitchen, pulling out a random selection of oversized tools: a large chef’s knife, an even bigger rolling pin, a giant wooden paddle, an enormous whisk, and a copper pot. He doled out the props, handing me the pot and whisk, and we paraded out of the kitchen into the shop, where we posed for a series of silly pictures (which I sadly never did receive copies of).

As always, Antonello’s mother, Rosanna, offered me a gift to take home—this time a putizza (spiral cake filled with raisins, nuts, and chocolate). I tried to politely decline, explaining how overstuffed my bags already were, but she was very persistent. I didn’t want to seem rude, so I accepted. Saying goodbye wasn’t easy, since the family had practically taken me in and made me feel at home in a very short period of time. But I had a train to catch, so I hugged them each one last time and made my exit.

Back at my apartment, I collected my uneaten food items—the last of my bread and cheese, an apple and banana, a small yogurt, and the remaining pastries from Penso (one piece of sachertorte and one domino)—which would serve as my lunch on the train today as well as snacks on my long train ride to Vienna tomorrow. I was so loaded down, even with my extra collapsible tote bag, that I had to put all this excess food in a plastic grocery bag. There was absolutely no room for the putizza, nor the two bags of fave dei morti given to me by Rosanna the day before, so I left these in my room as gifts for the housekeeping staff.

I checked out of Residence Liberty and made my final trek to Trieste’s train station, where I successfully avoided the long line at the counter by buying my ticket at the automatic ticket machine. I had planned on doing some reading during the hour-long ride, but my book was buried in the bottom of my backpack and would have required some serious unpacking to dig out, so I spent most of the journey nibbling on bread, cheese, and apple and staring out the window at the rapidly passing countryside.

I arrived in Udine shortly after noon. Before leaving the station, I purchased my ticket for the train to Vienna, which would be leaving early the next morning. I made sure to get a seat reservation, as I had heard on the news that Trenitalia recommended reserving in advance due to the busy All Saints’ Day holiday weekend.

I checked into Hotel Principe, which had become my usual lodging in Udine, given its super friendly staff and convenient location almost directly across the street from the train station. The weather was rather nippy, and there was nothing much to do in the city, as all the stores and sights were closed for the afternoon and many were closed all day—either for the holiday, or perhaps just because it was Monday. So I opted to stay in and rest. My relentless pace over the past month had caught up to me, and I was feeling overwhelmingly exhausted.

However, the pre-travel jitters left me unable to truly relax. I was ready to skip ahead to tomorrow morning so I could be on my way. I unpacked what I needed, spreading my things out on the second bed. (Yet one more thing I liked about Hotel Principe was that I always had a double room with two beds!) Then I tried to do some writing but embarrassingly ended up playing Solitaire on my laptop instead. I watched a little TV and flipped through some of the cookbooks I had bought in Trieste. I was so bored at one point I resorted to scrolling through ringtones on my cell phone just to kill time.

My room was freezing, equally cold as past wintertime visits. I knew the heat would kick on later, but those midday hours, when guests were most often out and about, were typically the coldest. During many of my winter stays there, I more often than not found myself crawling into bed and taking a nap before dinner. Today I hadn’t worn myself out hiking through hill towns or exploring villages, but I still allowed myself to lie down awhile.

I left for dinner a little early, so that I could wander around a bit while it was still light out. On my way out, I stopped to chat with Michela at the reception desk, as well as Lucinda, who was in charge of the breakfast room. They are both such nice people and always seemed so pleased to see me. They knew about the cookbook I was writing, since I had often made Hotel Principe my home base during my research trips, and were interested in my progress. Chatting with them lifted my mood considerably, and I felt invigorated stepping out into the chilly late afternoon air.

I headed straight to the city center and, on impulse, ducked inside the Duomo, where a small service was in progress. Half the church’s interior was blocked off by scaffolding, renovations clearly in progress. I quietly skirted the nave until I reached a shadowy tunnel of curtains that allowed visitors to view the Tiepolo masterpieces being restored.

From there, I took a short detour through Piazza della Libertà, just to gaze at the Venetian-style square one last time—to impress upon my memory all the details, as I didn’t expect to be back for a long time. (In fact, I never did return to Udine, since subsequent health problems have made travel impossible for me.) The pink and white stripes of the Loggia del Lionello were illuminated by spotlights and stood out vividly against the now darkening sky. Tons of people were out strolling the streets, a disproportionate number wearing witch’s hats—I had nearly forgotten that it was Halloween!

After meandering up and down Via Mercatovecchio, admiring the window displays and browsing briefly in the bookshop Libreria Ubik, I veered westward, heading in the direction of the cobblestone Via Viola and my destination, Osteria Al Vecchio Stallo. I arrived not long after the restaurant opened to find the elderly nonna of the family having dinner at her usual corner table.

For my final Friulian meal, I was tempted to order my all-time favorite, frico con patate, but instead went with another traditional dish, musetto e brovada. Musetto is a fatty, cartilaginous sausage made from pig snout, skin, and various other bits of pork all mixed together with white wine and spices. Its traditional accompaniment is brovada, turnips fermented for a month in grape marc. I had tried both several times before but not for over a year, since brovada is a seasonal dish and wasn’t available during my most recent spring and summer trips. I wanted to instill the taste memory so that I could effectively recreate a short-cut brovada at home, as well as find a suitable substitute for musetto (I ended up using cotechino, which is more readily available in the U.S.). While neither musetto nor brovada would have qualified as my favorite dish, I didn’t remember either being this unpleasant. Cut into chunky, round slices, the musetto was greasy, sticky, and downright mucilaginous. The brovada was just as sour and vinegary as ever, its flavor definitely an acquired taste—though my own version of 48-hour marinated turnips ended up being pretty spot-on.

As an accompaniment, I ordered a side of grilled eggplant, zucchini, and red bell pepper. I also treated myself to a quartino (quarter liter) of the house red wine. When I had finished my meal, the waiter brought me a small wine glass of what I later learned was called sgroppino, as a complimentary treat for Halloween. The drink was like a liquidy lemon sorbetto with a light sprinkling of cocoa on top, but I also detected a flavor that I couldn’t quite place. It wasn’t until I had returned to my hotel room and sat down to enjoy my sachertorte and domino for dessert that it occurred to me that the mysterious flavor was alcohol—likely prosecco and grappa—for I was suddenly feeling rather drunk!

Photos of sachertorte and krapfen courtesy of Pasticceria Penso.

For my Recipe-of-the-Month, I have chosen Strucchi (Dried Fruit- and Nut-Filled Cookies), a treat popular throughout much of Friuli but especially beloved in its place of origin, Cividale del Friuli and the surrounding Valli del Natisone. Visit Flavors-of-Friuli.com for the recipe.

After a rather restless night of sleep, I was awakened by the sun streaming in through the curtains, the first glimpse of sunshine I had seen in days. My mood, which had been a bit gloomy all week, partly due to the weather and partly due to my impending departure, suddenly lifted. It was also a refreshing change to see the sun rise earlier, after having set the clocks back an hour the night before. But when I emerged from the shower, a mass of gray clouds had crept in again. My spirits plummeted. I no longer felt like going outside, but seeing as it was my final day in Trieste, I forced myself to get dressed and crossed the street to Pasticceria Penso.

I arrived at the bakery to find a batch of krapfen fresh out of the fryer. Uncle Giovanni was in the process of filling the puffy doughnuts with apricot jam. He offered me one, along with a taste of the checkerboard marzapane Antonello had made the day before. Antonello’s mother, Rosanna, gave me a wrapped slice of each of their five varieties of marzapane—checkerboard, orange, cherry, walnut, and chocolate-hazelnut—along with two bags of fave dei morti, those tiny pink, white, and brown almond cookies that are so popular on All Saints’ Day.

As usual, the family was busy preparing a variety of cakes, tarts, and pastries. Antonello was artistically topping large crostate with a kaleidoscope of fresh fruit. Lorenzo was making what they called napolitana, presumably their version of the Neopolitan sfogliatelle, puff pastry filled with vanilla pastry cream. Their father, Italo, was decorating a special order birthday cake, a rectangular sponge cake filled with chocolate pastry cream and topped with a border of whipped cream, maraschino cherries, and a cartoon image of Minnie Mouse.

I hung around until about 11:00am, when the family was kind enough to pause for a few photos. I was still having trouble with my point-and-shoot camera, my only one with a flash for indoor shots. By now I had figured out the trick to keeping the power on while snapping a picture: I needed to physically hold the sliding lens cover open the entire time I was using it. But the latest problem was that the viewfinder had gone black. I could still take a photo and view the image in playback mode, but I was forced to set up my shots blindly. It was impossible to tell if my subject was in the frame or if the camera was properly focused. I took a bunch of pictures of the family posing in the kitchen, hoping that one of them might be usable.

Since I was departing Trieste on a Monday, when Penso was typically closed, I had planned on saying goodbye to the family today. I had even brought them a bag of my unused kitchen supplies, including some olive oil, salt, pepper, dish soap, and sponges. However, it turned out that the bakery would be open for the entire All Saints’ Day weekend, including Monday, and they asked me to stop by again in the morning to say our farewells. Antonello gave me a presnitz to bring home, and as always, offered me a choice of pastries. Already loaded down with so many generous gifts, I asked for just a single domino (sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream, glazed with chocolate ganache, and decorated with white icing), but he wrapped up two along with two slices of sachertorte, which he knew was my favorite.

I hadn’t planned on taking any more trips out of town, but I suddenly felt the urge to do something special on my last day. The sun had reappeared, and I was at once overwhelmed with a desire to see the ocean—from somewhere other than Trieste, that is. So I walked to Piazza Oberdan and caught the next #44 bus to Duino, where I could have lunch with a seafront view at Ristorante Alla Dama Bianca. Mike and I had enjoyed a lovely meal there in the spring of the previous year, the same day we had visited Castello di Duino and hiked along the Sentiero Rilke from Duino to Sistiana.

When I arrived in Duino an hour later, I made the short trek down the hill to the harbor, where I found Alla Dama Bianca packed with guests. There were no seats available in the dining room, but I found a free table outside overlooking the water. Despite the chilly weather, I was surrounded by tourists, including two English-speaking couples and several groups speaking German.

I ordered an antipasto of mussels and clams in tomato broth and then the seppioline alla griglia (grilled cuttlefish) for my second course. However, my order must have gotten miscommunicated to the kitchen, because the waiter brought me a calamari salad to start, followed by a bowl of mussels and clams. Both dishes were clearly from the antipasto menu. I tried to explain the mistake, but the African waiter did not seem to understand my Italian. I gave up, figuring there was no harm as long as I was billed the correct amount. The seafood was quite delicious, although the mussels and clams were not served al pomodoro as the menu had indicated.

I got back to my apartment around 3:30pm and spent the rest of the day organizing and packing. With the extra items I had acquired, such as the Illy espresso cup and the two spiny spider crab shells, not to mention all the goodies lavished on me by the Stoppar family, my backpack and rolling duffel were overflowing. I would need to pull out the handy collapsible nylon tote bag I had bought in Venezia on a previous trip. And with any luck, it would be cold again tomorrow, so that I could wear an extra sweater and lighten my load a little more.

It got dark early, around 5:00pm, and with nothing left to do, I ate an early dinner: the second slice of melanzane alla parmigiana from yesterday, along with a slice of crusty bread. There was nothing interesting on TV, but I kept it on in the background anyway, hoping the language would somehow seep into my brain even though I wasn’t paying much attention.

After indulging in two of Penso’s chocolate pastries for dessert, I went to bed early. I read a little but didn’t want to finish my book before my long journey home. So I lay in bed for several hours, feeling ambivalent about having to leave Trieste. I was looking forward to all the comforts of home, like sleeping in my own bed and cooking in a proper kitchen and not having to put up with cigarette smoke wafting into my bathroom from the apartment next door. Most of all I looked forward to seeing Mike! But I would really miss Trieste and my dear friends at Pasticceria Penso. To this day, my time in Trieste is one of my most cherished memories.

Photos of krapfen, crostata, and dominoes courtesy of Pasticceria Penso.

For my Recipe-of-the-Month, I have chosen Jota (Bean and Sauerkraut Soup), a Triestine dish that makes a hearty meal during these chilly winter months. Visit Flavors-of-Friuli.com for the recipe.

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