If I ever had any doubts about my love of bread, let's just say that they were reaffirmed while in Italy. Don't get me wrong; I am usually of the whole grain always toast my bread variety, but in Cinque Terre I fell in love with fococcia. This stuff is amazingly addicting and the basic kind is vegan by default. What is it? Simply put; bread with olive oil and salt that was poked by the baker before it was baked to give it the characteristic dents. The plain version is decent, but there are so many variations (quite a few which are not vegan). But, there are plenty of them which are vegan. I tried ones with herbs, tomatoes, onions, mixed vegetables, green olives, and even potato slices. All were good, but my favorites were the potato and olive varieties. They are best eaten after being bought because the bakers will pop them in the oven to reheat them before handing them over to you.
What makes an excellent fococcia? My favorite was eaten in the town of Vernazza. The crust was crispy with just the right amount of flake so it could not be mistaken for being hard or chewy. Also, the topping did not overpower the hint of olive oil brushed on top, and the inside was nice and light. Can you tell that I ate several slices of this stuff every day?
Another quick bite found in many pizza or fococcia shops, which is vegan by default is farinata. This consists of chickpea flour, water, and pepper. It is either baked or lightly fried with olive oil brushed on it. When ordered, it is reheated in the same manner as the fococcia. I only ate it twice, but my initial taste was far better than the second (even though the second one is pictured). It was crispy on the outside with just enough oil left that it reminded me, in an abstract way of course, of the hash browns fromMcDonalds in my pre-vegan days. Due to the simplicity of it, I may be looking for recipes and experimenting with this after my travels are over.
A simple meal that I had first upon my arrival was Brusketta. This is an appetizer mainstay in many Italian restaurants in the States, but is considered to be a good snack or quick meal in Italy. Mine was served on a huge slice of very thin bread, which had been cut up to ease eating. With only bread, olive oil, tomatoes, and garlic, it is another one of those foods where the original version is vegan by default. Mine was especially enjoyable, not only because I had just traveled several hours by train, but also because it had just the right amount of garlic without being too overpowering. And, for me, my opinion of just the right amount of garlic is most likely far more than the average person's.
On the last night, I enjoyed a small glass of the special local wine called Sciacchetra. This is made from grapes that have already been used to produce wine and are practically raisins. Because of this, it is served as a sweet dessert wine. When I had it, it was served with little cookies, which I sadly could not eat, and in almost what looked like a mini champagne flute (to my untrained eye). The taste was initially sweet, like you would expect, and nothing like most white wines that I've had. Very much like what could be associated with a raisin. The aftertaste was where the alcohol could be felt, but it gave the impression of a combination of apple juice and rum. It may seem like an odd combination, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Too bad that I had no room in my suitcase to buy a bottle and take it back with me, even though it was rather pricey. I guess that means I will just have to come back to Cinque Terre with more room so that I can take one with me, right?