|Bicerin at Eataly|
The espresso-based drink caught my attention, not only because it sounded decadently delicious, especially in the depths of winter, but also because I had never heard of it. I pride myself on knowing quite a bit about the regional food and drink of Italy, having lived in Rome for over a year and traveled all around the country, from Sicily to Lake Como, but the bicerin was news to me.
Meaning “small glass,” a bicerin packs giant flavors in a diminutive glass cup. In distinct layers, starting from the bottom, are bitter espresso, melted dark chocolate, and ice-cold heavy cream. It’s meant to be drunk as is, without stirring, to savor each sumptuous strata.
I was intrigued. But I was also deprived. Since the bicerin is such a regional beverage, it hadn’t made itself known outside of northern Italy. At the time of Bowen’s article, only one known place in the U.S., in Washington, D.C., offered the chocolate-y potion. This meant that the only options were to travel to Torino or to make it at home.
|Hot Chocolate at|
With solid intentions to make it, I cut out the recipe, but the drink went unprepared for six years. I was especially ashamed by my negligence when I learned that a friend of mine in San Francisco had also seen the recipe, but unlike me, she and her husband found the will to make it. My bicerin, however, was a thing of imagination.
Finally, it became a reality. On one of my first trips to Eataly in New York City, the enormous food emporium in the Flatiron, on par with the size of a shopping mall, that is totally dedicated to the comestibles of Italy, I saw that bicerin was on the menu at the cafe, right off the Fifth Avenue entrance. It cost $4, but I had to order one.
Six years was worth the wait. What struck me was the initial, surprising hit of the rich, cold cream, followed by the warm thick, sweet chocolate, that was then chased by the bitter briskness of the espresso. I was hooked. Now I can’t pass by Eataly without stopping in to have one.
at City Bakery
The bicern at Eatly has now surpassed my previously favorite potable treat of winter, one that I allowed myself once per year: the hot chocolate at City Bakery in Manhattan, almost pudding-like in its thickness, accompanied by a salted pretzel croissant sprinkled with sesame seeds. Both items are so rich that I feel almost queasy by the end of my annual snack, but while consuming them, I savor their edible ying and yang--the sweetness of the hot chocolate and the saltiness of the croissant.
The bicerin offers these contrasting flavors in one small glass and for that it wins.
If you aren’t going to Torino or Eatly anytime soon, try making the bicerin at home. Sickles offers high-quality coffee and dark chocolate that are perfect for a homemade bicerin. Instead of the cream, try Ronnybrook’s whole milk to bring this drink closer to home.
Diana Pittet, the hot chocolate-loving cheesemonger