Category Archives: Siena

Gelato lovers, give ghiacciolis a chance

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Gelato scooper at Grom, Siena. Photo by Hannah Dustman

By Hannah Dustman

SIENA, Italy – After semi-strenuous walking up and down the stony and hilly streets of Siena through the uncovered Tuscan sun, I was ready for a pick me up. The answer lead me to Grom, an Italian gelato and bakery chain, up the cracked street from the Piazza del Campo.

While I normally try to avoid chain restaurants and bakeries, the open doors and large glass windows leading into the shop showcased a bright wall display not only of gelato but also ghiacciolis and granita sicilianas, enticing me to enter.

Grom first opened its doors in 2003 in Turin, Italy, with the mission to produce and sell high-quality gelato and baked goods using only all natural ingredients and “the best products the agriculture world has to offer.” This includes using only fresh fruit and eliminating artificial flavorings, colorings or preservatives. Even the waffles cones that create a crunchy bed for the gelato are homemade by the company.

According to their website, Grom prepares all the liquid mixes in their laboratory in Turin before distributing them to their retail stores that are now present throughout Italy and even appeared internationally in New York, 2007, Paris, 2008, and Japan, 2009.

Following its success as a gelateria, Grom further expanded its business to include other treats.


Ghiaccioli on display at Grom, Siena. Flavors here are chocolate-coated, strawberry and lemon. Photo by Hannah Dustman

I admit, I already had my gelato quota for the day, but my sweet tooth still had interest in a chocolate coated ghiaccioli. Ghiaccioli, comparable to a Popsicle, was also offered in fragola (strawberry) and limone (lemon) flavors. So yes, I walked back up to the counter of Grom and ordered again, pointing to the chocolate Popsicle-looking bar in the back of the cool glass case. After handing the cashier €3, I took a bite.

The dark chocolate shell cracked upon the first bite as a piece fell into my hand. The inside of the ghiaccioli consisted of a gelato-type cream surrounded by an additional layer of cookie crumbs, together creating a rich and decadent dessert, my second of the day.

Others in my group could not resist either, and three walked out of the shop with a granite siciliana, an Italian version of a slushy. Granite is a frozen dessert made from water, sugar and various flavoring options. Grom make their granite following traditional Sicilian recipes.

While gelato will always hold a special place in my heart, ghiaccioli and granite are hard to resist. I am learning to appreciate, and maybe even love, other iconic Italian desserts.

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Filed under gelato, granita, MU Journalism Abroad, Science ad Agricultual Journalism, Siena

Roast beef by any other name

By Zara McDowell


Roast beef at the Caffe Fiaschetteria Il Pucino in Siena. Photo by Zara McDowell

SIENA, Italy- Caffe Fiaschetteria Il Pucino, nestled along the Via Dei Termini, was filled with businessmen in powder blue button downs and dark blue ties, other local Sienese Italians and one confused group of tourists – us – who had unintentionally stumbled off the beaten path.

As we landed tiredly into our purposefully distressed white wooden chairs and matching table, the waitress placed different colored glasses and mustard yellow place mats, olive oil, salt, pepper and silverware onto the table. The tiny café, adorned with handwritten color-coded menus—blue for antipasti, green for salads and red for meat dishes— had an inviting atmosphere. Plus, prior to studying abroad, our group was told that if restaurant staff did not speak English, we were likely in the right place.

Being what I call a meatetarian, I opted for roast beef, no surprise to anyone that knows me. When I think of roast beef my mind automatically goes to the roast beef sandwiches on a hoagie roll with a side of au jus sauce that my mother made for me when I was little. But this was another thing altogether.

The thinly sliced roast beef arrived to the table on a round burnt orange plate. It is astonishing that one plate of meat can have a remarkably different taste when accompanied by varied sauces and oils.

“Olive oil and pepper. That’s it!” the waitress in a white Hard Rock Café Barcelona tee shirt exclaimed referring to the spices on the meat. I am still shocked that the delicious flavor came from only three ingredients.

The Toscana region of Italy is well-known for their olive oil, and when placed onto a plate of meat, it has my name written all over it.

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Filed under MU Journalism Abroad, Science ad Agricultual Journalism, Siena

Siena’s sweet tooth

By Christine Jackson

SIENA, Italy–I have seen the Italian Willy Wonka and his factory is in Siena.Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 3.22.38 PM

We visited Siena on Sunday and made a few stops outside the city on the way. One of these stops was La Fabbrica del Panforte Siena, where panforte “masters” produce several types of sweets in addition to the traditional panforte. It’s said that the Sienese have the sweetest teeth in Tuscany. I believe it. I was only around the city for the day and I think I ingested more sugar than I have over my entire life.

The longest lasting tradition among the sugar­buzzed Sienese is panforte. Panforte has been produced in and around Tuscany since the 13th century. The fruit cake-­like confection was born of necessity, meant to give people energy with its mix of sugar, honey, flour, nuts and dried fruits. A later variation, panpepato, added spices to the mix.

The mixture is baked in a shallow, circular pan with an edible wafer on the bottom to keep it from sticking. Once finished, each panforte at the factory is hand­wrapped by a master and sealed for sale. The ingredients are listed on the package, except for the spice mix, which is a closely ­guarded secret. Each panforte bakery has its own mix that makes its product unique.

Both variations of the sweet, labeled as Margherita (panforte) and Nero (panpepato), are available for sale at La Fabbrica del Panforte Siena, along with other cakes and cookies. After touring the factory to learn the baking process, we got a chance to try some of the products.

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The Margherita tasted like a sweet, dense fruit cake. The consistency is soft and packed with dried fruits and almonds for texture. The Nero is similar, but with a flavor closer to the spicy German lebkuchen found around Christmas and Oktoberfest. The fruit and nuts cut the spice-­heavy gingerbread flavor to create something a little less aggressive than its German cousin, but just as delicious.

Also available were flat, yellow­ish cookies that tasted of almonds and aniseed. It’s been over 24 hours and I still don’t know how I felt about them other than that I know they were strange. The other cookies were soft, crumbly mounds with something the color of dust sprinkled on top. They were delicious. They’re nearly scone sized and taste like walnuts, sugar and just the right amount of anise. Not too strong like the first cookies, but just right.

I walked away with a bag of the second cookies “to share” (they’re mostly for me) and a Panforte Nero to give to my grandmother along with a thank you note when I get home. Hopefully the German roots reach all the way to the taste buds.

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Filed under MU Journalism Abroad, Science ad Agricultual Journalism, Siena, Study abroad