Hidden Treasures and Unexpected Joys

The opulent Vienna Opera House is no secret, but scoring tickets to Figaro while visiting there was certainly an unexpected joy!

Going to the opera in Vienna was on my bucket list, but when I’d tried to purchase tickets a couple of months before our planned trip, I discovered tickets had long been sold out. Therefore, I settled on a tour of the Opera House, and found a Schubert concert to go to while we were visiting.  However, at the end of our tour, our guide told us that forty standing-room-only tickets are held back for purchase the day of the show and if we got in line quickly, we might be able to purchase them.  We ran to the ticket office, waited an hour or so, and were rewarded with two standing-room-only tickets. The escapade reminded me of my father, who often quipped when an unplanned, happy accident occurred “If you don’t plan, nothing ever goes well”.  Traveling always seems to me to be a good reminder about the importance of trying to strike the balance between planning and spontaneity.

After leaving Vienna, we arrived in Croatia and spent our next few days cycling in and around the Plitvice National Park, a spectacular natural world filled with waterfalls and lakes interspersed by wooded beauty, all largely unspoilt by the footprint of humans.  We alternated our time between biking and hiking, eating prosciutto and local cheeses, drinking Radler and local wines. It was worth the biking leg burn.

On our third night, we stayed at Vila Lika, a guesthouse located at the base of the park, with eight rooms and a small restaurant for their guests. While I was quite hungry after a long day of biking and extreme hiking, I had modest expectations for dinner.  Dinner was very good, although I can’t honestly recall my entree, but dessert was truly extraordinary. 

As an amateur baker, I can be critical of desserts, and Lord knows I’ve eaten my share of molten chocolate lava cake.  But this was the kind of cake that if you don’t dream about it at night, you definitely think about it the next day. It could proudly have been served in a Michelin-starred restaurant. But, here it was. Presented by an unassuming young chef named Eva, on a simple plate on a small table in a rural guesthouse in a tiny town in Croatia.

It was a hidden treasure and it brought me unexpected joy.

As we biked along the next day, amongst the natural beauty all around me, the molten chocolate lava cake kept creeping into my brain. Cleary, I was a bit obsessed.  Finally, at our lunchtime break I asked Bruno, our fantastic Cycling Croatia National park guide, if he thought Eva might be willing to share her recipe with me. The lesson here is “ask and thou shalt receive”. Eva’s cake is a gift that keeps on giving…. Enjoy!

40 grams dark chocolate
80 grams sugar
400 ml cream
4 egg yolks
1 egg white
Vanilla sugar 1 (presumably teaspoon)
50 grams flour (thinking pastry)
100 grams butter (thinking salted)
Mix eggs and sugar.
Melt chocolate and cream over hot water (double boiler).
Mix all together and add flour.
Fill silicone pots with butter and flour and then fill them with batter. 

You can put them on ice and bake them when you’re ready at 180° Celsius (350° Fahrenheit) for 11 minutes.

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