Picture it: Australia, 2005. The second morning of our honeymoon. Husband and I are in Sydney, not entirely over our jetlag, and hungry. We had fallen asleep at about 6:30 the evening prior, convinced that we were just going to take a nap. I woke briefly at 11:00 p.m., looked out the open balcony window at the twittering lights of the Sydney Opera House, listened for a second to the lapping water of the world's most glittering Harbour, pinched myself to make sure I was truly, indeed, in my beloved Australia, then rolled over and went back to sleep. Jetlag's enough trouble as it is; it's even worse when it comes on the heels of feverish wedding planning and the big, raucous day itself. I felt like it was the first time in at least six months that I could really sleep and, hell, what better place to sleep than the Park Hyatt Sydney?
Of course we're up the next morning with the sun. And hungry; yes, very hungry. Our Aussie friends Kerrie, Greg, Matthew and Nicole have left us a wonderfully welcoming gift basket in our room, with all my favorite treats and adult beverages from Down Under. I snack on an early-morning Cadbury Crunchie while we wait for 8:00 a.m., an hour we figure it might be reasonable that restaurants could be open. We leave the room and began wandering through The Rocks, an old section of town very close to the hotel. What we find is Gumnut Teagarden, an unassuming tearoom with a lovely outdoor garden and a kitchen that's serving breakfast. We take our seats outside at a re-purposed sewing-machine table under a canopy of Vittoria umbrellas and native birds perched atop eucalypt branches.
(Gumnut Teagarden on a perfect morning in September 2005.)
It is one of those meals that stays with you for a lifetime. Not because it is gourmet dining in a world-famous restaurant. But because the moment is perfect. Newly married, on holiday, without a care in the world, relaxing under a gorgeous blue Sydney spring sky, sipping coffee and eating a simple and delightful morning meal of grilled crusty bread with sweetened ricotta and honey. It was a meal that lives in legend, unable to be recreated at home (or so I thought). Because Northeast Ohio looks nothing like The Rocks, and a maple is not a gum tree and a cardinal -- no matter how beautiful -- is no rainbow lorikeet. You know, even if we were to go back to Gumnut Teagarden for another meal, I'm certain it wouldn't be the same. It would still be delicious and lovely, but it wouldn't be that moment.
I think about that breakfast all the time. I think about that sweetened ricotta. But I'm aware of how difficult it is to relive the pleasures of travel at home, even if it involves only six ingredients. However, I gave it a shot this morning. Honestly, I should not have waited so long. Grilled bread with ricotta, honey and cinnamon is a perfect little breakfast or a fantastic afternoon snack. Or both. In the same day. It is something worth savoring even if its cinnamony, crusty-breaded goodness does not transport you anywhere beyond your breakfast table.
But it does transport me.
GRILLED BREAD WITH RICOTTA, HONEY AND CINNAMON
8 thick slices of crusty bread (I like ciabatta from our local bakery, Great Lakes Baking Company)
4 T. butter
1 c. ricotta
2 t. sugar
1/4 t. ground cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling
Honey, for drizzling
Heat a grill pan (cast iron, if you have it) over high heat. Spread one side of each slice of bread with about 1/2 T. of the butter. Place in the grill pan, butter side down, and cook until it smokes and develops nice grill marks. Flip the pieces and grill the other side for about 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, and let the bread sit in the pan while you prepare the ricotta.
In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine.
Divide the ricotta mixture among the slices of bread, spreading to coat. Drizzle with honey to taste and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Makes 4 servings.