After a career in financial and professional services, we reached that stage in life which presented an opportunity for reflection. We found ourselves in the fortunate position of not having to seek work immediately and were frankly ready for some of time out, a rest, and some holidays without emails or phone calls back to the office.
One of our first decisions was to take a road trip to Italy from the UK and explore Milan and the Aosta Valley. It's an area we hadn't visited before but recommendations were glowing and the lure of winter skiing in the area was attractive.
Our first visit was not during the skiing season, however, so we had a chance to see the Valley during it's quieter period and explore without interruption. The area we stayed in was Gressoney-La-Trinite - It's one of the smaller valleys and on our first evening our chosen restaurant was about a mile away from our hotel. We have a strange habit of exploring areas by foot accompanied by a less strange habit of enjoying a drink with our meal. So the obvious decision was to walk to our restaurant.
We hadn't quite banked on the uphill climb to the restaurant, or the woodland maze we would have to walk through to get there. Eventually we found the place and enjoyed a fabulous meal, albeit as the only people dining that evening, it was off peak for sure.
At the end of our meal we were presented with a couple of plates displaying 6 lightly coloured sugar cubes. We didn't really know what to make of them, our Italian was slightly worse than our hosts English and we after many hand signals and gesturing, we gathered that these were to be eaten whole rather than added to any pending after dinner coffees. We complied and found ourselves consuming what can only be described as some kind of sugar shot.
Back at the hotel we discovered that as well as creating Lemoncello at home, the Italians are also quite keen on their alcohol soaked sugar cubes - zuccherini alcolici. It turns out that in Italy it's quite the norm to pop down to your local supermarket and purchase a litre of 96% proof vodka as your base spirit and make Lemoncello or flavoured sugar cubes. It seems strange at first sight that the sugar cubes don't melt, until you consider that the solution in which they are suspended, along with your flavour of choice e.g. zest from citrus fruits, are either dry or pretty much pure alcohol.
In any event we hadn't seen anything quite like this and thought it could be a fabulous idea to bring to the UK restaurant scene - the flaming sugar cubes had given us food for thought!