The first time I ate affogato, I was an early twentysomething on a snowy winter double-date at an Italian restaurant on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn. My date was older and food-conscious and couldn’t believe I had never tasted it, much less heard of it. This particular restaurant served affogato by placing a shallow bowl full of vanilla ice cream, flecked with pieces of peanut brittle, and then pouring piping hot espresso over the ice cream. The result: a delightful 90 seconds of an idyllic hot-cold pairing; creamy, sweet ice cream and bitter espresso. I was, of course, hooked. I think we may have ordered a second for the table, even.
I’m typically not a dessert eater and don’t have a penchant for sweets. But affogato’s magnificence comes thanks to its short window of perfection. The moment the hot espresso touches the cold ice cream turns the dish to a living dessert, changing by the second as fast-moving spoons search for the perfect bite, the right mix of hot and cold, bitter and sweet. It’s not to be savored, but to be eaten in the critical moments before turning into a lukewarm soup, not unlike a latte left sitting out for too long.
Life presents plenty of moments of similar affogato-enjoying urgency — moments requiring precise timing and willingness to forgo hesitation and dig in. For me, choosing to move from New York to San Francisco was one of those moments. Leaving a job that wasn’t right for me was another. But no moment more comparable than the moment I chose to admit my romantic feelings for my now-husband. After a year of friendship, he confessed his feelings and I ignored them — the equivalent of watching the hot espresso douse a scoop of ice cream while sitting at the table thinking about maybe eating it as it turns to mush. Six months later, I got a second chance to share my feelings, and this time didn’t miss the moment.
I’m giggling as I write this conclusion to my hokey dessert-as-self-discovery piece, but must admit: The most perfect moments in life involve grabbing that hypothetical spoon, digging in, and enjoying a perfect moment to its fullest... before the sweet stuff melts away.