As you know from my recent post Italy in Chocolate, I spent several days in Turin at CioccolaTo, Turin's chocolate festival. Actually, my month in Italy was planned specifically for two things: Carnival in Venice and CioccolaTo in Turin. All the amazing other things that happened during my Italy travels between these 2 events were just chocolate ganache on the torta cioccolata!
For two weeks in March, Piazza Vittorio Veneto was transformed into a chocoholic's (called ciocco-dipendenti in Italian) paradise. Hundreds of chocolate makers in Turin and Piedmont participated, and also those from all parts of Italy and Europe, selling chocolate and giving out samples. A lot in the way of chocolate education was also available to those interested in more than sampling.
There was the tent that housed Italy and 20 of its monuments in chocolate. Also in the tent, highlights of Italy's united 150-year history and the history of chocolate in Italy were displayed on storyboards that lined the tent walls.
There was a chocolate demonstration booth, where various Piemontese chocolatiers and pastry chefs showed the audience chocolate making, baking, decorating and tempering techniques. Chocolatier Silvio Bessone sponsored a booth that had chocolate-making machines, in operation, during the festival. There was an interactive chocolate education area designed for children, although I saw some adults playing the learning games. A photo exhibition of chocolate-making and chocolate wear were also on display.
The cinema in the piazza, Cinema Empire, showed chocolate films from around the world (Chocolat, Like Water for Chocolate, Bianca, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, and more). If you were exhausted after eating all that chocolate, you could recline at Spalm Beach - a play on Palm Beach and Spalmabile, the generic term for the spreadable chocolate & hazelnut goodness many know as Nutella. If you needed even more pampering, a spa, Cocoon Center, in the piazza offered free chocolate beauty & wellbeing services.
Although Turin is most noted for its Gianduia (chocolate and hazelnut bars), there was plenty of other kinds of chocolate available - dark, milk, white, hot chocolate, chocolate liqueur, chocolate gelato and more. Here are scenes from CioccolaTo 2011:
CioccolaTo 2012 is already scheduled! It's from March 2 to 11, 2012 (And, Carnevale di Venezia will be from February 11 to 21, 2012.) Just a few reasons to visit Italy in winter!
This post is part of Wanderfood Wednesday - Head on over there and see what other food lover's that travel are writing about!
CioccolaTo, the chocolate festival in Turin, begins today March 25 and lasts until April 3. As a preview and to celebrate Italy's 150 years of unification, there is a special chocolate exhibition that began March 17 and lasts until the end of CioccolaTo. The preview includes storyboards that point out important dates in both the history of Italy and the history of chocolate in Italy. Along with the storyboards, the shape of Italy is carved in one gigantic boot of chocolate, and there are also the two islands, Sicily and Sardegna. In addition, there is a chocolate sculpture of an important monument from each of Italy's 20 regions.
Below, are photos of each of the chocolate monuments. I found myself trying to guess which each monument was, so I thought it would be fun for you to do the same. To make things a little easier, under the photo of the "monument," I've listed the region in which you would find it.
There are prizes, too. Chocolate prizes - two of them!! Everyone that leaves a comment with their guesses will be put in a random drawing for an assortment of chocolates I've picked up from the CioccolaTo festival in Turin. (I'm certain all of you can easily identify at least 2 of the monuments.) The first person to name all 20 of the monuments correctly, or the person who names the most correctly, will also win an assortment of chocolates.
I've listed the regions from Sicily and Sardegna and then headed north. In the last photo, I've combined four regions in the northwest of Italy, but you need to name each monument for each region as it's listed. For the other photos, the monument in question is always in the forefront of the photo. Calabria doesn't really have a monument, but instead two chocolate men.
The deadline for the contest is midnight (California time) March 31, 2011. On April 1st, I'll post the answers and the winners of the prizes and your chocolate prizes will be mailed to you. Anyone can enter. Good luck everyone!
Sardinia - Le Nuraghe
Lazio - The Coliseum in Rome
Four regions (from left to right) - Val d'Aosta, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy -
Porta Pretoria in Aosta, Mole Antonellina in Turin, Lanterna di Genova in Genova, the Duomo in Milan
Note: For those of you following my travels in Italy this month, I have gone a little out of chronological order and fast forwarded a bit through my travels. Before I landed in Turin, I also spent time eating my way through Naples, most of the time with Napoli Unplugged and then in the Salento region in Puglia. A few internet connection problems, and well, having way too much fun in Puglia put me a little behind. Look for lots of posts on both those areas soon along with more on chocolate from Turin.
As Valentine's Day approaches, my mind is on romance. I've been working on a romantic Valentine's dinner menu. One where each course includes chocolate. Try as I might to focus on the menu, even a chocolate menu, my mind keeps wandering to Italy. I know I'm not the only one that connects romance and Italy, right? There are, however, particular places in Italy that are more enchanting than others.
Those places are etched in my mind as spots I want to return with that someone special. Spots that induced "oohs" and caused heavy breathing from long inhales and deep sighs. So magical, they deserve their own stories that start "Once upon a time" and end "happily ever after;" the place where the prince first kisses the princess.
Is this a cheesy, goofy, girly post? Yes, I guess so! I'm a hopeless romantic. Remember, I'm the one that rejected a gondola ride that included an offer to steer the gondola, to wait and ride with my anima gemella (twin of my soul/soulmate). Although this post may tilt way on the side of "for the girls" hopefully, my dear male readers, I haven't lost you. If you're planning to whisk someone away on a romantic trip to Italy, for Valentine's Day or any other occasion, these little wanderings of mine could certainly be of help.
Here are my picks for ten best places to kiss in Italy. You'll see a pattern in my choices. For me, water - be it an ocean, lake or river, along with long stretches of beach or promenades, and evening lights qualify as molto romantico. I know there are far more than ten, but I'm hoping you, my fellow Italophiles and romantics, will help by adding your favorite(s) to the comments:
Rome - Castel Sant' Angelo on the Terrace of the Angel
Rome has many breathtaking hilltop views, but this is my favorite and, for me, the most romantic. At the top of a castle with the Archangel Michael above, sword in hand, standing guard, your "prince charming" (principe azzurro) beside you, the Eternal City all aglow below, and the hills of Rome twinkling in the distance.
Taormina - Piazza IX Aprile
Most of Taormina rests on the seaside cliffs of Sicily's eastern coast. The lower part of the city is home to two beach areas. Of course it's a city for romance. The bustling Piazza 9 April is midway along the long, mainly pedestrian street, corso Umberto I. You can snuggle in a corner along the railing at the rim of the piazza and look onto the eastern coastline of Sicily and the sprawling Ionian Sea. The clock tower (Torre dell'Orologio) and St. Agostino Church are at the other end of the piazza. While I was in Taormina, every night I saw countless brides and grooms strolling hand-in-hand out of St. Agostino and the other churches in the city.
The Aeolian Islands - A boat ride around Stromboli
Definitely a spot for romance are all of the Aeolian Islands. A boat ride around Stromboli at dusk and an evening ride back to Lipari stands out in my mind as the most romantic part of the trip. Stromboli erupted and spewed it flames of lava. (If only I were with my "one true love" instead of being bothered continually by a pesky marinaio.) The pesky sailor did point out La Stella di Venere ("star" of Venus, actually the planet), which I had never seen before. On the night ride back to Lipari, you could clearly spot the Big and Little Dippers, called Orsa Maggiore and Minore in Italian. (If the sailor wasn't good for romance at least he was good for learning a few new words in Italian.)
Vernazza - From Above or Along the Harbor
I couldn't leave "my happy place" off the list. At dusk atop the hill overlooking Vernazza, you will certainly be alone. I would suggest bringing a bottle of wine AND a flashlight. Winding your way down in the dark, can be a struggle, even without having had any wine. For those who don't want to climb, the harbor is just as romantic.
Anywhere in Venice
I believe the water and the reflections of the city - its lights, its buidings, its glass - flickering above the water's surface does something to your senses. How can you not feel amorous here? Kiss on bridges, in a quiet calle, along the small canals, on the steps of Santa Maria della Salute, on Giudecca - looking out at the Doge's Palace and the Campanile, in the back seats of an empty vaporetto. Possibly the best place of all is St. Mark's Square when it's virtually empty, very late at night.
Florence - Ponte Santa Trinita: Looking onto the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio
While students, tourists and young lovers pack the Ponte Vecchio, take a stroll along the Santa Trinita bridge for a bit of quiet, and a view of the Ponte Vecchio and the lights along the Arno.
Camogli - The Beach at Dusk
Camogli, one of the many picturesque towns in Liguria, has a long stretch of beach. After the daytime crowds depart, this stretch of beach allows you to carve out a private spot for smooching and watching the sun set on the Ligurian Sea. To top it off, Camogli celebrates lovers during St. Valentine's Day and the week preceding it. The festival is called "Innamorati a Camogli." Hotels have special deals for couples, there are art and poetry competitions dedicated to love, and hearts are strung everywhere in the city. You can add your heart to the fishing nets along the harbor.
Sorrento - Belvedere di Sorrento
Behind the Convent and Cloister of San Franceso is the terrace called Belvedere di Sorrento. You have sweeping views of the coastline, a look down the cliffs onto the Marinas Grande and Piccolo of Sorrento, and out onto the Bay of Naples. Many couples end their walks through Sorrento here, cuddled together against the terrace railing or along the park benches.
Lago Maggiore - The Terraced Gardens on Isola Bella
The island on Lake Maggiore houses Palazzo Borromeo and one of the most spectacular gardens in all of Italy. The terraced gardens lush with greenery, flowers and statues are a sight all by themselves. Adding to the beauty are the white peacocks that roam the gardens, the views of Lake Maggiore and of the mountains, snow-capped in Winter and Spring. The variety of plants in the garden provide color from March to October. The beauty of both the gardens and the surrounding views make it a perfect place for a prince and his princess. Actually, legend has it that the ladies of Count Borromeo's household asked him to build the palace on the island because they didn't want to hear the prisoners' cries from the dungeons in the mainland's castle.
Napoli - Via Partenope
Via Partenope is part of a long stretch of road that edges along the sea, the lungomare, in Naples. It runs from the neighborhoods of Santa Lucia to Mergellina. Along the Via Partenope stretch is a long promenade with views of Castel d'Ovo and Mt. Vesuvius in the background. Other lovers have left their mark along this classic lovers' stroll. Along the promendade, look out for padlocks, painted with couples' names and locked around poles.
Where are your picks for most romantic spots and the best places to kiss in Italy?
Seven days sampling chocolate in Turin. That was the plan. A chocoholics dream, right? There was one problem. I had no appetite for chocolates. WHAT?! Since when do I pass up chocolate? The problem was that this California girl couldn’t take the heat nor the humidity, especially the humidity. July in Italy is hardly the time to be sampling chocolate, especially during a heat wave. I knew this. My original plan was to be there now (in November) and letting hot chocolates and bicerins warm me from the fall weather. I had been here before and took the Chocolate Pass tour. I planned on delving even farther into the chocolate world of the city, but things got switched around, and I ended up in Italy in July. Instead of changing my November plan to one that would work better with the summer climate, I stuck to one that had me in Turin in July.
It was 40°C and a humidity level so high that if you were alive you were sweating. Far from any attractive "glisten" or "glow." No, this was the kind that drips from your jaw, chin, and fingertips and soaks through your clothes. The kind that forms puddles in the space between eyelids and cheekbones and in the bends of your arms and knees. It wasn't pretty.
This food lover had no appetite. Well, almost no appetite. I did crave one thing……gelato, remembering that the gelato here was pretty good. In the course of seven days, and at least 100 scoops later, I realized the gelato is sensational in Turin, dense and creamy and the flavors were intense and pure. I’d have to say Turin's gelaterie rivals the best gelato in Rome, where people are making their Eat, Pray, Love gelato pilgrimages. Hey pilgrims, you need to make your way up to Turin, too!
Here are seven sensational gelaterie in Turin, where I went back for seconds (and even thirds):
The highest quality ingredients and a real pride for being artisans is the common thread with these gelato producers. Great choices are the flavors of Piedmont - gianduja (milk chocolate/hazelnut combination born in Turin), hazelnut, and torroncino (like the Italian nougat candy). Pistachio, dark chocolate (fondente), and seasonal fruits are also good choices. Looks like I had quite an appetite for chocolate after all.
Alberto Marchetti (aka AM) – corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 24 bis
High quality ingredients used to make some of the best gelato in the city.
Cremeria Ghigo – via Po, 52b
Both a pasticceria (pastry shop) and gelateria, this is one of the oldest gelaterie in Turin. Top your gelato with their legendary panna (whipped cream)
Gatsby’s – via soleri 2
You’re getting a 3fer with Gatsby's. Gatsby's owner also owns these other two places and serve the same gelato:
Mokita – Piazza San Carlo
Caffe Roma Gia Talmone – Piazza Carlo Felice
Pepino – Piazza Carignano
Another historic gelateria in Turin. Don Pepino was born in Napoli (no wonder I like this place) and moved to Turin in 1884. Pepino invented "il pinguino" (the penguin), the first gelato da passeggio (gelato for strolling/walking). Plain (crema) gelato covered in chocolate and on a stick, the "Eskimo Pie." You can find "il pinguino" in other flavors: gianduja (chocolate & hazelnut), nocciola (hazelnut), caffe (coffee), viola (violet) and menta (mint)
Mondello – Piazza Emanuele Filiberto, 8
The owners of Mondello (named after the beach in Palermo) come from Sicily. The specialties are the flavors of Sicily: pistachio, mandorla (almond), chocolate, Passito di Pantelleria (a sweet wine of Sicily made into gelato). Don't forget to have the granite during the summer. They also make cannoli and cassata. The gelateria is in what's known as the "Palermo Quarter" of Turin, as many from Palermo move to Turin for work.
Piu di un Gelato – via San Tommaso, 6
All the chocolate flavors are outstanding, as is the lemon.
GROM – 4 locations in Turin, the original and most centrally located is Piazza Paleocapa (near the Porta Nuova Train Station)
Highest quality organic products. They now have their own farm and have 31 locations in Italy and 4 outside of Italy - one in Paris, New York, and coming to Malibu (yes, I'll be driving to LA for gelato). The Piazza Paleocapa is its first location. Every flavor is delicious.
I'm not really unhappy about the heatwave during my Turin stay. I was able to taste a lot of gelato, have another reason to return to Turin, and I learned a few other things about travel in Italy:
When it’s 40° C anywhere and you’re one of the worst packers in the world, you should make sure your hotel/lodging is not at the top of a 200-meter climb.
The heat can beat the testadura (hard head - my mom’s nickname for me) right out of you. After Turin I changed my itinerary to coastal travel until the heat wave let up. **Note: It did take a few more episodes of heat exhaustion for me to thoroughly learn my lesson. A later trip to Camogli and attempting a 3-hour hike with only a half liter of water was one of those episodes.
I would call gelato a life saver, as I'm sure it staved off any bouts with heat exhaustion while I was in Turin.
I went for the wine and found chocolate. My trip to the Piedmont region of Italy was mainly to sip as much Barolo wine as possible. In addition to the wine, I found Eataly and CHOCOLATE!
Turin has been making chocolate since 1600 and is most famous for its gianduja, the combination of milk chocolate and hazelnuts. After Piedmont was conquered by Napoleon and the supply of cocoa became scarce, chocolatiers started adding ground hazelnuts (hazelnut trees grow throughout the region) to the chocolate, and gianduja was born. Gianduja cream, made internationally famous by Nutella, is another product in abundunce in the region. To showcase the many chocolatiers, chocolate pastry shops and gelaterie of Turin, they offer visitors a Chocolate Pass. For 12 euros, you get 22 tastings of the unique chocolate specialties of the city.
Take the 3 days the pass gives to complete the chocolate tastings. Even I, a self-proclaimed chocoholic, overdosed on chocolate after all those tastings. Along with a pass you get a brochure that leads you, in a well-organized manner, through Turin's "streets of chocolate." It's also a great way to see the city's sights (the guide points them out) while searching for some of the best and oldest sweet shops in Turin.
Gianduiotto, the triangular shaped bars of gianduja, are a big part of the tasting, but you also get to try little cakes and pastries, bicerin (the coffe and hot chocolate of Turin) and gelato. Along with the tastings, my brochure gave a little history of chocolate making and of the shops. The tastings are just small samples of what each shop creates, but it's a great introduction to the chocolate world of Turin. Of course you can buy more along the way, and I did.
I made this budino with some of the gianduja I purchased while in Turin. A budino is basically an Italian pudding and similar to the French pot de creme. This elegant dessert is lusciously rich and extremely easy to make.
Makes eight 6-ounce or twelve 4-ounce servings
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
2 cups (500 ml) heavy cream
3/4 cup (140 grams) granulated sugar
12 egg yolks
4 sheets (12 grams) gelatin
12 ounces (340 grams) gianduja chocolate*, finely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
About 1 cup lightly-sweetened whipped cream, optional
About 1/2 cup chopped and toasted hazelnuts, optional
Scald the milk, cream, and half of the sugar in a saucepan. Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining half of the sugar and the egg yolks until the mixture lightens in color. Soak the gelatin sheets in cold water.
Once you have scalded the milk mixture, temper the yolk mixture by adding a little of the milk mixture at a time and whisking together until both mixtures are combined. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook on medium heat stirring slowly and constantly. Heat the mixture to 175° F, or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat.
Ring all of the excess water out of the gelatin and immediately add to the heated mixture. Stir until it is incorporated. Strain half the heated mixture over the finely chopped chocolate and slowly whisk together until the mixture combines. Strain the remaining half of the heated mixture over the chocolate mixture and whisk together. Add the vanilla extract and combine.
Pour into serving dishes. Refrigerate until set, about 4 hours. Serve with optional whipped cream and chopped hazelnuts, if desired. Buon Appetitio!
*You can get gianduja at most gourmet food stores.
UPDATE: If you are unable to find gelatin sheets, you can substitute 1 package (a scant 1 tablespoon) of the powdered gelatine. Follow the manufacturers directions for "blooming" the gelatine in water, then add to the heated mixture before straining over the gianduja.
For more information on the chocolate pass and other culinary tours in Turin, you can go to their tourist information website here. (Best times to purchase the pass are weekdays. Avoid Sundays, holidays, and the month of August when most/many of the shops are closed.)
CioccolaTo, Turin's next chocolate festival is scheduled for March, 2010. The festival is a 10-day chocolate celebration with exhibitions, demonstrations, chefs, chocolate makers, and of course, chocolate tastings.
Here is a list of some of the most notworthy negozi (shops) on my Chocolate Pass tour:
Baratti & Milano, Piazza Castello 27 (One of the oldest pasticceria of the city it sits on the corner of the biggest piazza in Turin.)
Caffe Torino, Piazza San Carlo 204 (rich and creamy petite sweets elegantly made and displayed in this old-world caffe)
Caffetteria Roma Gia Talmone, Piazza Carlo Felice (Outsdanding morning pastries and some of the best gelato in the city. Owned by Gatsby's on via Soleri and another sister location Mokita in Piazza San Carlo)
Pasticceria Pfatisch, Via Sacchi (One of the oldest chocolatiers in Turin)
Caffe Al Bicerin, Piazza della Consolata 5 (The Bicerin - a hot drink of coffee, chocolate and milk popular throughout the city originated here)
Pepino, Piazza Carignano 8 (In 1935 the first gelato di passegio, literally meaning strolling gelato aka the eskimo pie, was created.)
In one day, I spent ten hours at a supermarket in Turin, Italy. I wanted to spend 10 more. If you have already been to Eataly, you will understand. If you haven't, GO! A whole day is barely enough to enjoy the high-quality, artisanal, and affordably-priced food of Italy under one 27,000 square-foot roof. It is an Italian food lovers' paradise!
Besides all the food to buy or eat there, they have a myriad of food and wine classes. Eataly's aim is to supply "everyone" with high-quality, fresh and locally produced food at reasonable prices. The employees are inviting, friendly and eager to help you buy, eat and learn about Italy's foods.
Oh, the delicacies you can buy in the market:
I was elated and confused with the variety of foods available. To ease some of the confusion, the store is organized into sections: cured meats, cheese, seasonal fruits and vegetables, meat and fish, fresh pastas, a baked goods section, the cellar with wine and beer, and the "sundries" area. Sundries is such a bland word to describe this section. It's filled with specialty food from the region and all of Italy: over five aisles of local sweets including gianduja (the chocolate of Turin), the best olive oils from each region in Italy, a fresh milk dispenser filled with raw milk from local farms, premium blends of coffee beans, just to name a few.
The earthy smells of the cheese aisle will lead you there. There are over 200 cheeses from which to choose.
The fresh pasta section has over 50 different shapes of pasta. Shapes popular in Piedmont are agnolotti (a big half-mooned ravioli) or plin (which means "pinched" in the local dialect to describe how the pasta's shaped).
The bread is hands-down the best in Italy. It's hard crust and deep-pocketed interiors rival any French baguette. They make focaccia in the style of the neighboring Ligurian region and Neopolitan pizza in their wood-burning oven.
The cellar includes 48,000 wines, a beer bar, and an area where you can bring an empty bottle and fill it with wine from a huge glass jug. Bootlegging gone commercial.
The cellar goes from bootlegging to Barolo, the best wine of the region. I was breathless at the selection of Barolo wines. The sales clerk gave me a tour of the cellar, then walked me to the glass-enclosed rare wine section and left me ALONE with Barolo wines from as early as 1967. I was afraid to move or breathe fearing I would disrupt the temperature of the room and harm these precious bottles. Ok, so not all the products are reasonably priced, that 1967 Barolo was 430 euros.
Five aisles of sweets and one devoted to chocolate. I think I spent an hour in that section alone.
Have a seat and at Eataly:
There are 7 eateries, one finer-dining restaurant (Guido per Italy), a coffee bar, a pastry store, and a gelateria where they make gelato from farm-fresh raw milk.
For lunch, we snacked in the cellar and sampled some of the Barolo. The sales clerk offered us as a gift sampling of prosciutto. It wasn't just any old Prosciutto di Parma, it was culatello di zibello, the best of the Parma prosciutto. The most prized part of the ham is put in a pigs bladder and left to cure in the valley of the Po river. This speciality is rarely exported outside of Italy. It's sweet, creamy and intense, and she gave us a plate, free of charge, like we were honored guests in her home.
We were there on a Friday, and by 8:00pm, all the eateries were packed with locals vying for tables as soon as they were vacated. The pizza or a plate of pasta was less than 15 euros each. For dessert, you can choose from gelato, chocolates, or pastries, or have a little of each.
Learn about the food and wine of the region:
You can take cooking lessons, dine with celebrity Italian chefs, take wine lessons, have a wine tasting, and take a class on the 60 Piemontese products that are considered best in the world. There is also a book store with thousands of books and magazines on food and wine. They have computers and free wifi. Believe me, wifi in Italy is hard enough to find, so free wifi is miraculous. Now all they need to do is set up a place to sleep, and one may never leave.
Eataly is easily accessible by buses #1, #18 and #35 that depart from Turin's main train station (Porta Nuova). They are open from 10am to 10:30pm and the restaurants are open from Noon-3:00pm and 7:00-10:15pm.
There are also Eataly locations in Bologna, Milan, and two in Tokyo. One is scheduled to open in 2010 in New York (oh, those lucky New Yorkers). As the sign says, "Life is too short to eat and drink badly." At Eataly, you have no alternative but to mangia bene!