Ciao a tutti!
For this page of “Latest news” about the Italian world of food, I was undecided whether to start by telling you what a fantastic truffle harvest Italy has had this year, or about the chocolate events taking over piazzas all over Italy.
It’s a tough decision!
But with Christmas coming up and all of us getting into the holiday spirit (well, most of us) and some of us cheating just a tad on our diet (OK, all of us), the news about chocolate events had to win.
Chocolate, that undisputed star of the table during the holiday period.
I’m excited to tell you about the enormous success of the chocolate festival which has just wrapped up in the Sicilian village of Modica (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and whose focus was “Chocolate: good to eat, interesting to know.” The 2014 ChocoModica Festival, which this December spread throughout Modica’s ancient streets, palazzi and squares, was called “La Grande Dolcezza” in honour of Paolo Sorrentino’s Oscar-winning film La Grande Bellezza.
Guided tastings, workshops, educational activities, conferences and debates on the origins of Modica chocolate kept this year’s festival-goers spellbound and entertained throughout this special four-day event.
So what makes Modica chocolate one of a kind?
Chocolate made in Modica, Sicily, has ancient roots hailing back to the Aztecs, who dominated Central America from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century. For this great people, chocolate played an important role in rituals and was considered a powerful medicine, an aphrodisiac, a symbol of social status, a nutritious food and, last but not least, a means of communicating with the gods.
If you’re wondering how Sicilians four hundred years ago became the keepers of the Aztec art of chocolate, well, just remember that the Spanish got around.
In any case, it’s good to know that there are some things that never change, and this is certainly the case with Modica’s artisanal chocolate. During this year’s festival, the ancient methods used to make Modica chocolate were put forward by UNESCO Commissioner Raymond Bondin as a candidate for one of the World Heritage List’s cultural treasures.
Modica chocolate is not the homogenous lump you get from industrial processing. It’s marbleised, with light streaks running through it and colour imperfections from the artisanal methods used to make it. Its “cold” processing, never exceeding 40/45°, allows the chocolate to retain its crumbly texture, complex aroma and full taste, while at the same time not allowing the sugar crystals to dissolve—both of which make Modica chocolate naturally crunchy and zesty.
While Modica was celebrating its chocolate under Sicily’s not-so-warm winter sun, the even chillier city of Turin, in northern Italy, was having a chocolate festival of its own—its eleventh annual chocolate festival that goes by the name Cioccolatò.
This too was an eye-opening and entertaining festival focused on chocolate made in Italy, and in particular on the artisanal chocolate made in the Piedmont region. Crowds of chocolate lovers and gourmet foodies turned up for tastings in one of Turin’s most beautiful piazzas.
Turin, Torino in Italian, is famous for its boat-shaped hazelnut chocolates called gianduiotti. This year on Gianduiotto Day (yes, there is such a thing!) the prestigious Gianduiotto Award was won by Caffarel, traditionally one of Italy’s finest chocolate makers.
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