This past week-end I was in Verona in order to attend a fabulous food event called Taste of Christmas. There were cooking demonstrations, pop-up restaurants, an oil tasting and famous chefs galore. What I was mainly interested in though were the artisan food producers from all over Italy with an emphasis on the Northern region of Veneto.
I think in our collective mind we all associate Italy with fabulous food, so I wanted to meet the small local producers whose products stand out from the bland food crowd. I was looking for products that can awaken all of your senses at once and the taste of which makes you want to burst into a song.
I wasn’t disappointed!
The event was held in Arena Museo Opera (AMO). On my way in I admired its emblematic rose at the bottom of the stairs for a bit. After that I was ready to taste Christmas.
This is how I did it. Accompanied by my husband and our baby, I slowly made my way from one booth to the next. I chatted to the different exhibitors, asking as many questions as I could and sampling their products. It’s important to mention that they didn’t know that I was planning to write a blog post, as my press pass was safely tucked away in my pocket. Nor was I offered any special treatment or free products, apart from the free samples provided for all visitors of the event.
As such, below is my completely un-biased opinion, which is only as subjective as personal taste in food can be.
So, without further ado and in no particular order, here are the five products by four artisan food producers that left me speechless with delight. For me they really stood out and I would love to have them on my Christmas table or simply enjoy them all throughout the year. If you have a chance, do give them a try!
A fabulously rich and smooth spread made of ground pistachios, extra virgin olive oil and sugar. This is better than Nutella! It melts on the tongue and makes the pleasure centres in the brain explode. It has a lovely green colour, spreads beautifully on a piece of bread and you don’t need copious amounts in order to feel satisfied. For me, it could easily become a breakfast staple or a small spoonful could be just the perfect pick-me-up to beat the afternoon slump.
In the picture below, Pistacchiosa is the last jar from left to right.
Fior di Albicocca and Pandoro (Perbellini)
I was really taken with everything the pasticceria and bakery Perbellini had to offer. After much thought and soul searching, I managed to narrow my final selection of their products to two contenders. As such, I can wholeheartedly and unreservedly recommend their Fior di Albicocca and their pandoro.
I was offered a slice of the Fior di Albicocca to try and after my first bite I was enraptured. ‘Quick! Taste this!’ – was all I could mutter, as I gently, but urgently placed the slice in my husband’s hand. The cake looked unassuming enough, but it was full of flavour. It was light with a slightly chewy almond-y crust, whilst little drops of apricot jam spread through the sponge made it burst with flavour. The Fior di Albicocca cake comes packaged in a beautiful box printed with hand drawn apricots, so it would be perfect as a present for a foodie.
Eager to explore more of Perbellini’s delights, I helped myself to a slice of pandoro. This traditional for Italy Christmas cake was invented in Verona and, as I was in Verona, it seemed like a good idea to try some.
Oh, my God!
Pandoro for me has always been the slightly bland and not so exciting relative of panettone. Basically, I would eat it, if I had already eaten all the panettone in the house. No more! I’ve seen the light and now that I know what a good pandoro tastes like, let me try to describe it. The sponge was dense and full of flavour. It had a beautiful structure resembling a uniform honeycomb and it wouldn’t squash irreparably, when I pressed it between my fingers. It bounced back immediately regaining its shape, unlike some shop-bought pandoros I have had in the past. It was a beautiful yellow colour, too. Hands down, the best pandoro I have ever had.
In the picture below the Fior di Albicocca is at the end of the table from left to right and the pandoro is in the middle. The big brown mound is a delightful panettone weighing a whooping 4 kg!
Chocolate Panettone (Pasticceria Pepe)
I came across the booth of Pasticceria Pepe in the Egyptian room of the Arena Museo Opera. The mysterious dim light and the huge Egyptian gods and obelisks that surrounded us, made sampling their delightful products an experience in itself. I loved their candied orange peel smothered in dark chocolate and their truffles, too, but, hands down, sampling their chocolate panettone was the best bit.
Imagine a panettone that has been enriched with delicious chocolate. A pure heaven on Earth! Need I say more? I bit off a bite and it was melt-y and chew-y at the same time.
The addition of chocolate really updates this Christmas classic and Pasticceria Pepe’s panettone would be a great addition to any festive table.
Hot chocolate (Art & Chocolate)
When you are at an event and going from booth to booth, how you are treated really can make you appreciate a product so much more. After some busy hours spent at Taste of Christmas, I really wasn’t in a mood for any more chocolate, but two lovely young people with wide smiles convinced me that I should stop and give their hot chocolate a try.
I am so glad they did! The drink they offered me to try was dense, slightly bitter and refreshing. You needed a spoon to finish it off, it was that thick. Most importantly for me, it didn’t contain any sugar and any milk. I love dairy products, but I have a real aversion to milk – I don’t drink it and I don’t add it to any drinks, full stop. Unfortunately, this often had prevented me from enjoying a cup of hot chocolate, as it is usually prepared with hot milk.
Not in this case! Thumbs up for Art & Chocolate from me.
On the picture below you can see their hot chocolate being maintained at the right temperature in the big glass vessel in the right bottom corner.
I had a really great time at the Taste of Christmas event, meeting lots of people and learning lots about Italian food. A special thank you goes to the organisers who issued me with a press pass and gave me free rein to explore, sample and chat away. Many thanks, too, to everyone who gave me some of their busy time to talk about their products and to answer my questions.
I hope that you enjoyed my expose above. If so, please, do let me know in the comments below or reach out to me on social media (links to my accounts are provided in the right corner under my blog’s banner at the top of this page).
Enjoy your day!