The Chocolate Life

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Visiting Turin, the chocolate capital of Italy and the Cioccola-To festival, March 1-5, 2012.

My visit to Turin started with a tour in Guido Gobino’s factory. In 1985 he took over the company from his father. He optimised the production processes and improved the quality by focussing on excellency and by researching and innovating products. He has succeeded: he is known as one of the best chocolate makers in Italy for years. At this moment there are 27 people working and they produce 900 kg gianduja per day. Of course made with the best hazelnuts from the Piedmont: Tonda Gentile delle Langhe. Unfortunately it was not allowed to make pictures in the production area. To get an impression: I saw the conching process in one of the latest German conches, the refining of gianduja paste and molding and wrapping of Easter eggs. The shop at the factory (the other one is in the city centre) is very beautiful and full of Turin’s specialities: giandujotti and cremini. My favourites are Gianduja Tourinot Maximo (40% hazelnuts), Coffee Cremini, Cremini with olive oil and sea salt (awarded by AOC) and the very tiny ganaches, sensations for your taste buds!

After this visit I went straight to Piazza Vittorio Veneto, European’s largest square, where the festival ‘Cioccola-To’ was located. A wonderful location with a magnificent view over the river ‘Po’.  On the right side there were stands of the well known Italian brands like Caffarel, Venchi, Leone, Domori, DeBondt, Perugina, Bonajuto, Peyrano and many more. At the left side there were demonstrations and tastings. The event is not international orientated so you have to speak and understand Italian (poor me). Half of the area on this side was sponsored by Milka (too much!). You couldn’t avoid the lilac cow. Master chocolatier Silvio Bessone recently started with bean-to-bar production. He brought some of his machines to his stand and you could watch to a part of the production process. The most fascinating machine was the one that wrapped giandujotti very rapidly.

There were less stands than I expected, so there was much time to visit the historical names and the “new comers”. The history of chocolate in Turin begins in 1559 when one of the Savoys brought some cocoa beans with him. Until 1826 chocolate was served and consumed only as a liquid. Caffarel was the first who start production of solid chocolate. In 1852 cocoa became very expensive, so part of the cocoa was replaced by hazelnuts and gianduja was born. Thirteen years later giandujotti were the first, in gold foil, wrapped chocolates. The following names I have visited: Pfatisch, Baratti & Milano, Ghigo, Giordano, Peyrano, Stratta, Avvignano, Al Bicerin, Gerla, Ciocco & Latta, Guido Gobino (also the shop in the centre with a loungy tasting room), Guido Castagna (opened his stylish shop last year), Piacerie di Cioccolato, Candifrutto bottega del Cioccolato. At all these addresses you can buy giandujotti. But watch out: there is a big difference in quality. The traditional brands are certainly not the best. My favourites are Gobino and Castagna. Both use the best hazelnuts and you can clearly taste that. Castagna even adds Chuao cocoa mass! There is a big difference in drinking (hot) chocolate as well. I tasted the ones of Al Bicerin, Baratti & Milano and again Gobino and Castagna. Although the traditional cafe restaurants of the first two are very beautiful, here again the ‘new comers’ taste the best. Another typical product well known and loved by Turin is the Bicerin, a drink made of espresso, chocolate and cream, born in 1763 at cafe Al Bicerin.

I ended my visit with a tour in the Choco tram. A fifty minute tram ride through Turin by evening lights. On board chocolatier Guido Castagna, who has won an award for his gianduja, explained us more about chocolate and his creations. We tasted a ‘Sacher Torte’ with a gorgeous thick layer of ganache on it, giandujotti, filled Easter eggs,  hot chocolate and finally we got a goody box with a selection of his chocolates. It turned out an advantage not to speak Italian: I got a private translation by Mr Castagna himself :-)

Viva La Dolce Torino!

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Comment by Vercruysse Geert on March 9, 2012 at 12:38pm

Thanks for sharing Vera, I see you liked it in Torino, bacio di Gerardo, chiao ;-)

Comment by Vera Hofman on March 6, 2012 at 5:23pm

Comment by Vera Hofman on March 6, 2012 at 5:17pm

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