Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sicilian excellence: the unique yet historic chocolate of Modica

Have you ever heard about the famous chocolate made in Modica? Modica is a lovely baroque-style town in the south of Sicily, precisely in the province of Ragusa.

As you all probably know pretty well Sicily has been dominated from the Spanish empire for a long time, so during those centuries local people learnt some recipes and food process from their conquerors. One of the most famous product became the chocolate that finds its roots in the ancient Aztec people in the territory of Mexico back in the 16th century. The Spaniards obviously learnt it from them after the discovery of the Americas and taught it in other parts of their empire. We know for sure that in Modica stayed until today. Isn't it amazing?

Now, what makes this chocolate different from the others is the process with which is made. Infact the cocoa beans are roasted and grinded, then mixed to the sugar at a low temperature, that doesn't make the sugar melt. Infact if you taste it just as it is you will feel the grainy texture into your mouth. A totally different experience from the usual chocolate bars. 

Since many years the chocolate of Modica has also been famous for having different flavours. The most traditional still remain cinnamon and vanilla, but now you find such a wide variety of species and flavors, like: orange, nutmeg, lemon, red chilli pepper, white pepper, pistaches, anise, ecc... 

Even the New York Times dedicated an amazing article on this great product and its history some years ago.
For those who are crazy about chocolate I would suggest a lovely but simple way to enjoy this product as its best: melted in a soft big choc cake or in a plain pudding (don't ask for the recipe I will put it as soon as I can). You will savor a strong lasting chocolate aroma and you will definetely love its taste! This is SICILIAN EXCELLENCE!!!

You can read the NYT article here, while the chocolates in the pictures come from the Pasticceria Bonajuto in Modica.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Reviews: "Al Fogher", a fine lunch (or dinner) in the heart of Sicily

Some weeks ago I had lunch in a gorgeous restaurant near the small town of Piazza Armerina (in the province of Enna), a place in the heart of Sicily famous for its Roman villa, recently restored. The place is also near the famous archaeological site of Morgantina.

The restaurant I went to, has a very curious name, to start with. 'Al fogher' infact is an expression in a northern Italian dialect, probably from the region of Veneto and means 'focolare', fireplace. The Sicilian chef and owner Angelo Treno, after having worked many years up in the north decided to come back to Sicily and brough the name with him.

The restaurant, who used to be an old train station is now an elegant place amazingly decorated and furnished like a real rustic dining room: comfy chairs, soft lights, colorful bucolic paintings on the walls and ancient pieces of furniture make the atmosphere particularly cosy and familiar. But this is just the beginning. The food experience is something you won't forget because of the peculiar matches of the ingredients.

A sensational starter with buffalo mozzarella and sauteèd chards served on a yellow mellon puree and accompanied by a lovely mix of homemade bread of different flavors as you can see in the pic on the left (tomato flavour, pistaches and even ink black from cuttlefish). Absolutely incredible!!

As a first dish I tried a biological spelt-flour pasta (the bavette type) with a unique ragout made of kid meat and cooked with wild fennel and cherry tomatoes, served with flakes of Sicilian primo sale cheese on top. A second dish with a fresh grilled snapper served  with vegetable cous cous and some mussels aside.

Let's not forget the delicious plate of Sicilian cheese between the main dishes and the sweets, served with a bit of eucalyptus honey and sweet onion marmalade. Something that you definetely don't have every day!

Finally an amazing dessert called "Childhood memories" made of three different samples of what the chef used to eat when he was a child: a panna cotta with strawberries on top, a biancomangiare pudding (in the middle) and a condensed milk chocolate in little squares.

So... whenever you find yourself in that part of the Sicilian region and would like to mix a cultural trip to a Roman villa with a great food experience that's exactly the place where I suggest you to go. 

Here you can find the restaurant's website in Italian language. Have fun and enjoy!!! :-)