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Easy Going

Travel stories + tips from seasoned explorers

Tuscan Cioccolato

April 10, 2015

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Wine and Chocolate Pairing in Florence

Okay, you’re all waiting for my review of the wine and chocolate pairing lesson, right? First, even if you don’t partake in this amazing experience, make the Ballerini Chocolate Shop a stop on your next trip to Florence. It’s only a block from the Arno River, on Borgo Ognissanti just off the piazza of the same name. Handed down from father to son beginning in 1936, this elegant tiny shop features tables where a sinful but thankfully small cup of hot chocolate can be sipped while watching the maestro at work through the large plexiglass window.

But far more informative than just watching is listening to Serena, a lovely local who will guide you through a carefully chosen pairing of chocolates and wines. We began our lesson by learning that there are only three types of cocoa beans in the world and tasting a bit of chocolate made from each. Tough work educating the palate, let me tell you! Serena then poured a Bricco Magno, which is Barolo (yes, the real thing — from Piedmont) aged with chinato (quinine) and many (sometimes dozens) of herbs and spices for several years. Barolo chinato was used for medicinal purposes in the 19th century, and its curative reputation expanded from digestive ailments to include colds, flu, headaches and other ailments. Only recently has it been discovered as the perfect pairing for certain dark chocolates; it was dreamy with Ballerini’s chocolate covered orange peel; a pistachio cremino; and a vanilla ganache (cream filled dark chocolate). We went on to try two more delicious pairings; but I won’t give everything away! By the way, groups are small due to the size of Ballerini. My tasting included only one other couple. Delightful!

Contact Adagio Travel to inquire about prices and schedule for chocolate tasting in Florence.

Amadei: Supreme Chocolate in Tuscany’s Chocolate Valley

We also visit Amadei, one of the premier chocolate makers in Italy, as part of our Tasting the Lost Corners of Tuscany Tour. Amadei is a chocolatier of superb quality located just off the highway between Florence and Pisa. Italy’s premier gourment guide Gambero Rosso calls this the Chocolate Valley because of the concentration of chocolate makers who have sprouted up here. Amadei founder Cecilia Tessieri was making pralines in her garage a couple of decades ago when she decided it made no sense to buy chocolate from Italian importers. Off she went to Venezuela and elsewhere to source the world’s finest beans, and the rest is history. Cecilia was the first female maître chocolatier in the world. See what Food and Wine‘s Pete Wells has to say about Amadei’s bean to bar chocolate-making history and philosophy in The World’s Best Chocolate.

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