Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My cheating heart

I never thought I’d fall so hard for another cuisine. I’ve eaten in a lot of places that offered untold surprises such as fresh tuna sliced for me by a fish monger at the Tsujiki Market, or a big steaming pot of homemade feijoada with farofa sprinkled on top in Sao Paolo. But they were just delicious memories—nothing that made me crazy.

Enter the Piedmonte. I’ve been back in the United States for less than a day and I can’t stop thinking about all the foods I ate last week in Turin and at the Salone Del Gusto. Now granted, I’m still a bit jet lagged so I may be addled in my thought processes. But if I concentrate, I can still smell an earthy whiff of fresh white truffles, feel the delicate texture of homemade agnolotti or taste the raw juicyness of vitello tonatto. I won’t be eating any of these things in NY any time soon—they’re sensory memories forever locked in a certain place (which means I’ll have to return!)

I also discovered an amazing thing at the chocolate shop, a treat I did not know existed in Italian cuisine: chocolate with red chiles. And unlike a truffle, this is something I could bring home with me without dealing with nosy customs inspectors. So I now have in my possession pounds of Turin chocolate all playing variations on this theme: dark bites of chocolate flecked with white truffles and piquant chiles, big bars of chocolate spiced with red chiles and jars of crema cacao al peperoncino (think Nutella—which hails from the Piedmonte region—with spicy chiles).

The women at the shop didn’t speak English and I don’t speak Italian, but the picture they showed me makes me think the chiles used are cayenne, but I’ll have to research this. But now that I think about it, I reckon my heart hasn’t strayed too far if I fell in love with chocolate and chiles, a very common combination found in Mexico and the Southwest. So perhaps I’m smitten because the taste is so familiar. No matter, the chocolate makes me swoon and I’ll have a hard time being generous with these sweet and piquant bites, even though they were purchased with the gift-giving season in mind. Perhaps my friends and family will settle for anchovy paste instead. (Hey, don’t give me that look…don’t knock anchovy paste until you try it!) But yes, while I want to be selfish, these chocolates are just too wonderful to hoard. And since there’s now a security inspector in Brussels enjoying my bottles of Barolo (sorry, Dad—I was misinformed about carry-on liquids) with his pot of mussles, these chocolates can be my way of acting as culinary ambassador to an outstanding food region—the Piedmonte.

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Yvo said...

Mm... I'm slowly entering into the world of spicy things. In moderation, I can tolerate... and I have just discovered the wonderful that is pepper jack.

Spiced chocolate sounds interesting, to say the least...

The County Clerk said...

An outstanding and diplomatic overview. I love the way it all comes back home. Ha!

Homesick Texan said...

Yvo--Pepper jack is indeed a wonderful cheese. Chile chocolates aren't too hot, they just have nice kick to them.

County Clerk--Don't all roads lead to home?

Gourmet said...

Yummy yummy!!!!
Liza... i love your city .. and you love mine??? ;-DD
A kiss from turin.. I 'll waiting for you soon..
P.s. Nicola Batavia will be in NY 16 November.. If you wrote to me it's possible that he invite you in the restaurant!!!
He love your photo on Flickr..

Hande said...

Hi Lisa,
thanks for your nice comment over at the food vagabond. I still remember how it was the first time for me (truffles, I mean), so had to smile the whole time reading your post. You have fallen for Italy!
One way to lengthen the chili-choc experience: Make your own! I make little pralines or mini flourless muffins with chili and everyone loves them.
And me, I am dreaming of going to Texas and having a real burger and a real chili. Never been there, but close (lived in Atlanta for a year as an exchange student). Sigh!

Homesick Texan said...

Gourmet--I do love Turin! Thanks for the news about Batavia in NY--hopefully I can eat some of his food here.

Hande--Thanks for stopping by! You're correct--I have soooo fallen for Italy. Hope you make it to Texas--you'll love the chili and burgers.

christine (myplateoryours) said...

That carry-on liquids thing almost caught us too. My husband had to run back and shove his duty free scotch in the checked luggage at customs. The Barolo was already packed in anticpation of just that, and everything eventually made it home intact late last night.

Miss those truffles something fierce, though.

Your chocs sound delish. How did I miss them?

Homesick Texan said...

Christine--I'm glad someone left Italy with Barolo! And I hear you on missing the truffles: There are various tasting menus around town, ranging in price from $50 to $1000. I want to try one, but I know it just won't be the same. And how did you miss those chocolates???

42 said...

I would love to be able to order these chocolates online, know of any good online stores that sell similar products?

Homesick Texan said...

42--Sadly, I haven't been able to find this exact brand online, but you might check with

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