Blog: Perugina Baci Chocolate Tasting at Eataly
Nothing says ‘I Love You’ in Italian like Baci chocolates. And nothing says Italy in New York City like Eataly, the sprawling 50,000 square foot marketplace that offers up some of the most authentic and fresh Italian ingredients available anywhere. It was only fitting then on Saturday afternoon that the folks from Perugina, the legendary Italian chocolate maker take over Eataly’s intimate La Scuola space for a 90 minute chocolate class that outlined its rich history and its distinguishing characteristics.
A few dozen guests were on hand for the interactive ‘Spotlight on Artistanal Products’ featuring Baci and Perugina Chocolates, each one greeted at their table by Italian staples like fresh rustic bread, some olive oil, and a pour of Prosecco- customary at most sessions held inside of La Scuola. The class would be led by chocolate expert Francine Segan, who was trained at Italy’s Perugina Scuola del Cioccolato and has authored seven cookbooks and has been featured on television shows like The Today Show and The Early Show and in publications like USA Today, The New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal to name a few. Needless to say, our informal foray into the world of chocolate had placed us firmly into Segan’s well trained hands.
As we sat at our table we stared down at six different Perugina chocolate squares decorated around two Baci chocolates, which we enjoyed almost immediately. Although we would be re-creating these bite sized pieces later in the session, the mixture of hazelnuts and Gianduia chocolate inside of the crunchy exterior shell was utterly mouthwatering. Following a sip of Prosecco to wash the initial taste down, we listened eagerly as Segan began explaining the history of chocolate. Backed by a fun little Powerpoint presentation, we learned a good deal about the emergence of chocolate, whose plants are harvested only twenty degrees above or below the equator and are then imported to the different countries who get most of the credit for its production. Segan also explained that chocolate was solely a drink for its first 2000 years of existence and that it was actually discovered by Christopher Columbus.
It was soon time to begin tasting the chocolate squares arranged on each plate. Aside from the obvious differences in color, each square smelled and snapped apart surprisingly differently, indicative of the milk being used in the chocolate making process. Often we’ve seen chocolate bars in different stores made with 75% or 85% cocoa, but what that means is that the remaining percent is the sugar content being added to each bar. Among the six samples, Perugina’s ‘Limoncello‘ – dark with crunchy nuggets of sweet Limoncello liquor- was our favorite.
Following the chocolate tasting, it was time to prepare our own box of Baci chocolates and we were each given plates of hazelnuts, balls of Gianduia chocolate and melted Perugian dark chocolate. While some of the class was clearly more gifted than others (and us), it was a fun exercise to prepare the same chocolates we’ve been eating from the sparkling silver wrapping for years. We also really enjoyed the samples of the decadently gooey “Baci Molten Lava Cake” served deliciously warm and the far more intricately flavored “Perugina Chocolate-Fruit Salad” which showed chocolate’s incredible versatility outside of the candy realm beside fruits and nuts and topped with a spray of whipped cream. The session closed out with a sugary sip of “Coppe di Cioccolato” or chocolate cups, a shot of hazelnut liquor and cream in a chewable mini-cup.
Whether you’re an expert like Francine Segan or a relative novice like us, chocolate never ever discriminates. The class was an interesting and tasty trip through the incredible history of chocolate and it’s hard to come away from the experience and not admire Segan’s passion for chocolates, her knowledge of the Perugina brand and enviable career path. Although we’ve certainly tasted our fair share, I don’t think we’d ever taken the time to truly understand the distinctive characteristics in taste, smell, and even sound, that chocolate possesses. If you didn’t have the opportunity to join Francine Segan on Saturday, La Scuola has another class coming up in February, poised to be just as informative as this one which mixes the Italian spirit with Baci’s ‘messengers of love’ credo fittingly around Valentine’s Day.