Friday, May 23, 2014

Chocolatiers for the Day at Perugina's Chocolate School at Eataly NYC

Spending an afternoon at Perugina's Chocolate School at Eataly NYC

Perugina Chocolate Class at Eataly NYC | Taste As You Go
Perugina Chocolate Class at Eataly NYC

Before you start reading, I feel it's only fair to warn you that there's a decent amount of subtext here. Rather than pretend there isn't something else going on, I'm just going to come out and say it.

I miss New York.

And I didn't appreciate how much I missed New York until I spent the day in the city with my mother-in-law Rita a couple of weeks ago.

Perugina Chocolates | Taste As You Go
Perugina Chocolate Class at Eataly NYC

It's been nearly three years since I've lived in New York and a year-and-a-half since I stopped commuting. Yet, whenever I am back in the city, I'm always amazed by how quickly I fall into old habits and patterns. I even warned Rita to yell out to me if she felt that I was walking too fast or if I started weaving impatiently around people.

The main reason for our day-trip was our class at Perugina's Chocolate School hosted at Eataly NYC. But we arrived in the city early enough to squeeze in a relatively quick tour around Midtown and lunch at Chelsea Market beforehand. As I pointed out the sites Rita wanted to see and started sharing my stories and my memories of my years in New York, I instantly wished we had planned a full weekend in the city rather than just a day.

Viola Buitoni leads Perugina Chocolate Class at Eataly NYC | Taste As You Go
Viola Buitoni leads Perugina Chocolate Class at Eataly NYC

Our chocolate class was led by Viola Buitoni, a sixth-generation member of the famed Buitoni pasta and Perugina chocolate family. While telling us about the history of Perugina and the story behind their iconic Baci line of chocolate confections, Viola shared stories about what it was like to be a kid growing up in a real life chocolate factory. Rita and I were both captivated.

Plate of Perugina Chocolate with Baci | Taste As You Go
Plate of Perugina Chocolate with Baci

Viola then led us through a tasting of the various Perugina chocolates as well as their two types of Baci -- the classic (wrapped in silver foil) and the white chocolate (wrapped in blue foil). By tasting each of these chocolates, we were better able to appreciate the nuances between milk, dark, and white chocolate.

Plate of Perugina Chocolate with Baci | Taste As You Go
Plate of Perugina Chocolate with Baci

It was a tedious job tasting all of that chocolate, but Rita and I made it through the task like pros. They obviously invited the right women to take part in the class.

Ingredients for Perugina Baci at Eataly NYC | Taste As You Go
Ingredients for Perugina Baci at Eataly NYC

Or... so we thought. Tasting chocolate samples was the easy part. The real test came when we were instructed to try assembling and hand-dipping Perugina's signature Baci chocolates.

Ingredients for Perugina Baci at Eataly NYC | Taste As You Go
Ingredients for Perugina Baci at Eataly NYC

Ingredients for Perugina Baci at Eataly NYC | Taste As You Go
Ingredients for Perugina Baci at Eataly NYC

It was an intimidating exercise. Especially given the knowledge that the recipe for Baci remains unchanged nearly 100 years after the chocolates were introduced to the public in 1922. Silky dark chocolate envelopes a heart of gianduia (a luscious blend of chocolate and ground hazelnut cream) dotted with more chopped hazelnuts and crowned with a whole hazelnut.

Making Perugina Back at Eataly NYC | Taste As You Go
Making Perugina Back at Eataly NYC

Place a whole hazelnut on top of the center made with chocolate and hazelnut cream and then cover with dark chocolate? Seemed simple enough. Until we started...

Without hashing out all of the reasons why it's a good thing I don't work for Perugina for a living, I'll just say this... You have to move very quickly when assembling Baci because you don't want melted dark chocolate to cool before you've had a chance to cover the candy centers.

Also, it's much easier [for me] to move quickly if you don't attempt to have a conversation at the same time.

Handmade Perugina Baci at Eataly NYC | Taste As You Go
Handmade Perugina Baci at Eataly NYC

Can you tell which ones I made while the chocolate was at the proper temperature and which ones I made while struggling with the cooling chocolate? I'm not sure I'm cut out to be a chocolatier, so I'll just stick to eating chocolate for a living.

Viola Buitoni Leads Baking Demo at Eataly NYC | Taste As You Go
Viola Buitoni Leads Baking Demo at Eataly NYC

While Rita and I made a mess of our workstation, Viola demonstrated how to use Perugina Baci in a couple of dessert recipes.

Crostata di Ricotta e Caffè al Bacio - Eataly NYC | Taste As You Go
Crostata di Ricotta e Caffè al Bacio - Eataly NYC

The first dessert was a Ricotta and Espresso Tart with Baci, the crust of which was flavored with the zest of an orange. I loved the light texture and delicate flavor and was pleased that the tart wasn't overly sweet. You could really taste the flavor of the espresso and could appreciate the excellent pairing of the coffee with the chocolate from the Perugina Baci and the unsweetened cocoa powder.

Torta Caprese al Bacio di Luisa - Eataly NYC | Taste As You Go
Torta Caprese al Bacio di Luisa - Eataly NYC

The second dessert was a Flourless Chocolate and Almond Cake with Baci and Luisa Chocolate (one of Perugina's dark chocolate varieties). This cake was rich, which wasn't surprising considering it called for two whole sticks (plus two more tablespoons) of butter. Of the two, I think this dessert was my favorite... because butter.

By the end of the class, Rita and I had our fill of sweets (to the point of avoiding ordering dessert at dinner later that evening). We wandered around Eataly NYC a bit, grabbed some coffee, and continued on our sightseeing tour, walking by Madison Square Park, the Empire State Building, the New York Public Library, and Bryant Park on our way back to the bus station.

All in all, a fabulous day in the city!

If you haven't taken a class at the La Scuola Grande at Eataly NYC, then I highly recommend looking into their class schedule. Thanks to Perugina for having us!

Taste As You Go Disclaimer: I was invited to attend this class at Perugina's Chocolate School at Eataly NYC as a member of the media and at no cost to me. I did not accept monetary compensation for writing about this class or about my experiences while there. This post does, however, contain affiliate product links. Clicking on the links may result in my being paid a commission based on product sales. Regardless of commission, all opinions expressed in this post are my own.

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