Tag Archives: Italian food

Chocolate and Truffles- what’s the difference?

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A lot of people think of chocolate when we mention a truffle hunting tour. What? Chocolate hunting? Well, some truffles are of chocolate nature but REAL truffles are actually a savory mushroom-like fungus that grows underground in the forest! Here are some quick facts about truffles:

*They spore near trees in the wild forests more notably in the regions of Tuscany, Piedmont and Abruzzo.

* Truffles range in cost from $250 to $600 a POUND. Truffles in some cases are bought and sold at auctions. May the highest bidder do the truffle shuffle.

* They are used widely in Meditteranean cuisine and are most commonly enjoyed in Italy on fresh pasta or in an egg frittata.

* Truffles, are in fact, a FUNGUS. Not a tuber but they resemble the texture of a tuber so hence why a lot of confusion is made in the culinary world.

* There are 2 most common varieties: Black and White. The Black varieties grown in the spring and summer and are the most affordable variety. Be careful when purchasing white truffle products- white truffles are scarce and very expensive- I doubt a food manufacturer can really produce a €10 jar of white truffle sauce without cutting corners and adding artificial flavorings.

How come chocolate is now confused at the mention of truffles in Italy? Well, chocolate truffles are round balls filled with a smooth center. Therefore, the name derives from the usual shape they take as the word ‘truffle’ derives from the Latin word tuber, meaning “swelling” or “lump”, which later became what we call today “truffle.” This could be another reason why truffle fungi are mistaken for tubers.

Interested in tasting the real thing? Le Baccanti Tours offers chocolate tasting tours in Florence, Turin and Bologna. Le Baccanti Tours also organizes truffle tasting activities throughout Italy, most notably in Truffle Hunt Tours in Tuscany, Alba and Piedmont. Contact us today to receive a quote for your next gourmet vacation in Italy.

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7 Beautiful Villages in Italy

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Italy is a tiny country, smaller than the state of California! In a small space, Italy has managed be full of HUNDREDS of villages. Italy is also full of major destination cities but in a matter of 10 kilometers in some cases, you can arrive in a tiny village which has a unique landscape, culture, gastronomy and even their own dialect in some cases. Italy is quite possibly one of the most diverse countries in the world.

If you’re the type of traveler interested in the tiny towns, we have found some beautiful villages in Italy we suggest you visit.

Traveling to Piedmont?

1. Ricetto di Candelo- This village is considered a sort of Medieval Pompeii. Ricetto di Candelo is one of the best preserved examples of medieval structures present in several places in Piedmont and in parts of Central Europe. Located in the municipality of Candelo, Biella in Piedmont. Local specialties include salam ‘d l’ula (a type of peppered red wine cured salami) and traditional hand tenderized pork shoulder.

2. Orta San Giulio- This is a lakeshore picturesque village in Piedmont 100 km NE of Turin and is considered to be a watercolor worthy inspiration. Filled with gardens, churches, basilicas, palaces and bell towers- Orta San Giulio is a beautiful lake community to visit full of art and history. Local specialties include liver mortadella and perch risotto.

Traveling to the Veneto?

3.  Arqua Petrarca- This village is where the poet Petrarch (Francesco Petrarca) lived the final four years of his life (1370-1374) for all you literature buffs out there. This tiny town, apart from being rich in literary history amidst scenic rolling mountain slopes, has been awarded for excellence in hospitality, tourism and sustainability. Local specialties include Bigoli with ragù: a thick, fresh handmade spaghetti with flour and eggs served with a ragù of beef, veal, pork, porcini mushrooms and tomato sauce.

Traveling to Liguria?

4. Vernazza- Wedged between the sea and the famous Cinque Terre (5 lands), Vernazza is a stunning harbor village on the Ligurian coast. Vernazza is one of the 5 lands of Cinque Terra and in 1997 recieved recognition from UNESCO as a world heritage site. Sites include beach, hiking areas, chapels, churches and ancient castles. Local specialties include fragrant lemons, trofie pasta, rich olive oil and a famous raisin wine made from native vineyards.

Traveling to the Emilia-Romagna?

5. Castell’Arquato- This Italian village is located on the hills of Val D’Arda in the province of Piacenza, in Emilia-Romagna, around 30 km from Piacenza and 35 km from Parma. The town is famous for being home to Opera composers such as Giacomo Puccini and it’s picturesque medieval features which have starred in hollywood films. Castell’Arquato is also in the area of the Colli Piacentini (Piacenza Hills), an important area for wine production. The most important wines produced in the Colli Piacentini are Gutturnio, Ortrugo, Malvasia, and Monterosso Val d’Arda.

Traveling to Lombardy?

6. Tremezzo- Tremezzo is best known as a tourist resort and for its villas, of which the most famous is the Villa Carlotta with its much-admired gardens. It is located on the western coast of Lake Como and is defined as being “in the middle” between the Po Valley and the Grigioni Pass. Local specialties include bay leaf preserved fresh water fish and grilled polenta.

Traveling to Tuscany?

7. Buonconvento- Buonconvento is a small Tuscan village in the Province of Siena in the Italian region Tuscany, located about 70 km south of Florence and about 25 km southeast of Siena in the area known as the Crete Senesi. Local museums, brick structures, ancient fortresses and renaissance castles define this historical Tuscan gem. Local specialties include fabulous local wine, salami, pappardelle pasta with wild hare ragù and more.

For over ten years Le Baccanti has provided the finest service in customized luxury cultural food & wine vacations and day tours in Tuscany and Italy. Our personalized services are recommended by BBC Travel, The Independent, Le Monde, The Telegraph and scores of satisfied wine, food and art lovers. Contact us to learn more about your next Italian dream vacation.

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Healthy Italian Cuisine

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Healthy Italian Cuisine

Italy is a food lover’s dream destination. Sit outside on a cobbled street and nibble on some meat, cheese and bread for a first course, then a plate of pasta, followed by pizza or even steak. Then, the evening wouldn’t be complete without a bowl of tiramisu, or a few scoops of gelato… or just something smothered in Nutella. Wash this down with several glasses of wine or beer and you have yourself a meal you won’t forget in a hurry – but before you hurry to recreate it in your kitchen at home, consider making lighter versions of your Italian favourites.


Antipasto

A delicious plate of meat, cheese, vegetables and bread is the perfect way to start an Italian meal. It doesn’t have to be an excessive overindulgence, though. When dining Italian style, a spread of nibbles is shared between the entire table – so there is no need to prepare a vast array of food for only a few people. Select a few top quality meats and cheeses, allow one or two slices of crusty bread per person, then round out the plate with olives, artichokes and other pickled and marinated vegetables.

Spaghetti Carbonara

A heaping pile of spaghetti dressed in a rich sauce and speckled with juicy lardons, might be your holiday favourite, but try making a healthier version for a simple meal at home. You will only need a small amount of pasta compared to the portion size served at most Italian restaurants. Many restaurants add cream to the sauce, though in the authentic tradition, carbonara is made using only eggs, beaten lightly and quickly added to the pasta before it is taken off the heat. Instead of lardons, use a small amount of lean bacon cut into small chunks. The beauty of this dish does not come from using a massive amount of meat, but rather from the delight of finding a salty bite in a mouthful of al dente pasta and velvety sauce. Garnish with plenty of black pepper, a little grated parmesan.

Pizza

Once you’ve tasted thin and crispy pizza in Italy, you may never go back to the soggy, doughy takeaway variety. Make your own whole wheat pizza at home, and top it with a small amount of fresh mozzarella, plenty of tomatoes and other vegetables, and any lean meat or fish of your choice. For a less authentic but much speedier option, top a tortilla wrap, pitta bread or naan bread with tomato puree, cheese and your desired ingredients before placing it under the grill.

Granita

The options for Italian dessert are endless and delicious. From tiramisu to gelato, panna cotta to cannoli, almost every Italian dessert is very rich. On a warm night, after you’ve eaten two hearty courses, granita is the perfect refreshing treat. All you need to make your own is a food processor and a freezer, and a creative imagination to dream up a fantastic flavour. Traditional Italian flavours include lemon, orange, coffee, and mint.

Espresso

Instead of choosing a coffee with whipped cream, sugar and flavoured syrup to end your meal, opt for a simple espresso instead. Served black, a quality espresso does not need to be sweetened or flavoured for it to taste exquisite.

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10 Foods to Protect from Sun Damage

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We all know how important it is to protect the skin against sun damage. According to World Health Organization figures, over 2 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year. As if that wasn’t bad enough, too much sun can also leave you with wrinkled, leathery skin that looks older than it really is.

Wearing sunscreen is an effective way to lower the risk of sun damage. But did you know that there is a completely natural way of giving your skin a little extra protection? Scientific studies have shown that certain foods can reduce the risk of sun damage by as much as one third. Read on to find out what should be on your plate this Summer.

1. Watermelon

Watermelon contains lycopene, which is extremely efficient at absorbing the free radicals produced by the skin when it is exposed to sun. By mopping up these harmful chemicals before they can cause damage, lycopene offers natural protection against sunburn.

2. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are also rich in lycopene, particularly when they are cooked. Researchers in England conducted a study and found that people who ate tomato paste every day for 12 weeks decreased their risk of sunburn by 33%.

3. Orange Foods

A recent review by German scientists uncovered a wealth of scientific literature documenting the protective effects of beta-carotene, a compound found in carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots and pumpkins. Beta-carotene is responsible for the orange color of these foods, so a good rule of thumb is to fill your plate with foods that are naturally orange.

4. Green Leafy Vegetables

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale contain xanthophylls. Scientists who fed xanthophylls to mice in a recent study found that the mice developed an increased protection to harmful UVB radiation.

5. Fish

Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring is rich in Omega 3, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory. A lot of skin damage occurs as a direct result of inflammation caused by burning. By eating two servings of fish a week, you can minimize the damage to your skin that occurs due to inflammation.

6. Walnuts and Flax seeds

What if you don’t eat fish? Or if you can’t get the kids to stomach it? Don’t despair: walnuts and flax seeds are also good sources of Omega 3.

7. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits are packed full of vitamin C, which supports collagen health. Collagen – the fibres in your skin that make it supple and elastic – is broken down by UV radiation. This leads to sagging, wrinkled skin that looks old before its time. Vitamin C plays a vital role in the formation and repair of collagen, so if you want to stay looking young, include more citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and limes in your diet.

8. Green Tea

The health benefits of green tea are well-documented, but did you know that it’s also good for your skin? Polyphenols in tea reduce inflammation and soak up free radicals, which are produced when the skin is exposed to sun, before they can damage the skin.

9. Chocolate

Chocolate-lovers will be glad to hear that the antioxidants in cocoa help to reduce the redness and burning that results from too much Sun. Dark chocolate is best for this purpose because it has the highest cocoa content.

10. Wine

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2011 found that grapes contain chemicals that stop skin cells from dying when overexposed to sunlight. This could explain why Mediterranean people traditionally have low cancer rates, despite living in a sunny climate. So next time you’re on holiday, enjoy a glass of wine without guilt – it could help to keep your skin healthy.

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