Thursday, 27 April 2017

"A Taste of Sicily" Event in London

If you love Sicily and live in the London area you are in for a real treat on the 22nd May 2017. Save the date for 'A Taste of Sicily' with Capers in Sicily and Southern Italy.

This exciting event is to be held at Tasting Sicily UK Enzo's Kitchen in the heart of London's theatre land between 7:00pm and 10:30pm.

The event is hosted by Laura Panico owner and founder of Aeolian Adventures. Passionate about all things Sicilian, with Italian heritage plus staying at her family's holiday home on the Aeolian island of Vulcano, Laura had a vision of bringing together lovers of Sicily, people interested by Sicily and food and wine lovers to showcase the beauty, culture and cuisine of our beautiful island.

She has created a group on Meetup called Capers in Sicily and Southern Italy, Meetup is an an online social networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world. It allows members to find and join groups unified by a common interest.

I met Laura for the first time three years ago when she had a stand for Aeolian Adventures at the Times Newspapers Destinations Holiday and Travel Show held annually at Olympia in London. We hit it off straight away and have been great friends ever since and when she asked me to assist her with her Meetup group I accepted with glee.

Aeolian Adventures is a gastronomical tour of Sicily and its Aeolian Islands enjoying truly authentic cooking and wine tasting exploring the islands, their volcanoes and a lot more. She also arranges holidays on Sicily itself in the Mount Etna area. Her motto is "Aeolian Adventures, more than just a cooking holiday".

So what is in store for you on 22nd May?

The event will be held at Tasting Sicily UK Enzo's Kitchen a brilliant newly opened Sicilian restaurant which is located on Panton Street in London's Piccadilly. The restaurant is where the much loved and well known 'The Stockpot' once was.

Tasting Sicily UK was born from an existing company founded fifteen years ago named Gusta la Sicilia (Tasting Sicily) and its goal is to spread the Sicilian taste worldwide.

Enzo's Kitchen has been created by the esteemed chef Enzo Oliveri who was born in Palermo and moved to England in the 1990's. He is also known as "The Sicilian Chef" and owns several restaurants in the UK including, Sicily in Epsom Surrey and Olivenzo in Bromley Kent. He starred in the television series "Sicily with Aldo & Enzo" with fellow celebrity chef Aldo Zilli, with Paul Hollywood in his City Bakes series and also with Gordon Ramsay on Channel 4 in "F Word goes Octopus Hunting in Sicily", and he was recently made the President of the FIC UK (Federation of Italian Chefs in the UK). Plus he is super nice.

On the night you will be treated to a demonstration by Chef Enzo of how to make the popular Sicilian street food Arancini, you might even get the chance to be hands on with helping.

Also a special treat will be wine tasting with Francesco Raciti owner and winemaker of the amazing Gambino Winery the highest vineyard on Mount Etna. Laura and myself know Francesco and we can both confirm that he provides an unforgettable wine tasting experience and his passion for his wines is exhilarating and infectious. My dog Daisy loves him too and always enjoys a visit up to Gambino when in Sicily, especially as he always gives her a yummy Sicilian sausage.

You will also be able to taste traditional Sicilian antipasti and desserts such as Arancini (Sicilian rice balls), Crochette (potato croquettes), Panelle (crispy chickpea fritters) and Cannoli (lightly fried pastry tubes filled with sweetened ricotta) along with other delicious delights.

All this whilst being entertained with Sicilian music and a Soprano, an offer you cannot refuse.

Why not indulge your inner Sicilian and come to discover more about Italy's largest and in our eyes its most beautiful region.

Unfortunately I will not be able to attend as I will be in Sicily soaking up those glorious Sicilian sun beams. But in any case Laura has a lot of ideas in the pipeline for future events so I will see you at the next Meetup.

For more information and ticketing visit:

Or Email Laura at info@aeolianadventures.co.uk

Links:

Sicilian Antipasti

Cannoli

Gambino Wine

Aeolian Adventures
"more than just cooking holiday"


Next month on 26th to 27th May our beautiful town of
Taormina will step into the Worlds spotlight as the destination
for the 43rd G7 Summit

Keep posted for updates



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I am also a contributor to www.timesofsicily.com

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Love Sarah x

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Chocolate Heaven in Modica

"Another tempting call is the Chocolate of Modica ..... It has an incomparable taste, because when you taste it you have the impression to have reached the absolute, and any other kind of chocolate, even the most renowned - looks like its adulteration, its corruption" Quote by the famous Sicilian writer Leonardo Sciascia from his book La Contea di Modica

Modica is a wonderful city of late Baroque period in the heart of the Noto valley, the town dominates with its opulent architecture from a historic era of palaces and ancient churches and was rewarded with being declared a UNESCO world heritage site. It is known as the town of one hundred churches but it is also famous for something else .... Chocolate.

The towns famous chocolate production has been crafted in Modica since the 1600's and follows an Aztec recipe. Chocolate can be eaten at the height of summer without it melting in your hands!!!!! This is possible thanks to the cold processing of the cocoa solids that does not blend with the sugar. The look and taste of this chocolate is recognised internationally.

We can thank the Spaniards who in the New World discovered Xocoatl which is a product that the ancient Aztecs extracted from cocoa seeds through grinding it on Metate which is a flat oblong stone on which grain and cocoa are ground using a smaller stone. After grinding, the Aztecs mixed it with spices and let it harden ready to eat. When Sicily was under Spanish rule the product was brought to the island.

What makes the chocolate of Modica so different is the way it is processed by a technique called the cold technique. This process has been passed down for centuries and is still used today.

Chocolate and sugar are mixed together at around 40 degrees celsius, this temperature does not allow the sugar to melt which gives the chocolate a final grainy consistency.

In addition to the plain flavour other flavours were added, initially only vanilla and cinnamon but nowadays there are many different flavours to choose from to tickle your taste buds.

Located in Modica Bassa (Lower Modica) opposite the beautiful Church of San Pietro you will find Antica Dolceria Bonajuto which is Sicily's oldest chocolate factory, who have been producing chocolate for over 150 years.

Last October we had the pleasure of visiting this gorgeous historic shop and tasting their delicious chocolate.

Located along an alleyway on Corso Umberto I on entering the shop you are surrounded by old wooden cabinets full of products, memorabilia, old photos and newspaper cuttings and are welcomed by the most wonderful aroma of sweetness.

On the shop counter there are small ceramic dishes with pieces of chocolate for you to taste before you buy. There are so many flavours to choose from ranging from the most plainest palate to the most demanding and adventurous palate.There was plain chocolate with cocoa solids ranging from 70% to 100%, orange, lemon, nutmeg, ginger, white pepper, salt, cardamom, coffee and even chilli pepper just to name a few. I have been told that the cocoa changes the flavour of the ingredient not the ingredient that changes the cocoa.

We eagerly tasted the chocolate.

So what does chocolate from Modica taste like?

We sampled several flavours and each one is like a taste explosion in your mouth. The taste is vivid and intensely full of the different flavours. The texture is slightly coarse because of the cocoa itself and spread through it feels like there is a fine sand of sugar in your mouth. The sugar is the last part of the chocolate to melt on your tongue so the aftertaste is sweet, although after trying the coffee flavoured bar it is almost as if you have eaten a cup of espresso.

Aside from chocolate there are other delights to buy such as almond cookies, marzipan pastries, candied peel, nougat and a delicious chocolate liqueur.

Behind the shop counter you can see the chocolatiers at the back shaking the tin moulds that the chocolate is poured into to cool. This process is called 'Battitura' which translated into English means beating.

Our dog Daisy was fascinated by the chocolate shop and its fragrance but unfortunately for her chocolate is toxic to dogs so she just made friends with the staff and attempted to help behind the counter much to their amusement.

You can indulge your inner Willy Wonka and book a tour to experience behind the scenes where you can participate in helping "beating" the tin moulds and which also includes tasting of typical Sicilian sweets. The tour is bookable online with a minimum of eight people. Bonajuto have a beautiful informative website full of the history of the Bonajuto Family and their chocolate, visit www.bonajuto.it


A delicacy from Modica is 'Mpanatigghi which are half moon shaped cookies made from ingredients including almonds, cinnamom, chocolate and ground beef, yes you read it right BEEF. They are a must try when in Modica. It is said that the origin of these cookies started during lent when you are not supposed to eat meat so the nuns in the Sicilian convents hid the ground beef in with the almonds and chocolate.

When eating in Modica it is not unusual for chocolate to be added to meat dishes and the popular Sicilian dish caponata might just be served with a fine grating of chocolate on top.

For chocolate lovers there is an annual festival in Modica called Chocobarocco, this name collaborates the two forms of art to which the town is famous for, the Baroque architecture and chocolate itself.

So what is my favourite Modica chocolate flavour ... well that would definitely be orange, Sicilian orange of course.

Modica is an amazing city full of wonderful architectural sites, why not combine your visit with a stop at the nearby UNESCO towns of Ragusa, Noto and Scicli.

Modica is approximately a two hours drive from Taormina but why not treat yourself to the luxury of a private driver with local inside knowledge to create the perfect day out.

If you enjoyed this Blog post then you will love my previous post:
"Modica ... Churches and Chocolate"
Explore this beautiful town with me and our dog Daisy.

Also search my Blog archive for my posts about Ragusa, Noto and Scicli

Photo Gallery


















                                        
Save the Date - London

Capers in Sicily and Southern Italy
'Meet Up'
presents
"A Taste of Sicily"

Date: 22nd May 2017
Time: 7:00pm - 10:30pm
Place: Tasting Sicily Enzo's Kitchen, Panton Street, London

An enchanting evening at London restaurant Tasting Sicily Enzo's Kitchen

Arancini making with Chef Enzo Oliveri
A Buffet of delicious Sicilian Antipasti
Mouth watering Sicilian desserts
Wine Tasting with Wines from Mount Etna's Gambino Winery
Traditional Sicilian Music and Song with Soprano

£45 per person

For more information visit:


Coming Soon

Capers in Sicily
Cooking and Wine Tasting Holidays
in Sicily


Thank you for following me at White Almond Sicily

I am also a contributor to www.timesofsicily.com

For NEW Blog updates and all things Sicilian
Click and Like my Facebook page

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For Enquiries, Travel Advice and Recommendations


Love Sarah x

Previous Blog post: "Modica ... Churches and Chocolate"


Friday, 7 April 2017

Modica ... Churches and Chocolate

When visiting Sicily a trip to the South East corner is a must do, the landscape is very much different from the rest of the island yet this small corner is rich in sights. The towns of Syracuse, Caltagirone, Ragusa, Noto, Palazzolo Acreide, Scicli and Modica have all been declared as UNESCO World Heritage sites on the merits of their Baroque architecture and town planning, the result of the rebuilding after the destruction of the 1693 earthquake.

A wonderful city of late Baroque period in the heart of the Noto valley Modica dominates with its opulent architecture from a historic era of palaces and ancient churches such as the Duomo of San Giorgio which dates back to 1300.

Modica rises in the middle of three valleys assuming a Y shape and it can be easily seen from the Guerrieri bridge which is over 1300 metres high and as a result is one of the highest bridges in Europe. You may recognise the city from the opening titles of the popular television series Inspector Montalbano shot from an aerial view.

Taking a walk along the main street Corso Umberto you will be excited at the sight of pastry shops with their windows displaying their cakes and in particular chocolate which is considered to be the best in Europe.

The towns famous chocolate production has been crafted in Modica since the 1600's and follows an Aztec recipe. Chocolate can be eaten at the height of summer without it melting in your hands!!!!! This is possible thanks to the cold processing of the cocoa solids that does not blend with the sugar. The look and taste of this chocolate is recognised internationally.


I follow a Blog called Sicily Scene which is written by a lovely Welsh lady Pat Eggleton who writes about her Sicilian life and her views on Sicily. Pat is a language school teacher who fell in love with Sicily and now lives in a town very close to Modica with her cute little dog Bertie. She runs a little English school called London Town Modica. I vowed that if we ever visited the area that I would drop her a message and arrange to meet up. A date was set and on an overcast day in October last year we set off for Modica with our English friend Teresa who lives in our town and our rescue dog Daisy.

We met Pat at her school and she showed us around. London Town Modica is a language and learning centre offering courses at all levels and Pat is a qualified and experienced teacher, she also offers Italian courses for English speakers. She is a delightful fun character and her dog Bertie is adorable and her and Daisy made friends. After a tour of the school we headed for lunch at nearby Cicara Caffetteria where we enjoyed an amazing platter of antipasto. After saying our goodbyes to Pat and Bertie we headed for Modica.

The large town of Modica is divided into two different levels, Modica Bassa and Modica Alta (Lower and Upper). It is a city founded in ancient times, its origins are probably Greek and Sicel (the first settlers in Sicily), in Roman times it was the prosperous Motyka and was thereafter called Mohac by the Arabs who won possession of it in the ninth century.

Modica is also known as the town of one hundred churches.

We headed first for lower Modica (Bassa) and found the local tourist information centre where a lovely lady gave us a map and spent a very long time telling us where to visit, highlighting with a neon yellow pen a route we should follow by foot. But before we started to explore the town being the chocoholics we are we were desperate to visit a chocolate shop. Antica Dolceria Bonajuto is Sicily's oldest chocolate manufacturer who have been producing chocolate since 1880. But hold your taste buds because chocolate tasting in Modica is worthy of its own Blog post so you will have to wait until next week to find out more ..........

After our sugar rush of chocolate we began a energetic walk of Modica.

As I mentioned there are approximately one hundred churches in the area, but the three you really should  see are the Church of San Giorgio, the Church of San Pietro and the Church of San Giovanni.

Modica Bassa and Modica Alta are connected by a long winding road Corso Umberto I, this busy road was originally a river but after a flood in 1902 the town decided to cover it over. But the best way to discover Modica is to explore its alleys and stairways that climb up towards upper Modica.

Located in the lower part of town the Church of San Pietro originated in the fourteenth century but has eighteenth century characteristics which is the result of reconstruction after two earthquakes during the seventeenth century. The exquisite two tiered baroque façade stands at the top of a spectacular flight of steps which is bordered by an iron fence and with life sized statues of the Twelve Apostles. The aisles inside are divided from the nave by majestic columns with splendid artwork of Corinthian style.

Next we began our ascent towards our next destination the Church of San Giorgio up warren like alleys and steps where every now and again we started to get stunning glimpses between quaint flower adorned houses across the town and its rooftops.

The spectacular Church of San Giorgio is actually a cathedral and was constructed in the first half of the seventeenth century but was entirely rebuilt in the eighteenth century. The magnificent three tiered façade overlooks an imposing flight of steps that seem endless. Its splendid baroque design inside and out resembles the church of the same name in the nearby town of Ragusa. The church was completed entirely in the first half of the nineteenth century and the interior boasts a Latin cross plan which is divided into a nave and four aisles. On the day we visited there was a team of florists busy decorating the church with an abundance of beautiful flowers for a wedding and I could not think of a more ideal church to be married in and could just imagine the bride climbing the impressive stairs outside, her dress and cathedral length veil billowing out in the light breeze. The façade of the church is topped with a belfry which for a small fee you can climb up some tight winding stairs and visit. The views from the church are breath taking looking over roofs and across the whole valley where Modica is located.

We descended from the terrace outside the church down the countless steps back down to Modica Bassa where we rewarded our climb with a chocolate gelato (made with Modica chocolate of course). Thereafter we drove up winding Corso Umberto to view the Church of San Giovanni.

The location of the Church of San Giovanni is spectacular and it is built in a similar style of San Giorgio with a wide staircase and in its position it literally stands proud overlooking the whole of Modica. A short walk away you will find a terrace named Belvedere which also boasts impressive views sure to create Insta-envy with your Instagram followers.

Modica is an amazing city full of wonderful architectural sites, why not combine your visit with a stop at the nearby UNESCO towns of Ragusa, Noto and Scicli.

Modica is approximately a two hours drive from Taormina but why not treat yourself to the luxury of a private driver with local inside knowledge to create the perfect day out.

Next Blog post: Chocolate Heaven in Modica

You can follow Pat on her Blog at www.sicilyscene.blogspot.com

If you loved this Blog post search my archive for my previous posts;
Ragusa, Noto, Syracuse, Scicli and Caltagirone

Photo Gallery

Modica






















Lunch with Teresa, Pat of Sicily Scene Blogspot, and Daisy




Next Blog post: Chocolate Heaven in Modica



Thank you for following me at White Almond Sicily BlogSpot

I am also a contributor to www.timesofsicily.com

For NEW Blog updates and all things Sicilian
Click and Like my Facebook page

You can also follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google + and LinkedIn

For Sicily Travel Tips and Recommendations


Love Sarah x