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An Italian chocolate kiss

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Posted: Tuesday, February 4, 2014 11:43 am

Chocoholics everywhere should be grateful for the long-time secret kept between two friends. For out of a clandestine liaison one of the most delectable chocolates was born. The story of Giovanni Buitoni, heir to Perugina Chocolates and Luisa Spagnoli, a confectioner in his factory is a classic tale of romance. The two lovers exchanged passionate messages wrapped around handmade chocolates to express their loyalty and desire. Certainly more romantic and amorous than a modern-day text message, this edible method of communication became the forbearer of the legendary Baci (kisses) chocolate. Creamy dark chocolate surrounding a rich hazelnut center and crowned with a whole hazelnut, wrapped in silver foil with blue stars with a love note bearing a message in four languages, describing the wonderful and often tumultuous course of love is the creation attributed to Luisa Spagnoli. More than 90 years later, the tradition continues as Baci chocolates are still considered the ultimate love token proving that romance can indeed last forever.

Just as Americans wait for the latest Super-Bowl ads, Italians wait every year for a new Baci TV commercial launched just a few weeks before Valentine’s Day, a very important holiday for the Perugina Chocolate Company. Three-hundred million Baci are sold every year, a majority as gifts of the heart. Placing this amount end to end would create a path 7,000 kilometers long, a heavenly, sweet road well-taken.

Tourists who are intrigued by this Italian chocolate story and fans of the cocoa bean can visit Eurochocolate, held every October in Perugia, Italy. This world-renown confectionary festival transforms this city into a huge open-air pastry-shop and the temporary European capital of chocolate. The fair has many events and the brands displayed include Perugina, Novi, Lindt, Cameo, Nestlé, Toblerone and Milka. The highlight of the chocolate festival is the chocolate sculptures, with blocks of chocolate being sculpted in the streets by various artists. More adventurous tourists can visit chocolate making facilities, take a short course in chocolate making, visit the Perugina chocolate museum, buy boxes of Baci and other candies, as well as t-shirts, hats and other memorabilia and eat at an antique chocolate gelateria. In Italy they say, "con Baci non servono parole" - "with kisses words are unnecessary." It is obvious why Baci chocolates have been the choice of Italians for many generations. Cook, Eat, Laugh…Claudia

Claudia Pruett was raised in Saratoga. She is an entrepreneur, chef and community volunteer and is co-owner of A Travola Together, a Stockton-based company that specializes in regular and gluten-free focaccia, pizza and tortilla mix. She is married to Greg and they have three children. She enjoys cooking for friends and Bikram Yoga.

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