Italian Chocolate is the best!, Nutella Crepes recipe,  Italian Love Sayings, Carnevale,
Our Culinary Tours in Italy, Florence apartments, Special interest tours in Italy
Italian Chocolates, Nutella Crepes,
Tours in Italy, Florence apartments
Ciao a tutti!
The season of waiting is upon us.... waiting for spring and longer days, waiting for the next big holiday, waiting for the Lenten season, waiting for this year's Italian vacations. What better way to spend time waiting - tasting Italian chocolates!  So with the upcoming "chocolate holiday", St. Valentine's day, we're sharing insights into Italian chocolate. We've included a recipe for a favoloso dessert of crepes filled with Nutella!  Try it this month especially with  oranges which are in season now - it is a fabulous treat.

We hope that you will find some delicious Italian chocolates to share with your loved one!
Happy St. Valentine's Day!  Read on - lots of news this month!

Buon appetito!
Gina and Mary
Italian Chocolates -- Just in time for Valentines Day!
Italians make some of the most amazing chocolate! From Torino in the northwest, which has introduced the world to the magic combination of chocolate and hazelnuts in Nutella
and Gianduia; to the "chocolate valley" west of Florence which houses small producers like Amedei, Roberto Catinari & Luca Mannori; through the hills of Umbria which gave the world Perugina Baci from the town of Perugia; and all the way down to the town of Modica in Sicily, which has been making spicy chocolate since the 1600's, when the Spanish introduced chocolate making from the Aztecs - Italy has
made a huge impact on the world's chocolate offerings! Here's an article about the Three Best Italian Chocolatiers for your reading enjoyment! 

Our culinary tours of Italy wouldn't be complete without sharing with our clients the best chocolate each region has to offer. In Piedmont we visit Torino and sip on bicerin, a special melted chocolate and coffee drink available only in the heart of the city. Even on a warm June day, this thick and smooth drink, served with a dollop of whipped cream, is a welcome pick-me-up.

Piedmont is also known for inventing the brilliant marriage of the best of two ingredients: hazelnuts from the south of Piedmont and chocolate from Torino. The availability of beautifully foil wrapped gianduia can be overwhelming and is widely available in the candy stores, bars and cafes of the city.
There are many chocolate makers who began in Piedmont: Venchi, Ferrero and Caffarel among them,
and their products are available in many North American stores as Ferrero Roche and Mon Cheri.

The delicious flavor combination of hazelnuts and chocolate influenced the makers of Perugina chocolates in Umbria when they invented Baci over one hundred years ago. The Italian version of a Hershey kiss, Baci which means " kisses", comes beautifully wrapped in silver and blue foil and includes a saying about love in four different languages, Italian and English among them. Baci are perfect to give a loved one for Valentine's Day!
Crespelle con Nutella - (Nutella Crepes)
Crepes:                                                                       Sauce:
2 cups flour                                                                  2 oranges, one sliced, one juiced
4 eggs, beaten                                                             3 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp melted butter                                                      2 tbsp butter
2 cups milk, more if needed                                           Grand Marnier, optional
½ teas salt                                                                   Nutella, one tbsp per crepe
For the crepes : Melt the butter in a small, non-stick saute' pan. Mix liquid ingredients together, mix flour and salt together. Make a well in the flour and add the liquid ingredients to the flour. Whisk together just until incorporated. Strain the crepes batter through a fine sieve to remove any lumps.
Using the same small pan you melted the butter in, heat it up and add a small scoop of the batter, tilting and turning the pan quickly to evenly distribute the batter before it sets. The crespelle should be thin and even. Turn the crespelle as soon as it is cooked through, before the bottom browns. Stack them on top of each other as they are done. They won't stick together and can be kept like this for a day.
Lightly butter a sheet pan. Place a teaspoon of Nutella on a crepe, fold in half, then half again so
the crepe forms a triangle. Fill the baking pan and just before serving, put in a 350° oven for 5 minutes, just to heat the Nutella through.
For the sauce:
Melt the butter with the sugar and orange juice in a sauté pan, add the orange slices and allow to cook for 2 minutes. Add Grand Marnier. To serve, place two crepes on each plate, arrange two orange slices on top and pour a small amount of sauce over all. The orange slices should be eaten as well.
In this picture, we've used blood oranges!  
This Month's Italian saying...about love

" Ti voglio bene" translates literally to " I want you well" and is said for feelings of affection for friends and family members.

" Ti amo" means - " I love you"  and used only for romantic love 
Some phrases to use questo giorno di San Valentino! (St. Valentine's Day!)
Carnevale is in Full Swing!
All over the world in the days leading up to Lent, in what are, or formally were, Catholic countries there are big celebrations. Called carnevale in Italy, the word literally meant "a removal of meat", and began as an acknowledgment that they would soon be faced with 40 days of fasting before Easter. It evolved into a decadent celebration of masked parties and rich foods, before Ash Wednesday reminds us all that "man thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return." The masks and costumes are beautiful in Italy! Even though Venice has the most popular celebrations throughout every region in Italy they are celebrating like mad right now! 
What are your travel dreams for 2018 and beyond?
If a culinary focused tour is on your list consider joining Gina and Mary to explore
the wonderful regions of Italy. Dates are on our website for
2018/2019! (click here)
Bologna Parmigiano
Parmigiano Reggiano tour!
This year we'll be making a stop in Bologna again at the end of our Tuscany tours - check out the dates and details here! 
Next year we're going to Puglia, and we're super excited about this gorgeous region! And we'll return to Piedmont and Tuscany of course. If you're interested, click here to jump to our website. EccoLaCucina
Our full immersion food and wine tours offer an insider's view of the beautiful regions of Italy, unveiling hidden gems in Tuscany, Piedmont, Campania, Puglia and Emila Romagna. The small group tours are all inclusive:
accommodations in the lovely villas or quaint hotels, winery tours, classes, all meals including wine, excursions and transportation to these excursions, plus they are worry free - we'll take care of everything! We are with you every step of the way to show you the best each region has to offer. The smallness of our groups allow you to enjoy and learn and see places you'd never find on your own. So many of our guests have developed close, lifelong friendships during our weeks - its just a natural as you share wonderful, fun experiences!

Check out this article written about us and our life-changing trips in Italy! 
Not sure where to start? Give Mary a call (972) 342-8308 or!
Special interest tours in Italy
Are you interested in traveling to Italy on your own or have another interest instead of food and wine? We know of some great special interest group tours like photography or antique shopping.  Mary can help you plan something on your own for that special celebration or join a group that we organize and lead for you! If you're looking for the perfect picture - or the
perfect armadio or table, join like minded people and explore Tuscany with us.
This September we are offering a Tuscan photography tour where we'll be staying in the beautiful Val d'Orcia famous for its cypress trees and rolling fields and lead by a talented professional photographer! 
Contact Mary to learn more and start your planning!
Florence Apartment
Our good friend has a spectacular apartment in a quiet area of Florence that she is renting. This is just a 7 minutes walk to the Duomo, but yet on a quiet street away from the partying crowds. Close and convenient! It is in a former palazzo on the second floor and has amazing features - an original fresco from the 1700s along with all the modern conveniences and spacious too. Mary is handling the rentals, so contact her if you're going to Florence. Its a better alternative to AirBnB! You know what you're getting plus Gina and Mary have stayed there and can vouch that its fabulous! 972-342-8308 or

Gina Stipo and Mary Stipo Potter | Ecco La Cucina| 1-972-342-8308| Email | Website