Story and Photos by Harald Zoschke
Chiles and Chocolate – another Festival Highlight
If you’ve read last year’s Calabria Report, you probably have noticed that we had sniffed out a new trend: The ancient tradition of combining chiles and chocolate is back (for more on this subject, see also the SuperSite article “Chiles and Chocolate”), and chocolatiers around the world are getting increasingly creative. Even manufacturers in Germany (the former “Land of the Bland”), are now releasing more or less fiery combinations of “choc and hot”. But the most inventive top of the notch chocolatiers are at home in Italy, so it’s no wonder that this country also yields the most interesting chocolate specialties involving the mighty pod.
The photo to the left depicts the many chile chocolate products we dicovered just at this year’s Peperoncini Festival!
We were amazed to even find Italian-made Ancho Chocolate. Ancho, originating in Mexico, is a dried Poblano pepper of mild heat and a slightly smoky flavor, with hints of tobacco and prunes. Anchos are commonly used in Mexican sauces called moles, so it is unusual to see them used in Italian chocolate bars. We also found chocolate bars spiced up with Chipotle, which are smoke-dried Jalapeno peppers (“Jalapeno affumicato” in Italian), another bold choc flavor.
Not surprisingly though, most Italian products use domestic peperoncini, especially from Calabria.
Here’s Maria of Dolci Pensieri di Calabria, showing off the poster she painted just for the festival. This company is one of the hottest of our discoveries last year, and their Cioccolato al Peperoncino is a great seller at our Pepperworld Hot Shop in Germany.
Fired up by the success of their literally “hot chocolate”, Dolci introduced a whole line of spicy products, combining choclate not just with chiles, but also additional flavors like cedro (a kind of citrus), peppermint and – would you believe it! – with onion and with garlic (the folks in Gilroy, CA would be delighted). We found the combination of peperoncino and peppermint most interesting, as this triggers response from heat and pain receptors at the same time. Plus, the flavor is great.
Local manufacturer Castel Fagiano introduced “Confettura di peperoncino al cioccolato”, a spicy chile-choc spread that’s not justgreat on rolls and toast, but on crepes as well.
The cocoa & chile combination is good for more than just chocolate bars. Magnifici del Mezzogiorno for example makes a delicious liquor with these ingredients, going by the fancy name Amore Piccante.
Both chiles and chocolate are believed to have aphrodisiatic properties (just don’t drink too much of it, or amore might suffer).
With the many attractions at the Peperoncino Festival, the organizers are always trying to spice up the culinary delights with art and humor. This time, there were even two exhibits of spicy cartoons.
And as every year, theere was also “Vignette sul Ring”, an entertaining contest where hobby artists were competing with each other, drawing cartoons for a given subject, using transparent foils and overhead projectors, so the public could follow progress. The cute number girls were also quite entertaining.
Of the professional cartoons by the “artisti piccanti” picked by the Accademia Italiana del Peperoncino, this one here by Roberto Mangosi was our favorite. Go figure 🙂
Spicy cartoon competition
at the overhead projector.
Pods and Plants to Go
As every year, chile grower Massimo Biagi from Pisa sold chile pods of more than 150 varieties. This year, he also had some competition, as some local nurseries presented an enormous selection of pepper plants and pods. Especially amazing was the display at the Miceli nurery from Scalea, a town just north of Diamante. Already from the distance it was evident that this booth was serious about chiles:
Inside, a wall of cute little ristras (called fila in Italian)
was greeting visitors, and plants were arranged nicely
with terracotta pottery. Here’s a selection of pepper
plants that caught our eye:
Chile de Arbol (check out the yield!)
Peperoncini “Sigaretta” (Calabria)
Habanero Derivate (C. chinense)
Plus plenty of fresh hot Pods.
While on the ubject of hot chile pods:
Same procedure as every year: The Chile-Eating Competition
The festival wouldn’t be complete without the Campionato italiano mangiatori di peperoncino, the Italian Chile-Eating Championship. This time there was an even bigger crowd gathering on Diamante’s Municipal Plaza, as national TV station RAI was covering the event.
We already reported in detail about a previous contest (see here), and this year’s competition wasn’t much different: Fearless fire-eaters munching down very hot chopped peperoncini, sweating, and suffering silently. Our friend marco and I sampled the competition chile, and although both of us love to eat hot, we decided that just one spoonful was enough for us…
Here are this year’s champions:
Mauro Ciocca won the competition by eating 555 grams of pure hot chiles – that’s more than one pound, folks!
Cristina Radulescu came close with a whopping
540 grams, making her the best female participant.
This time, there were five female and five male
Mauro Ciocca – 555 g
Massimo Grandinetti – 470 g
Vito Conte – 400 g
Giuseppe Madeo – 350 g
Gildo Zanzarelli – 200 g
Cristina Radulescu – 540 g
Nicoletta Specchia – 315 g
Loreta Coglianese – 160 g
Antonella Grandinetti – 150 g
Margherita Rizzo – 110 g
Congratulations to all ten, and hope y’all enjoyed “the day after” 😉
We got hungry from watching the competition, so we went to a little street cafe. They had also adjusted their offerings to please the special kind of visitors crowding the town:
To the left, that’s Crostata piccante, a short-pastry tarte with a spicy-sweet icing. In the center, Cannoli
al peperoncino, crunchy pastry pipes filled with vanilla creme, spiced up with plenty of peperoncino bits.
And to the right, Dolce della nonna al peperoncino – Grandma’s sponge cake with a capsicum kick.
The Cannoli were our favorite,and a great finish for this festival night.
Now that’s All, Folks!
For this time, anyway. Hope you enjoyed our impression from the 2005 Peperoncino Festival in Diamante.
We won’t let you go without some advice.
On a festival vendor’s booth, we found
this suggestion that we can fully agree to:
Eat chiles preferably all year round…