Bonnie: Just last week your Bite of the Best team walked the Fancy Food Show in NYC scouting for products that we could feature as outstanding ones we’d tried and would recommend. We found quite a few, ones that you’ll be reading about in the next couple of months. Today’s FeaturedBite — Rigoni di Asiago’s Nocciolata — was just selected as a 2010 sofi Awards Silver Finalist in the Outstanding Jam, Preserve, Honey or Nut Butter category by the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT).
It’s a hazelnut “chocolate” spread.
I never liked the strong hazelnut flavor of Nutella but hadn’t shared my thoughts, as I had friends who represented the company. With Nutella in mind, I was a bit hesitant to sample Rigoni di Asiago’s organic hazelnut spread, thinking it would be much like that other chocolate hazelnut spread. It’s not.
This creamy, dreamy chocolate spread is made from organic ingredients including sugar, hazelnut paste, sunflower oil, skim milk powder, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, soy lecithin and natural vanilla flavoring. No artificial flavoring here. Spread on bread, scones, cakes or crepes, drizzle over ice cream or just eat it with a spoon. It’s that yummy.
Bryan: I was always a purist when it came to chocolate, a substance so divine that to me, it was only demeaned by the addition of anything else. I wanted neither mint nor toffee mottling my candy bars, and I certainly despised any oatmeal or especially nuts in my chocolate chip cookies: An abomination, I thought, contaminating chocolate with nuts. And this view remained for almost 20 years, until a move abroad brought me face to face with a chocolate/nut spread called Nutella on a daily basis. Aside from the ever-popular sweet crepes you may know it from, I found that many of my Belgian roommates spread it on everything from fruit to sandwiches. What was its appeal? I had to know.
Well, fact is, it’s delicious. And it’s not just Nutella; Europe is awash with some amazing “hazelnut spreads”… as this is, in fact, not actually chocolate per se, neither meeting European cocoa percentage standards nor needing refrigeration as a product containing cocoa butter would!
Nutella is a popular brand of an incredibly popular product, gianduja. Despite the product’s worldwide fame, it’s a name most people have likely never heard. Gianduja is also the epitome of everything I thought I disliked about the contamination of chocolate with nuts, but ended up realizing I loved.
The substance usually contains at least 30 percent hazelnut paste (with ingredients like sugar, vegetable oil, cocoa and skim milk rounding it out). The sometimes-solid, sometimes-paste was invented in Turin, Italy, in 1852. Turin lies in the heart of Piedmont, the Italian region where hazelnut chocolates were common. The now worldly popular hazelnut paste was originally developed as a way to make cheaper chocolate after taxes on cocoa beans threatened the production of conventional chocolate.
Well, we now bring you the crème de la crème. The best chocolate/hazelnut spread of them all, Rigoni di Asiago’s Nocciolata. So incredibly rich, smooth and creamy, with a much softer texture and a subtly sweeter flavor than Nutella; these are all amazing things, as Nutella is great to begin with!
Spread it on anything! I love it with fruit and on crusty French bread. Possibilities are endless.
Eric: I used to be able to count on one hand the unadulterated food I would eat with just a spoon — no bread, no added protein. I now have to add a second hand to the count, as Rigoni di Asiago’s Nocciolata made its way onto the list. As you’ve probably already realized, this product (whose name you’re probably still trying to pronounce), is sooner or later going to replace the Nutella in your cupboard. Nocciolata, the actual name of the product, has an incredibly smooth consistency, almost on par with a creamy caramel.
Unlike Nutella, which in my opinion masks the flavor of hazelnut with chocolate, Nocciolata puts the hazelnut on the forefront of your palette finishing with a subtle cocoa flavor. On top of all of this, the product is made only with organic ingredients — meaning no chemicals were harmed in the making. Although the price (MSRP $5.99) might seem high, in comparison to the competition it’s only pennies more. Don’t deny your taste buds a new adventure.