Chocolate perfection–and the wines to match–from Padova, Italy
I recently had the privilege of hosting a chocolatier whose esteemed lineage in the art of creating edible masterpieces spans three generations. Ciocollato connoisseur Enrico Cattapan inherited his skills from his grandfather Nazzareno and his father Orfeo Celestino. For 75 years now, the family has been supplying the quaint little stores in the Veneto region of Italy with its artisanal chocolates.
Enrico is the man behind the deliciousness of Villa del Conte. While in town, he graced my kitchen, where he patiently tempered his chocolates to perfection. We indulged ourselves with his filled domes, which are marked by a crystal ball-like sheen, a snap to the bite and, once bitten, a spurting of the creamiest fillings made from the finest ingredients.
When I heard the story of how the brand came to be, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps heaven played a hand.
It was during Vince and Rhoda Aldanese’s pilgrimage to San Antonio de Padua’s shrine in Padova, Italy, that they accidentally met Enrico Cattapan and his Filipino wife Felinda Tupaz. The couples became fast friends and, before they knew it, the Aldaneses were not just getting their fill of Cattapan’s chocolates but hoarding them as well, to give to friends as Christmas presents.
Needless to say, everyone who received them fell in love at first bite. It was then that Vince thought of importing the chocolates, turning his passion for them into a business.
Villa del Conte was born on the feast day of San Antonio. Being the patron of the lost, maybe he paved the way for our confectionary landscape to find in Villa del Conte the chocolates it is still missing.
See, Enrico’s chocolates are different. His creations are sophisticated but are easy to eat, whether you are a gourmand or not. You need not pretend to like them—because you truly will. You need not fear being told, “Ayaw mo? Hindi ka kasi sosy!” We no longer have to say we love them, fingers crossed, while forcing ourselves to swallow.
His bonbons are magical; you just cannot stop eating them. I believe they were concocted to taste a notch short, and because of it, the tendency is to get another piece in the desire to capture that elusive flavor from the previous one. So you never tire of them until, of course, you see all the empty shiny wrappers before you.
Even the variants with liquor, such as dark chocolate with whiskey mocha, allows you to enjoy the delicate spike of liquor without the overwhelming bitterness of the alcohol. This is Cattapan’s magic as a chocolatier—his ability to mix his fillings to an ideal blend, and match them with the appropriate chocolate shell for a perfectly married whole.
For Christmas, Enrico has domes of milk and dark chocolate shell pralines with five new bold flavors: Blue—milk chocolate with blueberry cream filling; Green—milk chocolate with hazelnut cream and hazelnut chips; Mustard Yellow—dark chocolate with tartufone cream and cereals; Bronze—dark chocolate with cocoa cream and salted toffee; and Brown—dark chocolate with whiskey mocha. All excellent!
The Marron Glace Truffle (chestnut enrobed in dark chocolate dusted with cocoa powder) and Fig Fillet Truffles (fig enrobed in dark chocolate dusted with cocoa powder) are to-die-for, and the new Praline Stick is interesting—milk chocolate with watermelon cream filling!
For Christmas, Villa del Conte collaborated with Giusseppe Rondini of My Wine, who specifically handpicked the bottles to match the chocolates. Felinda said, “I once thought that maybe the best wines to pair with the chocolates are those that are not sweet. I later learned that it had to be on the sweet side, so as not to overpower the chocolates.”
The wines are perfect for those nights in December that are long and merry. Even non-wine drinkers will love them. For the wine collector, it might be a good idea to have some bottles reserved, because they are of limited supply and are must-tries.
Rondini’s wine list for chocolate pairing:
Orvieto from the Umbria region—medium body, intense straw/yellow color, persistent aroma with apple and orange hints, fresh and pleasant flavor.
Schioppettino—ruby/red scents of red fruit on nose, intense pleasant flavor with a light sweet finish on palate.
Monte Manco from the Apulia region—full body, dark ruby red intense color, aromas of plum and long in the nose, blackberry taste with sweet tobacco notes.
The Villa del Conte Christmas chocolate collection is out Thursday. Be the first to try them! Visit its stores at 3/L, Shangri-La Plaza Mall; 2F, Greenbelt 5; G/F, Resorts World Manila; 3F, TriNoma.
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