Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Good Memories

A good vacation makes lasting memories, and a keepsake from a special place can spark smiles and help keep those good times close at heart.  For many, the flavors and ambiance of a great meal in Italy is especially memorable - and those culinary experiences are now transportable in the form of a Buon Ricordo plate.

Buon ricordo means "happy memory" and also explains the goal of this unique program.  Buon Ricordo is a non-profit association of restaurants founded to promote and publicize the diversity and value of local cuisine.  In Italy, regionalism still abounds; the dishes you enjoy in Tuscany are different from the traditional fare of Puglia, for example, and local products vary as well.  The program bands together a group of individuals who treasure their traditions and want to share them with others through carefully prepared meals that are served up with a heaping helping of hospitality - the kind of dining experience that is memorable.  The Buon Ricordo goes home with the guests who keep a decorative dish from that eatery.

There are more than 120 members whose restaurants proudly prepare their regions' recipes using local products and serve them on hand-painted Vietri ceramic plates bearing the name of the restaurant along with a design that highlights their specialty.  They are collectable, colorful souvenirs, and some plan their vacation destinations around Buon Ricordo restaurants' locations.

The house specialties may change from time to time to highlight a different regional dish, as well as a new accompanying plate.  The program helps keep local traditions alive but also draws people to visit some out-of-the-way towns in the search of a guaranteed good meal.  It's also a good way to find a friendly, authentic restaurant in the midst of a busy tourist-oriented city.  The plate you take home beats a t-shirt or a snow globe!  It's sure to be a buon ricordo of your Italian vacation experience.

Say It With a Kiss

The sweet little treats known as Baci by Perugina Chocolates are a "kiss" of chocolate-hazelnut, but they started out with a less than romantic name.  Concocted in 1907 by Luisa Spagnoli, one of the founders of Perugina, as a way to utilize bits of hazelnuts that were left over from other candies, she mixed up a 'dough' of chocolate hazelnut paste, pressed in a whole hazelnut and covered it all in dark chocolate.  She displayed them in the shop window of the famed chocolatier in via Vannucci, in the heart of  Perugia and called them "cazzotti" (punches) because the irregular blobby shape looked like a boxing glove.

Despite the odd moniker they sold well, but Giovanni Buitoni, the other partner in the business, was a man made for marketing and knew it needed a name change:  something short and sweet and endearing.  Bacio.  Kiss.  It sparked his creativity.  Grasping on the theme of affection, he decided to include a love note in each chocolate, a quote by famous literary figures on the theme of amore, like a message in a bottle (or in chocolate, as the case may be.)  He tweaked the shape to be more appealing while retaining the original recipe of Luisa, which was becoming more and more popular, then wrapped them up in the now-distinctive silver foil adorned with blue stars.

The Bacio became a symbol, a way to express affection and send a secret love note to someone.  Recipients started collecting the love notes as keepsakes.

Through the years new packaging options were introduced - ethereal-themed boxes and blue star-shaped tins, for example, and the little treat went national.  Since then, Perugina has constantly introduced new Baci-themed gadgets and fanciful packaging - a blue and silver Vespa model with the Baci logo; hollow chocolate Christmas balls filled with the candies; lockets and Easter eggs and Baci bouquets, among them.  But the candy itself remains an unchanged icon.

Baci by Perugina remains a way to express affection.  If you want to say it with sweetness and chocolate, say it with a kiss!

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