Canadian food entrepreneur Peter Ricchio was sipping an espresso in a café in Venice, when he became transfixed by the pretty little packets of flavoured sugar on the table and the incredible sambuca flavour of his shot. Unbeknownst to him, the bartender had added only sugar to achieve to sambuca taste. He couldn’t believe it wasn’t the real, boozy deal, so he ordered a second and added the sugar himself.
Made in Novara, in Italy’s Piedmont region – a place more famous for white truffles, Asti Spumante and the Turin winter Olympics – the sugar looks just like regular white table sugar (because it is), and the all-natural aromas and flavours are intense without being overly artificial tasting. Mr. Ricchio liked them so much, he started importing them to Canada, so we, deprived of Venetian cafés, could at least add a touch of Italian flair to our Timmy’s.
Mr. Ricchio says the sugars have been embraced throughout Europe by barristos wishing to serve a traditional espresso corretto – espresso with a shot of sambuca – without having to serve liquor, and by bakers and chefs who use the stuff to add a sweet, subtle flavour of cinnamon or hazelnut to baking and cooking.
The flavoured sugars are delightful in coffee, tea, lattes and even cold drinks, but they’re capable of so much more. Try rimming a cocktail glass with them or add a finishing sprinkle to cookies, scones, pastries and pies. A pinch of cocoa sugar in a dry rub for steak would add a welcome depth of flavour and the anise sugar over orange sorbet would create a tiger tail flavour – the stuff truly tastes like black jelly beans.
Where to buy: Novaroma Aromatized Sugar is currently available in gourmet shops in Ontario and Quebec, and in B.C. in the spring. Or order online from anywhere in Canada by visiting www.svlacosta.com. The individual sugar packets come in 400-gram boxes – that’s 80 sachets of five flavours: anise, cocoa, hazelnut, vanilla and cinnamon, for a suggested price of $5.99.
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