Remember in my first post about Florence, when I said our Couch Surfing host, Helena, had a sweet tooth? Yea, well I wasn’t kidding. On our second night, she brought home a huge bag of her favourite vegan treats for us to sample. How generous! She started us off with some cacao e nocciola, chocolate and hazelnut, gelato from the Coop Bene.sì line, which, according to their website, is “a line of products with specific nutritional characteristics, capable of performing a particular function beneficial to the body.” Ice cream that’s good for your body? Sure, I’ll take it.
The Coop Bene.sì ice cream is made without regular milk or soy milk. Instead, it’s made from seeds of lupins, a “legume with very high protein content, used since Roman times as an important source of protein.” The use of lupin seeds, versus soy, didn’t change the taste at all. The gelato was rich, sweet, and creamy. The hazelnut flavour was my favourite of the two. Italians love their hazelnut and so do I! We could certainly learn, and benefit, form the Italian ice cream packing technique. Italian ice cream makers are so smart for selling their ice cream in boxes, and putting two flavours in each box. Along with the Coop, Valsoia also has two flavours per box. Wouldn’t it be great if some vegan companies did this in North America!?
The next treat Helena wanted us to try was this gianduia con nocciole, hazelnut chocolate bar, from the Coop. I’m glad she introduced us to it because it’s one of those products I wouldn’t have thought was vegan, or bothered to flip over and read the ingreidents. This bar was thick and full of whole hazelnuts. This was a nice contrast to the thin, dark chocolate bars with just a few nut pieces we’ve grown used to. This bar isn’t made from milk chocolate, or dark chocolate. It’s a chocolate fondant bar, a sugary chocolate creation we saw periodically during our European adventures.
Up next, some cookies, again from the Coop. Fair trade cookies made with cereali, which I think means whole grains, promoted as being a source of fiber. Despite the health claims, these are still cookies and super sweet. They can be easily consumed as chips if you’re not careful. I can’t help but smile at their health claim: “The pleasure of chocolate meets beneficial properties of cereal fiber for a breakfast full of flavor and energy.”
More chocolate! Valsoia has a chocolate spread, which I wrote about in my Bologna post, and it’s very popular, in part because it’s one of the least expensive options and available in most supermarkets. There are, however, many, many brands of chocolate spread, some which are several Eruos more per jar. Helena’s spread of choice is Nuts & Bio Carob by Probios. We tried this one, and it was good, but you have to like carob. I think I prefer the Valsoia spread.
Another I’d-never-guess-it-was-vegan product Helena introduced us to was Misura‘s cornetti all’ albicocca. In English: apricot croissants. I think it’s great that these mini croissants are vegan. Their small size makes them really cute, and they come individually warped in packs of six, which makes them great for sharing. I tried one and it was good, but still a croissant in a bag. Nowhere near as good as freshly baked or homemade croissants, but still awesome for being vegan and available in lots of supermarkets.
Continuing in the pastry department, we also tried some Florentine apricot puff pastries by Bianco Forno. Like the Misura apricot croissants, these weren’t marketed as being vegan, they just happen to be made without animal ingreidents. Hooray! These puff pastries were flaky and tasted great coming out of the toaster oven all warmed up. If I had to choose between the two, I’d pick the Bianco Forno pastries. We saw both pastries at many different supermarkets, so they should be easy to find.
Last, but certainly not least, we tried Baci di Dama, also known as Lady’s Kisses, by Valsoia. These are a traditional Italian treat, consisting of two domed cookies held together with a layer of hazelnut cream. They are often served at coffee shops when you order espresso. I’m so glad we found a dairy free version we could enjoy. I only bought one bag for each of us, and there were about four small cookies in each bag. Big mistake. I would have liked to eat them again (and again), but only saw them at one supermarket on the outskirts of Florence (Sorry, I can’t remember the name :( Grr!!). They were right by the cash register at checkout. If you see them, scoop them up and bring some home to your vegan friends!