Friday, August 10, 2007

Romanego Dragees, Cordials & Fondants

Confetti Antica Dragee Mix

Sometimes I look at candy and I think, “How did they do that?” And while the why isn’t as important as the taste, sometimes I’m so curious about it I can’t fully enjoy it until I know.

Earlier this year I went to the Fancy Food Show and met the Romanego family briefly through one of their California distributors, Dawn at ArtisanSweets.com. The Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano company has been making panned sweets and preserves in Genoa since 1780. While I don’t always buy into tradition and personality as it relates to products, because all that’s really important is what goes in my mouth, I’ve gotta say that I have been fascinated with Romanego’s offerings from both sides.

In the southern Italian region of Puglia, the peasant women would prepare for their guests bottles of liqueur brightly colored with ruby red spices, intensely green mint, bright yellow lemon, or dark brown coffee. Romanengo has gleaned their Roseoil drops from this ancient Italian tradition and have excluded the alcohol. Using the ancient starch mould visible to the right, and pipetting the sugar containing the petals, fruits, or essences into each small hole is the start of the process of obtaining the Roseoil drops. In contact with the starch, the sugar forms a crust that contains the liquid roseoil inside, and the final result is visible below. (source)

I had no idea (and still don’t fully understand the process) how they suspended the liquid inside a sugar shell and I didn’t get to try them at the Fancy Food Show. I was afraid to make a full order of the cordials, mostly because I wanted to try everything they make and party because they’re pretty expensive, so I ordered the Confetti Antica Dragee Mix which has panned nuts (pistachios, pine nuts & almonds), the cordials assortment, orange peel and cinnamon.

image

All of the cordials I’ve had up until this have been chocolate. These, as described above, are like Jordan Almonds, except instead of an almond in the center there’s a flavored liquid. I couldn’t quite tell the difference between them all, possibly rose, orange, cinnamon, clove and anise.

They’re just so beautiful. Smooth, pastel, sugar pebbles. The cordial center, as mentioned above, isn’t alcoholic, but is kind of thick without being overly syrupy. I found them pleasant, but I probably wouldn’t want a whole tin of them, just a few of them mixed in with the nuts is good enough for me.

Romanego Confetti Antica Dragee MixThe nuts ... what can I say about the nuts ...

You know how there’s that thing called “pistachio flavor” but it doesn’t really taste like pistachios. These taste like that. Not in fake “flavored” way, the pistatchio is soft and chewy and it has a bit of a grassy flavor, maybe a little bit like melon and a bit like flowers. The crisp little sugar shell wraps it all up.

The pine nuts were great, I just loved how peppery and smooth they tasted. I love popping pine nuts when I’m cooking (note: that doesn’t happen often) and having them in a candy is truly a rare joy.

The almonds were huge, seriously huge and flat. It was like these were pastel colored skipping stones or something. The almonds inside were sweet and buttery. The shell wasn’t too thick as to make you think that there wasn’t a nut inside.

The two other items look like bleached coral. The larger piece is a candied orange peel that is then panned in a white sugary coating. It’s all bumply and really does look like a little stalk of tumbled white coral. The orange peel isn’t very sweet or jelly-like as some can be. It’s pretty subtle, as you can see from the cross section, there’s a pretty thick coating on there. The other one were smaller pieces very irregular in size and rather delicate called Cannellette. Inside each piece was a little bit of cinnamon. Instead of tasting like “cinnamon flavor” like Atomic Fireballs, these had the authentic taste of woodsy cinnamon (which is sweet all on its own).

Romanego FondantAs a little bonus Dawn threw in a set of the Romanego Fondants, which I also wanted to try (but ended up getting a nougat instead because I gave myself a budget). I’m not sure how she knew that I wanted to try them, but thank goodness she did. (Note: I paid for everything else in the order and didn’t announce to her that I was ordering or anything, I think she just saw my order there and we’d emailed about the All Candy Expo next month a little while back ... I certainly didn’t expect any freebies.)

The pastel wrappers (each in a different color to represent the flavor as well as being printed in Italian in gold inks) are lovely to look at. Not too ostentatious, but still strikingly elegant. I feel like I need to brush up on my origami to play with them.

Fondant is a tough thing to explain and an even tougher thing to photograph. I chose the raspberry one because it was the only one that wasn’t pure white. They were like sugar cubes (well, two sugar cubes side by side in size), but the crystals were much smaller. They sparkle like snow.

Fondant like the dragees doesn’t have a lot of tricky ingredients, it’s pretty much all sugar. But it’s the careful heating and cooling that forms a soft matrix, kind of like a fatless fudge.

Romanego FondantsLampone - at first I thought the raspberry was too light, but as I ate a second bite I realized it was just the lightest floral essence of the raspberry and it was really refreshing.
Albicocca - this one was apricot, which is a rather uncommon fruit flavor in most circles.
Limone - wonderful light lemon flavor smooth and creamy melt.
Fragola - strawberry, which always reminds me of summer. A little caramelized flavors in the background along with the light flavor of flowers an berries.
Pera - delicate and kind of on the woodsy side of the pear flavors.
Menta - absolutely pure mint flavor, it’s hardly even sweet. Not curiously strong, but pretty intense.
Arancio - fresh orange zest taste.
Banana - hey, here’s a name I recognized! It was sweet and interesting, more like cotton candy than banana, but definitely something I’d eat again.

Overall, they’re expensive treats. Not something I’d eat every day, or probably even every month. I’ve heard of some folks using these as wedding favors, which would certainly be a lovely thing to find at your table and would lend a special elegance. Their unique offerings, such as the cordials, pistachios, pine nuts and cannellette set them apart from other Jordan Almond vendors. But they’re time consuming to make, so you get what you pay for.

Since sugar panning was invented as a way of preserving nuts and seeds as confectionery items, I have to admit that these keep very well in a pretty jar or tin, so you can enjoy them as a decorative item as you slowly make your way through a batch.

You can order Romanego products from ArtisanSweets.com or ItalianHarvest.com (I’ve not ordered from them, but enjoyed their website and large selection but their prices seemed a higher than Artisan Sweets). If you are in Genova, I highly recommend stopping at one of their shops:

Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano (opened in 1814)
via Soziglia 74 r
16123 Genova
Italy
tel. +39 010 247 45 74

Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano (opened in 1930s)
via Roma 51 r
16121 Genova
Italy
tel. +39 010 58 02 57

If you’ve been there, please tell me how it was!

UPDATE 8/14/2007: I got an email from Dawn at ArtisanSweets that clarified a few things.

The Cordials I got in the Dragee Mix are not the same as the Rosolio Drops that Italian Harvest sells. The cordials have a harder shell ... I’ve not seen them side by side, but I do recall the Rosolios being quite a bit smaller and more translucent when I saw them in January.

Second, Italian Harvest doesn’t carry the Dragee Mix I reviewed above (though they carry many of the elements individually), apparently that item is exclusive to Artisan Sweets. (And the price per ounce on everything at Artisan Sweets appears to be quite a bit lower - they also recently stopped using tins as mine was pictured and instead give you more candy in a bag.) It’s a really nice way to try a good sampling of their product line instead of committing to a whole package of one item.

Related Candies

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  2. Anis de Flavigny
  3. P-Nuttles
  4. Fairway NYC
  5. Treat Trip: Jelly Belly Factory
Name: Confetti Antica Dragee Mix & Fondants
    RATING:
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 6 TEMPTING
  • 5 PLEASANT
  • 4 BENIGN
  • 3 UNAPPEALING
  • 2 APPALLING
  • 1 INEDIBLE
Brand: Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano
Place Purchased: ArtisanSweets.com
Price: $14 & free samples
Size: 4 ounces
Calories per ounce: unknown
Categories: Hard Candy, Nuts, Italy

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:19 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

Comments
  1. These sound delightful! I especially want to try the cordials. I had a similar sort of mix recently, but some of candies that looked like almonds actually had a thin layer of chocolate inside. They were irregularly shaped, so I wondered how they got the choco in the shell by panning… Sadly, the chocolate was not that good. But I ate ‘em anyway! Pretty, but pricey!

    Comment by Kate on 8/10/07 at 10:09 am #
  2. These all sound so wonderful!  I’m especially intrigued by the fondants - they sound so delicious!

    Comment by Amanda on 8/10/07 at 5:27 pm #
  3. Those Fondants….*drool*

    Comment by Sera on 8/10/07 at 5:54 pm #
  4. They sound great, but I couldn’t find anywhere to buy the mix… or even the cordials at all. Anyone find an ordering page? I really want to try them!

    Comment by Josie on 8/11/07 at 9:43 am #
  5. Cybele's avatar

    Josie - the Italian Harvest site has the cordials here:
    http://www.italianharvest.com/subcategory.php?prodID=814&subcatID=15&PHPSESSID=875726bc5bc88b7f4aa75651468c9c24

    ArtisanSweets, unfortunately, seems to be out of stock (I swear they were there on Thursday night!)

    http://www.artisansweets.com/c-romanengo

    So keep an eye on that page!

    I’m sorry about that, it’s really frustrating to see something and then not be able to actually buy it.

    Kate - I’ve had mints that have a mint center, chocolate shell and then candy shell on top, I don’t think I’ve had nuts that way, but now I’d like to!

    Comment by Cybele on 8/11/07 at 10:21 am #
  6. Forgive me for my confusion - are any of those pictures of the cordials, or is the first one the nuts and orange peel?

    Comment by Rosa on 8/11/07 at 3:44 pm #
  7. That does sound good. I meant that in my mix some of the candies that looked like they would have almonds actually had chocolate. I think an almond, too, would have been great! I wish I knew the company that made that mix, but I got it bulk at a chocolate shop a while back.

    However, Jelly Belly does/did make a chocolate jordan almond (under the Goelitz name) that is one of my favorite candies ever. They are so hard to find, and seem to have disappeared from the Jelly Belly website. So I’m worried and sad. They are somewhere between an almond m&m and these panned candies. Perfection!

    Comment by Kate on 8/11/07 at 6:11 pm #
  8. These look delicious. I LOVE jordan almonds…candied pine nuts..YUMMMM!! I’ve never had them but now I really want to!!

    Comment by Amy on 8/13/07 at 8:17 am #
  9. bumply - I like that word (even if it was a typo!)

    Comment by Tricia on 8/15/07 at 11:26 am #
  10. i wanted to colougras 50kg

    Comment by okoli walter on 1/09/09 at 4:47 pm #
  11. Please visit our web site: http://www.romanengo.com/ and our facebook page, (Pietro Romanengo fu Stefano) you will find a very very sweet and fascinating world.

    Comment by Paolo on 9/03/12 at 12:46 am #

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