Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Rare Easter Dove

Colomba Pasquale, Peach and Hazelnut
I have been hunting an elusive bird since my first year in Montreal. The Easter Dove to be exact. It also goes by the Italian name Colomba Pasquale. This decadent Italian dessert is a dove-shaped cake filled with candied fruit peel and topped with crunchy amaretti, sugar and almonds. This obsession started with an innocent Easter basket given to us by my Italian husband’s parents during our first year of marriage. At the bottom of the basket was the most greed-inducing pastry we had tasted in ages. We devoured the entire cake over the course of the weekend. The cake and the contents of the basket became breakfast, lunch and dinner. And we wanted more. Since that time I have been desperate to find another peach and almond Colomba Pasquale.

This rare dove only makes an appearance once a year at Easter so we had to wait. When the following Easter rolled around, we asked his parents where they purchased the basket. The details were hazy because his parents frequent several Italian markets, but we were directed to Milano Fruiterie in Little Italy since they have the largest selection of Italian products. We scoured the shelves only to find that they did not have the flavor we wanted. They have a load of cakes. We settled on a generic orange one. Our hearts weren’t in it, because we feared the manufacturer had stopped making the peach version. Upon returning home we sampled the cake. It was disappointing. It was slightly burned. It was cheap and we could taste the difference. And most of all – it wasn’t peach! Last year, we returned to Milano only to find there wasn’t a peach one to be had, so we tried a chocolate-orange one that I should not have wasted the calories eating – and normally I do love chocolate and orange together!

This year I decided that this hunt for the prize catch had gone on for far too long. There was a tag attached to the original cake that I had saved. I dug it out of its hiding place and Googled the keywords which led me to the Loison website. This is the award-winning Italian manufacturer of this delicious cake. On their website, I was able to locate the store in Montreal that sells Loison products. The store is Giannini on Lausanne in North Montreal. After a phone call to the store to ask about the peach cake, my husband and I planned a weekend adventure to North Montreal.

Packaged Colomba Pasquale, Nocciolata alla Pesca.
We were excited about finally locating the peach cake. The reception at Giannini was refreshingly hospitable. We were offered espresso upon entering and encouraged to look through the products on offer. The downstairs area had shelves filled with Colomba cake in flavors such as Prosecco Wine, Zabaione, Mandarin, Chocolate Cream and the much sought after Peach. Loison has only made a peach and hazelnut version this year, but frankly I was ecstatic to find a peach one.

The enormous Colomba Pasquale.
Giannini is the showroom for Iris Importing and Distribution which is owned by the De Cicco family. The father, Antonio, came to Montreal from Bari, Italy. He opened this Italian import business in 1978. The downstairs area contains an array of olive oil, pasta, coffee, Italian cakes and a gigantic Colomba Pasquale that is the pride of the shop. Mr. De Cicco was beaming when he pointed it out to us.

Pasta, olive oil and pickled vegetables.
Pasta and chocolates.
Gabriella Santoro, shop assistant, and Antonio De Cicco, owner.
The upstairs area contains several rooms filled with Italian wares, including kitchen utensils, such as a fantastically large wooden spoon for stirring an equally impressive pot of tomato sauce, and equipment, such as espresso machines and pasta presses. There are rooms filled with decorative items, including etched glassware, serving ware and frames, as well as scarves and Easter baskets. While we were gazing wide-eyed at the selection, the friendly shop assistant, Mrs. Gabriella Santoro from Rome, chatted with us and gave us tasty chocolates flavored with hazelnut.

Servingware and big wooden spoons.
Pots and pans imported from Italy.
Selection of Italian kitchenware.
Upon returning downstairs to leave, Mrs. Santoro directed our attention to the Prosecco cake, one of her favorites. Well, the seed has been planted…I haven’t stopping thinking about heading back to Giannini to buy the Prosecco flavor. We must go before Easter finishes and or we will have to wait another year. I hope it hasn’t sold out. Panic! The peach and hazelnut cake we bought is already gone and Easter hasn’t even arrived. Every last piece was divine and almost as good as the peach and almond one, but you just can’t beat those complementary flavors – I do hope they make it again. But maybe next year the Prosecco one will be in my crosshairs.

Giannini/Iris Importing and Distribution
9821 Lausanne; Montreal-Nord, QC H1H 5A6
Tel. 514-324-7441

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