Tag Archives: Slow Food

Crossing the Border

DSC_0421 Last week I casually hopped on a bus and drove to France. For some strange reason, this simple truth about Europe continues to boggle me – I can pretty much drive anywhere in a reasonable amount of time and be transported to a completely new and exciting place. For my third study trip I had the fortune to travel to southern France, to the regions of Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon, and to the city of Toulouse. It was a jam-packed week full of beautiful scenery, unique learning opportunities and of course, lots and lots of incredible food and wine. Here are just a few of the amazing things I saw, did and ate:

Our first night in Provence felt like it came straight out of a postcard. We stayed at the picture-perfect Le Relais d’Elle, a chambre d’hotes in the small village of Niozelles where the owner Catherine greeted us with a seat by the fire and a glass of crisp rosé. The Provençal dinner she prepared for us was homey and delicious, especially the phyllo-wrapped warm goat cheese sprinkled with thyme, drizzled with lavender honey and served with a simple side of greens.

DSC_0388

The facade of our bed and breakfast

DSC_0383

Warm goat cheese wrapped in phyllo was a taste of Provence

Just 10 minutes away at Saveurs des Truques farm, we learned about the production of einkorn wheat, which is considered to be the oldest variety of wheat. It was a complete field-to-fork experience, as we got a chance to see the production from harvesting to milling to then processing into fresh pasta that became the basis of a wonderful lunch.

Antoine Baurain of Saveurs des Truques making pasta from the freshly group einkorn wheat

Antoine Baurain of Saveurs des Truques making pasta from the freshly group einkorn wheat

We spent the majority of our time in Toulouse with the local chapter of Slow Food. We went foraging for wild and eatable plants in the forest surrounding the city and spend an afternoon educating a group of French high schoolers about the values of good, clean and fair food. Any free time was, of course, spent exploring the city’s food. At Le Genty Magre, we tasted the city’s famous cassoulet, a wintry stew packed with beans, duck confit and garlicky sausage, then experienced high-class brasserie dining at Le Bibent. And at La Capucin, we lunched over gourmet crêpes inspired by Michelin starred chef Michael Bras.

A hearty dish of cassoulet at La Genty Magre

A hearty dish of cassoulet at La Genty Magre

Gourmet crêpes at La Capucin

Gourmet crêpes at La Capucin

In Toulouse we also had the chance to visit Xavier, one of the most famous cheese shops in France. Xavier is one of the few affineurs in France, which means cheeses that are sold in the shop are all carefully aged in the three cellars they keep in the basement of the shop. We toured the cellars and were led though a tasting of some of their best goat’s, sheep’s and cow’s milk cheese.

One of three cheese cellars at Xavier

One of three cheese cellars at Xavier

Leaving Toulouse, we prepared for a long drive back to Italy, but made one last stop back in Provence, for one more night of good food and wine. We spent our last evening at the La Bastide de l’Adrech, another beautiful chambre d’hotes nestled in the Provençal hills. Chef and owner Robert Le Bozec prepared a feast of local goat, stewed and served with fresh vegetables and a Swiss chard and potato rosti. The highlight was the dessert – a simple red wine-poached pear tart served with a saffron-infused panna cotta. It was a combination of flavors that I have never experienced before and one I hope to recreate soon.

DSC_0460

Chef Robert preparing the goat and chatting with guests

A delicate saffron panna cotta paired perfectly with the poached pair tart

A delicate saffron panna cotta paired perfectly with the poached pair tart

Advertisements

Scenes from Veneto

Veneto

This past week my classmates and I embarked on our first of six study trips (or as call them here at UNISG, stages). We crawled out of our warm apartments Monday morning, before the sun had even risen, and loaded ourselves and our backpacks onto a minibus that we would quickly get to know quite well over the next five days. Five hours and two pit stops later we arrived in the northeast region of Veneto.

We bypassed the typical stop to the canals and back alleys of the region’s capital city, Venice, for more gastronomic-inspired ventures. It was a morning to night nonstop journey from our first day to our last. Focusing on regional food and beverage production, we visited nine different producers, all with an enviable passion for their work and a desire to share their craft with us. Here are just a few of the highlights:

At the Azienda Agricola Littamé in Padova, Michele Littamé is breading Romagnola white geese for a Slow Food Presidia product called oca in onto. Michele is only one of two producers in Italy of this traditional goose confit. He specializes in two forms of the product: one made with raw goose meat that has been dry salted, covered with goose fat and stored in sealed jars, and the other made with meat that has been brined, cooked at a low heat for ten hours and vacuum sealed with goose fat ready to be cooked sous vide.

Goose Farm

Michele (right) explains the process of making his “oca in onto”

We discovered the very heart of Prosecco production among the awe-inspiring hills of Valdobbiadene. The tiny town, along with the neighboring town of Conegliano, produces the highly regarded DOCG Prosecco Superiore. DOCG is the highest ranking of quality assurance that can be given to an Italian wine and less then 100 wines in the country are given this recognition. It was easy to see how superior this Prosecco is compared to the run-of-the-mill stuff being poured behind many bars when we visited the incredible Sorelle Bronca winery, owned by sisters Antonella and Ersiliana. A practicing organic winery, they are producing Prosecco that is fresh, sharp and balanced.

In the DOCG Prosecco Superiore vineyard

In the DOCG Prosecco Superiore vineyard

If Willy Wonka had preferred panettone to chocolate I am almost positive his factory would have looked like Loison Pasticceri in Vicenza. Passionately outspoken Dario Loison and his wife Sonia own this third generation bakery that focuses on panettone, the traditional Christmas sweet bread dotted with raisins, candied orange peel and citron that originates from Milan. While Dario runs the business side of things, his wife creates the elegant packaging, which elevates their baked goods to something quite special. Their products are exported to high-end food shops in the states, such as Dean & Deluca, and all over the world. While panettone makes up 70% of their production, the company also produces the traditional Italian Easter bread called colomba along with cookies and sweet focaccia.

Warm sweet focacce just out of the oven

Warm sweet focacce just out of the oven

Other snapshots from the trip:

In the lab at the Nardini Grappa Distillery in Bassano del Grappa

In the lab at the Nardini Grappa Distillery in Bassano del Grappa

Franco Favaretto of Trattoria Baccalàdivino prepares mantecato: the traditional Venetian whipped dried codfish spread

Franco Favaretto of Trattoria Baccalàdivino prepares mantecato: the traditional Venetian whipped dried codfish spread

Fresh from the farm: just harvested and cleaned Radicchio Rosso di Treviso

Fresh from the farm: just harvested and cleaned Radicchio Rosso di Treviso

Preparing to taste 32 Via dei Birrai's craft beers with brewmaster Fabiano Toffoli

Preparing to taste 32 Via dei Birrai craft beers with brewmaster Fabiano Toffoli (left)

Embracing Sunday Lunch

Guido Ristorante

Coming from New York, Sunday lunch is a bit of a phenomenon for me. Where are the mimosas, eggs and fancy pastry baskets? As far as I’ve always know, Sunday is for brunch, not lunch. Here in Italy, however, lunch dominates. The mid-day meal is relished on Sunday and lingered over for a few too many hours. While lunching with friends in a cramped apartment or at a nearby trattoria is more typical of my student budget, I recently had the chance to join friends for a bit of a classier affair at Michelin-starred Guido Ristorante.

Guido Ristorante menu

Since 2004, the restaurant was located right on the campus of my university, in the beautiful medieval building that now houses our university canteen. In the early part of this year it moved just 20 minutes away to the stunning landscape of the Fontanafredda Estate in Serralunga d’Alba. Now set on the first floor of the ornate Royal Villa, the restaurant overlooks the Estate’s famous vineyards and gardens.

Guido Dining Room

With its high ceilings and neutral tones, the dining room manages to feel of a different era while remaining modern. The level of service matches the stunning atmosphere, while the food and wine meet every expectation the atmosphere gives you.

After ordering a bottle of crisp white wine from the surrounding region, we began with two amuse-bouche – a profiterole filled with salt cod and cardoon (a vegetable in the artichoke family that tastes of artichoke but looks awfully similar to celery) topped with hazelnut granola, hazelnut cream and shaved black truffle. My primi was the house specialty – agnolotti stuffed with veal in a light sugo d’arrosto, which is the drippings of the roasted meat. It was near perfection and the first pasta I’ve tasted during my brief time here in Italy that surprised me by how flavorful yet simple it was.

agnolotti Guido

My secondi of steamed cod with porcini mushrooms was also quite surprising. The woodsy flavor of the fresh and rehydrated mushrooms was an interesting contrast to the light, flakey fish, which was served atop a simple potato puree. It was a refreshing change from the heavy Piedmontese food I’ve been indulging in over the past couple of months.

cod with porcini mushrooms Guido

While we digested our two courses, we were brought out a few plates of cheeses to sample and to wet our palate for dessert. Almost too full, we couldn’t help but order a few plates to share. The first was another house speciality, which we had eyed across the room at a neighboring table when we first arrived. A towering mass of fior di latte gelato, it was churned to order and served simply on its own in order to appreciate its delicate flavor. We also chose profiteroles filled with hazelnut cream and chocolate and oven-roasted pears with chocolate and shaved black truffle. Enjoyed with a bottled of Fontanafredda’s slightly sweet Moscato d’Asti, it was an indulgent end to an equally indulgent lunch.

cheese Guido

Dessert Guido-1