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Mission Europe 2: Top 10 Italian Products

In honor of this being my 100th post… I’ll give ya’ll a few seconds for that to sink in…1 Mississippi, 2 Mississippi, 3 Mississippi…ready?  Ok.

As I was saying, in honor of this my blog entry number 100, rather than give a class update I thought I would introduce you to some of the finest artisan products I found at the Salone del Gusto festival.

First you must understand that the festival is divided between 5 pavilions.  Pavilions 1, 2 and 3 are dedicated solely to artisan products from across Italy.  It seems a bit biased of the Italians, but can you really blame them?  Such a diverse country and the host of the event…I was definitely not complaining.  Pavilion 4, also known as the Oval is dedicated to the rest of the world.  The last pavilion is where all the workshops and theaters take place.  Apart from these facilities there is also an enotec, street food plaza and outdoor activities.

Now that we have that out of the way, there are my top 10 Italian artisan products from the festival, in no particular order (they were all amazing!):

  1. Asti La Selvatica – Made in Asti, Piedmonte by Azienda Agricola La Caudrina.  I am a red wine lover, so my standards for white wines are very high, especially if they are of the sparkling variety.  I sampled this wine during a dinner in 2010 and during a workshop in 2012.  This complex and robust moscato wine is just simply exquisite.
  2. Tarese Valdarno Pancetta – Just when I thought pork couldn’t possibly get any better… This large slab of pork is made in Tuscany.  They season it with red garlic, pepper, orange peel and other spices.  It is packed in salt for 10 days, washed, weighted and dried for a day.  This process is done twice and then the pancetta is covered in pepper and allowed to age for 2 – 3 months.  Are you salivating yet?
  3. Nocciolini di Chivasso – Simplicity in its best expression, these tiny gluten-free delights are composed of 3 ingredients: sugar, hazelnuts and eggs.  Not too sweet, nutty-ily subtle and just small enough to be addictive.  I will be soon producing this Turin based recipe at home and once I get it fine tuned I will share.  Scout’s honor.
  4. Cedrata Tassoni – This very lightly carbonated citrus beverage from Lombardy is spectacular.  Its unique flavor comes from a citron variety known as cedro in Italian.  I imagine it must be what kids sell in Italian versions of the classic summer lemonade stand.
  5. Biscotto di Ceglie – This was also something I discovered in 2010 and ran into (actually I hunted it down) again this time around.  This almond based cookie from Puglia is filled with cherry jam.  The main ingredients are all high quality and include ground almonds, limoncello, honey and cherry jam… Delicious!
  6. Acqua di Fiori di Arancia Amaro – Translated as Bitter Orange Blossom Water and made by La Vecchia Distilleria
    di Pietro Guglielmi in Liguria.  This fragrant distillate caught my attention because unlike most orange blossom waters it did not smell like insanely intense perfume.  The scent while wildly fragrant was very pleasant with unexpected zesty tones.  The flavor was also subtle yet distinct.
  7. Pan di Sorc – Few things smell as good as fresh bread and having traveled to many countries that make great bread I have tasted numerous specimens that are remarkable.  This bread however deserves its own category.  It is made in Gemona del Friuli which is located in Udine, Italy.  The flavor is hard to explain, but it combines the essence of corn flour rye, wheat, dried figs and fennel seeds.
  8. Ace to 32 – This unfiltered beer vinegar presented in a loud orange spray bottle is hard to miss on a shelf.  I expected this to be similar to a malt vinegar, but the robustness of the flavors exploded over my palate.  The initial whiff revealed a malty citrusy character which my taste buds later confirmed adding their input on the hoppy undertones.  This vinegar is bright and bitter, fresh and complex.  I regret not purchasing one.
  9. Aceto Balsamico ala Juniper – This company creates traditional modena balsamic vinegars.  None of these vinegars are aged less than 12 years and the best ones are aged at least twice that.  They have a selection of balsamics aged in casks of different woods including mulberry and cherry.  My personal favorite was the 25-year-old balsamic aged in juniper casks.  Far out of my budget, so I looked longingly at the bottle while savoring every last drop of the sample.
  10. Pratum – It was love at first sip.  This amaro is singular due to its combination of 7 herbs that are always harvested from the same field in Friuli, Veneto.  Each year its flavor is different, not because it ages, but because by law the owners of the field cannot plant other herbs or disturb the natural way in which the existing ones grow.  So they prune the plants each year and a different proportion is produced which creates a unique product each time.  Its flavor is a constant variable of the combination of achillea, creeping thyme, centaurium erythraea, wild catmint, plantain, lady’s bedstraw and thistle.  It is a truly artistic product from the way it is made to the way they serve it.  Although the price was fair, the bottle only came in a large presentation.  On my list is to acquire one via mail, as it was too heavy for my return trip luggage requirements.

So there you have it.  I would love to hear if anyone has tasted these products before or even if you haven’t what you think about them based on this information.  I highly recommend you try one or all of the things on this list, that is why I attempted to include many links where you can purchase them.  I you happen to do so please share your experiences with me.

Thank you for joining me on this 100 post long journey.  Here is hoping for another 100!  Take care!

Until next time…

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