When I begin the process of selecting and booking classes for Salone del Gusto I do a lot of research. I look into the topics being taught, the people providing the information and compare workshops to attempt to choose the best ones. It is a process that generally takes me at least a week, if not longer. The hardest part is when there is more than one class that I want to participate in, being hosted in the same time slot.
Among the 27 workshops I attended on this trip, there were a few that although interesting, were quite simple. In other words they revolved more around projects or food tastings and did not have as much information to absorb as the other ones. In fairness they were all lovely and I do want to share them with ya’ll but instead of creating separate reports I am just going to go over the highlights of each one here:
1. European Terroirs: The River Po
Po River is the longest river in Italy and as it crosses through provinces such as Pavia, Lodi, Cremona and Mantua the culinary diversity on its banks grows. Many of the typical products we sampled were cheeses. Other than the dairy products my two favorite were the quince mostarda and saor-style sardines. Mostarda is a technique where a candied fruit or vegetable is placed in a mustard spiced syrup. Soar is a cooking method typically used for small fish where they are fried and then marinated in a vinegar mixture.
2. A Rich Niche of Fermentation
This workshop hands down had the most passionate panel of speakers I have ever come across. I think that because many of them were direct producers of the items we sampled they were very proud of their products. The topic was about fermentation and how often it was misunderstood. Many people automatically think of wine or beer when the word fermentation comes up in culinary conversations. However fermentation can be used and does apply to many other items, many of which we tasted, including Oltrepò miccone bread, cured meats from Giarolo and Varzi, Montébore cheese and my personal favorite pôm a möj from Casalnoceto. Pôm a möj is a preserved apple. The process involves drying apples and consequently allowing them to ‘ferment’ for 40 days in a 3 part equal proportion mixture of water, vinegar and wine.
3. Manioc in all Languages
I was excited about this class because manioc (also known as cassava o yucca) is a vegetable used quite frequently in Costa Rica. Many of the uses discussed for this product had Brazilian roots. I was floored at the sheer variety of formats in which the product could be found. The panel had a display of manioc based products including: flour, starch, tapioca, hair products, beer and powders of different coarseness…the selection was quite diverse. The dishes presented included a pineapple tapioca beverage, chicken manioc stew with a manioc flour chip of sorts and beiju, a type of Brazilian manioc coconut crepe.
4. The Versatile Buffalo
The animal was a water buffalo, the workshop centered on the different products that can be obtained or made from said animal. Water buffalo meat is high in iron but low in cholesterol, making it a healthy option. The cheeses however require a seasoned artisan to know how to manage their dry and porous texture. The tasting consisted of:
- olive oil dressed, herb smoked water buffalo carpaccio
- water buffalo bresaola (spice cured, air-dried, cured meat)
- fennel scented water buffalo salami
- smoked water buffalo coppiette (an Italian version of jerky)
- caciocavallo water buffalo cheese with lemon
- wine massaged water buffalo cheese
5. Alice in the Parco Sud
This particular class centered around an initiative that was formed in Milan to create an agricultural park in the city. Alice Delcourt is a woman of many cultures with French and English parents, raised in the USA and working and living in Italy. She opened a restaurant that supports the Nutrire Milano movement. Her restaurant, Erba Brusca, uses local ingredients to increase environmental sustainability, benefit the health of its customers and support the local economy. It was very interesting to hear about local producers who held degrees in literature, pedagogy, nutritional science and other impressive subject matters, all of whom chose to change their original career paths to make a difference in their community. Yes, there was food involved…dishes to the tune of seasoned asiago bruschetta with grilled thyme pears and linden honey. Alice Delcourt is a woman to be admired she is intelligent, savvy in the kitchen and easy on the eyes….quite the triple threat. It is also hard not to like a lady that refers to bread as sexy.
So that is the end of your 5 blogs for the regular free rate of 1. Hope you found it interesting and look into some of the information for your own education whether that means kitchen experimentation of getting involved with your local food community.
Until next time…