8Nov2006

Salone del Gusto

I’ve always been a big fan of food festivals, but when I heard that there was a food event that ran concurrently with the Terra Madre Conference called Salone del Gusto, where all the protected foods of the world would be showcased in one place, I knew that we had to go! Our Terra Madre delegate status got us entry. They showcased 3 pavilions of food – the first pavilion was designated the international marketplace, which had rows from most nations showcasing the amazing foods they produce. The second pavilion was designated for Italian foods and focused on the following: Garden and Spice Lane (fruit and vegetables, spices, aromatic herbs, vinegar, tea and infusions), Cheese Lane (cheese and dairy produce), Cured Meat Lane Oil and Condiments Lane (oil, condiments, pickles etc), Grain Lane (cereals, pasta, bread), Meat Lane, Sweet and Spirits Lane (desserts, chocolate, honey, jams and preserves, distillates and liqueurs), and the ever popular Beer Lane. Then they had the third pavilion, which is where we spent most of our time – this was for the Presidia. These are the endangered foods and food traditions from around the world that Slow Food has protected, there are nearly 300 foods that are protected by the presidia, and what an amazing place that was! We literally ate our way through the 3 pavilions, purchasing a few special things, but mostly just reveling in the tastes, smells and vibe of the place. We ate Ribera strawberries, cocomerina pears, white artichokes that you can eat raw, tasted black cherry wine, and heritage Piedmontese apples. With nearly 150,000 visitors to the Salone each day; it truly was a remarkable thing to be a part of; literally rubbing elbows with fellow food enthusiasts. I now have dreams of holding something like this in Vermont – a Taste of Vermont festival, bringing producers from around our amazing state to share their specific terroir. Let’s taste blue cheese from Highgate, pork from Corinth, carrots from the Intervale, and potatoes from Starksboro! One thing going to the Salone did for me was make me realize what terrific food diversity we have here in Vermont – we have folks producing just about everything there is to produce, and it’s all being done with an eye towards quality. If the Salone was a stage to celebrate all things regionally unique, we can certainly do that here – and we should! Now, for some great Salone pictures:

Here I am at the Neapolitan Pappaccella booth – a special pepper only grown in that region. I’m holding my 2 tools for sampling, a little spoon and a little fork. Every booth had something to sample, so we just reused the tools.

Here Spencer gets to sample Reindeer Souvas, which is basically like reindeer steaks. He said it was like reindeer sashimi – a taste from the frozen north!

One of the best things we did at the Salone was attend the Bagna Cauda workshop – this was a tasting set up with a panel of experts that grew each vegetable we tasted and then a bagna cauda expert gave the history of the dish, and there were 4 wines paired with the bagna cauda. It was a really neat experience, and offered us the opportunity to taste the cardoon, a vegetable related to the artichoke. We’re pondering growing it next year! I particularly liked the Jerusalem artichoke.

So, here’s the setup. There was endive, cardoon, turnip, jerusalem artichoke, black beets, that special sweet pepper, and a special French celery. The actual bagna cauda is a stew of anchovies from Spain, good garlic from your own fields, and olive oil from Liguria. What you do is dip your raw veggies into the oily stew of yumminess and dine away. It is a type of fondue that is indigenous to the Piemonte region. The wines of choice for a bagna cauda is usually a young Barbera wine. We are particularly fond of the Barbera d’Alba varieties.

Here’s Spence tasting the bagna. We both really enjoyed it and are thinking of putting together a bagna cauda dinner with friends this fall. We’ll keep you posted!

The sweets and spirits lane was such an amazing place with all the chocolates, cookies, and liquors that were showcased – and all use locally sourced ingredients, not to mention the mountain herbs used to flavor the liquors we sampled. We particularly enjoyed the ones that used the herb angelica. It tastes exactly like the air smells when you walk in the mountains.

There were so many honeys to sample. I’ve never tasted such a variety of honeys. I really liked how they held the tastings: each honey was poured into a wine glass, and swirled to emit the bouquet of honey, then you got to put your nose into it, and then they gave you a little taste of it on a tiny spoon. WOW! Every honey was an explosion of flavor.

Then, of course, there was the overwhelming abundance of prosciutti – ever wonder what part of the pig is prosciutto? Wonder no more – there were pig legs at every turn in the Salone. Man, they were all delicious, though!

So, there it is – our picture trip through the Salone del Gusto. Stay tuned for our very own Vermont showcasing of food – it’s bound to happen sooner than later, since we have products that rival even the most revered specialties of Italy. One last happy Spencer picture:

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