Monday, November 27, 2006

Club Papillon hosts "Golosaria" at the Stupinigi

Or........how to make a glutton of yourself yet again!

On a warm and slightly hazy grey type Sunday afternoon, what better way to enjoy your day than a food festival Italian style. Yesterday we made our way to the Stupinigi Hunting Palace heading in from the mountains to just outside of Torino. We were off to see and sample yet more of Piemonte's delicacies as well as see our friend Enrico, be recognized again by the "Paniere" designation, guaranteeing that his families very wonderful
Bernard Mountain Elixirs, Genepy and Barathier are the superior products that they are and a typical product of the Provincia of Torino. Our B&B Bella "Baita" (beautiful mountain house/cabin) is located in the mountains of our good sized "county" if you will, looking across the valley to Val Germansca where the Bernard family have been making their tasty products for over 100 hundred years supporting their family and the mountain culture that surrounds these highly alcoholic mountian flower and herbal infusions. All the locals swear by the restorative powers of these drinks, good for absolutely everything that ails you, as well as a good ole welcome drink or after dinner digestivo that this part of the world is so very fond of.
There was a great turnout for this event and it has continued on today showcasing so many wonderful gustatory treats. Hand made pastas, salamis, cheeses, cookies, spreads of of everysort, grissini breadsticks and my personal favorite, a very long crispy flatbread named, "lingue di Suocera" or mother in laws tongue. We enjoyed a bit of Christmas shopping that we know will be appreciated.









"Club di Papillon"(or club of the Bow Ties) who hosted this event, is an organization dedicated to the preservation, education, promotion and support of typical Italian cuisine. The guiding energy behind and out front of this organization is the highly regarded journalist, author, TV food critic and "bon vivant" Paolo Massobrio, Mr. Bowtie himself. He opened the event with a splash of celebrity with the grandson of the Ferrari car designer, Pininfarina and a bevy of dignitaries helping to cut the opening ribbon. (so that's who was driving the beautiful Ferrari parked out front!) The drinking and eating had already been well underway but now continued on to a new level of frenzy. Later, sated with oh so tasty samples of just about everything and washed down with delicious Barbera and Dolcetto wines, some of the darlings of Piedmont varieties, and groaning under the many purchases, we made our way home. Too tired to have a tour around the hunting lodge, although there was a steady stream gathering every hour to see how the royal "Savoy"family lived way out here in the country all those years ago. From the looks of all the old businesses just around the lodge, I don't think they wanted for any of their "golosso" (greedy) urges to go unsatisfied. Apparently 5,000 visitors yesterday didn't either! The gluttony continues on today till 6 pm.. Not to be missed.


Saturday, November 25, 2006

"Frutto Permesso" The Permitted Fruit

Staying on a theme from the whole Slow Food/ Terre Madre experience.... We made a visit to Il Frutto Permesso while my nephew and niece where here.
In addition to my nephew being a full time artisan baker, the family has a small organic vegetable production operation, "Little Hands Organic Vegetables" which the whole family works together and and they also oversee their local community garden that is adjacent to their operation. Their young daughter is quite the experienced little hand, general organizer and trainer of people new to their little operation. She knows where all the tools are kept and helps identify some of the pesky pests that need to be persuaded that this isn't the right place for them. But I digress...

We took them to have a look around this wonderful cooperative, Il Frutto Permesso, just out of the mouth of our valley in Bibiana. What a welcome we received and a great tour during this busy time of the year. Dario took the time to show us all round their operation even though they were still in the thick of harvest time, and they were hosting 20 Ugandan farmers that evening for a tour of operations and dinner featuring their fabulous products. The original 4 families of the cooperative started in 1987 to meet the EU standards of certifiable organic and have picked up more farms and families during the ensuing years making a total of 12 farms. We continued our tour over to Michele's farm, where he has been in the apple business on this family land his whole life. I asked him how it was the first few years when they started to make the switch to organic. He said the first year was devastating as they didn't know enough about how to control the pests and they lost almost all of their crop. The next year improved as they got a handle on how to control the pests naturally. Now he says it's so rewarding to see his vigorous apples and other fruits flourishing again. The changes in the environment have been very rewarding also. It was contagious to see their genuine enthusiasm for their organic way of farming now.
Between the 12 farms all aspects of food production are covered from cereal, fruits and vegetables to animal husbandry. They make a wonderful line of juices , fruit and vegetables, cheeses, salamis and mush more. They have added a very far reaching education program mainly aimed at children from day trips to summer stays. They was a double decker busload of high spirited children there during our visit. Tomini production was well underway (a local ricotta style specialty) and a long line for the pony rides. It looked like some place I would have loved as a kid!
Well, come to think of it I wouldn't mind staying there and enjoying dinner as well.
That too is possible.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

More Tales about Slow Food /Terre Madre

As I was searching for a Terre Madre link I found a web site from University of Maine "Enviromental Sustainability Project"They had delegates go to Terre Madre in Torino and filed a lovely story about their "farm stay"
while they were attending the conference. It's a great story and for me exemplifies what the whole experience is about in the words of an attendee/delegate.
They also did a fine job describing Terre Madre and it's aspirations and how it fit into their vision. I am quoting their statement about how they view the Terre Madre endeavor.
"Terre Madre was the first meeting of "world food communities". The idea of Carlo Petrini and others at Slow Food was to bring together food communities producers, artisans, distributors and retailers of high quality sustainable produced food ... people working together with the goal of trying to create sustainable food systems. Over 5000 farmers from 131 different nations came together to discuss the benefits of local food systems. The overriding message of the meeting was that small sustainable organic farms provide quality food, keep the money in the local community, and maintain the landscape, all key goals of the Environmental Sustainability Project." For me another memorable quote was from Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame and pioneer in her Edible Schoolyard Project. Speaking about her efforts to bring about a similar project to Italy's Salon del Gusto in the US and calling it "Slow Food Nation"(obviously as a counterpart to "Fast Food Nation"), she said (and I'm paraphrasing) that we need to get the message out that "Slow Food" is not a exclusive high end dinner club, but a viewpoint and lifestyle about sustainabilty thru how and what we eat, purchase and live our life.
The 300 Presidia products on hand for the show are defended and promoted by the Slow Food Foundation's "Ark of Taste" commited to preserving biodiversity. These were some of the most fascinating products I've seen.

"
The mission of the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity is to organize and fund projects that defend our world’s heritage of agricultural biodiversity and gastronomic traditions.

We envision a new agricultural system that respects local cultural identities, the earth’s resources, sustainable animal husbandry, and the health of individual consumers."

Ruby red aubergine the size of tomatoes and Seras cheese born in and still made in the Torre Pellice valley next to ours ,that is distinctive for is natural wrapping of grass, just to name a couple. The colorful peppers of Carmagnola just out on the plains from us that we so enjoy all winter in our brightly colored bottles of agrodolci pepperoni and the highly aromatic pepperonata that is so dear to Fabrizio's mothers heart!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Terre Madre

The Slow Food movement has grown over the years and shifted its focus more and more to an international stage, moving in several different directions trying to bring about a paradigm shift in the way we live. They have established a university to further the educational opportunities to encompass many of the slow food princlples, preserving and ecouraging food diversity and heritage foods on a global scale. Terre Madre was born out of a desire to facilatate bringing far flung people and food communities together to work towards a connectedness thru common goals of preserving superior quality foods and sensible economic growth thru systems that are sustainable for the planet and its inhabitants. This second edition brought together approximately 5, 000 people from around the world to share their ideas and connection to strengthen the network of food communitites. Many guests from remote corners of the world were sponsered to make this trip to participate and share their native products and methods. It was a bazaar of colorful foods and peoples from all over the globe. A feast for all the senses. There were representatives from 5 continents in festive native costumes and fascinating traditional foods from their homelands. Latin America was represented with colorful potatos and tubers sliced into very tasty crispy chips. I particularly enjoyed the Yak cheese from Tibet made by the monks. It was flavorful with great texture and aroma. Another personal favorite of mine is the vanilla from Madagascar. Aromatically tantalizing, what pastry enthusiast can be without it?
Many of the groups brought handicrafts to display and sell. It was really almost overwhelming to take it all in, but I didn't mind trying. Continuing on to the Presidiums area, it was fascinating to see all the foods that Slow food is trying to help defend and preserve their place in the world market place. Many foods were familiar but there were quite a few that I had never seen or heard of before. I loved these samll brilliant red aubergine/eggplants the size of a medium tomato. I've never seen anything like it. It was a food lovers dream to wander about sampling and chatting about so many diverse foods all in one place. What can I say, you might want to try and make a trip to the edition in 2008. And of course, you might even want to stay with us at Bella Baita Mountain Retreat up in the mountains outside of Torino for a bit of diversity as well. Oh well time to contemplate that for another 2 years.....

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Slow Food's "Salon del Gusto" Has Come and Conquered until 2008

And a good time was had by all!

Well..., that is after you actually got into the Slow Food Salon and the fun began. I would say it was well organized considering the enormity of the event and sheer numbers of presenters, vendors, producers and the scores of attendees. There were a few things they could improve on. It was a mass throng at the entrance with cash and card users mixed together, slowing down the process to a painful crawl. Major mistake to remember for the next edition,
Buy your tickets before hand,

on line, and don't wait in line to get in!

Then, of course, there were the masses of people. I found it difficult to get many shots of the products and such for the crowded booths. I also found it difficult to actually get to really check out the products as I found that I wanted to explore it all and that was a daunting task. Insight for next time. Perhaps skip the lunchtime afternoon crowds in favor of the late afternoon and evening lull. Or, take a couple of days to try and absorb it all. I found I was just trying to get my head around all the categories and what they all were actually trying to accomplish as well as elbow my way through. And this is from me that has been hovering around and checking out Slow Food for a number of years.

Our friends the Bernard family, had their family's mountain elixirs on display and sale again this year and seemed to be a rousing success. They took home another Maestro Del Gusto (Master of Taste) award this year. We have been trying to not only help them push up their exposure from loyal genepy consumers from our guests, but have been trying to find a distributor/exporter for their sending their products abroad, so that some of their already loyal consumers can receive it more easily. The Bernard family have been producing liquors/elixirs and infusions for over 100 years in a historical valley where there isn't a lot of work. The small business not only supports their family, but they employs local mountian people to caretake and raise many of the herbs and flowers, bringing in much needed money to the high valleys and helps to preserve the land and mountain culture.

We stopped by with my nephew and neice to sample the wares as they took a break from the Terre Madre symposium. Jeremy is a professioanal baker from Vermont and we were both struck by the lack of representation of bread at this massive event. Bread is such a fact of life as in the staff of life for Italians at any meal that I was quite taken aback by the lack of bread. Perhaps artisan bread is such a phenomena in America because it holds a different place in the meal. Pride of place in an American meal features warm bread usually as a filler until the meal comes. Whereas in Italy bread is a plate cleaner and imprtant, but different viewpoint, perhaps.
There were no shortages of cookies and tortes, or Italian specialties like chocolate and Torrone. So I found myself satisfied to explore those avenues.
I especially liked the hazelnut honey and butter.

It was great to see pasta being made and the enormous squash transformed into sculptured art. I, of course, took way too many cheese photos and the obligatory mushrooms as well. The tower of porcini in the picture are from a small factory in the Cuneo province a few valleys over. All the mushrooms are wild and hand picked. We are going to go over and have a look at their production some time as they were so friendly and proud of their operation and I am a lover of all things mushroom as well. The white and black truffles were from Alba, world known for it's truffle festival and auction.

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