Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Found: "La Dolce Vita" London Part 1


We went, we conquered, we came home!
The swirl of London and the activities of the "La Dolce Vita" expo has already started to fade, but left behind are some sweet remembrances of a few days spent sharing our valley's well known and loved "digestivi" of our friend, Enrico Bernard.

The gathering of over 200 food, wine and property sales people took place in Olympia Exhibition hall over four days. The first couple of days were rather quiet, although on the Press day I did meet a few interesting food and wine bloggers as well as some people looking to do a bit of importing and check out what all was available here. It certainly was an interesting mixture of offerings, from culinary demonstrations and wine tastings, to all sorts of olive oils and specialty foods not to be found in the main stream of London I don't think. I was surprised with one quick spin around a giant Tesco store close by to where we stayed in Earl's Court that there was quite a selection of Italian products along with quite a few other nationalities being represented under one roof. Nothing, of course, that could compare to to the quality and range of the cured meats and cheeses from Tuscany represented by I Toscani, that was on one side of us. On the other side we had tiny red aubergines and round white beans from the Parco di Pollino situated in the deep south between Calabria and Basilicata. The aubergines were most unusual. When I first looked at the pictures I thought they were tomatoes. There are pictures of them here. To be honest I didn't get many pictures, because I was either running around London dropping off samples of our Genepy and Barathier for potential customers or we were busy in the stand education the London crowds on what our mountain flower and herbal infusions were exactly. Unfortunately for many of the vendors, their English was limited or non existent, making it hard to explain their products properly to make that much needed sale.

There was a lot of sampling and a fair measure of baffled looks. Most people thought the digestivi were Grappa or some type of amaretto or something familiar to them. When they are indeed something quite different to what most people have tried unless they have spent some time in the Alps or other countries where infusions of liquor are quite the norm. I first came across similar herbal fire water when I worked in Slovenia and Austria, the warming drinks of the mountains. Hence we did a lot of talking and everyone else did a fair amount of drinking. There seemed to be a spilt in tastes of those who like Barathier, Enrico's great grandfather's recipe of 7 mountain herbs and flowers, and those that like the other offerings of Genepy Blanc, Genepy des Alpes, and Serpoul.

Along with our market stall we also had Torino Province well represented in the Provincia booth around the corner from us with several Paniere producers selling their wares.
Wine from Val Susa was represented byFranco and Carlotta of Vini Carlotta
Toma Cheese from Lanzo Valley represented by Anna Zedde (011 1950 4154)
All things Peppermint from Menta Pancalieri brought by Mirella Chiottone
Grissini by Panificio Collia went very nicely with the Toma cheese
and the typical wouldn't be complete with out a chocolate representative and that was taken care of by Stroppiana Chocolate of Torino

It was a good show, although from the viewpoint of the vendors it could have been better organized. Most disappointing for Enrico Bernard was that his web site was misspelled beyond recognition, in the printed brochure making for a very expensive mistake that the organizers only response was, sorry. Not very professional nor responsive to making their mistake right. I personally felt the hall also lacked music and the vivacity of an Italian festival. I think the most telling point is that most of the vendors were there for the first time this year. This is the 5 annual event and most of the people that we met and interacted with would probably not return next year. I think it is a great event that could be even better if the organizers were more open to suggestions from the vendors.
London is already becoming a bit of a fuzzy dream as we listen to the steady downpour of rain here. The good news is that the steady drip of rain is finishing off the last big piles of this winters white stuff. My bulbs are making a valiant effort to push up in the cold, so there is promise of spring green and flowers up here. The photo below was from the plane window as we flew over the alps and very little of theses majestic spires were showing. There was a blanket of clouds covering most except the biggest peaks poking up through the cotton blanket. The range in the background just to the left of the plane wing is the massif of Monte Bianco or the more recognizable name of Mont Blanc. There are clustered many other of the big names in European alps. It didn't take us too long to touch down after this as we are not so far away from this range of peaks.

Part 2 will be about where we stayed and places we ate.

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