Thursday, 30 October 2008

Salon of Taste to Tuscany in six drunken days

Last week I went on holiday by mistake. But I’m quite glad about it. It all started in Torino, at the Salon of Taste…
Salone del gusto was just amazing – an unfathomably huge building brimming over with edible delights. The experience for me was, on the first day, fairly goat based. Soft goat salami (pitina), which might conceivably be the most delicious meat product I’ve ever consumed; more of a cured meatball than a salami really, rolled in maize and smoked over juniper. And Cypriot sun dried goat with sea salt and oregano. Then Violino di Capra. Yes, goat violin. A whole air-dried goat leg which looks like a violin (and is sliced as if playing a violin) but tastes like meaty, salty, aromatic joy.
(Actually, the violino that we purchased was almost tragically lost in a bar later that evening, in what has become known as ‘goat-gate’. Turns out it wasn’t lost, but perhaps our minds were, after tasting quite so many Vermentino).
In other, non-goat news, there was the Lardo. Eating thin slices of cured pig fat is officially not a chore. And then there was the Palermitan spleen bun. Unctuous offal in a bun. Has to be the new burger. A lot of dipping cheese in honey occurred after this point, and interspersing slivers of mullet bottarga with pistachio granita and oysters. It is all a blur.
The gastronomic odyssea next took in Alba’s annual truffle festa, where the main occurrence was a fairly gratuitous inhalation of truffle spores, then to pretty Bra, the headquarters of the slow food movement where Osteria Boccondivino ( cruelly forced me to eat the most ambrosial panna cotta in history. Plates were licked. Involuntary sounds were made. They made me drink some extraordinary Barolo, too. Nightmare. (But go there).

Then, via a tiny Ligurian beach holiday within a holiday (lasting 2 hours and a lot of onion foccacia) final destination, San Pancrazio was reached:
This place is something of a paradise on earth where abounds endless chianti, beauty, pecorino and generosity. And lamb smoked over rosemary in a fireplace, a stone pizza oven in which dough was obedient, poached eggs with shaved truffles, and a little trattoria where they tried really hard to destroy me with truffles and porcini, but I’m a fighter so I survived to tell this tale. Go there, too.

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