Welcome to the land of cured meats, parmesan cheese, Lambrusco wine, balsamic vinegar and Ferrari! I recently returned from a tradeshow in Emilia Romagna, the Italian region that excels in producing these top quality goods and more. While I have been to Rome, Venice, Tuscany, and the Amalfi Coast, I can say that Emilia Romagna offers a unique experience, which I encourage you to take advantage of through one of our wonderful Emilia Romagna cooking vacations or one-day cooking classes. In this region you are able to avoid the tourist crowds, truly enjoy the locals, and taste only the best traditional foods that it has to offer.
From arcade-covered sidewalks lining the streets of Bologna and Modena to the charming main shopping streets of Parma and Ravenna, to the fun Ferrari Museum, the region offers an intimate and relaxing atmosphere to visitors. In regard to their food, my favorites of the trip were the balsamic vinegar tasting and a visit to Antica Corte Pallavicina, one of our cooking vacation locations that is known around the world for its expertise in traditionally cured meats.
Since I am used to cooking with and tasting typical balsamic vinegar found in U.S. grocery stores, I had no idea balsamic vinegar from Modena could be so complex and absolutely delicious—especially when sampled by itself. We visited a family that has been producing balsamic vinegar for generations. Kept in their shed and the third floor of their house are barrels and barrels filled with aging balsamic vinegar waiting for its time to get bottled. With a small spoon we were offered tastings of different balsamic vinegars that varied from 12 to 25 years old, and that were stored in various types of barrels, such as juniper wood, cherry wood, and mixed woods. It was an extremely memorable tasting experience for me.
Next was Antica Corte Pallavicina, a cured meat producer with two restaurants and an extensive free-range farm. It is also home to our cooking vacation, Flavors of the Real Italian Countryside. We began our tour with a viewing of their ducks, turkeys and guinea fowls running freely around the barn just near their vineyard. We then took a quick peek at their famed black pigs before seeing the culatello cellar where they hang the meat to dry for 18 to 36 months. We received a full tour of the property followed by a tasting of the culatello and Lambrusco wine before heading to one of their restaurants for dinner. It was absolutely delicious and wonderful to see master producers who follow traditional Slow Food practices for top quality results in a beautiful, intimate setting.
By Cory Smith
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