Just How Good Can Italy Get? -3-
He weds the trailblazing and the traditional in a dish that presents five different forms and ages of Parmesan, which appears as a sauce (18-month-old cheese), a foam (24 months), a creamy partner for fresh ricotta (30 months), an air (36 months) and a crisp frico (40 months). Except for the air, which was almost tasteless, these elements charted subtle, riveting escalations in sharpness, letting a diner wallow in Parmesan without wearying of it. Score one for Emilia-Romagna.
In dish after dish, Mr. Bottura showcased the region’s ingredients and traditions, about which he feels an obvious pride.
"There are some regions — they have what?" he said. "Some tomatoes? Buffalo mozzarella? I don’t want to be mean, but. ..." His voice trailed off as his actions hammered home his point. He was meting out shots of a 120-year-old apple vinegar. It tasted like a syrupy super-reduction of vast seas of cider, and it demonstrated all the permutations and exaltations of vinegar in Emilia-Romagna.
Just outside Modena, the Leonardi family, which has been making balsamic vinegar since 1871, produces a version aged only in juniper barrels, as opposed to a combination of juniper, oak, cherry, chestnut, ash and mulberry. Francesco Leonardi, who is now in charge of the business, dribbled some onto a spoon I was holding. It was faintly sweeter than its brethren, with a scent of evergreens.
Vinegar acts as an antidote to much of the region’s cuisine, which isn’t exactly delicate. At Giusti, where there are just four tables in a spare dining room behind a salumi shop that’s frequently shuttered, lunch began with a plate of gnocco fritto, puffs of fried dough with either culatello or lardo draped over them. There were also fried pucks of cotechino sausage, which were already plenty weighty without a sizzling romp through oil or, for that matter, the sauce of eggy zabaglione that Giusti gave them.
|PLEASE NOTE: The opinions expressed in the article, especially about Emilia Romagna wines, are exclusively those of Mr. Frank Bruni, and are not shared by WineCountry.IT.
The editors beg to differ with and apologize to the winemakers from Romagna, and the whole eastern part of the region, herein totally ignored. Mr. Bruni perhaps judges the regional wine and gastronomy based exclusively upon a short visit to Modena and Bologna.
The editors acknowledge the excellence of the Piedmontese wines, however let us also toast the excellent Sangioveses, Albanas and other Emilia Romagna native wines including the yummy, frothy Lambrusco Grasparossa di Castelvetro!
WineCountry.IT publisher's note .
The Giusti meal managed to make the next day’s tasting of Mr. Spigaroli’s handiwork seem like a spa moment. On a table in his restaurant, Al Cavallino Bianco, which is just down the road from his sylvan pig-topia, he laid out his black-pig culatello and his spalla cruda, which is cured shoulder meat, a chewier, more muscular cut that he recently added to his array of salumi.
All the while he talked about the crucial dampness with which the Po, less than a quarter mile away, infuses the winds that blow into the musty, labyrinthine cellars where his meat cures. "In the summer, it’s awful here — hot, humid," he said. "Then, in the winter, there’s cold and fog. This is the ideal climate for the culatello. But it’s not so great for the person."
Unless that person adores culatello — its softness, its sweetness. After tasting Mr. Spigaroli’s, I was ready to research Zibello condos with central air and heat.
But I had one big reservation, along with several smaller ones. What would I drink? The gaping shortcoming of gastronomy in Emilia-Romagna is wine, and please don’t talk to me about fizzy, fruity Lambrusco, which accompanied my meal at Giusti. It’s pleasant, easy and instantly forgettable.
The region is trying to do better. In its northwestern corner, where it might as well be Lombardy, there are lovely hills and different soil, more propitious for grapes other than Lambrusco. There’s also an honorable winery, La Stoppa, that’s producing a Bordeaux-style blend, a Malvasia and a Barbera, all of which I tasted during a visit there.
|Source: Originally published by New York Time – ©2006 New York Times|