Slow Food: Salone del Gusto (Part 2)

curedporkprodcuts

Now that I’ve had a few days to digest everything I tasted at the Salon del Gusto, I thought I’d show you a fraction of what was on offer.

ricotta vanilla beans

The event was an unparalleled opportunity to sample foods from all over the world, with a focus on Italy, of course, since that’s where the event takes place. That meant an abundance of cured pork products and Italian cheese, like handmade ricotta which you could taste just after it’d been made, but also Mexican Chinantla vanilla beans, so ripe, fragrant and oily…and a few bars of chocolate stacked up here and there.

chocolate bars


Even if you don’t think you like sausage or ham, the ones sliced and served at the Salone were really the best of the lot.

And if you don’t like pungent gorgonzola cheese, perhaps covering it was finely-grated chocolate might help?

slicing salami chocolate-covered cheese

Although I was close to pork-overload (if you didn’t think that was possible, my stomach is proof that it is), I was utterly-charmed by this fellow playing “violin” ham, slicing each pieces towards him, and managed to fit in a slice. Especially since the people manning his booth saw me coming with a camera and rousted him from the back, and he came hustling out. I wonder if that’s where the term “hamming” for the camera came from?

violin ham player

And even though I live in the land of cheese, cheese, and more cheese, when I saw this tender-soft sheep’s-milk cheese floating on a slick of aged balsamic vinegar, well…with two of my favorite things on one plate, it was impossible to resist.

gooey cheese

More cheese?

cheese

Mais oui!

This was the best one I had at the Salone, called Tcherni Vit Green Cheese. It was made in Bulgaria, and covered with damp towels, hence the mold. If any of you lives with someone who wads their towels up after a shower and tosses them in the corner, you can show them this picture of what might be growing on their bathroom floor, albeit a less-delicious version.

And just when I thought that took the cake, there was…

weddingcakecheese

But man, especially this one, cannot live by cheese alone. So there’s bread and, of course, chocolate. These Swiss ‘pocket’ breads (Valais) were made with rye flour, a smattering of seeds, and were quite dense. I was told that they’re meant to go stale, for long-conservation, and workers would slip them in their sacks and re-hydrate chunks of them in wine or another favorite work-day beverage.

breadscocoa beans

There was also a fair amount of chocolate. Aside from the parade of tablets and roasted cacao beans to snack on, I ran into my friends from Taza chocolate, in the US, who by day two, had blown through most of their chocolate bars and disks, and were down to the last few nibbles. They had a new product; chocolate-covered cocoa nibs, which were everything I like about chocolate, tumbled into one delicious handful.

On the other side of the ‘delicious’ scale were stockfish, otherwise known as tørrfisk, which are line-caught cod, from Norway. I’ve never cooked this, er…delicacy, but they’re rock-hard after a two to three-month drying period and require a week of softening prior to cooking. They’re trying to restore this industry and I wish them luck.

I didn’t bring one home in my suitcase, but was happy to admire them—from afar.

stockfishnative garb

In the Terra Madre section of the Salone, which featured producers from countries like Mali, Lebanon, and Mexico, I was particularly enamored by the gorgeous vanilla beans, which were so fragrant, the stand was constantly surrounded by folks drawn into the sweet aroma.

vanilla powdervanilla beans

Vanilla the most labor-intensive crop grown anywhere in the world, and each orchid needs to be hand-pollinated in order to produce one of the slender green beans. (There’s a membrane between the two ‘private parts’ of the flower that need to be circumvented.) Looking at one of these green pods, it’s hard to believe that one day, after pollinating, harvesting, curing, and drying, that they’ll one day be vanilla, as we know it.

It’s believed that natives got the idea to dry the green beans after seeing monkeys chewing on the dried beans that they were collecting off the floor of the jungle.

african

In the center of Terra Madre were African women, sprawled amongst the hallway, selling their wares. There were strange and unusual seeds and oils, which were fascinating to see.

But what really fascinated me was the offering of hamburgers!

hamburger

As some of you know, I’ve been on the quest for a great hamburger for quite a while, but it seemed kind of funny to come to Italy and chow down on a burger. So I sadly passed, even though these were made with beef from Modena.

And I was starting to feel like a little….

cheese

After all that food, I needed an espresso, bad. Through the miracle of one of my Italian pals, I got access to the super-chic Lavazza pavillion (which was decidedly-different than the African pavillion), but thought after three days of braving the crowds, I deserved a bit of pampering. I was elbow-to-elbow up there with Italians in smart suits and gold rings, and finally got to sample the èspesso by Ferran Adrià .

Lavazza espresso

Available only at limited boutiques, including their mothership location at San Tommaso 10, in Torino proper, I’m not sure this was any improvement on a perfectly-extracted Italian espresso, but it was interesting to eat. (Which they’ve just introduced as La Voglie, in canisters for home users to squirt out themselves.) And the spoon, alongside, has a whole punched in it, in case you need reminding that you’re not drinking a liquid espresso.

The publicist told me the spoons were now considered “highly-collectible” and since I was the only one up there not in an Armani suit and tie, she kept a close eye on my spoon, which did not make it back to Paris in my suitcase with me. Unfortunately.

So there you have it. My first visit to Slow Food’s Salone del Gusto. Would I go back? Yes. Thankfully, they’re held every two years, which is about the time it’s going to take me to recover from it all. As mentioned in the previous post, unlike other events, this isn’t an elitist opportunity to congratulate ourselves on our ability to appreciate organic arugula and lardo (as Arlene in Rome pointed out, these foods are part of everyday life in Italy, and in many parts of Europe), but the opportunity to taste foods from all over the world, meet the people who produce them and learn about their cultivation. And in many cases, rally for their preservation.


Related links:

Slow Food: Salone del Gusto (Part I)

Slow Food’s Salone del Gusto (Ms. Adventures in Italy)

Salone del Gusto (You Tube video)

Eataly (Over a Tuscan Stove)

Salone del Gusto 2008 (Flickr pool)

Slow Food Presidia: Descriptions of the food producers at the Salone

15 comments

  • It all looks amazing! I’m so glad that there are events like this that bring food from all over the world together. The reality is that the only way these sorts of speciality foods will survive is if there is enough demand for them, and that means they need to reach global markets.

    Not to mention it all looks delicious!

  • What spectacular photos! It must be thrilling to stroll past those booths. And now, after seeing this inspiring post, I am running to CUB FOODS :((

  • Eileen: The good thing is that no matter where you live, you can likely find good food, often raised in your community. Especially in rural areas, although sometimes you have to look a bit harder for it. I know I often do, too. Even living in France!

  • Great article, great site.

  • Can one really go into pork overload? The ham looks like heaven.

  • Wow – I think I gained 5 pounds just looking at those yummy cheeses and all that porky goodness!

  • I tried the èspesso from Andrià a couple of years ago and didn’t like it one bit. Guess it’s because I’m a fan of real coffee and I really dislike gelatin in my food. Guess I’ll try the Salone next time, it sounds like one tasteful esperience…

  • Oh! You lost me at the feet! Very polarizing, dah-ling. Very… not appetizing.

  • Fantastic post! I love reading about your delicious adventures and admiring all your beautiful photos. Everything looks sooo good!

  • Yum! The best part, for me, is that almost everything was gluten free ~ minus the bread of course.

    Thanks for sharing the experience. It looks it was so interesting. Now I need to dig up some good chocolate…..

  • Slacker Mom: There’s a pretty sizable amount of Italians who can’t tolerate gluten. Consequently, it’s easy to find gluten-free products like pasta, and even croissants. And of course—gelato!

    Blushing Hostess: Yes, it can be startling to us how other people live. But that’s a slice of life from Africa, as well as a number of other places in the world, and part of the experience of the Salone.

  • Oh wow, how I wish I’d been there! But holy cow, gorgonzola with chocolate? Sweetened or un? Was it good?

  • Merci for the link David.

    This event is going on my calendar for 2010 along with the World Cup.

  • David, before the next Salone check out the whole list of options and events on the web, ranging from taste workshops to tours to dinners to…well, the 2008 program should still be on the international Slow Food/Salone del Gusto website to give you an idea of the multiple choices. The workshops are well worth booking in advance.

  • This looks like an interesting event. Especially love the photos.

    The green vanilla beans are not something you come across often.