We have enjoyed so many amazing dishes and experiences in a mere 5 days! Starting in Bologna with visits to Al Sangiovese, Serghei and more.
Al Sangiovese was our first experience here in Italy and it lived up to all our expectations. You never forget your first you know, that is, tortollini in brodo and tagliatelle a la ragu. I will never make chicken noodle soup at home again, the broth was so remarkably complex and yet so simple at the same time. In fact this is what we have found with most dishes here, at first they seem so simple, but the layers of flavours that build in your mouth the more you chew seem to shout out to years and years of perfecting recipes and carefully chosen ingredients. We were incredibly nervous trying to communicate with the waitress/owner but we soon created a fun form of speaking through my phrase book and her limited English. They were incredibly warm and welcoming here.
The experience at Serghei was less warm but the owner again did come around by the end. The lack of menu was daunting, but we fared just as well. The tortilloni con zucca was the star of the meal with pasta so delicate you would swear it was made with silk, the pumpkin was smooth, sweet and a perfect balance to the sage and butter sauce. The roasted fowl was a little dry for my tastes though.
We took time to visit the self serve lunch and food shop Tamborini. A great way to have a quick enjoyable meal in a food lovers paradise.
Funivia won out against Sorbetterio (and all the other Gelaterias we have visited so far).
After Bologna the adventure really began with visits to two Acetaia, Giusti and Giorgio. The former being more focused IMHO on industrial non traditionale production and the later only on traditionale. Both were welcoming, but the personal touch of Giorgio (the production is under the family roof)and the quality and variety of their balsamico beat out the other.
We dined in Rubiera at Gastronomical Arnaldo, this was a truly unique experience. Most of the service is by food cart. We took part in the boiled and roasted meats. While both were something to try neither left me saying wow, but I feel this is my taste more than quality. I was happy to try tongue and calf's head for the first time, but would not rush out to do it again. I was surprised at the tenderness of all the items as boiled to me equates to dry and chewy. The roast pork and veal were again overclooked for me but the au jus that they created and were sitting in was rich in both color and flavours and the potatoes were so perfectly crispy on the outside and soft in the middle without being greasy that I could have eaten my weight in them.
Our visit to a Parmagiano Reggiano producer near Reggio Emilia was such a treat. This 2 hour long, FREE tour with a guide form the consortium was so educational and thorough. We watched the process right from the addition of renet to the splitting of the cheese mass and had an awe inspiring look at the rows upon rows of aging wheels. Of course the best part was trying out the 4 different ages of cheese plus the ricotta that had been made that day. Buying this quality of chese for such a crazy low price made us laugh out loud and the shop keeper's jaw dropped when we told her what the equivalent amount would cost for us at home.
Our last meal in ER was at La Buca. The tour of the culatello is what I will always remember here as well as the very old owner trying to speak to us about the history of the cantina and culatello. I had been very much looking foward to this meal for a long time, but was again let down by the roasted meats for secondi. This time I had the duck and my SO had the guinea hen, again dry and seemingly overcooked. The primi with tagliatelle and Zibello ham was amazing though, reminding me a lot of a carbonara. We also had them slice up some ham to take with us and we have enjoyed this daily since then. The Zibello ham, which we learned comes from the rump of the pig instead do the shank and is deboned, has been our favorite of all the cured hams so far, I sure wish I could bring some (okay a lot) home. I hear they actually have meat sniffing dogs at our airport though.
I almost forgot to mention we took a pasta cooking lesson with Ilsalotto di Penelope in Bologna, an amazingly knowledgeable couple of women whom I will always remember for their warmth and encouragement. We made tagliatelle, tortollini, tortolloni, and gnocchi as well as a tomato sauce, ragu and butter and sage. Unfortunately not enough time for the brodo, but I have been promised a recipe by email.
I am so happy and thankful to all of the chowhounders that helped me with planning this portion of our trip, there are so many memories already (and I am sure a pound or two gained). I am readily following the advice many of you gave me of eating the local specialty where ever possible (and where i know) and it does make all the difference in the world. Please forgive any spelling mistakes in this post as I am too full and tired to do a thorough check. I will try and ad links tomorrow.