Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Italian Food Memories

Well it's not often that work turns into a bit of a jolly but it appears to have done just that for me recently. I was lucky enough to be whisked away to the Piemonte region of Italy for a few days as a guest of Sacla and they have seriously layed down the gauntlet for foodies on tour.

From the fabulous Claire Blampied, MD of Sacla, Sue of Panache PR through to the Sacla family in Italy, I, along with a group of other Irish Foodies, was treated like one of the family. We broke bread, broke our sides laughing, wined, dined and harvested fresh basil. Get that for an Italian mix up. Here's my Italian family album with some snippets of my food memories. (Check out my other blog for some speedy mom pitta pizzas and more Italian chit-chat).

We were welcomed by the Sacla family to their home in Asti in Northern Italy. Yes, Asti as in Spumante *glass thrust in hand* ...we're loving it here already. The Ercole family have been in business for 70 years spanning three generations and I can honestly say they were as warm and genuine as an Irish family. 

They treated us to a memorable Italian meal made by local chefs Sandra Strocco and Massimiliano Musso, a mother and son duo, from Michelin-starred Ristorante Ca'Vittoria. One of my favorite courses was oricchiette pasta dressed with Sacla's chilli pesto blended with a gorgeously creamy ricotta with a little extra on top. You have to try it! Since coming home, I've dipped everything from crackers and breadsticks, to my fingers, into the jar of pesto to bring me back there.

One Italian villa in a vineyard, a wine tasting and a dinner al fresco later and we were off to Amateis farm in Alessandria. This farm have been supplying Sacla with basil since the early 80's. Sacla buy about 90% of their basil from this family run farm. They provide enough basil for about 580,000 jars of pesto per year. Thats a lot of pesto, so you can only imagine the amount of basil. We got to wander through acres of abundant basil drills which was quite therapeutic. (Which reminds me, I must throw out my sad attempt  of a basil plant which hangs limply in my kitchen window). There was great excitement when the harvester turned up to delicately pick some basil. In seconds there were piles of the fresh and flouncy leaves and the fragrance was intoxicating. Then, all was topped off by the most amazing lunch on the farm with the family...gorgeous cheeses and parma ham with sweet and juicy peaches and melon...and a whole lot of nodding and smiling at each other as means of communication through the language barrier.

Now, I will try and let the snaps speak for themselves (and therefore not go on too much about the fabulous time that was had). So, sticking with the food memories, I will never forget the most amazing little goody parcel of egg in a thick and creamy, cheesy sauce with fresh asparagus, baked in a clear plastic pouch. In the photo, it may not look like the prettiest thing, but its' out-of-this-worldness will remain with me forever. Ok, so will the most magnificent bellini's ever served to man. By the way, I'm so wrapping my breadsticks in a piece of linen cloth from now on. How shi-shi. On a final note, Clare introduced me to the most delicious, refreshing and cleansing (and yes, cleansing was needed at this point) little drink...balsamic vinegar topped with chilled, sparkling water. I know, sounds weird, but believe me, it is now high on my drinks list of interesting little numbers. Thankfully Claire will be bringing some tasty little balsamic vinegars to our shores via Sacla later this year. So to Sacla and all the fond foodie memories you created for me, Grazie Mille!


Carol said...

Italian food has always been my favourite. Thanks a lot, for the blog.
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Hope Williams said...

Nothing beats the Italian family way of eating when it comes to proper table manners, speaking with class and enjoying food. Judging from your pictures and information, I probably think your Pitta Pizzas are delicious. :) I suggest you fix some Pitta Pizzas for the Sacla family someday - I bet they'll love it. I like your way of discovering new things in cooking Italian food, by the way. Cooking is a never ending cycle of discovery, Sharon, especially for those people who are fond of cooking Italian cuisine.

Hope Williams

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