One of the main reasons for our journey was a trade fair in Parma, which is an easy way to touch base with some of the suppliers we have gathered over the years.
We stayed in an agriturismo near Montanari and Gruzza, our supplier of excellent Parmigiano-Reggiano and dined locally most nights in the little town of Montecchio where the meal we most enjoyed was at a lovely little restaurant in a small renovated farmhouse called 'Al Cavaliere'. Excellent Crudo di Carne (I am a great fan of steak tartare and could probably write a blog on the ones I tried this trip alone) and pasta, and cured as well as aged meat, accompanied by a good selection of wine. We surmised it was run by the young chef we could see in the kitchen with the lovely woman managing the front of house all alone, but very competently, probably being his partner.
Margherita Montanari, now the mother of two active young boys, was fighting the flu but was as bubbly as usual and Gabriele, her brother, a wine and food aficionado was pouring some very interesting bottles from his own cellar at the drinks they held on their stand. The quality of their Parmigiano is excellent and we tried a wide range. I do like that alpine Brown Cow which Margherita mused tastes of the sweetness of the fresh air of the Alps. Naturally free range and probably naturally organic due to their isolated habitat. Delicious.
We enjoyed chatting to lots of people. Giuliano, of Giuliano Tartufi, immediately poured us his latest innovation - Truffle beer. The finish of white truffles complemented the slight bitterness of the blond beer. Very nice! It's running a bit behind in production, but we plan to at least have a small supply just before Christmas.
Gianluigi of Rustichella offered us servings of his revolutionary 90 second pasta. Packed in very space age small foil bags, this spaghetti was good. And it did cook to an al dente in 90 seconds. We might need to give it a go.
Fiasconaro are working to ensure we can get some of their panettone out of Sicily in time to make our shipment. The new short breadsticks from Fratelli Comino have just arrived. They should be great to dip into our various pastes.
Marina Colonna is extremely happy with the quality of this year's oil, and is as enthusiastic as ever about all of the oils she produces in both plain and infused. Rose petal or oriental spices anyone?
Giusti threw a magnificent garden party complete with famous chef, popular cocktail specialist, and gelato maker accompanied by live music and tours of the acetaia taken by Claudio himself. My, how his children have grown, and it was a pleasure to catch up with his father Luciano, who looks in great health, and who is still actively involved in their family business.
We are their longest standing overseas importer. How time has flown.
A few more additions to our range will grace our shelves over the next few months.
We spent time at the nearby Outlet Shopping village in Fidenza. Some very tasteful bargains were found there. These outlet villages are dotted throughout Italy and are worth setting aside some time for.
Luckily our journey home was straightforward as our bags were quite heavy with samples to assess - and just a little bit of shopping...