The perfect Italian pair
Pastabites occasionally receives invitations to events, and often these events are really special: one such occasion was a lunch held in the beautiful, lush settings of Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, a place I’d always wanted to visit but never managed to. The fact that the lunch was sponsored by Parmigiano Reggiano and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena and was going to be cooked not only by resident chef Damian Clisby but also by Michelin star italian chef Daniele Repetti (who runs Il nido del picchio in Tuscany) added to the interest.
The lunch is one of a series of sessions organised under the tagline #thePerfectItalianPair to promote the knowledge and appreciation of these two products from Emilia Romagna region, which will conclude with a lunch at Bocca di Lupo in October.
The secret of such goodness originates in the place of origin, in the natural feed, and in the high quality milk with no additives that result in Parmigiano Reggiano.
Babysitter was booked and I was on my way!
The older, the better…
We arrived at the nurseries and found our way to the green house where the meal was going to be served. It is quite a combination to have a fancy lunch in a green house, with uneven, dusty soil under your feet, beautiful and colourful flowers all around and elegantly laid out tables. Soon we were sipping Prosecco and admiring the plants and the flowers around us. Representatives from Parmigiano Reggiano consortium and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale introduced the products we were going to taste and told us a lot of information on the history and the background of them. I surely did not know enough, despite being italian myself, and was a very educational intro for everyone. The official websites offer more information and are definitely worth a look:
We started by tasting different ages of parmigiano: 24, 36 and 48 (which I had never before tried); we learnt how they are made, the care that goes into the process and how special the 48 months cheeses are. In fact, only a few producers go for such an aged form, as it requires a lot of planning, including larger / heavier forms (following measurements provided by the regulations) of Parmigiano due to the extra drying the cheese will get. Whatever the age, the cheese is steeped in history and was produced already in the XIII century, always in the same geographical area of Italy and always with milk from cows that graze the flat lands around Po river. The parmigiano is made using absolutely no additives, and is rich in protein and calcium, and, like its competitor ‘sibling‘ very good for healthy diets.
We matched the last cheese morsel to a beautifully smooth, and surprisingly sweet 25 years old Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena PDO Extra Vecchio. I had never before really tasted the real aceto balsamico and finally understood that the true aceto has ‘Tradizionale’ on its name and comes only in those oddly shaped little bottles. After the most is cooked, it is poured into wooden barrels of different sizes and then slowly decanted and moved from the largest to the smallest until at least 12 years have passed. I had no idea! The bottles are pricey however it takes so much time and care to produce a vintage, some producers only making a few bottles per season and frankly, each bottle is totally worth the price tag. It can be used not only on salads, vegetables and meats, but, due to its consistency and sweetness (almost like molasses) also on desserts and some fruits such as strawberries.
Only after at least 12 or 25 years of maturing does the aceto reach that surprising balance of aromas and flavour
Lunch is served
After tasting the two special products on their own, it was time for the lunch proper, with a fantastic menu created by both chefs in order to showcase not only local, seasonal produce but also the best of the two Italian ingredients, featured in each individual dish with creativity and flair. The opener was by Damian, a spring, flowery Speck & Haye Farm Egg. The dish looked stunning and was an interesting combination of vegetables and seasoning, including raw asparagus which was a first for me.
Daniele Repetti followed with another visually gorgeous dish which tasted just as good: 24 month Parmigiano Reggiano terrine with herbs, asparagus tips and flowers. This was incredibly light and the flavour of the cheese really took centre stage.
Unfortunately, like Cinderella, we had to run, as baby sitter could not stay longer and I am absolutely gutted because judging by the dishes we had and the photos we saw, we missed out on some incredible food!
Yet I am very pleased to have been able to attend, learning so much more about two Italian excellencies I did not know enough of, and tasting some special food as well as meeting lovely fellow bloggers.
More photos from the event:
We dined as a guest of Parmigiano Reggiano and Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale and was not asked to write this post. Opinions are my own.