Once again, Anthony Bourdain reads my thoughts and brings me an hour of fast cars, fresh pastas, and aged treats. Of course, we're talking about Italy. Specifically the northern part, known as the bread basket of the country -- Emilia Romagna.
Tony is joined by Michael White, once an American football player, who's soul cried out to live and cook in Italy. So it is written, so it is done and after many years spent cooking at San Domenico in Bologna, White is now an adopted son of the "old country", serving as Tony's translator and local host.
Cheese. Wild strawberries. Real balsamic vinegar. Salami. This is food
that's deceptively simple, yet all have one thing in common. Time.
There's no rushing a cheese when you're aging it. You can't make the
years go by any faster to get that balsamic the way you want it. Perhaps
that's why most of the best food is served and made in buildings that
are 500-700 years old. The only thing that's fast around here? The cars
-- like the Ferrari California that Tony "borrows."
later in the Ferrari, Tony and Michael are in the culatello di zibello
capital of the world. This ham is hung and cured for two years in a 700
year-old building. Salt and wine are massaged into the pork shoulder or
butt, then the meat is placed in a bladder and sewn up, before being
carefully hung in a cellar with 5,000 other hams. Aging alongside Tony's
meat? Alain Ducaisse and the Prince of Monaco have some pork strung
up, as well. Good company for meat melding with mold to make magic.
While drinking negronis
and dining on mortadella, Tony muses how middle-aged men in Italy have
got it going on. Indeed, it seems like the place to be if you're a
silver-haired fox. In Italy, men actually look good in pink pants. They look macho
carrying man-purses. They wear sweaters around their necks and manage to attract beautiful women. But then again, this is a country
where Sophia Loren is still the reigning beauty queen. Once again,
there's the thing about age. And time. It seems to slow down here. And
maybe aging -- in people, as in cheese and wine, is a natural process
to be lauded, not fought. If ham can get better with age -- why not a beautiful woman or a virile man? Something to think about before you get that Botox.
A lap around the famed Autodromo
Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari track, some giant steaks at a
restaurant on the autobahn, and it's on to Moderna to sample some real
balsamic. "You think you know what balsamic is? You don't. I didn't
either," Tony tells us as he's shown around the balsamic cellars of the
families in Moderna and Pedroni. Each family has a barrel (battery) of
vinegar for each person. When a child is born, they start aging the
vinegar using a "madre" or starter. This particular madre is 150 years
old and the balsamic Tony samples at the family ristorante is thick,
rich, and precious.
Back to San Domenico, where Tony experiences
one of the last restaurants in the world to use a duck press. While duck breast is
searing, the rest of the bird is literally pressed table side in what's
part torture device/part olive oil extractor. The duck's blood and juice are
gathered up, and reduced with wine into a rich sauce for the meat. As Tony
eats, he exclaims, "I'll get down on my knees and tongue this thing
right on the floor." Which probably sounds amazing in Italian.
the sun sets on this "epic meal", Tony and friends luxuriate over a
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1914 Bonaparte cognac. That, my friends, is what the Italians call "la