Friday, March 26, 2010

Parma, Italy 2010

I have just returned from a business trip to Parma, Italy, home of authentic Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Parma ham and some of the best food and wine on earth. One of our colleagues and friends in Parma is Piervirgilio (P.V. for short), who always is a very wonderful host to us when we visit. We had only one night to eat in Parma and P.V. showed us a wonderful time.

We can't leave Parma without some cheese to take home, so P.V. first took us to a local shop to purchase some. They had cheeses that were all different ages and tastes, up to a 60 month old cheese that had a very strong flavor. After tasting a few, we chose a 34 month old cheese that had a really good taste, but not too strong.

This picture shows all of the cheeses (and P.V.)

This is the real stuff people. So far from the grated imitation stuff we see so often in the U.S.!!

This is Parma ham. We would love to bring this home too, but can't get it through customs. We were tempted to take a chance though and had a good debate about what the penalty would be if we got caught. In the end, we decided to play it safe.

After shopping we went to dinner to a place out in the country that serves traditional Parma food and wine.

First up, the wine. An award winning Lambrusco wine which is a sparkling red wine that is delicious and very easy to drink. At this restaurant they drank wine in traditional marble cups that enhance the flavor of the wine. We went through 4 bottles for 4 people.

Next came the Parma ham.

This is a picture of different kinds of Parma ham of different qualities.
We actually had 2 platters of these. They were all very good, but I could tell that some were much better than others.

I wish I knew what the Italian name was for these, but they are like a savory (not sweet) doughnut type bread that we ate with the ham and cheese.

This is one platter of parmigiano cheese that we had, different ages and with different additions. One had unsweetened chocolate, one had pistachios. The chocolate one was very interesting and unlike anything I've ever had before, for sure!

These are chunks of Parmigiano cheese. We took these and dipped them in honey and then in ground coffee. It was a very interesting flavor combination!

The honey and coffee.

One of my plates that was refilled many times!

Just when we thought we couldn't eat any more, they brought out the main course, pasta! Actually 4 different kinds of tortelli, what we would call ravioli, but ravioli is actually a smaller version of tortelli. The 4 versions of tortelli were: 1. Truffles 2. Herb 3. what they said was an onion but not really an onion, I'm thinking shallot? 4. cheese. They were all good!

More pasta. At this point I had to go to a happy place.

Desert. A type of merangue. It was delicious. Had to go to an even happier place!

I didn't get any pictures of what they brought next, and I so wish I had, because I will never forget it. They set a shot glass in front of us with a sugar cube in it. They called it "burning sugar". The sugar cubes soak in a vase with 80 proof alcohol and lemon. By some chemistry magic they don't dissolve. When you eat them, they burn, burn, burn. I managed to eat mine in 2 bites with lots of water, but it was tough, I'm not going to lie to you. I know why they call it "burning sugar"!

And then as if that was not enough, they brought out shots of lemoncello next as a digestif, which just about finished me off for the night.

It was a wonderful night though and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to experience such great food and wine in a wonderful place!

Next post, Milan, Italy!

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