Arriving in Lucca is never going to disappoint. With its fortified walls and ancient doorways encapsulating an ancient city, it is both traditionally Italian and yet vibrantly ‘of the moment’ when it comes to all things related to food and culture. EXTRA LUCCA 2016 (http://www.extralucca.it ), an entire weekend devoted to Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oils, is the perfect example of this. This is the third year that Maestro d’Olio Fausto Borella has orchestrated the event, gathering together thirty top producers from all over Italy and creating a programme of livley seminars and demonstrations held in the Palazzo Ducale.
But the Friday evening’s opening session took place in the dramatic location of the Teatro del Giglio, initially built in the1600s (http://www.teatrodelgiglio.it/en/the-theatre/history/), right in the center of Lucca. Here, a mix of experts and enthusiasts, producers and consumers, gathered for the award ceremony celebrating the trophy winners. Many well deserved awards were handed out amongst a group of extremely talented producers.
To see us through the evening though, a range of buffet food was laid on before hand. A particular highlight for me was the simple but delicious ‘Zuppa di Fagioli alla lucchese’ (Find coveted recipe below) which was transformed into a truly show-stopping dish by the addition of ‘Polifemo’ 2015, a DOP oil from Monti Iblei in Sicily, produced by Viragi. In one whirl of green-gold liquid the everyday was transformed into something utterly memorable, thereby encapsulating the intention of the entire weekend.
Saturday morning saw the official cutting of the ribbon at 11am, in the Palazzo Ducale. It served for a while as the residence of Napoleon Bonaparte’s younger sister, and with its high ceilings, complete with beautiful frescos provided a beautiful and stylish background for the tastings.Walking through the 5 grand rooms was an education. Two were dedicated to live demonstrations or tutored tastings while the other three were filled with the producers and their oils. This year most oils were from the South and Centre but two of particular note were from near Lake Garda: Cantina Frantoio and San Cassiano.
Each producer was happy to take the time to talk with you about their Oils; their passion not only clear but contagious. And the diversity of flavours, from the sweeter notes of wild berries, almonds and banana, to the more savoury sorrel, fresh grass and artichoke was remarkable.
Finishing late, but still with a suprising amont of energy and drive to continue tasting, we relunctantly called it a day around 7pm, and headed out to the rainy, windswept streets for dinner.
Sunday was for visiting all those stands we had been unable to cover the day before and for discovering the food products. One stand in particular stands out in my memory: that of a cheese ‘raffineur’, who specializes in refining and maturing the cheese rather than the actual production. A true example of
mastering ones trade. De’Magi, Alchimia de Formaggi (Translated as, Alchemy of Cheese) http://www.demagi.it/en/
Finally, I would like to offer a huge thank you to Fausto Borella and to all those involved in the organizing of this weekend’s events. It was a great pleasure as well as a wonderful opportunity to sample such a glorious range of Italian EVOOs.
However, on exciting news closer to home, for the first time Aristian Olive Oil awards will be held in Central London April 9th-10th
This is the first time for London Olive Oil Competitions (London IOOC 2016).
|Zuppa di fagioli alla lucchese (Courtesy of Fausto Borella)|
|1 onion, carrot, stick celery finely chopped
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 thin slices of pancetta
1 rosemary stick
4 fresh sage leaves
200 grams peeled tomatoes
500 grams canned borlotti beans
3 to 4 cups water or vegetable stock
200 grams farro
Salt and pepper
….and a glass of wine!
|Heat the extra-virgin olive oil in a wide soup pot; add the chopped onion, carrot, and celery and gently cook until soft. Add the pancetta and continue cooking until it has melted. Add peeled tomatoes and season with herbs, salt and pepper. Add the borlotti beans with their liquid. Stir to combine everything and add 2 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a simmer, cook 10 minutes uncovered, then remove from heat. Remove the rosemary and blend until smooth. Add the farro, along with another cup of water, and continue cooking over low heat for about 30 to 40 minutes, stirring to check that the soup is not sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the farro is cooked al dente. Serve the soup with extra virgin olive oil drizzled over the top.
Azienda Agricola Ione Zobbi (Lazio)
Azienda Agricola Massimiliano Gaiatto (Lombardia)
Ristorante Romano (Toscana)
Villa Santo Stefano (Toscana)
Trappeto di Caprafico (Abruzzo)
Azienda Agricola Saladini Pilastri (Marche)
Azienda Agricola Mandranova (Sicilia)
Azienda Agricola Le Tre Colonne (Puglia)
Azienda Agricola Fratelli Ferrara (Puglia)
Frantoio Gaudenzi (Umbria)
Frantoio Galantino (Puglia)
Frantoio di Riva (Trentino Alto Adige)
Fonte di Foiano (Toscana)
Fattoria Fonte Veneziana (Toscana)
Fattoria Ramerino (Toscana)
Fattoria Altomena (Toscana)
Azienda Agricola Decimi (Umbria)
Azienda Agricola Talente (Toscana)
Azienda Agricola San Cassiano (Veneto)
Azienda Agricola Maurizio Menichetti (Toscana)
Piero Matarazzo (Campania)
Azienda Agricola Giulio Mannelli (Umbria)
Azienda Agricola Il Cavallino (Toscana)
Azienda Agricola Giorgio Tamaro (Molise)
Azienda Agricola Delia Orsini (Abruzzo)
Azienda Agricola Belvedere (Toscana)
Agricola Doria (Calabria)