Posts Tagged With: Antica Corte Pallavicina

Emilia Romagna – The Producers!

Italy 2014 797Suppose you are really into Hummus.  You eat it almost daily, you feed it to your family every other day, and you live in an area that is known for it. Hummusville, Kentucky, the birthplace of Hummus!  Many moons ago it was established that the 30 mile radius that surrounds Hummusville, Kentucky has the perfect terroir for growing the most perfect organic Chickpeas.  And some time later, the formula for Hummus was created, only to be challenged by less than perfect Hummus from imitators all over the world.

Fearing sudden danger from those pesky imitators, and a slip in quality from some producers who opted for second grade ingredients in order to increase their margins (a scandal dubbed Tehini-Gate), a Hummus Consortium was established to protect the integrity of its product.  A Hummus Czar was appointed, and Hummus cops are dispatched daily to inspect the producer’s daily production.  They inject a special strip made by HumTech that determines the quality of the product.  The items that pass make it to the market as “Hummus”.  Those that fail make it as well, but labeled “Sabra Hummus” as a more affordable item that should be eaten immediately.

You get the idea, right?  Because if not I can go on and on and talk about the Annual Hummus Festival that includes the famous Hummus donkey race, the tossing of the chickpea game, and the famous Hummus Bucket Challenge.Italy 2014 1147

Such is the food culture in Italy, and especially in Emilia Romagna.  I visited Eataly in NYC the other day and I saw this “Felino Salami – Made in Utah” Is there Felino in Utah?  I asked the girl.  Because as far as I know Felino is a small town south of Parma, famous for its Felino Salami, dubbed King of Salami in Italy and US.  How can it be made in Utah.  “Its just the style” she says.  Hmm, “Parmesan” is a style as well.  EU Courts have been banging heads for years trying to determine whether “Parmesan” is a generic name that can be sold in other countries.  I’m no expert but “Felino” resembles “Felino” name more than “Parmesan” resembling “Parmigiano Reggiano”

Emilia Romagna is the home to the famous Prosciutto di Parma, Aceto Balsamico di Modena (Balsamic Vinegar of Modena), and Parmigiano Reggiano, king of cheese.  If these items dont excite you than most likely your home country did a masterful job selling you poor imitations.  All three are protected by governing bodies that protect the authenticity and integrity of their products.  The point of this post is to highlight some of the area producers that accept English speaking  visitors.  If you dont have a car there are tours you can take from Bologna, Modena, and Parma, some of which will take you to all three in one day.  But I recommend renting a car in order to do it at your own pace, visit some castles, and eat something delicious while doing so.  The challenge is to find producers that Speak English…

Italy 2014 737Prosciutto

I dont have Prosciutto producer recommendations (Bravo Ziggy, what a start).  Instead I got something similar but much more prized.  The creme de la creme of cured hams, the Culatello di Zibello.  Prosciutto so good it has a different name.  And the place most known for it is Antica Corte Pallavicina which I already discussed in full length.  A visit to this old Castle/farm and its world famous Culatello cellar, preferably over night, will leave a lasting memory and a plethora of wet dreams.

But if you rather visit another producer, you can contact the consortium.  I’m aware of one member that is open for English speaking visitors and that is Terre Ducali which you may contact at

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Italy 2014 817Parmigiano Reggiano

CiaoLatte is a small family producer located between Parma and Fidenza.  For 10 euros per person, you get a private (unless other show up) tour with young Serena who speaks English well and is a wealth of information.  But you will need to be there early (8 am if I recall) in order to see the entire process that lasts about two hours.  Well, not the whole process.  For that you will need to spend the night in their Agriturismo and help milk the cows early in the morning.  The farm is very popular with local schools, mainly due to efforts of Serena’s mom who is quite a character (she turned into Liza Minnelli as soon as we mentioned NYC).  Also included is a tasting of various aged Parmigiano, jams and other homemade goodies.  Well worth a visit

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Italy 2014 1158Balsamic Vinegar

Forget everything you know about Balsamic Vinegar.  Unless you already know what you are supposed to know.  Know what I mean?  Out of the three amigos (Parma cheese, ham and balsamic), this one may completely change your buying habits, and the way you use Balsamic.  Ice cream anyone?  Don’t leave Villa San Donnino, just outside Modena without having some ice cream with Traditional 18 year aged Balsamic Vinegar.  “Traditional” has an entirely different meaning in the Balsamic Vinegar universe.  You will learn all about Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale, its much younger, hence more affordable cousins, and the eye opening process.  An absolute must.  Free of charge.  After that, a power lunch at the legendary Hosteria Giusti in Modena is in order.

Buon Appetito my friends!

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Categories: Emilia-Romagna, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Antica Corte Pallavicina – When Life Gives You a Pig

Italy 2014 731When we were young and down on life, my mama had this strange saying:  When life gives you a pig, you make Culatello!  Black pigs preferred, raised in Emilia Romagna or Lombardia she proceeded to explain.  You take the muscular side of the back legs, aka the “heart” of the prosciutto, cure it, put it inside a pig’s bladder and let it age in the moldy caves and cellars somewhere near Zibello, north of Parma.  As close as possible to the foggy Po river.  “Its all about the Terroir” she proclaimed.  And only then, it can be designated Culatello di Zibello DOP, essentially Prosciutto on crack.  Prosciutto so prized, it has a different name.  Just don’t tell anyone that Culatello means “Little Ass” as it may take away some of that power from the name, she warned.  Or maybe she was talking beets and borscht, I may be confusing things.

Italy 2014 755Last month we spent a magical day and night at Antica Corte Pallavicina, the most famous producer of Culatello di Zibello out there.  In fact, “You can use the bikes to bike all the way to Zibello on the bike path” our trusted host told us.  Done, and doner, assuming spotting Zibello inland from a distance was close enough for our own aching “little asses”.  But if I would have to pick 5 memorable moments on this trip, riding those bikes along the Po on that day, with those views, passing farms, and with the sun Arrivederciing in front of us, was one of those moments.  Minutes earlier, we visited their famous black pigs, snacked on their own Strolghino (salami), Parmigiano-Reggiano (also aged in their cellars) and drank their own bubblies while sitting on the antique couch in the antiques filled room, watching their antique dog and antique cat very closely (Mrs Ziggy isn’t fond of animals and some humans.  Ok, most humans)Italy 2014 737

For Massimo Spigaroli the journey started over 20 years ago, when he bought the 14th century castle with his brother.  A castle and farm that saw Massimo’s great grandfather as a tenant (after he worked for Verdi who lives nearby).  At the time it was more like ruins, after years of heavy beatings from Po flooding. Nowadays, its a farm, 6 room hotel, a Michelin star restaurant, and a major Culatello producer.  Tourists from all over the world flock to the Corte to see one of Emilia Romagna’s greatest attractions, the cellar of dreams.  Dreams as in if you want them to cure one of those Culatello’s for you, you are dreaming my friend.  And you will keep dreaming for the next 3 years (waiting period).  But meanwhile you can check out the tags of the black pig Culatello hanging in the front.  Armani, Rene Redzepi (Noma), Alain Ducasse, Francescana (“my friend” Massimo Spigaroli tells me if I understood correctly), Prince Albert, Prince Charles, Prince Ziggy, Prince.  We all have our dreams as you can see!Italy 2014 721

As for the meal, other than a few minor hiccups, it was exceptional.  The restaurant has a fancy feel, but at the same time its unpretentious and comfortable.  You feel like a guest of the estate rather than at a dining establishment.  The combination of antique, modern, floor to ceiling glass windows, and the overall spaciousness felt unique.  This is not Farm-to-Table.  This is 50 yards-look-outside-your-window-what-do-you-see-to-Table

Italy 2014 780Once you settle down you are greeted with the homemade butter, Grissini, and a Cuban cigar box filled with delicious bread.  I love a good bread and butter, especially when the butter is of perfect spreadable temperature.  “When in Rome…” you go for the “Podium”, three Culatello aged 18, 27, and a black pig aged 37 months sitting at the top of the podium lip syncing the Italian national anthem.  The 18 month was silky smooth, sweet, and in a bizarre way reminded me of delicious small dried fish.  While the 37 was brinier, and packed in a lot more flavor.  The 27 was somewhere in between.

Basic but fantastic Tortelli with ricotta and spinach.  And an even better al dente Risotto crowned by green beans and surrounded by three gentle sauces that somehow worked nicely together.  Very high degree of raw material throughout, though it didn’t quite work with the rabbit.  Great ingredients, looks fantastic but the rabbit “cubes” a bit dry and uneventful.  For the white Ox they add another large table to yours and carve the beast right in front of you.  It was expertly cooked, on the rare side with great flavor, if not a tad too cool.  The Ox plate included an exceptional supporting cast of mushrooms, various garden veggies and a fine tasting zucchini topped with Parma cheese and breadcrumbs.

Italy 2014 790For dessert we were lucky to be joined by our new friend who lives not too far away.  And as expected, marvelous desserts here, especially the “Baba” rum cake which was just about the best rum cake I ever had.  The top notch Mousse, was a great finish to a magical evening

Massimo Spigaroli is very proud of his place, a celebrated one Michelin star.  While in NYC Michelin stars are distributed like candy (I got one!) in Italy there are standards that must be met.  I normally dont pay as much attention to service as others do, but it was hard to overlook this kind of hospitality.  Since we had to leave early to a dairy producer and couldnt stay for breakfast, the staff prepared a box filled with more Culatello, and various homemade goodies.  In a food oriented trip such as this, Antica Corte Pallavicina fit the itinerary like a gloveItaly 2014 743

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Categories: Emilia-Romagna, Italy | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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