Temptations for your taste buds

Biennale Enogastronomica Fiorenitna

Tom Fork
October 25, 2012

Imagine the taste of succulent wild boar, silky gelato, tangy truffles, hearty ribollita or ruby-red Chianti Classico. Mouth watering yet? Get used to it, for November 2012 is the month of the Biennale Enogastronomica Fiorentina. For two full weeks, Florence's piazzas and palazzos, shops and restaurants become a gastronomic paradise of traditional Tuscan cuisine, made with local, seasonal produce. Here's a tantalising taste of the temptations in store.


Biennale Enogastronomica Fiorentina opens on November 3 with free tastings of local produce at the former courthouse, located in piazza San Firenze, followed by a journey through the history and taste of Lambrusco wine from Emilia Romagna (and in the process, help to support this region as it recovers from the earthquake that ravaged it last spring).


The Taste Relay on Sunday, November 4, promises to be as fascinating as it is delicious: a tour, led by food and wine journalist Roberta Perna, through the wine bars, restaurants and bakeries of Florence. At each tasting, learn the traditions and stories of these historic places and practice the techniques that have been passed down the generations.


For wine lovers, God Save the Wine on November 6 promises to be a stellar event. Compare, savour and enjoy the products of nine wine capitals from around the world: Bordeaux, Napa Valley, San Francisco, Cape Town, the Mainz region of Germany, Christchurch and Bilbao, as well as San Gimignano and Montalcino in Tuscany. Four days later, the two-day Florence Wine Event on November 10 and 11 is a bargain: buy a glass and taste to your heart's content.


If you are a gourmand like me, the free event, Utopia of an Idea: Gelato for Dinner, is sure to be a hit, with tastings of ice cream made by Florentine artisans at Florence's former courthouse on November 7. Further temptations for those with a sweet tooth can be found at Dolci Tentazioni on November 9, where the flavours of chocolate, confectionery and biscuits will be complemented by vinsanto and dessert wines.


For many there is nothing better than settling down with a good book, a glass of wine and a tasty snack. Literature, wine and food are the focus at DeGustiBooks, on November 11, as cooks, actors, musicians, writers and artists participate in food shows, wine tastings and book presentations.


Beer Jazz on the November 10 will feature Japanese piano virtuoso Chihiro Yamanaka, accompanied by bass and drums, along with a complimentary glass of beer for all attendees. Further your knowledge of artisan beers at the Ferment Beer Show on November 17 and 18, a chance to speak to Italian beer brewers, sample a range of craft beers and taste the local food.


Tuscan traditions get a front seat in piazza della Repubblica and piazza Strozzi during the Market of Tastes and Crafts, November 9 to 11. Skilled producers and artisans from the region, including wine makers, grocers, truffle hunters, bakers, cheesemakers, chemists, tanners, shoemakers, potters and blacksmiths, will bring their traditional products to these historic squares. While you admire, taste and purchase at this grand market involving 100 food exhibitors and 40 crafters, learn about an array of historic traditions and skills from the people who continue them today. A similar event focusing on the delights of the Mugello will unfold on November 16, with cheeses, meats, beer, chestnuts and honey. Mugello in the City will also be enlivened by costumed actors so bring the kids: the simulated chestnut hunts are bound to keep them entertained.


Even a veritable buongustaio like me will probably not make it to all the events on offer due to their sheer number. But the two that I will move heaven and earth to attend, as should you, are A Dish at the Restaurant and Gelato of the Biennale, both of which are held continuously throughout the festival. A Dish at the Restaurant involves 90 Florentine restaurants that will have special menus for the occasion, each featuring traditional dishes made from age-old recipes. Rediscover authenticity, natural ingredients and slow preparation that are light years away from modern catering. Then move from culinary tradition to innovation: discover an all-new gelato flavour during Gelato of the Biennale, developed specifically for the event. Can you identify the ingredients?


The Biennale closes on November 18 with Florence on the Plate, a competition among chefs for the best dish made with traditional Florentine ingredients. The winning recipe will then be dispatched to participating restaurants, so I'm sure to be making an appearance at one of them to taste the top-rated dish.


Have I whetted your appetite? This is but a hint of the treats in store. Find out more on the Biennale website, including the daily program. While our waistlines may suffer, these two weeks of gastronomic delights are sure to be worth it.


November 3 to 18, various locations around Florence

See www.biennaleenogastronomica.it or call 055/0946266 for tour and tasting reservations or for general information.


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