The pairings are wild at Florence’s annual food fair

Tom Fork
March 10, 2011

The scent of pecorino and proseccowill be wafting from within the concrete spaces of Florence's Stazione Leopolda. At hundreds of tables, representatives of 240 culinary companies will slice cheese, pour wine, offer chocolate truffles to taste and black truffles to sniff.



Taste is in town, and you cannot miss it.


The Taste fair runs March 12 to 14 at the Stazione Leopolda and in various venues around Florence. It is an annual event organized by gastronome Davide Paolini and Pitti Immagine. Yes, Pitti Immagine won't let you attend its super-insider fashion fair, but the organizers of Taste extend an open invitation to culinary professionals, restaurant owners, food producers, chefs and ordinary foodies to taste local excellence and see what the future of food will be. A veritable salone dei sapori, the event offers a comprehensive perspective on the world of traditional and modern Italian gastronomy and eonology.


There are two sides to the fair: Taste, and all the delights that go with it at the Leopolda; and Fuoriditaste, a series of events throughout Florence, all open to the public, some at a price and with a reservation.


At the Leopolda, Taste has six main sections: the Taste Tour, a sweet and savory sampler journey taking you from salumi to pastas, truffle creams to cured tuna, Balsamic chocolates to olive jams. (I recommend you bring an empty stomach and open mind and make a petit-portion lunch out of the event.) At Taste Tools, where a panorama of culinary devices, apparel, kitchen design items and techno toys will be on display and for sale. The Taste Shop ensures that your favorite food items can go home with you. To listen in on some cuisine conversations, go to the Taste Ring, where the stars of contemporary culinary culture will debate modern taste issues and projected trends. Taste Press, for readers and writers, offers publications on cuisine.


A few special events are in store. Kitchen design firm ITALESSE's creations will be placed throughout the Leopolda. Exhibits include MovieFood, photographs from D La Repubblica (La Repubblica's women's publication) focusing on the people, places, ingredients, colors, gestures and faces of food and Angus Denoon, Scottish chef and inventor of a new way to ‘communicate cuisine.' D will also celebrate Italian unity with another exhibit, Primi d'Italia, featuring close-up shots of some of Italy's best and favorite soups, risottos and pastas. Art and food are paired in Fiona Corsini's exhibition of watercolors, Il Gioco della Cucina, while Sette (Corrieri della Sera's weekly magazine) will feature the work of photographer John Stanmeyer, who traveled the world documenting the effects of rising food prices on society, a moving exhibition featuring breathtaking images of the forgotten corners of the globe.


Fuoriditaste lists more than 50 events taking place starting March 11 (see www.fuoriditaste.com). My recommendation is to choose wisely as almost all are happening concurrently.


On March 11 and 12, from 5pm to 7pm, head to the courtyard of Barthel's beautiful showrooms for Ortobello to sample wildflower teas, cakes and chocolates, and, on March 13, enjoy the delightful (and eco-friendly) outdoor market of 0km products to support your pranzo di domenica menu. If the weather is as good as it was last year, it will be a capital way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The evening of March 12, grab your late afternoon coffee at Casa della Creatività, where Mokarico will be offering samples of its new special-reserve blend of caffè and a selection of desserts prepared by chef Stefano Piciaroli. If you'd rather opt for the savory and substantial, meat lovers must taste the chianina tartare by the chefs of Buchetta Caffé; samples will be available all day on both March 12 and 13.


There will be plenty of wine tastings in the Leopolda and around town, but make time for beer. For most of the day on the March 11, at the historic Bottega della Frutta (via de' Federighi, 31), 32 Via dei Birrai will present BB-Birra in Bottega, a tasting of artisanal beers. At 7:30pm the same day, another ‘hoppy option' can be found at In Birra Veritas at Soul Kitchen (Via de' Benci, 34R), featuring an innovative beer made with unfermented grapes using the champenoise technique usually reserved for sparkling wines. On March 11 starting at 6:30pm, Volume, in piazza Santo Spirito, will be plopping the gourmet olives of the Azienda Agricola Fratepietro in every Martini-based drink. Volume is the spiffed-up former studio of a woodworker, and seeing all those handmade statues adds a little something to your aperitivo.


Sweet tooth? At Riva Lofts, renowned pastry chef Paolo Sacchetti, known primarily for producing the best panettone in Italy, will be showcasing pastries, including the famed pesche di Prato, starting at 5pm on March 12. Instead, you can go to Vestri around 6pm the same day for artisanal beer tasting from Birrificio l'Olmaia paired with aromatic chocolates and other Vestri delicacies.

Beer and chocolate? Who'd have thought? Clearly, this season, the pairing possibilities are endless.



Taste  / March 12 to 14, all over Florence

For more information on participating companies, conferences and internal events, see www.tastefirenze.it.



Fuoriditaste / March 11 to 14, all over Florence

Extremely well-organized day-by-day listing of events, prices and reservation information. Many events require reservations, and many have entrance fees. Consult the website before heading out the front door! See www.fuoriditaste.com for details.


Photo Credits: Sofie Delauw http://thecuriouseater.com



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