If you’ve been reading my series of posts about Italy, you already know I’ve been sharing photos and recipes somewhat out of chronological order from my actual trip. (Sorry!) But todays post actually picks up where the last one left off! As I mentioned in Homemade Pasta 1010: Tortellini + Bologna, after visiting Hombre Farms, producer of the real deal Parmigano-Reggiano, we left the area near Bologna and moved on towards Modena so we could visit a traditional producer of Balsamic Vinegar.
We had the pleasure of visiting Acetaia de Giorgio, a small family run business.
The family are all the loveliest type of people. A husband and wife couple own the business, and are assisted by their future son in law. Who is of course engaged to their daughter Carlota.
Carlota, unfortunately has decamped and gone to work for the cheese people. By cheese people I mean the Parmigiano Reggiano consortium; the group which regulates Parmigiano Reggiano production and certifies the real stuff. From what we heard Carlota loves her job, but Mama really wished she’d come back to the family balsamic business. It is all very cute and touch Romeo & Juliet-esque.
While visiting we got a chance to sample a number of the real Traditional Balsamic Vinegars they produce. Like Parmigano-Reggiano, or olive oil, or fines wines, there is an authentic version of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar produced following a very specific method.
Heck, I’m going to just go ahead and quote Wikipedia here, because they explain it simply and accurately, ” Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (or Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale) is a costly type of balsamic vinegar produced in the Emilia Romagna region of Italy. Unlike inexpensive ‘Balsamic Vinegar of Modena’ (BVM), Traditional Balsamic Vinegar (TBV) is produced from cooked grape must, aged at least 12 years, and is protected under the European Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) system. (BVM has lesser protection under the European Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) system.) Although the names are similar, TBV and the inexpensive imitation BVM are very different.“
I will also note that real BVM is better quality then most of the imitation stuff you find in the grocery store. A lot of that stuff is colored with caramel color, and it’s flavors are produced by adding buckets of sugar and artificial flavorings.
I sometimes think food items with all these rules governing what is authentic or not seem… a bit silly. But, I’ve got to say in the case of real balsamic vs the imitation grocery store stuff, the rules are there for a reason, and they are totally right on. WOW! The two taste SO noticeably different, and the real stuff is worth protecting so consumers know they are getting the real thing. I’m probably not going to stop using grocery store balsamic, because the real stuff costs a mint and I can’t afford it all the time. Though I will definitely look for the highest quality I can find even in the grocery store from now on. But, I also did come home with an amazing bottle of the real stuff, and it will be gracing many a special dish around our house from now on. (My bottle was added in juniper and you can totally taste spicy juniper notes from the wood! Amazing!)
By the way if you want to make sure you are getting the real thing when you buy, look for the bottle you see in the pictures above. It was specially designed to hold Tradional Balsamic Viegar only. And only the real stuff is allowed to be bottled in it. Plus, you want to see the DOP label on the package as well.
After Acetaia di Giorgio, we moved on to the Enzo Ferrari Museum located at the childhood home of Mr. Ferrari himself. Next to the original house is a very modern building housing most of the museums collection. I believe the modern building is supposed to look like the hood of a Ferrari, which I think you can see in the photo below. I will tell you from the opposite side where the parking lot is the building looks like a giant banana. Sorry, but it’s totally true.
We had a lovely traditional lunch in the cafe. Apparently the chef’s mother worked for the Ferrari family, and some of the recipes on the menu are still made following the original recipes served to Enzo as a child.
After lunch we checked out the cars, and watched a very well done multi-media presentation about the life of Enzo Ferrari. The collection at the museum isn’t huge but if your a fan of Ferrari it’s still well worth seeing.
We then moved on to the city center of Modena, where we were able to see the sites and walk around a bit. It was a pretty short stop and then right on to Piacenza, where we got a chance to explore a little bit more. (I’m kind of giving you the photos from both cities in one big hodge-podge here.)
And that was about that for Modena and Piacenza. We had a lovely overnight stay in Piacenza, more cappuccino on a gorgeous balcony at breakfast, then we left our hotel and headed towards Parma (which I already wrote about here. As I mentioned earlier I’ve been a little out of chronological order with some of these posts….)
More photos from Italy (Expo Milano 2015!) and a few more recipes coming next week. Have a great weekend.
Note: This trip was fully paid for by Emilia Romagna Region Tourist Board. However, any opinions expressed here are my own.