Thursday, December 9, 2010

An Italian Holiday

The Italians know how to do food at the holidays...and all year round for that matter.  They also know how to keep food authentic, ensuring that culinary tradition remains untouched.  Well, at least the Italian Ministry of Agricultural, Food and Forestry Policies is hoping to preserve this.  Together with the Rome Chamber of Commerce, they've launched the "Italianissimi Project" to protect the origins and authenticity of truly "Italian" food products and ingredients - think Parmesan, proscuitto di parma and olive oil.  Basically, they're out to thwart piracy and keep all that we know and love about Italian food alive and very well, and delicious.  A dinner last week on Dec. 1st at SD26 (hosted by the Ministry of Agricultural Policies) kicked off "Italianissimi" and proved a point with multiple dishes highlighting Italy's best. 
From an entire counter strewn with cheese samplings to an array of cured meats and olive oil tastings to an 8 course tasting dinner, you could say that guests, myself included, officially kicked December in full-on indulgent holiday mode.  Thankfully this is not my normal evening dinner routine, otherwise I'd be facing the wrath of the scale post-New Year's, and I fully heed the advice I dish out, scanning the room and the menu for the dishes that particularly stand-out to me, sticking to rock-solid portion sizes and scouting veggies when possible.  My favorite dishes of the evening, most definitely the braised beef cheeks, so tender, and the cheese course studded with truffles and a pear-apple cugni (yes, the word alluded me too, it's essentially a compote) - if you're going to go indulgent, I vote for all the way (in small quantities of course!).  
To make you want to hop the next flight to Rome for Christmas and New Year's even more, here's a quick snapshot of SD26's and the "Italianissimi Project's" featured dishes that evening: 
 the view from SD26's mezzanine level, they're not messing around
 a meat & cheese wonderland
 prosciutto and burrata (a creamy mozzarella) at its best
 one of all-time favorite pastas from childhood: parmesan & black pepper
beef cheeks celebrate the holidays in style 
cheese + truffles + fruit compote = holiday heaven

images: Vasilios Sfinarolakis

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