The people who have met me know that I often say I was made in Italy. To be quite partial to my hometown and roots, Italians know how to design experiences. This coming weekend celebrates one of the many initiatives in Modena -- a culinary journey of the products and people that have made the city (now about 250,000 inhabitants) famously delicious.
Let's start with the balsamic vinegar. This is an image that shows how the aged vinegar is extracted from the casks. The most famous local balsamic vinegar brand is Fini. You probably saw the little frosted bottles on store shelves somewhere. Did you know that special aged productions of balsamic vinegar are sold at a premium price? Imagine the equivalent of a very rare perfume, for the palate.
Now I'm giving away one of my most prized secrets. Lynne Rossetto Kasper wrote a wonderful book complete with recipes from my region that duplicates almost exactly the flavors and colors of our cuisine. It's called The Splendid Table.
The whole production of Parmigiano Reggiano should come from a restricted area - according to the law that on 1955 defined the standard of this cheese: the provinces of Modena, Parma and Reggio Emilia and partially Bologna and Mantova.
It is in fact due also to the geographical position of the production zone that the Parmigiano Reggiano is a cheese absolutely unique and impossible to imitate.
Even the name itself shows the close link with the surrounding areas: the towns of Parma and Reggio Emilia. Did you know that one kilo of cheese (2.2 lbs.) is produced from a good 16 liters (4.2 gal.) of the richest milk around?
Who doesn't know Prosciutto? Have you ever eaten it with sweet melon? The term actually refers to the way the pig is cut. The hams are made from the rear haunches of the pig; four ingredients are essential to the production of Parma Ham: Italian pigs, salt, air and time -- all natural. Making a Parma ham is a long and painstaking process. The curing is controlled carefully so that the ham absorbs only enough salt to preserve it. A trimmed ham will have lost more than a quarter of its weight through moisture loss, helping to concentrate the flavor. Here are some recipes directly from the Parma ham site. Did you know that Parma Ham contains just 3.5g of fat? This is lower than turkey breast.
I used to make tortellini with my grandmother. There are both history and legend that place the birth of this flavorful pasta before the 12th century. Legend has its birth associated with a tentative imitation of Venus bellybutton in a story that sees gods involved in the rivalry between the neighboring cities of Modena and Bologna. Because they were made with eggs, they needed to be eaten right away. The Bartagni brothers figured out a way to preserve them and brought them to Los Angeles in 1906. Tortellini is made with Parmesan cheese and prosciutto and is traditionally cooked in a rich chicken broth. Did you know that for tortellini to be good you need to be able to savor all flavors, just like wine?
All of these products are made with time, specific climatic conditions (space) and extreme care and love. They are ingredients to a delightful meal, one I promise you will not forget. How can we create a product and content experience that can be lived like a wonderful meal that keeps inviting you back for more?