When I was recently thinking about what words came to my mind when I thought of my LentiLab experience, they were the words: passion, family, tradition, spices and delicious slowly cooked ham.
And the excitement of being invited, of receiving a package from Italy with the most wonderful gifts, so simple and so personal: a poster of the LentiLab experience and there at the bottom, printed directly on the poster was my name: Karin!
Wow LentiLab was inviting me at the Salone del Gusto to cook in their studio and to be part of the LentiLab experience. I was thrilled and felt it was a great honor for such an small food blogger!
Today, as I was reviewing my pictures of my LentiLab experience and framing my poster as my husband is so proud of me he wants to hang it on the wall next to the kitchen where he feels it belongs, I saw the cameo picture of Lenti founder Attilio Lenti surrounded on the left and the right by the words passione and famiglia. Yes family and passion that is truly the secret behind Lenti&Lode ham because they live it and not just market it.
The many steps, the spices, the Marsala, the marinating and the slow cooking still done today as in its beginnings, just as the livestock used are still raised on the hillsides of Piedmont.
As stated on the individualized invitation, the LentiLab is a laboratory designed to convey the quality of the Lenti&Lode products and the passion of the company.
I arrived on the 24th to walk around Turin for the first time. And of course to get lost as I usually do, inspired by the buildings and the lovely sunshine, turning my map this way and that, following where my camera leads me in this most pleasant city.
I did find my way in the end so as to be on time to meet my food blogging friends Giulia and Asha for dinner at the lovely Scannabue restaurant recommended by local food blogger Sandra from Un Tocco di Zenzero who recommended it where we had an excellent 4-course degustation menu with the best specialties Turin has to offer. It included: beef tatare with olive oil, potato dumplings with dried cod – bacalhau, ravioli al plin stuffed with rabbit, poek and veal, veal cheek with potato mash and red wine sauce and a medley of desserts including creme caramel, panna cotta said to be the best my Italian friends have ever eaten, and the local bonet (amaretti cookies crumbled, mixed with eggs and chocolate) and then baked as a pudding. All the courses were delicious and just the right size. The price of 30€ for the menu is more than fair too!
Well rested and having put on my favorite red boots and a pretty dress I took the local bus to the Ligotto Fiere Fairground where the Salone del Gusto and Slow Food Conference take place.
The buzz of excitement in the air outside the entrance was titillating, guests from all over the world lining up to enter, school classes of all ages picnicking outside, the exhibitors taking care of last minute deliveries and set-ups. Nervous excitement is everywhere.
And then we entered the first hall and the aroma of food, wine and beer, cheese, and chocolate, fish and seafood, olive oil and coffee, floats us on a cloud of well-being up and down the aisles of the exhibition halls, one stand more enticing then the next. A nibble here, a nibble there, a picture taken, an ouuu and an ahhhh. What foodie bliss!!
At 11:15 my friends and I presented ourselves at the Lenti Stand and met the other participants and the lovely Sara Lenti Roletto, a 4th generation Lenti family member involved in the business. She was knowledgeable, passionate, engaging and the perfect hostess.
We entered the cooking studio or “laboratory” as it is called. The walls are plexiglass so that the interested public may look in. Each of us had our LentiLab apron on and an individual preparation space was laid out with knives, boards, butter, salt, pepper, spices and frying pans,
The video camera was rolling, OK, we were ready, let the challenge begin!!
First Sara explained about the traditions behind her family’s ham making, the steps and spices, the special pots used to make this amazingly tender and aromatic ham.
Fresh cut samples were brought in for us to taste. It is truly delicious and the spices and wine blend so well together that you can lightly taste each one on your tongue as you chew, but all together they create the ummmmm in your mouth that makes you reach directly for the next slice. No butter, bread or mayonnaise needed for this ham, eat as is to experience its full flavor. And I am not saying this for any other reason than that it is so!!!
Next young chef Giovanni Naviglia told us about what we would be cooking today “Bistecca di Prosciutto Cotto Lenti&Lode con Porcini Ripassati e Salsa die Sedano Rapa” which translates to: “Ham Steak with Porcini and Pureed Celeriac Sauce” this recipe was created by the Accademia FoodLab especially for LentiLab and the Salone del Gusto in this year.
It combines thick fried slices of the Lenti cooked ham with fresh, seasonal and local porcini mushrooms fried in butter, a little dried thyme and the earthy flavor of celeriac pureed with fresh cream. A delectable combination that pleases the eye too.
Giovanni the chef shows us how to prepare the dish and we follow suite, each of us selecting a porcini, cleaning, slicing and frying it and the ham slice. The individuality of the challenge lay more in the arrangement of the finished product on the plate. But, I will admit that I am a girl that likes her spices and experimenting in the kitchen so my dish included a dash of ground cinnamon which in my opinion brought out the flavors even more. My fellow Italian blogger contestants just crinkled their noses and shook their heads: cinnamon in Italy is a Christmas spice. Period.
But Giovanni the chef is curious about the added ingredient and asks for a taste of the porcini. He chews and nods approval. The tiniest sprinkle of cinnamon does bring out the spices in the ham perfectly and intensifies the taste of the porcini.
I am happy to have been able to do my thing. Conformity is not always my forte!
The session is over, lots of pictures are taken, cards exchanged, hands shaken, cheeks kissed. I am a happy blogger, LentiLab has made me part of the Salone del Gusto experience and community and that has made my visit there even more special.
Thank you Sara for the invitation and thank you Lenti&Lode for sharing and believing that bloggers have a place in the culinary world!
Other food producers I had contact with at the Salone del Gusto and can recommend that they are attentive to the high quality their products are:
Quattro Portoni Caseficio – a buffalo milk cheese producer from Bergamo with amazing cheeses!
Savini Tartufi – authentic family Tuscan truffle business since the 1920′s. Where you can also visit and go truffle hunting.
Tassoni Soda – relaunched lemon soda from a family business started in 1950.
A.P.O.V. Olive Oil from Batignano - a Slow Food community cooperative
Caseifricio Carena with Pannerone Lodi – who have an amazing White Gorgonzola and other great cheeses
Erbe di Montagna – offers herb-based teas, spices, risotto mixtures, salts and much more