The Nobel Prize of Gastronomy

white guideThe spirit of the Nobel Prize is innovation, research and transformation. Taking an idea from academia to involvement to change. Physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, economics , peace.

Areas of achievement given honors in Stockholm this past December 10th at the 2013 Nobel Laureates award ceremony.

On March 3rd in Stockholm another honor will be bestowed, the White Guide Global Gastronomy Award 2014. Chef Massimo Bottura of Modena will receive recognition for his dedication to one of the world’s most beloved cuisines (Italian), “elevating it to new amplitudes for senses and minds to explore and enjoy”. The award is being called the Nobel prize of Gastronomy and rightly so. The science of gastronomy (the study of food and culture) lends itself to to the spirit of the Nobel Prize blending art, technology, innovation and expression to transform the way we think about and appreciate food.Massimo Bottura chef

At Osteria Francescana, Bottura’s 3 star Michelin restaurant in Modena, the memories of  traditional Italian food  are “brought out of the past into the future”. Bottura works under the assumption that “food is not only about the quality of the ingredients but the quality of the ideas”. Innovation, research, transformation  – a nobel and award winning way to think about food.

This is Not Balsamic Land

vinegar bottlesIn the pantheon of Italian food products one type of vinegar stands above all others, Aceto Balsamico from Modena but it is NOT the only vinegar in Italy.  A mere yodel away from Switzerland in Italy’s Northern SudTirol, the Trentino-Alto Adige  is a melting pot  of cooking and cultures that result in a distinctive mixture of flavors and food customs.   Aceto Vino Rosso Dolomiti , red wine vinegar from the Trentino  Dolomiti (Italy’s  majestic limestone Alps) is reminiscent of Dolomite granite and alpine flowers.

Further south the DOC estate wines of Chianti bring the character of the Tuscan grape to a level of fermentation that creates a savory acidified flavor with a Chianti aroma.   And across the Adriatic from Trieste is the  Slovenian city of Piran, once ruled by Venice, that seems to have taken a piece of Italy with it. The region may geographically lie in Slovenia but just by a blink. You can taste the flavor of Refosco wine (a native Frulian variety) in the vinegar produced there.

A Teaspoon per Person

Contrary to popular opinion more is not better in Italy.  The understated elegance of Milanese fashion, the sleek refined lines of Ferrari and the belief that a few ingredients can transform a dish into a delicious work of art does not equate to the abbastanza “bigger is better” attitude found on many Italian-American restaurant menus .

The model that less is more and form follows function translates well with Italian cooks who live and die by their ingredients. They believe that the flavors inborn in the main ingredients themselves are the stars of the dish. So well-curated ingredients like pasta, extra olive oil, fresh garlic and basil, prosciutto and pancetta and balsamic are essential to Italian cooking .

Ripening in dark, silent aging rooms, refined for years through a series of barrels of different woods and decreasing size; traditional Aceto Balsamico from Modena is one of the great gastronomic treasures of Italy. In the pantheon of Italian food products it stands above all others. Aceto Balsamico has such an extraordinary depth of flavor and aroma that a few drops of an artisan aged balsamic vinegar is all that is needed to elevate your cooking.

Following DOP regulations Trebbiano grapes, grown for centuries in the province of Modena, are crushed, cooked and aged with skillful attention according to ancient traditions. As the vinegar ripens, it takes on the flavors of different woods and condenses into a smooth syrupy texture with a fullness of flavor, both sweet and savory, and a deep rich marrone color.

Barely a teaspoon per person is all that is needed to enhance the flavor of meat, fish, salads, fruit, cheese even chocolate and vanilla ice cream; season a sauce or finish a dish.