Each year we have the pleasure of hosting a select group of Giordana Dealers in Italy. This weekend in Italy gives us the opportunity to reveal new products, give tours of our factory and be in community with those that are just as passionate about cycling (and in this case food) as we are! Kristi, one of our guests from this year's trip, recounts her experience from a culinary perspective below.
“Do you want to go to Italy in July?” was the text that I received from my husband, Shane Martin – owner of Classic Cycling. Well, of course, but how!? Flashes of delicious wine, prosciutto, pasta, espresso, and tiramisu came rushing to mind...because as the owner of a culinary tourism company, FEAST Food Tours & Culinary Events, food experiences are what I think about on a daily basis.
A few short weeks later, we boarded a plane and could not wait for all of our “favorite things” to be fulfilled on this journey. For my husband, cycling and all cycling things...for me...all things culinary. With just a brief idea of our itinerary, I had no idea what was in store for us, but our experience was fantastico!
As Americans, we may not be as accustomed to an aperitif drink before our evening meal most days, but the early evening Spritz became a ritual at the hotel lounge among the Giordana team as well as others there for the La Pinarello Cycling Marathon. The Spritz is a wine-based cocktail prepared with prosecco, a bitter liqueur such as Aperol or Campari, and a splash of soda water garnished with olive and/or orange wedge (these had both). It was a refreshing bright beverage to wash down the assortment of complimentary stuzzichini (snacks) that littered the bar area and accompanied the networking conversations and Tour de France viewing. A great way to wind down a day!
By day, each of us were a bit “on our own” when it came to our food selections at the hotel’s breakfast buffet or even what felt like a “behind-the-scenes” lunch experience dining alongside employees in the cafeteria at the Campagnolo factory before our tour. By night, each dinner we experienced was an orchestrated traditional Italian “feast” – antipasti, pasta, meat, and dessert courses – paired with the other most important parts of dining: conversation & fellowship. Two nights in particular, we were whisked away on a caravan of charter buses to unforgettable villas that set the backdrop for some memorable culinary experiences.
The first dining excursion led us to Casa Balbi Ristorante Il Barco where instead of dining inside the restaurant we had the pleasure of dining al fresco among the trees, grape vines, and a backdrop of the setting sun behind the nearby mountains. As an event planner, I geeked out upon arrival during the antipasti buffet at the rustic but elegant décor, the overflowing food platters and baskets of cheese, as well as things like the charcuterie activity station where two gentlemen were actively slicing cured meats to be placed on fresh baked bread! We then found our way to an available table to be served several courses - a bright lemony risotto, a savory pasta, hearty beef & potatoes, and shared platters of miniature desserts – all washed down by local wines and finished off with an espresso.
On our last evening of the trip, our second dining excursion whisked us away to Barchessa Villa Pola which was all that was left of a majestic family villa in the 18th century. This still-standing western colonnade was the residence of the farmers as well as the large wine cellar in the basement. Today, this building is now home to an Italian craft brewery!
This was so exciting to see because in our hometown of Charlotte, NC (and across the country), the craft beer industry is one of the fastest growing industries and a necessary story to tell on my company’s food tours. Strategically placed on each dining table were two non-descript pitchers of the “selezione di birre artigianali della casa” – or selection of craft beers of the house. One seemed to be a porter and the other a lager style...both very good and unexpected in Italy!
This evening’s dinner at the brewery was much like the experience a couple of nights ago, but a whole different set of delicious courses. This feast included a rustic ragu pasta, a melt-in-your-mouth pork shank with potatoes, and then a dessert course that, in a very good way, reminded me of Oreos. It looked like a hard biscotti, but it was a soft chocolatey consistency with creamy bits throughout. The menu card reads “Sweets & Delicacies of il Barco”...so that end of the meal delight will have to remain a mystery, I suppose.
During the dinner, I went exploring inside this huge building turned brewery. I felt like I just walked into an industrial revolution-era factory. The “exposed” functions of the working brewery brought amazing character to its décor. The holding tanks had piping running from them to create the coolest taps I have ever seen in a taproom! The old copper kettles in the brewery were stunning.
I am a believer that life is made up of food memories or vice versa. We are so appreciative of being able to add these culinary experiences to our food memories! Grazie!
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