Rick Stein, the famous British TV chef, visited Bologna to introduce his audience to Italy’s culinary capital as a long-weekend-Foodie-destination. Although the historic center has a lot to offer, he wanted to get the full picture, so I took him and his film-crew to my favourite Foodie places in the Colli Bolognesei (Appenine foothills). The day before I went up to the cheese factory Pieve Roffeno to work out the final details for the filming and ended up in 20 cm of fresh snow (in March!) So I was quite nervous about whether everything would work out alright. The day of the tour we started at 8 am in Bologna, just like the regular food tour schedule dictates.
Parmigiano cheese factory Pieve Roffeno
Fortunately the streets were clear and we arrived in good time at my favourite Parmigiano Reggiano factory Pieve Roffeno, where the process of making the “King of cheeses” was to be filmed. As soon as the camera was up, they started to film Antonio, the casaro (cheesemaker) while he hoisted the cheese-mass up from the bottom of the vat, cut it into two and waddled the halfs in cheesecloth. The camera followed the cheese wheels to the salt basin and into the aging room full of Parmigiano cheese.
Rick was clearly impressed when he realized how much knowledge and craft skills the staff has, as well as being struck by the commitment they have to their craft. The staff works seven days a week, for example. Francesca, who also does the explanations during the regular food tour, told Rick about the strict guidelines regulatory authorities impulse and how to judge cheese quality. She also introduced him to the specialty of the caseificio Pieve Roffeno, the Nero. (read more about the Nero….)
Cracking a very special wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano
In honour of Ricks presence, Antonio opened two cheese wheels, just to let Rick taste the difference between a two year old and a 13-year old Parmigiano cheese. You won’t ever find Parmigiano cheese for sale that is more than 4 years old, so this was a very special event. Antonio and the caseificio have been conducting an experiment over the last 10+ years to test how Parmigiano develops and changes. Francesca helped Rick appreciate the miracle of eating 13-year old cheese, which has only three ingredients and has been aged in totally natural conditions. Since we are in Italy sure enough the Parmigiano opening was celebrated with a good glass of wine from the local winery Gaggioli before we headed to our next destination, the Agritourismo La Fenice.
La Fenice, agritourismo in the Colli Bolognesei
The schedule was to have lunch here to give Rick an impression of a countryside restaurant, but since the agritourismo also breeds the heirloom pig Mora Romagnola, the film crew took a few shots of a mother sow and her newborn piglet. Here they produce prosciutto and salumi of the Mora Romagnola, it also gets served for meat dishes at the farm restaurant and sold at the Slow food market in Bologna.
The hearty tasty meal at La Fenice gave us enough energy to carry on our Foodie tour through theColli Bolognesei, next stop: balsamic vinegar producer dei Bago. Travelling back down to the Po plain from the mountains, leaving the winter wonderland, the camera caught some nice mountain views, so in the end the snow made it kind of special.
Balsamic vinegar producer dei Bago
Balsamic vinegar, the black gold of Modena, is closely related to Parmigiano cheese, not only because both are from the same area and have a long, long tradition – but because they are often paired together – a chunk of Parmigiano with a few drops of balsamic vinegar is among the most popular antipasti in this area. Patrizia and Diego, the owners of the acetaia (vinegar factory), showed Rick around and helped him understand the difference between the original “aceto balsamico di Modena tradizionale” and the industrial product “balsamic vinegar”.
Balsamic vinegar tasting
Rick got to taste the 12-year old balsamico and compared it to the 25-year old one, Diego explained the different kinds of woods which are used for the barrels, the aging process and the history of aceto balsamico in Modena. (read more about balsamic vinegar….)
At the end of the day we had an exhausted film crew (great job, thank you!), wonderful pictures, an impressed Rick Stein – who is a real Foodie and connoisseur – and myself – also exhausted, but grateful and proud. After years of bringing Foodies from all over the world to these places and always being welcomed, I am happy to be able to give something back: from now on my favourite Foodie places in the Colli Bolognesei will proudly present the label “Rick Stein was here”. They all presented themselves in the best possible way and I want to say “Thank you! Without you, this Foodie day with Rick Stein would have never happened!”
I was impressed watching the team from Denham TV at work – first the pre-tour with Grace and Arezoo some weeks ago and then the filming day itself. They are highly professional media people and idealistic food lovers at the same time. It was an honour to work with the team of Denham TV.
by Martina Kuhnert and Audrey Saracco
to watch the full film: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/rick stein bologna weekend