How They Make Parma Ham in Emilia Romagna

How They Make Parma Ham in Emilia Romagna

When I started traveling to Italy, I always wondered how they actually make Parma Ham. When I walked around any small town in Italy I always saw large legs of ham hanging from the ceiling. More often than not, they were stamped with a crown shaped marking that bears a single word: “Parma.” But, how did they get there? What is Prosciutto di Parma Prosciutto di Parma, or more generally, Parma ham, has been around since Roman times. There are stories from 100 BC referencing the unique flavor of the air-dried pork from the area surrounding Parma. At the time, pork was dried to extend its life and prevent it from spoiling. A group of Parma ham producers created a Consortium, Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma, in the 1970s, to control the quality of prosciutto. In 1996, the European Union gave the DOP designation on Prosciutto di Parma. Like all DOP and IGP products, the Consortium regulates the types of pigs that can be used, what the pigs are fed, and how the ham itself is produced. What Are The Ingredients in Parma Ham The Consortium likes to say there are only four ingredients in Parma ham: Italian pigs, salt, air, and time. In reality it’s really only two ingredients, although air and time are also key components. Parma ham is made by curing a leg of pork with nothing but sea salt. This increases the tenderness of the meat, and gives it a characteristic sweet flavor. The production process is overseen by a maestro salatore, or salt master, which has to be the coolest sounding title for a...
Unique Foods to Eat in Emilia Romagna

Unique Foods to Eat in Emilia Romagna

For many Americans who dream of traveling to Italy, images come to mind of Napoli style pizza, or large platters of pasta slathered in red tomato sauce. This is very common in the cuisine in the south of Italy, areas that include Sicily, Puglia, and of course, Naples. But, the food of the north is entirely unique. Emilia Romagna includes the cities of Bologna, Parma, and Modena. It is host to an entirely different style of Italian cuisine. The question is: what to eat in Emilia Romagna? Because there are some truly unique dishes to try! The Unique Pasta You Must Eat in Emilia Romagna Some of the more common pasta dishes you will eat in Emilia Romagna include tortellini, tagliatelle, and gnocchi. But, there is a pasta called passatelli, which is particular to Emilia Romagna. It’s virtually unheard of outside of Italy. A traditional pasta that is thicker than many others, it tastes a lot more dense. Passatelli is made with Parmigiano Reggiano, bread crumbs, egg, flour, and sometimes nutmeg. It’s most common to find passatelli served in a broth, which is the traditional preparation. However, passatelli is also served “dry,” without a broth, often mixed with fresh vegetables or meats. It is getting increasingly more difficult to find on menus in Emilia Romagna because it is so expensive to make. All of that Parmigiano Reggiano adds up. If you only eat one pasta in Emilia Romagna (although why would you want to do that?) passatelli is the one to try! The “Meat Breads” You Must Eat in Emilia Romagna Almost every restaurant, trattoria, or osteria in Emilia Romagna offers a...
How To Take The Tabasco Factory Tour

How To Take The Tabasco Factory Tour

After a week in New Orleans, we took the long way to Lafayette so that we could make one very important, and very tasty stop along the way. It’s no secret we like it hot, so a stop for the Tabasco Factory Tour seemed like a perfect stop while in Louisiana. The Self Guided Tabasco Factory Tour We arrived on Avery Island, the home of Tabasco. Avery Island is also home to the McIlhenny Company that has been producing Tabasco since just after the Civil War. The Tabasco Factory Tour starts in the Tabasco Museum, in the building that houses the ticket office. The museum focused on the history of Tabasco and the McIlhenny family. The tour continues through nine more phases, focusing predominantly on how Tabasco is made. The tour starts with a walk through a greenhouse that explains what kind of peppers are used to make the special sauce. Then, we learned about the barrels that are used in the aging process. This, to me, was very interesting. I didn’t know that they aged the pepper mash, or that the aging takes place in retired bourbon barrels. The blending floor includes dozens and dozens of vats where the peppers are mashed. The best thing? There is a little button to press that releases the smells from the blending floor. The smell alone was intoxicating. I could have stood there all day pressing that button. Then, we walked along the bottling floor, and through a separate section dedicated to advertising and marketing of Tabasco around the world. Although a relatively short tour, we learned a lot. Being that they offer a...
Dining at Locavore – Coming Home and Eating Local

Dining at Locavore – Coming Home and Eating Local

When we left Ubud 2 years ago, anyone who read the last of my Ubud blog posts would assume I would never return. In fact, when I left, I too assumed I would never return. But, when the chef at Locavore Bali invited us for lunch, I suddenly found an excuse to return to Ubud. I’m glad I did. Why We Returned to Ubud During our last week living in Bangkok, we attended an award ceremony for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants, hosted by The World’s 50 Best. I’m still not entirely sure how we ended up on the invite list. I will assume it is because we met Joan Roca of El Celler de Can Roca, the 2015 best restaurant in the world. Or, that I am a budding culinary author with my recent publication of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna, home to the 2016 best restaurant in the world. Sometimes, it’s just luck. We showed up at the W Hotel in Bangkok, where the top echelon of the Asian culinary world rubbed shoulders. We were fancy for one night. We tried to fit in. We drank Champagne. We sat in the large ball room and awaited the announcement of the top 50 restaurants in Asia. Only one of which we’ve actually eaten at. But, we met the chef during that visit, so I felt a little more fancy. At one point they announced the top restaurant in Indonesia, and without knowing anything more, one word crossed my lips: Locavore. In fact, Locavore also won the Highest Climber Award. Of the top 50 restaurants in Asia, Locavore rose from 49,...
The Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna

The Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna

It’s finally here! After hinting for the last several months, and after a full year of hard work, my first culinary travel guide is here! Introducing The Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna: How to taste the history and tradition of Italy ! ! It’s no secret that Eric and I love Italy, and about three years ago, we discovered Emilia Romagna. Since that time, we have made five visits to the region, that encompasses Bologna, Modena, Parma, and more. Why do we love this region so much? Emilia Romagna is home to some of the best food, and food products, in the world. It is home to Parmigiano Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma, traditional balsamic vinegar, and more. It is the home to Slow Food and Fast Cars. It is home to amazing wines, including world famous Lambrusco, and some Italy’s secret wines, including Negretto and Albana. It almost kills me when people tell me they are traveling to Italy and limiting their trip to Rome or Venice. There is so much more to see of the country than the primary tourist spots. I do understand the draw to those cities. I understand wanting to see the Coliseum, or the Bridge of Signs. But, after Rome and Venice, where should you travel to in order to experience the REAL Italy? Where should you travel to in order to eat the best food in Italy? The obvious answer is: Emilia Romagna! And, my new The Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna can help you plan the perfect trip through the breadbasket of Italy. In a full 250 pages of culinary...
Where To Eat in Europe in 2017

Where To Eat in Europe in 2017

It’s mid January, and we have virtually none of our 2017 travel plans in place. That is a little unusual for us. We know we are flying to Berlin in March, and will be eating our way through Costa Brava again in April. But, other than that, things are pretty up in the air. I do know we need a little break from Bangkok. I’ve been dreaming about European food and wine, and part of our planning seems to be focused on where to eat in Europe in 2017. I found this infographic about where to travel in Europe in 2017. Although this list is for overall travel, HomeToGo also had a specific list on where to travel to eat in Europe in 2017 as well. I was surprised at how similar their list was to the cities I would like to travel to this year.  Our Top 5 Cities to Eat in Europe in 2017 Barcelona and Catalunya We love Barcelona! It’s one of our favorites cities to visit, and has been for years. We love exploring the tapas bars, and drinking cava at adorable little champagne bars. But, there are loads of fabulous places to eat in Catalunya as well. Just one of the areas of Catalunya worth exploring is Costa Brava, which runs north from Girona to the French border. Luckily, we will be returning to Costa Brava this April, for an entire month of drinking Emporda wine and eating Catalan seafood. We can’t wait! Bologna and Emilia Romagna It’s no secret that we love traveling and eating in Emilia Romagna, the Italian region that includes Bologna, Modena, Parma,...
Our New Food Traveler's Guide to Emilia Romagna is available on Amazon now!