When I left Rome to settle in the UK, I was in my early twenties, and for this reason there are (far too) many places in Italy that I only know by hearsay. Hence, an invitation from the London branch of The Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the UK, to the event BUY BASILICATA: Discovering Lucanian Food, from the 12th to the 15th of April, was like a dream come true! Matera (2019 European Capital of Culture) Wine and Food all in one package, how could anyone resist? Plus, there was no question about which one of us would be going this time, as Juliusz had only just returned from the (extended) annual pilgrimage to Vinitaly (that’s another story). I more than happily took up the offer!
Work (little rest)
Day one was all about wine, with B2B meetings with the producers held in the Hilton Garden Inn, our base for the 3 days. We were mostly tasting Aglianico which counts for over 85% of total grape production in the region, and also other interesting wines like Greco and Primitivo di Matera DOP. It was an intense day, looking back at my notes on the tastings, and some interesting new contacts were made.
The first real treat in store for our group was a visit + eating experience organised by Schiuma at Carrubbo, in the heart of the Matera’s “Sassi”: a spectacular place that is totally excavated in the volcanic tuff. The setting (the photo doesn’t quite do it justice!) was breathtaking, and I do say eating experience with good reasons! With the initial welcome came a fascinating introduction by Signor Nicola from Tesori di Lucania on the art of making bread in Matera , where it has been prepared with natural local products for centuries. The bread has an unforgettable flavour, with a satisfying brown crust and soft yellow crumb, that seems to desperately call for a good cheese…and it did, and we found plenty! There is a word in Italian that has no English equivalent, companatico, i.e. any food that goes with bread…obviously because bread can be so incredibly good!!
Both the amazing flavour and its long preservation, for which this bread is renowned, is due to the yeast base, made with spring water and fresh fruit put to macerate.
Lots of “Companatico”
All my expectations, the ones you would have as a buyer at a food and beverage trade fair in Italy, were exceeded. The food was really good, plentiful, varied and it kept coming, all night (and the following day)! I tried to put together a collage of images from the night, but I think I am missing a couple of dishes…
I vaguely remember losing the will to “take pictures” towards the end, then laughter came to our rescue, opening up a little space to allow for the final serving of dessert: strawberries with a soft cheese mousse and black chocolate sauce. I think not one in the group declined the offer.
And to finish …
A small glass of chilled Amaro Lucano at the end was quite welcome: a local digestive vermouth made from a secret recipe that includes more than thirty herbs. The whole experience was epic and inspiring. I loved all the different cheeses (and pickles) that were served, some from sheep and goat milk, in particular a fresh ricotta accompanied by a fig jam, and really enjoyed (with different versions over the three days!) the Pancotto con Cime di Rapa, literally cooked stale Matera bread with Turnip greens. Una vera meraviglia! Grazie Mille to Sviluppo Basilicata, the organisers in Matera, and the Italian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the UK, for putting together such a varied program, including a last day visit to the Crypt of the Original Sin, (see location shot below), the most perfect ending to a very earthly event). An excellent job!!