Terra Madre Salone del Gusto in Turin

Barely back home from Cheese! last year, Alex and I were already making plans for this year’s foodie weekend away. It didn’t take long for us to decide on the huge Slow Food festival in Turin, which takes place biannually. This year, the date was moved up a month from end of October and the tents and stalls were around the city. We were able to window shop with gelatos in hand and sit in one of the many squares to rest our feet. Turin is an architecturally beautiful city, rich in history and well worth a visit even without the festival.

We arrived the day the festivities started and we headed straight for the food trucks for a late lunch followed by a lot of ice cream in the “Via del Gelato”. Slow Food ice cream was being sold in the Via del Po. The best part about that was if you ordered chocolate, hazelnut, pistachio, lemon, apple or coffee, you received two scoops of the same flavor using different origins of that flavor, e.g. Puertomar Criollo Chocolate from Venezuela and Arriba Chocolate from Equador. While we were there I tried pistachio, chocolate and hazelnut, and I found the flavor differences most noticeable in the hazelnut. It was also my favorite of the three.

After the sugar shock (yes, we each had two flavors right then and there!) we headed over to Piazza Valdo Fusi and Piazza San Carlo to admire stands with bread, cheeses, vegetables and more.

The old woman tying tomatoes together has perfected the old art from the Mt. Vesuvius area. These tomatoes are picked, tied together into grape-like clusters and hung up. As they are a dry tomato, they keep well and are traditionally used at Christmas for cooking. After some misunderstanding due to language barriers, I was given two, one yellow and one red, to try to grow in my own garden next year.

Alex and I ended our first day with the workshop “50 shades of hot!”. We thought we’d be going to a taste workshop which dealt only with chilies, but we were pleasantly surprised when we were lead through a variety of spicy flavors that aren’t chilies. We start with a plate with three things, two with the traditional spice of Europe: horseradish and mustard seeds. There was a slice of ham with horseradish, a piece of pumpernickel bread with mustard made with apple wine and a pork chip and a beet blini made with three types of ginger, dried, fresh and pickled and topped with caramelized onions. The second plate was a fusion dish of pasta with a tomato sauce topped with Szechuan pepper and a piece of roast beef with wasabi. The third plate with a wild mix of cultures, but each dish was made with chilies. There was a Pico de Gallo made with serranos, a corn chip topped with Local Tang from Benito’s Hot Sauce, a soy milk pudding with green chilies and topped with a sweet and salty crunch made with oats, farrow, jaggery and green chilies, and a piece of raw chocolate with chipotle and allspice. Spiciness is best dealt with milk products, but alcohol also helps and we gratefully sipped the Firestone Walker beer that was paired and served with the dishes.

The next day we head to Parco Valentino to try everything that is offered. I bite into a coca bean before being told I’m only allowed to suck the fruit or else it will be really bitter, I try Guarana and taste pure soy sauce from Taiwan. We joke with the Norwegians selling reindeer meat, taste Irish cheeses and wash it all down with tea from China or gin from Switzerland. One of the highlights was testing Jamaican hot sauce. The two women at the stand got a kick out of watching people try to fan their mouths after tasting and had infectious laughs.

At lunch time, we head to Eataly! for a workshop on the Naga Cuisine. Naga is an area in northeast India and very spicy! We were given smoked pork which is made into a stew with fermented soy beans, plain red rice, a mix of stewed vegetables and spices and a chutney made with grilled tomatoes, fermented fish and plenty of chilies. Baladin beers were paired with this dish and were much needed to cool the heat in our mouths. The vegetables were very good and spicy but the chutney was over the top delicious and addicting and possibly the most spicy thing I have ever eaten. I think it may really have been made out of chili seeds…

In the late afternoon we are no longer able to taste or eat anything and walked to a café to drink an aperitif. On our way back to our apartment, we pass some food stands and decide we are not only able to have a bite to eat, we also decide that there is no need to say no to some more gelato. Ottimo makes some wild flavors (peanut butter, chocolate and wasabi anyone?) and we were game to try. I decided on the safe Fondente Torino, a chocolate ice cream made with stone-ground cocoa beans according to a 1750’s recipe.

On Saturday we decided to be tourists and visit the Mole Antonelliana a major building with a tall tower and originally built to be a synagogue.. To get to the top, you step into a glass elevator which takes you up through the center of the hollow building. From the top, there are on a clear day views across the city. Unfortunately we had a hazy day.

Afterwards, we stroll through the city visiting the church in which the shroud of Turin is housed, window shop under the arcades and look up in awe at the glass gallerias. To fortify ourselves, we drink the local specialty Bicerin, coffee mixed with hot chocolate and whipped cream, in one of the many coffee houses.

Our last dinner was at the restaurant Banco right across from our apartment and absolutely delicious. We drink a bottle of red wine and enjoy the unusually warm evening.

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