There are just a handful of meals in my life-time that stand out as truly phenomenal. This Michelin star, slow food dining experience in Emilia-Romagna is one of them.
In my last post about Antica Corte Pallavicina, I wrote about this relais in the heart of Emilia-Romagna, which specializes in understated elegance and world-class culatello. Christina and I we were well into the 3rd or 4th course of our meal, when I realized that the meal was worthy of its own separate post. This restaurant in Emilia-Romagana, the relais, and the production of the culatello, exemplifies a Slow-Food experience. (I was graciously hosted by Antica Corte Pallavicino, all opinions are my own and contains affiliate links.)
What is “Slow-food”?
Originally started to counteract “fast-food”, the Slow food movement was started by Carlo Petrini. Some of its goals are to: promote local ingredients and breeds, local processing and sustainability, and to preserve the heritage and culinary traditions of a particular region. Antica Corte Pallavicina ticks all the boxes for a slow-food experience.
A Michelin Star restaurant in Parma.
This beautiful relais, sits just a few steps from the Po river. So our dishes would include local ingredients from both land and water. Massimo Spigaroli is both chef and owner of Antica Corte Pallavicina. His interest in preserving the local cuisine and his love for the land his grandfather worked is evident in his meticulously prepared dishes; each one a love note to Parma. In fact, the menu was dedicated to Parma, Creative City of the UNESCO and showcased the estate’s treasures.
Christina and were a bit giddy with excitement, having sampled the culatello when we first arrived, our appetites were whet. We started with a glass of Franciacorta sparkling white wine and a gorgeous sunset over the Po. This was followed by homemade bread and grissini, accompanied by the softest and lightest butter from the local red cows and luscious lardo with rosemary. (Note: we serve butter far too cold in America!)
The first course was a chilled soup; Tomato and Red Pepper Gazpacho topped with house-made giardiniera.
Our second course was Eel, Three Ways. The eel comes from the Po river and was prepared as a mousse with sesame seeds, lacquered and soused with raisins and with a garden gelée. (right to left) The gelée were tiny vegetal bursts of flavor.
The third course was a Cannelloncini filled pasta with rabbit, spring vegetables, scallops and wild herbs in a citrus consommé. This was close to being my favorite dishes. The rabbit filling was delicate and flavorful and the cannelloncini nearly melted in my mouth.
The fourth course was simply stunning. We were served a beautiful dome of puff pastry. Inside were light Parmigiano-Reggiano dumplings in a “hen” broth.
By now you’d think we would have been stuffed to the gills, but the portions are perfect. Chef Massimo knows exactly how much to serve to both satisfy, and encourage one’s appetite. The wine changed quietly with each course. I’ve written about the food, but for a restaurant to earn a Michelin star, a chef must depend on a meticulous wait staff to present and serve his carefully prepared menu. Without attention to detail and discrete service in the front of the house, the most wonderful meal can fall flat. Our waiter was just such a server. Kirill was attentive without hovering. Our glasses were refilled at just the right moment. We never felt rushed. Though we never felt as though we had to wait too long before the next course arrived.
The fifth course was the most surprising and delicious of all. “White Shell Egg, Urzano Red fondue, Asparagus and Culatello”. We’d been anticipating a dish with culatello, and had wondered how it would be woven into this incredible meal. When you think of “fondue” you probably conjure up a pot of thick, hot cheese into which you dip chunks of bread. This was actually nothing like that. This dish, I believe more resembled an Italian “fonduta” which is make with egg yolks. However, Chef Mossimo’s was made with egg whites and was light as a cloud. In any case, the word “fondue” in French means “to melt”. That’s exactly what this did; melt in one’s mouth. I wanted to eat this dish forever, and could have stopped there and eaten it all over again.
Our final savory course featured another local animal; the white ox. This dish was so impressive, it required both our server and a sous-chef to serve it. The White Ox filet flavored with Artemisia, served with caramelized vegetables, and was served under a dome. When the dome was lifted, a light cloud of poplar scented smoked wafted under our noses. We were served chop sticks to pick up the butter-tender beef. Alas, our meal was over and we were headed for the dessert menu. Three hours had passed almost too quickly. While I’m not a huge dessert eater compared to Christina, who holds the award for the largest sweet tooth west of the Mississippi, I was intrigued to try the “deconstructed affogato”. We share all our tastes any way, so Christina opted for the “Different textures and temperatures of Chocolate”. The affogato was served in a flat dish. A large dome of white chocolate was in the middle of the dish. Our waiter then poured the steaming espresso over the dome which made it collapse. Inside was another bite of chocolate. We thought it was all over after our desserts, but no. We were served a final tray of tiny pastries to send us off to bed.
I hope I’ve conveyed to you the quality and exquisite flavors of this wonderful Slow-Food dining experience in Emilia-Romagna. If you do decide to visit Antica Corte Pallavicina and experience Chef Massimo’s Michelin star cooking, you will not be able to experience this exact same tasting menu. What you will taste is the finest quality local ingredients prepared in unexpected and delicious ways at the hands of a master of Italian cooking.
I’d like to thank Antica Corte Pallavicina for hosting me. If you are interested in learning more or booking a tasting menu or dinner reservations, click here.