I should start with the formal opening ceremony, even though I was just slightly late, and had to stand behind the big cameras. Never mind, it gave me a chance to take a few of my favorite kind of meta-pictures.
Italy was the country sponsor for the Show this year. Their pavilion was right up front on the show floor, and as usual, was one of the biggest. After the ribbon-cutting, with folks from the Italian Embassy and the Italian Trade Agency, they broke out the Prosecco and finger food.
Meanwhile, in a quiet corner of the pavilion, a chef was turning out handmade pasta.
She was from the Puglia region, and the orecchiette (little ears) pasta are a specialty there.
Staying in the Italian spirit (if not the pavilion), Lidia Bastianich’s booth featured an appearance by Lidia herself, signing ARC’s of her new cookbook. She is part of the great Italian food tradition in this country; although a native of Istria, she has been cooking, running restaurants, teaching, and writing in the US since the 1970’s. She has starred in several television series, and founded Eataly along with Mario Batali.
Her new cookbook, Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, is a comprehensive treatment of Italian food and cooking presented with the warm, personal touch she is famous for. The recipe section reminded me of the iconic Silver Spoon in its wide coverage of materials, but with the addition of advice on ingredients and techniques, it’s like having an Italian nonna cooking along with you.
I had to rouse early for a morning talk by Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, about attacking two global issues, food waste and food deserts, with one elegant solution: he has launched a new venture to supply healthy food to under-served areas of inner cities by repurposing “unsellable” ugly produce and expired but totally edible packaged goods.
The Federally-mandated expiration codes are partly to blame, as they are extremely conservative and unnecessarily ubiquitous. He hit us with an extreme example. “What’s the shelf-life of honey?” he asked, possibly rhetorically. This audience, though, was ready for him. They responded, in unison: “Forever!” (True!)
We heard all about his plans for retail stores to purvey healthy, wholesome, affordable excess food in food deserts, with participation by customers to give them agency and engender dignity. He calls it “conscious capitalism.” I call it terrific.
And speaking of terrific (and totally non-ironic contrast), the party thrown by Urbani Truffles was the social highlight of the show, at least for me. Presided over by Olga Urbani, it started on the roof of a building with great views of the city, with Prosecco flowing and appetizers provided by Brooklyn artisanal producers,
and as the sunset faded, processed downstairs to the party room complete with disco balls, a DJ, video projection,
and, why yes, caviar. Specifically, a “caviar bar” with three choices, presided over by an expert from Calvisius Caviar, dispensing knowledge and loving spoonfuls.
Eventually, I tore myself away from there to the other side of the room, where there were actual dishes made with the ingredient of honor. Truffles with casarecci (pasta), truffles with lamb, even tiramisu with truffles for dessert.
Oh, there were also some appetizers, as well as an open bar, but I think you can discern my priorities!
For party favors, there were little boxes stacked at the door. They contained truffle-flavored chocolates – yup, truffled truffles.
Next – One more post on the show.