Tuesday, March 27, 2012
One of the best reasons to go to Taste, the food fair in Florence, is what’s going on in the city outside of the fair proper. Fuori di Taste, (Outside of Taste) has developed over the last few years to become a reason in itself to get yourself up there.
Almost all of the restaurants in the city participate, preparing special tasting menus featuring some of the products featured at the fair. The great thing is that it goes beyond restaurants. Anyone having anything even remotely related to food joins in the fun. I attended a tasting at a silver shop, another at a kitchen supply store and even cocktails at a museum.
One of my most delicious stops was for merenda at Carapina. Merenda, in Italian, is ‘snack time.’ But unlike Americans, who snack all the time, the Italian idea of merenda is very fixed: late afternoon, mid way between lunch and dinner. For kids, it’s after school, usually sweet and filling enough to recover from a hard day at school, to keep up your strength through homework time, until you sit down to dinner.
Carapina - one of the best gelaterie in Florence, if not Italy - is the brainchild of Simone Bonini. He’s known for his innovative use of seasonal ingredients. Be they strawberries, gorgonzola or tomatoes.
For 'snack time' he prepared two gelato ‘snacks’, one sweet and one ‘salty’. Both working in Aquerello rice, a big presence at Taste.
The salty one combined an Aquerello suppli (rice ball) with two scoops of gelato: tomato and mozzarella. The slightly tangy tomato gelato paired with the sweet mozzarella in a sort of frozen caprese as it melted over the piping hot suppli. Yum!
The sweet snack was more straight forward, but just as good. A rice fritella paired with a scoop of Crema dell’Artusi - a luscious, eggy vanilla ice cream.
Of course, after a full day spent at Taste, two gelato snacks were probably the last thing I needed. But I still had three more events to go to before dinner, so I needed to keep my strength up.
Which is why they invented merende in the first place, right?
Via Lambertesca 18r, Florence