When we arrived in northern Italy, we were not expecting torrential rains and flooding, so we were relieved when the rains ended and we were greeted with a rainbow of color which symbolized a new direction for our travel: dry and warm.
Our trip was organized by Marco Del Freo, a food lover and chilehead who came out to the Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show and invited us to visit his haunts and witness how Italians were learning to love everything hot and spicy. First we visited the wine country of Lombardy, where we stayed in
an “AgriTurismo” B&B and nearly got flooded out when the rains hit the area hard. The first night, we and 60 other foodies attended a launch party for two new products developed by Marco that features spiced-up dishes that included seafood, rissoto, and even dessert. With Marco translating, I gave a brief address to the diners at the restaurant associated with the Il Montu winery and grapperia. Based on their applause, I could tell that not only were they impressed with the food, but with the products themselves. Nettare Habanero, or Habanero Nectar, is a first pressing of olive oil and habaneros to create an aromatic and medium-hot olive oil that is used to dress foods such as salads, breads, and even grilled meats. Spirit of Habanero is a delicious, award-winning grappa infused with
habaneros by soaking them until a medium heat level was achieved to make a delicious–and spicy–cordial or liqueur. You will see them at the left in an informal photo taken on Marco’s dining room table.
Of course, while in this area, we were surrounded by vineyards. Lombardy has the highest concentration of vineyards in the entire country, and although it was too wet to walk through them, they were truly beautiful right after the rain. I particularly enjoyed the fruits of these vineyards in the form of an Il Montu Bonarda, a tasty and dry red wine. After two nights at the B&B, we moved on to Marco’s house and the rainbow. Marco and his wife Maggie live on top of a small mountain near Parma in the agricultural village known as Salsomaggiore and their view is the valley called Bellacavalle, know for its incredibly tasty Parmesan cheese. To be continued….