A Florence Food Festival: the ‘Biennale Enogastronomica’

November 16 – 19: BIENNALE ENOGASTRONOMICA.  Fortezza da Basso. Open noon – 9 pm. Free entrance to the exhibition area.

The Biennale Enogastromica offers an occasion to learn about the origin and quality of Italian ingredients and how to use them from the best in the business.  The entrance to the exhibition area is free, emphasizing the Biennale’s accessibility.

The festival was established in 2008 exclusively as a Florentine food and wine festival. Over the years, it has grown into a national event that focuses on the changes in the food and beverage sector, and includes special guests from outside Tuscany. It is an opportunity for businesses and the general public to explore new trends in taste.

For Florence, this fair is important because it promotes Florentine-Tuscan and, in part, Italian cuisine. Only the highest quality products of the region are highlighted for both fans and experts.

Biennale will host a roundtable discussion dedicated to the cultural and historical value of the Florentine steak on Monday, November 19 at 3 pm. Both the “bistecca” dish and the Chianina cattle that produce it are iconic Tuscan staples. The Italian cattle breed is one of the largest and oldest in the world, originating in the Valdichiana valley below Cortona at least 2,200 years ago. The meeting is open to the public and will feature speakers Riccardo Bartolini of Florence’s Giannino restaurant, President Daniele Guerrini of FIESA Confesercenti, food and wine critic Leonardo Romanelli and more.

The 2018 Biennale, under the guidance of creative director Leonardo Romanelli, is designed to continuously encourage audience participation. The four-day rich and varied program is organized according to six themes offering various activities: Mani in Pizza, Focus Masticabili, Table Chef, Università della Birra, Sogni di Olio, and Testa e Coda. The appointments scheduled over the four days are available only with a booking beforehand and are offered at low prices; for the full schedule visit the website.

Mani in Pizza will showcase some of the best pizza masters of Florence. Florentines are aware the real birthplace of pizza is Naples, but many pizzaioli (pizza chefs) have moved North. Within the four days, over 15 events have been organized by local pizza masters, many originally from Southern Italy, to unveil the secrets of how to make the best pizza.

Focus Masticabili will explore sensory analysis of food. Experts will guide guests in experiencing the differences between products, including soft and hard DOP pecorino and fresh pasta from Tuscany: tortelli and pici.

Table Chef is an opportunity at the Biennale to dine at the city’s renowned restaurants, including Michelin star locales. The most famous chefs of Florence will prepare two signature dishes in front of the seated customers for them to enjoy. This is an occasion to taste some of the most desired Florentine dishes at an affordable price, cooked and served personally. This unique opportunity also offers a wine chosen by the Italian Sommelier Federation Restauranteur Hoteliers and service by an impeccable wait staff. The list of chefs includes Alessandro Della Tommasina from Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence and Gaetano Trovato from Arnolfo Restaurant in Colle Val D’Elsa.

The Università della Birra offers opportunities to learn about the world of beer: defining the product, how it was born, the brewing process, and the various types and their characteristics.

Sogni di Olio consists of courses and guided tastings conducted by the Tuscan Olive Oil Protection Consortium PGI (IGP in Italian). The goal is to provide useful and practical tools on how to recognize a quality extra-virgin. Members of the Consortium will go over what to look for on labels, the influence of packaging, what gradient of colors mean and which is the best, ultimately judge the quality of an oil.

Testa e Coda is all about discovering Grappa Trentina. The experts will teach the public about white, dry, soft, aromatic, flavored, and barrique grappa, who will also learn the process of how grappa is distilled.

On to wine. The Biennale will take everyone on a journey featuring 10 producers who will explain the process of making their wines and the history behind the products. Horizontal and vertical tastings will be set up, exploring different wines of the same vintage and comparing multiple vintages from the same producer.

The wine tastings are scheduled Friday through Sunday and must be reserved. Champagne will be making a special appearance on Friday, Vino Nobile Riserva from Montepulciano on Saturday, and Brunello di Montalcino on Sunday.

Other events for foodies include a special gelato tasting, the Bolgheri Gelato Experience, coordinated by Vetulio Bondi and Carlo Martelli and a chance to meet cheese makers from Mugello, the area around Volterra, and Maremma, as well as Val d’Orcia, and Val d’Arbia, in the province of Siena.  (beatrice paolucci)