Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Here's the Damned Ham!

Pig ProductsIn that gentile lady-like manner of hers, Doralong (What Would Jackie Wear) has been asking about Parma Ham. Myself I find this obsession with porcine flesh a trifle... well unnatural but who am I to judge. But she's right you can't go to Parma and not think of ham.

The centre of Parma is an area for pedestrians and bicyclists and after a long walk around the historic centre I was building up an appetite. I contemplated one of the ristorante in the Piazza in front of the Town Hall but it just seemed so "touristy" - I can be a real snob that way. I headed down a small alley and in a piazza off the Strada Garibaldi came across a tent offering "VerdiTaste." I'd noticed that, unlike their counterparts in Salzburg with Mozart, merchants in Parma were marketing the Verdi Festival in a tasteful way - posters, costumes from previous productions, books, scores. There wasn't a single "'Joe Green Reigns In Parma" t-shirt in sight.A Taste of Verdi And here was this place offering things like the "Aida" or "Otello" platter however the displays of ham, sausage, cheese wheels and chestnuts (its chestnut season here) were so damned appealing - and the guy slicing the meat (you should excuse the expression) was cute - hey I'm old and married not dead and buried!

So I ordered the "Aida" (culatello, dried garlic sausage, a large piece of well-aged Parmesan and fresh bread) and a glass of a local red, grabbed a stool at a bar style round table and tucked in.

Let me tell you about culatello or rather click on the link where it is better explained than I every could. But what I will tell you is that it is the best ham I have ever eaten in my life. It seemed to literally melt away with a lovely salty-sweet after taste. With the aged cheese, garlicy sausage and rough but pleasant local wine it was a more than satisfying lunch.

Nonna at the BarThe tent (turns out its a family run operation in town - they set up there for the Festival) started to fill up with both tourists and locals - a few taking away orders of culatello at EU 54 a kilo. I ordered a second glass of wine from the striking looking Nonna of the family - one of those woman who has gotten more beautiful as she's aged. I noticed as well as waiting on tables and tending bar Nonna was not beyond having a little nip every once and a while just to make sure the bottle she had just opened was a good one.
The whole atmosphere was festive (Nabucco playing in the background), rustic (the tent, wooden floor, bar seating) and sophisticated (products beautifully displayed, greenery and the Teatro Reggio backdrop.) It was completely in the spirit of Parma celebrating Verdi. And it totally spoiled me for any other type of ham!

30 ottobre - San Alfonso


Doralong said...


This would be the point where I gently could say I was right about the ham.. But being a lady I will refrain from such displays.

Died and went to pork heaven, didn't you ;) And no I'm not obsessed, well perhaps so. Too much time in the smokehouse with my grandmother as a child I guess.

Boy, I'm really hungry now! I do think there's some leftover pork tenderloin with mustard sauce in the fridge...

Glad you had a brilliant time!

more cowbell said...

OK, I didn't even know what Parma ham was. (damn vegetarians.) Great pics!

Doralong said...

P.S.- How rude of me..

Thanks ever so much for the ham! It was so kind of you to think of me!