Last month the NY Times came out with one of its 36 hour articles for Modena, Italy (Bologna’s balsamic-loving next-door-neighbor). I was impressed we hit a number of the places mentioned in the article during a day trip to Modena with friends last July. (Woo! We might be getting a hang of this trip planning thing after all.)
Here’s what we did:
With a car-loving visitor onboard, our first stop was just outside Modena at the Museo Ferrari (via Dino Ferrari, 43, Maranello; Adult admission: €13,00)
Balsamic Vinegar Tour & Tasting
Modena is the home of the world’s finest balsamic vinegar, and so, at the top of our to-do list was visiting a balsamic producer. Following in the footsteps of my Blogville colleagues Kash and Bianca (see their posts here and here), we visited Acetaia di Giorgio (via Sandro Cabassi, 67). Acetaia di Giorgio is run by Giorgio Barbieri, a retired Italian volleyball player, along with his wife, Giovanna, and daughter, Carlotta. They process their balsamic vinegar in large wooden barrels in the attic of their house and sell just about 2,000 bottles per year. The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar bears little resemblance to the thin stuff we are accustomed to tossing on our salads. It is thick and has a deep, concentrated flavor. It is perfect for drizzling on good cheeses, strawberries, veggies, and even gelato.
Aperitivo in Centro Storico
Before dinner, we took a stroll through Modena’s historic center stopping at Caffeteria Giusti (via Farini, 83) for aperitivo.
Dinner at Osteria Francescana
After booking his ticket to Bologna, our foodie friend Matt had his heart set on dining at Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana in Modena — a Michelin 3-star restaurant, named #4 in the world by Restaurant Magazine. I was admittedly hesitant to join him for a number of reasons: my frugal and vegetarian tendencies were high on the list, not to mention that you can eat better pasta than you’ve ever eaten in your life at a budget-friendly trattoria in Bologna. Silly, silly me. My knickers were in a knot, as the British might say. Less than halfway through the meal, any doubts that I had melted away from my thoughts as the flavors of the 50 month aged parmigiano and the balsamic-lacquered short ribs melted in my mouth. Even though a lot of molecular gastronomy goes into the creation of Massimo’s dishes, the presentation of the food isn’t overly ostentatious and the food presents the traditional flavors of Emilia Romagna with integrity and love.
Three of us did the Traditional tasting menu along with two additional dishes that came highly recommended: the five ages Parmigiano and the foie gras popsicle. One friend got a special Pescatarian tasting menu, which resulted in equal if not more groans from the table.
Traditional menu + 2 dishes
Memory of a mortadella sandwich
Massimo Spigaroli Culatello aged 42 months and Prosciutto of Modena aged 30 months
Five ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, in different textures and temperatures
Tortellini in capon broth
Tagliatelle with ragù
Mora Romagnola short ribs lacquered withTraditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Foie gras crunch with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
Warm and cold “zuppa inglese”
Aulla tempura with frozen carpione
Razor clams and their friends
Baccalà Mare Nostrum: salt cod filet in Verdute olive and tomato broth served with dried tomato pesto, Noto almonds and fragrances of Pantelleria.
Gerardo di Nola shell pasta with Monkfish ragu
Guitar string pasta simmered in burned calamari broth and finished with Fines de Claire oysters and extra virgin olive oil
Saba lacquered adriatic eel
Globe light like a flower
Oops! Broken fruit pie
A number of the photos I took are not suitable for posting: my plate was half clean by the time I came out of my lovedrunk trance and thought about taking a picture. Here are the photos that made the cut:
On the drive home from Modena, all of us were giddy with happiness. We had precious bottles of REAL balsamic coming home with us. We had just eaten at one of the top-rated restaurants in the world. From the backseat, we could hear one friend musing about moving to Bologna and proposing to a certain Balsamic Master-Tester-in-training.