Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gaita Fores brings Casa Artusi to Manila

Gaita Fores and the Casa Artusi way


This morning, for some reason, my friend J and I were talking about a sisig dish I once cooked for him at home. He'd watched me make it from scratch in my kitchen with some lechon I'd brought back the day before from Cebu, and when I put in the ginger first and then the garlic, there he was with his two cents' worth of cooking comments right next to me.

He told me with all the authority of a man who can order and pay at a restaurant: "You should put the garlic in first."


The ladies at Zubuchon in Cebu -- where I'd bought my three kilos or so of this delicious lechon for the sisig -- and I had had a long discussion on this; and they too had told me to put the ginger in first before the garlic. And this was what I'd told J, but he'd never accepted my explanation. And this morning, this topic came up again between us.

And today I told him: "I'm seeing Gaita Fores at lunch today, so let me ask her."

Once, when Gaita and I were planning Travelife Italy Night last year, we'd been meeting at her Whitespace kitchen until 10 PM straight and without dinner.


Gaita at work in the kitchen with Trish Locsin
after one of our Travelife Italy Night meetings
So at the end of our meeting, she'd whipped up a really delicious and simple pasta in ten minutes; and I'd watched her put the garlic in not at the beginning but somewhere in the middle. I asked her then about this because J and our sisig discussion suddenly came to mind. Apparently Filipinos like to always put the garlic in first because it's a Spanish practice; but it's not written in stone.

FIRST OVERSEAS CASA ARTUSI

Casa Artusi in Italy


And so today, I went off to Whitespace to attend the luncheon of Gaita to launch Casa Artusi in the Philippines, the very first Casa Artusi outside of Italy. Casa Artusi is Italy's temple of cooking and good food, founded by a gastronomist named Pellegrino Artusi (1820 - 1911) from Forlimpopoli near Bologna.



Today, Casa Artusi in Forlimpopoli is a vast and impressive complex that includes a library filled with books on Italian gastronomy, restaurant, cooking school, wine cellar, museum and events venue. It truly is a living museum for home cookery.

The library at Casa Artusi in Italy

The church of Casa Artusi in Italy


Almost every serious foodie in Italy owns a copy of the Casa Artusi bible, called La Scienza in Cucina e l'Arte di Mangiar Bene (Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well). In many foodie homes, it is a well-used and well-worn manual to the good life of Italy centering on food. Scroll down for more on Gaita's Casa Artusi.





IT'S ALL IN THE INGREDIENTS



Pellegrino Artusi said many things about food, but his core philosophy can be summed up in one of his famous one-liners: "Always choose the finest ingredients, this will make a good impression." This, of course, means fresh, home-made pasta and recipes from Italy's Emilia-Romagna region accompanied by the best of local wines.



And perhaps the most important part of Casa Artusi is its cooking school, which is a learning destination both for serious foodies wanting to improve their kitchen skills and culinary professionals. Casa Artusi's cooking school teaches traditional Romagnolo cookery, including fresh pasta and the piadina, an unleavened bread.

Gaita Fores & Trish Locsin in Casa Artusi, Italy

Gaita Fores & Trish Locsin in Casa Artusi, Italy
Their courses center on practical lessons for preparing traditional Romagnolo dishes, menu preparations using top quality ingredients, and meetings to discuss and discover the tastes of both wine and food.

Gaita Fores is now bringing the Casa Artusi experience to Manila.

This was at lunch today



REMEMBERING TRAVELIFE ITALY NIGHT

In a way, it was quite touching for me to see the Casa Artusi in Manila project come to fruition. Almost a year ago, when Gaita, Madame Silvana Fornari (wife of the Ambassador of Italy) and myself began planning Travelife Italy Night, I still remember how Casa Artusi was mentioned several times. Madame Fornari herself almost always brought a copy of the Casa Artusi bible, Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well, to our meetings; and I became familiar with Casa Artusi through them both.

Table setting for Travelife Italy Night
September 2012

TRAVELIFE Italy Night
Travelife Italy Night went on to become a truly spectacular success because of Gaita Fores and Madame Fornari, and Ambassador Luca Fornari and the entire staff of the Embassy of Italy; and much of it was due to the amazing eight-course degustation meal that Gaita had prepared that night using the principles of Casa Artusi.

I still remember how each and every guest had raved about each dish; and even today, so many successful Travelife events later, people still come up to me to recall their experience at Travelife Italy Night.

BACK TO WHITESPACE

And now, almost one year to the date of our first planning meetings at Whitespace, there we all were again, but this time for the actual launch of Casa Artusi. It made me rather sentimental actually. I saw Emmanuela, the cultural attaché of the Italian Embassy, and when I congratulated her, she said to me: "Well, here we are again at Whitespace."

Yes, indeed, there we were again all together at Whitespace.

Fortunately, this time, I could actually sit back, relax and taste the delicious spread that Gaita had prepared. There was an entire table of antipasti, followed by three or four kinds of pasta, and the Italian version of the lechon. Everything was cooked the Casa Artusi way and I tasted and loved it all.







But the fusili pasta with a very simple cream sauce stole my heart. I actually had four servings, washed down with very good Italian wines courtesy of Bacchus Epicerie.



EVERYONE'S HAPPY FOR
TRAVELIFE'S BESPOKE EUROPEAN TOUR


Lunch today was attended
by Ambassador and Madame Luca Fornari


Finally, to top off a very nice day of Italian experiences that made me suddenly want to change my trip next month from Munich to Italy, I returned to work and there was a bottle of excellent Chianti wine and Longchamp bag waiting for me on my table, like it was my birthday or Christmas. Actually, today's a very special day but I can't tell you why. So the nice presents are rather appropriate.



The presents were from a group of people who'd just gone on a Travelife Bespoke Tour to Italy, France and Spain for 23 days. We'd planned the trip for them, and I'd personally stayed up all night a couple of times putting together my suggestions on where to eat, what to buy and where to go in each city.

Of course you can find lots of information on these on the Internet, but it's the choosing that's the hard part; and that's where the Travelife touch came in.

I'd just been thinking about them and wondering how their Travelife Bespoke trip had gone. And now there on my table were the lovely presents and a nice card that said it all: "Thank you for making our summer trip special. The whole group enjoyed!"

Indeed. No one travels like us or plans a trip like us. This is why we're #1.

Just another day in a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.







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