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The roads of buffalo mozzarella are infinite: the chefs who cooked up a storm on the last day of Le Strade della Mozzarella food congress know this all too well. So what could we expect on Day Two after being blown away by Matias Perdomo's 'muffarella' and a 'ricotta egg' from Pino Cuttaia on opening day?
Since the haute cuisine congress was held in Paestrum (near Naples), chef Francesco Sposito felt right at home. Sposito, who runs Taverna Estia, got playful with the cuisine of his beloved Campania region. He prepared Carne alla Pizzaiola (meat in pizza sauce), a dish that is every kid's nightmare. Just like in the original recipe, Sposito used a secondary cut of meat but sought inspiration from the East and created a beautiful tartare that became the base of a cannolo made with mozzarella and buffalo whey. His Neapolitan Taco, made with thinly sliced frozen peasant bread and vacuum-packed mozzarella (that was microwaved for just 20 seconds) was a big hit.
Later on we got a breath of fresh Belgian air with the arrival of Kobe Desramaults, who lost a suitcase during his long descent to Paestum but solved everything by sourcing herbs directly from the maritime pine forest in front of the Savoy Beach Hotel, the site of this edition of Le Strade della Mozzarella.
Kobe dished up a reinterpreation of a potato and cheese dish from his childhood. The potato was cooked in a salt dough, which is shaped like a stone and once cooked opened up to release an aroma of extraordinary intensity. This was served with an emulsion of herbs and creamy gorgonzola made from buffalo milk. Also interesting was his the dessert, which featured mozzarella 'bites' filled with mozzarella gelato and dried daisies.
Francesco Apreda (Hotel Hassler), who was born in Campania but lives in Rome, came home to talk about his new menu, told as if it were an intercontinental journey consisting of six stages. We stopped him in India, where it seems that the most popular Italian dish with locals is the simple pasta arrabiata. Apreda plays with spices to make a very personal blend of enriched pasta, which is cooked in water and finished off in a lovely sauce of roasted peppers, fresh tomatoes, garlic, red pepper and a dash of vinegar.
Roberto Petza presented Bathed Mozzarella: a dessert and appetizer in one, made with bite-sized pieces of buffalo mozzarella, fresh almonds, apple cubes in ab infusion of sorrel, tomato seeds, blood orange juice and shamrock sorbet with wild herbs. A triumph of the Mediterranean.
Massimo Bottura arrived in Paestrum with a "hard core" dish called Ladies and Gentlemen: The Buffalo Who Wanted To Become A Cow. The dish was inspired by a series of Warhol paintings dedicated to transexuals and featured buffalo testicle, a crisp made with dried buffalo milk, a Mediterranean broth and a garnish of buffalo 'essence.' This creation had two guiding principles: the use of mozzarella cheese and the theme of recycling, which Bottura has been working on for the last year and will present at Expo Milano 2015.
Bottura's second dish also dealt with transformation. Called The North That Wanted to Become South, it featured Italy's favorite comfort food: pizza. Bottura looked to the North to recreate pizza with polenta and rice (which are cultivated in the Northern part of the country, while pizza hails from Southern Italy). The polenta was completely dehydrated, serving as a crust, and was topped with a 'sauce' of risotto made with buffalo mozzarella. Fresh tomatoes and anchovies served as toppings.
Our journey through pasta continued with the Costardi Bros, who earlier this year wowed diners with their rice dishes during the Identità Milano 2015 chef congress. For this event they created a pasta dish that looked like pizza but was dressed in buffalo mozzarella. They also presented Buffalo Meringue, a mothwatering dessert served over sweet tomatoes. The meringue was filled with gelato made from pasta cooked in milk then passed through liquid nitrogen.
Next came the dishes of Marianna Vitale, a beloved chef who was named Best Female Chef by the Identita Golose guide. She presented what she is best known for: pasta. Marianna brought back Acini di Pepe, a forgotten pasta that is very small and similar to couscous. She used it to prepare Ceviche with Amberjack, then added buffalo cream instead of traditional South American milk - which is notoriously richer than Italian milk. The pasta ceviche was served cold and the flavor of buffalo cream beautifully permeated the whole dish.
Finally, we finished our delicious adventure on Day Two of Le Strade della Mozzarella with Roberto Flore from Nordic Food Lab in Copenaghen. Flore visualized buffalo mozzarella as an object of transformation: from milk to mozzarella, then from mozzarella to milk, without losing its essence. This philosophy gave birth to his dish: Liquid Heart. Mozzarella was incubated at 65 degrees Celsius (149 F) with 100% humidity for five weeks. With this technique the buffalo milk, or better yet 'the heart of mozzarella,' begins to separate from its fatty components. The final dish appears as a tepid milk soup that tastes like aged cheese, this was contrasted by the sharpness of the cream and flavor of egg. The flavor of mozzarella has vanished. But the essence of buffalo mozzarella remains.
All photos ©Roberta Abate for Fine Dining Lovers