Taste of Milano 2011.. a new year, a new venue and a new experience!

After a busy week of events that saw me helping Pause Tea at both Gail’s garden party in Hampstead and at the Southbank for the Thames Festival my week finished with the opening night of the much anticipated second edition of Taste of Milano. After its inaugural year at Parco Sempione the 2011 event was held in the ample grounds of the Ippodromo di San Siro, home to the cities horse racing circuit and as the name suggests close to the famous San Siro football stadium.

Taste of Milano 2010 was all about the big launch in Italy and whilst the event was a success it was unfortunately hampered by bad weather as well as few teething difficulties. Taste of Milano 2011, at first glance, is a vast improvement with the Ippodromo providing a more relaxed and spacious environment for both exhibitors and visitors. The organisers have used the green space to great effect to create a variety of lounge and dining areas welcoming diners and allowing more time to interact with the menus presented by this year’s twenty guest chefs. Ticket prices are €25 for the second year running which covers entry only and food is purchased with Ducati’s (coupons) that can be bought by the hostesses circulating the event. Whilst entry price is on the high side the dishes are all reasonably priced at 4 to 6 Ducati’s which corresponds to 4 to 6 euros and best of all are prepared by some of Milan’s top chefs.

On the menu this year are restaurants Al pont de ferr, Alice ristorante, Bianca, D’O, Don Carlos, Ernst Knam, Finger’s, Foodart, Il Liberty, Il luogo di aimo e nadia, Il Marchesino, Innocenti evasion, Joia, Langosteria 10, Nicola Cavallaro, Osaka, Ristorante Savini, Tano passami l’olio, The Park restaurant and Trussardi alla scala.

Accompanied by three friends, our first stop was to the delectable Tano Simonato who I had the pleasure to follow earlier in the year at his Michelin starred restaurant Tano passami l’olio. I was greeted by the chef himself who proudly showed me his stand with none other than five of my photos showcased!

My evening couldn’t get any better that is until Chef Tano presented me with his Merluzzo in crosta di farina di pomodoro con mozzarella e basilica in ristretto di latte alle olive e capperi (Cod with crust of tomato flour served with mozzarella and basil in a reduced sauce of milk, olive and capers). One word. Delicious!

Our only regret was that we couldn’t mop up the olive oil for which Tano is so famous (Tano holds a vast collection of oils which gave birth to the restaurant’s name, Tano, pass me the oil) as organisers had asked chefs not to provide bread as it would fill up visitors too quickly. It’s a brave organiser that tells a chef what to do in his kitchen!

Our next stop was Alice restaurant to greet the dynamic duo of Chef Viviana and Sommelier Sandra who were as ever impeccable with their presentation and flavours.

On their menu, their renowned Super Spaghettino con brodo affumicato, vongole, julienne di seppie, polvere di tarallo e limone candito (Spaghetti with smoked stock, clams, sliced cuttlefish, tarallo and lemon) …..

…. as well a more adventurous take on pizza with a hot-cold combo of fried pizza topped with a scoop of chilled tomato confit. I am a big fan of hot and cold together and loved it but it would be fair to say that the pizza had a somewhat polarising effect within our group.

As our stomachs filled so too did the event with crowds starting to build and a great buzz felt throughout. Unlike last year there were no queues and very little waiting time for food so the buzz was all positive and lots of happy diners were extolling the merits of the dish they’d just sampled.

Our culinary adventure took us next to Trussardi where Chef Andrea Berton was busy giving his talk in the Chef’s theatre whilst his team held the fort and served up ravioli con crema di riso allo zafferano  (ravioli with creamed saffron rice) with the creative addition of popcorn di maiale (pork popcorn).  We then moved on to Aimo e Nadia where my friends Lisa and Valentina both indulged in their southern take on Tiramisu or as they prefer to call it Tirami-sud whilst I satisfied my meat craving at Don Carlos with their Carre di agnello irlandese in crosta di caviale de melanzane e mandorle, emulsione di olio alla menta e pancotto ai friarielli (Irish lamb encrusted with almonds and aubergine with mint infused olive oil and creamed greens.

Our hunger sated we continued our tour at a more leisurely pace taking in some of the many producers showcasing and selling their products. The team at T’a Sentimento Italiano had their full range of hand-made chocolates on display, whilst Pasticceria Martesana was doing a roaring trade with its pastries and desserts. Baci were launching their new white Baci chocolate whilst California bakery were offering mini cooking lessons at their pop up cafe. We sampled fruit snacks at Frutta prêt a Porter alongside Swiss cheeses from Formaggi dalla Svizzera before bringing our nibbling to an close.

We finished our evening over at the ‘King of Smiles’ stand Nicola Cavallara who was on sparkling form and busy serving up his baccala mantecato in crosta di mandorle, pistacchi e nocciole con chips di polenta soffiata (baccala with almond and nut crust served with polenta chips). Flanked by Sommelier Chiara Giovone who was taking a break from serving wine to help serve food and the rest of his team, Nicola played host to a range of visiting celebrities all the while serving up great food! Alas our night came to an end and whilst we didn’t manage to eat in all of the twenty restaurants we certainly had a great sampler of some of the dishes on offer and left promising ourselves we’d eat out at the one’s we missed!

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