I had the week off, so I took a little trip to Manhattan with three knitting friends. We took the train down - an elegant mode of transportation that gives one a number of hours to organize the coming days and have a gabfest with your travelling companions. It's especially nice if you're on the Hudson River side and have a view of one of the most beautiful rivers in the world.
My first order of business was to take a behind-the-scenes tour of Mario Batali's Eataly. It is a stone's throw away from the Flatiron building. If you are a fan of Italian food and more specifically Italian cooking, this is an experience you would enjoy.
Eataly is an Italian-themed food complex devoted to beautiful products and ingredients. Many of the food departments also feature restaurants. Before leaving home, I signed up for a walking tour which allows you to see the products that are sold or used in the eateries being made.
I saw how fresh mozzerella is made. The cheese curd is pressed through wires to cut it up, very hot, salty water is added to get the cheese to the right taffy-like consistence and then formed into the finished balls of cheese. The sample I tasted was warm, tender and milky.
We had a chance to talk with one of the people who was an expert in the cheese department. I bought some of the Grana Padano cut from one of these giant wheels. I asked the man if it would be okay to travel without refrigeration. His response was that cheese is a preserved food and simply doesn't require refrigeration. Cheese is meant to be kept out on the counter. I took him at his word and treated myself to a sizable wedge.
Next stop - pasta! There was an impressive variety of prepared fresh pasta. The pumpkin ravioli looked tempting. I love the massive spool of sheet pasta being loaded onto the machine in the picture above.
The bakery was a compact space that produces an incredible amount of product. No granulated yeast here - a starter which originated in Italy is used. There is a vat of the stuff that needs to be fed every six hours around the clock. who doesn't love fresh bread? We were given a sample of fig bread that was out of this world.
The wood-burning pizza oven was covered with goldtone glass mosaic tiles. It was beautiful. I must say I didn't love the pizza. The sauce was the very simple type made with crushed canned tomatoes. No complexity and rather watery.
Our group was also herded past the meats, the chocolate and the gelato. At the end of the tour, the samples became laughably stingy. A dab of melted chocolate less than an eighth of a teaspoon and a nip of gelato on the end of one of those tiny spoons. Rather a let down. Some random shots of pretty food:
It was a lovely experience. I must say that now I recognize that, in my neck of the woods anyway, we have sources for Italian food every bit as nice as what can be found at this emporium. The produce looked to be rather tired and there was not the wide variety I see at my local Wegman's. Now I'm a little wiser about the lovely products I have at my fingertips at the farmer's market and local mom and pop stores in my neighborhood.