At the recent International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Expo in Manhattan, I journeyed vicariously to some choice Italian destinations.
First stop was at Arte & Cucina, la scuola di cucina italiana in Siena, affiliated with the Dante Alighieri language school. Representative Sonia Di Centa welcomed me to sit and chat about the programs.
She shared photos of the spacious modern teaching kitchen, housed in a historic palazzo in the center of the lovely medieval city where the famous Palio horse race is held. The hands-on classes, taught in English, range from a single session to a four-month program. The curriculum in Tuscan and other Italian regional cooking styles emphasizes fresh seasonal ingredients. Several programs such as Siena Magnifica and Internships combine cooking and Italian language lessons.
The images of the food preparation and finished plates had me swooning and wondering if I could apply for a scholarship. As interested visitors crowded the table for information, I bid Sonia arrivederci and headed for a snack of prosciutto di Parma. The representatives of the Consorzio—a conference sponsor—offered samples of 18-month-aged ham and 36-month aged ham. The elder prosciutto was so delicate it had to be sliced by hand.
Next, I visited Elizabeth Wholey, a transplanted Californian who has lived and worked in Umbria for 18 years. After a career in art and graphics, she visited Italy and never looked back. She renovated the home in which she now lives and manages Altabella, a cluster of casa colonica guest villas on the border of Tuscany and Umbria. Elizabeth also teaches cooking classes and caters for Altabella guests through her Amore Sapore venture.
I continued my passeggiata and arrived at the illy coffee display. Illy was a conference sponsor and their pop-up caffés seemed to be everywhere throughout the sessions which suited me just fine. At the Expo, the barista worked two sexy red Francis Francis espresso machines.
As I sampled a caffé made from Ethiopian beans, I noticed the sign that summed up my afternoon.