On Sunday, March 13, Slow Food Los Angeles hosted a “World of Presidia�? dinner at Angeli Caffe featuring Presidia products selected by Slow Food alongside the Italian wines of Oltrepo Pavese. Chef Evan Kleiman prepared a delicious four course wine dinner, incorporating Presidia products such as smoked wild Irish Salmon, Piennolo tomatoes, Salina Capers and Planze lentils, to name just a few.
Beginning in 1999, Slow Food’s Presidia began in Italy as an extension of the Ark of Taste project, which initially set out to protect a list of products at risk of disappearing in the shadow of industrialized food forces. The Presidia’s aim is to focus on a group of producers of a single product in the same region, such as Mananara Vanilla in Madagascar, helping them develop production and marketing techniques that will give them staying power in the global marketplace. Today, sixty-five Presidia projects exist in over thirty countries, supporting gastronomic tradition, historic ties, and political issues in a manner that is sensitive to each country’s particular socio-cultural and environmental factors.
Paired with wines for each course from the Oltrepo Pavese region in Italy, which acted as a co-sponsor for the event, the dinner provided thoughtful, tangible evidence of the diligent work of the Presidia. As an introduction for each course, Slow Food members were given anecdotal evidence by Chef Kleiman of just how hard a dinner like this is to pull off. Some last minute improvisation was definitely required. The Navajo sheep slated for the dinner was initially not available at the originally determined source. But after a few phone calls, another sheep farmer came through with the beautiful meat, which was delivered and butchered that day. The delicate, delicious Manoomin, a wild rice originating from Anishinaabeg tribal lands in Minnesota, that was paired with the lamb, arrived in such a seemingly small amount, Chef Kleiman feared that some might go without. Fortunately, the delicate thin rice, which resembles blades of thin grass when dry, cooked up to an ample amount, providing more than enough to go around.
Beginning with Cape May Oysters, served on the half shell, served along with Smoked Irish Wild Atlantic Salmon from Ireland on Oatmeal pancakes with cucumber dill sauce, and ending with a “sweet finish” of Panna Cotta made with Mananara Vanilla and mini triple chocolate cakes and chocolate boxes made from Nacional Cacao from Ecuador, the meal was a tour-de-force of global cooperation and shared conviviality. The wines included a elegant Pinot Nero “Luogo dei Monti” 2002–Vercesi del Castellazzo paired with a pasta puttanesca course, and a more rustic and forceful Bonarda “Fatila” 1999–Vercesi del Castellazzo, paired with a cheese course, which included Gouda from Holland, Bitto from Italy, Cheddar from the UK and Matos St. George from Sonoma. Who said activism could not be a sensual, pleasurable experience?
Joining Evan Kleiman was Sara Firebaugh of Slow Food USA and Fredrica Rossino of the Consorzio Vini Oltrepo, Italy. Proceeds from the dinner benefited The Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity, which organizes funds for the Art of Taste and the Presidia. Dinners in this series were also held this year in Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, St. Paul, and Portland, featuring the same Presidia products and Oltrepo wines.