Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Shall we eat donkey?

In the rocky hills of Puglia’s Murge, meat is rare, explains vintner Sebastiano de Corato of Rivera Wines. We’re lunching at the cozy Anticha Sapori de Montegrosso, a Slow Food mecca, and cuisine is largely about vegetables. No matter that the sea is only 15 miles away; when the cuisines here developed centuries ago, 15 miles was beyond the ken.

And so the plates arrive: grilled spring onion in olive oil with sea salt, puffy foccacio topped with local herbs, a wild bulb fried with olive oil, yet another spring onion baked with parmesan, a fluffy fresh ricotta with candied celery that is worth a moment of prayer, broccoli roasted with olive oil (are you seeing the pattern?), a hard cheese with carmelized onion, soup with chickpeas and barley, orecchiette with tomato sauce and braesola. And then the meats of a barren region: tiny lamb chops, smoked horse belly and yes, donkey filet, which is surprisingly tender and sweet. Don’t tell Shrek.

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