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Eataly - Slow Food Superstore

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My day at Eataly, the biggest slow food grocery store in the world, just outside Torino, Italy.

The foodie driving up the Meditterranean into the Swiss Alps now has a must-stop on his road. Eataly, despite its tacky name, might just be the best grocery store in Italy. Don't let it's location in the industrial suburbs of Torino fool you - this is an upmarket store located right next to Torino's industrial landmark - the Lingotto.

Some of you may have seen the memorable car race on the roof of the Lingott in The Italian Job (1969) with Michael Caine, Noel Coward and Benny Hill. The building is a huge ingot-shaped block of concrete where Fiat used to make cars. Now it's a large convention center, shopping mall and then some.

If you are on the road or attending the Salone del Gusto next door, you can sleep in one of the two fine hotels located in the Lingotto, 2 minutes walk from Eataly. From dawn till dusk, 7 days a week, you can then just mosey over ...

... to Eataly, a modern-day temple for the well-heeled slow food connaisseur.

As you enter Eataly, a host of slow food quotes ...

... while habitual gluttons stroll inside blissfully ignorant of the store's philosophy.

Eataly is built with good taste on two and half levels in a converted factory.

I was pleased to see that my beloved Kenwood Kitchen Machine with the amazing pasta extruder was prominently displayed. Praise from Caeasar!

Pizza dough is made from scratch using huge flour bags.

An escalator leads down to a huge cellar filled with Italian wines and beers from all over the world. You can even eat great pizza at the beer counter.

The imposing meat stall sells beef from selected Italian breeds, while their colleagues at the fish stall used try and tested techniques to lure young clients in using live bait.

You could spend the entire day at Eataly, walking from aisle to counters, counters to bars. That's what I would have done had I not been so busy at the Slow Food Fair next door.

Sit down at the salumi counter and order a plate of freshly sliced traditional hams, coppa, guanciale and sausages of every persuasion. Wine is not complimentary but very good too. You can also visit the fish counter for various hot and cold dishes prepared with carefully selected Italian fishes, or have a coffe in a beautiful Italian coffe shop complete with its trademark triple-queue system, or at the gelateria for some ice creams. I tried them all. Then at night I hit the pizza and pasta counter with serious pizza made from fresh local seasonal ingredients.

You can certainly extend the fun at home buy buying many fine salumi, ...

I could not resist the manly appeal of this Capocollo di Cinta from organic pigs (I am an organic pig of sorts myself).

This is a seasoned coppa, the muscle between a pig's neck and shoulder, made by Savigni in Pavana Pistoiese, a small village in the mountains between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna. Not a sausage and rather lean.

You can get a silly-looking but highly practical trolley even if you haven't fought in WW1. Besides the geriatric look them trolleys are really convenient, especially if you try filling your car to the brim with pasta. If you do, I recommend the Gragnano pasta that comes in red papers bags.

Nowadays proper Parmesan can be found in many places outside Italy, but getting a large piece of Parmigiano Reggiano from actual reggiana cows and seasoned 24-30 month, well that is quite a catch. Many cows are raised in Emilia-Romagna to make Parmesan, but the traditional red cows of the Razza Reggiana persuasion was a nearly extinct breed in the 1950s, with only about 1000 cows left. The just have comparatively drier teats than the cows imported from Switzerland used my most producers. But their milk imparts the Parmesan with an incomparable taste. So naturally, a Associazione Nazionale Allevatori Bovini di Razza Reggiana was created to foster the use of these cows and promote the unique dairy products derived from their milk. A slow food presidio before Carlo Petrini, if you will. This one costs 30 a kilo (US$19 a pound at the time of writing).

I bought this Formaggio fiore sardo DOP, as a gift for my father who loves old cheese. Raw sheep milk from Sardinian sheeps and curdled using rennet from Sardinian lambs. 16 a kilogram (US$20 a pound at the time of writing).

Lonza di fico, a delicious dried fig, walnut and anis sausage wrapped in fig leaves. Cut a slice and eat with cheese. Absolutely stunning.

Although I bought this fist-sized ball of dried figs from Dolce Calabria at the Fiera del Gusto, you might find it at Eataly too. The ball looks beautifl with the wrinkled green leaves ...

... and when you slice it open, it reveals a treasure of moist dried figs. No sugar, no additives, no nothing. Just the most amazing juicy dried figs. They are dried and then slowly baked in an oven which gives an intense caramel flavour. Eating this is a bit surprising at first if you are used to complex processed foods. The taste is simple but complex. And the more you eat, the more you feel the intensity of the product's character, the majestic sun that grew these fruits until they were lush and plump and dark, and the same sun that made them shrivel back.

You may recall that I met this girl at the Slow Food Fair, who was selling the most intriguing sausages

Well, these Salam Dous from Calbria turn out to be made in chocolate and filled with hazelnuts. Really astonishing taste and effect. I need more. Not sure if they sell it at Eataly but if they don't they should.

Here is where those shoppers who had hoped to escape with their wallet untouched give up their last hope. Slow food is not cheap.

As you walk out, you can't miss the busy booth with a row of wood-fired oven dispensing a smell of Liguria all around. They make Farinata, an ancient and very popular dish from Liguria, on the Meditterranean coast. Follow me as I draw closer.

In essence, Farinata is an express chickpea polenta baked in a white-hot wood-fired oven. Chickpeas are ground into a flour, mixed with salt, milk and water. A generous amount of olive oil is poured into a huge circular baking pan and the chickpea mixture is poured into it with a little rosemary sprinkled on top.