Last summer, when Martello was attempting to sell the merits of Genova to Trofie Wife, I believe that one of his talking points was that the city hosted the annual "Slow Fish" festival. Knowing my penchant for fancy, over-priced, and sustainable foods, he thought this would be a major plus. However, my reaction was something along the lines of, "so let me get this straight, you want me to leave the city that hosts the annual Chocolate Show for the city that hosts the annual fish festival?" Let's just say this creatures of the sea festival wasn't what eventually won me over, but Trofie Wife was nonetheless delighted when the opportunity came around to check it out (there was added incentive for Martello, as it was being hosted in a new Jean Nouvel-designed pavilion at the Fiera di Genova).
The Fiera is the local convention center, kind of like the Javits Center, except here you gaze out at the Mediterranean instead of the West Side Highway. As the name implies, the fair was sponsored by the International Slow Food movement, which is conveniently located in Italy. In fact, the Italians are so taken with sustainable eating methods that they've even passed this concern on to their dogs; more than a couple were on hand (and extremely well-behaved).
The first floor hosted an array of exhibits (mostly in Italian) about keeping the oceans clean and only buying sustainable fish, as well as an interesting section on the relationship between Bergen, Norway and Genoa (they have a deep, enduring relationship cemented by cod). Amazingly delightful fish sandwiches were available indoors, with a line up of "street food" just outside. Trofie Wife took a particular shine to cicciarelli di Noli, little anchovies fried whole and served in a paper cone with a lemon on the side for squeezing. They were superbly delicious. Noli is another little coastal village past Savona en route to France. They tout their little fish as especially sustainable as the nets cause no harm to the rest of the sea's inhabitants.
Sated with our munchies, we wandered over to a crowded, noisy area where it turned out that several people were auctioning off fish. We didn't really understand if this was a reenactment of days and commerce gone by or if such activities still occur (either way, the catches didn't seem to have too many takers).
So after thinking we had seen the majority of the show, we headed up to the second floor, thinking we'd do a quick run-through before splitting. We were not quite ready for what we saw there: row after row, stall after stall of fish and sea-related products, as well as portable restaurants imported from as far away as Venice and Sicily as well as an enoteca for wines that pair well with fish that would probably put many wine shows to shame! (They were also selling these bizarre wine glass carriers that avid tasters could wear around their necks, which made those who had purchased them look like human Saint Bernards rushing towards a culinary emergency, armed with sauvignon blanc.)
I had a bit of a freak-out moment when an eager (and somehow still hungry) Martello started grabbing for samples, which he didn't bother to stop and see he had to pay for, eerily reminding me of my father, who when I took him to the Chocolate Show, was pulling up waxen display pieces and attempting to eat them... . We settled with the offended (French) stall owner and then sauntered (and eventually rolled) on through the rest of the stalls, sampling, purchasing, and gawking as we went. The stalls were divided by sustainability (regardless of location, the specially-marked Slow Food products got top billing) and then region, moving from the Veneto on down to Sicily and Sardinia. Of course, the one chocolate item that was available for sampling was not available for purchase (after we both were hooked), an amazing 70 percent dark bar using salt from Ibiza (Slow Fish is also big on plain and herbed sea salt; we picked up a great jar there). Trofie Wife is hoping that the offending company will either update the products on their Web site or show up at the Chocolate Show next season! On our way out, Martello also picked up a delightful lemon-flavored carbonated water (to add to his accumulated collection of Slow beers); another new product we'd like to have again that doesn't seem available anywhere... .
When we finally retreated, we managed to get ourselves to the vicinity of the train station with just enough time and cash on hand to buy a kilo of Grom gelato, because clearly, ice cream can be paired with just about anything. Sadly, while there is no Slow Gelato (or Chocolate or Bread or Pastry...), there is a Slow Cheese event in September. Hopefully we can swing by, armed with doses of Lactaid and a refrigerated sack!
Baci e gelato,
Martello e Trofie Wife