Festival Epicure- a Synopsis
- Hello everyone,
I have sufficiently recovered to give you all a report on my latest venture-
Festival Epicure- a food, wine and music fest (check it out at
As I mentioned earlier, this had an estimated attendance of 50,000 and is
considered the premiere place for restaurants to boost their recognition and
business. I was lucky enough to be hired by a local historical group who wanted to
increase membership, awareness and hopefully bring in a profit.
It was an experience I'll never forget. 3 months of planning that was
tossled around due to the group losing insurance and my butcher backing out but in
the end I managed to pull it together. My basic premise was to stick with one
country, but different time periods. I chose Italy (go figure :) and developed
recipes from Apicius (1-4th C), On Right Pleasure and Good Health- Platina
15th C and a Grattacheche recipe based on ices from Scappi and later Varenne
(although not Italian)
We had such a great response on the Lucanian Sausage recipe that I am looking
into marketing it commercially to local restaurants and had several requests
to purchase it retail from people attending the festival.
The original recipe is;
Flower and Rosenbaum's Translation of Apicius
"Lucanian sausages are made in a way similar to the above (stuffed wombs).
Pound pepper, cumin, savory, rue, parsley, mixed herbs, laurel-berries, and
liquamen and mix with this well beaten meat, pounded it again with the spice
mixture. Work in liqamen, peppercorns, pelenty of fat and pine-kernels, insert into
a sasage skin, drawn out very thinly and hang in smoke"
Due to the fact that I hope to market my recipe, I can't post it in it's
detail but will comment on what I did.
I did eliminate rue from the recipe as it has been know to cause spontaneous
abortion , and although the amount I was intending to use would have been
small, there was a potential risk involved. I was unable to secure laurel berries
and so used a quantity of ground bay (laurel) leaves. I realize there will be
differences however it was the closest substitution I could make. Others may
have a better suggestion on this. I kept the herb mix to the named list and
used a very high end Nuoc Mam (Asian fish sauce) that was purely an anchovy base
as the liquamen. It was definitely a drawback to people thinking about buying
the sausage- they were turned off by the idea of "fish sauce" however, I
started to put out samples and 1 in 4 people who tried it bought it. They were
impressed. I had to list "fish and nut allergies" on the menu as I was concerned
that someone would not think htat a pork sausage would contain either. The
butcher neglected to pass the pine nuts through the grinder, but to my surprise,
people were responded positively, they felt it gave a great amount of texture
and a sort of "cracker jack" experience of finding the treasured nuts.
I had the entire recipe recreated by a local butcher. It was pretty amusing
the day I came in with all of the ingredients. He was going to prepare 200lbs
of meat and I had two grocery bags of ingredients to add to it. His eyeballs
popped and he exclaimed "I'm not putting all of THAT in there, am I???" This
elicited nervous laughter from me, because although I had tested the recipe, I
was nervous about how the public was going to react and his reaction as a
charcutierre (sp?) rocked my comfort level. We also had to discuss the additional
use of curing salts which are not in the original recipe but are required by
law in sausage production today. We came up with a compromise on the use of
liquamen (salt content and flavour) and the curing salts, creating a balance that
provided the necessary flavour but meeting his requirements. The butcher cold
smoked the sausage for 48 hours- a great thing. Most sausages are smoked only
18hours at best and this process imparts a great deal of flavour. I was very
pleased with the result. Maybe next time I can import olive wood from
I was approaced at the food festival by a young man who belongs to a Roman
group who will be making liquamen in the next few weeks, I made him promise to
call me so that I can get a first hand shot at the process. I also offered the
recipes that I have collected on the matter (this has been a long standing
desire of mine to create liquamen).
The Platina recipe was for Pulpam Romanum, - Meat Roman Style_ and was very
simple. We called it Vitulinum Romanum (Veal Roman style)
Cut veal into pieces not larger than an egg so that no piece is completely
cut from another, and asprinkle at aonce wiith salt and corianger or ground
fennel. When they are sprinked, press a little between two boards. When a spit has
been passed through them, turn them over the fire until they are cooked with
a chunk of lard so they do not touch anc do not dry out too much Turn them
over the fire until they are cooked. THis is of great and heavy nourishment, but
iti is digested slowly and constipates the bowels.
Ok, here we took a liberty or two. I used pre-tenderized veal scallopini so
no chunks but a veal cutlet. I used fresh ground coriander, sea salt and
instead of lard we used olive oil. Due to constraints we didn't skewer the veal,
although next time I will and will serve with just a simple sauce instead of on a
pita with greens like I did this year. We flash grilled the veal and left it
almost uncooked, you know, just before it actually looses that pink colour and
served it hot.
The Grattacheche didn't have a specific recipe, although I did read Elizabeth
Davids "Harvest of the Cold Months" and based the recipe on mentions in
Scappi and Varenne. We used pure mulberry and tamarind syrups imported from the
Middle East. However, the weather was wet and cold and we sold less than 100 of
them, when I had been hoping to sell 800. Live and learn.
So the overall event was a success, and I would do it all again. Knowing what
I know I'd change a few things (veal is too expensive to sell at an event
like this, and having supplies available but not purchased yet is a good idea
when you don't know the crowds level). I would have skewered the sausage and the
veal and sold them with a simple sauce instead of putting them on bread with
greens and I would have had a "hot" alternative to the ices- maybe somekind of
interesting tea that could have been made with the same basic ingredients.
Maybe you'll see me at Pennsic or Ren Fest in a few years :)
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