12 April 2011

Terra di San Marino

Tourism, banking, ceramics and electronics are the key industries in San Marino - basically everything else is imported from Italy. However, there is a little cluster of products made right here in the country. One of which is "Torta Tre Monti," the traditional Sammarinese cake which has been produced commercially by La Serenissima since 1942. (The "Antique Bake Shop" seems to have a monopoly on the industry).
Layers of wafer are stuck together with hazelnut/chocolate frosting and then its edges are "crowned" with chocolate fondue. It is completely handmade, using the same techniques as sixty years ago and is traditionally much larger and circular. We just didn't need that much torte, so we opted for the 21st century snack-size variety. La Serenissima also makes "Torta Titano," the other Sammarinese cake, which is basically the same thing but instead of wafers, softer puff pastry is layered. They both have shelf lives of about a year, so I can imagine they're quite popular around Christmas time and in college care packages.
They real pride of the Sammarinese gastronomic world, though, is their Terra di San Marino Consortium and brand. The agricultural cooperative is well funded by the government and works to ensure that the country's rural land is protected and promoted. Almost half of all the terrain here is agricultural, but being surrounded by Italy, it's a little more difficult to get a good "Buy Local" movement off the ground. In fact, when we set out to visit the consortium, we found just an office and returned to the Italian chain grocery store to look for the Terra di San Marino logo on the shelves. The first thing we found was this package of piada.
Piada bread and sandwiches created with it (piadinos) are ever present in San Marino, but come originally from the surrounding Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. It looks, tastes and feels exactly like a flour tortilla - though maybe a tiny bit thicker? Resisting the urge to make burritos, we warmed them, quartered them and coated them with a drizzle of olive oil and some paprika. Another few were dipped in honey. Unfortunately, the olive oil and honey were from foreign lands. They are two of key products in the Terra di San Marino collection, but we simply have too much of each to warrant buying some more.
The Vini Tipici Consortium is a large part of the Land of San Marino Cooperative. Merlin already spoke about our visit there and the wine itself. They also produce a few liquors and we tried out the "Acquavite di Une Moscato." Neither of us are big grappa fans, but it was actually quite nice: smooth, a little sweet....
Link...it also made for an excellent camping lantern! Just throw a head lamp on top and you've got yourself some nice mood lighting by which to enjoy the last of your Sammarinese cheese. That's it right there in the front. Not showing an up-close shot is a decision I've made. Let's just call this cheese a "full on Monet" in the immortal words of Clueless. It looked as much like a glob of slightly moist cream cheese as the piada looks like tortilla. Though, luckily the flavor disparity was more defined. It tasted like a tangier fresh mozzarella and had more of a stickiness to its bounce. I guess you could say it was halfway between a ball of fresh mozzarella and some run-of-the-mill brie.
Here it is packaged from the grocery store. Like wine, dairy products have their own cooperative subdivision: Centrale del Latte. They make sure that every aspect of the production process happens right here in San Marino and uphold cheesemaking traditions. Most of the cheese on offer is pretty new - I'm actually not sure if they have caves at all. It was nice to see Il Latte milk being used in almost every cappuccino we ordered, though we 've yet to find the local yogurt amongst the Dannon explosion of a grocery section. (It's really an Activia explosion, but that just sounded so wrong).

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