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Cheese Making at Azienda Zootecnica Facenna in Puglia

Blessed are the cheese makers :)

Blessed are the Facenna cheese makers :)

Tucked away behind a barrage of windy roads lies a small holding. On it, an old two storey house, battered with years and the breeze that besieges its hilltop position. Up some external stairs, there is a little one room apartment. A bed in the corner, windows looking around, a small kitchen and a table. There is no electricity. Below, an old living room with a large fireplace above which cow bells hang on collars of all sizes for the newest calves to the largest bull.

Outside the house, overlooking, is a field full of cows. These are Podolica cows, native to Southern Italy. Large working beasts. Beautiful. In front, and to the right of the house, a long shed. In here there are pigs and piglets. Lots of them. Then calves to the left of them and right beside the house, still milk fed by their mothers. Overlooking, literally, balancing on a stony hedge because they are not satisfied with their massive field, some goats. Peeking in. A cat supervises from the top of the stairs and a puppy is running around beside himself. Because puppies always are, aren’t they?

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Where (and What) to Eat in Northern & Central Puglia

When I visited Puglia, I was surprised to discover that locals consider it under the radar. Ok, I am food obsessed, but I have known about Puglia’s food reputation for years, and have long wanted to visit. I thought that everyone did! (And I think that food bods do). Who could resist the lure of the home of burrata and orecchiette, and all of that lovely fish?

When I arrived in Bari, I was surprised to see very few tourists. There were lots of locals embracing their city, tiny toddlers whizzing around, stumbling on foot, and older siblings speeding by on bicycles (ding-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling!). Nonnis and Nonnas sitting outside their houses chattering, perched on stools. Young couples ambling by, deep in romance. A wedding. A random guy shaving his legs in the middle of the street. Bari has character, and lots of them living there too. I was charmed.

Where we have corner shops, Bari (and Puglia generally) has salumerias. Small shops rich with meaty bounty, bulbous waxy cheeses dangle from the ceiling (cacciovallo), towers of foccacia blink (a specialty of Bari too) and there is fresh hand made orecchiette and cavatelli to take home. They will make you a sandwich with whatever you fancy too.

I used Bari as a base and travelled to Barletta, Tranni, Apricena & Polignano a Mare. A cosy four day trip and so easy from London with direct flights. Bari is a small city, with a population of approximately 320,000, a perfect antidote to London when in need of a break. I also visited a farm and a dairy, but more on that in my next post.

This is not a definitive list, and I intend to go back, so if you have any tips for me, please leave them in the comments below. Thank you!

BARI

When in Puglia, generally, you must have orecchiette, but particularly so in Bari. Try it first with pomodoro (tomato sauce) and caccioricotta (also called ricotta dura, a harder saltier ricotta). Foccacia is also king, and the best in Bari is said to be in the old city at Panificio Fiore (Strada Palazzo di Citta’ 38, Bari) – sadly I didn’t make this, but I had an excellent one from a downtown salumeria (the gorgeous Salumeria Nino).

Osteria delle Travi

A friendly family run restaurant in the old city, you can get excellent renditions of the local fare here – orecchiette with pomodori, fritture di pesce (with excellent local Adriatic fish) and braciole (a traditional horsemeat dish).

Osteria delle Travi, Largo Chyurlia 12, 70122 Bari

Ristorante La Cecchina

Located in the town square in the old town, and the perfect location to witness the local hustle bustle, try the wholewheat orecchiette with tomato and burrata and the excellent seafood pasta, and fritture de pesce as above.

Ristorante La Cecchina, Piazza Mercantile, 31, 70121 Bari

Sgagliozze, street food

The best sgagliozze in Bari is said to be cooked by Maria delle Sgagliozze (Maria of the Sgagliozze) outside of her house downtown. I didn’t find her on my trip, but there are plenty of others to sample. I found one as I turned a street corner and peered inside a shop, over a large pot of boiling extra virgin olive oil. Within were long bars of polenta, which had been air dried for up to 3 days, so that they are rendered perfectly crisp when fried, and then served with lots of sea salt. The Bari version of chips (dare I say better?), lots of people make it, just look out for ladies behind big pots on street corners. You can’t miss it. (I paid €1 for 6 too).

The Fish Market

Located on the lungomare, just opposite Piazza Eroi del Mare, this is where the fishermen pull up in their small fishing boats and sell their wares. A great place to try the Puglian tradition of eating raw fish, sample sea urchin (I promise that it is rich, buttery & divine), mussels, or octopus which the fishermen tenderise by the water by beating it with a large wooden paddle (it is dead at the time, naturally).

Salumeria Nino

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I don’t know if Salumeria Nino is the best Salumeria in Bari, I hazard there are many excellent ones, but I was charmed by it and went to stock up on treats to bring home. I highly recommend a visit.

Salumeria Nino, Via Vallisa 30, Bari

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Next Stop: Puglia & #WeAreInPuglia

Next stop: Puglia. This, I am very excited about. Puglia has a rich culinary heritage and diverse wine culture (I have been told there are 24 types of wine that I need to try – ok then!). It is the heel and spur, if Italy was a boot, and has lots of fresh seafood from its long Adriatic coastline. Orecchiete, burrata, friselli, taralli, pizzette, puccia and lots of other joys pepper too.

I am here for four nights to explore, indulge in the food scene and to broadcast all about it from Puglia to Dublin, live. Yes! If in Dublin, be sure to pop down to the roadshow at the Puglia Village on George’s Dock. Running until Tuesday 15th July there will be live music, wine tasting, cooking demos, food samples, and it is all free. They want to share the Puglia love.

I will be broadcasting to the Puglia Village on George’s Dock at 1pm and 4pm on Friday (tomorrow) and 11.30am and 1pm on Saturday. You can only catch this at the Puglia Village so make sure you get on down there if you can. If you can’t, or are not in Dublin, don’t worry, I will be sharing lots here too. You can also follow it all by tracking #WeAreInPuglia on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook.

(Pics above are from my first few hours in Bari – nice, eh?!)

I am in Puglia for #WeAreInPuglia, a collaboration between iAmbassador and the Tourism Board of Puglia supporting the #WeAreInPuglia European road show, sponsored by the Tourism Board of Puglia. All editorial is mine, as always.