On the Menu: Milan’s Top 5 Local Ingredients Executive Chef Sergio Mei of Four Seasons Hotel Milano reveals the regional ingredients he uses the most.
1/5 Carnaroli Rice from Pavia Pavia, about 45 kilometres south of Milan, is the major growing area for carnaroli rice. Carnaroli is the top choice of many chefs for making risotto; it’s firmer than the arborio variety that’s often used, with higher starch content and a larger grain. Carnaroli absorbs flavours well and helps ensure a risotto that’s creamy and fluffy. This variety is the best pick when making the delicate saffron-infused Milanese risotto, a regional specialty on offer at the Hotel.
Photography Alamy Images
2/5 Pink Asparagus from Mezzago “Pink asparagus” is actually mostly white, with a pink tip. It’s been grown in Mezzago, about 30 kilometres northeast of Milan, since the early 1900s. Locals celebrate the vegetable at the Sagra degli Asparagi festival in April and May. Sample it at the Hotel in main courses including fish with asparagus or in seasonal sides like asparagus with Parmesan, available in April, May and June.
Photography Natoora Ltd.
3/5 Bresaola from Valtellina The air-dried salted beef known as bresaola originated in Valtellina, an Alpine valley area approximately 130 kilometres northeast of Milan. This lean, richly flavoured delicacy is generally served raw and thinly sliced like carpaccio. Look for it at the Hotel presented as an antipasto.
Photography Renée Suen
4/5 Gorgonzola from Lombardy Gorgonzola, a pungent cow’s-milk cheese with a blue marbled texture, has been made in the town whose name it bears since the 11th century. (A variety without the blue veins originated even earlier.) The town, about 20 kilometres northeast of Milan, was a resting point for cattle as they were moved from Alpine pastures to lower altitudes for winter. The cheese was developed as a way to preserve the bounty of milk the town enjoyed during those periods. Today it is still produced mainly in the regions of Lombardy and Piedmont. At the Hotel, you’ll find Gorgonzola served with bread as a small appetiser, on pasta and risotto, and among the cheese selection.
Photography Stock Food
5/5 Polenta from Bergamo The cornmeal dish polenta has long been a staple food of the region around Bergamo, 50 kilometres northeast of Milan. The traditional variety is often served with game or a meaty stew, and the rich taragna version incorporates butter and local cheeses. Sample this classic ingredient at the Hotel in hearty dishes like stewed veal or beef with polenta.
Photography Alamy Images
The traditional cuisine of Milan and the Lombardy region may surprise visitors expecting pasta and pizza. You’ll still find those dishes, but here, rice is as important as pasta, and other area specialties include polenta, osso buco (braised veal shanks) and a variety of local cheeses.
We asked Executive Chef Sergio Mei of
Four Seasons Hotel Milano to name the top five regional ingredients he loves to incorporate into dishes at the Hotel’s La Veranda restaurant, at the Il Foyer lounge and for in-room dining.
Pour yourself a glass of Franciacorta, Lombardy’s excellent sparkling wine, and learn more about Chef Mei’s picks.
For more Milanese cuisine, visit the upcoming blog Taste, where Chef Mei offers his take on One Ingredient Three Ways with porcini mushrooms. Plan Your Visit
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Four Seasons Magazine
The best of luxury travel, style and culture from thought leaders and tastemakers
Issue 4 2014