Over-eating in Cremona and Verona, Yakkity Yak and too many bis

"the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom...for we never know what is enough until we know what is more than enough" [William Blake]. I now know that 5 years maturation for any cured ham is more than enough for me, much more than enough. The ham in question was an acorn fed Tuscan number served at a rather bizarre curiosity restaurant about an hour South of Verona.

Le 4 Ciacole (literally the 4 yaks [as in Yakkity Yak]) is a most particular place borne out of one man's obsession and 100 years of purveying. There is a constant stream of unique products; local, regional, special (with DOP and IGP in abundance) pushed to, and beyond, their limits by the owner accompanied by an astounding selection of wines and deceptively simple and brilliant cooking. The meat and cheese antipasti were a complete meal with some dizzying highs (a garlic scented pancetta from the Liguria/Piemonte border, a smoked rare beef also from Piemonte) and some not so highs (the aforementioned 5 year ham, a 12-16 month home cured pancetta). A splendid tagliolini with DOP pea (from Pavia i think) puree, grated smoked ricotta, crispy pancetta and a few more DOP peas segued into a risotto with Culatello topped with Grana Padano from Red Reggiana cows. A meaty main included a flat iron steak and a seasoning choice of 4 types salt, 2 types pepper. Every course was a bis, italian for half'n'half evoking the chinese chippy speciality of my youth; half rice, half chips and curry sauce. Following the triple bis (a bis-tris?) I was done but our host was not. Pouncing on my weakness in agreeing to peruse the dessert menu and aquiescing to a peach sorbet he added a summer panettone filled with sheeps milk ice cream, justifying this choice by maintaining the the mother dough (biga) must be kept healthy throughout the year to ensure the christmas panettone quality and this can only be done if we all eat more summer panettone. The sorbet was so-so, a little too sweetly rich for me and the panettone was perfect.

Note that this was the second special meal of the day. The first was in a red neo-barroque dining room in a spectacular palazzo entered via an unassuming hole in tiny courtyard in Cremona.  The reception of Hosteria 700 was filled with freshly made drying pasta, some weird (cocoa) to be transformed into fantastic plates; cocoa tagliolini with Bagoss (the coloured with saffron "poor mans' parmesan" of Brescia, now twice the price of Reggiano). I almost started with an onion tart tatin with parmesan ice-cream wavering at the last moment towards the cheese bis (the historically important salva cremasco and the ubiquitous provolone, for Cremona is the adopted home of Auricchio) with pumpkin marmalade. Another bis followed immediately, tagliolini with a light duck ragu and the amazing quintessential Marubini. The Cremonan take on tortellini, Marubini, are filled pasta with dense compact meatballs made of chicken, veal, pork and salami. In winter they are served in 'tre Brodi', with 3 different stocks (made from the meats indicated above). In summer they are normally eaten with butter and sage. They were as good as my photo is bad.

We skipped main course and dessert opting for more Marubini, these arrived dressed with butter and thyme which I found even more delicious. I was still full by the evening when we descended on 'the 4 Yaks' and after a day consuming a bis sextet I slept like a rock (had been placed in my stomach). A night of reflection and indigestion followed.


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Italian, Recipes