Our Last Day at Il Mostra Artiginati, plus All the Dogs of Firenze

It was the last day of Il Mostra Artiginati, the Firenze festival of artisanale foods. Our group of buddies–food writers Julia della Croce and Greg Patent,  Frances Mercado from Italian food website Gustiamo, and myself– decided to split into two groups for the morning then meet up in the afternoon, for lunch.

Julia and Greg were going to conduct in-depth, serious interviews with food producers; and to be honest, Frances and I were a bit more…..how shall I say? rambuncious? we just wanted to walk walk walk and taste taste taste then taste some more. We wanted to flirt with Italian guys, girl-talk with Italian women, drink a little bit of everything that required it, and pet every doggy that came our way.  In general, we wanted to treat our last day at the fair as a big italian food and life party. You can’t blame Julia and Greg for needing a little serious-journalist time without the two of us.

We started the day all together,sampling the most divine, blissful, meltingly luscious, i mean really: I’m running out of adjectives here. It was a creamy concoction of truffled gorgonzola. I was so glad I had painted my fingernails green, because the combination of my green-tipped fingers and the wonderful little tasting spoon of these cheese, made me about as happy as a person could be.

So,  meeting time and place designated, we  figured that even if we missed each other, we could text or email with GPS changes. As the fair was contained in a relatively small area, we thought it wouldn’t be possible to miss each other. And even if our two groups weren’t in contact, we knew that we would all be returning to visit this creamy, seductive cheese for more tastes, so we weren’t worried.

Which is really silly, because of course we were going to get lost. And while we all admitted to revisiting the cheese man many times in the course of the day, the reality was that we spent the afternoon playing hide and seek. Our plans for lunch and an afternoon together evolved into what felt like a film: as we found ourselves in adventure after adventure inbetween texts and scrambling around.

“We are in Sicily, sampling chocolate.” tapped out Julia. When we got there, Julia and Greg were no where to be found of course. But, THANK GOD, the chocolate was there, and abundant, and eager to be tasted.

I kept getting distracted by olives and beans and spices, all out in barrels. I am going to share something here, but its a secret between you and I: when no one is looking, and I am standing in front of a barrel of dried beans, all shiny and smooth, I like to….quietly slip my hand into them, swish it around a little bit, letting the smooth shiny coolness of the beans slip around my fingers, a sensation almost like water. almost like sand but softer, smoother. Delicious.

The Mostra had invited international guests with their wares, too: Tunisia, Iran, and India were among the guests. I lusted after the row of tajines from the Tunisia stand, while the owner grabbed me for a foto. I texted Julia and Greg: we are in Tunisia! But…..we waited and waited, and then….

We were lured to Iran:  and  tray after tray of luscious sweet things; at the moment I clicked this pic I was in the midst of choosing a bag of treats: The girl at the stand was so sweet: she smiled, she gave me samples….and yes, i bought a little bit of everything.

Julia and Greg emailed: Missed you in North Africa, but we are in Sardinia now. And so we raced back to Italy and found ourselves smack in the midst of smoked fish, salted fish, preserved tuna, anchovies, and especially: bottarga, the salted fish eggs that are pressed into a hard shape, dried, and eaten shaved or grated onto almost anything: thin shavings piled up on top of crostini or bruschetta, or grated on top of a bowl of al dente spaghetti. But wait: I am forgetting! All this running around chasing each other throughout the fair, when I have forgotten my promise:  all of the dogs in Firenze.

Perhaps, though,  I have over-promised. I have pictures of SOME of the dogs of Firenze, though Firenze is a small town and there are many many dogs! So many dogs, so many people loving the dogs; it reminded me of Paris back in the day when the cafes and restaurants were full of dogs and I was brought to fits of giggles watching them. Now, I am a bit blase to Paris and its love affair with dogs, though I do want to move there for the sheer fun I know that Jake, Oscar and Lambchop would have there, but here, in Firenze, I saw that doggies were also loved: they were cherished and doted on, and everywhere I went, I saw them: in womens arms, at the end of men’s leashes, in shops and restaurants and parks and cafes. One morning I went into a caffe-bar: it was small: maybe 10-12 seats. And there were already six different dogs there, sitting with their masters/mistresses, getting ready for the day.

Oh the dogs of Firenze, unlike my own mis-behaving Jack-pack, were so well behaved! I snapped pics wherever I could find pooches: in addition to doggies I saw so many very happy human faces too.

At the mostra, a man and his pug. This little pooch totally loving the fair, her little nose sniffing the air which smelled deliciously of salami, cheese, all sorts of good things. To be honest, I was sniffing the air too! And the lady at far right: how much does she love her little chihuahua? (lots).And these two Jack Russells, i wish you could have seen them in motion: rolling over and over, on command. One minute rolling over, the next sitting up for treats!

And I don’t know about you, but this little fluffy fluffy poochie, sitting in the trattoria while we all wait for our lunch…..bellissima, right?

BUT WAIT: you just might be thinking, Frances and I are having a great time (we were!) eating, drinking, and snapping pictures of cute pups, but DID we EVER meet up with Julia and Greg again?

Yes yes yes yes yes! we finally finally finally found each other, and frazzled, we all sat down to pizza. (A happy ending).

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