The Malta Independent 21 April 2019, Sunday

Marie's Diary: Promoting Italian food and drink on MSC Poesia

Marie Benoît Monday, 9 May 2016, 15:41 Last update: about 4 years ago
  • I have been on three short cruises on Italian cruise ships round the Mediterranean but not on one as big as MSC Poesia which is a cruise liner rather than a mere ship. Crew members number about 1,039, it takes some 3, 223 passangers and has 1, 275 cabins. I remember enjoying all three and the food was always very good as one would expect from Italian chefs. I also love the sort of 'glitz and glamour' on board where everything seems to shine and twinkle. I suppose the whole idea is for patrons to get away from an increasingly mundane world and enter a world of make-believe while they are on holiday. It works.
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Expectations ran high where food and drink were concerned when it came to a special visit of the massive MSC Poesia in Grand Harbour late last month. I arrived on board ship with Massimiliana and Mauro Tomaselli and security was very strict.

The Crociera del Gusto, was organized by Mariuccia Ambrosini to promote the cellars of Franciacorta and the products typical of the area. The Commercial Office of the Italian Embassy backed this initiative to advertise the globalisation of the PMI, piccole e medie imprese italiane in Malta. In order to do so they invited a number of guests in order to interest them  to import Italian products and popularize them locally. Present were, in fact, importers and representatives of winehouses, wine bars, restaurants, as well as local hotel owners.


Two smart young ladies, Anna Cardin and Monia Zanette, sommeliers of the Federazione Italiana Sommelier Albergatori e Ristoratori shared with those present the characteristics of the region of Franciacorta, its noble origins, and the method of wine production. The territory of Franciacorta is in fact a section of the Province of Brescia in the region of Lambardy. George Meekers, the wine guru who was present, told me it is a beautiful part of Italy but especially so the area round Lake Iseo. In fact Franciacorta is widely regarded as Italy's finest sparkling wine. It is made in the Méthode Champenoise from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (with limited amounts of Pinot Blanc). Franciacorta is clearly Italy's answer to Champagne. There are two clear differences between Franciacorta and Champagne, however: history and scale. Franciacorta's history dates back just 50 years; Champagne's closer to 350. And about 100 times more Champagne is produced than Franciacorta.

 I stuck to the delicious bubbly throughout the event. 


The Team Venezia Chefs, a group of professional chefs passionate about cuisine from the Veneto region, had produced a veritable feast laid out buffet style. Franciacorta has a superb gastronomic tradition I discovered. These gifted chefs dedicate their free time preparing dishes which they showcase in various events in Italy and abroad, indeed as they were doing that morning.

Chefs Alessandro Silvestri and Leonardo Aliprandi proposed a menu based on products typical of the area, leading guests through a culinary journey  boasting cold cuts, cheeses, gnocchi and crespelle, baccalá cooked in different ways including Baccalà Mantecato,  a creamy, garlicky appetizer spread  full of flavour served  on crostini. There was cod fish fried in batter and "alla vicentina", a famous recipe which is served with polenta. There was cotechino (which I have always found too fatty) and spalla cotta.  The pasta "al monococco", a spelt pasta made from an ancient grain grown in the Brescia flatlands, was truly delicious.  And finally, a glorious panettone-like Bundt cake. I have eaten a great variety of panettone in my long life but never one so light. It was truly delicious and I hope someone will start importing it here. I did not bother with the cold cuts as they did not seem to be very different from the ones I purchase locally. I have never understood this enthusiasm for polenta either. Or gnocchi although I do enjoy the potato ones. However, there were some exquisite dishes which I thoroughly enjoyed and wish I could have got hold of a couple of recipes.


All dishes were paired with Franciacorta wines, thus demonstrating their versatility. To complete this rich food tasting, the Bel Gelato, a  creamy artisanal ice cream by Vito Belli, was served. I thoroughly enjoyed the Lucaffé, delicious espresso coffee flavoured with hazelnut, crème caramel and other aromas created by Gian Luca Venturelli. Again I hope these different aromas of espresso will be imported in Malta soon.

The guest of honour that morning was Ambassador Giovanni Umberto De Vito, for whom the sommeliers performed the rite of the "Sabrage", an ancient traditional way of uncorking Franciacorta wine.

Attending were also Accademia della Cucina delegate, Massimiliana Tomaselli (who is no mean cook herself); the director of the Club Malta Associazione Italiana Sommelier, Elena Napoli; the Secretary General of the Maltese Italian Chamber of Commerce Denis Borg.

 All of them are united by the common goal of promoting the best of Italian food and wine, and collaborating to make this goal successful.

It was a most enjoyable event and there was no clearing up to do or dishes to wash.

 I skipped supper that evening.



Under my mother's photo


Our beloved mother who died on 4th May 1968 at the age of 62 years. Here she is carrying me on the roof of our home, a photo taken by my father.  With the rest of my family I wish to salute her on Mother's day and, in case she is listening somewhere, thank her for everything she has done for us and taught us. Now that we are all parents ourselves we understand the sacrifices made as we have discovered that raising a family is no easy task. We hope she is proud of us.


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