Ana Roš and Antonia Klugmann: border wisdom in Manhattan

The 10th edition of Identità New York begins with a double lesson at Eataly Flatiron. Topic moments and dishes

Left to right, Yvonne Simon and Ilias Ntoykai 

Left to right, Yvonne Simon and Ilias Ntoykai (Hisa Franko, Kobarid, Slovenia) and Antonia Klugmann (L'Argine, Dolegna, Gorizia), authors of the first double lesson at Identità New York edition number 10, open until Wednesday at Eataly Flatiron, Manhattan (photo Brambilla/Serrani)

As usual in the last editions, it was reporter Vince Gerasole from Chicago who introduced with praising words the tenth American edition of Identità Golose. «Italy», followed by curator Paolo Marchi, «is not just pasta, pizza, polenta or tiramisu; we try to show the other face of the medal, the innovation, the evolving Italian cuisine». In the case of the first lesson, there’s an important corollary: «We also like to speak of fertility, of exchange between borders. This is why we begin with Antonia Klugmann and Ana Roš, two great chefs who live on two sides of a border, in Italy and Slovenia».

The first half of lesson number one is handed to Antonia Klugmann, cook at L’Argine di Vencò in Dolegna del Collio (Gorizia), a stone’s throw away from the border with Slovenia. Her English is perfect: «I watch many films in the original language», she jokes to break the ice. «I come from Trieste, a city with many influences. I have a Jewish surname and in my veins there’s blood from Apulia and from Emilia Romagna».

Speaking of memories and freedom: «Today’s dish is an evolution of Potato gnocchi with plums, an emblem in the tradition of Trieste. My childhood left me many memories I hold dear; I don’t feel the weight of tradition at all. I am a free woman. I use freedom to go everywhere. It’s beautiful».

Antonia Klugmann, memories and freedom 

Antonia Klugmann, memories and freedom 

Beetroot gnocchi with plums and roses, Antonia Klugmann. Wine pairing: Chardonnay Tellus 2016 from the Cotarella family

Beetroot gnocchi with plums and roses, Antonia Klugmann. Wine pairing: Chardonnay Tellus 2016 from the Cotarella family

The outcome is Beetroot gnocchi with plums and rose. «I’m crazy about fruits in savoury dishes, a custom of Austrian origins. I believe this dish is a summary of my current cuisine, even in terms of no waste and luxury. Which in my opinion is not about expensive ingredients, but it’s about the work, the skills and the knowledge of a cook, about the hours spent conceiving and serving a dish. You know how long it takes to make this beetroot? This is luxury, and I cannot waste any of this energy of work, soil, the range of different flavours. Bitter, sweet, juice, meat… A chef has the duty to enhance each amazing natural component of a fruit like this».

While the screens show images of L’Argine, the cook lists the technical steps with an effective explanation. From a purée of beetroot, potatoes, eggs and flour she makes a soft dough with which she makes the gnocchi, cooked in boiling water and then fried. To have zero waste, she keeps the juice and the meat of the beetroot, to which she adds salt and red wine vinegar, until it impressively resembles, by chance, «white chocolate».

The plum gelatine is made with a special natural artifice (no agar-agar, pectin or gelatine sheets): it’s a filtered, steam-cooked juice. Then there’s the Jerusalem artichoke, dehydrated and fried, «I’m interested in the rather complex flavour, which resembles chocolate. It grows all around my restaurant. Perhaps it’s not caviar, but it’s at the top of my personal list». To finish, powdered dehydrated hibiscus and a light sauce made with stracchino cheese. «Magnificent colours», Gerasole says, even more than the range of flavours.

A last comment on gender differences in the kitchen: «I’d like to have more women in the kitchen», Klugmann says at the end, «but this doesn’t happen simply because I don’t get any curricula from girls. This problem is not just about cooking, but it’s about society in general. Today we have more opportunities to change the state of things».

Compe s skuto, that is to say fermented cheese, smoked chocolate and potato wrapped in hay, Ana Roš and Yvonne Simon. Wine pairing: Merlot Sodale 2015, Cotarella

Compe s skuto, that is to say fermented cheese, smoked chocolate and potato wrapped in hay, Ana Roš and Yvonne Simon. Wine pairing: Merlot Sodale 2015, Cotarella

From Dolegna del Collio, across the hill to Kobarid, for the second part of the first lesson. Ana Roš is not here, struck by a virus that left her home in Slovenia. A video in which the cook from Hisa Franko sums up, a little desolated, the content of her lesson and of the dish begins: «In my language we say Compe s skuto and it’s a dish that puts together fermented cheese with smoked chocolate and a potato wrapped in salt and hay. Cheese is one of the treasures of our region and it is our goal to preserve it and enhance the jewels that the producers bring us from the highest peaks. Yvonne will present them perfectly».

Yvonne Simon is more than an extra for Ana Roš. She’s been the sous chef for over one year at the establishment in Staro Zelo, «she’s one of the most important cooks in my kitchen», the boss points out. She trained in Italy, in a way: «I learnt to cook at Alma», the girl from San Francisco says, «then I returned to California, acquiring experience for 4 years at Quince [3 Michelin stars]. Then I took a sabbatical year and later I sent my cv to Ana Ros. I had fallen in love with Slovenia, a country that takes your breath away».

The dish requires a double service: in one plate there’s a baby potato baked at 180°C for 20 minutes. It’s wrapped in hay and a very aromatic camomile. In the second plate there’s the main part: a cone of fermented cheese, surrounded by smoked chocolate». A dish that pays no attention to pre-defined categories, explained with careful detail, one step after the other.

In this case too, the last comment is about gender inequality in the kitchen: «At our place, however, there’s a perfect balance». A very rare case. «This was not planned, but we’re happy because perhaps it can stimulate an important debate. This is surely the right moment».

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

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Gabriele Zanatta

born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since 2007, he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches History of gastronomy and Culinary global trends into universities and institutes. 
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