Thu 31 May 2007
A few months ago, while doodling some blog posts here and there, I was at Terry Hughes’ mondosapore and Gabrio Tosti happened to mention in a response to something an unusual strudel from the northeast corners of Italy that he made sound like manna from heaven. “Hey,” I joked, “bring some of that back some time.”
So two weeks ago, I received an email message from Gabrio, who owns the Italian wine store De Vino on Clinton Street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, that said something like, “Your strudel is on the way.”
Two days later arrived by UPS a package about the size of a shoebox, neatly and tightly wrapped. The handsome wood container, pictured below, held a strudel from Fior di Mela — “Flower of the Apple.” I am, apparently, the only person in America who has had this strudel, at least on this side of the Atlantic, because it is available only in Italy and only by mail-order. Every red-blooded man, woman and child should wish otherwise, because a strudel from Fior di Mela is a wonderful thing, chock-full of apples, sultanas and pine nuts scented with cinnamon and wrapped in a rich, buttery crust that’s almost cake-like in consistency.
Fior di Mela — the website is fiordimela.it — was founded in 2005 by Federico CorrÃ in the Val di Non in Trentino, a region in northeastern Italy known primarily for white wines. Though strudel may seem a foreign concept to the Italian sensibility, trained on such creamy or custardy desserts as tiramisu, zabaglione and panna cotta, don’t forget that until the end of World War I, this region of Italy was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire; the Val di Non — which the Google translator waggishly renders as “go them not” — is only 100 miles from the Austrian border.
Each strudel from Fior di Mela — there are five versions — is made to order by hand by Ettore, who has been working in the strudel tradition for 35 years, and shipped on demand; they are not available in stores or restaurants. The apples, CorrÃ told me in an email message, are the secret of the strudel’s goodness, though it seemed to me that everything about my strudel was filled with goodness. They’re Golden Delicious apples, the only variety in Italy according the status of Denominazione d’Origine Protetta. Curiously, the cultivars for these apples are from Virginia, so Fior di Mela has indelible roots in the United States.
CorrÃ would like to bring Fior di Mela this country, but supplying the consumer trough of American culture requires more than one artisan turning out handmade strudels on demand, so we’ll have to see how that goes. In the meanwhile, travelers to Italy, and especially to Trentino, should look up Fior di Mela, a small and exclusive operation with large aspirations.