Images Anna Montesi for Essen A Taste Magazine©
Before everybody called it Tubetto. It was a tavern of 15th century where communists used to drink the finest drinks in town near Naviglio Pavese in Milan.Now is always red, but only for the color of the sign. The Tubetto has turned into a vegetable garden with kitchen, Erba Brusca , a restaurant with garden spring canal and wild herbs that spread love for urban cyclists.
We went to spend an organic day in the garden and in the kitchen of Alice Delcour, French american chef that has created this arcadia the taste of our land a stone’s throw from downtown Milan with the chef of Ratan , Cesare Battisti and somellier Danilo Ingannamorte, Filipp Colombo.
Alice as she picked zucchini from the garden and prepared us her recipes told us the idea of Erba Brusca, her love for cycling, for salt lemon, for lemon thyme and American barbecue.
A garden next to the kitchen is not a breaking news, but in Milan. How came did this idea?
Since I started working in the kitchen I always wanted to have a small garden where you can tap into the vegetables. Clearly in the big city is not always possible. The taste of freshly picked vegetables and is completely different. A garden of zucchini can not taste the same one that has spent days in the fridge. When we saw this place was a bar called the Tubetto we both felt in love and the decision was unanimous: vegetable garden.Then we had to work hard to , nothing was like what you are seeing now.
Did you have been inspire by Eat Local movement?
In America and in Europe Eat local movement has been already present for many years. Here in Italy it arrived later, because, well, here the idea of eating the products of local farmers was certainly not revolutionary. Let me explain: Italy has a strong agricultural tradition, until a few years ago and even today in the South, many had a vegetable garden. Now you are losing
such practices and therefore it becomes important to recover and preserve the idea of knowing where that is “eat.” Also in the haute cuisine had lost a little ‘this vocation, so I think that a company like ours is also important for educational purposes. For example, many people are not to be able to recognize many of the herbs you see here, which instead are an important tool and knowing how to use the flavors can be a valid replacement of the dressings are high in fat and unhealthy.
About herbs, how much and what you can cultivate?
It ‘a small garden, it is clearly not possible to apply a large scale farming, however, I must say I was surprised.
In season I can use almost entirely of what we produce and herbs (thyme, lemon knows that the porch has a spectacular fragrance ed.) In this period comes very good zucchini! For what is lacking I engage the services of some local farms and production of Valsesia: regardless of the organic label or not I get close only to those organizations that produce and passionately focused on quality and taste.
Tell us recipe you’d like to make at Erba Brusca and that you have not yet had occasion to do?
It would be great to do real American barbecue, which I’m sure here in Italy no one has had the good chance to taste.
BBQ is not true to the steaks on the grill. It is a long process, often lasting an entire day, and put a whole animal is not directly on the fire but in a sort of closed oven next to the fire that comes indirectly.
And I’d also like the wood burning oven.
Would you like to make bread here?
I’ll tell you, are not very favorable to the chefs who make the bread. Of course, many who are also cooked a delicious bread. Despite that I am deeply convinced that the art of baking needs more time, onlylargest bakers give us the best flavors. My trust is in Valsesia!
Since we are in summer are ready to prepare confettura?
Yes there I was just thinking. Usually I prepare the lemons in salt down, a preparation of Moroccan origin that I really like.
Now is the turn of sweet confetturas.
Cand you tell us your typical day
I wake up and I’m ready to ride my bike. I do not have the car since I was 18 years old and I go cycling to Erba Brusca or Vegetable market everyday. Then preparation begins early afternoon and evening before returning home in the garden bathroom.
What cook for you?
I don’t have time to eat at home. I must say that I love legumes, vegetables and nuts. Chick peas and oil in salt are great and I love the nuts!
If you could put on your balcony only 3 vessels, which herbs would you plant?
Marjoram, lemon thyme and basil.
I would say that you have such an Italian taste. Would you tell us American / French flavour you love more?
I love sweets and some American dishes of the southern of United States. Speaking about France, cheeses and mum’s quiches. I should also add some sweets in Brittany, where I spent many summers and seafood.
What is your food madeline?
My english grandma mint braised lamb. She used to organized huge dinners, very rich. Prince was the roast seasoned with sauce and red fruits. Yes I have to admit, these flavors remind me of my childhood and the days of binge eating.
These were the occasions where I ate a lot and all very rich. My mother was super careful super healthy and at home was more tofu than meat.