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La Cucina vs. La Cuisine: A Gastronomic Faceoff

Evening Program with Reception

Wednesday, November 15, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1M2934

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Caprese salad: fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil leaves drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Most food lovers, when asked to name their favorite food nations, quickly speak of Italy and France and then insist on declaring one better than the other. In fact, the food and wine traditions of these two countries are closely linked.

With the Roman Empire, Italy developed agriculture, viticulture, and methods for the preservation and transportation of food. As Rome conquered Gaul, which became France, these practices found fertile soil for expansion and, inevitably, evolution. Italians claim that it was Catherine de’ Medici who brought fine dining to France. 

While Italian food is spontaneous and often improvisational and based on available ingredients, the French kitchen claimed to elevate la cuisine to an art and, with that, promoted a codification of every process and method of cooking and winemaking. With this came schools and institutes for training cooks and wine makers. Master chefs became high priests of gastronomy and their students became their nervous acolytes.

As French food evolved in that direction, Italy—due to politics and geography—became more diverse and devoted to home cooking. Each country has always looked over its culinary shoulder at its putative competitor, expressing grudging respect for the achievements of the other.

Join Fred Plotkin, author of six outstanding books on Italian culinary traditions, as he examines how la cucina and la cuisine are not so much rivals as great influences and inspirations on one another.  

The evening concludes with a reception highlighting French and Italian-inspired specialties.


French and Italian Cheese Board
French and Italian cheeses garnished with figs, grapes and berries, accompanied by fig jam, baguette slices and raisin-walnut bread

Charcuterie Board
French country pâté, saucisson sec, and sliced Italian salami with country bread, cornichons, and mustard

Italian Meatballs
Seasoned with fresh garlic, oregano and parmesan and served warm in a marinara sauce

Provençal Chicken Brochettes
Grilled chicken scented with fresh rosemary, lemon, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes,
served with a rosemary aioli sauce

Caponata Bruschetta
Italian roasted-eggplant salad served on grilled bread

French Onion Tart
Wedges of savory tart filled with caramelized onions, goat cheese and herbs

French and Italian Sweets
An assortment of miniature pastries such as macarons, lemon tartlets, canalés, chocolate éclairs, cannoli, biscotti, and classic Italian cookies

Pinot Grigio


S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)