We accompanied Floriana Baltagi, the artisan of perfectly arranged delicious meals, to some of her favorite grocery shopping places. On the way, we talked about her passion for gastronomy, fashion and interior design.
What kind of meals did you first prepare when you decided to do this on a regular basis?
I can’t really recall one specific ‘starting’ meal. Because I experimented a lot, I didn’t really repeat meals, but I do remember that I started making autumn-themed tarts, mostly apple and plum, and their various interpretations with almond custard, semolina or nuts.
What would represent the taste of your childhood?
Tough question. For me, my mom is the best cook, so my childhood was filled with delicious meals of which it would be difficult to choose only one. I do recall with nostalgia her vegetable pot, prepared when it was hot, and the tomatoes were very sweet. Always with fresh vegetables from our garden.
What is the ideal breakfast for you?
Even though I don’t have a favorite meal, my idea of a perfect breakfast is more about a certain mood, to which a very good rye bread is added (there are a few places in Bucharest that sell it), an avocado mixed with garlic and parsley, poached egg the way only he can make it, tomatoes from our garden, fresh cheese from Matache market and a delicious cappuccino.
What is your favorite meal?
There are so many extraordinary meals that it is impossible for me to choose only one. But I can tell you that the most beautiful and surprising culinary experience that I had so far was in the Andalucia region of Southern Spain. Generally speaking, Mediterranean cuisine is my favorite, especially Italian.
How would you describe this hybrid of design and gastronomy which you promote?
For me, a meal starts with the idea of a smell, an image, a mood, a memory. This is then constructed and polished by adding textures, shapes, volume and colors until it becomes an entity. On more than one occasion I’ve discovered delicious recipes while playing around to create an aesthetically unique meal.
From your area of interest, who do you admire most?
I feel that I resonate from both a gastronomic and stylistic point of view with Ana Rusu, whose brand is called Wild Forest. I discovered her rather recently; I’m really fond of her healthy meals and the way in which she promotes them.
From a more tangent area, I admire Ileana Sebe’s (Zwei) simple and natural style.
Which is your favorite part of a creating process?
Enthusiasm comes along from the very beginning, when I start to sketch the idea, no matter if it’s the styling of a meal or choosing the right dishes for a certain occasion. However, the highlight is the moment when the meal is ready, and the last ideas bring the entire arrangement together so that it perfectly integrates into the given theme.
What rules apply to your kitchen and your styling?
Generally speaking, I am not a very strict person, but when it comes to cleanliness and efficient organizing, these are the areas where rules apply. Regarding my styling, I try to create only things that represent me, no compromises, and I try to keep things simple and not drift away from what comes naturally.
Do you have a ritual or things you do before you start cooking?
Yes, I start by putting on some music, making sure that everything is in its place and that there is nothing in my way; I double check what and in which order I have to do and only then do I get to it.
What is your favorite ingredient? And your favorite styling details?
If I were to choose only one ingredient, I would probably choose butter. It’s a fact: the fatter the butter, the tastier the cake. I love ceramics, especially handmade ones and I always make sure to buy some at various markets or during my trips, or from artisan shops in Bucharest. I invest a lot of effort into this aspect. For me, playfulness is just as important as the taste and the aspect of a product.
How does your passion for cooking influence your day-to-day life?
When I’m not cooking, I spend quite a lot of time looking for specialized markets and stores, interesting recipes, documenting, and generally looking for inspiration either by taking a stroll in the market, or going to a good restaurant.
I’m constantly looking for new ideas and travelling can offer a great dose of inspiration. I’ve created this habit of searching for ingredients and tableware specific for a certain place, fabrics and really anything that feeds this passion.
Who helps you out in the kitchen?
Vlad, my husband is my most valuable help. He has no other choice.
We like to cook together while listening to music and enjoying a glass of wine.
If you could only keep one kitchen tool, which one would you choose?
Taking into consideration that I can prepare raw meals, I could do without the oven, but I’d say I’m pretty much dependent on my mixer.
What inspires you?
Inspiration comes from various sources, like a Saturday trip to the market, an Instagram feed, different TV shows, food magazines and blogs, a bouquet of flowers or even a blooming branch; it can be a tree bark, a landscape, a piece of old wood, a nicely set table, a trip, and generally nature and lovely simple things that I come across every day.
What would you like to achieve with what you are doing now?
I wish to improve gastronomically, to maintain the same passion and enthusiasm in the kitchen, to dedicate more time to this project and to have more people benefit from what I do. I’d also like to create my own food and lifestyle blog, in order to connect more easily with people, so I can share my experiences.
Where’d you say the best coffee in town is?
Luckily, there are more and more places where we can enjoy a good cup of coffee. My favorite is probably Frudisiac, but I also like Origo, Guido and Steam Coffee Shop.
Text: Ioana Mîțu | Translation: Timea Matyas | Photo: Adi Bulboacă
Article published in Celsius Magazine No.1 – 2016