Posts Tagged With: Piedmont

Italia – Getting Organized

TuscanyI spent the last couple of days day dreaming categorizing all the Italian posts, filing them in the proper locations.  On the left side you can now see the five categories under Italy…

Florence

Rome

Tuscany

Emilia-Romagna

Piedmont

Venice, the lakes, and other parts are not there because I dont have enough blog posts on them (at the moment the count is about 0).  Here are all the tips you need on Venice:  The greatest museum in the world:  Rialto market.  The greatest bite post the greatest museum in the world:  Antiche Carampane.  That is it.  Once I come back, I will start writing on Venice and the rest of them.

But I must say, out of the 290 posts published so far since I started this blog, the Italy posts are by far my favorite.  Sure its nice to write about my home town, my adapted home town, and even New Orleans once in a while which produced the most viewed post on EWZ (571 shares on Facebook alone).  But the Italy posts, while not much in the way of generating traffic for some reason, are the reason why it took me two days to do this.  A lot of staring and day dreaming.  Italy is the reason I have a hard time getting overly excited about our trip next month to Prague, Salzburg, Vienna.  It spoiled me forever

Gattavecchi

Gattavecchi crew in Montepulciano

Categories: Italy | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

10 Best Things We Ate in Piedmont

Italy 2014 203When you research food in Piedmont, its usually a matter of minutes until you see “Most Underrated” mentioned by some food writer.  Its almost cliché.  Many believe that the Langhe region, especially the 20 mile radius around Alba has some of the best concentration of great dining in the country.  And now that I finally got a good taste of what this region has to offer, me and my chocolates are jumping on the bandwagon to Serralunga.  Here are some of the best bites we had from a recent trip…

Fusilli with pork shoulder at Agriturismo il Cucchiaio di LegnoLake Orta’s lone Slow Food hidden gem produced a feast to remember.  While its nearly impossible to pick one dish from this 10 courser, the Fusilli is etched in my mind perhaps more than anything else.  The title explains the dish almost in its entirely.  Light on ingredients, but big on flavor.  Young master Luigi learned from the best.. Mother!

Italy 2014 147

White Truffles at La Bottega del Vicoletto – We came, we conquered.  We came for White Truffles during Truffle season, and we took full advantage eating them for lunch and dinner every day and even bought one that we named Raffi.  What we quickly realized was that not only every place served them differently, but quality varied.  Some shave them in the kitchen, some do it table side, and some leave the truffles in the middle of the room.  But my favorite way to enjoy truffles was in places like Vicoletto in Alba where they weigh them first, leave the truffles on the table, and weigh them after the meal to figure out how much you ate.  Since truffles are mostly about that magical scent, you are enjoying them for the duration of your meal while they just sit there looking pretty.

The family behind La Bottega del Vicoletto used to own a Michelin Starred restaurant in the same location, until they closed it.  Now they are back opening a deli with a small room in the back serving all the classics like Agnolotti del Plin (very good), Tajarin, Beef Cheeks, and some of the best white truffles we had on this trip

La Bottega del Vicoletto Poached Egg

Chocolate at Alba Saturday Market – Saturday is market day in Nutella land (as in many cities in Italy).  You will find stands scattered all over town selling everything from curtains, toys and truffles during truffle season.  But the biggest action is in the huge parking area in the northern part of the town (Find on Google Maps:  Locanda Dell’oca, Catiza, or Rainbow Board Shop, and go to that area).  One particular stand was selling chocolates that will make you regret not buying more.  Nice selection of outstanding hazelnut chocolates… so good, and so satisfying when craving strikes.  In the picture below its mostly the stuff in the lower left

Alba market chocolate

Tajarin with Sausage Ragu at La Torre in Cherasco – Let me start by saying we had this dish next to another Tajarin dish filled with 10 grams of white truffles that cost 3x more.  That’s how good this Tajarin was.  Bra Sausage which is a mixture of Veal (mostly) and Pork is at the helm of this Piedmont classic, and the result is rich and explosive.  Like Mardi Gras in your mouth.

La Torre Tajarin

Carne Cruda at Il Centro in Priocca – Picking one dish from the meal of the year is like asking Evander Holyfield to pick his favorite illegitimate kid.  Raw beef, expertly cut by hand, helped by a generous shaving of white truffles.  A pure joy with every morsel.  Just don’t you dare call it Steak Tartare.

Italy 2014 404

Anchovies and Tuna at Ca del Re in Verduno – This all female crew is making all sorts of magic in the restaurant of Castello di Verduno winery.  Anchovies covered by the best tuna salad you will ever have, consisting of tuna, hazelnuts and olive oil.  Surprising big flavors from this little Slow Food hidden gem.

Ca del Re - Anchovies and Tuna

Grissini at Fratelli Cravero – When in Piedmont, you eat Grissini.  Everywhere!  You show up at any restaurant and there they are, waiting for you on the table like a bouquet of roses.  But the best way to have them is in the center of Barolo, while watching the Cravellos make them in the only family owned bakery in the area.  Meeting energetic Daniella is worth the price of admission alone (which is zero btw – its just an expression).  And if you are a good boy, she will even let you smell her truffles

Courtesy of Cravero website

Courtesy of Cravero website

Onion at Trattoria La Coccinella – In a meal such as this, that featured a truffle delight one after another, one particular onion stood out.  The onion is baked with salt then filled with chicken liver, baked some more, sprinkled by some more salt, and the result is heavenly.  Even onion hater Mrs Z was all over this one

Italy 2014 573

Baci di Cherasco in Cherasco – Cherasco is a town known for two things dear to my heart (perhaps because I dont get enough of them).. snails and kisses.  Snails, you can get all over town in every way shape or form (I like the Parisian style), but its those little kisses (“Baci”), that made me weep during a recent foreign movie.  I finally finished all the Baci I bought at Ravera.  Ravera is one of two shops (that I know) selling these crazy delicious chocolates in the compact center.  The other one is the famous Barbero a few steps away, who only been selling these kisses since 1881.

Ravera Baci di Cherasco

Braised Beef Cheeks Everywhere – Cheating or brilliant pick.  I vote the latter.  More often than not in Italy and NYC restaurants, Primis outshine the Secondis, and on occasion we skip secondis altogether.  In North Italy however, we find a much better balance between courses partly due to the exceptional meats, game and seafood (e.g. Venice).  In Piedmont you got the double threat; arguably the best cattle and the best wine in the country.  Beef or Veal cheek (Guanciale) braised in Barolo, or even cheaper Nebbiolo can be found just about everywhere.  And once you taste one you will want to order it again and again.

Italy 2014 419

Categories: Italy, Piedmont | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When in Barolo.. You do Grissini

Italy 2014 524Barolo, arguably Italy’s grandest, most celebrated wine, is produced in the magnificent Langhe Hills in Piedmont.  Visitors from all over the world flock to the Barolo zone, and the picturesque hamlet that bares its name to see where the magic is made.  You got the wine museum, cork museum, wine tasting galore in every corner, wine, wine and more wine everywhere you turn in the entire region.  You arrive through Barolo vineyards, leave through Barolo vineyards, and make wrong turns on purpose as you drive through more vineyards.  So naturally, here we are, flying 4000 miles from NYC to Barolo, risking our lives while maneuvering our little Fiat up and down mountains through regional roads built for smaller Fiats. All that for.. you guessed it… Breadsticks!

Italy 2014 527Before the trip I arranged to meet with Daniela Cravero, who along with her brother and son, operate an artisanal breadstick bakery, Fratelli Cravero, smack in the middle of the town of Barolo.  Its a tiny little village of 700, and something tells me the Craveros would be happy to teach anyone without any special appointments.  But before I begin to tell you about this little jewel, I need to explain the importance of breadsticks to Piedmont and Italy

The story begins just like many other food stories begin… with constipated leaders (Like David Ben Gurion leading to the invention of Israeli Couscous).  It started in 1675 with the young Victor Amadeus II from the House of Savoy who was suffering from all sorts of digestive ailments.  His mom asked the court physician if there’s anything he can do, and the physician recalling his own digestive issues as a A_young_Vittorio_Amedeo_II_of_Savoy_by_an_unknown_artistchild, remembered his mom feeding him some sort of cracker.  So he then asked the court baker (How do I get one of those – Craigslist?) to produce something similar that is fully baked and voila!  The breadstick is born, young Vito poops regularly and becomes king of Sicily, then king of Sardinia, winning some key battles.  You could say if not for breadsticks Italy would have been part of Austria today.  Another duke of Savoy was addicted to the stuff, not so much to eating it, but crushing them with his hands while watching opera.  Must have been extremely annoying to the season ticket holders right next to him.  Even Napoleon upon discovering Grissini, set up a special UPS service to ship them from Turin to Paris daily.

Italy 2014 279

These days, step inside La Torre in Cherasco (above) and the first thing you notice is not only a bouquet of Grissini with other bread occupying the entire side of your table, but the same setup on every empty table (empty because you are a tourist eating before everyone else, partly because you are terrified of your GPS and its pitch dark terrifying shortcuts).  No flower bouquet can compete with this welcome, or as yummy.  The same Grissini then follow you all over Piedmont tables and well into Emilia Romagna.  The tradition is as strong as a Barolo.  While here in America the closest we have to any sort of breadstick tradition is that of Olive Garden, who bastardized the breadstick just like we did with the Bologna, Alfredo sauce, and everything else Italian.

Italy 2014 525The process at Cravero, the areas only Grissini maker, starts early with the dough preparation.  The kneading, the mixing with hazelnuts, rosemary, hot peppers, or other carefully selected ingredients as the Craveros have been doing for the past 35 years.   We witnessed them prepare the bulky strips, applying the final touches to form the correct density to prevent any bubbles during the rise.  Then.. long lunch, coffee, manicure, nap Italian style, letting the dough rise and do its thing for four hours.  After that the dough is flattened and fed to a machine which produces the small strips which are then easily hand stretched before its bake time.  All that in front of drunk onlookers fresh from their wine tastings, peeking through the window.

Italy 2014 520 Italy 2014 521

Actually, there doesnt seem to be much rest for Daniela and the boys.  The store is not going to run itself, the exquisite truffles Daniela showed us, will not smell themselves, and there’s more baking to be done.  Traditional hazelnut cakes, cookies, “Floglie” crisps, and Tajarin pasta.  We were particularly fond of the crispy “Maize Biscuits” which we are still enjoying at home 3 weeks later.  Cant make it to Barolo?  You can find some of the products throughout Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, Lombardy shops, and in popular local restaurants like Villa Tiboldi, and the Slow Food darling Consorzio in Turin.

The legend of the Grissini is alive and well, and the tradition can be felt in Barolo and throughout Piedmont.  Whether the story of young stud Amadeus and his determined mom is true or not, here’s to Grissini, and here’s to all the moms out there.

http://www.grissinicravero.com/en/

Courtesy of Cravero website

Courtesy of Cravero website

Italy 2014 531 Italy 2014 534 Italy 2014 529 Italy 2014 543

Categories: Italy, Piedmont | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Piedmont in a (Hazel)Nutshell

Italy 2014 004“Err” thats what my scale said this morning, two days after we came back from Piedmont and Emilia Romagna.  So I tried again, and this time it said “One at the time”, followed by “Err”.  But I really dont feel like “Err”.  I feel like I ate very well, as in plenty of non processed, organic home cooking very well.  In fact, it was the greatest food trip of our young lives, and the first Italy trip where food and wine was the main focus.  The biggest tourist attraction on this trip was a statue of an oversized woman squeezing her breasts.  I will have much more about this trip, but meanwhile here’s a small recap of what we did in the Piedmont leg where we spent four days filled with wine, white truffles, onions, wrong turns, mushrooms, lakes, black truffles, vineyards, wrong turns after dark, and more white truffles.

Day 1 – Lago di Orta

45 minutes from Malpensa there’s this beautiful gem most Americans never heard of.  Lake Orta.  We stayed at Agriturismo il Cucchiaio di Legno 5 minutes from the lake, and the entire food itinerary this day surrounded the Agriturismo.  Starting with the picnic basket that we used on the picnic tables on the stunning Sacro Monte di Orta where the picture on top was taken.  Ending with a 10+ courser at their restaurant.  More to come on that too.  And in between the meals we explored the magical town of Orta San Giulio, where we bought Raffi, a small but deadly stinky truffle that we carried with us the entire trip, only to discover yesterday that Raffi tragically died

Italy 2014 110

Day 2 – Alba, Cherasco

One of the reasons for this trip is the Truffle Festival in Alba, a town renowned for its White Truffles and hazelnuts.  The entire town smells of Truffles and Nutella (this is the birthplace of Nutella).  But the big bonus on this day was the huge Saturday market where we indulged in chocolates which I regret not buying more.  Lunch on this day was at La Bottega del Vicoletto, a typical small family trattoria, where we had our first of many truffle tastings.

Before checking into a hotel with the best views from the toilet I’ve ever seen, we stopped at the Castle of Grinzane Cavour.  Its a magnificent castle, bested only by the stunning 360 panoramic views around it.  Its trully a great introduction to the Langhe area

After we rested a bit, we went to explore the town of Cherasco, known for its snails and kisses, as in the famous Baci di Cherasco chocolates.  But the main target of course was dinner at Osteria La Torre, one of many great restaurants in that area

Overnight in Tota Virginia in Serralunga D’Alba (3 nights).  I chose this place because it was the only one in the area I could pronounce

Italy 2014 203 Italy 2014 637 Italy 2014 224 Italy 2014 218

Day 3 – Neive, Barbaresco, and The Lunch

The main event on this day was the 3 hour lunch at Il Centro in Priocca.  A meal for the ages, and an experience we will never forget.  The sheer number of great eats within a 20 km radius of Alba is quite shocking.  I will have more on this meal in no time

In the morning we explored the tiny, picturesque Neive where we sampled some more wine and crashed a Macedonian religious service.  We then went on a drive where I counted 34 ooohs and Ahhs from Mrs Z.  Half of them out of fear really.  After lunch we explored the village of Barbaresco.  And capped the day with a nice dinner at Castello di Verduno winery’s restaurant Ca Del Re in Verduno, another local Slow Food place

Italy 2014 404 Italy 2014 371 Italy 2014 309

Day 4 – Barolo, Another great lunch, Serralunga

Drove to Barolo the long way to find this odd looking church.  Barolo is another stunner, not overrun with tourists considering its name.  But we were more interested in the breadstick manufacturer than wine, where we got a private demo of the breadstick making process.  More spectacular views everywhere we turned, but none perhaps like the drive from Barolo to Serravalle D’alba and our power lunch with the three brothers at Trattoria La Coccinella.  Yet another gem.

After lunch we drove to Serralunga D’Alba to explore the village and take a tour of the castle, one of many in the area including a pretty one viewed from the toilet at Tota Virginia.  Dinner at Schiavenza, another popular local winery

Click here for the of the trip

Italy 2014 458 Italy 2014 487 Italy 2014 573 Italy 2014 602 Italy 2014 190 Italy 2014 623

Categories: Italy, Piedmont | Tags: , , , , , | 8 Comments

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.