Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Adventure of eating White Truffles in Alba, Italy

Arriving in Alba at this time of year is always exciting. Every street in the town smells of truffles. The shops display their truffles for sale. Visitors walk along window shopping, stopping for a coffee and a chance to discuss their next meal.

We were staying at ” Relais San Maurizio”, http://www.relaissanmaurizio.it” this beautiful chateau is located on the top of a hill surrounded by vineyards with the yellowing leaves of the Barolo and Barbaresco  grapes of this Alba region.  We will spend 3 night here and explore the wineries, grappa producers and enjoy the spa at the hotel.

We tried to eat light at lunch and went wild at dinner. The first night the dinner in the wine cellar of the hotel started the adventure in full style. We shared a 6 course meal, only dessert was not covered with truffles. We were shown a plate of truffles that would be shaved over each course as we ordered our first bottle of 2001 GAJA and then the show began. As the truffles are shaved over your pasta, fondue,potatoes or egg you realize it is up to you to stop the motion, a true moment to pay attention.

When we went to our room at 1 am there was nothing to due but lay down and enjoy the whole experience and realize the next night held many of the same adventures of sight and flavor.

After a short night sleep we headed to a wine tasting at La Spinetta producing several different labels using grapes they grow in the surrounding regions of Asti and Alba, we loved their label called PIN only about  $33.00 a bottle, using the Nebbiolo and Barbera grapes.

That evening we had a casual dinner in Alba at La Piola, this cafe is part of the famous Duomo restaurant. We had nice pasta covered in truffles, good salad and shared steak but this was our easy night because the next day was taking us to San Marco in the next town.

The next day our adventure took us to a Grappa producer, Rovero and lunch prepared by the family in their restaurant called “il Milin” http://www.agriturismoilmilin.it . This was interesting as the owners of ROVERO walked us through their distillery and wine rooms. Now I do understand the difference of the many types of grappa but still have a tough time drinking it, guess by the time grappa comes I have had way to much wine. Back to the hotel for a much needed massage and swim in the salt water pools.

The final evening was spend at an amazing family owned restaurant called “San Marco” in the village of Canelli, http://www.sanmarcoristorante.it. The owners Mariuccia and Pier Carlo Ferrero take care of every detail. Pier Carlo is the truffle hunter along with his dog, he is also the president of all truffle searchers, and brought to our table a beautiful platter cover with a glass dome so when the glass was lifted your first sensation, after the visual, was the smell of the fresh truffles. Mariuccia is the head chef and speaks good english so was willing to tell us all the details about our meal, including the pasta course that contained only the flour, 2 kilos, and 40 egg yolks then as many truffles shaved on top.

Every course they prepared for us was perfect, including the pumpkin they had carved for our Halloween celebration. To end the evening we were served a zabaglione prepared table side on an induction cook top. The wines, the food and the people created a lasting memory of why we go so far to experience the true sensualities of life.

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Slow food in Italy 10/10

There are times in our lives that we understand why the people of Italy are so passionate about their food and wine, this past trip was just that.

We arrived in Rome with several close friends for one night before we went North with our final destination Alba and the white truffle experience that all foodies dream of.

We spent the night at the Hotel De Russie on Via del Babuino. This is a hotel that is perfect in every way. I do suggest that this hotel is best in the spring and summer. To enjoy the De Russie to the fullest you want to be able to sit in the beautiful court yard and enjoy breakfast or that early evening cocktail.

Lunch was at a local place close to the bottom of the Spanish Steps–Da Pietro, a true local place small the lunch crowd was eating pasta with a plate of fresh sliced artichokes first and the espresso shot at the end.

Since we were heading off to eat heavy food we chose a great fish restaurant that should be experienced by anyone visiting Rome, “Sapore di Mare” is small and cozy, serving a selection of the most beautiful fish you will ever see.

Early the next morning after a 2 hour train ride we arrived in Florence. We stayed at the Lungarno, always a good choice, and after dropping our bags we were picked up by the Frescabaldi”s and wisked off to their summer place for the lunch. We started with the first tasting of their new 2010 olive oil, the fresh green taste and color was a reminder of why we love Italian oils. Their olive oil is available in many store in the U.S. and worth the price, around $40.00 for a 14 to 16 ounce bottle.

Back in the city no trip to Florence is complete with out a visit to the best steak house. Our group had the wine room at “Il Latini, www.illatini.com.

The next day after the regular tour of the farmers market at 7 am and the stop for the morning espresso with a few casual snacks called “Bacari”, small sandwiches with the crusts removed and filled with a savory shrimp salad,  crab salad or maybe egg salad. We had a late lunch at “4 Leoni” , or 4 Lions to us Americans. Tucked in a small courtyard only one block from the hotel.

After lunch we walked about 3 blocks to a special shop owned by a jewelry designer called Angela Caputti. Angela makes wonderful fun necklaces, earrings and other accessories, go to http://www.angelacaputi.com, for places in the U.S. to find her things but a must visit in Florence.

Dinner this evening we were all guest of the Frescabaldi’s, dining in their home that is over 500 years old, drinking their wonderful wines and meeting new friends was a special night to remember.

Adventure in Bassa Parmense region just N.W. of Parma!

The next morning  we loaded our van and drove 2 1/2 hours north to the region of Parma. We were meeting with an amazing person, Massimo Spigaroli at is small 14th century castle, part of Antica Corte Pallavicina. This is where you will find Massimo producing his famous CULATELLO.  www.acpallavicina.com , attending to his amazing restaurant or checking on his hundreds of black pigs, prized for the quality of meat produced for the salumi.

Culatello is unique for the flavor and the almost velvety texture, it is considered the pinnacle of Italy’s artisanal food culture.  The small hams hang in the cool damp cellar of the Pallavicina along with his special wheels of parma cheese. The cheese is stored on shelves according to the type of cow that the milk came from, red cow number one, white cow from the hills, white cow from the valley and the brown cow last but not least.

When you walk through the cellar with Massimo he has such a modest  way of telling his story, his love for what he is doing comes through, even while he speaks Italian and Sarah translates for us. We notice a full row of hams  tagged for Prince of Whales and Mr. Armani along with those held for Fauchon, since he only has about 5,000 hams to sell a year, these hams are always available when requested.  Culatello unlike prosciutto, which hangs in a climate controlled facility and is unattended, these hams need constant attending.  Massimo shows us the small windows in the cellar that need to be opened and closed at just the right time so the breezes from the misty Po river will flow through the cellar helping form the mold that forms on the hams. They are rotated around the cellar, rubbed so new mold can form. During the aging process the ham looses up to half of its weight gaining flavor, the hams are for us to 48 months.

The adventure at Pallavivina was just beginning as we went off to see the prized black pigs, acres of vegetables, ducks and geese.  The evening meal in now taking on a whole new meaning. We ate in the fine dining room, Antica Corte but next door is the traditional osteria,  Al Cavallino Bianco, both show the attention to detail that is shown from the birth of the pig, the hives of bees and the head a lettuce being picked early in the day for dinner that night.

The first course of a culatello tasting, hams cured 14,24 and 36 months, started a conversation about each bite of food we would share during the evening and the wines that were matched.

When we retired to the special rooms above the restaurant, he has finished 6 unique suites in the castle, our memories of each bite served will linger for years to come. ( http://www.acpallavicina.com or e-mail at info@cavallinobianco.it)

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