I try to go to Italy as often as I can (and that my bank account lets me)! This time, I’ve decided to spend more time to travel around certain regions in search of their food specialties and regional products. Whether food, wine, dishes made in the region, I wanted to taste and experience them.
I start off my trip in the beautiful region of Piemonte, a great wine region known for its barolos, barberas, and barbarescos amongst others. As a drinker of nebbiolo grape- derived wines, it is a necessary stop. It is also a great gastronomic region, known for the white truffles, of course, also for the vitello di Fassone, the tajarin, and the bùnet. During that time, I also had the opportunity to spend some time in one of Alba’s best restaurant kitchen, using and tasting the best, local ingredients.
Spending time in the kitchen, I had little time to visit the region. However, I did spend a few days in Torino, had friends showing me around beautiful Ivrea Blea, spent an afternoon in Barolo, attended Cheese (Slowfood’s event) in Bra, and I was stationed in Alba.
As I am always looking for different products to try, I found a store selling buffalo-milk cheeses. Not only the usual mozzarella, they also had their version of Castelmagno, which is traditionally made of cow’s and goat’s milk, and is worth a try! I ate the vitello di Fassone (which is a cattle breed indigenous of Piemonte), in different ways. The battuta, is the meat cut with a knife like a tartare, lightly seasoned with salt, pepper, olive oil, lemon on the side, we can also find hazelnuts, Castelmagno, or truffles, which are from the region. The vitello tonnato are slices of the veal with a tuna sauce, which some chefs revisit in different ways. If served as a main course, the piece of meat is pan seared or grilled, raw in the middle, since it is a tender and flavourful meat, it is important to taste it explaining why it is served raw or rare when cooked. The pasta to eat in Piemonte are the tajarin, a long, thin, egg pasta served traditionally with truffles, and the ravioli or agnolotti al plin, which is a stuffed rectangular shaped pasta. For dessert, the bùnet is the most traditional, it’s a pudding type dessert made with amaretti, cacao, sugar, milk, eggs and rhum.
For the wines, the spumante, arneis, barbera, dolcetto, erbaluce, freisa, grignolino, malvasia, nebbiolo, verduno pelaverga, barolo, of course, to name a few! The great thing about wine regions like Piemonte and the Langhe is that you can find some of those grapes at the market or supermaket, as they are truly the local grapes, or walking around the countryside (and sampling when nobody is watching), which brings the understanding of each wine and the terroir a touch closer. So not only did I drink different wines, I have also eaten the grapes associated with them!
The next time I go, I will definitely spend more time in the countryside, sampling more amazing food and wine!