Sunday, September 26, 2010

"You always hear a headline like this, 'Man Killed By Shark', you never hear it from the other perspective, 'Man Swims in Shark Infested Waters, Forgets He's Shark Food'." — Gary Larson

welcome our newest member to zinzani.
"Tutti Piaccante"

we have been told it is not correct italian. 
but it fits perfectly. 
and it's the suitably perfect addition for our love of spice. 
there is very little i will not add dried chili pods, sriracha and now fresh chilis to.
pleasure is pain. pain is pleasure. 
we even found a babysitter for it while we're in spain. grazie mille mauro.

John & Sheelagh come to Italy! Barbaresco & Lake Como. Lake Garda & Colorno.

we had barolo in Barolo, so we must have barbaresco in Barbaresco. it was a really cute, small town on top of the hill and very quiet. there wasn't much going on in the town - there was a church, a closed but prestigious-sticker-covered restaurant, a wine store selling bottles and offering tastes from all the local wineries and a huge steel gate to Gaja. 

 we sat at Buffa tasting three different types of wine served by the owner Carlo Buffa - Barbaresco, Barbaresco Casot and mum stuck with her Dolcetto - and enjoyed the warm sun while looking out over the Langhe hills. the location of the place had an impressive view. 

Back in the car again, we drove through Piemonte to Lombardy towards the finale of our trip. mum and dad have never been to the lake region of Italy before and had heard good things from friends. Lake Como is huge and has so many different towns around it, i have no idea how i chose the place i did. maybe the promising proximity to George Clooney's house. lost, well, following weird directions provided by the guest house, i don't know if it's considered lost if there's just one narrow road following the shore of the lake and just going too far in the wrong direction past it. so a half hour too far, we got to see a lot of the lake and the little towns situated on the edge of it. there didn't seem to be much to the towns besides the road the divided the buildings on the shore and the ones above nestled into the looming mountains. 
 Lago di Como
we finally found our guest house  Relais Regina Teolinda, and were greeted by a friendly woman, her husband and gorgeous views of the lake. it's an old restored house, maybe some rich family from Milan used to summer there, and the rooms maintain an old, refined character to them. the trees outside lit up with white christmas lights. enchanting. we sat at the edge of the lake drinking paolo monti's complimentary bottle of wine before dinner. 
wedding destination #6
inside, looking out onto the lake.
Grazie a Paolo and Tom Sandberg
Cheers to a great trip with John & Sheelagh. xoxo

we weren't that impressed with Lake Como, I'm not exactly sure why. maybe it was the lack of a town feel. maybe we were tired from all the eating and drinking from the last week. maybe it didn't have the same charm we found in the little villages in the piemonte hills. but i was determined to show them that the Italian lakes are quite nice. so we drove to Garda Lake where I had been once to Solo and another time to Desenzano del Garda - both with cute, walkable little towns. i was right. they changed their minds about the Italian lake regions and decided they would come back to see more of Garda Lake. 
mum making freshly squeeze oj in the morning. squirt. ahaha.
 aperativo time at lago di garda. 
(espresso for dad, the most patient, enduring driver. his new fav. good thing i bought him a moka for his bday)

we drove to Lecco on our way back per recommendation of jess' friend. it was a nice town on the other side of the lake, not very touristy and filled with good looking, dressed up Italians. we had lunch outside at Azzeccagarbugli and artisinal gelato with curious flavours like avocado and chocolate-pear. back to Colorno, we finished the trip perfectly with pizza and fizzy red wine, which despite all the food we ate throughout the week, dad was still craving. mission completed. i had the best time with them - showing them some of my favourite spots as well as exploring new areas with them, sharing and teaching them all the knowledge i've acquired since living in italy, talking about internship possibilities and realities, being woken up to roosters, snoring, church bells, construction, and barking dogs, generally being spoiled, having them rely on me to communicate with the Italians even though i speak English just as well as they do, and getting them to drink coffee like italians do! i was sad to say goodbye.  i think they want me to stay abroad so that they can come visit me. and i hope that they do. 

John & Sheelagh come to Italy! Barolo & Dogliani.

since I was in charge of the map, i lead my parents through the little piemontese villages on our way to our next destination. we drove through and stopped briefly in La Morra as we spotted vast views of the vineyard-covered landscape. cute little town. next stop: Barolo. where else to drink barolo than in Barolo?? we were greeted by the town celebrating the annual Barolo Wine Festival. the streets were lined with vendors selling all types of local and regional foods that we of course sampled - jams and honeys, wild mushrooms which we ate fried, salamis cured with fennel, truffles, barolo of course, cheeses and cheeses, hazelnuts, apples, dried pastas and risotto mixes, different bunches of grape varieties, desserts and of course wine tastings. there is even a cork museum and it was the inauguration of the Barolo Museum of Wine.

it was then on to Dogliani where we were greeted with another end of summer festival, but being the middle of the day, all the stalls were empty and everyone was sitting under the arcade eating lunch. some more salami samplings and wine tastings...
 get to keep the glasses!
sitting ontop of a hill outside of Dogliani, we arrived at il Relais dei Poderi Luigi Einaudi.  it is a beautiful estate.
Luigi Einaudi was the President of the first Republic of Italy after the Second World War in 1948. The estate was the family's summer home and is now converted into a guest house - it still maintains a homey-welcoming and comfortable feel. we were told we were the only guests for the night so we had the entire place to ourselves although the suite itself was big enough that the upstairs attic wasn't even furnished. the views of the vineyeards that covered the Langhe hills surrounded us and we sat out in the warm sun by the wine-bottled shape pool. mum napped and lounged. i (tried to) read (in italian) some Slow Food magazines - i think they had the entire collection. only dad was brave enough to test the ice cold water.
mum and i wandered through the vineyards, tasting fallen apples and picking figs off the trees along the way as protective dogs relentlessly barked at us.
before dinner, we sat looking at the sun setting over the vineyards and we sampled a bottle of the estate's Dolcetto di Dogliani. mum fell in love with dolcetto's while the family's cat fell in love with her, inviting itself confidently onto her lap.
 the cat rules the estate.

with the recommendation of the best restaurant in the area, we drove to Trattoria della Posta - of course after we stopped in town for a glass of wine - just outside of Monforte d'Alba. it is an old converted farm house with a traditional homey feel inside - kinda like a refined italian nonna's home. books covered the shelves and there was a fireplace that divided the middle of the room but was open on either side. again, i was overwhelmed by the amount of wines they offered, page after page of regional wines. the restaurant prides itself on history, tradition, typical Langhe dishes and seasonal products. i chose the tasting menu - based upon mushrooms.
mixed mushroom salad.
mixed mushroom salad all mixed up.
 Baked Stuffed Mushroom
 green ravioli filled with goat cheese, Bra sausage and leeks
 baked mushrooms wrapped in cheese.
 tajarin with meat ragout
 tagliatelli with mushrooms and truffles.
 mum ate it too fast.

the next morning before we left, we had a well-informed tour of the luigi einaudi underground cellar by a girl who was leaving the traditional wine making place for more modern method in tuscany. i loved seeing mum and dad's faces as they saw the bottles being filled, corked, and labeled, the steel tanks for fermentation, the huge racks of hundreds of bottles in storage, and the large wine holding barrels - something i've become accustomed to through all of our stages.
we all agreed that this was the prefect place to come as a vacation escape to relax or use as a base to explore the gastronomic region. the surrounding scenery rolled all the way into the distant mountains, the wines were delicious but encompassed something more by sipping them amongst the vineyards where the grapes were grown (terroir?!), and the guest house was full of luxurious charm. we could've stayed here for the remainder of the trip, but the lakes beckoned us. 
wedding destination #5

This Picture Deserves its own Post.

John & Sheelagh come to Italy! Bra & Pollenzo.

we had a lunch reservation and i was pretty certain that the restaurant closed at 2 so we zipped our way through the vineyards and down the hills heading to Bra - hometown of Carlo Petrini and home to the Slow Food headquarters. so appropriately enough, and being a loyal student, we ate at Osteria del Boccondivino - the first Slow Food restaurant. the courtyard which the restaurant looks over is where the Slow Food headquarters is.Much to my surprise, they were still open - packed actually - and still honoured our late arrival. the menu is not only based on locally sourced and seasonal foods, it is full of Slow Food Presidia products - small quality and tradition-based producers that Slow Food works to protect. we had lardo, salsiccia di Bra e carne curda battuta al coltello (more cured meat), fagottino di melanzane e roccaverano, gnocchi di patate con pomodoro e olive taggiasche, coniglio "grigio di carmagnola" all 'arneis and of course the cheese selection.
we didn't wander around Bra too much and headed straight to nearby Pollenzo where the other University of Gastronomic Sciences campus is. Like our campus in Colorno is an old regal palace, the Pollenzo campus used to be the home to King Carlo Alberto. Since the Slow Food Int'l Assoc. restored it to make it an international center for food, wine and culture, it is now not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but home to La Banca del VinoGuido Ristorante and the Albergo dell'Agenzia.

I gave my parents the brief tour of the campus from what i remembered when we visited previously with the class and then had our own self guided tour of the wine bank. they seemed a little busy with a ferrari-touring crowd and being a student, i think the woman assumed i knew what to tell my parents. but she was wrong. so, we wondered around the cellar amongst the boxes and boxes of kept wines going from one region of italy to another. La  Banca del Vino is not only a museum showing off Italy's best wineries but is a place where these wineries can store their wine during the aging process. usually you can have a tasting afterwards but we didn't have a real tour and we were wined out anyways. 

wedding destination #4
cocktails before dinner in the pretty hotel's courtyard.
pretty azienda at night.
for dinner, keeping it local, we dined at Guido. it was a formal but very simple setting. a huge room with tall ceilings and big windows looking onto the dark night. again, we were one of the first to arrive, minus one other table of young men but slowly the entire restaurant filled up with well dressed people - some with a curiously-sniffing dog, some seeming on an anniversary date and others hogging the waiters and sommeliers with questions. the italian-speaking waiters (were they UNISG students?) appeared on their best behaviour and we were handed a huge leather bound book of wines to choose from. i don't exactly remember what we ate, but it was tasty, interesting combinations, and nicely presented like they were works of art. 
chicken with courgette.
stuffed onion.
pork with some gelatin
tortelli with foie gras.
courgette soup.
slow cooked tradition-based meat ravioli
offal bits.
and i have no idea. mum thinks it was guinea hen that was brought to us but we didn't order.

it's a really beautiful place for a campus although my heart belongs in Colorno. i probably would say otherwise if i was accepted in the May program, but as sad as it is that this is the last UNISG year for Colorno, Pollenzo is not a bad place to be. the Azienda is full of food, wine and cultural information - they have restored it beautifully and keep it run very well.