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Apr 29th, 2009, 02:39 AM
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The genesis for this week-long trip was sparked last fall when, en route from the Ligurian coast to Lake Como, I drove through the southeastern corner of Piemonte, along the Val di Borbera. I was so taken with the new foods served at our lunch in San Sebastiano Curone, at:


and by the beauty of the Piemontese countryside (where a lone billboard guarding the entrance to each town touts not a hotel or supermarket, but the local food specialty) that, upon returning from that trip, I immediately began planning this one, which would take me, with my usual travel partner, into the heart of the Piedmont wine country, the region known as Le Langhe, home to Barolo, Barbaresco, Dolcetto, Barbera, and a host of wines and spirits that were previously unfamiliar to us.

There are several options for arriving in this region from our home in New York City. With one connection, we could fly into either Genoa, or Turin, the airport closest to Alba, our first destination. Preferring to avoid these less-than-convenient connections, we opted, instead, for the direct Delta flight into Milano Malpensa, where we would rent a car and drive approximately two hours to Alba.

After much MEGO (my eyes glaze over) research, I found the best price for an automatic car on the AutoEurope Italian website: www.autoeurope.it. Would AutoEurope.com (the US site) agree to match this price, which was considerably lower than the one offered on their own site? Yes. After a couple of phone calls, and much consultation with supervisors, the Mercedes 180 was reserved for us.

We arrived in Milan after an uneventful flight. The weather, unfortunately, was dreary, a condition that would persist for much of the trip. (We would not see sun until several days later).
The rental car booths are located on the lower level of Terminal 1, and we quickly signed the necessary forms and were pleased to learn that we had been upgraded to a Mercedes c-class sedan —a wonderful car to drive and not large enough to cause problems negotiating narrow village streets.

A word of thanks is in order here to Via Michelin. Lacking a GPS and a cell phone, we were able to follow the directions I had printed out, which took us along the autostrada and right into Alba. Follow the signs to Alba centro, and from there to Barbaresco. Less than 2 hours after departing Malpensa, we pulled up at the imposing iron gates of Villa La Favorita, which would be our home for four nights.


We had chosen La Favorita after much deliberation. I had been torn by wanting to stay in an agriturismo and wanting to stay in a town with restaurants, in order to avoid having to drive “home” at night after wine-fueled dinners. For this reason, La Favorita proved to be a good choice. The location is in Altavilla, an upscale section of Alba perched on a rise overlooking the small city. The drive to the center took less than 5 minutes and parking was easy to find, in one of several pay lots ringing the central core and located within. It was similarly easy to drive to restaurants in the Barbaresco/Neive area, northeast of Alba. To reach those in the La Morra, Verduno area meant a bit more time, but as we soon realized, this is a compact region and all sights and restaurants on our itinerary were within a drive of about 30 minutes or less.

We were met at the gate by Roberta, who would be our smiling and efficient hostess for the next four nights. Roberta speaks fluent English and is a font of information on the region. The villa was her country house until, in 2001, she transformed it into a B&B. The atmosphere is of a cozy rural retreat, filled with comfy floral sofas and glorious antiques from Piemonte and beyond. There are many public rooms for lounging and, in good weather, terraces and a limonera for relaxing. The villa is truly a labor of love and Roberta’s attention to detail is quite inspiring. From the photos on the website, we had selected the blue room; I wanted to sleep in that glorious gilded navy blue bed. The room was small with just enough space for the bed and two chairs, but we found it comfortable. The bathroom has spectacular Venetian plastered walls and is roomy enough; there is a shower.

The purpose of our trip was to meander around the countryside eating and drinking as much as possible. I had booked most of our meals in advance, by e-mail; we also had two winery visits arranged ahead of time.

We arrived on a Sunday when many restaurants are closed. One that was open, and would prove a favorite (we would visit again later that week), was Profumo di Vino in nearby Trieso. And so, after spending a lazy rainy Sunday holed up in the hotel recovering fro the flight and the drive, we set out for an early, 7:30 dinner.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 02:41 AM
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sorry, correct spelling is Treiso.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 02:42 AM
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Oh my! This is going to be good.

Eks, I begin to fear that there will not be other destinations for me aside from Italy and Spain! Every time I research for a trip (or read on of your reports) I find more and more things to do (and taste).

Looking forward to tons of detailed food reports.
marigross is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 03:14 AM
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Ah, there is nothing so fine as a well written trip report about a place for which you have already booked a flight. I shall hang on every word. I have already posted questions for you on two other posts but shall wait for you to finish this report. This is wonderful.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 04:23 AM
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I am looking forward to the remainder of your report!
shormk2 is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 04:51 AM
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Cant wait to read more!
jamikins is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 04:57 AM
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We have also booked Camera Blu for our October trip to Alba.

More please! More wine, more food, more info. Looking forward to reading the rest of your report.
drbb is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 05:38 AM
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drbb, when will you be there? Maybe there's no need for me to even think of trying to book there if you've already booked the Blue Room? Maybe we could do a GTG in Alba. Wouldn't that be amazing? They're pretty common in Paris, but this might be the first for Alba.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 05:39 AM
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YAY! A new Italy restaurant list from ekscrunchy!
ellenem is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 05:49 AM
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Julie- We have booked for October 1 through 10 when the Alba Truffle Fest and the Palio are taking place. When I booked back in January, Roberta still had several rooms available and I was able to choose. Definitely contact her to see what is available. She is very helpful.
drbb is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 01:45 PM
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Before I detail the dinner at Profumo di Vino, let me say that there are so many fabulously reviewed places in this area—ranging from simple agriturismi to Michelin-starred spots and everything in between--that one would have to spend weeks and weeks in order to try them all. We concentrated mainly on trattorie and osterie serving traditional or slightly creative renditions of the local fare and even then, it was next to impossible to pare down the list. In the end, much of the decision came down to avoiding closing days and trying to minimize driving at night.

Had I realized how easy the driving was in this region I might have branched out a bit further from our base at La Favorita.

PROFUMO DI VINO, TREISO (closed Tuesdays; no website;
Phone/Fax: 0173-638017)

It was pouring rain when we set out for nearby Treiso, which sits atop a hill just 7 km from La Favorita. The gastronomic fame of this tiny (pop. 763) town originated with the Michelin-starred La Ciau del Tornavento. The owners of Profumo di Vino met while working in the kitchen of Tornavento. About a year ago, Memmo, a Baja Californian with Cordon Bleu training, and Cameron, a Scot who grew up in Colorado and worked at, among other places, restuarants in Boulder, joined forces to open this handsome restaurant and wine bar facing the main piazza. (The wine bar is open from 10am to 1am, save Tuesday closing day, and offers three tasting plates for every glass of wine ordered—keep this in mind on the off-chance that you want to skip lunch!)

The handsome gray and ivory dining room, with a chiseled stone wall and striking local landscape photos, was empty when we arrived on this rainy night, but soon filled up with locals—Memmo, who handles the wine, told us that they often host winemakers and their guests. (One table was eating an all-fish meal, which the restaurant will do with advance notice) On the stereo, Nat King Cole alternated with Frank (no last name necessary).

Dinner began with complimentary (there is a word for “amuse bouche” in Italian (begins with “A”…..(???) ) thin wedges of frittata dense with herbs and served in a large steel spoon. Already on the table was a basket of grissini and several varieties of excellent house-baked bread including one studded with walnuts. After much grissini sampling during the week, Profumo di Vino’s version of these Piemontese breadsticks was voted winner and reigning champion. Amazing, amazing little sticks of goodness!

Antipasti: “Uova in pasta,” two of the most vivid orange egg yolks that you could ever imagine, encased in delicate, large ravioli which were drenched in brown butter and topped with shreds of Parmigiano and spears of roasted asparagus. In a word: Heavenly!

My partner echoed my delight after taking one bite of his veal meatballs, served with a mustard that had been blended with foie gras and espresso. We were off to a good start!

These two dishes (and the breadsticks) were so good that my partner insisted on returned to the restaurant later in the week to try them again.

Next, we shared a creamy carrot and potato soup. Excellent.

Because we could not decide on a pasta course—we opted for 3 primi and passed on the secondi.

Gnocchi with duck confit and brussel sprouts in a Dijon cream sauce. While the flavor was good, there was little variety in texture and a bit too much creaminess; this was my least favorite dish of the evening.

Risotto carbonara with speck, Grana Padano, egg yolk and black pepper.
A modern, Piemontese take on the old Roman standard and a resounding success! Also to be repeated later this week.

(The flat plains near Vercelli and Novara are one of Italy’s major rice growing regions, accounting for 60% of the country’s production, and we had driven through mile after mile of patchwork fields crisscrossed by irrigation canals en route from Malpensa to Alba. The story is that the genesis of the American rice industry stems from Piedmontese rice smuggled, in the face of an export ban, to South Carolina by Thomas Jefferson.)

Tajarin (Piedmontese dialect for tagliarini) tossed with shrimp, asparagus and black olives. What made this dish memorable for me were the Taggiasca olives, tiny black beauties from Liguria which were, simply the best olives I had ever tasted. (Two jars now sit in my kitchen, treasures for the next day’s supermarket expedition with Roberta, in Alba)

The olives, and the olive oil brought to the table to dress this tajarin, were so terrific that I asked to see the bottle: FRANTOIO DI ALDO ARMATO, Via Solferino, 3, Alassio. Note that the frantoio in Liguria welcomes visitors from November to March:


With the meal, I drank a glass of Roero Arnais, an indigenous varietal from the neighboring Roero, and a glass of La Ganghia Barbera d’Alba (we were too tired to even contemplate a bottle).

We were presented with a complimentary dessert course of macaroons (chocolate and local hazlenut); chocolate truffles; hazlenut chocolate bites; and lovely corn and butter cookies that Memo told us are characteristic of the region. Along with these treats, a tiny glass of pureed frutti di bosco.

And finally, the house grappa, from Villa Prato in Mombaruzzo, another courtesy.

With mineral water and cover, the total was 63 euro.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 01:54 PM
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Oh Wow. I have a feeling that I'll keep saying that over and over as I read your report. This is fantastic and to think I'm going there. Anticipation is me!!!
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 02:22 PM
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Glad to know you were safe and sound on your trip, and sorry the rain socked in over Piemonte. (And yes, Ligurian olives from Taggia are fantastic).

I'm afraid I simply cannot eat those rich red Italian eggs. But I'm glad you found them and loved them. They simply don't exist in the US as far as I know.
zeppole is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 02:41 PM
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Ooooh my, I am drooling! And we're only on the first meal!

I LOVE your goal of "eating and drinking as much as possible."

Can't wait for more details!
bniemand is offline  
Apr 29th, 2009, 07:19 PM
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I dont know what a Limonera is but i think I want one.

Can you gain weight from just reading?
jetsetj is offline  
Apr 30th, 2009, 02:56 AM
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Jet: I don't know, either, because the word I should have written was "limonaia!"

A glass-walled room used to shelter potted lemon trees during the cold months. Like an orangerie (fr.)
ekscrunchy is offline  
Apr 30th, 2009, 04:09 AM
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This is just wonderful, ekscrunchy. I too am drooling here at the end of a rather dreary workday. And as they say on this forum: More, please.
Keren is offline  
Apr 30th, 2009, 04:23 AM
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Close enough.
It had the base word limon in it so I new it had to be good.

I love your report. You are funny.
jetsetj is offline  
Apr 30th, 2009, 04:27 AM
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I forgot to ask if any photos will accompany with report?
jetsetj is offline  
Apr 30th, 2009, 05:53 AM
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63 euro for such wonders . . . drooling in the morning for olives . . . risotto . . . vino . . .
ellenem is offline  

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