It’s another snowy day in the Colorado High Country. I’m working on the introduction to my book, “Under Discovered: Piemonte through the eyes of its women.” It required me to think back to my first visit to Piemonte nearly 14 years ago. One thing that sticks out in my mind was the paucity of English language information available on Piemonte many thirteen harvest ago. Now, the quality offerings in bookstores – online and brick-n-mortar – have increased. Online blogs provide great sources of information as well. There is a plethora of wine, food and travel blogs, but here are a few of my favorites on Piemonte. Their authors have extensive, personal knowledge of the region and they keep their blogs current (which many do not!):
Marcella is a tried and true Piemonte-phile, as are all the bloggers I’m listing, who lived for a while in the region of the noble grape. How could they not be given the gastronomic treasures one can find in the rolling hills of the Langhe and Roero? Marcella’s blog is wine-centric and provides some excellent insight into the region’s beautiful wines. WIth over 13 years of experience of working in all facets of the wine industry, she is a trusted resource on the wines of Piemonte. Needless to say, Marcella is friends with one of my favorite Barbaresco producers, Renato Vacca of Cantina del Pino, so that was all the reference I needed!
Fifty-nine TripAdvisor readers reviewed Robert and Leslie’s “Travel Langhe” to give them a five “star” rating for their custom wine tour company. They are located in Neive in the Barbaresco appellation, but they possess extensive knowledge of the all the wines in the Langhe and Roero regions. Their website is chocked full of useful travel information. Judging by the high quality, family-owned wineries on their list, they can put together a wonderful tour of the region for any oenophile who is familiar with Piemonte or one in the nascent stages of their Piemontephilia (a condition that can only be treated – never cured – by frequent trips to the region supplemented with regular doses of Nebbiolo based wines!).
Robert is also a fabulous photographer. Just look at this beauty he shot of Trieso in the Langhe near Barbaresco.
This is a great travel blog not just for Piemonte, but the world. The ladies have a particularly good feel for family travel since Elaine travels often with “The Princesses.” Smart, because my three granddaughters have been on the road (and air) with their parents since they were born. Now in their early teens, they are seasoned travelers with a keen appreciation for life beyond their neighborhood. But I digress.
Valerie is moving to Piemonte in June, so expect some great information on Piemonte to be added to the blog. Also, Elaine is a great photographer. The Carpe Travel Facebook page is a great place to look at some of her stunning pictures, particularly the one of Barbaresco and the Alps in the distance. Seize the opportunity to visit the website and their Facebook page.
Tu Langhe and Roero has been the guide for us in Piemonte from our earliest trips. Too bad their great, informative blog wasn’t available back then! Nevertheless, it is a great “boots on the ground” resource for travel to the Langhe and Roero regions of Piemonte.
Of course, there are a number of other sites and as I learn about them I will update this space. I haven’t personally met the bloggers above, but I have communicated with them and we have mutual friends. They are very knowledgeable and I’m sure would be of great help to you on your travels there.
TripAdvisor is a trusty resource for wining, dining and playing in Piemonte. But it’s a good reference point to use to cross check recommendations and see what visitors who took the time to write reviews have to say. I must admit, there are some pretty good reviews on TripAdvisor by someone called “Villa Arneis.” Uh hum.
Also, I’m updating – when possible – my list of winery contacts and suggestions for lodgings and restaurants. Of course, any one of the above bloggers can help with that, too. The more quality info, the better.
On a roll! Four covers in a row! On to Finanziera, an historic Piemontese dish.
The second part of my two part article on Chef Memo Field Melendez of Profumo di Vino in Treiso appeared on the cover of today’s Highlife section of the Vail Daily. After I submitted the article, I ran across an interesting history of finanziera – there are many! I didn’t want to burn up my word budget on it in the article since this dish deserves an article of its own, so I didn’t delve into it. But it’s so interesting I had to post it:
“Yet the poverty and inventive genius of peasant have also given rise to one of Piemonte’s most aristocratic modern-day dishes: finanziera.
Sandro Doglio reckons the recipe was created to use of the bits when cocks were castrated to become capons. Capons were of course raised and fattened for the lord of the manor or to sell at the market. But to the crests and the barbels of the poor birds and the organs cut off to reduce their masculinity – all parts of no commercial value – peasant women learnt to add a few drops of sour wine to make a tasty steve, which they thickened with a pinch of flour. Some sources claim that this stew – the so-called finanziera – was a sort of tribute paid by peasants going to Turin market to sell their poultry. To have a free passage into the city, they bribed the customs guards, or finanzieri, with giblets (livers, hearts, gizzards, testicles, crests and barbels). And with these bits and pieces, the wives of the customs officers would prepare one of the region’s greatest dishes, an example of imagination, genius and astuteness combined.”
– from “The Rhythms of the Langhe,” Mario Busso, Carlo Vischi, page 35
Perhaps the fact that finanziera is listed under “Regalie” (meaning, gifts) in some of the cookbooks I’ve seen gives credence to this conjecture about the origins of this innards stew.
This is one of my favorite books about the region. Full of wonderful folk lore, great recipes, history and stunning photos of the region. It can be obtained in the States. I bought a second copy recently on Amazon.com after losing track of my copy that I repeatedly leant to friends and oenophiles. Still wish it would find its way home along with my copy of the “Atlas of the Langhe.”
Two other wonderful Piemontese cookbooks (in Italian) where you’ll find finanziera recipes are:
Obviously, Mario Busso gets around quite a bit! All three of these books are a must if you are a true blue Piemonte-phile!
If you haven’t had a chance to read the two articles about Chef Memo and his wonderful restaurant in Treiso – where you can usually find finanziera in winter – here are the links. Feel free to “recommend” them!
You’ll have to wait for my book, “Under Discovered: Piemonte through the eyes of its women” to get the full story. In the meantime, I thought I’d introduce you to some of the wonderful women and their families who will populate the pages of my book. Many I’ve known for nearly 14 years, but a few I’ve only just met through the process of researching my book. One of those women is the effervescent and immensely talented Chiara Boschis, winemaker and owner of E. Pira e Figli in Barolo.
On Monday, I introduced my Vail Daily readers near and far to Chiara. You can read more about her at:
What I didn’t tell you was how I discovered this well-known, under-discovered maven of Barolo. Serendipity is wonderful and often its surprises can yield incredible fruit.
After a grueling month of first getting my husband Dani off on his long trip to Israel, I was off on my odyssey in Piemonte. I arrived in Treiso at Agriturismo Il Bricco evening of March 19th. The journey had taken nearly 27 hours, but I was excited to be back in the land of the noble grape.
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday took me back and forth between Treiso, Barbaresco and Barolo interviewing fascinating women and men from the winemaking families of Cantina del Pino, Marchesi di Gresy, Gaja, G. D. Vajra, Livia Fontana and Cascina delle Rose. Although I still had interviews to conduct at Deltetto, Ca’ del Baio and Matteo Correggia the following week, the weekend gave me a much-needed break to process all that I had learned in the hours of interviews. Most of all, the weekend meant market day in Alba.
The Alba mercato is located on the fringes of the old city. During the week the area under and around the massive roof is a parking lot. But on Saturdays it becomes an expansive gastronomic venue. Everything one needs to make prepare a stunning Piemontese feast – including the utensils, gadgets, pots and pans – can be found at the market. Ok, so you have to shop elsewhere for the treasured tartufo bianci in autumn, but even the clothes and shoes to wear for the occasion can be purchased here. Nothing like an hour walking around, envying the availability of beautiful vegetables, cheese, meat and seafood to remind me of what I miss most about living in Europe. Why can’t we have markets like that in Colorado instead of the over-priced weekend farmers’ markets?
WIth that obligatory stroll through the mercato complete, I drove back to Il Bricco, deposited my goodies – chestnut honey, roasted hazelnuts, lace scarves and the Parmigiano-Reggiano given to me as a gift from the cheese couple I wrote about last year – and headed west to Barolo (see below).
I was on a mission. Ristorante La Cantinetta was my destination.
With the best intentions to write everyday, I set up my blog. Unfortunately, the umbilical cord that keeps the lifeblood of our internet addiction flowing – wifi – has been unreliable.
I arrived in Geneva mid-afternoon on Tuesday, March 19th, after a long journey from Denver to Washington D.C. onward to Frankfurt – now there’s a marathon of a flight connection! – and finally Geneva. It was my intention to jump into the rental car and drive either to Chamonix or Courmayeur since I didn’t believe for a moment I could survive the long drive – particularly through Torino – after such a long plane trip. But the weather was so beautiful and the roads fairly empty that when I popped out of the Mont Blanc Tunnel at 4:30 in the afternoon, I kept going. And yes, it is possible to drive for four and a half hours without radio, CD or MP3!
Snow had fallen in the Alps the night before, treating me to stunning views of trees covered with fresh snow and soaring alabaster peaks against a bluebird sky. I’ve seen Mont Blanc from nearly every angle, including once from a low-level flight in Swiss International Airline’s brand new A340 on a journalist’s junket, but never quite so unforgettable as this.
Anyone who lived in Europe when the 7-mile long, two-lane tunnel was transformed into an inferno the morning of March 24, 1999, can’t possibly enter the tunnel without a little uneasiness. I can’t. This was the part I worried about the most as I drove through the Arve River valley to the tunnel. If I had felt the least bit tired, which I wasn’t, I would never have taken the risk of entering the tunnel. Not fair to anyone. Driving through the Mont Blanc tunnel is one of the few times I witness restraint on the part of Italian and French drivers as they respect the speed limit and the 500 foot distance required – and monitored – between vehicles.
Once out of Valle d’Aosta and into the flatland between mountains and hills, the Alps bordering France and Italy appeared, drenched in the rose-colored light of the setting sun. Monte Viso, the triangular peak that is the highest in the Cottian Alps, soars above its neighbors. A solitary soldier, seen from miles away.
The remainder of the long drive was fairly easy, even the rush hour traffic of the frequently maddening tangenziale circling Torino to the west. The Asti Est (east) exit that used to be a transition from the relative ease of the autostrade to the confusing maze of construction zones and then onto the Asti-Alba road, lined with prostitutes and slowed by gawking truck drivers. But now, with the autostrade completed between Asti and Alba, the once 30 minute drive is reduced to a quick 10 or 15, depending on how brave one is push the speed limit. Something Italians generally have no problem with doing!
Arriving in Treiso and finding the Argiturismo Il Bricco beyond the church, high on the bricco (hill), was easy. So many times before I had driven through the square. Nothing had changed in the past 14 years except for appearance of the restaurant and bar Profumo di Vino, the successful brainchild of Mexican chef, Guillermo (Memo) Field.
Plates of local cheeses and tender, tasty salami with a basket of feather light grissini helped down my throat by the family’s Barbera d’Alba was all I needed. The 28-hour journey was over, but the adventure was just beginning.
It will take me a few days to catch up on my writing, but I will. So much to process after 9 interviews!