October 25 2013
Please excuse the radio silence.
I got out of Paris again to visit more wineries in Italy. This time I focussed on the big names, up in the rugged and foggy Piedmont area. It was the perfect moment to visit because the harvest was just coming to an end and the air was heavy with fermenting grape juice. The highlights were my morning visit to Gaja (and tasting their most amazing wines in the castle!) and a long lunch with Giorgio Rivetti, winemaker-extraordinaire at La Spinetta and Contratto.
Oh man, that lunch.
There were some incredible meals on this trip. The Burnt Cream blog will always remain a black book of addresses in Paris (even if I do indulge on the occasional off-topic ramble, such as this one) but please allow me just this one slip, well two actually. If you ever happen to be in the area, I highly recomment the Restaurant Consorzio in Turin. A seriously great restaurant with a wine list which is a kind of Who's Who in natural wine. I left, waddling down the streets of Turin back to my hotel, giggling like a crazy girl because of how well I'd eaten and drunk. In Paris terms, the restaurant is a blend of Le Grand 8 with Que du Bon but the clientele were predominantly suited and booted business men.
What particularly excited my tastebuds were the caramelised onion filled with a blue cheese sauce (to be spooned out onto the awaiting home-made bread - the best bread I've ever had in Italy) and the baby quail served on beautifully cooked bell peppers. The diversity and versatility of the ingredients was really something special, although it did make understanding the menu more difficult than usual. This language-barrier was not to be a problem at lunch the next day.
"I don't like fancy restaurants" Giorgio says modestly. "We're going to go to a local farmhouse."
Upon arrival, he explains that although being a local osteria, the Restaurant del Belbo da Bardon also happens to have one of Italy's top ten restaurant wine lists (so says Wine Spectator.) He also explains that just last weekend alone, the restaurant got through a mere 5kg of truffles! Not really the kind of place that I would go to after work when I don't feel like cooking!
This five course lunch will be one of those memories that I cherish until the end of my days. Three of those courses were basically truffles (truffles with raw venison, truffles with cardoon, truffles with risotto...) and the wines that we drank alongside (of which there were many!) were stunning. Special mention to the La Spinetta Barolo Campe 2004 which really did, also, smell like truffles!!
And finally, I headed back to Florence for a couple of days (see Part One if you missed it before.)
I go to the restaurant where I know I will find Signor Cappuccino. I am seated at a table, I order a glass of wine and start to pour over the menu. After a couple of minutes, I feel some fingers touch my head and scrunch a handful of hair.
I look up.
"Ciao," he says.