Monday, June 13, 2011

Piemontese food

I have complete faith in the husband's planning abilities. When we vacation, he always takes care of all the details - researches airfaires, hotels, itineraries, etc. While I don't mind doing the research, he always seems to find better/nicer places than I do, so I've given up wasting my time and am completely, utterly dependent on him for our holidays. So I wasn't at all surprised that he picked this lovely boutique hotel:

La Villa Hotel, Piedmont
We stayed 5 days in what seemed to be the heart of the Piedmont region, about an hour east of Turin. I was annoyed that I hadn't had time to research the area more before coming here, so all I knew of Piedmont is that the region has great food and is known for their high end wines.

Our first chance to eat Piemontese food was in a little town called Acqui Terme. It's a town famous for its hot sulphur springs and baths. It's unbelievably quaint, and when we finally stumbled upon one of the springs, boy did it stink.
One of the piazza's in Acqui Terme
As is customary in rural Italy, everything closes from 12:30 - 3pm, which is why the piazza in the photo above looks deserted - because it was. All the locals disappeared, and there were just a few tourists around. Luckily for us the restaurants do stay open, so we were able to get a bite to eat. The restaurant the husband wanted to try was a higher end trattoria run by the husband at the front of the house and his wife as the chef. We sat in a charming terrace shaded overhead by grape vines with the restaurant's dog, a golden lab named Judita, to keep us company.

Judita gave up begging and took a nap

We were amused by the dog, since this would never be seen in the US thanks to health regulations, and she didn't particularly bother us, even though she begged at the table when our meals came out. I will admit I gave her a few scraps from my meal.

For dinner, we tried another trattoria, but this one was much more casual and was located in the sleepiest town (Montabone) with a fantastic view of the vineyards. In a mashup of broken Italian and English, we managed to understand that the vineyards around us grow almost exclusively moscato grapes, which makes sense since we're near the town of Asti, and which I assume how the dessert wine moscato d'asti got its name.

For the second time that day, we were in a family-run place, with the husband out front and the wife in the back. We like going to these small, family run restaurants, but then we feel obligated to eat just about everything so that the chef doesn't get offended. Problem is, it can be a hell of a lot of food - for example, our dinner consisted of 4 (yes, 4!) appetizers, a pasta dish, and then a choice of either a meat course or dessert. (By this point, we couldn't imagine eating a 6th savory course, so we went with dessert.) Portions weren't big, but 6 plates with 2 glasses of wine each is a lot, even for me. It made me wonder what it must be like to be a food travel host like Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern, who as a special guest is served the best of what poor families have and must eat it all so as to not offend. I can only imagine how much their crews eat as well.

So what did we eat all day? Our meals consisted of local and seasonal fare - salads, asparagus, green beans and the typical mix of roasted veggies (zucchini, eggplant, peppers and onions) are what seem to be on menus right now. I have to admit, though, that I'm not sure what makes the cuisine Piemontese, even though both restaurants are examples of typical regional fare. And although this is an area known for their mushrooms (this is the home of the white truffle, after all), oddly enough we hadn't had any. There did seem to be less meat, but despite that I found our meals to be pretty heavy for the summer temperatures that we were enjoying. Otherwise, I'd characterize our experience so far to be excellent Italian fare, though I don't think i can yet differentiate between the regions (i.e. Piedmont vs Tuscany vs Umbria).


Anonymous said...

I'm the primary trip planner in our house, and it's a lot of work but very rewarding. I love the dog photos!

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