October in Piedmont is the wind down of the vintage, the cooling of the weather and the proliferation of truffles in every ristorante in the region.
The emergence of the white truffle has been celebrated in Alba for 50 years; and the 2010 programme ran the covers of the food celebrities who had graced the previous 49.
The official festival lasts a month but the season extends another month after, and the largest tubers of course are dug up last in the season.
Most ristorantes will offer an additional truffle pairing for 33-40 USD over most dishes (pasta, eggs or roasted meats) or you can buy one outright for 40-66 USD and share with your friends (the waitstaff have clever little scales for selling by the gram).
Vineyard views while you eat are a lot of fun, and great scenes make for relaxation while eating and drinking. The ristorante La Ciau del Tornavento (tel 0173 638333) in Piazza Baracco, 7, in Treiso (a Barbaresco village), is in fact an old library built by Mussolini in the ’30s, now refitted for this wonderful eating house. The basement has a fairly smart cellar.
This region has a tradition with rare veal of the carpaccio type; Le Ciau’s primo rendition was a square (see pic); adorned with marinated mushroom, anchovy and parmesan in the plate corners, saffron mayo, tasting succulent with the evoo pepper overtones. Simple stuff.
Secondo was frogs legs (see pic), endowed with parsley to the point of green when deep fried; comes with savoury salt and pepper, and a dipping sauce of white vinegar, more parsley and evoo. They are simply plump and juicy with feint parsley flavour, and probably not a very popular diners’ choice, but very fine frogs.
As a dolce nut the naturally-made gelato selection of the day was fig and raspberry combo, watermelon, pear and apricot; all ordered so I had an excuse to drink a glass of Francesca Ripetti’s local sticky made by rack drying, Tarasco 2006 Passito di Arneis 2006 Azienda Agricola Cornarea in Roero (90) 13.5%.The glass (USD 10.50) is golden, honeyed on nose, showing lots of barrel aging nuttiness, nice fineness then a shot of sweetness and the mouth dries out with the French oak impact; summary, a good sweet white which surrounds some locally-made ice-creams.
The local red glasses were Pora Barbaresco from the producers co-op (grower Pora) 2004 (91) 14%, soft and silky, now mature, (USD 8), and Ca’ del Baio Barbaresco Asili (Guilio Grasso) 2004 (90) 14%, cherry purple colour very good, maturing into the barley sugar honey development phase, great texture with the veal, (USD 10.50).
Venturing into Castiglione Falletto with the frogs legs match for a glass: the Barolo Pernanno (Cascina Bongiovanni) 2001 (91) 14%, deep black colour, very honied-sweet as now mature, deep and dry and tannic aftertaste showing a warm life and plenty to go (USD 10.50), was a good idea.
I agonised over the area’s winter specialty-finanziera; a combination of stewed chicken lung, heart, marrow, roosters crests, onion and capers, must be a Piemontese version of haggis, before declining as such a dish may disrupt other diners by being so out there.La Ciau scored well (18/20), positively outstanding food all-round, great cellar and all wines tasted by the glass, recommended by sommelier Luca were very fine value, www.laciaudeltournavento.it ; check USD 85 per person.
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