This past weekend we were invited to join our neighbors and some of their friends in a tour of the beautiful Lange region south of Torino, a countryside of rolling hills with churches and vineyards everywhere we looked.

We’ve been invited to join them in the past, both in Tuscany as well as in the Lake Como area. My Good Husband and I consider it a real privilege to experience these gastronomic outings with such experts! Each one is constantly evaluating the food, with confident opinions about each dish or bottle of wine. It’s actually very entertaining, especially because I’ve hardly known a timid Italian. They all enjoy talking, many times all of them at once!

I’m tempted to show you all the photos of our weekend…the tour of the hazelnut factory, the visit to a winery,the castles and hillsides…but since this is a food blog-and you’ve got more to do today than see all those photos, I decided to give you just a sample of some of our dishes, including the most unusual and most delicious pasta dish I ever ate!

Our first dinner was at ‘l Bunet, in a little town called Bergolo, which has a population of 80! This tiny town’s nickname is “Stone Town” (Paese di Pietra) because all the buildings have been made with local sandstone and most of the streets are made of cobblestones. Here’s a picture of the whole group in front of l’Bunet Hotel and Restaurant…

Fall is the time that hazelnuts and mushrooms are harvested in Italy, so many of the dishes we ate featured these two ingredients.

First, an appetizer plate with roasted veal garnished with a sauce that looks like mustard but tasted more like mayonnaise, an anchovy stuffed with mushrooms, and a tossed salad with toasted hazelnuts…

Then, another appetizer of a pastry stuffed with fonduta, a rich cheese sauce…

Meanwhile, on the table were these baskets of grissini…crisp breadsticks which were first made in this region of Italy.

In Italy you typically sit down to dinner about 8:00…hungry as a horse…and just break off a little piece of grissini…and then another…and then another. For me they’re a little like popcorn…I have a hard time not eating them!

After the appetizer, we sampled fresh pasta garnished with truffles (tartufi).

Our Italian friends were very concerned that we, as Americans, had never tasted this delicacy–truffles. These mushrooms grow underground and are harvested in the fall. Due to how rare they are, and how difficult they are to harvest, they’re extremely expensive. Our friend, Ercole, paid 120 euros for an etto (a tenth of a kilo, or about 3.5 oz.)! He took them to the chef at ‘l Bunet and asked if he would be willing to grate them on top of our pasta so we could taste them. You don’t need a whole lot of truffles to get the flavor…so that 3.5 oz. was enough for about six of us to have a taste. I can’t say I was overly impressed with the flavor, but we appreciated having the experience, and now we can never again say we haven’t tasted truffles.

At the end of the meal, the Maitre d’ came around with a cart filled with cheeses…every kind you can imagine. I love cheese, and enjoyed every bite!

The following day we enjoyed the best meal of the weekend, lunch at the Madonna della Neve (Madonna of the Snow). Ercole, whom I mentioned earlier as the purchaser of our truffles, had remembered eating there more than 50 years ago as a boy. So we wandered our way up the mountain and found the restaurant still in operation, with the owner still there, shuffling around seating folks.

Our first dish was truly impressive, and is the considered the signature dish of the restaurant…plin (tiny ravioli) filled with a combination of roasted meats and served without any condiment or sauce. The waitress–who’s worked there for 25 years!–gave each of us a linen napkin and told us to unfold it. Then, she served the plin right on the cloth napkin…

These little pockets of pasta nearly melted in your mouth! And the filling was out of this world! I wish I could make them myself, and give you the recipe! I have a feeling, however, that roasting some rabbit and some veal and some carrots and some cabbage, might all be a little more work than most of us would want to do.

As the waitress came around to collect up our napkins, she mentioned that cleaning them was a whole lot more work than washing off a plate…washing in hot water without detergent…ironing them…but the uniqueness of the dish made it worth it! Who would have ever guessed you could serve pasta on a cloth napkin?

Next, we were served another pasta dish, nearly as good as the first…goat cheese ravioli with spinach…

Then, it was time for more cheese–oh, I’m way off my diet! Still counting calories but I’m way up till next Friday! Notice the three jams–or perhaps I should call them chutneys–above the platter of cheese. Northern Italians enjoy this combination, and I would have to agree. If you like a sweet/salty mix, you’d enjoy this. One was with red bell peppers, one with pears, and the other with prunes. A little of the chutney/jam on a piece of goat cheese….ummm, ummm, good!

Lastly, we had a sampling of desserts…

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…the Italians have fabulous food, but Americans have them all beat on desserts!

So that was our gastronomic weekend. Now we’re back to rice and bean. I love rice and beans. They’re very satisfying. But it was sure a lot of fun joining the party this weekend!

Ciao!

Debbie

2 Comments

  1. 10-24-2012

    Thanks for sharing tidbits about your very interesting weekend and the gastronomic delights. Yes, the Italians are amazing cooks and willing to do a lot more work than most of us to prepare a meal. But perhaps this is mainly in their restaurants?

    • 10-24-2012

      In general I would agree that even the Italians leave most of the complicated dishes to the restaurants. However, the older generation still prepares some complex dishes.

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