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Piedmont truffle truth


SWISS_CHEF
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Oct. 17th

I have just spoken to Giorgio and Roberto the two brothers that run Da Maria, the restaurant of their mother's name here in my village of Zanco. In operation since the mid 1950's with almost no change, Georgio and Roberto are a very reliable barometer of the truffle market because they are serious truffle hunters. When Giorgio tells me he has no truffles I don't ask second opinions because if Georgio and Roberto can't find truffles it is because there aren't any.

There has been a lot of speculation and hope that 2008 would be a remarkable truffle year due to the wet spring we experienced but so far it just isn't so. I am afraid that the bulk of what you are seeing at the big truffle fairs of Alba etc. this year are imported truffles from other regions of Italy or Europe.

Caveat Emptor because you are probably paying prices of 3 or 4 times what the imported truffles are actually worth.

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Its common knowledge that many white truffles offered during truffle season at the larger fairs do in fact originate outside Piedmont. C'era una volta they used to say the Alba merchants came to Asti early in the morning to buy truffles to sell at the Alba truffle fair, now with all the smaller towns having their own festivals and local markets, they don't come to Asti any more as truffles come in from Umbria, Slovenia, Croatia etc. Buyer beware, I had a guest about to buy a white truffle from a stall at a street fair in Barolo, but when the seller realized he was with a local, he reached under the counter for the real thing, Moral only buy your truffle from a reputable dealer with a local Piedmontese friend or get your truffle fix from a restuarant who will not serve truffles unless they get fresh local ones.

Ed, in fact this year in September there were suprisingly good truffles to be had, it was cool and damp, and prices were low, but we now haven't had rain for some weeks and they are becoming more scarce, although I can still find them in Asti covered market for around 2.50 a gram. we are all waiting for the rain to start, and now that the Nebbiolo vendemmia is Barbaresco/Barolo is safely in, it should start raining soon and truffles start a-popping again.

And as you know, November is the real season in these parts for tartufi bianchi.

Edited by Sampaguita (log)

Too many restaurants in Piedmont, too little time in life

Villa Sampaguita

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Ciao Piedmontese, no rain in Umbria either. Our truffles are not like yours, but I'd sure like some anyway. :sad: We had a little rain on Friday, but we need some soakers and some fog. Not even a lousy porcini to be had.

And to add insult to injury...the ad banner at the top of this page is urging me to eat mushrooms. Cruel.

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I don't know about September, I was in Switzerland the whole time, but I got a call from Giorgio this morning and he told me that he found a 100 gram truffle locally... seems odd though because we have not had any rain, just heavy clouds and fog in the last few days but maybe that is enough to give them a push. Maybe we are off and running. I will be in Zanco for another 10 days so I will report back on the situation.

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Hathor, the porcini have been virtually non-existant in Piedmont this year, my friend in Giaveno which is the famous mushroom centre near the Sacre di San Michele tells me that they got all damaged by hail, although I tend to think it has been the strange weather cycle we had this year, with rain at the wrong times. Any porcini seen in the market come from Romania or Illyria (easier to call it that then former Yugoslavia!)

Too many restaurants in Piedmont, too little time in life

Villa Sampaguita

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My three favorite Italy-blog people all on at once!

I'm now plotting another June '09 cycling trip but to the northeast mountains again: Trento, Bolzano, Bormio. C

Ed, just anecdotal, but I have a funny story from when we rode through Zanco this past June and knocked on your door. We almost lost one of our fellow cyclists at that intersection near Da Maria (and he didn't have a map, OR have any idea where we were or where we were headed!). We had all bombed down that hill you took us from Musisengo toward Zanco, but John thought someone was still behind, so he waited. But he was last. So when he followed and got to that intersection at Da Maria -- where we turned right to Zanco --- he sat there for a while, then TURNED around to go back to Murisengo, back up the hill thinking we went a different way.

Well, we were at the Punt e' Mes Church in Zanco, when someone asked, "um, where's John?" (Thre were nine of us and we didn't miss him at first.) Damn. I told everyone to wait and not move, rode all the way back to the intersection, and stood wondering which way he might have gone. The only reason I'm telling you this: The guy who owns Da Maria pops his head out the window and asks if I'm looking for a cyclist in a ??? jersey. Yep. He saw John standing there ... alone ... wondering ... then watched him ride the wrong way. Glad he saw him, and more glad he saw ME and told. Me. So I rode back up the Murisengo hill and found him. And all is well.

That day we rode from Frinco along the highline small roads through Montechiaro, Cortanze and on to Cocconato, then looped through Murisengo by way of Tuffo and Cortanieto and on to Zanco and then finally up to Tonco where the local priest blessed us for the long ride downhill home.

Tim: Tacabanda and Pompa Magna were both closed (Monday), and it was pouring rain. But we ate at your Angelo del Beatto. Lucky I had your recommendations from before anchored inside my head somewhere. Great place!

Long story, I know. Just chatting! Cheers.

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My three favorite Italy-blog people all on at once!

I'm now plotting another June '09 cycling trip but to the northeast mountains again: Trento, Bolzano, Bormio. C

But the really really good cycling AND really really good eating is to the East. Moena (Malga Panna), San Cassiano ( Rosa Alpina) and toward Cortina (Tivoli) and the Passo Val Gardena, The incredible Passo delle Erbe (one of the best rides ever) and, of course, Passo Falzarego, there is an unbeatable combination of rides and food and wine. And... Italian is THE language.

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Great story, your problems were clearly caused by a lack of Punt e Mes, well know since Roman times to clear your head and straighten all the curves in the road.

By the way, we have discovered a new jewel in the Asti restaurant crown: Piola & Crota http://www.piolaecrota.it/ that has a great 12 euro lunch, with wine included! Very elegant place and a top-drawer female chef to boot. It was formerly known as Barolo and Co.

I was at Da Maria yesterday and in the woods below Villadeati they had just found what I would guess was a couple of kilos of a mushroom called "familiole" a small brown mushroom with a head about the size of a silver dollar that grows in bunches. They cut off the stem about a centimeter under the cap and throw the lower half away.

ciao4now, Ed

My three favorite Italy-blog people all on at once!

I'm now plotting another June '09 cycling trip but to the northeast mountains again: Trento, Bolzano, Bormio. C

Ed, just anecdotal, but I have a funny story from when we rode through Zanco this past June and knocked on your door. We almost lost one of our fellow cyclists at that intersection near Da Maria (and he didn't have a map, OR have any idea where we were or where we were headed!). We had all bombed down that hill you took us from Musisengo toward Zanco, but John thought someone was still behind, so he waited. But he was last. So when he followed and got to that intersection at Da Maria -- where we turned right to Zanco --- he sat there for a while, then TURNED around to go back to Murisengo, back up the hill thinking we went a different way.

Well, we were at the Punt e' Mes Church in Zanco, when someone asked, "um, where's John?" (Thre were nine of us and we didn't miss him at first.) Damn. I told everyone to wait and not move, rode all the way back to the intersection, and stood wondering which way he might have gone. The only reason I'm telling you this: The guy who owns Da Maria pops his head out the window and asks if I'm looking for a cyclist in a ??? jersey. Yep. He saw John standing there ... alone ... wondering ... then watched him ride the wrong way. Glad he saw him, and more glad he saw ME and told. Me. So I rode back up the Murisengo hill and found him. And all is well.

That day we rode from Frinco along the highline small roads through Montechiaro, Cortanze and on to Cocconato, then looped through Murisengo by way of Tuffo and Cortanieto and on to Zanco and then finally up to Tonco where the local priest blessed us for the long ride downhill home.

Tim: Tacabanda and Pompa Magna were both closed (Monday), and it was pouring rain. But we ate at your Angelo del Beatto. Lucky I had your recommendations from before anchored inside my head somewhere. Great place!

Long story, I know. Just chatting! Cheers.

Edited by SWISS_CHEF (log)
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See? That's the problem then: MORE Punt e Mes, not less! Imiss Asti, which I think I now like even more than Alba (Hmmmm, which I love), so I'll keep your restaurant recommendation in mind for our next trip. Always plotting to get back.

Fortedei: We rode the Sella-Gardena-Campolongo-Pordoi route in June. Stunning. And I stayed in Canazei three nights on another cycling excursion during whihc we got rained on a lot. But it was early season. I do love those hills, including Fedaia, and I always wanted to do the Staulanza and Duran loop from ... from ... ? I don't remember; it's near Giau.

This time we WILL be doing the Sella loop again, but as a day trip from Bolzano. We also will ride Gavia, Stelvio, and Mortirolo on consecutive days following the Sella loop day. Before that -- from Trento -- we will ride Bondone, passo Bordala (a hidden gem) and a loop from Levco Terme that includes the Inghiaie and then on to Asiago then back through passo Vezzena. These are incredible roads, too, as are those up north more. But some of these are the hidden treasures -- NO traffic, narrow lanes, steeep beasts, nekkid women. Well, maybe not the nekkid women.

June. Come along!

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Hey Pedalforte, I have two words for you: walkie talkies.

We started carrying them skiing in the back country and they have saved our necks more than once. No more standing at the intersection wondering which way did he go??

Your June trip sounds great! It's usually a busy time of year for us...but maybe we'll see you...at least on a downhill. :laugh: I think you are made of sterner stuff than I am.

Still no rain. Still no truffles. 2 weeks until our truffle festival...hmmmm..... :unsure:

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"I think you are made of sterner stuff than I am. "

The "stern stuff" I own is all words, which come cheap. Join in. Here's what I do: I talk about all these steep passes, but you don't think we ever actually ride them do you? Nah, we just look at the maps and point, then head into town and order pizzocheri, or some other fat-laden delicacy easily washed down with the local nebbiolo. Yes, cycling is easy.

Do join.

As for the walkie talkies? Good idea. My friends and I just did the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands NAtional Park -- a 3-4 day mountain bike ride with 4WD vehicle support. One friend suggested that when we have to drive the two sags, he could supply us with walkie talkies to converse back and forth. ... to which my other friend and I laughed and said someting rude like: "um, I'm out here to ESCAPE cell phones, blackberries and all things gadget-y. I want quiet." I'm kidding, of course. They sound like a great idea for emergencies, and I'm getting some for the next trip. Really.

Cheers

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Hathor: locals tell me good porcini are coming from Val d’Aosta. :blink:

Tim: I personally think Asti has a better selection of restaurants then Alba. :raz:

Ed: We haven’t tried Piola yet, however we sent our Geneva friends who are true gourmets and come to Piedmont a couple of times a year, to try it out and report to us. For them it was very elegant, great to bring the boss or a potential father in law to, and although the food was not bad, not quite up to what they expected given the finesse of the setting. Just lacked the down home touch of the old Barolo and Co. But everyone has his or her own opinion, we shall have to try it out one day, but I may be prejudiced, as I loved the old place. For a fine dining experience with wonderful food my favourite is still Al Enoteca in Canale. :cool:

Edited by Sampaguita (log)

Too many restaurants in Piedmont, too little time in life

Villa Sampaguita

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Ed: We haven’t tried Piola yet, however we sent our Geneva friends who are true gourmets and come to Piedmont a couple of times a year, to try it out and report to us. For them it was very elegant, great to bring the boss or a potential father in law to, and although the food was not bad, not quite up to what they expected given the finesse of the setting. Just lacked the down home touch of the old Barolo and Co. But everyone has his or her own opinion, we shall have to try it out one day, but I may be prejudiced, as I loved the old place. For a fine dining experience with wonderful food my favourite is still Al Enoteca in Canale.  :cool:

Hi Rina,

We went yesterday and again it was lovely but I have to confess that we have only tried the luncheon specials. Portions are modest but so is the price of 12.50 each with mise-en-bouche, wine, mineral water, assorted breads and coffee included. Certainly I would not go there and order the luncheon special if I was looking for Piemonte's best dining experience. We just find it a really great value. We commented that we usually pay as much in a simple pizzaria and at Piola you can enjoy the luxuries of a calm and inspiring atmosphere as well as elegant crystal, linen and china. Additionally, the red wines served have both been remarkable and second glasses were only 2 euros each! :rolleyes:

Ciao,

Ed

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Any updates on the weather?

Still no rain but this morning (Oct 26th) lots of fog. Bus loads of tourists this morning in Moncalvo for the truffle fair but with one exception, I have yet to hear that anyone is finding truffles locally.

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Any updates on the weather?

Still no rain but this morning (Oct 26th) lots of fog. Bus loads of tourists this morning in Moncalvo for the truffle fair but with one exception, I have yet to hear that anyone is finding truffles locally.

Same here. Fog. No rain. No local truffles...everyone's talking about them, but no one is finding them.....

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Still very foggy, getting a bit depressive, I know that October is famous for the Nebbia but I can't remember it going on for weeks on end and the last 2-3 days it has not lifted. Rain is forecast, but it keeps slippining away. Truffes are getting scarcer and more expensive, now running 3-4 euro a gram if you can find them. The truffle dealer in Asti had a bunch last weekend, we bought some for a big guest dinner, before he sent them up to Moncalvo to supply the local dealers at the festival. Even our trifalau is finding less and less, but then its not November yet and it hasn't rained.

Too many restaurants in Piedmont, too little time in life

Villa Sampaguita

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Nice to read about both cycling and truffles/mushrooms in the same posts. I was in Turin last week for Terra Madre, and was put up in Susa. It reminded me of when I cycled from England to Italy, and descended from France via the Moncenisio pass. We bombed down that 20km descent and I remember passing through Susa at breakneck speed, en route to Alba.

Speaking of which, we took the train down to Alba on Sunday and Monday (yesterday). On Sunday, the town was absolutely heaving, never seen so many people there for the Fiera. This was my first visit to the new truffle fair hall on the edge of town. It was crazy. We went with a winemaker friend, Mario Fontana of Cascina Fontana. One of the trifolau was a relative of his, and he sold some friends some good truffles, certainly said they were local. But the price was very high, 450 euros an etto! I bought a small truffle myself yesterday at Tartufi Morra in Alba. Alessandro Bonino told me that this year is even worse than last year!

Nonetheless, now back home in a very wintry Devon, we'll enjoy this Langhe treat tomorrow night, probably simply on tajarin noodles or on fried or scrambled eggs.

Marc

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Oh no, its raining again and you know its hard to pretend!

Yes the rain started last week, just in time to see out the Alba truffle fair and herald in the real truffle season in Piedmont.

Too early to get reports from the trifalau, but I think smiles all around. Should be a good November for white Piedmontese gold.

Too many restaurants in Piedmont, too little time in life

Villa Sampaguita

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