29 October 2015

2015 ITALY Alba 9 - All Together

Again, ignore differences in font and paragraph formatting throughout. Blogspot is doing its own thing -- though it made "terribly" in paragraph four in a larger font for some reason which was appropriate.

I must interject a disclosure here ... My notes are quite shaky from writing in our van while driving and my mind is quite flaky from years of wear and tear, so I don't swear that any of the information I write about this trip is absolutely true. I will do my best to be accurate, but if you find an error, let me know and I'll fix it.
Today we had a 09:00 pick up from our driver Guiseppe (more about him later.) At first glance, he was prompt and pleasant. I had to apologize because he was making an extra trip to pick us up in Torino center city, while the other three travelers were being met at Torino airport.

Roads in the city seemed terribly narrow and twisty for his big 10-passenger van to maneuver through. It seemed like he was going above and beyond just to get us to the official start of the road trip. Little did I know that this is the norm for all Italian roads and traffic.

Chef John, Steve and Karen arrived on time at 10:00. We met them outside of Customs and Immigration. They looked a bit weary, but smiley and ready to go. Hugs all around and happy to be all together for the official start of our venture.

Our first destination was the Hotel Palazzo Finati (click here to read more) in Alba, about 1-½ hours away. I was puzzled by the road signs. Our route took us on 2-lane roads with lots of roundabouts, and every way we turned there were signs pointing to Alba, Asti, and back to Torino. I felt like we were going in circles. 
We indeed arrived at the hotel. It was too early to occupy our rooms, so we checked in and headed for a light (ha!) lunch at nearby cafe L’Inedito (translates to The Unpublished). Chef John seemed to personally know each chef and host of all the places we visited. I think this got us a few special perks along the way. Always hugs and both-cheek air kisses (first left cheeks then right) between them (man or woman). 

What a start to a culinary tour. I'm not going to show you a photo of every course of every meal on our trip, but I will for the first one, so you know what things were like. I wish I could remember the details of each dish, but things are a blur to remember after the fact. The first course was a red pepper soup with a splash of salty anchovy cream and rosemary focaccia. 

I am a pescatarian, so the only "meat" I eat is fish or seafood. This is not for religious or PETA reasons (although I do advocate for animal welfare rights), but I am a texture eater and "fleshy" things do not work in my mouth. Gnawing on a rack of ribs is just about the worse thing I can think of and it goes on from there. I don't mind if others enjoy carcass; just don't put it in my mouth.

Chef John was able to accommodate this situation at every place we ate and I appreciate that extra effort so very much. Our next course was a meat dish, but I got artichoke (if I remember correctly) smothered in fabulous fresh parmigiana cheese.

Several versions of local breads, bread sticks or crackers came with our food at each restaurant.

The pasta here was a rich egg noodle called tajarin and a specialty of this region of Italy. There was a veal ragú topping for everyone but me and I got a butter sage sauce.

Dessert was a chocolate on chocolate on chocolate cake with hazelnut sprinkles. Hazelnuts are a big crop in this area. During our drive here and later we would see lots of hazelnut tree orchards. These trees are quite short and squat compared to fruit orchards we see at home.
At the end of every meal a caffè drink was offered and served in a small teacup. Traditionally cappuccini are served before noon and espresso after noon.

And we had the Amaro we tasted in our Torino hotel room as a digestif.
After our meal we were invited down into the basement to see the wine cellar. This was housed in recovered ancient Roman ruins. Walls and ceiling were painted white and the wine displayed beautifully.

Back in our rooms we all needed a nap, but had only about a half hour to recover before continuing our activities.

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