Having had a Summer with little or no rain the weather in the past week made up for it. After the tragedies in Liguria last week we now have our fingers crossed that the rain of the past couple of days is absorbed locally although Her Outdoors had to make several detours to get home from shopping on the other side of the Tanaro. The principal bridge we use to cross it was closed and necessitated a 30 minute detour via Asti where the floodwater was also threatening the road. The weather has had little impact on our excursions although our adolescent puppy has been another matter. Fortunately most of the local restaurants that we favour are happy to accommodate well-behaved dogs, although the issue for us now is whether the restaurants are big enough the puppy. He has a had a huge impact on our life and goes everywhere with us as left alone in the house he gets anxious and still enjoys chewing furniture.
After the disappointment of the World Cup our attention now turns to the 6 Nations and we are already planning our trip to Rome in February. Buying tickets on-line in Italy proved impossible this year. The tickets were available but after an hour of submitting applications, getting credit cards rejected etc I thought I would see if there was a physical office I could visit. Eureka! an address in Alba so I called and asked if they were on sale. Certainly but only after 4.30pm when the right girl was in the office. I got the address and set off to find them but it took a while to find the location as I didn’t think the tobacconist in the Centro Storico was the obvious choice. I finally found them but it was 4.20 and the girl hadn’t yet turned up. A quick coffee round the corner and 15minutes later I was choosing our seats while the assistant operated the screen that appeared to double up for the Lotto. Sorted but surprise, surprise, no credit cards accepted but a quick trip to the cash machine and we were sorted. Cash is still king in this part of the world.
I love this time of year as the salad stuff runs out and thoughts turn to rather more hearty fare. Don’t get me wrong I love salad but a roaring fire and a stew or roast wins every time. HO is always looking for new ideas and got hooked to the idea of making a game pie à la Melton Mowbray. Youngest son arrived for a week with plenty of lard and the result was terrific.
Lunch here with Pete & Romy on Friday included black pudding, our own eggs poached with crispy pancetta followed by slow roast English pork shoulder with crackling: hard to buy here. Shredded in pancakes with Hoisin sauce and Cornish Cruncher Cheddar to round it off. Always a treat to share good wine with friends who appreciate it but probably a little over the top for lunch: a Riesling 2009 Schaeffer & Vieter with the aubergine and cumin dip, 2001 Guigal Cote Rotie (that’s what Syrah/Shiraz should taste like), 1983 Gruaud Larose that showed little age but sublime elegance and a 2004 Chateau Giscours, a baby but always a favourite.
(Un)fortunately that led to a return invitation to Cascina Ebreo the following evening with Romy’s Swiss son Stefan and partner Lou and local friends Marco and Carla. Pete is a great cook and the Parmesan tart with shaved white truffle was sublime, as was the curried pumpkin soup, the roast milk veal and the breaded 5 year old mutton cutlets. Amo enjoyed the bones. Exceptional half moon pastries from Mondovì and cream filled naughties completed the stuffing but we escaped before the dark chocolate torte was served but guess what’s for tea? Their 2005 Sinché is extraordinary and to my taste smoother and more elegant than the 2005 if that were possible. Only just released after 4 years in wood, it’s like no other Sauvignon Blanc you have ever tasted or as Pete says not like your Marlborough cat’s piss. 2004 Segreto (Barbera) and Torbido! (top quality Barolo that doesn’t need the name to sell) were fantastic and the 2004 Troplong Mondot that I took along got scant attention. In fact Piemontese friend Marco doesn’t understand why anyone bothers to drink expensive Bordeaux when top quality Nebbiolo is available and much more affordable. He has a point. Top evening with Italian and English conversation mixed with a little German and incomprehensible Piemontese.
As if that wasn’t a good start to winter fare, our neighbours Christian (French) and Gigi (Sicilian) invited us over for dinner. I would never have imagined it but banana on a cracker topped with anchovy and caper is fantastic. An extraordinary Maroilles cheese tart with a sweet Domaine de la Marzelle (Coteau du Layon), a classic Belgian (where they mainly live) Carbonade with a Chateau Montmirail 2007 Gigondas were all perfect matches. The Maroilles uncooked is overpowering on the nose and tastes wonderful but keep an air-tight container handy as you wouldn’t want to leave it on the table. Another take-away (orange tart) and then it’s slow roast lamb on Friday.