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The Italian diet

21 February 2010

Before setting off on our grand adventure to Asia and Australia it was obviously important to lose some weight so that we could get into our summer clothes. The obvious choice was the week before a weekend in Rome to watch the rugby. Wrong!

Sunday we were invited out to lunch with Perluigi the builder and his wife and daughter. Only 5 courses set lunch menu at another restaurant new to us: Osteria dell’Asilo in Coazzolo. We will go back when it’s warm and we can eat on the terrace overlooking Neive and the vineyards.

Monday Les had been invited to a girls’ night out with Leslie2, Chiara Boschis (top Barolo producer) and Denise (owner of Castello di Sino). At the last minute another bloke was invited so for company, I reluctantly joined in. Turned out it was David Berry of Berry Bros and Rudd who ordered the white, a Massa Timorasso. Fantastic choice and it turns out that the only one they stock is La Colombera where we had been tasting the week before. Lots of salumi, followed by peppered Iberica Pork loin and shared risotto and “Finanziera” (the stew made from all the offal bits left over). A ’98 Contorno Fantino Barolo accompaniment in magical surroundings (Le Case della Sarraca, in Monforte); a mix of Medieval and contemporary and a must for visitors to the area.

Tuesday could have been alright but Christian (French) and Gigi (Sicilian) our neighbours from Belgium wanted to take us tasting at Guido Porro’s in Serralunga and then invited us to dinner. Christian wanted 25litres of his Barbera, that he then bottles at home, and I was tempted by the reasonably priced Barolo that I could for once swallow as he was driving. Gigi excelled herself in the evening with a fantastic lentil and ginger soup, lamb stew, orange meringue pie supplemented with the ever present salumi to start. It felt a bit like a Secret Society as Christian poured some little known French wine from the Loire that we must not mention. Les collected several recipes and we are now brewing high octane limoncello and red wine vinegar.

Wednesday was almost alright until Richard called and we got stuck into the nebbiolo down at Torres in Neive basso. Usual mix of locals: the Mayor, Ivan from Dante Rivetti, Franco from Moccagatta, Primo the pork loin and salami guy, Daniele and brother Giorgio the butchers and Secondo Zucherro from the agricultural merchants. It seems to be quite common here for new parents not to agree on names hence, Primo, Secondo and Otto (8) is not uncommon.

Thursday was a success but Friday saw the arrival of the Hamblyns and a 9 course dinner at Cinzia Bordino’s Fiori di Pesco washed down with her own Barbaresco; €20 a head!

The weekend was never going to be easy and we sampled the best Rome had to offer with the Hamblyns, Harris’s and Trumpy’s Mum & Dad. Top B&B (DomusMazzini) and 2 great restaurants (Lo Sgobbone and Ristorante “34”)if you ever go. Shame about the rugby, although a win is a win. Highlight of the weekend and possibly the year was being asked in “34” if I was Italian! The fact that the waiter was Sri Lankan did not detract from the euphoria. Trumpy thought the highlight was me falling down the stairs in the subway but he fumbled his camera rather like the England players and an opportunity went begging. Dave at least tried to save me but knocked on.

Still clothes are cheap in Asia.

A little bit of further preparation was to get stocked up on Malaria pills so off we went to the local GP for a description, announced we were friends of Marco and he duly scribbled on a blank piece of paper, stamped it and we were set. No names, ID or anything just a ciao e buon viaggio.

Before I sign off I must mention another rather frightening experience: toothache. About 40 years ago a smack in the mouth playing rugby meant missing teeth and one badly cracked one that had to be removed. After levering himself off the side of the chair the dentist had to saw the offender into 4 pieces to remove it and after 3 days of agony I vowed never again. About 10 years ago watching Ian and Guy play rugby, Barry, Guy’s dad, offered round the toffees. I’ve never admitted it until now but a tooth broke and since then I have favoured toothpicks. Until a few weeks ago that is when toothache struck and I was forced to a local dentist to have it out followed by 3 fillings and a lengthy cleaning session. The point is I got real value at less than €15 per annum and all that time saved every 6months or whenever sillies go.

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