26 September 2008

A lunch in Piedmont

While my parents were visiting us recently in Italy, we treated them to an experience few foreigners have ever encountered, a traditional lunch in a down-home country trattoria in the Piedmont wine country. 
We wound our way through country roads to CarrĂ¹, a town definitely off the turist map, best known for it’s beef meat and the following delicacies: carne cruda (raw chopped beef) and il carello dei bolliti (the cart of various boiled meats, and when I say “various,” I mean just about every part of the cow, from the tongue to the tail). We ended up a family-run Trattoria that had been in business for 107 years and was frequented by loyal locals- it’s the kind of place that doesn’t even have a menu, they just bring out the food. We started with a dizzying array of mouth-watering antipasti: roasted bell peppers with crumbled hazlenuts, carpione (fried, tempura-like vegetables dressed with vinegar), insalata russa (“russian salad” of tuna, egg and vegetables), sweet, marinated chestnuts, home-made salami, and of course, raw, chopped beef of which Emilio ate roughly 2 pounds. After all this time, I am now very used to seeing all sorts of strange meat dishes in Italy, and Emilio’s enthusiam for all of them has created a sort of indifferent appreciation in me, notwithstanding my vegetarianism. It was fun for me to witness my parents’ reactions, however, as they were presented with a large plate of what was essentially raw hamburger meat. They did partake, however, and hesitantly admitted it was tasty though unnerving.
After another course of beef ravioli in floating in broth, they finally rolled out the Cart of Boiled Meats, to Emilio’s joy and my parents’ absolute horror. We’re not used to seeing meat that looks like it came from real animals in the US, nor are we used to eating different parts of the animal. So the Cart of Boiled Meats is not very appetizing to Americans, especially the whole boiled chicken with it’s bald head and limp neck, and the dubious-looking boiled cow tail. Emilio was overjoyed, however, and his enthusiasm spilled over to all, helped by the copious, delicious regional wine.

Carrello di Bollito Misto
Sauces for the Bollito Misto
Dessert was hazlenut cake, proudly baked by our waitress, served with zabaglione (an Italian custard-like sauce made with marsala). Then came the much-needed coffee, and the not-so-much needed (though delicious) grappa. We politely asked if they had a Cart of Boiled Customers to wheel us out on, but alas we had to use our own feet to drag ourselves out the door and back to the abandoned twighlight-zone of a town with its creepy, empty amusement park in the main piazza.

The chef and the grappa

13 September 2008

Swiss Bread

Emilio and I adventured on a quick, overnight jaunt to the German side of Switzerland a couple days ago. The drive was heart-breakingly beautiful: the dizzying heights and careening waterfalls of the alps, the ubiquitous soft-eyed cows and the sentimental clanging of their bells, the sweetness of the velvety green foothills and impeccably manicured apple-orchards in the slanted evening light. We were breath-taken, and vowed to wake up at the crack of dawn to take advantage of the endless photographic opportunities. 
Well, the crack of dawn ended up turning in to 9 a.m., but it didn't matter anyway since the glittering landscape of the evening before had transformed in to a foggy, drenching, gray, rainy mud festival. So we snapped a few shots and headed straight for the local bakery where we stocked up on an embarrassing amount of bread, yogurt and pastries, and started winding our way back to sunny Italy, snacking and chatting all the way home.