After 4 days in Bologna (see my report at this link: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/654750),
my partner and I headed to Alba, where we stayed for the next 3 days.
Wednesday's lunch was in Cherasco at La Lumaca, another excellent trattoria in a beautiful cellar with vaulted ceilings. For 35 euros, you get 4 courses or you can order a la carte. The specialty is snails, with one dish in each course featuring them. Other good dishes we had were ravioli with meat sauce, a cold sliced guinea fowl appetizer, and roasted rabbit. Desserts were good but not memorable.
Wednesday night we dined at Piazza Duomo, which has a Michelin star and is known for innovative cooking. We ordered one of the tasting menus at 110 euros, and while not all of the approximately 12 dishes were a total success, with some flavor combinations that were a bit much, overall it was a very good meal that challenges the taste buds yet stops short of “molecular” cooking. We chose this restaurant based on a review I read some months back on Chowhound, and which gives a much more detailed report than I will here. See this link: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/615668. If you are planning to have a tasting menu, be sure to arrive very hungry as it is a tremendous amount of food.
Thursday morning we drove to Asti and took a walk around this attractive city, then headed off to lunch in Rocchetta Tanaro, a short distance away, at I Bologna. This restaurant exceeded all expectations, and aside from dal Pescatore, it was the best meal of the trip so far, so good that I must list all the dishes we had. The price is 45 euros and this includes everything except wine. Choices are limited. Here is what we were served:
Melon with lardo
Crudo of veal with parmigiano cheese
“Tuna” of rabbit with julienned vegetables and olive oil
Pastas: tagliarani with mushrooms; veal agnolotti
Main: Rabbit liver with balsamic vinegar sauce; roasted chicken leg
Goat cheese with compote of fruits
Dessert: Chestnut semifreddo with berry sorbet (in a beautiful cone-shaped construction) topped with a chocolate confection and served on a caramel sauce with chopped chestnuts. I have never seen a dessert presentation like this in Italy, even at the most high-end restaurants. In addition to being delicious it was a work of art, more like what you would expect at a top restaurant in France. Unbelievable!
Sorbets of banana and blackberry(?)
Glass of Moscato d’Asti
Choice of 2 types of Grappa.
The wine we chose was a 2004 Barbera d’Asti, Tenuta il Sogno (limited production) for 20 euros, and it was absolutely superb. I Bologna does not have a Michelin star, but it definitely should. The quality and value were at least comparable to any other one-star we have been to.
Dinner in Alba was at La Libera. The food is updated Piemontese and everything we had was delicious. Not quite up to the standard of I Bologna but close. Dishes we had:
Veal Tongue with vegetables in sweet and sour sauce
Tagliarini with veal ragu
Fish (sea bass?) with zucchini and olives
Slow-roasted shoulder of lamb
Pear in puff pastry with cardamom ice cream
Coffee granite with chocolate fudge and whipped cream
With a nice Barbera 2005 and water, the bill came to 110 euros.
On Friday we drove to Turin, where we spent some time at Eataly before touring the old city. It is quite an experience. The variety of foods and wines is mind-boggling. One gets very hungry just looking at it all. We had a light lunch which was tasty but unspectacular, and very reasonable.
Dinner was at Trattoria della Posta in Monforte d’Alba, about 20 km from Alba. The cooking here is traditional Piemontese and very good. As a sort of large amuse-bouche, we were given a soup of tomato and porcini mushroom puree with olive oil. Apps were capon salad and vitello tonnato. It was interesting to compare the vitello tonnato with the one at La Libera. This one was a perfect rendition of the traditional dish, with no fat, well done at the edges and pink inside, with a strong tuna sauce, while La Libera’s was very lightly cooked, sliced paper thin, with a ring of fat around the edge and served with a sauce that contained more mayonnaise than tuna. I loved both, though I give a slight edge to La Libera. Next we had gnocchi with tomato and basil, very simple, ethereal and delicious, and goat cheese ravioli with a rabbit ragu, also very light yet full of flavor. Mains were veal shank in Barolo sauce and goose leg stuffed with foie gras. We were quite full so skipped dessert (the dessert selection was limited and not so interesting anyway). If we had room I would have ordered cheese, as the cheese cart looked wonderful. We had a Barbaresco 2004 for 30 euros which was heavenly, far superior to the 48 euro Barolo we had at Piazza Duomo. With aperitifs, coffee, water, and petit fours, the total came to 128 euros.
All in all, we found the Piemonte region to be a gastronomic paradise.