Restaurants & Bars 3

Piemonte, or rather Langhe, wrap-up (longish)

RicRios | Oct 21, 2005 11:30 AM

After two weeks in the area, based in and around Alba, here's my recs.
Being a wino, I'll start in alphabetical order with the letter W.

1) Winewise, as any other wine growing region in this blessed world, Piemonte is a mine field. Suggestions:

a) stay away from the most obvious: supermarkets, wine stores, roadside signs.

b) use a local guide. My favorite: Duemilla Vini, edited by the Italian Association of Sommeliers. Choose those with the highest ratings and the lowest prices (for barolos, stay below Euro 30), you won't go wrong. Most establishments in this price range are run by husband and wife, eventually grown up son/daughter added to the mix. Just call them, make an appointment, go to their homes (with invariably play double role as home and as wineries -cantine-), you'll find Piemontese warmth and friendliness and simplicity and wine making expertise at its highest expression.

c) Stay away from "international" recent experiments in chardonnay, sauvignon & the likes. Be conservative, stick to dolcettos, barberas, barbarescos and those lovely, huge, incredibly multilayered barolos.

d) Wine markups in restaurants: 20% is the highest we found. When compared with usual 200 to 300% in the US, this is certainly food (or wine) for thought...

2) Foodwise, we were baffled in the beginning. We started visiting local produce markets. It's just amazing the abundance, variety and intense taste of all produce we saw. However, restaurants would not have a single salad in their menus, so we had to buy at the markets and prepare salads at the residence in order to sample flavors & tastes. It then occurred to me to ask a restaurateur why they didn't offer any salads. The answer was as simple as it gets: why would anybody want to eat a salad when they go out? A salad is something you just go out in a hurry to your back yard, pick up and eat...
On another note, somewhat contrary to our inclinations, we found Piemontese cuisine very, and I mean VERY, conservative. Menus are pretty much identical all over the map. Not that we didn't love their traditional cuisine, but we'd have expected some innovative dishes in their menus sitting right next to traditional fare. I know this contradicts my conservative policies preached in 1) above, but hey! what the heck, I didn't say consistency belongs in my bag of tricks. Guides, in particular the Michelin red, didn't prove as successful in this area, better ask the locals.

3) As far as timing, if you can, visit in November, best time of the year for white truffles. But don't expect bargains, prices (as reported before in this board) being in the 2.00 to 2.50 Euros per gram.

4) Final conclusion: best vacation possible for the wino-foodie species.

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