It had been a long time since I was in Italy so when I traveled there with the ICCO this past June, I felt that I had a bit of experience in terms of doing a proper blog post. I decided to split up all of the information that I gathered into separate posts so that they would be easier to read. I did a post about all of the cheese, another about all of the meat, another about vermouth, another about Asti and another combining chocolate, coffee and hazelnuts!!!
I tried to cover all of the places we visited and all of the food we ate. But, I wanted to do one final post tying the entire trip together, highlighting some of the places we visited that weren’t necessarily covered in my other posts. There were some lovely hotels and some beautiful buildings that I had to show you guys!!
Talking about beautiful buildings, I’d be remiss not to tell you about our first stop, Palazzo Righini which was a stunning little hotel in the small town of Fossano. It was so pretty, with painted ceilings everywhere and even a fabulous chapel that was unearthed years later.
Antiche Volte is the extraordinary restaurant in the hotel. It was another beautiful find in the hotel. The food was beyond extraordinary and it was stunning!
On our first day of adventuring, we went to La Bruna Dairy farms where we learned all about the magnificent local cheese called Castelmagno and all the other glorious cheeses they make (and how hard it is to make it!!). Their cheese cellar below was magnificent!
If you want to read more about the cheese of Piedmonte and learn how to make a really simple risotto recipe, click here for a closer look!
We visited an agriristoro (a farm that serves lunch) called Cascina Rosa – a lovely farm that grows their own produce, makes their own honey, processes their own preserves, makes their own apple cider vinegar and so much more!!! A simple farm with just a few people on staff, we had the most mouth watering, rustic farm meal!!
When you go to some small towns in Europe, there is an expectation that you will stumble upon places like this agriristoro…
But there are many things that you learn in small town that will also surprise you!
Like how popular craft breweries have become in Italy! In the land of vino rosso, the appearance of many craft beers was quite a surprise to me. And what better place to learn all about than at Beer Baladin!!
We had visited their first pub, Le Baladin, that is in town (Cuneo) and has a fun, circus like vibe but my absolute favourite was the Open Garden below…
We spent almost a full day at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (where, yes, you can do your Masters in gastronomic sciences!!)…
I really had to show you the beauty of this university…
We went inside to do some cooking of our own! In the lab we were given the freshest ingredients (from their very own (huge) school garden!!). Look at all of these vegetables that the students get to use in their cooking each day!!
We made the most amazing Italian “mac and cheese”…seriously, just macaroni and cheese!!
And this tiramisu made with a craft beer (see?!?) that was infused with coffee!!! Amazing!
Then we had lunch at the school’s “restaurant”…not cafeteria…restaurant!! We had a fantastic meal (with wine!!).
But, seriously, who wouldn’t want to go to school here!!
The school even has a luxury hotel right on the premises…I mean, come on!! Stunning!!
After the best team building cooking experience, we went to Castiliglione Falletto and did a wine tasting a Cantina Comunale …and incredible educational tasting about so many wines of the region including the fabulous barolo and then continued outdoors to have one of the most beautiful meals with a wine pairing…amazing!
From here we traveled to Asti and did a guided tasting of Asti D.O.G.C Consortium … (and had a great informational session on the great bubbly!!).
Visiting the Asti region and learning all about the flavour components of this awesome wine, inspired me to create this strawberry bellini made with asti…such a great summer drink!!
From that bubbly tasting, we went to the beautiful Locanda del Bosco Grande, in the untouched hills of Monferrato. I find the simplest of dishes are always the most memorable…like this glorious plate of simple pasta served al fresco on the patio!
And a plate of freshly picked asparagus topped with a farm fresh poached egg, beschamel and freshly shaved truffles!
There were a few more dishes in between, but I just wanted to bath in this huge bowl (we each got one) of zabaglione with a freshly baked biscuit! Heaven!
And on the topic of incredible meals, one of the final dinners we had at Palazzo Righini hotel was a simple al fresco meal on the patio as the sun was setting…
We began with this incredible carpaccio that was “tenderized in vermouth” (more on the significance of vermouth further down!)…
It was one of many incredible meat dishes we had on out trip.
The north historically has always been a wealthier part of the country, which means their food culture has always had things that, to the average Italian would be more costly. The most evident is all of their decadent meat dishes like this brasato which I’ve recreated for all of you to try at home!!
Another dish at our final meal at Palazzo Righini was one of the best gnocchi I have ever had:
I am so intrigued by the simplicity of dishes like gnocchi…full of belly filling goodness! Here is a very northern dish of gnocchi with a white ragu (imagine a tomato-less version of a meat sauce!) that I made at home…inspired by this trip!! Deeeelish!!
And I know if you guys were all with me, you would have loved our trip to Affini Bar, where we learned all about Vermouth and the historical significance of it to this region.
This is all of my traveling peeps getting ready to learn…and drink!
One of the most incredible things I learned while we were there was during our day at Affini Bar learning all about Vermouth. I came home to make sure I was using authentic vermouth from Torino and came up with this recipe for Vermouth soaked lady fingers with strawberries and lemon cream (and you can also read, in this post, more about the history of vermouth…it’s pretty incredible!!)
On our last leg of the trip, we were stationed at the Hotel Piazza Carlina, a pretty hotel right in the heart of town.
On our final day it was all about chocolate, coffee and hazelnuts. We spent a whole day tasting chocolate and coffee and hazelnuts from the area (the best I’ve ever had)
The first chocolate factory that we visited was Caffarel, home of the famous pyramid shaped gianduia (we can even buy them here in Canada!)
The next stop was at the Domori plant. The Italian heart of Domori is it’s None factory, in Torino, which was built to preserve the identity of the different varieties of cocoa while they process extra fine chocolate…it’s pretty amazing!
And out last stop at the Giuliani caffe was such an amazing lesson in coffee…even as an Italian (who thinks she knows a lot about her beverage of choice), this was a great educational day!
Of course, being the keener that I am, I came home and created this recipe that uses all three…and iced mocha hazelnut latte (also check out this post for more history on chocolate, coffee and hazelnuts in Torino!)
We also had bonet, a chocolate panna cotta made with crushed amaretti cookies a few times (so of course I had to come up with my own version …check it out here!!)
The sites of the Piedmonte region were amazing…but the best sites were the ones that had no major significance…
Like windows open to let the fresh June air in…I wonder what they’re cooking inside?
Random alleyways that begged us all to stop and take a load off…
Beautiful frescos that were on the walls of the town square…I bet the locals don’t even remember they’re there. But from a gal who comes from a relatively young country, I could stare at these all day!
The beauty of detail…even a simple building corner is adorned with magnificence…
Oh, and all the doors! I loved this one because it was a door IN a door (can you see it?).
Ah yes, Torino! You were a lovely place to see – an incredible backdrop to a fabulous trip shared with some pretty awesome people.
A trip I won’t soon forget!