Friday, October 28, 2016

natural produce farm

We took advantage of our Monferrato trip to meet with our friend Luca Scrivanti. Luca needed to get some natural produce for his business: picturesque Cascina Rosa, literally a pink b&b on the top of a hill - you can just imagine the panorama! 
So we jumped into his car and after driving through wild woods - that once were vineyards and driving up a gravel road we arrived to Cascina Krylia.

driving up to Cascina Krylia, Raksha the farm dog is waiting for us 
In Italian cascina means farm so most of the times you find this word, it will be a synonym of a family business, small productions and old times quality. This is also the case of this vegetable and fruit farm: six years ago, its owners left the city life and their jobs to raise their two kids in the country, in contact with the nature, following the season rhythms in the most natural environment.

Cristian Raffero, the farm owner explaining us the logo: the constellations followed in the biodynamic agriculture 
After greeting and playing with Raksha, the farm dog, Cristian Raffero - the Cascina Krylia's owner showed us around and told us that the farm is an ever evolving work in progress. He and his wife Lia, a trained psychologist like the freedom of modifying their farm as new ideas and projects come up. He left the Langhe wine district where he had some land to buy this property on the Monferrato hills, because the soil is still uncontaminated, and this is where they are growing certified organic products, while the whole farm is completing the organic certification process.
Having their produce certified organic has allowed them to outreach to a larger consumer public, however their prices are still low and very much affordable.

Lia Raffero and one of their kids picking zucchini blossom for a customer
Green manuremulching and drip irrigation are the key words of this farm where you can find all the vegetables in season, berry bushes (including sugar plum), a seasonal orchard, a pumpkin patch and even an inactive tiny vine, one of the very few survivors of the 19th century grape philloxera epidemic!

We followed Cristian intrigued by his work and the landscape that included 300 year old trees that were already on the farm before he started his business. As far as our enchanted eye could see, everything on his hills is organic, which is why he has a happy beekeeper renting a cascina right in front of his farm!

close up of the hives from the picture above, look well at the middle
All foodies, chefs, family cooks and culinary students will love Cascina Krylia, the awareness and precision its owners share about real organic agriculture and for those of you who can read Italian, follow them on facebook and try their recipes and keep updated with their production on

inactive late 18th century vine

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

organic Fassone farm

Just like the Mediterranean scrub is unique, so the Monferrato wine district is unique territory in the world: its landscape is highly varied, not simply steep hills or plains, but a mix of them both, uncultivated woods, vineyards, wheat fields, hazelnut groves, animal farms and vegetable farms. 
Every season changes its colors and its atmosphere: in the summer, days are literally endless while in the fall, haze and rain make the best time to savor its rich local specialties.
Being just at about 1h driving from both Turin and the Milan Malpensa international airport, it is the ideal destination to enjoy amazing food, outstanding wines, castles and art.

Azienda Agricola Monfrin on the Monferrato hills and its semi-wild cows
When our winemaker friend Stefano Girola invited us over to see his grandfather's land, we didn't think it twice and accepted right away! We were curious as to what this area has to offer in terms of authenticity and nature, something that could bring us directly to the local philosophy of life of the residents.
Stefano and his daddy showed us around and introduced us to their neighbors: our first stop was a real organic Slow Food certified fassone cow farm.
Although we are not great carnivores, we were quite intrigued to find out more about the fassone aka the native Piedmontese cow.

Piedmontese fassone cows
This is how we found out why culinary speaking - it is so highly selected: because it extremely lean and low in cholesterol!
No wonder, every body all over the Piedmont brags about it, restaurants highlight it in their menus and residents look for it at the butcher's. Kids love it too because it is particularly tender and it has a delicious flavor.

Giulia Micco petting one of her 30 cows
Naturally, the farms, the breeding methods and the animals' food are always under scrutiny and especially in Piedmont, where the Slow Food movement was born, people are really into "where their food is from and how it is produced". 
The Italian legal system doesn't make things any easier and it has rather strict requirements to issue the organic certifications; producers and farmers must jump through MANY fire hoops to comply with the regulations, and the whole process takes years.

Giulia Micco welcomed us on her family farm: Azienza Monfrin at 10 minute driving from Moncalvo.
It felt like being inside a country life children's book. In fact, this farm is part of many educational programs and Giulia is used to show it to kids and international visitors who look for outstanding and sustainable farming methods. 
The 120 cows, calves, oxen and bulls are fed only farm produced straw, cereals and hay and they are all free to wander on the farm, grazing wherever they prefer. This makes her farm semi-wild and the calves stay with their moms till they are 7-8 months.
This is not a milk farm because the fassone cows don't produce much milk, only 20/25 liters each and, as a regular practice, Giulia's family leaves it all to the calves.
If they happen to have a cow that has extra milk, like it can happen in the summer, they keeps it for their own family consumption.

Giulia's farm doesn't kill calves, if they did it, they would never get oxen. Also, as you can see in the picture, each pregnant cow has a tag with her name and the name of her calf's father. Everything on this farm happens rather naturally, even the deliveries; the veterinarian is called only for emergencies.
When  cow turns 26, she usually leaves the farm because older cows and oxen usually make larger calves and then the pregnancies and the deliveries are risky and can't be natural.

Azienda Agricola Monfrin produces its own cereals, hay and straw 
Visiting Giulia's farm, petting the calves and seeing the grain elevator was like going to another dimension, faraway from our city life. When we buy, cook and eat, we rarely think about the animal and how it is raised but these are critical issues we should all inquire about.

Fratelli Micco butcher shop in Moncalvo
Before lunch we visited Giulia's parents butcher shop in Moncalvo.
Besides the Slow Food certification, their fassone meat has won hundreds of awards and their shop was awarded the best butcher's in Italy!!
As we don't eat much meat, we can't really tell you personally how good it is, but we can certainly assure you that the animals are raised happily and free; they are very well cared for during every stage of their lives, with a great attention to any detail.

just a selection of the many awards, and picture with Carlo Petrini, the Slow Food founder
We'll never tire to repeat that in Italy, when an animal product is organic, it also is the food, the medical care and the area where the animal is born and raised. 
Even if you aren't a carnivore, you won't regret visiting Azienda Agricola Monfrin and seeing the cows, their calves, the oxen and the bulls grazing freely on the farm property!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Royal freetime around Turin

Today, our royal palace quest brings us to Venaria, Turin's northern suburb where there is La Venaria Reale or the Royal Palace of Venaria and to Stupinigi, in the southern suburb, where there is La Palazzina di Caccia or the Savoy hunting lodge.

The Royal Palace of Venaria

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

easy peasy pampavia

Pampavia are among the most simple and easiest cookies in the world. They come straight from the old time country life of Ceresole D'Alba, the uppest municipality in the Roero wine district, on the Unesco vineyard covered hills.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Jim and Julia's agnolotti

Here's a second guest post by Jim Dunlop our proud Scottish friend and guest to Turin Epicurean Capital 2016 with his lovely wife Julia - proud Lancastrian.
You can read Jim's first guest post about how to pair Lake Orta with Piedmontese wines here. In fact, When they participated to the third edition of Turin Epicurean Capital, they both said that what really makes our regional food and wines unique is the landscape: our secret ingredient ;)
Take careful notes of the places they went for Julia's birthday, the specialties they enjoyed and the wines they savored!!
Interact with them on Twitter about their many interests, especially: Italy, art, books, Toro (soccer), wine and food!!
Jim: jimofayr
Julia: juliadarwen

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Asti's Golden Pitcher

September is the month to be in Asti, Piedmont, NW Italy - the town where Asti Spumante the delish Italian bubbly wine is from, because there are many food and wine events culminating with the oldest Italian palio, in the third week-end (yes, older than the Siena one)!
The weeks before the palio there are: the Douja D'Or wine festival and the Sagra delle Sagre or Food Festival of the Food Festivals, definitely a name that resonates with many foodies:P

In the local dialect Douja D'Or indicates the traditional terracotta pitcher where wine was served, d'or means golden. This is a national wine competition that takes place every year for about 10 days in Asti and that awards the best Italian wines paired with the best local foods. 
Only DOC and DOCG wines can take part and Douja is a truly epicurean competition as the wines are submitted anonymously to the expert tasters who judge them for their sensorial qualities: color, bouquet and aroma. Only the top scoring wines are awarded the golden pitcher - Douja D'Or - a title approved by the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies.