Thursday, January 19, 2017

Piedmont canestrelli

Cookie lovers, Piedmont offers an endless list of delicious cookies and many share the same name like canestrelli!
In fact, according to where you'll visit, you can find waffle like cookies, thin wafers or wafer sandwiches, could it get anymore scrumptious?

Piedmont canestrelli from Val di Susa (the waffle-like ones) and from the Canavese district (the large holy wafers)

However, if we look at the Piedmont map, it makes perfectly sense that in the mountain valleys bordering France and Switzerland, with a long trading history with other European countries like Belgium, people have been making thin waffle like cookies with the waffle iron. In fact, this is the same area where they make gofri (from the French gaufres or Belgian waffles).

In the Monferrato wine district, down in Southern Piedmont, the canestrelli cookie dough includes Gavi wine instead of milk and olive oil instead of butter. 
Vegans: canestrelli di Gavi are your cookies πŸ˜‰

Up in the northern Biella valleys, where Ermenegildo Zegna is from, since 1800 canestrelli look like rectangular thin wafer sandwiches filled with an almond, hazelnut and chocolate cream 😍 Up to then, the wafer part was round like the Canavese ones and made with a mix of wheat and corn meals, but then two chocolate maker brothers decied to make them into a chocolate sandwich.

wafer-like and chocolate cream filled canestrelli di Biella 

In the prealpine Canavese district, where Erbaluce di Caluso wine is produced and where Ivrea is located, canestrelli look like large crunchy coins - thinner than pizzelles, or holy wafers as they modified from the mass wafers. 

According to some, the word canestrelli comes from canestro or basket probably because way back in the time that's where they were put to cool down and then served in. These are very ancient cookies: the Canavese and Val di Susa variant, the one that looks like a large coin or chocolate/vanilla holy wafer, dates back to the Middle Ages and were made to celebrate weddings, holidays and the whole Carnival season.

The original recipes of those looking like holy wafers and waffles didn't include the eggs so that they could last many weeks. Traditionally each family had its family first letters graved in the waffle iron so that the cookies were like a coat of arms. 
Because for many centuries the canestrelli recipes were transmitted orally, many families modified the "original" recipe adding rhum, vermouth or marsala wine; cloves or nutmeg, vanilla and eggs not always available.  

waffle-like Vaie canestrelli
Every year, for 6 weeks, from May to mid-June, up in Val di Susa, near the St Michael's Abbey, in Vaie there is the "canestrello di Vaie Fair" where you can make, buy and eat all sorts of this waffle like cookie. The original one is lemon scented but nowadays you can also find it with cocoa, hazelnuts, oranges and mint.

Because of their simple recipe we are sharing the Gavi wine canestrelli recipe so everybody, even our vegan followers can enjoy them wherever they are!

Canestrelli with Gavi DOCG wine

To make about 50 canestrelli: 

500gr - 1.1lb  flour
120ml - 1/2 cup Cortese di Gavi DOCG wine
120ml - 1/2 cup EVOO
120gr - 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp white sugar
10gr - 2+1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tps of salt

In a bowl, mix the flour, the wine and then the EVOO. Add the sugar, the salt and the baking powder. Knead till getting an elastic and smooth dough. Let it rest for 5 min, not longer because traditionally these cookies need to be firm and crunchy.
Knead the dough a bit more and cut it into 4-5 parts; with your hands roll down sticks of about 1cm - 1/2 inch thick and 12cm/6in. long. Make a ring with each one of them closing the extremities.
Bake at 180C/350F for 10-15min till golden.

Gavi DOCG wine Canestrelli

As these variant of canestrelli doesn't contain any eggs, as long as you keep them in an air tight container, they can last up to a month! 
Needless to tell you they won't make it because you can enjoy them at breakfast with your coffee or tea, at mid-afternoon with some gelato, regular ice-cream, yogurt, hot chocolate and even in the evening, dunking them in a nice glass of wine.
Preferably, of course, you have to pair them with the Cortese di Gavi DOCG, Brachetto d'Acqui DOCG or a raisinated wine.

As for the other variants of canestrelli, you can also pair them with: Alta Langa DOCG Rose' thanks to its delicate scent with vanilla hues, Erbaluce di Caluso and any dry Spumante wine like Asti.

Friday, January 13, 2017

White Truffles

We are always bragging about Piedmont and Turin, our royal lifestyle made of decadent chocolate, cashmere sweaters, designer's cars and long tradition slow food cuisine. 
It is true, but after all, despite our totally understated regional pride and local promotion, we can 😎

2015 Alba Fair: white truffles on the right
Luckily, very few people are aware about the different kinds of truffles. Among the millions of tourists who visit Italy every year, very few know that white truffles are the diamonds of the kitchen and even less know that Piedmont is the world's white truffle hub, making of Alba the Antwerp of white truffles πŸ™Œ, every fall.

In October 2015, we actually went truffle hunting with Associazione Trifolau Collinge di Langa and then we visited the International Alba Truffle Fair, have a look!

White truffles are very rare because they need a special environment and can't be artificially reproduced or cultivated - unlike black truffles. This is what makes Piedmont extra special!

landscape of the Langhe wine district hills in mid-October
They are fungi, like mushrooms, not a vegetable and they reproduce thanks to their spores spread by the wild animals that eats them. 
They originate and grow totally underground, near tree roots and especially where vines used to grow and they require special environmental conditions such as broad-leaved woods where trees like poplars, lindens and oaks grow, nearby brooks and rivers and lime-rich clay-based soils. 

white truffle dog in the woods with her trifulau aka truffle hunter

The Alba area in Piedmont is THE white truffle capital and the International Alba White Truffle Fair aka THE white truffle stock exchange takes place there every October and November, however, all southern Piedmont is rich in white truffles too!

White truffles are easily comparable to diamonds because at the International Alba White Truffle Fair, the auction peddles sell them like jewelers sell diamonds in Antwerp and in 2016, the price per 100 grams or about 1/5 lb of white truffles was 350 Euros!    

white truffles at La Bella Rosin restaurant in Moncalvo
The best ones for their taste and value are hunted from late August through November; May to August is for the dark and wrinkly truffles that are much cheaper.
The top white truffles look like yellowish pebbles with a smooth surface and even though as whole they are stinky, once they are thinly shaved on homemade tajarin pasta, they are just one of the world's top delicacies 😍.
Unlike other variants of truffles, the Piedmont white truffles are particularly highly esteemed because of their delicate aroma.

White dogs are the real star of the white truffle market as in Piedmont we don't use truffle pigs! In Roddi there is even the Truffle Dog University in Roddi (near Cuneo).
Truffle dogs are trained to find truffles and they need to be white because they need to be easily spotted when hunting at dawn, in secret spots only the owner knows about, so that he/she can keep as many truffles for his/her own sale and use.
Truffle dogs are very cute and sweet and usually they retire at 7 when their noses stop being so sensitive. Read more about truffle and dogs here.

tajarin with white truffles at La Bella Rosin restaurant in Moncalvo
The harvest, the International Alba Truffle Fair together with the many smaller truffle fairs taking place in Southern Piedmont are the events that make of Piedmont THE place to be in the fall. During these months up to December, all over the region you can always be sure to savor homemade 40- egg yolk tajarin pasta, raw beef tartare and fried eggs with a nice white truffle shave on top, aged cheeses and hazelnut cakes while sipping the best red and bubbly wines in the world πŸ‘Œ

the original hazelnut cake from Langhe is flourless and gluten-free
Moreover, the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato Unesco wine districts offer a high concentration of Michelin star restaurants, all sort of wineries - industrial, organic, natural, biodynamic, mostly family owned - and farms.
The high biodiversity of our territory is always reflected in the Piedmont cuisine high quality ingredients and healthy lifestyle. 

risotto, polenta and mushroom sauce with white truffles
honey and cugna' grape jam for cheeses with white truffles

Tantalize yourselves looking at some of the products made in Piedmont with and without white truffles here.

Seize the time, plan your visit to Piedmont and don't hesitate to contact us if you want to share our vida royal with a tour: 😜

Thursday, December 22, 2016

5 Holiday wines

For all our friends, Piedmont lovers and Italian wine fans here's our short list to make any celebration the best with our Piedmont wines!
These are THE wines we drink in our homes with our families and friends over the Holidays and to celebrate our most important days, so take note and look them up at your local wine shop. Remember to stock up on a few bottles next time you hop over to Piedmont πŸ˜‰

1.Moscato D'Asti DOCG

Because yes, everything is better with Moscato and because this has been THE dessert frizzy wine par excellence since 1300! This aromatic wine is the King of the Piedmontese sweet whites, low in alcohol, pleasantly sweet, that pairs perfectly with cheeses, cured meats, brunch foods and of course, Christmas cakes like panettone and pandoro, cookies and even tiny pastries and chocolates 😜
We highly recommend you buy Piedmont produced Moscato D'Asti DOCG and compare it to others so you can feel the difference. So, yes, it is perfectly acceptable to have brunch holding your shallow coupe of Moscato D'Asti DOCG πŸ™†

2. Asti or the Italians call it SPUMANTE DOCG

serve Asti Spumante DOCG in flutes
Asti takes its name from Asti the town in Piedmont where the oldest palio in the world takes place every September. Spumante means foamy because this bubbly wine is made with the Charmat method in single tanks. Flutes are "required" to best savor its fine and persistent perlage πŸ‘Œ 
This is a fruity wine that pairs divinely with fruits, fruit desserts, fruit cocktails, yet its acidity makes it ideal for Asian cuisines and savory dishes. So, it's a perfect fit for the Holidays!

3. Alta Langa DOCG

Alta Langa DOCG set with Giugiaro glasses 
If you prefer dry wines, this is it! It is a champagne-like sparkling wine that comes in different variants, including: rose', brut millesimato and extra dry.  Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes make up to 90% of this wine that gets refermented in the bottle! Naturally, this special wine requires its own special glass designed by Italian famous designer Giorgetto Giugiaro 😝 to enhance its effervescence and scent. You can have Alta Langa DOCG before, during and after your meals, and you can pair it with as many foods as you love.

4. Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco DOC

If you are more the red wine person and love sweet wines, you'll love the Cascina Gilli Malvasia DOC from Castelnuovo Don Bosco! Our whole team and some lucky guests who actually got to try it got very fond of  it! Its bright ruby red just puts you immediately in the festive mood and, let's face it: it's just addictive! 
Its perfumed bubbles make you instantly giggly and its scent is just seductive and powerful - even the sorbet made with it, keeps all the wine hues and berry notes. On a desert island this is the wine we would bring with us and "for you" we tried to pair it with scrambled eggs, lasagne, salmon and of course chocolate cakes - and we loved it 😍
Cascina Gilli is the maker you'll look for!

5. Erbaluce (di Caluso) Passito DOCG

Erbaluce Passito DOCG has an intense honey color
Passito means raisinated wine or made through the fermentation of sun dried (raisins) grapes. Be warned because most likely you won't be able to buy it outside of Piedmont; however, as it is the fairy tale wine, you will have to get over here and taste it! Erbaluce Passito pairs very well with aged and blue cheeses, cookies and desserts; on its own, it is the perfect end to any celebratory dinner! πŸ™Œ

Now you know our top Holiday wines here in Piedmont, may you visit us soon and try them on. In case e-mail us:

The Holidays in Piedmont have an extra sparkle!

Friday, December 16, 2016

brutti ma buoni

Brutti ma Buoni or ugly but good in Italian are basically hazelnut meringue cookies often eaten during the Holidays.
As they are very easy to make and to modify they come in many variants all around the Italian boot and you can further personalize our Piedmontese original recipe.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

the shoe artisan

Turin is full of secrets however, there is a name that is quickly moving through the grapevine. More than a name, it's a professional title and a downtown street name: the Via Carlo Alberto shoemaker - like the name of his website.

inside Beppe's shop

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Chocolate and perfumes

December 2016 in Turin opened with L'Essenziale - the essential, a special event devoted to perfumes. The most interesting presentation for us epicureans was tonight at the international bookshop Luxemburg near Piazza Carignano.

Inside Libreria Luxemburg, Roberto Drago and Guido Gobino

Thursday, December 1, 2016

behind the black raven feather

how the Alpini uniform changed over the years, left to right: 19th century, WWI, current. By Alberto Bonis 

Fashion has always had a special love for feathers and definitely, the Italian military uniforms particularly respect them. As in many cultures around the world, birds are symbolic animals and this is even more true for Alpini - the special Italian Alpine military corps.
Looking through the history and at their spirit, the Alpini's black raven feather, sticking out of their felt hat, just fits perfectly with them and Italy.
Like the raven in many aboriginal cultures around the world, the Alpini endurance and sense of duty is so great even Bialetti made an Italian coffee pot with the feather to honor and remember them!