Paradise Found (in Piemonte)

Vino and I Trulli

Above: guests tasted 7 wines at the Taste of Piemonte dinners on Monday and Tuesday nights.

A grand time was had by all at the Taste of Piemonte dinners at I Trulli on Monday and Tuesday nights. Guests tasted seven wines, including the single-vineyard Barolo Rocche 2001 Monchiero, and enjoyed a five-course menu by Chef Patrick Nuti, featuring agnolotti stuffed with beef, veal, Castelmagno cheese, and white truffles, and topped with shaved white truffles. Owner Nicola Marzovilla tasted the flight of wines with each table: everyone agreed that both the Monchiero and the Barolo 1982 Borgogno were drinking beautifully (there are only a few bottles of the ’82 left at Vino but the 1996 and 1989 — both phenomenal vintages — are available; click to order).

For those of you who weren’t able to attend, our friend and acclaimed cookbook author Michele Scicolone shares one of her trips to Piemonte and a recipe below.

Look for more Regional Italian Cuisine dinners at I Trulli this spring and stay tuned for the Taste of Toscana dinner to be held at our sister restaurant Centovini in December.

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This Week’s Free Tasting: Castel Sallegg

This week’s tasting (Friday, 5:30-7:30 p.m., and Saturday, 4:00-6:00 p.m.) features a winery that is new to our shelves and shop, Castel Sallegg, from Trentino-Alto Adige.

Weekly tastings at Vino are FREE.

Vino
121 East 27th St.
between Park and Lex.
NY NY 10016
800-965-8466
212-725-6516
www.VinoSiteShop.com

Click here to shop online.

– Same-Day Manhattan Delivery for Web Orders Placed before 3 p.m.
– Free Manhattan Delivery for Orders over $100
– In-Store Pick Up Available

(when ordering on the web, please let us know your delivery preferences in the “additional comments” box before check out)

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Il Giardino di Felicin
by Michele Scicolone

Michele Scicolone is a leading authority on Italian cuisine and is the author of countless Italian cookbooks, including 1,000 Italian Recipes and Pizza Any Way You Slice It, co-authored by our Wine Director Emeritus Charles Scicolone, Michele’s husband (click book titles to purchase).

Nestled in the lush rolling hills of the Langhe, Monforte d’Alba is a small town in the Piemonte region in northwestern Italy. The Langhe is an area known for Barolo and Barbaresco, outstanding natural beauty, exquisite white truffles, handmade cheeses that never go beyond its borders, fine restaurants, friendly people, and charming places to stay. One place in Monforte embodies all of those characteristics: Il Giardino di Felicin, an inn and restaurant founded in 1927 by Felicin Rocca.

Charles and I first stayed at the inn in the early 1980s when Felicin’s son Giorgio had taken on the dual role of chef and host. Tall and handsome in his chef’s whites and proud of his region’s charms, Giorgio put himself in charge of our stay, as he liked to do with most guests who were typically wine tourists from France, Switzerland, and Germany. Giorgio’s ability to speak French, English, and German in addition to Italian and the French-inflected Piemontese dialect was a real boon to travelers in an area that at that time rarely saw tourists.

Giorgio offered suggestions on which wineries we should visit and made all of the arrangements, plus our lunch reservations at the area’s restaurants. Since he pretty much knew our daily itinerary, Giorgio would debrief us in the evening over an aperitivo about where we had been, who we had seen, and what we had to eat and drink. He would sit with us and personally plan our dinners based on what we had eaten earlier and what we were in the mood for.

And since Giorgio is one of Piemonte’s finest chefs, what meals they were! A typical starter was fonduta, a golden puddle of melted Fontina Valle d’Aosta, a cow’s milk cheese, enriched with egg yolks and topped with a flurry of fresh white truffles. Next we had tajarin, the Piemontese version of tagliarini, made with many egg yolks and served with wild mushrooms or even more truffles, or perhaps Giorgio’s special ravioli del plin, ravioli with a pinched shape, stuffed with swiss chard, nuts, and cheese and served in buttery walnut sauce. For dessert, I never failed to order Giorgio’s panna cotta. The finest I have ever eaten, the barely gelled cream, topped with caramel or chocolate sauce, was so tender that it quivered and practically dissolved at the touch of a spoon.

Giorgio made a point of seating guests who spoke the same language in close proximity so it was easy to meet and strike up friendships. We all marveled at how he made everyone feel not like paying guests, but like visitors to his home. On Mondays, when the restaurant was officially closed, he prepared a meal for his extended family and anyone staying at the hotel. We joined the family at a big table and ate whatever he had prepared that night. Afterward, we piled into cars and drove to a local gelateria where Giorgio said they made the best gianduja, or hazelnut and chocolate gelato, and introduced us to several of the region’s top Barolo producers who were playing a friendly game of cards at a nearby table.

Giorgio is semi-retired now, though he is often at the restaurant. His son Nino is the current chef, executing his family’s time honored recipes with precision and style. Nino is just as gracious and multilingual as his father, and with the help of his wife Silvia, he proudly upholds the Rocca family tradition. The hotel has been expanded and modernized and the familiar dining rooms seem more polished and elegant while retaining their country charm.

What has not changed is the lush garden that Nino’s grandfather Felicin once tended, the spectacular views of the Langhe valley from the summer dining terrace, or the Rocca Family’s tradition of great wine, fine dining and warm hospitality Piedmont-style.

A typical main course in Piemonte is Brasato al Barolo, beef braised in hearty Barolo wine. Charles suggests you serve it with the Barolo Rocche 2001 Monchiero.

Brasato al Barolo

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 boneless beef bottom round rump roast (about 3-1/2 pounds)
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cups barolo or other hearty red wine
2 large peeled, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes or 2 cups canned tomatoes
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
1 cup beef broth
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of ground cinnamon

1. In a large Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the beef and brown it well on all sides, about 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the meat to a plate.
2. Spoon off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add the onion to the pot and cook stirring frequently for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 5 minutes more. Add the wine and bring it to a simmer.
3. Add the tomatoes, carrots, broth, cloves, and cinnamon and bring the liquid to a boil. Return the meat to the pot. Lower the heat so that liquid is just simmering. Cover and cook 2-1/2 to 3 hours or until the meat is tender when pierced with a fork.
4. Transfer the meat to a platter. Cover and keep warm. If the liquid in the pot is too thin, raise the heat and boil until slightly reduced. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning. Slice the beef and serve it hot with the sauce.

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