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October  2007


Paradoxplace Piemonte and 2006 Tartufo Pages


Link to all Paradoxplace Truffle Festival pages







Heavy rain accompanied the buongustaio team pretty much all the way from Castellina (between Siena and Florence) to Alba (400 km north via Genoa and Alessandria  - just to the west of Alessandria on the town map above), so it was a pleasant surprise on Saturday morning to see the morning sun, albeit tinged with a bit of Turin petrochemical air pollution, on the Alps (and possibly Monte Bianco himself) in the distant west.  All this snow fell in the three bitingly icy days we had a week ago.





The Alba truffle market happens over 5 weekends in October and November each year (for exact dates see Alba Truffle Fair website).  It's really just Sundays because that's the day when hundreds of stalls appear overnight and fill the streets and piazzas of Alba with food and fun - for which a few thousand Italians pour into town in buses and cars to enjoy.  Because Alba is built in a wide flat valley, the logistics of all this are very easy compared with having to be bussed up into a hill town like San Miniato in Tuscany. 


Paradoxplace has several pages of foodie photos from our visit here in 2006


In 2007, the idea was to spend more time eating and less taking photos - though we did take a few, as you would expect, and we found an excellent new osteria.







This is the tartufo bianco destined to return to Castellina-in-Chianti, accompanied by Tartufo & Barolo flavoured salami, an unintentionally large slab of 48 month vintage Parmigiano Reggiano, some "real garlic" like it used to taste before supermarkets, a few bottles of wine from the best wine region in Italy, and the pasta which here is called tajarin (soft "j").  Plus, of course, a truffle slicer (below) and an interesting new book containing everything you wanted to know (and more that you had never thought of asking) about tartufo bianco - the slicer pictured on the cover of the book was made from silver and engraved tortoise shell and dates from the 1700s.







The Barolo vineyards (above) to the south west of Alba produce some of the finest reds in Italy, whilst Barbaresco (below), to the north east, is not far behind, and also houses the famous GAJA wine company.  Our tasting team agreed that in general the wines were both better and better value than their Chianti cousins.







Back in Sunday morning Alba - the main drag (via Vittore Emanuele), which is kept free of food stalls, is filling with morning arrivals whose numbers will be swelled further by another wave of families during the later afternoon.




Lunchers gather at 11.45 to make sure they claim their mezzo-giorno reserved tables at the Osteria Nuova - the place was completely full within ten minutes of its mezzo giorno Sunday opening.





Just opposite the old painted Dominican church in Alba, we had earlier discovered and booked a table at the Osteria Nuova - no menus, no English, no tourists ..... just two rooms packed with Italians and an Australian enjoying excellent food, outstanding house wines and great service - our sort of place.


Osteria Nuova, 0173 229051, Cl Mon (as is Alba generally), via Calissano, 7





Tajarin tossed with melted butter and sage and parmesan, holding back on the tartufo for the next course ......





..... fried eggs covered with 5gms of shaved truffle - this trivial numerical detail is known because the boss (who guards the priceless tubers) arrives at your table with an electronic weighing machine, being as how every single gram typically costs you upwards of 5.  Paradox is an egg man anyway, and this way of enjoying the tartufo profumo is simply the best.





Lastly, we enjoyed rabbit (coniglio) braised with yellow peppers (probably capsicum) and possibly the odd juniper berry - moist and tasty.  No room for the Hazlenut tart and zabaglione today.



Good dinners were also had in the hotel restaurant (see bottom of page) and in the oddly named Enostizioteca Conterosso 2  (via Pierino, 4c, 0173 442094).


Last year's Paradoxplace favourite restaurant, Piola, has gone "up market" - no more first come first served / multiple sittings / main room full of local Italian buzz, no more Sara, no energy (and in fact no people either - it was empty waiting for the first bookings to arrive when we went there just before 8 - last year they would have put through one sitting by then!).   What a shame.


April 2013 Postscript:  Upstairs, the "Piazza Duomo"  has become No 41 in the 2013 World's Best Restaurants list.





On the other side of the Dominican church, there was that special heavenly aroma wafting around the electronic weighing scales in the back of this illegally parked BMW - a new meaning for "boot sale"





At the more mundane end of the food chain, leeks grow pretty tall around these parts,





as do sausage chains .....



And no Italian festival afternoon is complete without bands and medieval costumes



Link to Paradoxplace foodie photos from Alba and Piemonte in 2006





And here is the inside of the old Dominican church opposite the Osteria Nuova (or was it the other way round ?), 



Hotel I Castelli ****


The Paradoxplace hotel of choice in Alba is the I Castelli ****.  Large lockup car park and very car accessible (Corso Torino, just off the SW edge of the town centre, and just a roundabout from the best approach road which is from Asti), friendly and helpful staff, huge modern comfortable rooms, good restaurant, wi-fi in  places, and all only 5 minutes walk from the via Vittore Emanuele and Piazza Risorgimento. 


You will have to book months or even years ahead for Friday - Sunday weekend stays when the Truffle Festival is on in October / November, but when you sit at the window of your comfortable room updating the web pages or planning the post siesta gastronomic foray into town, and look out on the Sunday traffic jams and full car parks, you realize that the effort is worth it !!







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