Eating the Unthinkable, and the Wonderful

I’ve just returned from a place that uses $50 bottles of wine to cook beef for hours at a time, eats raw meat with the same gusto as the French, uses butter liberally, has almost no idea what olive oil is, takes pride in dishes that use the most unappealing parts an animal has to offer and then washes it all down with some of the very best red wines in Italy and, this is not an exaggeration, the world. Oh yeah, they also have a thing for white truffles that at present are going for a cool 4,000 euros a kilo.

Of course this could only be Piedmont, that huge Italian region tucked into the country’s northwest corner on the border with France (hence the raw meat and butter). More specifically, I was in the Langhe, an area of Piedmont that includes Alba – probably the most foodie of all Italian cities, edging out a few other finalists that include Bologna – as well as Barolo and the other ten towns where Barolo wine is produced.

I tried bollito misto, mixed boiled meats, only because I pride myself on trying everything once (and then if I don’t like it I try again in five years). This is not something that is easily appreciated, to be honest my stomach turned when I got my first whiff. Ingredients in a traditional recipe include: 800 grams of beef tongue, 1 kilo of calf’s head, half a chicken and sausage. For 6 kilos of meat the recipe also calls for four carrots and three onions so rest assured that you have your veggies covered.

Then there is the finanziera, which for the uninitiated makes eating bollito misto seem downright enjoyable. It’s a stew of sorts the ingredients of which include: 1 calf’s brain, 200 grams of a chicken’s crest, 500 grams of various calf glands. I’ll stop here because I’m still hoping to work up an appetite by dinner time. So as a rule I do try everything, but there are some things I don’t try so I can have an exception that proves the rule. Not sure I understand the logic, but it seems that if you have an exception it makes the rule stronger. Anyway, for the finanziera I opted for the exception. Even I have limits.

Fortunately Piedmontese cuisine is not only about boiling, stewing or frying (fritto misto, I’ll spare you the details of this one) those parts of the animal that really are not meant for eating.

It’s not often that most of us open a $50 bottle of wine, unfortunately. On the other hand, if you live in southern Piedmont where Barolo flows from the taps you can be a bit extravagant and make Brasato al Barolo. I’ve had it and can say it lives up to the hype. If you want to try at home, which I haven’t, mostly because I drink my $50 bottles of wine, here is a great recipe. It’s in Italian but for those not versed in the language, there’s a video that includes some holiday music to get you in the mood (in case the crowds in the stores haven’t already done that for you).

Barolo is worth a visit if just for the views of the surrounding countryside and to have a glass of the good stuff in its namesake town. I had the fortune – misfortune? – to arrive in time for a sagra dedicated to bollito misto. Ever wonder what happens with retired military have a bit too much bollito and cheap wine on a nippy afternoon in Barolo (nobody gets hurt):

Insider tip: when you go to Barolo, give the wine museum a pass.  And if you must go, make sure it’s after several wine tastings (the type where you don’t spit out). Two good parts of the museum, though alone they don’t merit a visit, are a series of film clips where wine is part of the scene and a slide show of pieces of art that feature wine.

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8 thoughts on “Eating the Unthinkable, and the Wonderful

    • Dude,I live in the center of Piedmont and don’t even have acsces to AT&T DSL, let alone Uverse. Instead my only option is Comcast internet for $63/mth which is a total rip-off. So, do not assume that Uverse is throughout Piedmont. Since, as you note, Piedmont is surrounded by Oakland, I would bet that more Oakland residents have acsces to Uverse than Piedmont residents.

  1. What about bollito misto (+ pearà) veronese? it’s probably not as imaginative as the one from Piedmont, but i assure you it’s worth trying.
    And if we talk about wine, you can have 50$ bottles in Verona too.. 😉

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  2. I definitely feel for you. I live in an eatresn suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, a community of approximately 23,000 residences. Some parts of our community have had access to U-Verse since July 2007, when they first rolled it out in our area.I\’m also in the process of mapping out available areas by typing in individual addresses. Where it is available, in some areas, they are average 30-40% penetration. Our local cable provider, Time Warner Cable, has to be shaking in their boots. What I\’ve noticed, so far, is AT&T seems to be going after the low hanging fruit as they have installed their nodes (VRADs) close to where their existing switching infrastructure is located. I\’m located approximtely 4,800 ft. from the my CO which is fine for my DSL connection but approx. 1,800 ft. too far for their U-Verse service.AT&T does not seem to finish off implementation of U-Verse in their existing communities rather they would prefer to expand into areas where its convenient for them.Residents a couple of blocks from me have had service for well over a year whereas AT&T has been unresponsive as to when they will install more nodes closer to me and others.Also, in our area, I\’m finding that there does seem to be some correlation as to poorer areas not having access to U-Verse.

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