Friday, April 27, 2007

Piedmont, pt.2: Alpine ordeal!

Another successful day of vacationeering, who's main point seemed to be to put my body through a some minor(?) discomfort for the reward of a great dinner. We started out the morning after the previous evenings excess a bit, um...slowly. w had this in mind all along to drive an hour and a half west to the Alps for some hiking, Italian Alps style. The drive up was truly breathtaking, and these mountains make our Cascades look like round little ice cream cones. Jagged, soaring, snow covered, looming over tiny villages filled with slate-tile roofed houses. Now as I tell this story keep in mind that while I love the outdoors and am reasonably active, my idea of a strenuous hike is driving east to the Columbia Gorge and bombing up to the top of Angel's Rest, followed immediately by a pint of cold malted beverage at Edgefield. At what amounts to sea level. w's idea of being active, as I now know, is starting at 5500 feet, hiking up through patches of snow and rock for about two miles to 6600 feet. Hm, that's what I get for not asking more questions! And in a sky filled with air, why didn't there seem to be enough for me. So here I am gasping, being all pathetic, stopping every few hundred feet to convince my legs they can take a few more steps. The scenery was awesome though, and I figured if I was going to have a heart attack and die anywhere, this would be the place for it. We made it up and back, me with that sense of accomplishment that city dwellers get from even the most minor physical achievements.
The next words out of my mouth: "High on a hill is a lonely goat herd....."

We drove the back roads to Alba, making a stop in La Morra, a famous Barolo producing town, wandered the streets, took in the amazing views of the surrounding vineyards, stopped in the Enoteca Regionale to try some local producers grape juice. Man, I love these wines. Earthy, rich, crying out for some grilled anything. I bought a couple of bottles for ridiculously low prices ('99 single-vineyard Barolo for $30, a killer Barbera from the cult producer Altare that you can't get in PDX for $17). Oh, and here's a piece of wine buying advice. As we walked up to the enoteca, we stopped in a wine store along the way, figuring their prices would be the best. Wrong thought, and always check what's for sale at the enoteca regionale first, because the pricing is almost always going to be lower.

Finally making it back to our room, for a quick clean up and glass of wine on the hillside at Paitin, watching an amazing sunset, having cheese, and feeling so fucking lucky.

Dinner last night was at a place that had been recommended to me by a couple different food credible people in Portland, a tiny place in the center of Alba's old town called La Libera. A very cool, clean, modern dining room, reminded both w and I of Castagna. We tucked into a bottle of Barbera which seems to be becoming the national drink of our trip, and ordered off their small, but extremely well chosen menu. Even not knowing what some of the dishes were, it felt like we couldn't go wrong. Our starters were a briny, bitingly fresh plate of lightly fried sardines, and a stupendous carne cruda, even better than the one the night before, a vivid red patty of perfectly tender chopped beef. Yum! We moved from that to a shard primi of tajarin pasta with a rabbit sugo in a light basil cream. So light that the basil was just barely, yet perfectly, present. And of course, getting full but never knowing when to stop, our secondis consisted of a plate of what we think was cod for w, a delicious, light dish, the fish on sliced potatoes and topped brilliantly with a dollop of hummus. My plate was a roasted squab, and unlike the tiny avian they serve at Le Pigeon in PDX, this was almost duck-like in the size of it's breast slices, which were achingly tender and so flavorful, resting comfortably atop some mashed potatoes. Then of course was the share dessert sampler the call Ape Libera, five different dessert bites that sent us out onto the street once again too satisfied. More pics of edible delights.....
Sardines...waiting freshly!

Carne cruda...unbelievable!

Tajarin...Piedmont's pasta perfection!


I was so sleepy, though, and just had to take a quick nap...............

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