Sep 042015
last supper

last supper

so our week in piemonte has come to an end, we had a last supper with thomas and his family, it was a tribute to the italian cuisine and started with zuccini flowers deepfried in a light batter and topped with an anchovie. we followed this with the classic pasta con vongale and then a risotto con tre formaggi. ida and thomas made classic lemon tart with a soft meringue topping.

now its back to zürich in the car and then an overnight with christian and claudia before flying to amsterdam and catching the train to apeldoorn to spend some time with michiel, boki and dali.

finally some random leftover images!



Sep 022015


as i sat on the warm stone wall at our villa having my breakfast of freshly picked tomatoes and figs with rocket, salami, prosciutto and a couple of different cheeses, bathed in the warm mediterranean sun, a wave of intense happiness washed over me. in that moment i never wanted to have breakfast anywhere else, nor for that matter have anything else for breakfast.

but as i reflected further on the feeling the situation and food evoked in me i realised that happiness is experiential and momentary. expecting that we will feel the same intensity and height of emotion if we just keep doing whatever it is that brought the feeling on is futile.

it also made me think about the inverse – if i were to try to ‘trap’ that momentary and experiential feeling of intense happiness by moving to italy and living in a village in piemonte while eating my breakfast in the warm sun each morning – i would not have all the experiences in my current life at home that are can create equally intense responses – fresh mudcrab with hot bread and lime mayonaisse, or catching a tuna in the bay at dawn, or swimming at a beach on an arnhem land island…..

so there are two simple conclusions from this, remembering that happiness is not a linear and permanent emotion, its dynamic and its momentary. secondly, when not travelling, when at home, in the routine of life in work and familiarity, try to concentrate on and acknowledge the moments of intense happiness within that familiarity and routine – eating a barra i have caught that morning with friends and a nice bottle of white is a really special and wonderful moment – just like my italian breakfast.

Aug 302015
 il giardinetto

il giardinetto

of course food and italia are synonymous, you cant travel far here without passing another bar, cafe, pizzeria or restaurant and while we have had the luxury of our own michelin starred chef, thomas cooking at the villa, (with the odd contribution from me and his sister in law, celene.) we have made the effort to try a couple of the piemontese restaurants.

sal and i popped over to il giardinetto in the neighbouring village of sessame a few nights ago, it was a degustion menu so we had no idea what was coming out, francesco, one of the sisters who owns the restaurant was an accomplished maitre de and assisted us competently with matching wines from piemonte and particularly barolo, to the dishes.

first we had a loazzolo sparkling white as an aperitif and then the antipasti of simple local proschiutto and salamis followed by anchovies cooked in olive oil with garlic poached in milk on char grilled red capsicum. next up was tiny meatballs on olive oil and vinegar cooked with sage and garlic.

then aubergine dusted in egg and breadcrumbs and fried, topped with ham, passata & mozzarella and baked in the oven.

final starter was an onion flan, onion cooked in milk with a pasta base, baked and drizzled with olive oil.

then we moved to the pasta, i had a black truffle tagliatelle and sal had a meat ravioli with a sage butter sauce.

our mains were a traditional piemonte roast beef cooked in barbaresco with seasonal vegetables while sal had oven baked rabbit with fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables.

at this point we had to be rolled out of the restaurant and craned onto a small truck to take us back to our villa! much as we wanted we could not possibly fit dessert in.

on friday night sal and I headed off to a restaurant I had discovered by serendipity, i was researching soething else entirely on the web and came across a comment about this restaurant suggesting it was a hidden gem, situated in the small village on top of the hill at cartosio about 20km from bistagno. it is simply called restorante cacchiatori.

ristorante cacchiatori

ristorante cacchiatori

it is a hair raising drive to get there – along a single lane goat track that winds its way along the spine of the ridge that essentially joins the two villages, the views are breathtaking, the driving exhilarating and luckily most of the time there are no other cars on the road.

the restaurant itself is situated in a lovely old home in the village and run by a husband and wife team, it didnt quite have the ambiance of  il giardinetto but the quality of the food was a step up.

also the servings were much smaller which meant we got through all the courses and even partook of a little dessert!

from my notes,

firt up was beef cappacchio with fresh wild pocini mushrooms,

then roasted capsicum with anchovie fillet drizzled with olive oil

followed by fried zucchini flower dipped in egg & breadcrumbs stuffed with minced meat seasonal vegetables & herbs
pie of seasonal vegetables no pastry or pasta, parmigiana and breadcrumbs on top baked in oven
fresh herb omelette, that completed the ‘firsts’
handmade pasta with rabbit – mine with fresh tomato, garlic & herb
chicken cacciatore
beef fillet with porccini
peach &  raspberry gelati, i had mint panacotta


so that concludes my commentary on our two meals out while in piemonte, both very enjoyable, but ristorante cacchiatori takes the prize overall!

Aug 292015
all the cheeses, smelly, old & mouldy!

all the cheeses, smelly, old & mouldy!

acqui terme was another town we discovered driving around the piemonte country side, known for its hot springs – including a very hot fountain in the central piazza – we were lucky enough to arrive by chance on market day. we spent a couple of hours wandering around, stocked up on some yummy goodies from an amazing cheese store and had a pleasant lunch in the piazza at a pizzaria.

the architecture was quite impressive and the town had a very laid back yet cosmopolitan feel to it. i am sure we will be back for another visit before we depart!

Aug 282015

villa la ginestra

so here we are in piemonte, the days have slipped by rather quickly and i still havent caught up with the blog posts- too many days exploring the amazing countryside, helping cook up amazing meals with thomas and just lying by the pool doing nothing!

anyway here is the villa we are staying in, its about 5kms out of a town called bistagno which is north of genoa and south of milan.

basically it doesnt matter which direction you head out in, there are narrow, winding roads through the steep, vine covered, hill sides and every few km’s another church announces a new village to explore. a little further afield are larger towns, all beautiful in their own way, asti, alba, acqui terme, etc.

the first town sal and i explored was alba, which is basically in the centre of one of the most import wine regions of the world, home of the famous barolo wines, we found our way into the center of town and parked near the large piazza so we could go for a wander and grab some lunch.

we found a nice little cafe with lots of locals eating there and ordered a couple of bowls of the local pasta, tajarin with a ragu sauce and a couple of glasses of local red. the pasta is made with extra egg yolks so it is very yellow.

we had only just sat down at the table when we heard a voice calling our names, to our absolute amazement it was 2 friends from home, debbie webb and anne byrne!! we had no idea they were in italy nor did they know we were there – they spotted us as we walked into the cafe as they were coming in to order coffees. shortly after their husbands trevor & chris joined the table and we spent a wonderful hour or so catching up on each others journeys.

it truly is a small world and the most unbelievable coincidences do happen!

the day was rounded off with a wonderful veal neck, red wine ragu with cannelleni beans that was constructed during the afternoon!


Aug 272015

the start of the susten pass

whilst we were in denmark staying with thomas and mie, they mentioned they were coming down to piemonte in italy for a week at the end of august and asked if would like to join them and stay in the villa for the week.

they were going down for a 40th birthday party for one of thomas’ colleagues and bringing thomas’ parents, 2 brothers and sister in law. so it was going to be 13 of us including kids.

we jumped at the chance to head back to italy, which remains our favourite country in europe, it also meant we had the chance to drive from zürich up and across the swiss alps and down to italy. i knew that some of the world’s best roads are in this part of europe so i did my research to find the best of the best and create a route that would be a little longer but take us on an amazing route through the alps and along the passes with the reputations for amazing roads, scenery and steepness!

we were lucky enough to get a VW golf which was a perfect car for the roads, beautiful neutral handling, enough power for the conditions and small enough to throw round the hairpins!

the views were breathtaking and I can safely say the roads were definitely the best I have ever driven in the world, nothing compares to this.

first we drove the susten pass from wassen to innertkirchen, this was the most impressive road and had the least traffic as its not as well known as some of the other passes, then we drove the grimsel pass along side the aletsch glacier and down to brig glis before crossing over into italy.

for me it was the realisation of a life long dream to drive these roads, reinforced by watching clarkson and the top gear mob throw ferraris and aston martins around these moutain passes! it was just as much fun as i imagined, tempered only by the frustration when i caught up with slow traffic with no safe place to pass – the serial offenders were the sad sacks on their hardly davison motor bikes – forced to travel at painfully slow speeds due to the woeful handling and low ground clearance of their iron strides, they hold up just about all traffic as they splutter like a massey ferguson tractor around the corners.

it was also a great sensation to cross the border into italy, the buildings were all a bit dilapidated, the road magically deteriorated and suddenly no one was taking any notice of the road laws – very refreshing after the perfection of switzerland for a month!

of course what improved was the amazing food and coffee! we pulled into a service station to get some fuel and went into the ‘chef grill’ and got yummy panini with mozarella and prosciutto and a €1 euro espresso that was the best coffee i have had since leaving home!

it felt like coming home to be back in italy, and we realised just how much we love this country, its amazing produce, food, coffee and its wonderful people!