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The Nebbia Comes & Goes for a Lovely Day with the Altares -- Piedmont Part IV

The Keeper Team woke to a foggy, foggy morning, or what in Piedmont is called nebbia. The fog did not stop us from getting our morning coffee, this time not far from our Villa in the town of La Morra. We learned from our friend, Peter Wasserman, that there was a special chocolatier on a back street in Cherasco, so we were determined to find this artisan. It was a very small shop, but with an amazing array of chocolates. The owner enticed us with samples which were so delicious and a diverse selection. His generous offers of samples led us to buy a kilo for home, selected for us by the chocolatier.

We found him to be extremely friendly and giving, just like all of the winemakers we had met on this trip. We quickly realized this was a beautiful part of the Piedmont culture.

Today, we were told that our group would be having lunch at the home of Elio and Lucia Altare (for more about Elio Altare, see Piedmont Part 2). Despite the fact that the nebbia had mostly cleared, we got a little lost finding their home on our first try. When we did find it, we were welcomed with open arms.

Elio and Lucia had planned and begun preparing a lunch for the entire group. We were pleased to learn that we could assist in some of the preparation so that we could learn some new local Piedmont dishes. Before further lunch preparations would begin, we were offered and accepted to a tasting in the Altare tasting room. This included wine and small food snacks of fresh hazelnuts from their favorite producer as well Elio’s favorite aged salumi. Everyone in the group agreed they thought the hazelnuts were the best they had ever had, and all bought some to take home!

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Piedmont Hazelnuts

After a lovely tasting of wines, it was time to get back into the kitchen for final food prep for lunch. The food was exceptional. We started with raw vegetables in Bagna Cauda (hot bath) of oil, anchovies, and garlic. All the veggies were harvested that day from Elio’s garden: Jerusalem artichoke, cabbage, cauliflower (in the shape of broccoli), turnips, beets, fennel, and what we were told were called “cardemonts”, or stalky white spears, like celery. We also had red and yellow bell peppers from market.

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Freshly Harvested Vegetables from Elio Altare's Garden

The Bagna Cauda sauce was served in individual containers with candles that kept the sauce “hot” for dipping.

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Bagna Cauda

What a lovely assortment of fresh garden vegetables – we couldn’t wait to dip them in the sauce!

Bagna Cauda Assortment of Vegetbles

Next came Vitello Tonnato, which of course, had a homemade family recipe for the sauce.

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Vitello Tonnato at Altare's

For most, this alone would be a big meal, but we still had more to come. Elio had allowed Russell to help get the Venison off the bone for serving.

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Russel Prepping the Venison

Great prepping Russell!

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Not just one protein , but two – we had Bollito, or “boiled meat” (beef cheeks first, then shoulder meat), served with sauces of tomato/pepper/anchovy/herbs/oil.

Elio (with the Keeper Team assistance) roasted potatoes and onions wrapped in foil over coals in the kitchen fireplace.

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Cooking Potatoes & Leeks Over the Altare Fire

He also roasted Porri (Leeks) the same way in the fireplace. The result was “perfecto” – crisp and char on the outside, yet that great “melt in your mouth” soft on the inside.

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Potatoes & Leeks from the Fireplace

We enjoyed Altare wines from the cellar that paired beautifully with this family meal.

We finished with Pannatone (a traditional Italian Christmas Bread) and ’63 Porto, a great combination.

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Panetone

Elio was kind to take us on a tour after lunch, starting with his garden, then his vineyards, his museum of antique farm tools, and finishing with the Altare cellar. The cellar was beautiful, yet meticulous, as we would have imagined. Along the way, he shared, with surprising and endearing candor, stories of his life and his philosophy.

What a lovely day we spent. The Altares made us feel as if we were truly part of their family, and we will hold onto these special memories forever.

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