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      November 2013 > The truffle chef

The truffle chef

Visit Piedmont in October and November and you would be wise to time your holiday to coincide with the annual Mercato Mondiale del Tartufo Bianco d’Alba (International White Truffle Fair) held in Alba.

During the Fair, Alba puts on a spectacular series of edible and cultural events over successive weekends, including the famous donkey Palio race (to mock their neighbours in Asti), lavish medieval processions and theatrical pageantry highlighting key moments of Alba’s history.

Self-guided walking holidays in ItalyAnd, of course, the chance to savour all manner of mouth-watering local produce.

Heavily laden market stalls line Alba’s ancient streets, the nose leading the palate ever onwards to a gastronomic climax in the truffle market itself – a covered courtyard where the local trifolau (truffle hunters) come to sell their ‘organic gold’ – Alba's celebrated white truffle is considered to be the best in the world.

They don’t come cheap – as much as €3000-€6000 per kilo – but they are highly sought after and there is no shortage of potential buyers.

At their fore you will find Carlo Zarri, flamboyant hotelier, chef, sommelier (and occasional piano player) from the Hotel San Carlo in nearby Cortemilia. (Please note: Carlo will be your host if you win our competition – see below.)

Known as 'The Truffle Chef', Carlo haggles hard and knows how to seek out a bargain. More importantly, he knows how to use this highly prized (and highly priced) tuber to create mouth-watering dishes (like mousse al tartufo, pictured below) back in his kitchen.

Self-guided walking holidays in ItalyAlthough he spends much of his time travelling the world extolling the virtues of Italian cuisine – he is also a staunch supporter of the Slow Food movement which has its roots in this highly gastronomic region – he is seldom more content than when back in his natural habitat, the kitchens and cellar of his exceptional hotel.

His clients range from stars of the silver screen to foot-weary walkers, all of whom receive the same warm welcome and impeccable service. Carlo claims the secret to his success to be “a dash of love and fresh, local ingredients” – a winning combination, I’m sure you’ll agree!

Carlo has one of the best wine cellars in northern Italy and our expert friends at Laithwaite’s Wine agree that Piedmont produces excellent wines. Here are their recommendations:


Think of Piedmont as Italy’s Burgundy. With over 1,000 wineries and over 15 Michelin starred restaurants, food and wine gets serious ‘at the foot’ (‘piedmont‘) of the Alps! The Slow Food movement started in historic Pollenzo, the local truffles fetch thousands and here you will find Italy’s finest and most noble red wines – Barolo and Barbaresco. Both are perfumed, flavoursome and serious, both often need time in oak barrel and bottle before opening their complex flavours to be ready to drink and both are made from the Nebbiolo grape. It takes its name from the ’nebbia’ – the white autumn mists that roll down the mountain sides. Obviously Piemonte isn’t just Nebbiolo. There is a range of other lesser known grape varieties like peppery Pelaverga from Verduno, intriguing white Timorasso from the hills around Tortona; sparkling white, Asti Spumante and bright cherry reds made from Dolcetto. Just as Pinor Noir uniquely thrives in Burgundy, so does Nebbiolo in Piedmont.


Self-guided walking holidays in ItalyPietro Disarti Nebbiolo d’Alba 2010 – RRP £11.99 (64489)

Known as the wine of kings, top Barolo will cost you a king’s a ransom. So here’s how you can enjoy a glorious red made in the manner of Barolo - without the high price tag. The Piemonte town of Alba, is just next door to Barolo. And just like Barolo, Pietro Disarti Nebbiolo d’Alba is made from Nebbiolo grapes. It has also been matured in 'botti' - large barrels, typical of Barolo. This softens the Nebbiolo without masking the fruity flavours with sweet oak. Pair its lovely black cherry and savoury spices with a rich winter casserole.

Self-guided walking holidays in ItalyVilla Broglia Gavi 2012 – RRP £12.49 (29012)

If France has Chablis for its go-to, classic white, Italy has Gavi. Made from the Cortese grape, Gavi whites have a glorious mineral elegance and white stone fruit character, which oozes fleshy flavour and freshness. All of which you’ll find here. The Broglia family have over 1000 years experience of winemaking in the region and have access to the very best vineyards. A perfect partner to grilled fish, creamy taleteller and a real treat solo!


You can buy any of the featured wines at and, as an Inntravel customer, you can benefit from a 20% discount on your first order over £50 if you order before 16 February 2014 by clicking here > and quoting ‘INNTRAVEL’.*


Enter our competition to win a short holiday for two people in the beautiful Langhe wine growing region of Piedmont in Italy. Two runners up will receive a case of wine specially selected by Laithwaite's.

* offer only available to new Laithwaite's Wine customers

Posted: 13/11/2013 10:41:13 by | with 0 comments
Filed under: competitions, festivals, gastronomy, Italy, lifestyle, opinions

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