23 June 2006

....and Barolo for all.....

We get a lot of different requests from our guests that make our business so interesting. A few months ago we recieved a reservation from guests who were friends of friends. I always try to find out what interests our guests so I can attempt to give educated suggestions for things to do and see in our area. This time our guests were traveling from the Cinque Terre up to stay with us in our Olympic mountains via the Langhe most notable for its famous wines, Barbera, Babaresco, and of course the mighty Barolo. Bob, being a knowledgeable wine connoisseur and collector of all things wine, was keen to perhaps meet some Barolo vintners and of course sample a few wines. So after a bit of research and a few forays into our back yard of the Langhe region we made a few contacts and arrangements to have a local wine tasting in the Castiglione Faletto Cantina and dinner in Le Torri restaurant after. We had discovered chef Christina and her husband Angelo's establishment thru a previous guest who also is a chef and had reccommended her after having made her acquaintance in Portland Oregon, when she had been helping to showcase another local Barolo vintner's wine with her cooking. She's a chef committed to using local and fresh ingredients in innovative, interpretations of Piemonte standards. It's a top rate restaurant worth visitng if you find yourself in that area of Piedmont.

We also had a little surprise for our guests as we were able to persuade Giovanni Manzone to join us for the wine tasting. Even though his villa and vinyards were visible from where we sat, his wines were from a different commune and not included in this cantina, but they graciously allowed us to serve his wines as well to enthusiatic approval. Signore Manzone has been getting 94 ratings on his wines in the bible of wines magazine, "Wine Spectator", but according to Bob, it's difficult to get his wines in any quantity in the Denver area. We'll have to see if there's anything we can do about that...Anyway, it was a well received surprise, and more importantly, new friendships forged over an ambient wine tasting and exceptional dinner where language barriers were minimal and camraderie in evidence and high spirits for all, including a few "Cin Cin"s with the table next to us, that, as it turned out to be a Michelin Guide reviewer. We hope they get a star.

Then a late night drive back to Bella Baita where we had our own memorable meal and wine tasting the next night with our new friends before they left on the rest of their whirlwind tour of Italy and Spain. Thanks for the visit and great adventure!

21 June 2006

Wild Mountain Strawberry Shortcake

It's that special time of the year in the mountains here in Piemonte when the teeny, tiny strawberries are ripening for walkers that take the time to gather a few. They are so incredibly fragrant and small busts of flavor woth the effort. We were lucky enough to have Fabrizio's mom, Egle gather us enough to make a tasty summer treat.
You should try it sometime !

16 June 2006

Hike to your hearts content

Whether you want to go up or down, we have choices for you here at Bella Baita. Recently when Rebecca came to visit we tried a little of both. We went to the top of Merla which is just behind Cucetto, which is the mountain peak in the picture with our B&B. It's always a favorite as you get some great panoramic views of of the mountains and the plains.
It didn't disappoint, but the haze of humidity was hanging on the plains so we couldn't see all the way to Torino,
but the we could see mighty Monviso( highest peak in our Cottian Alps range) and all the layers of valleys leading up to it.

Down in the Dubbione river valley we enjoyed the earthy coolness and water sounds that the thick somewhat mysterious forest sometimes offers up.

We also enjoyed the porcini mushroom steaks the forest offered up for our efforts as well. Spring isn't always the most bountiful mushroom season, but the one gigante find of the day was well worth it to us.

08 June 2006

Oscar Della Moda

It was another interesting evening on Italian TV.
One of Fabrizio's favorite genre of television, fashion as entertainment. I'm not so sure it's the packaging as the goods that he finds so inspiring, but all together it is quite the visual spectacle that is so fascinating.
Living in an European country doesn't always feel so foreign, except for the obvious language difference, but there are times when the differences stand out. Italian TV is one of those times. It's the annual evening presentation of the "Oscars" for the fashion industry. I've always found it an interesting and entertaining extravaganza as it is such a foreign concept to me, "fashion as entertainment". There is, of course, the 24 hour fashion channel,which isn't quite the same. The setting for these annual events are generally breathtaking outdoor venues usually in the south of Italy as it is warm and balmy for an evening when there can be a lot of skin exposed along with all those lovely fabrics and finery. This year's event was set in the Greek amphitheater of Taormina in Sicily and it was spectacular. There is always enough live music with well known performers, not necesssarily well known outside of Europe, but high calibre and oftentime dramatic performances blending all the elements of sights and sound. The blending of setting, music, beautiful clothes and predominately beautiful women, (although there was a fine sampling of male models and designers to boot), is an intoxicating blend of visual and auditory feasting. Giorgio Armani won one of the 7 Oscars given out this year, along with a variety of other designers, not all Italian, but, of course, it is a field the Italians can dominate, and it is their award show. Armani's sampling of elegant classic evening wear, almost made me wish I had somewhere to go to wear such a creation and it also made me wish I had the long legs needed to look that elegant and classic. The presenters and models towered above the mere mortal designers and were reminiscent of mythical Amazonian warrior princesses. There were many other fascinating and provocative collections shown, all adding up to an interesting evening that didn't include reruns, or badly dubbed sitcoms. Fashion is so important not only to Italians, but to the Italian economy as well, that it shouldn't be so surprising to me, but it does seem to take me by surprise. I try not to think of all the people that the whole fashion industry could feed and shelter and try not to be too cynical and enjoy it for what it is; a celebration of beauty and perceived beauty in a higher form, mixed with a summer breeze, a bit of rock and roll or operatic crooning that makes one forget that it's only a fashion show.....
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