Rambling in the Piedmont (part 1). . .

I was invited to speak at a four-day festival in Barolo, where Italy’s best wine is made, and of course jumped at the chance. It was all slightly nutty, called Collisioni (collision) for good reason: Music (Jamiroquai and some Italian rap groups), literature (Ian McEwan, David Sedaris, V.S. Naipaul, and Michael Chabon—I’m still trying to imagine reading “Telegraph Avenue” in Italian), and wine (a group of us from Decanter magazine, doing talks and tastings).
       I was talking about Italian food and wine, trying to explain how Italian-American cooking is a genuine, separate aspect, and making a comparison between, for example, New York’s Little Italy Sicilian—red sauce, etc.—and San Francisco’s North Beach, based more on pesto sauce and with maybe a little more refinement (that was the subject of my first e-book this year, “The Flavor of North Beach Revisited”). Since Liguria is a neighbor, right down the road south from where we were and reeking of basil, the audience seemed receptive to the shout-out.
       I was mainly there to promote my newest e-book, “The Wine Lover Cooks Italian,” and I solved the problem of its having no hard, physical existence by waving around a copy of the original book and exclaiming “revisita!” Don’t know if they got it, but when I finished, I was given a wheel of local cheese, known as Toma, which is very good. I’ve certainly had worse wages. (It was a gift from the local cheese-makers’ association—someone there had read the book, and they were very pleased that I’d included three Piedmont versions in the cheese chapter.)
       Wine? Wonderful everywhere we went (and we got around), and some of the best was made by female winemakers. I especially liked the Dolcetto from Pira & Figli, which Chiara Boschis labels “no oak, no Berlusconi.” Delicious, and good advice. And a nice discovery, a lovely dry white from a heritage grape called Naschetta, being revived by several young winemakers. I tried Rivetto’s--one of those wines that’s serious but also makes you smile. Quite auspicious. For information on the festival, have a look at www.collisioni.it. More wine notes to come soon.

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