Monday, October 28, 2013

Piedmont: Unearthing the Truffle

To start reading about how this trip was conceptualized and how it all beganclick here.

Tartufo. Even the name has a precious ring to it, doesn't it? It is perhaps the most expensive ingredient in the world and having previously worked with truffles, I felt it important to visit the region that boasts of having the world's best kind.

The town of Alba is particularly renowned for its white truffles, which are rarer and dearer in price than their black counterparts. It is also just a few kilometres away from Barolo and Barbaresco, which are among the top wine producing regions in Italy-- definitely enough reason to pay a visit.

White truffles

Truffles have a pungent fragrance akin to fresh earth soon after the first rainfall; the aroma of a good quality fresh truffle will permeate through a room instantly. While it is dry, crumbly, and almost tasteless when eaten on its own, thin shavings of truffle when added to a salad or atop pasta provide a certain umami-like flavor that mirrors it's aroma.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Verona: When Food Saved the Day

To start reading about how this trip was conceptualized and how it all beganclick here.

Every now and then, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. In my case, it was about time it did considering my travels had been flawless so far.

The first hitch happened minutes after I reached the city. I had decided to walk the three kilometre stretch from the train station to the Airbnb apartment where I was to be put up. As usual, I was trying to save two euros on a bus ticket only to later spend sixty at a good restaurant-- I had my priorities right.

The beautiful Verona!

Suddenly, one of the wheels of the suitcase I'd been lugging around came off its socket. My 30 kg three-month old American Tourister was now just a heavy box I was compelled to carry.

Then came the email from the wine importer who was supposed to show me around. Something important popped up and she had to leave town for a few days.

It also didn't help that the forecast for the following 48 hours called for intermittent rains.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Venice: Off the Beaten Canal

To start reading about how this trip was conceptualized and how it all beganclick here.

With its  fairytale of narrow bridges, colorful piazzas and breathtaking architecture, Venice is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is surely the most romantic. Once I delved a little deeper into the city, I found that it's also a whole lot more.

The seaside near Piazza San Marco

Piazza San Marco

Nothing really prepares you for this floating city. Not the guidebooks or websites or even traveler hearsay. If you ever thought love at first sight was a delusive metaphor, Venice will surely change your mind.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bologna, Modena & Parma: Will Surf For Food

To start reading about how this trip was conceptualized and how it all beganclick here.

Perhaps from a culinary point of view, I was most excited about traveling to the region of Emilia Romagna. Or more specifically to Bologna, Modena and Parma. Situated just 50 kilometers from each other, even tourists seldom visit these cities for anything apart from their gastronomic delights.

View of Bologna from Torre degli Asinelli

Bologna is renowned for it's ragu (known to the rest of the world as bolognese sauce) and tortellini; Modena for its balsamic vinegar; and Parma for its parmigiano reggiano and prosciutto di Parma. As a chef who's worked extensively with these products and recipes for years, this was a field trip to food heaven.

Given that I'd relied on hostels and sponsored accommodation until this point, I decided to try something different. Couchsurfing is an online platform that connects 'surfers' like myself who are looking for a couch to sleep on with locals who can spare one.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Tuscany: Serendipity on a Plate

To start reading about how this trip was conceptualized and how it all beganclick here.

The word 'Tuscan' evokes a sense of charm and rightfully so. It conjures up images of picturesque vineyards, rolling hillsides, rustic Italian farmhouses and exquisite architecture. My experiences in Tuscany however left me associating it with yet another word- serendipity.

Fate led me to Tasso, a very aesthetically designed hostel which captures the essence of Tuscany. The owner Romina is a renowned photographer, an experienced blues-soul singer and to my luck, a fantastic culinary guide. When I introduced myself as a chef, she insisted that I join her on a tour of the gastronomic opulence of Florence. She spent an entire morning feeding me through the main market and some fantastic bakeries and salumerias nearby.

I was adamant about visiting the wine region of Chianti but equally hesitant since it wasn't very easily accessible. Lorenzo who I met at the bar in Tasso suggested that I rent a Vespa-- Italy's favorite scooter-- and I concurred.