Slow Food Cheese Festival Bra Italy
Date(s):Date: Firm: September 12 - 22, 2013
Epicopia Culinary Journeys
A Gastronome’s Journey in the Piemonte
September 12 – 22, 2013
Featuring: Slow Food Cheese Festival in Bra, Italy
“I like knowing the history of a dish and the place it comes from, I like to imagine the hands of those who cultivated, transported, processed and cooked it before it is served to me… I like farmers, the way they live close to the earth and appreciate its goodness. Goodness that is for everyone, pleasure that is everyone’s, because it is part of human nature… Few people know what they’re eating, though this knowledge brings pleasure and is a source of unity among those who share it. I am a gastronome… gastronomy is considered a Cinderella in the world of knowledge, though it is in fact a science that can open people’s eyes. Nutrition is an agricultural act; producing food is a gastronomic act.”
Your Journey is hosted by Harold D. Partain
Throughout the itinerary meals included are indicated by (B) Breakfast (L) Lunch (D) Dinner. There is a maximum of 15 guests on all Epicopia Culinary Journey programs.
We must confess this journey started out as a way to enjoy the Slow Food Cheese Festival in Bra… and we will do that near the end of the journey. Piemonte, however, has many wonderful things to enjoy and among these are, of course, the wine and food. Piemonte is known for its Barolo and Barbaresco wines yet there are many others of equal quality.
The mysterious Nebbiolo grape is just one of the many you will be introduced to on this journey. Nebbiolo is thought to derive its name from the Italian word nebbia which means “fog.” During harvest, which generally takes place late in October, a deep, intense fog sets into the region where many Nebbiolo vineyards are located. Alternative explanations refer to the fog-like milky veil that forms over the berries as they reach maturity or that perhaps the name is derived instead from the Italian word nobile, meaning noble. A powerful grape, yet it is not the most planted grape of the region. Nowhere I have traveled in Italy has there been a greater variety with subtle nuisances so pronounced.
A bit more emphasis on the wine and how it enhances the local produce is what this experience is all about. We will meet farmers who are winemakers and winemakers who are genius. Winemakers who have come from many generations and winemakers who just decided on a whim to make a go of it… and you will meet one female winemaker who is steadily making a big name for her wines.
We welcome you and I look forward to sharing these treasures with you. You, too, will understand just what it means to Journey as a Gastronome through the Piemonte!
- Harold D. Partain
Day by Day Itinerary
Day 1. September 12, Thursday - Travel from USA to Milano Malpensa Airport.
If you would prefer to arrive into Milan a day ahead and rest up, we suggest departure from home to Milan on Sep 11. Those arriving early will stay overnight (additional cost) at the Villa Malpensa Hotel (10 minutes from Terminal) or at the Sheraton Malpensa Hotel directly connected to the International Terminal. Relax for the balance of the day. If desired, the train ride into Milan is approximately 40 minutes for those interested in visiting the "New York City" of Italy. The train departs from the station below the Sheraton Hotel.
Day 2. September 13, Friday – Arrival Milan transfer to Moncalvo - Asti area.
Benvenuti in Italia!
Morning arrivals into Malpensa Airport are met after clearing Customs. We then pick up early arrival guests at their hotel. Our departure is approximately 11:00 a.m. for central Piemonte region. We will make a stop for lunch/snack options in route.
We arrive early afternoon into the heart of the Monferrato Hills just north of Asti near the village of Moncalvo. We are welcomed to the Agriturismo La Quercia Rossa by Matteo, Grandma Pina, Mum Laura, Aunt Teresa and Uncle Luigi. Balance of day to unpack and get acquainted with your home for the next 3 nights. Take a swim in the pool or enjoy the vistas from the garden out over the rolling hills and vineyards. Our Welcome Dinner tonight will be at La Quercia Rossa prepared by our delightful hosts featuring locally sourced and home grown products. Benvenuti in Piemonte and the Monferrato wine region!
Overnight La Quercia Rossa (D)
Day 3. September 14, Saturday, Moncalvo - Asti.
Breakfast is provided daily at La Quercia Rossa.
“Tastier, richer, and healthier”
This morning after breakfast we head due north to the Vercelli province – the very heart of rice country. Here we learn all about rice production. Acquerello is the ultimate Carnaroli “extra” rice produced and packed by the Rondolino family on the Colombara farm. Labeled as “tastier, richer and healthier” its success is the result of extensive research and the Rondolino family legacy.
Acquerello rice is famous among chefs and gourmet lovers and is considered by many as the best rice in the world - certainly among the best of Italy. We learn about the growing, harvest, aging and refining. After a demonstration of the “fine art of risotto” we enjoy a delicious lunch prepared for us at Colombara estate.
This afternoon we return to our home base where we will have time to relax or enjoy a walk through the hazelnut grove, the vineyards and the cellar as Matteo proudly shares a taste of his family productions and wines of the Monferrato.
Tonight we have the option of going into Moncalvo for dinner at a local trattoria (Corona Reale) or you may stay at the farm for dinner. (Dinner on your own.)
Overnight La Quercia Rossa (B, L)
Day 4. September 15. Sunday, Moncalvo
The Douja d’Or Wine Festival and the Palio di Asti.
This morning we depart for Asti to enjoy a short walking tour of the historical center. After lunch at Il Brillo Parlante there will be plenty of time to drop in and enjoy the Douja d’Or Wine Festival – the 10-day wine tasting event where some 500 wines are generally poured for your pleasure all day long.
The spectacular medieval parade through the old town begins in the afternoon and later we take our seats for the heats and finale of the Palio di Asti bareback horse race, first staged in 1273. Since we are staying near Moncalvo we might want to cheer on the horses from Moncalvo cittá.
After the Palio, time for a last sip at Douja d’Or Wine Festival and dinner in Asti on your own. (We suggest Falcon Vecchio Ristorante.)
Overnight La Quercia Rossa (B, L)
Day 5. September 16. Monday. Transfer to Alba.
We depart after breakfast for Alba. Our scenic route from the Monferrato into the Roero wine region takes us first to Cascina Ca’ Rossa for a visit and tasting. The Ferriro family was one of the first to begin the move from poly-culture farming to vineyards of several varieties of grapes. Since 1995 their efforts have continued to gain status and awards.
Lunch today at ristorante Cantina dei Cacciatori in Monteu Roero. The “Cellar of Hunters” offers a taste of the specialties from the Langa and Roero cuisine.
Time permitting this afternoon we visit the EcoMuseo del Roero in Nature Preserve with the option of a walk among the Chestnut forests.
Mid-afternoon we arrive near the perfect medieval village of Neive. The winery and vineyards of Punset Azienda Agricola Biologica is one of the few organic productions in the Piemonte. In 2012 Wine Spectator listed Punset 2007 Barbaresco as number 17 out of the top 100 wines. Under the direction of Marina Marcarino, one of the rare women winemakers in the Piemonte, Punset was determined and persevered in organic methods and today is among the leading companies in Italy producing truly organic wines.
Late afternoon we arrive in Alba and check into Albergo San Lorenzo for the next three nights. Balance of the evening at leisure and dinner on your own.
Overnight Alba, Albergo San Lorenzo (B, L)
Day 6. September 17, Tuesday, Alba
Breakfast included at Albergo San Lorenzo daily during our stay.
Today we venture into the Dogliani wine region which is famous for production of Dolcetto. One theory has the grape Dolcetto originating in the village of Dogliani in 1593 but others believe it was first cultivated in France and came to the Monferrato region in the 11th century. Dolcetto di Dogliani was awarded DOC status in 1974. Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore was elevated to DOCG status in 2005. These red wines are produced using only the Dolcetto variety.
Our first visit and tasting is at the Ca’ Viola Winery near Dogliani. Beppe and Simonetta along with little Mattia have continued to apply their philosophy of “simplicity and excellence” and consistently earn Gambero Rosso 2 and 3 bicchierei for their wines along with numerous 90+ listings from Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator. They are equally known for their Barbera d’Asti and Bric du Luv.
For lunch today we join four young chef friends at IL Verso del Ghiottone in the heart of Dogliani. The Verse of the Wolverine is ever conscious of the territory and its great products and bring tradition and creativity together in a modern slant to the historical cuisine.
Piemonte is not all about wine. One of the first successful craft beer brewers in Italy heralds forth from this the area. Birreria Baladin, la birra artigianale has been hard at it since the early 80’s and today is an imported favorite in Britain. It is a bit of a surprise but the hand crafted beer industry is taking a solid hold among the Italians… and this is where it all started in Italy. Anyone for a sip of something a bit different? Located in the area of Piozzo we stop on our way back to Alba.
Dinner tonight in Alba at the Ristorante La Piola. Since 2005 La Piola has become synonymous with traditional Piedmontese style of cooking and refined creativity. Under the direction of young chef Enrico Crippa and with the backing of local wine legend Ceretto family La Piola has been rewarded with success in just a few years.
Overnight Alba San Lorenzo (B, L, D)
Day 7. September 18. Wednesday, Alba
“Among the Aromas of the Vineyards”
Today is dedicated to the heart of the Langhe south of Alba home to the famous Barolo wines – the most expensive and famous from Piemonte. Barolo is made from the Nebbiolo grape. These foothills are secreted with some of the most authentic medieval villages and borgos in Italy. Our scenic route will take us through La Morra, Serralunga d’Alba, and Barolo. This region is famous for its castles and country estates. The rugged hills produce some of the best wine, cheeses and truffles in Italy.
This morning we will meet one of the new, innovative winemakers challenging the traditions of the regions Barolo and other grapes. Simone Scaletta is a young winemaker who makes his own wine at Monforte d’Alba, one of the 11 Barolo towns. He grows in Località Manzoni five hectares of vineyards with a natural approach, in full respect of the earth and its fruits. Simone does everything by hand… his own hands. His is a story of passion and determination. Being from a family who skipped a few generations in the vineyard, Scaletta returned to the fields from the city. He started out with just a few hectares and did everything on his own. For several years he has been the “winemaker to keep an eye on.” Since 2012 the awards and recognition for his wines are skyrocketing! “Unity is strength,” and Simone is always expressing thanks for his friends and family who help to make such beautiful wines.
Lunch today? Surrounded by vineyards and castles suspended between heaven and earth, in the dream-like landscape of the “LANGA”… at the heart of this celebrated land of wine and truffles, in an enchanting, timeless setting, Trattoria nelle Vigne offers diners breathtaking views over the surrounding hills. And the food? Well, you be the judge of this!
What better step than to follow the “little guy” with some “BIG guys!” Conterno Fantino has been a heavyweight since the 80’s. The Fantino and Conterno families grew up in the vineyards. This century-old winemaker’s family have the DNA of wine in their blood.
The early years for Barolo were hard-going. In 1986 the first Gambero Rosso Italian wine guide was published. It featured the high quality production of Barolo. Business for Conterno Fantino really took off in 1987, when the most authoritative international wine guide, Wine Spectator, dedicated its first page to the 1982 Barolo Sorì Ginestra. The following year the ’85 Monprá was lauded by Gino Veronelli. Three great consecutive vintages, ’88 – “89 – ’90, did the rest. Nearly 25% of Conterno Fantino’s production is now exported to the USA.
We arrive back to Alba in the late afternoon. Dinner is on your own in Alba which has many options to choose from.
Overnight Alba, Albergo San Lorenzo (B, L)
Day 8. September 19, Thursday. Transfer to Turin today.
The day of the Gastronome
After check out we take the short ride to Pollenzo where we make a special visit to the Slow Food University of Gastronomic Sciences situated in the beautiful restructured neo-Gothic country estate of King Carlo Alberto of Savoy. Founded in 2004 by the international non-profit Slow Food in cooperation with the Italian regions of Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna, the University is a recognized, private institution.
Its goal is to create an international research and education center for those working on renewing farming methods, protecting biodiversity, and building an organic relationship between gastronomy and agricultural science.
After a visit at the University we head to the Banca del Vino housed as part of the University complex. The Banca del Vino, located in the historical cellars of the Agenzia di Pollenzo, is a center for storage and refinement of the best wines of Italy. At the same time it is a monument to Italian wines. Visitors discover the oenological heritage and can taste the wines from some of the most prestigious wineries. Expanding over 21,000+ square feet you can transverse the Italian oenological landscape, stopping, region by region, tasting the wines that represent its history and terroir. We will indulge in some samples!
Lunch today is at the Ristorante dell’ Albergo dell’ Agenzia. The restaurant is characterized by a local cuisine in complete tune with the Slow Food philosophy through careful research in the choice of products. The selected produce is matched and enhanced for the quality and flavors in the lively kitchen. The wine list offers over 300 labels.
After our “slow lunch” we are off to the capital city of the Savoy Dynasty, Turin. Upon arrival we check into the luxurious Golden Palace Hotel.
Dinner this evening is at the Osteria Antiche Sere. Antiche Sere is what every trattoria should aim to be. “I love when a simple unpretentious place can deliver great food in a friendly atmosphere, and Antiche Sere delivers this and more.” We are in for a warm welcome to Torino! Benvenuti a Torino.
Overnight Turin, Golden Palace Hotel (B, L, D)
Day 9. September 20, Friday – Cheese Festival in Bra
Breakfast is provided daily at hotel.
Today is the opening day for the 2013 Slow Food Cheese Festival in Bra.
Bra, the birth city of Carlo Petrini, Founder of Slow Food is only a 55 minute easy train ride from Turin. Due to the lack of suitable accommodations available in the Bra area we choose to spend our last three nights in Turin with the option of visiting the Bra Slow Food Cheese Festival on Friday and Saturday. It is an easy walk from the Bra Station to the area of the Cheese Festival. There is no “cover charge” or fee to participate in the street activities and some of the pavilion locations.
For guests interested in special classes, lectures, events and tasting for Cheese Bra, the Festival opens at 11:00 a.m. today. Some activities have a charge involved. If you do not want to spend the full day in Bra you may select what you desire and return to Turin at your leisure. The full day is dedicated to the Festival.
Throughout the town there are ample opportunities to sample and learn about cheese. With around 150,000 participants over the three days event, this is one of the most important cheese festivals in the world. The event features more than 150 stalls for cheese and cheese products, as well as other tastings from different Italian regions. Roughly 1500kg of buffalo mozzarella, 500kg of focaccias and 2000kg of olives are sold to a knowledgeable crowd. The gigantic Hall of Taste hosts wine booths and educational programs, including the Slow Food taste workshops.
You will have the opportunity to actually purchase special event tickets online as soon as they become available. We will advise when the website is available for securing special event tickets for today or Saturday. (Generally available online in June/July.)
Morning train from Turin Porta Susa to Bra at 9:31 a.m. with arrival at 10:24 a.m. Last direct train returns to Turin at 7:35 p.m. arriving at 8:37 p.m.
Overnight Turin, Golden Palace Hotel (B)
Day 10. September 21, Saturday
Slow Food Cheese Festival Day 2 in Bra… or explore Torino
Today is another day available to visit Bra and participate in Slow Food Cheese Festival. You may return to Bra for further activities or meandering among the many stalls and pavilions. Be sure to return to Turin by late afternoon as we have a very special Farewell Evening planned.
For those electing to stay in Turin today we are offering an early morning guided visit of Porta Palazzo Market. One of the most unusual and largest in Italy this market truly reflects its historical founding and evolution over the centuries. Porta Palazzo Market has always been at the center of this thriving city and today heralds the future of its character and the survival instincts inherent in its citizens.
For lunch today you may select from the many offerings available right in the Market area. Everything from Pizzeria Le Rondini to the exquisite flavors of Africa found at Dar Al Hikma.
Balance of day to explore on your own. The Egyptian Museum is considered the finest collection outside of Egypt and is not far from our hotel. There are several buildings and gardens from the House of Savoy era available to explore in the Turin area. Or shopping!
Tonight our Farewell Dinner is at the warm and friendly Ristorante IL Consorzio. We bid Farewell to Piemonte, Italy and new friends. As we linger over fond memories of the past few days we enjoy our last evening together in an “osteria-like” place where the traditions we have come to cherish are blended with the new and reflect the future of this thriving and vibrant region of Italy. You can now officially call yourself “a Gastronome!”
Overnight Turin, Golden Palace Hotel (B, D)
Day 11. September 22. Sunday Transfer to Milan area today.
If you can arrange your return or on-going flights from Turin, please do so. Otherwise we will transfer back to Milano Malpensa Airport in the early afternoon.
Morning at leisure. Check out late morning and departure for Milan.
Arrival Milan Malpensa area around 3:00 P.M.
Overnight Milano Malpensa Airport area. (Option – additional cost)
Day 12. September 23. Monday
Transfer on own to Milano Malpensa Airport morning flight departures back to USA.
COST & INCLUSIONS – maximum of 15 guests
$3986.00* per person based on two sharing double or twin bedded room
$ 796.00* Single Supplement (1 double bed)
*Exchange Rate Euro to $USD as of April 29, 2013. Rate based on minimum of 10 persons.
Deposit of $500.00 per person to reserve. Balance due 60 days advance of travel.
For Reservations and details please contact:
Epicopia Culinary Journeys
5042 Rabbit Ridge Court
Rockwall, Texas 75032
Tel: 972.771.3510 or 877.661.3844