Finally I have time to write about my great little 1000 mile trip to the north of Italy. I finished up a big job in the vineyard and saw nothing urgent ahead for a least a week and the B&B had a couple of down days, so I hopped in the z4, put the top down and headed up to Suzzara in Emilia Romagna to visit Amy and Corrado at their little B&B and restaurant named Mangiare Bere Uomo Donna.
Amy, from Hong Kong, was for a short time my roommate in Parma as she attended the master in journalism from Slow Food while I completed the food science master. There, she met Corrado, one of our tutors and romance blossomed, they got married and decided like me to go off the deep end, but instead of a vineyard have opened a bed and breakfast and restaurant with more hours of work than I care to think about. They remodeled an old mansion in Suzzara with 3 quaint rooms serving as their B&b and Amy became the chef blending her wonderful skills with traditional chinese cooking with traditional Emilia fare. I had a wonderful dinner with shrimp wontons, vegetable wontons, a nice tender and flavorful pancetta, ravioli which were incredible reminding me of dimsum potstickers in consistency and taste and a lamb chop I traded a piece of pancetta for that was tender and seasoned perfectly. They have a well selected group of wines as you see in my photo and artisanal beers also. Corrado runs the dining room as host, waiter and sommelier and speaks perfect italian and english and spanish. Highly recommended and well worth a side trip if you are in the Mantova area.
Next it was off to the Dolomites, the mythical Alpen mountains which I had heard about constantly from everyone who has ever been there, but I had never seen. I just followed my instincts heading off the autostrada to the 5 pass area, Cortina, Dobbiaco, Sesto, Bressanone, Bolzano, Sterzing, Merano and then the Adige valley where I checked out Italy's Pinot Noir, Gewurtztraminer, Lagrein zone.
It is truly a beautiful group of mountains which in many cases remind one of a microscopically enlarged saw blade or maybe some vicious teeth. I took an impromptu hike up a 2500 meter mountain near one of the passes to explore some WW1 bunkers and get a view of miles of these peaks, then headed for the night to Cortina which has a reputation as a high roller ski resort. I had a wonderful dinner at Ra Stua, a restaurant which serves up their beef steaks and pork and chicken raised at the family farm near Padova. A carpaccio started me out which segued into a t-bone steak cooked perfectly with some oven roasted potatoes and a Ripassa from Zenato as accompaniments.
The next day was cold with new snow on the surrounding mountains, but I put on my windbreaker, got the top down and suffered through 40 degree temps in some places to visit further north at the border with Austria and the towns of Dobbiaco and Sesto. Finding no lodging, I headed back west to Bressanone, found a hidden road through another mountain pass connecting Sterzing to Bolzano which I highly reccomend if you have time as the views are incredible and you will have the road to yourself. Then up to Merano, home of a famous wine tasting event which I would like to attend someday, before turning south to Ora/Aura for the night. This was a good base to explore and find the best Pinot Noirs of Italy and my favorites were Hofstatter and Lageder across the Adige river from Ora/Aura near Tramin or Termeno depending on which language you prefer. This is Alto Adige and they speak more German here, Italy having been gifted this portion after WWII for switching to the Allies (at least that is my version which I have pulled from some unused part of my brain). After a great dinner at Hofstatter with perfectly cooked duck following an appetizer of various concoctions like smoked salmon, soft cheese etc presented in baby cones,
I headed up to Madonna di Campiglio to check out their ski mountains and then suffered through a 60 km traffic jam of sorts to Brescia; this part I could have skipped. I arrived at Delicatissimo, the restaurant of my old classmates Michele, Giorgio and Teresa with Michele's brother Maurizio in the kitchen, to find it full at lunchtime, and no wonder, as the food is fresh and wonderful and quite a bargain for Milano. Another classmate Luca joined me for lunch and I dropped off 10 cases of our wine to those guys to sell for us and caught up on all the latest news.
Finally off to Parma on my return to Nascondiglio di Bacco to see an old friend Diego who is the proprietor of the outstanding wine bar Tabarro. If you ever visit Parma, there is no need to search out producers of the finest prosciutto, cheeses, salamis, etc. because Diego who has a very discerning palate has done all that work for you and serves up the finest italian artisanal products in his wine bar.
He is also planning on opening a web-based wine store and has extensively explored the Barolo region and has a cache of the best ready to sell in the near future.
It was a fun trip, lots of miles, 280 dollars of gasoline, but well worth it.