Day 10: Laura and Mino's Risotto party and the magical calling of Piedmonte
Cafe visited: Il Salotto (4 star. Good coffee. Friendly service.)
Laura and Mino are the couple who owns the vacation rental in which I stayed in Alba. Before I left for Italy, I asked Laura via email for restaurants recommendation for risotto. I told her that I love risotto, and for this trip, not only I want to go to restaurants for good risotto, I also want to take cooking class and learn how to make it. Laura told me that she and her husband, Mino, love risotto and they make risotto regularly! She invited me to their home for lunch and they would show me how they make their risotto! The hostibility of Italy had already extended to me before my trip even started!
Our lunch party was at 12:30pm, so I had some time for my morning coffee! Today, I went to Il Salotto. Their coffee was pretty good. However, here in Alba, I still like Fiori and Vergnano better.
Risotto lunch with Laura and Mino
Laura and Mino are retired and currently live in a nice home outside of Alba. They waited for me to start the cooking so that I could see how it was made. We were making two different kinds of risotto today. One was a simple cheese risotto, and the other one was a sausage and greens risotto. (I'm so sorry, Laura. I forgot the name of the cheese and the vegetables. It was so good that all I remember was eating the risotto!)
For the cheese risotto, we used leek and cheese, and for the sausage one, we used sausage that was previously sauted, the greens, and chopped onion.
Just like the risotto that Alessandra showed me yesterday, Laura and Mino put a bit of water into the onion when sweating them. We also used beef stock for both risotto. Laura used the back of the neck and the butt meat for the beef stock. We didn't add any wine into the risotto, though. And... Olive oil only. No butter at the begining.
While Alessandra cooks her risotto for 15 minutes and then rests it for 5 minutes, Laura cooks hers for 18 minutes, and rests it for 2 minutes. Both have a total of 20 minutes. When the cooking part was done, we covered the sausage risotto, and for the cheese risotto, we added the cheese and a bit of butter, mixed it up, and then covered it.
And when the resting was done, Whoa La! We had two different kinds of delicious risotto! The sausage was meaty and chuncky, and the vegetable was slightly bitter and crunchy. They two fromed great contrast both in flavor and texture, and with the creamy rice as the foundation. Yummy! And for the cheese risotto, it was super creamy and slightly pungent from the cheese. This cheese is a little bit stronger than the cheese that we used yesterday, and created a risotto with a different flavor profile. Both dishes' rice was cooked perfectly. Really delicious.
After the risotto, we had some cheese and jams. Laura and Mino also made dessert. Red wine poached pear! They were so delicious!
Then we had espresso! :-) Laura suggested me checking out the Slow Food university on my way back. Sounds like a great idea! We ended our wonderful lunch party after the coffee so that I could check out the university before it closed. It was such a wondering lunch! Thank you so much, Laura and Mino!
A visit to Slow Food University
The slow food university is very closed to Bra, where Slow Food's headquarter is. If you are not familiar with the Slow Food movement in Italy, there is a lot of information online about it that you can find. Basically, back in the 1980s, when McDonald's entered Italy and wanted to open a store in front of the Spanish Steps in Rome, a group of people gathered in front of it to protest and wanted to defend the traditional Italian food and slower pace of way of life. The movement has since spreaded out all over the world. There are Slow Food chapters in many different countries and there is bi-annual Slow Food conference in Bra.
The school's campus is not big but really cool to check out. There were classes on-going, so I didn't take lots of photos there.
There is a beautiful church just outside of the university. The interior of the church was even more stunning than the exterior:
I wonder what it is like to study here. If I learned cooking here, how would that change me? As I walked by the class room and looked inside, I saw a beautiful calligraphy of the words Slow Food in Chinese: 慢餐. That was awesome. I saw quite a few Asian students there, too.
A magical journey back to Alba
On my way back from Slow Food University to Alba, I started feeling anxious. This is my last night in Alba. Tomorrow, I will go on to Emilia-Romagna. I was feeling separation anxiety. Beautiful land, wonderful people, and amazing food. It was hard to get myself ready to say GoodBye.
It was raining when I was at Slow Food University but when I left, it had stopped. When I was driving on the highway, just as I was amazed by the landscape, the sun broke out of the clouds and casted right in front of me the most beautiful rainbow I had ever seen. By the time I found a spot to park and came out to take a picture, part of the rainbow had already faded. :-(
I couldn't help myself and got really emotional as I continued driving back to Alba. I was feeling something that was really raw and powerful. "Is this a sign? Is this land calling for me? Is this where I find what I'm look for?" From the first moment I saw the hills of Piedmont, I could feel something inside me changing. As I started interacting with people here and built connections, I found myself falling in love with this place more than any other place I've been to. All the specialty food that Piedmonte has to offer are what I really love. Tuffle, chocolate, hazelnuts, risotto, and Piedmontese beef. And let's not forget the bright orange eggs, cheese and Tajarin. As much as I love San Francisco, I couldn't help but started thinking about moving to Piedmonte.
However, moving to a place is not just about taking what this land has to offer, but also what I have to offer her. What can I bring Piedmonte and the beautiful people here? That's when I stopped fantasizing myself moving here starting a new life. (Talking about midlife crisis, eh?)
My fascination and love for Piedmonte is now planted deeply within me. This seed has started to grow and will continue after I get back to the States. What will it grow into? Where will it take me? My life has been changed forever. I can feel my heart beating in a different rhythm. Now that I've seen what life can be for me, my perspective has changed. Maybe I will stay in the Bay Area; maybe I'll move to the east coast to be close to my sister's family; maybe I'll move to Piedmonte; maybe I'll be in other places and find a way to introduce people to the beauty of Piedmonte. I don't know.
I will follow my heart. It already knows where I need to go. For now, I am not ready to move here because I have nothing to offer. When I am ready one day, I will be back, and I know this rainbow will be here to welcome me.