Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Turin - The food

Turin is located on the North West of Italy in the Piedmont region. It is close to France. Turin is strictly not Mediterranean as far as food it concerned. The food is cooked with butter and cream. Not much olive oil is used here. They are famous for the Truffle, no not the cake and not the chocolate, but the fungus. Eating chocolate, that is to say bars, slabs and so on, is said to have been invented here. A local sweet is called Gianduiotti which is a mix of hazelnut paste and chocolate. This tasted somewhat like Nutella. Turin also is home to a beverage called Bicerin which is hot chocolate, coffee and whipped cream. Ice cream shops are all over and Pistachio ice cream was my favourite. This is totally unlike the Pista ice creams we get back home. This has a huge Pista flavour and has a salty tang. Delicious. More than the flavour, it is the texture of Italian Ice Cream that makes it so really magical.

Turin has a very strong Apertivo culture. At between 5 and 6 in the evening till about 9, most bars and cafes set up a large buffet table on which plates of food are laid out. It could consist of bits of cheese, cut up dried meat, bruschetta with all sorts of toppings, Frittatas and so on. You order a drink which regardless of whether and how much you eat is priced at between 6 and 10 Euro, and you can snack from the buffet. At times if you sit down at a table, you may be brought a plate or three of snacks. How utterly delightful and civilised this is. Women sit together with kids, older women gossip all while having private time with their pals, have a peaceful drink, get something to take the edge of the appetite and simply relax. I cannot tell you how nice this concept is. Of course we cannot do this at home because (i) drinking is a sin (ii) licensing laws and pricing ensures that drinking is unaffordable and (iii) sitting on a sidewalk is impossible for a variety of reasons. Sigh.

Apertivo on the pavement. Turin

The platefuls of food we got. 

The first night we were recommended a place not far from our hotel. It was called L’Agrifoglio. We researched the restaurant, we took a walk to it and had a look at the menu and then being satisfied we reserved. This was a decent place. A young staff and slightly edgy. All very enthusiastic. Paintings for sale adorning the walls. I guess that should give you the vibe. To start we had two types of Ravioli. HRH the Queen had Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli with Butter and Sage, while I had a meat Ravioli. Both were decent, however the portions were a bit large to be starters. For her mains, HRH the Queen ordered a dried cod variously called Baccala or Bacalhau or Bacalau depending whether you are in Italy or Spain or Portugal, cooked with Tomato and Olives. She said it was delicious. I had Stinko which is Italian for Pork Knuckle. This one was slow roasted. Perfectly nice if unremarkable. As our vegetable we had batter fried Artichokes which are a local speciality.


Bacala with Olives

Stinko - Pork Knuckle

Deep fried battered Artichoke

The nest day when walking we saw a restaurant and looked at the menu. Somehow, it – the restaurant and the menu – seemed great. So Restaurant Vittoria it was for dinner. It was a great meal. The restaurant turned out to be the equivalent of, I guess, an Irani restaurant, a local, something that people in the neighbourhood came to for dinner. Bachelors who did not cook at home came to eat here. To start HRH the Queen of Kutch get herself some Ravioli with a cream sauce. It was really good if dull looking. I ordered a classic; Vitello Tonnato which is dish from Piedmont of cold sliced boiled Veal covered with a Tuna flavoured Mayonnaise like sauce. The dish is prepared a few days in advance, covered and kept cold. This allows the flavours to develop. Lovely.  

Vitello Tonnato

Ravioli with Cream

For our mains HRH the Queen of Kutch got a truly stunning dish. Artichokes [which were very much in season] and Prawns dressed with a lemon and parsley oil. This dish was full of flavour and a lot of bread was used to sop up the immensely flavourful oil. I ordered a Veal Saltimbocca ala Rommana, something that I like and unfortunately do not get. This is a really simple dish consisting of flattened Veal Escalope, some sage leaves and some ham. This is quickly fried and served with a slice of lemon. I was a happy bunny. For our vegetable component we had yet another plate of Fried Artichokes. This was a good meal.

Saltimbocca alla Romanna

Prawns with Artichoke

Deep fried battered Artichoke

On our visit to the Museo dell' Automobile in Turin we had to visit Eataly. This is a huge. What is Eataly? It is a part store, part museum, part restaurant, part food court, and, sort of New Age health and wellness place. Being there at lunchtime we ate lunch. A small Octopus Salad and a bowl of Pasta with Tomato sauce and some fresh Mozzarella. The food was decent. However, I was surprised at the degree of cooking of the pasta. According to me it was really al dente, it was frankly `kaccha’. I have not eaten pasta that underdone even while in Italy. But I cannot give you a definitive answer if this was simple perfectly cooked by Italian standards or simply `kaccha’. But the dish looks damn good. As far as Eataly is concerned, we were both underwhelmed. It was large no doubt, but it seemed unkempt, sort of dishevelled. A Whole Foods outlet is much nicer.  

Octopus Salad

Pasta with Mozzarella

The last meal was at Al Garamond. This was a slightly modern Italian restaurant, serving food with a modern twist. As an amuse buche we were given a small bowl of Rice Salad with Tomato and Tuna. Once again the rice was either al dente or `kaccha’ depending who you ask.

One of the dishes prepared locally in Turin is Tajarin – this is pasta. The reason why it is unique is that it is made in the ratio of 40 egg yolks to 1 kg of flour. That makes the pasta very rich. This pasta is often cooked with Truffle and butter or cream. HRH the Queen of Kutch ordered a version with Peas and Mint, a classic combination if you ask me. This was really delicious. We would like to make this when we get back to Bombay. All ingredients are available in Mumbai. Wonder what we will do with 40 egg whites though. The waiter recommended a Sausage Tartare made with the local sausage Salsicca Di Bra a veal sausage. This was to be served with a Parmesan Ice Cream. Told you the restaurant had a modern twist. Tartare means that the dish is raw, totally raw the waiter emphasised. I nodded and ordered the dish. Turned out to be wonderful. The Parmesan Ice Cream was nice, it had a bit of sugar but it was a Parmesan Cheese Sauce made into an ice cream. Nice start.

Arty or nutty table setting?

Rice Salad

The glorious Tajarin with 40 egg yolks

Salsicca di Bra with Parmesan Ice Cream

For her mains HRH the Queen ordered Rabbit poached in Milk with Vegetables. The Rabbit was moist and tender and the dish most pleasant. For my main I got Lamb with a Sweet Sour, sort of Pickled Red Pepper. Once again very nice. We got some Petit Fours when we got our bill.



You can eat very well in Turin. The food is not expensive nor is the wine. An Apertivo is a most pleasant experience.         

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