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Piedmont food is just heaven...
For Northern Italy travel, Piedmont goes well beyond beverages, with artisan gastronomic treats ranging from cheese to hazelnuts, and the famous Alba white truffle. And, of course, a wine pairing is possible with each and every one of the amazing dishes created with local Piedmont food!
Piedmont Food: Alpine Artisan Piedmont Cheese
For real though, don’t forget the Piedmont cheese!
Not everyone realizes the treasure that is Piedmont cheese. Alpine artisan Piedmont cheese comes from local breeds of sheep, goat, and cows who lazily graze the summer away in the majestic Piedmont high country meadowlands.
With more than 30 types of cheeses, this Northern Italian region is a cheese lover heaven. Don’t miss the chance to sample and learn about the range in styles of soft, fresh, and seasoned cheese with nine DOPs (Protected Designation of Origin) certified cheese.
What’s more, these Piedmont cheese producers are steeped in tradition. Small towns and villages carry on generational ancient cheesemaking practices that have been passed down from generation to generation. And, they pair effortlessly with Piedmont wine.
Start with a general Piedmont cheese tasting at an area cheesemonger. Then, schedule a visit or two with artisan producers who can explain their traditions and styles.
These visits often include a visit to the stables to see the (happy, well-cared-for) animals. Often, in my Barolo wine tours, we incorporate a lunch tasting experience with an artisan cheese producer to get the most of your time.
Hazelnuts are a Piedmont food staple, with the area responsible for the largest production of fine hazelnuts in the world.
The production area spreads across the region with the best fruits coming from the provinces of Cuneo, Asti, and Alessandria.
Nocciola del Piemonte, Piedmont hazelnuts, are an IGP product (Indicazione Geografica Protetta / Protected Geographical Indication certification guaranteeing the product’s quality and authenticity.) More than 50 artisan or industrial facilities exist producing; 1600 companies are certified and make 3000 to 6000 tons annually.
The fruit has a fine, delicate flavor with special cultivation methods. The bushy looking trees that produce the hazelnuts must have a plant density of 200 to 500 per hectare.
The fruit falls to the ground on its own, then is harvested, and dried either in the sun or using warm air dryers, then stored in thin layers. Production takes place between August and September.
Products vary from nuts (in-shell and shelled), roasted / toasted / salted, creams / sauces, hazelnut oil, grain, and flour.
Find and taste hazelnut products all over the Piedmont region, but if you particularly enjoy them, head to the Alta Langa for a visit with an artisan hazelnut producer. See hazelnut groves, production, and baking facilities. Some locations will even do a full lunch experience of traditional Piedmont food with hazelnuts in each course.
The Alba White Truffle
Ah, the Alba White Truffle. One of the most enchanting draws to the Piedmont region.
First, you will find both white and black truffles and in different parts of Piedmont. But, we’ll focus on the Alba White Truffle today because it is by far the most noteworthy.
The truffle is a fungus – not a mushroom as many think, but of the Tuber genus. Its entire lifecycle is underground and it is sought by trained hunters (known locally as trifulau) and their specially trained dogs.
Starting from 21 September, if the Alba White Truffle is found it can kept / sold. White truffles found before the September date must put it back in the ground.
The Alba White Truffle has a strong, earthy taste and is shaved on Piedmont food and traditional cuisine.
Some favorite Piedmont food with the Alba White Truffle includes gnocchi with local cheese, tajarin pasta with mountain butter, simple fried egg, brasato, and even gelato!
The Alba White Truffle Fair
Each year, the city of Alba hosts the largest truffle event in the world, The Alba White Truffle Fair. It runs on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday) from October to November. As Piedmont tourism has increased in recent years, the dates have varied, generally adding more time in October and November.
Information and all the activities can be found on the event’s web site and is usually posted in late summer.
Currently, the 90th edition of the Alba White Truffle Fair is scheduled for 10 October 2020 to 8 December 2020 with specific safety provisions in place to manage the Coronavirus pandemic.
Find more about the Alba White Truffle Fair on the site at https://www.fieradeltartufo.org/en/.
Alba White Truffle Activities and Experiences
Area visitors love to experience truffle hunts. These generally run 1.5 to two hours and vary by morning or evenings, depending on the hunter. The hunt consists of a walk in a wooded area with the hunter and dog, while another guide explains the process.
Guests do not get to keep truffles that are found but can buy them at market price.
Truffle cooking classes and wine pairing experiences are also popular to showcase how to enjoy the treasure. Truffles are shaved on all manner of dishes, meats, and cheeses, even desserts. And, the pairings vary by course, always incorporating Piedmont wines.
Ready to Enjoy Your Piedmont Food?
Piedmont food is as important as Piedmont wine when it comes to the culture of this Northern Italy region. Cheers!
About the Piedmont Guide & Writer
The Carpe Travel Piedmont region travel guide is written by Valerie Quintanilla, an American expat in Alba, Italy. Val was an original Carpe Travel contributor before packing her American life to chase her Italian dreams.
Today she runs a custom travel / tour planning business while moonlighting as a marketing consultant for wine and travel business in Europe. She has been featured in Wine Enthusiast, Food & Wine Magazine, Open Skies (Emirate Airlines inflight magazine) and more.
Valerie and her toddler il ragazzino reside in Alba, Italy in the Piedmont region, but she organizes travel and tour programs all over Italy. Stay tuned as she introduces us to more Italian wine regions!