Gourmet Food in the Piemonte

by winenews on Sep.13, 2009, under Articles, Reviews, Travel

Welcome to “Da Felicin”

Felicin is a hotel and restaurant surrounded by the green of Langhe, whose history unfolds alongside the Rocca family history.  Three generations taking care of a way of life in which the relationship between man and land is essential, gives soul to a project of cooking as food culture.

Nino and Silvia, the last inheritors of the Rocca family tradition, welcome their guests with the simplicity and straightforwardness of everyday life, to let them “taste” a pleasant stay.

The Hotel is in the very heart of The Langhe, perfectly suitable for those who love to be surrounded by nature – and good food, for sure.  Nino and Silvia offer you a relaxing stay, and will escort you to the discovery of a land rich in history and charm. Felicin’s history unfolds alongside the everyday work of people, passionately protecting an ancient philosophy of life, in which the relationship between man and land is essential, and gives soul to a natural project of mutual love and shelter.

Nino’s cuisine is built over a wide and long family tradition, but undergoing a ceaseless renovation, a day-by-day hunt for excellence. A tradition revisited, that will never forgo the quality of raw material: biologically grown vegetables and fruits, poultry and ducks from farm breeding, bovine meat and lambs of pure Piedmontese breed.

The goal of the menu is to offer the guest a journey through the Langhe cuisine, with the highest attention in the association of tastes and scents, while the appearance of each dish conveys the quality of it. The “ouverture” suggests a tasting of starters, varying from day to day according to what nature, season and markets propose. Some of the starters will be available throughout the year: such as the delicate liver paté enriched in marsala wine, the parmesan “zabajone” with fresh vegetables and the marinated codfish salad with onion jam and crispy fries.

Then the “primi piatti”: from the very traditional “Tajarin” (fresh pasta noodles) rolled out and cut by hand with a knife, to the “Raviolini del plin” (small ravioli pinched with fingers) made to the true ancient Langa recipe; or the red and white rice with mushrooms, vegetables and sausage, potato “gnocchi”, or the most time-honoured vegetable soup.

Traditional main courses like the Barolo-braised veal shank, the roasted pork collar, and the classical raw meat (cut down to pieces by hand with a knife, to preserve its intense taste) are sometimes comforted or replaced by more unusual dishes: Barolo braised veal tail, marinated and grilled eel.

The cheese trolley is offers a selection of the best from Piedmont, and some interesting proposals from other areas of Europe. Cheese will be served with homemade “cognà” and Langhe honey.

Last but not least, the desserts: the home speciality caramel “Giandujot”, panna cotta, sorbets and fresh fruits meringues, and the Moscato zabajone with corn-flour cookies.

The most appropriate counterpart to your menu can be chosen on the wide wine list, or directly visiting the cellar, whose extension has grown with the restaurant and enables the visitor to browse among the greatest wines of this area, and many rarities from the world.  Nino’s cellar is the home for over 30,000 bottles and not to be missed.

The Region

Monforte d’Alba is the last bulwark of the Langa of Barolo. A small town rich in history: its origins can be traced back to the Roman times. The name of the village carries the apparent martial meaning of “strong, strategic spot” (Mons Fortis), and such it has actually been for centuries, throughout the countless disputes between the local Signori and the libero comune of Alba.

The ancient castle was subjugated in 1028 by Ariberto d’Intimiano, archbishop of Milan, because it had become the safe haven and headquarters of Manichaean hereticals, the Catari. Defeated and drawn to Milan, the Cathares refused to disavow and were convicted to death by fire.

In the Low Middle Age, Monforte has been in possession of the Marquis of Cortemilia, of the Comune of Alba, of Milan nobles Visconti and the Marquis Del Carretto. Today the castle has become the stately home of the Marquis Scarampi del Cairo. It’s been rebuilt many times starting from 1706 over the remainders of the ancient fortress. The little piazza at the top of the hill overlooks the charming village, and an amazing view of the Alps can be enjoyed.

The Langhe

Langhe, a very ancient name of unsure etymology: many possible interpretations have been given, recalling words that mean “Ligurian town” or “uncouth land” or even “land-tongues”.

The Langhe embrace a wide area of hills with sharp edges, by deep parallel valleys, excavated by torrents, between the Tanaro River, the Ligurian Appennine and the Bormida River. The average height is 550 metres, reaching 950 in Mombarcaro, with a wide range of cultivations that vary with the land conformation. Therefore, the different areas of the Langhe can be identified from their specific precious products.

You then have the Langa of Barolo or Barbaresco, of Asti, the Langa of hazelnuts, of woods and pastures; but virtually every row of hills, every narrow valley has its own traditions and customs, different dialects; a small universe concealing countless surprises, that can be unveiled only by living with these people, with this nature.

Langa means contrasting landscapes, broad horizons punctuated by towers and castles, the peacefulness of a silence only broken by the bleat of sheep and the rhythm of farm tools.  We suggest at least a week there to really see it all, and experience some of Italy’s top wines and amazing cuisine…like “Da Felicin”.

Our thanks to Nino, Silvia, Giorgio, Andrea, and the entire staff for a remarkable stay and awesome food.

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