This is the fifth post in the Around the World Birthday Extravaganza Series. Because there will be many, many posts in this series, please scroll to the bottom of the post to see all the other posts in this series.
In the tiny village of Monchiero (population: 594), nestled between rolling hills and vineyards, lies a house. It's a farmhouse, in fact, converted into a quaint little bed and breakfast with just six rooms. Ezio and Clelia own the house and the beautiful, white truffle-filled, property surrounding it. Ezio, the husband, comes from a family of truffle hunters and is himself a highly regarded truffle hunter in the area. They train their own truffle dogs, sell truffles on the side, and run a restaurant right inside their inn.
The restaurant is called Tra Art e Querce, which means "between art and oak". The wife, Clelia Maria Vivalda, runs the restaurant and works with Chef Maurizio Regis to create all sorts of hyper-regional dishes that truly reflect the terroir of the area. The food is outstanding and pairs exceptionally well with white truffles.
This place, my friends, is truly a hidden find. So hidden, in fact, that we found ourselves the only guests the Monday evening following the last day of the truffle fair.
A good friend who travels to Italy extensively recommended this place to us, calling it a "must visit." We would have never known about it otherwise since it doesn't show up in American guidebooks. In fact, our tour guide Robert (who really seems to know everybody and everything in the Piedmont region), had never heard of this place. He was thrilled to discover it, and vowed to come back for more meals.
We asked Robert (a wine expert) to pick the wines for us. He chose two fantastic bottles: a 2012 Barbera d'Alba called "Trevigne" and a Marcarini Barolo called "La Serra". If we had wanted, we could have also ordered house made wine from Ezio and Clelia's own vineyards. It seems like the land in the area is really great for winemaking, and many people grow their own grapes and wine their own wine.
Photo credit: Robert Alexander from Travel Langhe
Of course, white truffles are the focus here, and there are plenty of menu items which work well with the truffles. Like silly tourists, we took endless photos with this newfound and novel celebrity, knowing our time together would be short.
Bryan with the huge white truffle we were about to eat.
Pumpkins were in season at the time, and we noticed many seasonal pumpkin dishes on menus all around the Piedmont region.
This pumpkin custard, served over a pastry shell and topped with generous amounts of white truffles, was fantastic.
I love how they used the sage leaves both as an herb and as a form of decoration.
My favorite dish, however, had to be the pasta, simply tossed in butter and topped with a mountain of white truffles.
Interestingly, the pasta here was not the popular tajarin version (the yellow pasta made with many egg yolks - see this post for a detailed explanation). Instead, their version had a little less egg yolk, but - in my opinion - had the best flavor out of any pasta dish I had on the trip. It's hard for me to discern why it was so much better. Perhaps Ezio's white truffles were just much more flavorful and fresh than the other ones I had. Or perhaps the butter used was exceptionally good. I personally have a hunch that too many egg yolks actually results in a pasta that interferes with the white truffle flavors. I found that I preferred the less eggy pasta because it seemed to highlight the truffle flavors even more.
In any event, definitely get this dish if you come. It was one of my favorite food memories from the entire Italy portion of the trip!
Beef tartare is a very traditional dish in the Piedmont region, and their version was delicious. I thought it was cute how they made it look like a bunch of grapes. I guess it pays a homage to the winegrowing area around them.
Such fragrant truffles!
We ended with a filet of meat (I think it may have been veal, but I honestly can't remember!) served in a cream sauce and topped with even more truffles. It came with a side of peas and carrots.
Though the dish was very good (Bryan loved it), I remember being a bit less impressed with this dish compared to the other two.
Because our tour guides Robert and Leslie agreed to join us for dessert, were able to order several items off the menu. Robert and Leslie ordered their favorite, red wine poached pears.
The chocolate cake was divine.
My favorite was the panna cotta, which was silky, creamy, and beautifully decadent.
And finally, a shot of espresso to finish off the meal.
This was a really special dinner for so many reasons. The white truffles were phenomenal, and I will never forget the simple pasta with butter topped with white truffles. Simply unforgettable. We also liked the idea that we were eating at the home of a truffle hunter, and really appreciated the dedication that both Ezio and Clelia put towards the food they served. If I ever come back, I would seriously consider try to stay here and perhaps join in a truffle hunt or two!
All Posts In This Series
Around the World Birthday Extravaganza
Alba White Truffle Fair
Osteria Dei Sognatori - A Traditional Piedmontese Dinner
Italy Wine Tour - Barbaresco
Lunch at Donna Selvatica in Neive, Italy