Postcard from Turin, Italy: Home to many a food “invention”

Some of the members of the House of Savoy you were introduced to in the prior post get credit for additions to Turin’s distinctive flavors. Grissini, thin crispy Italian breadsticks, were invented to meet special dietary needs of Vittorio Amadeo II (1666-1732). Perhaps most significant to Italians, Emanuele Filiberto (1553-1580) brought the first chocolate to Italy.

As in Spain, the earliest ways to consume chocolate imported from the New World were in a liquid form. This has survived through the centuries in Turin in the form of bicerin, a rich triple-layered beverage (more like a dessert to me) consisting of thick hot chocolate, espresso and foamy cream. Numerous major chocolate factories are found in the city. With hazelnuts the most popular nut, it is not surprising Nutella was created there. Vermouth and Campari originated in Turin; the city is home to the Slow Food movement; and the first Eataly opened there.

The region’s lean grass-fed beef, fassone, seems most popular when consumed ground and raw. Locals eat huge patties of the meat tartare. I was happy my sampling of it was restricted to a petite amuse bouche. Which is partially why I expected the area cuisine to be dominated by head-to-tail meat offerings.

Much to my pleasant surprise, Turin residents prize their locally grown vegetables. There were a remarkable number of vegetarian restaurants, such as the highly regarded somewhat pricey Soul Kitchen. But even our humble homey neighborhood restaurant, Trattoria Alla Locandina, offered several vegetable dishes, including grilled eggplant and fried zucchini blossoms filled with cheese.

Our go-to lunch spot in Turin, E Cucina Torino, was like a reunion with an old friend. We first encountered Chef Cesare Marretti’s concept of providing limited-menu fixed-price meals in Bologna three years ago. Expect locals to be lined up here for the 10-euro special: a starter; a choice of a meat, seafood or vegetarian entrée; a small dessert; a glass of wine; and an espresso. I found myself always falling for the vegetable platter which included a side salad, a mountain of fresh vegetables hiding a vegetable flan underneath and a ball of fresh mozzarella too massive for me to ever conquer. The Mister was more apt to explore the other options.

Then there is the featured photo above, perhaps my favorite dish in Turin: a layered vegetable tian with a gorgonzola and almond sauce at Ristrot Guviol. We encountered wonderful creations emerging from this kitchen. An impressive crab shell arrived atop a dish of spaghetto with crab and grape tomatoes. A ribbon of raw salmon made a bright stripe across a rich risotto, and there was a tagiolini with squid and a crown of mullet roe.

The food of the Piedmont region is without a doubt among the best in Italy.

As eagerly anticipated as the Academy Awards. Not.

Thanks so much, John Branch, http://comicskingdom.com/john-branch

Okay, the biannual roundup of what posts you read most during the past year is not exciting, but it always interests me.

As usual, he Alamo floats up near the top. While lots of you read my “Dear Mayor” post, it seemed to have little impact at City Hall despite its direct delivery to the inboxes of the 11. I actually was writing about the Alamo some yesterday, slipping Alamo politics into the historic fiction manuscript on which I am focusing. The passionate stands and debates about the Alamo and its plaza a century ago differ little from those of today.

You hold the King William neighborhood and Brackenridge Park dear as well. And am hoping some of our recent travels help serve as inspiration or guides for yours.

The numbers in parentheses represent the rankings from six months ago:

  1. Dear Mayor and City Council: Please don’t surrender Alamo Plaza, 2017
  2. The Madarasz Murder Mystery: Might Helen Haunt Brackenridge Park?, 2012 (2)
  3. What’s up top counts, 2017
  4. Brackenridge Park: ‘Is it still a postcard place?,’ 2017
  5. Postcards from San Antonio a Century Ago, 2016 (3)
  6. Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Wishing these dining spots were not 600 miles away, 2016 (12)
  7. How would you feel about the Alamo with a crewcut?, 2011 (6)
  8. Thanks to the Mister on his day for persistence in obtaining my Mother’s Day present, 2017
  9. Introducing Otto Koehler through a Prohibition politics caper of yesteryear, 2016 (11)
  10. Postcard from Bologna, Italy: Volunteering to eat at E’Cucina Leopardi everyday, 2016
  11. Please put this song on Tony’s pony and make it ride away, 2010 (4)
  12. Postcard from Campeche, Mexico: Sittin’ on Campeche Bay, 2017

Thanks for dropping by periodically. Love hearing your feedback.

Postcard from Bologna, Italy: Hard to keep a camera in a pocket

The last batch of postcards from our month wandering the streets of Bologna finally arrived.

… a city beckoning all to assume the role of flaneur.