"Anna, you have to meet this guy... I am sure you will love his story!", my friend told me and all of a sudden a lunch had already been pre-arranged for us on Sunday. It was yet another rainy cold weekend, so it was the perfect occasion to meet the Parola family and share a meal together. Sergio, the owner of this bed and breakfast near the city of Cuneo left his bank job to follow his lifelong dream. The old family house has now been transformed into a cozy and warm Bed & Breakfast with each room full of antiques and family heirlooms. Cuneo is a great place to stay if you want to surround yourself with nature and visit the six mountain valleys nearby.
Sergio is a soft-spoken man, but is not lacking passion for his old family country house and slow food ways. We started with his homemade sesame bread and "verdure agrodolce" (preserved vegetables). He made everything from scratch starting from growing his very own tomatoes, sun-drying and then jarring them. In fact, most everything on the table came directly from his own garden, including eggplants, chard, and peppers. It was the perfect start to a meal for a vegetarian like me!
Of course there was just as big of an array of salumis because we all know Piemontese love their meat. Rather I focused on the herb frittata that came next. He chopped up 12 different aromatic herbs from the garden including the leaves of mint, pansies, and violets! It was outstanding! Here Italians often put home-made red wine vinegar on top of frittatas and this one happened to be aged for 5 years!
Thank god I was already stuffed because the next course was a pork roast with potatoes. Sergio had been cooking it for hours in his old outdoor wood burning oven. Claudio said it was one of the best he had ever had!
You always have to close the meal out with a dessert no matter how full you are and I must admit I was happy to see homemade "cantucci" biscotti served with yes again, his own red wine. Out came the jarred peaches along with a bowl of peaches and apricots mixed in with amaretti crumbs. Digestivo time!
This is where I personally went overboard! I always think I can kind of hang in there with the guys but all this liquor got me feeling dizzy. We started out with homemade archibus (some kind of herb), ginseng grappa (which he kept pronouncing gin-SEC!), and dried absinthe. Just when we thought it couldn't go on any longer, Sergio brings out this old dusty damigiana and thought it was going to be more wine. Well we were in for a surprise and tasted something completely different. Sergio told us that he had kept this for type of sangria-like fruit alcohol for 5 years! You must start the process with 50% sugar and 50% alcohol. As your fruit starts going bad or you don't want to spoil it, add it to the mix with half the amount of sugar for every piece of fruit you put inside. It was pretty intense stuff. I found some blueberries and a pit in mine. We got to taste it straight but were given a jar to take home with us to try on fruit gelato. Understand why my head (and stomach) was spinning now?
Our casual lazy day lunch started at 12 and lasted till about 8! Obviously there was no need for dinner on Sunday night, or even a need to eat for the rest of the week I would say. But what really struck me was how carefully Sergio honors his family traditions especially when it comes to food. We were surrounded by easy going people, in this natural setting at the B&B. His daughter was also there sharing her spiritual and naturopathic philosophies with us. Even an old best friend dropped by to say hello and have a digestivo with us. It just felt like we were at home.
This place really put me at ease, and although they normally do not cook these giant meals for their guests at the b&b I am sure they transmit the same energy into making the guests feel at home. The mountain valleys are nearby and even Dogliani, land of Dolcetto, is not too far away. If you ever just need to get away from it all, this is definitely the place to stay!
Bed and Breakfast La Ca Di Banda
Via delle Isole 72, Madonna Delle Grazie