Thursday, August 11, 2011

Southern comfort

Every other night, usually at the dinner table, my other half quizzes me about what I was doing, eating, or where I was, one year ago. Since we were in Italy at that time, it's an easy game. The food is generally the key to the answer.

With the multitude of eggplant (less the few the racoons have sampled) that are ripening in our garden, we are recreating the simmered summery vegetable dishes we enjoyed in Calabria last August. Stewed in ripe tomatoes, fresh herbs and earthy, crispy fried peppers, eggplant truly shine in this dish. We skip the olives (preferring to eat them on the side before and after the meal) and add a few dried chiles to the fry pan (before the garlic) cooking them until they are fragrant and crisp. We also add a zucchini or two depending on what is garden ready.

Eaten under the vines at 'room temperature' with crusty bread and the local ciro..

Southern comfort perfected.

Monday, August 01, 2011


I love cheese in a way that I am certain is not natural. And the lengths I'd go to for cheese are generally great.  However, along the shores of beautiful Lake Maggiore under the watchful eye of Il Sancarlone (Saint Charles Borromeo), in the Comune di Arona, finding good cheese proved to be no problem.

Guffanti, a family affair to this day, remains as one of the local area cheese houses that specialise in affinage.  In addition to Italy's greats and a few imports from France, you'll also find some wonderful lesser known regional and artisanal cheeses.  Walking through the ripening caves beneath the unassuming shop front (more of a loading dock than anything) off Arona's main street, with its damp brick walls and low ceilings, the glorious aroma of ripening cheese meets you at the door, shakes your hand and welcomes you inside.

After a tour, we had a great tasting complete with a few of the local craft brews.  I'm not sure that tours are a regular thing but they weren't so busy and were happy to oblige a curious cheese loving traveller. We left with a respectable portion of perfect Parmigiano Reggiano destined for Canada and a chunk of Taleggio that was the center of lunch not 15 minutes down the road.

If you are in Piedmonte, or driving through from Milano to Venezia, it's worth the diversion through the tunnels to the provincia di Novara, some spectacular scenery (and great cheese) on the other side.

Luigi Guffanti 1876 s.r.l.
Via Milano, 140 - 28041 Arona NO - Italy
Tel. +39 0322 242038 / 47222