The C.O.S.I group has chosen winter for this months joint post. Italy is full of great things to do and I am sure the C.O.S.I bloggers will have lots of useful information from visiting wonderful places in Florence to skiing in the Alps. I personally think skiing is far to dangerous for a mere black sheep (Pecora Nera) So instead I will tell you about food, wine and dinning with good friends, which is much closer to my heart than skiing.
It is difficult to drink wine whilst skiing
Mrs Sensible and I were invited to the 50th Bagna Cauda evening in Cortandone, by a wonderful couple (Mr & Mrs K) who we had met a few months ago. Mr K and I appear to have a couple of things in common, we both enjoy a laugh, we have Italian wives who are bilingual and neither of us have mastered the Italian language, allegedly Mr K knowledge of Italian is a bit better than mine.
The festivities took place in a little village in Asti about 48 kilometers (about 30 Miles in real money) from where we live.
Bagna Cauda, according to the nice old guy who was sat at our table, is a traditional Piedmontese winter meal; the ingredients are remarkably simple and are guaranteed to your sinuses; they are garlic and anchovies cooked in olive oil. We took our seats and I was mildly impressed to see there was already a carafe of wine on the table.
While Mr K and I sampled the wine and tried to decided if it was Barbera or a Grignolino (we finally decided it was definitely a red) the waiter arrived and poured some of the mixture into our dishes. Now it is very hard to describe the texture and colour of the Bagna Cauda, it certainly smelt of anchovies and garlic, there was obviously a lot of olive oil mixed in the mixture with bits floating in it and it also looked a little bit like a primeval swamp.
These guys in the red shirts volunteer to serve during the evening.
On the table there was a couple of platters of raw and cooked vegetables, including potatoes, radish, peppers and celery. I even found a couple of large and fantastic spring onions to throw into my pot. As you can see I was correct, it was red wine.
Bagna Caulda complete with a little candle to keep it hot.
The following is not a very good picture, but I think it is important to show you the size of the spring onion I rescued from the vegetable platter and stuck in my pot… much to the dismay of Mrs Sensible.
Just a little spring onion, just in case the garlic and anchovies haven’t produced enough flavour.
After a second refill of Bagna Cauda, the waiter arrived with some plates of pastina. Pastina is a light soup with very small pieces of pasta floating in it.
Pastina with egg pasta
I very nearly got into trouble at this point because Mrs S asked me if I was enjoying the pastina, I said yes it is OK; but it tastes like soup with scrambled egg floating in it. I was informed by Mrs S that it was egg pasta!!! Which was why to me, it tasted of scrambled egg in soup…. Still it was very nice, a little unusual because I normally prefer my scrambled egg on toast.
After the scrambled egg in soup, a waiter arrived to ask if we wanted the meat dish. I always become a little worried when waiters (or my wife) tell me it is meat rather than pork or beef. The nice old mans wife asked if I like meat. I confidently answered.”Io mangio tutti” Mrs Sensible, said he means “tutto not tutti” Apparently with my limited grasp of the Italian language I had just informed the nice old lady that I eat everybody rather than everything. Oh well.
Then the meat arrived.
There were two items on the plate that I recognised and a couple of pieces that looked like maybe they had come from dubious origins. While no one was watching too closely I slide the strange-looking meat onto Mrs Sensible’s plate and kept what looked like a slice of beef. I know the round thing was cotechino and under normal circumstances I would have eaten it, but what with scrambled eggs in soup I wasn’t going to take any chances. Plus I had eaten salami at the start of the meal, unfortunately I forgot to take a picture.
We had a quick raffle, I failed miserably, I didn’t even win a cuddly toy.
No winners here
And then the sweet arrived and the waiter kindly brought another carafe of wine.
Fantastic apple strudel and
I won’t say Roberto was the highlight of the evening; but he came very close to it. He arrived at out table with a bottle of grappa in one hand and a bottle of limoncello in the other.
Roberto, the hero of the night
Which would you like? Roberto asked. “Yes please” I answered. As Mrs Sensible rolled her eyes to heaven he poured me a large measure of grappa and a glass of limoncello. Roberto then turned to my friend and asked if he would like a glass of both. I am not sure his wife approved and I think Mr K tried to say it was my fault, that I was a bad influence.
This morning I awoke to find the bedroom windows had been mysteriously opened by Mrs S in the middle of the night. I think the smell of garlic, anchovies, spring onions, wine, limoncello and grappa had become too much for her sensitive nose.
Verdict on the evening.
Brilliant, The food was great and it is always a pleasure to spend time with good friends.
Georgette (Girl in Florence): What to expect when you visit Florence in winter
Andrea (Sex lies and Nutella): Surviving the Italian winter
Gina (The Florence Diaries): A foreigner’s guide to surviving winter in Italy
Rochelle (Unwilling Expat):Without winter there would be no summer
Misty (Surviving in Italy): Italy in the winter: Baby, it’s cold outside
Maria (Married to Italy)
Rick (Rick’s Rome): How to enjoy winter in Italy