A Very Nice Bottle of Wine

Ms. Boffa convinced me quickly I wasn't going to be able to eat any white truffles. And God forbid some fake Tuscan one might pass my lips. But she was so generous with her time, and her restaurant, La Libera, was so full of people that we thought, heck, let's eat here anyway.

We sat down and she brought us the one-page menu...and the 22-page wine list. The wine list, which had pages upon pages of locally-made Barbarescos and Barolos (listed by years, of course), included wines that cost more than 200 Euros a bottle. We wanted to sample one of the area's renowned wines, but we weren't too sure where to start.

Turns out Ms. Boffa knew a whole lot about wine too.

We told her we wanted a good local bottle of red, but we couldn't spend a fortune. While we were still studying the list, she placed two big wine glasses on our table and an open bottle of 1998 Barolo produced in a winery in La Morra, one of the many beautiful hilltop towns near Alba.

Oh my gosh, Ms. Boffa, what a delicious bottle of wine. Do restaurant owners in the States have that confidence in their wines? To just open the bottle without telling you what they've chosen and then present it to you as a fait accompli?

I decided that for dinner, I would order two dishes that my mother used to make. So for an appetizer, I had vitello tonnato, which is paper-thin slices of veal served with capers and a green mayonnaise sauce. And for the main course, I ordered lamb cutlets, served with fried calf brains and artichokes.

It was the brains of my childhood that I was after. I thought back to one night when I was a kid in Arlington. I went out to play with my friends after dinner and told them my mother had made yummy calf brains for dinner. (We usually had them boiled and served with olive oil and lemon). My friends stared at me like I was from another planet. Some things just didn't translate well in those days.

It turns out we just happened onto one of Alba's best restaurants. The young couple at the table next to us had driven out from Torino just to eat there. And one of the area's well-known wine producers was at the next table. He invited us to come out to see his winery. That's where we're headed now.

By Daniela Deane |  January 26, 2006; 2:10 PM ET  | Category:  Alba , Food , Wine
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Daniela, your blog is so much fun to read, although I am so envious. I want some of that hot chocolate-and-coffee! I want to be sipping that wine! On our last trip to Italy, we drank whatever was the local red the restaurant was serving by the glass and it was consistently wonderful.

Posted by: C.D. | January 26, 2006 06:12 PM

We wouldn't mind it if you brought back one of those very nice bottles of wine when you return. But hold the calf's brain, please. A wonderful blog entry. Cheers! -ms

Posted by: Morning News Desk | January 26, 2006 10:15 PM

In the Sunday, Feb. 5 Travel section you referred to your order of vitello tonnato as "thin slices of veal carpaccio served with a light green mayonnaise sauce." That may be what you were served, but the classic rendition of the dish is with a sauce containing tuna fish, and no mayonnaise.
See for instance recipe No. 212 on page 140 of "365 Easy Italian Recipes" (by Rick Marcullo O'Connel, published in 1991 by HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06016310-0).
Anyone who has tasted the true vitello tonnato would never confuse it with something else.

Posted by: AB | February 5, 2006 05:27 PM

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