a flavour journey: piedmont & the hazelnut
A lot of customers ask us what the Piedmont in our Hazelnut from Piedmont ice cream is all about…
Piedmont is Italy’s second largest region and is made up of eight enchanting little provinces – (Alessandria, Asti, Biella, Cuneo, Novara, Torino, Verbano-Cusio-Ossola and Vercelli).
Literally meaning at the foot of the mountain, Piedmont is a region where nature, culture, tradition and epicureanism prevail (yes, we just made that word up).
The Piedmont Hazelnut: Tonda Gentile delle Langhe is respected for its unique flavour and outstanding quality, and is often regarded to be the best hazelnut in the world.
Tonda meaning perfectly round. Gentile meaning friendly or delicate. And Langhe signifying the stunning Valley they are from….
Like many of Italy’s finest foods, Hazelnuts from Piedmont are protected by IGP status: Indicazione Geografica Protetta – (protected designation of origin).
IGP Status simply means that the regional producer is meticulously controlled by the EU and must pass the highest standards in both preparation and production.
Simply put: it confirms a consistently high quality of original Piedmontese hazelnuts.
As a matter of fact, these little hazelnuts are the only ones in the world to be protected and sealed with quality standard approvals and controls.
We buy our hazelnuts directly from a small family-run farm which is organically certified. We buy them whole in order to maintain maximum freshness. We roast them in our oven and then make them into a fine paste to use directly in our ice cream. This is about as fresh as you'll get! From nut to cone!
This is special and also not common in ice cream making, as the market is dominated by ready-to-use nut pastes. Why don't we just use those? sure it would be much easier, and much faster, but first of all: we havent' tasted a pre-fab nut paste that we actually loved. Plus, we would rather work with a farming family or community of growers and pay a fairer price.
We also use these hazelnuts to make a mighty fine, highly addictive chocolate-hazelnut paste!
Piedmont has long been one of our favourite regions in the world. It has us returning several times a year, every year. We have hunted for truffles, we have picked, harvest and stomped on grapes. (We have gotten to enjoy our personally-stomped-on wine a year later, yes!) and we have met many truly wonderful people in this region.
We are so passionate about it, that we even put together a little first-time off-the-beaten-path travel guide for you… so that you too can enjoy the best of what Piedmont has to offer!
Travel Guide to Piedmont
Visit in the spring or summer and you will greeted with lush green rolling valleys, their fields bursting with wildflowers, fresh herbs and cherry blossoms. The Alps open their gates to offer a walking and hiking paradise. If cheese and wine seems a bit redundant, perhaps the stockfish-hurling contest at the annual Sagra dello Stoccafisso (stockfish fair) in Melazzo will do the trick for you (usually held in the spring). Late August welcomes the harvest of the world-renowned piemontese hazelnuts which then sneak their way into regional treats such as torrone, gianduiotti, as well as Gelato Nocciole del Piedmont, all of which you must try while you’re there!
The autumn will embrace you with the nostalgia of a truly traditional Italian experience. Leaves on the vines will turn bright red, fiery orange and sun-blaze yellow. Foodie pilgrims will swarm for both the Vendemmia (wine harvest) and the Fiera del Tartufo Bianco d’Alba (white truffle festival). Try your hand at stomping on grapes before dining on truffle dishes of all varieties. The commune of Castagnole Monferrato celebrates the wine harvest in a cheerful and time-honored way. After stomping on grapes, families get together to the tune of music, song and dance, and dine on traditional vendemmia dishes such as polenta in anchovy sauce or braised hare. If you’d like to witness our lovely hazelnut being awarded a prize, then head to Castellero in October for the Sagra della Nocciola where you can not only race in hazelnuts but eat anything and everything hazelnutted. For a break, drive around aimlessly and marvel at the picturesque autumn landscapes (particularly at sunset) and just simply get lost!
Deep into the winter months, the region will be encased in a gorgeous blanket of fine snow, hiding life beneath. While the valley may sleep this time of year, the culture, heritage, and regional cuisine is still very much alive. Let loose in Ivrea during its annual orange throwing festival (usually held in February or March). If you’re looking for less violent and completely non-edible thrill, you can dash over to the nearby slopes and try your hand at skiing or snowboarding. Or, for an alternative to your traditional holiday celebrations, why not celebrate Christmas or ring in the New Year piemontese style!
Regardless of when you visit, there is one word you need to know: sagra.
A sagra is a local festival or celebration, generally related to food (but not always). A sagra will offer you the most authentic taste of local and traditional Italian life. If you see a sign for a Sagra della…, chances are you won’t be disappointed if you head straight there.
Where to Stay & What to Eat:
Being a guest in Mauro’s home and B&B Ca dil Fra in Rocca Grimalda was not only a real treat but also a genuine experience of what true Italian hospitality feels like. He also makes small quantities of his own wine and will serve you a fresh and local breakfast each morning, after you wake up to the charming crow of a rooster
Albergo Ristorante Giardino da Felicin is in the center of Monforte d’Alba. We stumbled across this place on a sleepy weekday afternoon. The restaurant was actually not open, but since this place also doubles as a hotel, the chef welcomed us to sit down for a meal anyway. We were so appreciative and have wonderful memories of his home-made dishes and his generosity at feeding two hungry travelers.
If you appreciate great regional food you will not be dissapointed at this Trattoria. However, if you love cheese, you will be in heaven. The cheese cart at this restaurant is the most impressive I have ever seen in my entire life.
Speaking of cheese: oh my god.
In Pollenzo there is a University of Gastronomic Sciences which was born and promoted in 2004 by the Slow Food association in collaboration with the Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna. Their Wine Bank hosts tastings and tours of their amazing wine cellar.
For all you ladies that missed your calling as a princess, there’s still a chance. Some of the castles you see dotted along the countryside are also boutique hotels or guest houses. We have a castle which we return to at least once a year, and wanted to keep a secret, which is a struggle because our philosophy is all about trasperency, so here we go. Just don't tell anyone about it...
From the bustling cities to the quaint towns, from the mountains to the valleys and everything in between, Piedmont’s eight provinces offer a no-limits experience. Each season presents a distinctive opportunity or delicious adventure. Some highlights include (but are definitely not restricted to):
Piedmont’s capital Torino (Turin) is a host to many of the region’s bests. The Slow Food movement, Vermouth, Fiat, and the Shroud - just to name a few!
Food lovers will be in their element in the lovely town of Alba. October is the key month to visit, when the Fiera del Tartufo Bianco d’Alba is in full swing, celebrating the truffle mushroom in all its glory. Return in the spring time, for the annual Vinum Wine Festival.
Formerly the city of 100 towers (even though there were more), Asti will welcome you with medieval charm and more.
You’ll have to wander into one of the many underground caverns in Canelli to find the best of what this small town has to offer: those notorious bubbles known as Asti Spumante. Take a trip to Gancia but don’t forget about some of the smaller cellars too!
No trip to Piedmont would be complete without a (very) decent stop in Barolo. Home to Barolo wine, which is often argued to be one of Italy’s finest wines, the Wine Museum should be your first stop. To see how tradition has changed over the centuries, the adjacent Corkscrew Museum is worthy of a visit too. After bringing yourself up-to-date in both places, go for some wine tasting before dining on the regional dish of Bresola a la Barolo. Don’t leave town without a stop (and definite shop) in the Panetteria Fratelli Cravero on Via Roma.
A majestic Cedar of Lebanon tree dominates the vista in La Morra and surrounding areas. Planted in the 1800s by a married couple to commemorate their marriage, it serves as a beautiful reminder of true love… how very sweet!
While Piedmont is certainly famous for its red wines, the ancient town of Gavi breaks the mold with its Cortese grapes which date back to the 1600s and offers a delicate, elegant and versatile white wine which is not to be missed.
De-stress and also detox in the ancient Roman spa town of Acqui Terme. Water, rich in minerals, flows out of the earth. By the way, sulfuric waters are said to cleanse the liver (not that you would need it?).
Prior to giving birth to the Slow Food movement, Bra was not much more than an often bypassed medieval town. Today it’s worth a quick stop, as is the Banca del Vino in neighboring Pollenzo, which presents a cellar full of some of Italy’s best wines, and offers several courses, guided tours or wine tasting seminars. If you happen to visit in September, the Bra Cheese Festival is a requirement!
Believed to be one of the oldest cities in Northern Italy, Vercelli also happens to be one of the world’s leading rice producing regions (think: Vercelli risotto with the truffles you just picked up in Alba? Hmmm). Pay a visit to the medieval center as well as soaking in the scenic views of rice paddies – but don’t leave without trying a slice of Tartufata!
If you’re in for the thrill of walking across the world’s longest suspended bridge over a gorge, then head to the Ponte Tibetane (Tibetan Bridge) in Claviere sometime between May and September. Or just walk off the food-related debauchery on one of Piedmont’s many walking and hiking trails, accessible all year round. In fact, the mountains offer so many interconnected trails that it is possible to hike the entire length of the Alps! Lace up!
Last but definitely not least, one of the crown jewels of Piedmont is the lake area. The two most famous characters are Laggio Maggiore and Lago d’Orta, however this area is so rich in culture and scenery that it deserves an article of its own The possibilities in this region are truly endless. In fact, I am quite convinced that you could return every year for the rest of your life and still not be able to see, taste or experience everything that Piedmont has to offer. Regardless of when you decide to visit, be prepared to fall completely and utterly in love..