Terra Madre in Torino: Hookie Lunch featuring Wild Mushrooms and Wild Boar
Megan and I played hookie to squeeze in an extra meal – lunch in central Torino, at a seemingly nameless restaurant serving specialties of the Piemonte region. In a small room we sat at the last open table, just inside the door, and had a front row seat as two waiters squeezed around a bar laden with wine bottles, platters of tiramisu, assorted cheese wedges and hand-grater, fresh loaves of breads, and even a stuffed badger, snarling at the door.
There seemed to be no telephone, no manager, and no bartender — the waiters disappeared through a very narrow doorway (which must have been the kitchen) but no sound emerged, no clanking dishes, no machinery. As if by magic, the waiters would reappear, practically gliding, laden with course upon course of food and somehow serving all of the tables wine, fresh bread and grissini (thin breadsticks, like fresh baguette crust twisted into a stick), pastas and entrees from a hand-written daily menu, and dessert and coffee.
We chose to begin with a roasted garlic bagna cauda drizzled onto roasted red peppers – bagna cauda literally translates to warm bath, and is used to describe the warm savory sauce of garlic and anchovy that serves as a centerpiece for raw autumn vegetables. Megan chose fresh pasta with wild mushroom sauce and a glass of the house white wine; fhe brilliant yellow noodles were tossed with soft, flavorful wild mushrooms, cooked to the point of complete tenderness but avoiding sliminess, and infusing the dish with the earthy flavors of the forest floor. I selected Piemontese wild boar with polenta, and a glass of the house red wine. The polenta was also a vivid yellow (I can only surmise that the grains used for both pasta and polenta, corn and wheat respectively, are freshly ground and lovingly cultivated). The wild boar yielded a thick, beefy gravy that was seasoned with juniper and plenty of black pepper, and the polenta below it slowly, slowly, slowly absorbed the moisture of the boar’s sauce; the last few bites were delightfully dry, like a perfectly cooked brisket.
While we both would have liked to have another glass of wine, and perhaps the cheese and meat plate, or dessert, we reined in our appetites and returned to the conference by way of an outdoor market. Autumn squash, radicchio of several types, handcrafts of wool and organic cotton, handmade soaps, tinctures, tonics and teas, and even dried borlotti, canellini, black, and garbanzo beans.