Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

The Italian Tryst Day Two - Monday 29th October 2018

The Italian Tryst - October and November 2018

Write up of a seven day bus trip across Northern Italy by me and some of my Malaysian Foodie and Winey friends, taking in Lake Como, Bolgheri, Alba and Milan. Dear Leader said we were a Tryst of pilgrims on another wine and restaurant and food adventure, so we became Trystians. Photos mostly by me, though some filched from the Facebook pages of Chan May Peng, Wong Yin-How and David Teh.  

Day Two - Monday 29th October 2018 - Cernobbio - Bergamo - Bolgheri

Lenglui at Da Vittorio <3
Check out of Hotel

I awoke up to pretty much total darkness with barely a little light peeping through the sides of the blinds. No real idea what time it was as my phone only seems to catch up with local time after a few days - it seems to have its own jet lag. Lenglui's IPhone seems to have little problem in so adjusting and it said that it was 4.30am. Okay, not bad - nearly five hours solid. (NB I carry the electricity adapters and leads so Lenglui's phone got charged on my side of the bed). I grabbed my travel torch to light the path to the bathroom for a relieve and returned by the same route and clambered back under the cover. Feeling quite awake, I started fiddling around with the iPad to try and get back to sleep. Took an hour but eventually got some more sleep. Is all about management as we age - sleep, pee, booze, we figure out methods to manage the processes. 

Next awake was 7am with Lenglui stirring at about 8. I made us some Cafe 21 instant coffee (one of the better 2-in-1 sachets) whilst we leisurely got ourselves spruced up and packed and ready for the day.  

Our off had been postponed to 10.30 rather than the original 8am. A visit to a winery had originally been scheduled for the morning but a consensus felt that a lazy lie in at the fabulous hotel was far more preferable than a cold morning at a wet winery. So we were able to take our time with our instant coffee and a gentle repack ahead of breakfast. The view through the window was quite pleasant, thought there did seem to be a lot of debris in the waters - lot of gunk, plastic, and various other indescribables. 

We had previously noted that the lift was a bit small so we figured to bring down the bags early rather than fight the traffic jam of everyone trying to get their bags down at 10am. This worked quite nicely as we enjoyed a good breakfast of ham and eggs with full creamy coffee and bread and jam. The eggs were particularly good, and according to one of the Trystians the sausage was the best ever. I had opted not to taste, figuring against anything too large and full of fat - we had a three star lunch in prospect and one gets a bit fearful of a full belly ahead of it. Then it was Lenglui and I parking ourselves outside in the lounge chairs to check our email and enjoy the view across the lake. It was still overcast, though a threat of blue sky occasionally poked through to kindle hopes of a fair day ahead. 

There was also a threat of chili at the breakfast table from Trystian David, though for some reason it did not materialise. Perhaps it was fake news. Or fake Chili?

As the morning progressed, everyone else gradually made their ways down with luggage in tow and lurked around the doorway. The sky had brightened considerably and there was a buzz about the Trystians.  I had kept the key just in case of a need to return to the room, which proved unnecessary; was able instead to go for a final pre busride pee at the lobby bathroom ahead of the hour or so drive in prospect. As said, these things have to be managed and experience continues to be the best teacher.

Marco the Bus rolled up pretty much on time and again humped and clumped the bags aboard. We had a slight wait for two of our pilgrims who had apparently gone into town in search of the sausage they had eaten at breakfast. The quest had proved unsuccessful - they were sausageless. Though it would prove a constant probe after every stop across all the towns - hunt the sausage. What? 

Sat at Da Vittorio table waiting for starter's orders
Depart to Bergamo

Bergamo was a shade off our next destination of Bolgheri - it was more inland whereas Bolgheri was 450km away on the west coast. But Dear Leader had booked a three star restaurant for lunch there and we figured…  well, okay. Dear Leader would not have gone so far out of the way if it was not worth it. Can't remember much about the drive. I recognised passing the Tesco again we had visited on the previous day. Otherwise it was pretty grey all the way. Given the bus wifi, I was following the route on the handphone Google Maps - quite fun equating towns to the map and watching the clock wind down. This would become my way of passing the time in the bus. My other bus distraction is usually to write up notes - the grey sky pretty much dampened most of my enthusiasm. Just can't get motivated when the sky is so grey...

Trystians Wen Dee and Yin-How
Lunch at Da Vittorio (***)

And wet - It was absolutely pelting down with rain when we parked up in the restaurant car park. I seem to recall Marco performing one of his infamous "oops" and having to retrace somewhat to get into the proper part of the car park. Notwithstanding, those of us with umbrellas and Daiso ponchos unloaded into the waters and proceeded into the Da Vittorio where we de-ponchoed and got directed through the restaurant and into the private dining room. 

This would be one of the highlights of the trip. Da Vittorio is a Three Star Michelin which May Peng notes is "exceptional cuisine that deserves a special journey". And if you add "warm, seamless and soulful service" then you get Da Vittorio. "We braved pelting rain and made a detour to this tastefully appointed 3* restaurant in Bergamo and had a truly unforgettable lunch," she said in her Facebook post. Couldn't agree more. 

Quite an amusing Amuse
A member of the Relais & Chateaux association, the Da Vittorio website notes that the complex comprises ten hectares in lush countryside with a tennis court, a five-a-side football pitch and two natural lakes, linked by a path. There is also a charging station for electric cars. So both driver and car can literally recharge their batteries. 

All the kitchen staff came out to serve us!
The webbie goes on to note that the "concept of 'Lombard tradition and creative genius' is the leitmotiv of Da Vittorio’s menus, which are regularly updated and altered to keep up with changes in the market and in the seasons. The care, attention and exploration of culinary themes is kept wide-ranging to please all palates." Also, the "raw ingredients are of the highest quality: langoustines from Mazara del Vallo, meat from Piedmont, locally-sourced mushrooms and an infinite amount of other ingredients which travel each day from their source to the restaurant’s kitchen."

Tuna with Rye Bread Crackers, Valcalepio and Pear Cream
The restaurant seems to specialise in fish dishes, which is a bit odd when you recall that the place is situated smack in the middle of Northern Italy. Story goes that the restaurant founder liked his fish and determined that he would bring his fish dishes to the Piedmont punters. It clearly worked. Chef also likes his dessert and patisseries. The breads and pastries were indeed wonderful. And dangerous. Very easy to take just one more roll… 

Scampo, Pomegranate, Pumpkin Ice Cream and Foie Gras
The dining room was elegant and resplendent in the natural light. We were all dressed for the occasion and everyone was looking good. Many photos got taken of people and place. And food. Service was impeccable and food brilliant. In his FB post, Yin-How notes that Da Vittorio is "One of the longest continuous Michelin starred Grand Dame restaurants of Italy. It has been 3 stars since 2010 and its a real treat to walk into a restaurant with impeccable, yet warm service where your every whim is anticipated and catered for."

Baby Octopus with Polenta
"The group had the 7 course seafood only lunch and the flavours were fresh, finely balanced and served theatrically for the first 2 courses where all 23 guests were served by 23 servers simultaneously. The bread courses and desserts were bountiful and utterly sinful.
At the end, when course after course of sweet snacks and candies were served, everyone was reduced to being a kid in a candy store, albeit in the surreal surroundings of a well appointed 3 star Michelin restaurant, in a gated country house near Bergamo. Superb."

Risotto with "Giarratana" onion, Oneglia prawns and Kumquat
May Peng adds "Yin How did an impeccable job with pairing the wines ( they were all amazing, and even more amazing, i have never tried any of the wines before) with our food...  we were so busy enjoying and being "wowed" by the food and wine selection that none of us remembered to take photos of the wines." 

Roasted Antarctic Common Mora with Milk and Yuzu
There was a great element of theatre on the dish presentations. On one occasion, the entire kitchen staff came out to serve us, which was cute. 

Trystians Joe and CJ
The wines were overall light and perfect for lunch. The first three were all from the Alto Adige region, with that characteristic air and lightness that the place seems to infuse its wines with. The Riesling had a firm steel backbone with floral nose and apples whilst the Sauvignon Blanc exhibited somewhat more delicacy in balance across the elements than our usual New Zealand expressions. Both were delightful partners with the seafood dishes coming out of the kitchen, all of which showed playful creativity on the plate. 

Not entirely sure who is shooting what here....
All the dishes were excellent - the Tuna on Rye was a perfect crisp crunch and bite to start, with the following contrasts of the Scampo with the Foie Gras against the mouth cooling ice cream and zing of the pomegranate tickling the cheeks with amazing flavours. The baby octopus all looked a shade sad and miniscule, floating on their plate of golden polenta - it felt a bit shameful eating them as we did; perhaps better to let them grow to maturity. The Risotto was excellent, mouth melting contrasts against the prawn and yet another zing being added by the kumquat; the fish was stellar, though with YET ANOTHER zing from some Yuzu. Zing seems to be a running theme through the dishes, which is pleasant though on reflection perhaps a shade monotonous - going from one zing to another doesn't give much chance for ebb and flow across dishes and the progression can suffer. But this is a minor gripe - the whole was a total feast and wholly memorable. Hope to return one day - most excellent indeed. 
Fried Zotoli" with Pasinaca Foam and Licorice

Da Vittorio ambience
Da Vittorio Menu
Tuna with Rye Bread Crackers, Valcalepio and Pear Cream
Scampo, Pomegranate, Pumpkin Ice Cream and Foie Gras
Baby Octopus with Polenta
Risotto with "Giarratana" onion, Oneglia prawns and Kumquat
Roasted Antarctic Common Mora with Milk and Yuzu
Fried Zotoli" with Pasinaca Foam and Licorice
Petits Fours

Franciacorta Pinot Noir Nature 2008 Alto Adige Manzio Compagnoni
Castel Ringberg Elena Walch, Riesling 2017 Alto Adige
Winkl Sauvignon Blanc 2017, Cont. Tetlano, Alto Adige
Terre Sicilane "Nerello Mascalese" 2012 Passepisciaro

Da Vittorio
Via Cantalupa, 17
24060 Brusaporto (BG) - Italy
Phone +39 035.681024
Fax +39 035.680849

Depart to Bolgheri

Sharing plate for dinner
I was not looking forward to this - four and a half hours on the road without a toilet on board. And lunch had overextended by a delightful hour or so - it was extremely hard to leave a place such as this. And the rain was stopping to allow a view across the grounds of the complex. In the end, it was close on four o'clock by the time we left Da Vittorio. As said, the good news was that the rain had stopped and we were able to walk rain free to the bus. But it came back quite quickly as we got on to the main road and sped our way south and westward, and it became a pretty grey drive along the jam free and well tarmacked Italian highways. The Tyristians napped and occasionally chatted and occasionally read or checked their Whatsapp - must say that having the wifi on the bus was brilliant; being in total contact with the world at all times is a wonderful thing. 

Dinner wines at Relais Sant' Elena
We took a rest stop about two hours in at a garage with a food and wine shop attached, and some of the Trystians picked up a snack or two for the ride. Then it was back on the bus for another two hours to the next stop ahead of our final ride into Bolgheri. 

Check in at Relais Sant' Elena

It was dark when we arrived, and we underwent another Marco "oops" as he turned up somewhere that needed a rectify. We pulled into the driveway and parked the bags near the reception area to collect the keys. The kitchen had stayed open for us, and once we had dumped the bags in the room we all repaired to the dining room for a supper of ham and cheese with excellent croquettes, followed by a hearty ragout with ribbon pasta and all washed down with some tasty wines. A full belly is always a good way to end the day. Sufficiently sated, we said our goodnights and filtered off to our rooms for a quick shower and straight into the big bed with its massive and heavy duvet. The big drive was done. Slept like a pig.
Fried Cheese appetizer - lead in the belly

The Tiramisu was brilliant - light, creamy, coffee whack in the mouth

A dollop of Bolognese on a dollop of Polenta on peppered plate.  With Bay Leaf. Yes.

The brilliantly tasty Ragout

Trystian David shooting the booze
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