Crisp alpine peaks, castle-topped villages, fertile vineyards and isolated valleys of Piedmont give rise to two of Italy’s finest culinary treasures: the white truffle and Barolo. Both can be described as sublime, almost narcotic, intoxicatingly desirable, and when coupled together during a meal, it’s a riveting affair.
Barolo, long considered one of Italy’s most magnificent wines, is produced in Piedmont from the indigenous Nebbiolo grape. The white truffle, an underground treasure, is revered as the ultimate culinary indulgence, but can only be enjoyed during a small window in the winter season. And because of this, white truffle and Barolo dinners are a seasonal treasure.
Locale Italian Kitchen, located in Las Vegas, hosted a pairing dinner which showcased the two beauties in four courses featuring legendary Barolos of Borgogno, considered classics in the history of Italian wine, and white truffles from Urbani, a renowned truffle purveyor.
The amuse, presented by Locale’s Chef Nicole Brisson, featured carne cruda – hand-cut filet with lemon and chives – which paired with a bright, but serious sparkling wine, Alta Langa Spumante by Casa de Miafiore with 20 years of age. Alta Langa DOCG is the Piedmontese brut spumante and also the first classic method sparkling wine to be made in Italy from the mid-19th century. Together with Piedmont’s famous carne cruda, where the local cattle is referred to as “Razza bovina Piemontese,” it’s a genuine Piemontese experience. The high quality ground beef Brisson served from Cape Grim, Tasmania was seasoned with olive oil, fresh garlic, lemon juice, and topped with generous shavings of white truffles.
Following, was an antipasta of autumn sformato with parmesan crema, Pomegranate and Frisée, paired with Borgogno’s elegant Barbera d’Alba Superiore. A neighbor to Barolo’s Nebbiolo grape, Barbera is known for its extracted plummy color, low tannins and high acid. It’s a versatile wine that is also captivating with loads of flavor muscle. Barbera’s felt-like texture and mouth-filling flavors and vibrant acidity make it a great counterpoint to food such as the sformato, a custard-like dish of creamy parmesan shaved generously with white truffles.
Precious and pungent, fresh white truffles are usually served sparingly so as not to overpower dishes — or drain customers’ bank accounts. Surely, it is the most precious variety of truffle. These tubers, often worth more than gold by weight and are pricey for a reason: they are difficult to find. Trained dogs use their keen sense of smell to uncover the underground gems which thrive symbiotically in the earth near poplar, linden and a variety of oak trees. Previously, female pigs were used to hunt for truffles, but the dog’s gentler mouth has proven to be beneficial for truffle preservation.
Brisson’s primi featured a veal and black truffle tortellini sitting luxuriously in a rich and delicious broth, with Parmigiano-Reggiano, prosciutto brodo and micro greens. Like an end-stop in poetry, Borgogno’s Langhe Nebbiolo 2015 provided just the right pause and punctuation after each tortellini. According to Borgogno, Langhe Nebbiolo is often considered a junior version of Barolo or Barbaresco with the availability to consume earlier. The wines still share much of the full-bodied character and structure of its mature siblings but with a scaled-down winemaking process from Nebbiolo grapes which come from the region.
Next was porcini-rubbed Bistecca di Fiorentina, which presented itself to be a crowd pleaser for red meat lovers. Understanding Brisson’s pedigree from her former posts at Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, Eataly and Manzo, is to know that her meats are sourced from the most conscious purveyors. Served medium rare, the Florentine steak was accompanied by a generous selection of sides, including truffled potato mille foglie and roasted turnips. A hearty secondi such as this begs for a delicious Barolo, such as Borgono’s Barolo 2011.
Borgono, a historic house that dates back to the mid 1800s, prides itself on being a harbinger of the traditional style. Their vineyards are found in the greatest sites within the Barolo commune. The 2011 Barolo envelopes the palate with flavors of fleshy, black cherry and plums, spice and licorice. Matched with a generously seasoned steak, it was welcomed throwback to Brisson’s steakhouse days.
Finally, a savory dessert – the goat cheese budino with black truffled glazed figs and toasted pistachios – was offered alongside Borgogno’s Barolo Chinato.
Traditionally, this aromatized wine was regarded in Piedmont as a cure-all of ailments. Its recipes are often secret and vary from producer to producer. Starting with an excellent base of Barolo, an infusion of herbs, spices, roots, leaves, seeds and fruit lend the wine a unique character. Barolo Chinato’s digestive properties were widely recognized, and serving it to guests became a typical tradition of hospitality. Together with dessert, Barolo Chinato was the perfect after dinner drink to finish an unforgettable evening that captured one of the most delicious seasons of the year.