Monday, May 16, 2011

A Grand Day Out


Yesterday morning we set out on an adventure to try a particular restaurant (for a late Mother's Day lunch) which is situated across the road from a monastery we like to visit in Novalesa.  We were originally planning to do it on Saturday, causing my daughter to pass on a classmate's birthday party because lunch out in Italy is an all-day affair.  As it happened, the weather wasn't looking so great and the place we planned to go to was at a higher altitude than here, so my husband decided against it and my daughter still missed her party.  NOBODY was happy in my house on Saturday!

However, the weather was pretty nice on Sunday, although a bit windy, which is kind of rare here.  Dear husband agreed it was okay to go out for lunch, cheers all around.
Beautiful scenery

So, we left around 10-ish and got to the monastery in plenty of time.  Hubby thought it a good idea to stop in at the restaurant to see if we could get a table.  As luck would have it, we got a table for 12:45.  That gave us plenty of time to walk around the area and the kids got to play in the restaurant's little playground.  We also had time for the monastery's gift shop, where they both got a souvenir.

The weather seemed more autumnal than springy.  There was a strong, gusty wind that was quite cold but if you could sit in the sun, out of the wind, which I managed to do while we waited (good thing I brought my knitting!), it was quite pleasant.

The monastery off in the (center) distance
This monastery, Abbazia dei Santi Pietro e Andrea,  is an incredible place to visit because Charlemagne (Carlo Magno) and his troops lived there for some time way back in the day.  There is a chapel that they've partially restored to it's original state after he had made alterations for his living quarters.  (It was a few years ago that we did the tour there and it was in Italian, so I may not have that exactly right.)

There are also loads of fabulous frescoes in the various out buildings.

When we did the tour, those years ago, a family of wild boar came trotting past us in the field and the tour guide was rather surprised.  He said he'd never seen that before.  I was kind of scared, but I suppose everyone else was and  froze in place so the boars just went on their merry way.

Anyway...about that lunch...the restaurant is an agriturismo called C'era Una Volta (Once Upon A Time) and was one of the best meals I've had in quite a few years.  To start, we had a choice of several different types of filled pasta or a stream of antipasti. Our waitress (who may have been the owner) said the second course was a cheese plate with a selection of their home-made cheeses, so if we wanted meat (the traditional second course in Italy), we would get plenty in the antipasti.  We're not big meat eaters so we went with the pasta.  A wise decision

The kids had agnolotti Piemontese in a butter-thyme sauce.  It even came with an edible fresh thyme flower!  Hubby had pasta with radicchio and speck (a type of ham).  I had triangles filled with potatoes and leeks, topped with potato-leek sauce.  Every dish was outstanding and we all nearly licked our plates clean--we did the next best thing by using bread instead of our tongues to get every last drop.

On to the cheese platter...there were eight or nine different types of cow, sheep and goat cheese, all produced on-site, along with honey, chutney, horseradish, and a hot red-pepper sauce to go with.  We're big cheese lovers, but we couldn't even eat it all.

My son, by the way, is NOT a cheese lover so they were kind enough to give him a small platter of salami and ham of different types, including a salami made of ostrich which was really tasty.

The cheese maker came out of the kitchen and explained each cheese, salami, and ham to us.

We had also ordered a half liter of Bonarda, a red wine which is different every time I drink it.  It can be slightly fizzy or not, sweet or not.  This one was not fizzy and very lovely.  My mate thought it was sweet, I didn't.

After our cheese orgy, we were presented with the dessert menu.  They had cake-by-the-slice, but we decided to have their home-made goat yogurt specialty.  Husband had dark chocolate sauce on his.  I had dark chocolate sauce over profiteroles (tiny cream-filled cream puffs) on mine.  It was like nothing I've ever had before.  The yogurt was thicker than normal yogurt by a lot!  It would maybe be the consistency of frozen yogurt, but it was cold, not frozen, and really solid.  It also had that yogurt tang and wasn't sweet so with the sweet profiteroles and chocolate sauce on top and the tangy, thick yogurt on the bottom, it was a fantastic combination.  The kids were a bit underwhelmed by it, sorry to say.  They ate their sweet stuff off the top, but left most of the yogurt behind.

This place even has a tiny shop where we bought some goat cheese to bring home.  I wish I could have gotten some of that goat yogurt!

By the way, the place was quite tiny.  There were six tables in all, although one table had a large group of about 8.  There were people outside waiting to come in when we left.  That is a bit unusual here, most restaurants have one seating per meal because meals last so long.  I don't know how long it took us to eat, it was quicker than average, but not at all rushed.  Our waitress also gave the kids little activity kits, which was a nice touch.

They had a pig-pen out back, next to the playground, and several donkeys.  I think they have outdoor seating, but it was too cold and windy for that yesterday.  They had their wood-burning stove going in the restaurant which lent a cozy air.
This is what we looked like eating our fabulous lunch!

This is our new favorite restaurant and I think we'll be going there again before too long...maybe in July!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds great , can we come? Will be back in July....