From passionate about rice couldn't wait to get back in the rice paddies of Novara. And I wanted to do it not in a period any of the year but just in may, When the rice fields become a mirror which confuses sky and Earth, with expanses of water as far as the eye, large canals that feed the hundreds of small irrigation ditches that line the banks of cultivated fields. A mirror where you can see herons, storks, Germani, small frogs, between the reflection of the clouds and trees. Unique landscapes that do not stop to photograph, because every corner offers a different shade on the other. If you love nature, the tranquility and photography, a tour through the rice paddies (all relevant information can be found on the dell website’ATL Novara) will make you fall in love with the places and also of the product: rice. An extraordinary food, that feed billions of people around the world and which in Italy has created an original dish and inimitable: the risotto. Novara (third Italian province after Vercelli and Pavia), the rice is produced by six hundred years and this production has changed the profile of the camps and the territory, turning him into vast expanses of water, Although today more and more often the rice is also produced ' dry ', or without flooding the fields, in order to prevent the spread of plant diseases. Not that the novarese is just rice: There are also other products-symbol of this area, like gorgonzola Dop, that I love, or the wine, from Boca Dop at Ghemme, from Erbaluce Nebbiolo. Every year to highlight and reward the production of wine, the Chamber of Commerce di Novara organizes contest “Golden goblets high Piedmont”, a showcase to learn about these products and the various companies.
My tour among the rice paddies is started Gionzana, fraction of Novara, where Cascina Sings (whose origins date back to 1595) in his 38 hectares makes the rice for generations: the main feature of this rice mill is the ability to achieve an integrated chain to 100%. Here the rice is grown, rough harvest, worked, packaged and sold in many types, refined, integrals and integral seeds: Carnaroli obviously, but also Vialone Nano, Balilla, Red Sant'Eusebio and Ganges . The Singing has the merit of having believed in the variety Maratelli, a rice that was disappearing and you retrieved. I discovered Maratelli last year during Exporice and since then I have not abandoned. A wonderful story to this Winery, that was also the scene of 1905 the farmhouse was the scene of an ambush the last representatives of a band of robbers, known as the "Mandian d'la sings" that here found refuge after their raids, and even their deaths.
In Casalbeltrame is the farm Good Rice the family Guidobono Cavalchini: Here they produce two types of rice I use from time, one is the Carnaroli, the company put on the market after a year from the collection as Carnaroli Gran Reserva; the rice aged one year proved to have a smaller dispersion of starch and minerals in cooking and therefore a better cooking. The second variety, the company has patented, is rice Artemis: is integral, aromatic and is derived from the cross between Indica rice and rice. It has a very high content of iron and Silicon (try to water the plants with cooking water and you will see that results). It is a short step to its derived from rice, and the company produces today even rice cakes, bread sticks, Carnaroli rice and rice flour Artemis, dragged by the imagination and creativity of Cristina Brizzolari Cavalchini. Tenuta La Mondina also includes an outline of 1700, partially renovated (as the stables and part of the main building), partly under renovation under the watchful eye of Cristina: Dark halls that follow one after the other like a maze there is a treasure trove of frescoes, marbles, antique furniture, paintings. A paradise for those who, like me, has always been fascinated by the world of antiques and restoration.
Rice will also produce in a beautiful farmhouse, the farm La Maddalena in Sillavengo, where rice is not only a part of the production: the ' piece de resistance ', In fact, are fresh milk, the ice creams, yoghurts and especially the cheeses, fresh and aged cheeses. It's all raw milk cheeses, enriched according to the imagination of the owners: with alfalfa, lemon, Timo, Chili, coffee, Orange and cinnamon, Marc, papá, herbs. The cows are over 200, and all have a name. The company employs a small army of pigs, geese, dogs, a horse and a donkey. The place is rustic and charming at the same time, with a nice pond surrounded by fruit trees: Here you can go to learn how to make cheese, like a true dairyman. Fresh ones, like ricotta, Toma and mozzarella, they can take away, and those seasoned return to pick them up after they finished their journey.
And what could be better, with a good risotto, a glass of wine? In the hills of alto novarese, bordering the province of Biella and a few kilometres from the Monte Rosa massif, There are small companies with great pride and tradition. Here we produce the Boca Doc, Thanks to the activity of 11 cellars, keepers of an ancient wine growing that over the years has gone fading. His story is encased in an aerial photograph taken in the 1930s at the sanctuary of Boca, where you see how every centimeter of the hills (the highest area where it is grown Nebbiolo in Piedmont) is covered with vines, in over 10 thousand hectares which made Italy one of the wine-growing areas of Boca, with landscapes that resemble the current Langhe Piedmont. Then the industrial boom and land abandonment: the forest has taken over what the man had taken with the meticulous cultivation of vines and this treasure in 1994 there were just 10 hectares. The real saving an endangered wine should be a Swiss citizen (Yes, the Swiss have saved the Boca Doc) Christoph Kuhn that, fell in love with these areas during an event dedicated to wine, decided in the 1990s to move, detect the vineyards of a local producer (Antonio Castaño) and come to appreciate this denomination. The hills are, in part, come back and be covered with neat rows of vines, mostly planted with simple guyot, but part of the vineyards is still cultivated as once, with the Maggiorina, a system that effectively transforms the rows (Centennial vineyards planted in 1915 and then pre phylossera) in elegant gardens, in which ligatures are executed again with the willow. Today the Winery by Christoph, Le Piane, organic produce (even if the recognition doesn't want, too much red tape… can you blame him…) about 30 thousand bottles, with some wines that deserve to be remembered for their elegance and finesse, and the clever use of Nebbiolo grape Vespolina. Note for the Le Piane Novara hills Doc 2011, made from Croatina.
Always in the hills of Boca is l’Company Man by Alexander Chancellor. Beautiful environment, because the company is located in the complex built and soils pertaining to the ancient fortress of Montalbano, where you can still see the outline of the structure of the ancient 15th century castle of the family Banu Carrasco. Along the outer walls there is still a series of frescoes depicting various scenes from the life of a fortress: faded and written off in many parts, the frescoes are still vivid, some designs clearly visible. The vineyard of relevance is just one hectare. Alexander only produces two wines: the Red Montabano, round and full of perfumes, and the Boca from austere character.
The ancient village of horses is the realm of Cellar Barbaglia in Stein ar. The company was founded in 1946 and now is led by father and daughter: Sergio and Silvia are both winemakers and enthusiasts of vines and sparkling wines (with trials of Erbaluce classic method, aged over 60 months). The ancient village of horses , working 3 hectares of vineyard producing about 25.000 bottles per year, deserves a mention for its elegant and well balanced Nebbiolo, for the rare grapes in purity, for Boca, passito di Novara and the rare Greek passito di Nebbiolo. The vitality of Silvia, He has two children and an irrepressible passion for his work and the outdoor life that makes your eyes sparkle, is the best advertisement for wines.
And now we come to my tips on where to stay, eat and what to buy, In addition to rice and wine! For those of you who had intended to go to visit Expo 2015 from now to September, keep in mind that Novara and surroundings are neighbors at Expo as the Centre of Milan, then….
WHERE TO SLEEP: in Novara town my favourite hotel is l’Hotel Cavour, strategic location near the station, pretty much just one minute from the main course. If you have no car, you want to be pampered a little bit and stay outside the, in the midst of greenery and the rice paddies, are two addresses that I recommend. The first is La Capuccina, a farmhouse with adjoining farm producing salami and mild goat cheese with a great restaurant run by chef Gian Luca Zanetti. The second address is The Torre dei Canonici, historical residence dating back to 1400 with just seven rooms, all decorated with antique furniture and equipped with Spa. From here you can take a bike to visit the paddy fields.
WHERE TO EAT: Gorgonzola, fassona, paniscia: There are many gastronomic specialties that you can enjoy in the novarese. In some of these restaurants have been repeatedly and are always my benchmark, others I tried them on this tour for rice wine and enjoyed, so I'll point out. The address for gourmets is obviously the starry Tantris, with its creative menu but respectful of the raw material and the tradition of Novara. For a chic aperitif or dinner, You can choose The courtyard Café, located in a beautiful historic building with a minimal environment inside with menu attentive to quality products. Five kilometres from the city centre, but to get there you have to use the machine or call a taxi, You can find the CA’ in Novara: surrounded by greenery and designed in a modern and minimalist, the Ca’ is restaurant, pizzeria, lounges but also resort with pool and tennis court. The restaurant offers a cuisine based on traditional ingredients with creative reinterpretations. The black pizza with a base of rice flour 90% and 10% for the Artemide wheat flour. Cameri is a restaurant with traditional cuisine of high standard: If you go The Fireplace don't forget to try the cannelloni Cameri, now almost unobtainable, made with a pasta crepe that envelops a meat stew flavored, served on a Parmesan fondue and a bottom glazed with red wine. If you find yourself in and around London, make a stop at the restaurant The Tower, where you will find a traditional cuisine with a different twist and a keen eye to the needs of vegetarians and Celiacs. Finally, If you followed my advice and you went to Boca to buy a little of that wine we mentioned before, try the restaurant's appetizers Ori Equal, all in traditional Piedmontese key but revisited, and combined with a Boca 2010: great vintage.
WHAT TO BUY: I leave you a few tricks but precise. For the gorgonzola, in my opinion the best is that of latteria sociale Cameri, that creamy has few touchstones. Excellent also the Palzola (try that with hot pepper) and gorgonzola selected by Guffanti. You cannot leave without the famous biscuits Novara Novare, that are on sale at biscuit Camporelli, who has a shop right on the corso Cavour. Finally, In addition to wine you point out even one beer: the Malt cross Trecate, that are on sale in the Centre in the capital. Finally, If you fancy a soft brioche or want to take home, in season, castagnaccio, Don't miss the pastry Bag, on the corso Cavour to the 12.