• 5. Eating Around Alba

    So, its morning and off to brekky on the hazelnut farm near Alba. Its a simple affair. Things grown in the garden and cooked by Rosa in the kitchen. Its wonderful. Rosa only speaks Italian and if you dont understand her it doesnt matter. She just keeps going…….

    She grows ox heart tomatoes like my grandfather used to and they are delicious. I told her that and she beamed. I now have permission to go into her garden and pick whatever I want. Its similar here to the farm I grew up on. The seeds from the best fruit are kept and planted next season. As a kid our window sills always had seeds drying on them.


    The cappuccino was served with a pitcher (like a gravy boat) of something black. When I asked what it was, the answer was coffee. If your cappuccino isnt strong enough, add coffee. Brilliant!

    Then a shower……. I kid you not. 3 rooms in Italy, same shower 3 times. Mumma Mia!

    We then asked our host what to do today. The drive from Alba to Genoa is called the romantics drive. Robin wants to do that drive. But, our host said he could get us in to Montaribaldi winery for a tour and a tasting. Then, we could go to an Enoteca (wine library) that has over 100 Barberescos in it. Its in an old church in Barberesco. So, romance or booze???? I chose booze. As we sat on the deck at the winery we could hear thunder off to the south and the vineyards were firing compressed air cannons at the clouds to prevent hail. In the middle of all this down at Genoa the weather was bad and a freeway bridge collapsed. The sketchy reports Ive heard suggest around 30 people died as a result. A sad day for Italy.


    The vineyards themselves are on significant slopes. Tractors have caterpillar tracks, not wheels. The vines have fruit on them 40cm from the ground, then a tall, skinny canopy. Most are impeccably maintained despite appearing almost impossible to even walk around or bend down to.

    Genius! But, a bottle that big is probably a couple of grand. Expensive to make…….

    The Enoteca of Barberesco. Barberesco has sandy soils making lighter wines and clay soils making heavier wines. The last few years the weather patterns have been unpredictable. 2014 was wet and the wines taste a bit vegetative. 2015 was stinking hot and the wines are good for younger drinking, but classic styles of Barberesco were not produced in these years. Trying the wines at the Enoteca lets you see these things.


    Off to Alba for a walk around, then dinner. Theres enotecas everywhere.
    White truffle is the towns speciality, so stores selling truffle oil, truffle cheeses.
    Roosters for your Sunday roast or a pig biscuit filled with hazlenut chocolate.
    For dinner we grabbed a 250ml jug of house wine (I suspect an unoaked barberesco, fine but not exciting. They do a lot of these cheap, simple wines for everyday chugging without thinking) and zucchini fritters. The waitress was lovely and verbally offered menu items.


    She was talking to customers from all over the world in pigeon this or pigeon that. Raw meat?, she offered me. Im thinking she means carpaccio (something thinly sliced and dressed) or steak tartare (hand cut with egg yolk, spices, onion). But, no. Basically a rectangular tray of un-cooked mince comes out. Right……. Anyhow, an enjoyable evening before coming home to nibble on truffled cheese and drink Arneis 😎.
  • 4. Arrived in Alban

    Morning has broken at Lake Como and we have wandered down for breakfast. Paula is looking after us and she is just lovely. She has been our source of information while here having spent nearly 40 years in the area.


    Breakfast is a simple affair, but eggs that are so yellow, tomatoes that are so red, house baked heavy bread, coffee so good that I leave out the pinch of sugar I normally put in and a home made sweet custard pie to finish on. Just so beautiful both the place and the food.

    Breakfast guests include wasps, bees and swans all of whom seem to respect the peace of the place. Paula sets a place for the bees and the wasps where its quieter hoping they will dine alone….

    After brekky we jumped in the car to drive from Italy, through a finger of Switzerland and back into Italy. As soon as we got in the car the rain started. It lasted for hours as we drove. Just bucketing. Around the Lake areas the land is so steep that the rain quickly forms fast running streams running down the slopes. Luckily the Fiat is a diesel so it just ploughed through all the water. The Switz border is in a forest area just before a long tunnel through a mountain. I stopped and wound down the window to talk to the border security and show passports, get stamped, do vehicle checks etc. The guard just looked surprised when I spoke to him and waved me through. As we left Switzerland I think the border was in the center of a shopping district!!!!

    Can you just pop over to Switzerland and get me some cheese dear?

    Anyhow, all rough driving in pouring rain. Stopped at one point for a cute dancing waters display and a pizza and an espresso.


    Stopped at Alba for bread, cheese, tomato, avocado, wine and salumi. The salumi shop closes in the middle of the day and re opens at 4pm. We met the nicest guy and had a great chat about his family members in Australia and the meat, wine and cheese he sold despite neither of us speaking the others language. Similarly, the lady selling fruit and veg next door.


    With the heavy rain fading we arrive at 430pm at the hazelnut farm come vineyard which is home for the next 4 days.



    Winding down after the drive….

    A vespailed peach tree

    Hazelnuts nearly ready and yummy plums the size of grapes

    This place is so beautiful. Corn, chickens, cherries, pomegranate, peaches, plums, tomotoes, pumpkins, egg plants, pumpkins, zucchini, sunflowers and every few moments I find something new. The vineyard produces Nebbiolo and Barbera and the winemaker here is young and smart. The 8 euro wines he is producing with a jam jar label on them are very good. Such an idyllyic place. The family owned it as a weekender but decided to do it up and make it accomodation. A huge job, but what a result!
  • 3. Pizza, Panini and Prosecco in Bellagio

    Theres a “train” that tows carriages full of tourists around the coast between the towns of Griante and Mellagio. Its just a converted tractor dressed up. Its great fun. People love it and if the NSW government is following this YOU DONT HAVE TO RIP UP THE STREET TO BUILD IT. Theres nothing wrong with simple solutions people!


    We had a chat with the lady making the pizza and she lives 2km away up steep windy roads. Being a food cart it has to go home each day, but she wont drive it. To scary driving bendy steep roads in a 3 wheeler!


    Dogs are encouraged everywhere. Thinking back to Peck department store in Milano people were shopping with their dogs. Again, such commonsense. The Hunter Valley is currently struggling with food codes banning dogs from cellar door. Can anyone tell me why?????

    An ad for schoolbooks I think…..

    And, the explaination for the fireworks last night. 11 Agosto at 1030pm at Menaggio. The local towns compete for who can put on the biggest and best display. Wow! Its a serious competition for little villages.


    Beer time. Italy also has a growing interest in craft beer leading to the production of all the ingredients domestically.

    Nice beers, but at 6.5 euro its back to the minimart and the 1.5 euro becks for me!

    Back at the minimart buying Becks and I ran into another favourite grape Nero D’avola. A lovely wine.

    The avocado took me back to my childhood when avocados were good and half an avocado would be served at a dinner party as a course. It was buttery, nutty, blemish free, just delicious.


    I planted 8 avocados on my farm last year but lost them all to frost. So, it was back down to the shores of Lake Como for pancetta, pickled mushrooms, dark heavy bread, avocado and a sip of Nero. Tomorrow we drive to Alba, but, looking at the map, theres a piece of Switzerland sticking out in our way. Stay tuned……
  • Lake Como

    Rightio, morning it is. So, we went for a quick walk after breakfast to see some local cultural pieces.


    Then, grab a shower. Now, im not going to say the shower was small, you just had to get out of it if you needed room to do something like change your mind……. Anyhow, the pressure was good and the hot water was plentiful. But, everytime I tried to wash something youd hear a bang as I hit the glass.


    It became a running joke. Then Robin tried to do a part leg shaving part contortionist routine, the grand finale of which was dropping the razor and turning off the mixer tap with her arse when she bent over to pick it up. So, showers over and off to the tranny station


    The trains in Italy (I think) are brilliant. Fast, clean, relatively cheap and hassle free. I love em. So, a short walk to Milano station and a 30 min train ride saw us at our hire car company where a short 2.5 hours later we became the proud owners for a week of a Fiat 500! I Fiat, but I dont believe it……..



    The Fiat 500 wasnt actually the car of choice. But, being technophobes (I have been considering the Amish superior to me in their computer skills lately) we failed to download the offline google maps app so had no sat nav. I need a sat nav! They saved my marriage when they came out. Robin is the navigator but she gets car sick when she looks down. So, for over a decade we drove around together lost with me saying “where are we” and her saying “I dont know, I cant look down”. Anyhow, we could rent a sat nav for 13 euro a day in the Fiat Panda wed paid for or upgrade to the Fiat 500 for 25 a day with built in sat nav. So, Fiat 500 it is!



    So, its time to go Top Gear on this things arse. Keyless entry, self opening boot (with a DOUBLE CLICK of the button, right, like i saw that coming), manual, right hand drive, diesel, push button start, GPS, automatic headlights, automatic wipers, power windows. Wow! Fantastic while its under warranty……… Anyhow, after a brief 30 min working out how to enter our destination into the GPS we were off! In the wrong direction. Then, in the right direction. We stopped at a stop sign to turn right and the guy behind us overtook us at the intersection. Welcome to driving in Italy!!!!!! Everything you have heard is true. Road rules are merely suggestions, taken with a grain of salt. But, we set our sights for Lake Como 😄.



    The drive to Lake Como is amazing. Mountains, tunnels, spectacular scenery, its got it all. Once you get off the toll way you hug the waters edge on narrow twisty roads through towns.


    Tourists walk the non-existant verge flirting with death by Fiat. In places, the centre line on the road disappears which I think is Italian for “two cars cant pass”. So, driving isnt for the meek. At one point I overtook a car as a motorbike overtook me all on a narrow 2 lane road. Robin screamed a couple of times. Anyhow, we arrived safely at 4pm but with nerves still jangling. First stop was a pub for a schooner at 4 euro. It was hot, cramped but the beer was good. Second stop was the local mini mart for a cold 500ml Becks beer 1.50 euro which we took down to the lakes edge and thorougly enjoyed (sorry inkeeper). Behind us on the mountain is a church. The colours of the mountain look surreal. It looks like a Sound of Music backdrop. The lake itself is 200m above sea level. 150m deep on average but super deep in places where the bottom of the lake is actually below sea level. Just an awesome place.


    Anyhow, back to the minimart where I bought a 6 euro bottle of Negro Amaro (one of my favourite grapes) and then wondered how to get the wine out.

    Back to the mini mart where I bought an ingenious device which easily removed the synthetic cork allowing access. Brilliant!

    Early afternoon: About now , my phone went dead. So , i popped it on charge and went out. Where we are staying the road hugs the waters edge. Buildings on one side, lake on the other. BUT, the restaurants have their seated areas on wharves on the lake itself with the kitchen on the other side of the road. It creates this endless game of chicken as staff carrying plates of food and drinks try to cross a road teaming with sports cars, push bikes, motorbikes, rental cars etc all with scant regard to any road rules. I ordered a margheritta pizza for 5 euros and a beer 5 euros off a particularly fit young waitress who I suspect with her yoda like training probably would make the Australian touch footie team. Her acceleration off the mark, her step and her swerve were hypnotic to watch.

    It was like watching Patches O’ Houlihan coach a dodgeball team. “If you can dodge a car you can dodge a ball!”

    Anyhow, in this gladitorial style of restauranting the only measure of success is survival. She successfully bought me a perfectly executed pizza. Base just dotted with scorch marks, smokey but not burnt. Brilliant! Anyhow, back to the bedroom for some shut eye, or so I thought……..


    About 10:30pm explosions started to rock the night. I didnt immediately react, but after a few minutes I grabbed a towel and snuck out on the verandah for a look. Fireworks! No great surprise really. Either the Italian military were training or it was fireworks. They had been going for some time, so I didnt bother going to get a camera as I knew they would soon end. But, they kept going. So, I got the camera and took a few snaps. Then, watched a bit longer. Finally, i got bored and went to bed where I could still hear the booming and the sparking. Ive had a little (very little) to do with fireworks, enough to know someone just blew up a shitload of cash. Im curious what it was all about. Will investigate on the morrow……. it was an amazing display over the lake.


  • Milano Pt. 1

    Day 1:

    Arrive in Milano 7pm after rising in Koh Samui at 8am the day before. A trip of few highlights. Delays due to sandstorms. Some surprisingly yummy airline food. Bangkok airport has some treats for travellers. In particluar a thai store that sells thai products (and the odd german beer in 1L cans) at street prices. Bangkok doesnt have ridiculous liquor laws like Australia, so you can buy a beer and rather than being treated like a criminal for that offence, you can walk around the airport sipping and savoring it like a free man. So much better and weirdly no one was trashing the place or throwing punches……….

    So, 7pm in Milano. Time for some good cheap eats a shower and 10 hours sleep. There was a little bar come restaurant next door, so we popped in there for pizza any topping 8 euro and spaghetti al ragu 6 euro. The pizza was a frozen pre made base with spaghetti sauce and cheese microwaved with shaved ham placed on top afterwards. The spaghetti was out of a tin and microwaved. It was worth the 6 euros to watch the waitress trying to carry and juggle the hot bowl to the table. Welcome to Italy where you will find some of the worst food in the world. Id forgotten our house rule from our 2014 trip here. Only order food you see before buying and always ask how much (pricing is fluid in Italy, if you just order they will hike the bill). Sigh…….

    Day 2:
     An early rise and downstairs for a 9 euro all you can waste breakfast (i hate waste. Its one of my pet hates, so the all you can waste breakfast always annoys me. Im at one now writing up yesterday and people around me have taken far more food than they could ever eat and half of its destined for the bin. I said to Robin they should weigh the plates when you are done and add uneaten food to the bill.) Anyhow, priorities are easy at this point. COFFEE! So, I ask the lovely Italian lady in my best Italian for two cappuccinos. She smiles and directs me to a machine that adds powdered milk to hot water mixed with a shot.

    Italian Cappuccino….


    And, i got another reminder. Some of the worst coffee in the world is in Italy. Australia is blessed in that we have access to fresh milk. We have this wonderful product available everywhere and I think we have forgotten how wonderful it is. A proud Italian/Australian friend of mine (chef/travel writer) tells me Australia rules the world in milk based coffee. I think hes right, but the Italians own espresso and macchiato. Anyhow, back to my cappuccino. I pointed to an espresso machine right beside her and said hopefully “Cappuccino?” No. ☹️. Damn. Anyhow, i got my crappacchino and went to the buffet. Nice cheeses, sweet treats, fruit but it was a slice of prosciutto that restored my faith in Italy. Time to hit the streets.




    First stop a winebar (which wasnt open) near the Castle in Milano. A very cool young guy was talking shop with a rep and sipping an espresso. Cappuccino? I said. He said, we arent open. Im a sommelier, not a barista. But, if you are patient, I’ll make you one. Im just slow. Perfect! Id only just said to Robin people who love wine always understand coffee. I wasnt disappointed. He nailed it. A true lifesaver! It was a bit slow though. Coffee pricing in Italy is based on where you drink it. A table seat is dearer than a spot where you stand. So, i got charged 2.5 euro for a table seat. Doh! Anyhow, he delivered. Then, a quick tour of the castle. Amazing place.

    Then, a quick look at some local cars and the church (what an amazing thing to build 700 years ago) then off to Peck. Peck is a grocery store come bottleshop. Maybe the best of both in Italy. Maybe…….


    The bottleshop has a massive array of large format bottles and wines by the glass. We shared a sparkling a white and a red then went upstairs to the outstanding produce on offer


    Huge olives from puglia, massive dark cherries, saturn peaches (so delicious) and black figs. Just beautiful. This store is not for the faint hearted. The pricing is liable to cause heart palpatations, but if you want absolute quality they deal with it daily. So, we bought handfuls of this and that and went for a siesta leaving a bottle of moscato to chill in the fridge.

    So, 8pm back on the streets. Its pretty busy. The church is lit up. The winebar is rocking serving what we would call tapas for 2 euro (3 for 5 euro) and wine by the 100ml, 200ml and 750ml. A perfect place to wind down and pretend canned spaghetti never happened………
  • Aria, La Rosa, Pendolino and Websters Bar!

    Yep, you read correctly! This isn’t clickbait!

    After swiftly selling all tickets for our event with  Webster’s Bar, Newtown on the 30th of May, we added an extra night. Before we could promote the additional event, that too – sold out.

    If you managed to get tickets for either night, you are in for a treat. Steve is going to be pouring some of the new wines to our range. Fiano, Nebbiolo, Pignatello…. Eight wines. Three courses. Dinner done right!

    In the same conversation, if you didn’t manage to get seats for these events, don’t fret! We will be frequenting restaurants around Sydney (and elsewhere) showing off our range.

    July 25th – Steve is going to visit La Rosa, situated in the gorgeous Strand Arcade, for a more educational-focused masterclass. There he will pour a selection of wines which are new to our range,  accompanied with stories and history of how the wine came about.

    October 24th – Back to Strand Arcade, however to a different venue. Pendolino will be hosting a 4 course meal paired with Piggs Peake wines. Pendolino dish up some world class Italian fare so this is something to keep an eye out for!

    September 20th – Aria, Brisbane, are welcoming us back for the third year. Details are still to come, however if history repeats itself there will be a fantastic degustation with paired wines.

    It is still early days for these events so bookings aren’t being taken just yet. We will let you know how to secure a seat once possible.