Even though I posted yesterday about ceramics in Orvieto, of course the real reason for the road trip was to eat. I’m busy curating a trip to Umbria for Oldways, in March, and have had to do some serious
eating research. It’s hard, I know, but I convinced Gillian to come along with me while I worked my way through plates full of truffles.
Because that is what Umbria is all about in late August/ early September. Truffles. Due to the heavy rains in late spring, and then again in the summer, it’s a particularly fantastic truffle harvest this year. Even Pico came home with a huge one in his mouth one day!
In Orvieto we headed to La Palomba, since I wanted to try their signature dish, pasta all’ ascaro. I’d heard about it before, and it sounded like a recipe conceived in truffle heaven. It’s basically hand made pasta – in this case thick, chewy flour and water umbricelli – tossed in sauce of egg yolks, pancetta, parmigiano and heaping quantities of black Umbrian truffles. Yes, basically carbonara by way of truffle.
I could smell the fragrant strands of pasta even before they came to the table. Once there, the waitress hovered over my plate, grating even more truffles on top. She was so flagrantly abundant, that the truffle pieces scattered this way and that, landing on the white table cloth. It was a gorgeous mess.
Gillian instead ordered the tagliatelle with lamb ragu. A tangle of eggy noodles in a slightly tomatoey but intensely lamby sauce. Redolent with fresh herbs – rosemary and marjoram – it was outstanding.
Of course I had to order the restaurant’s signature dish – Palomba. Except that it wasn’t palomba (wild dove) that day, but pigeon. “It all depends on what the hunters are able to get” explained the owner. That, and several other game dishes including boar and hare, are available if the hunting permits.
In any case, the pigeon made me more than happy. Made in salmi, a typical Umbrian recipe, the half bird was covered in a deep dark sauce that was made from the pan juices and seasonings – juniper berries, anchovies, capers, black olives, rosemary, vinegar and orange skin – all blended together with the bird’s liver. The thick, piquant extra sauce was poured over a toasted, garlicky piece of bread. Gillian and I were basically fighting over the last, tiny bones.
Since it was lunch time, and we were driving, we didn’t order wine. Until, that is, the food hit the table, then we quickly flagged down the waitress who brought us a bottle of the house vino rosso – a Sangiovese – which washed everything down very nicely.
Don’t worry, we didn’t head directly to the car. We wandered through the alleys of Orvieto, buying ceramics, meeting a our friend Linda for a much needed coffee, until finally heading back along Lago di Corbara for Todi.
Trattoria La Palomba
Via Cipirano Menente 16
To find out more about the Umbria Culinaria which will take place March 16 – 23, 2014, visit this page on the Oldways website.