During our roundabout trek to the French Pizza Championships in Paris, Bruno di Fabio and I shared a lot of adventures and ate a lot of heart-healthy foods like butter-soaked escargot and goose liver pate (above), along with the million baguettes we so gloriously scarfed. Starting out at Lake Geneva, we were as far from Athens, Ohio and my little pizzeria Avalanche as could be. First, after freezing our arses off in the uber-expensive Geneva, we stopped at Ma Boulangerie in the French Alp village of Bonneville where it seemed all of France came to pick up breads, sandwiches, tarts and croissants.
The mountains aroung Bonneville were some of the most beautiful I’ve seen.
Ma Boulangerie really had their act together. They were fast, fully staffed and friendly with both of us. After just a few minutes they allowed us access to their oven. While I was getting the knack of loading and pulling baguettes out, Bruno dissapeared.
I walked to the back of the bakery and saw that he had made some new friends with the whole staff (go figure.) There he was mixing dough and forming baguettes, debating the proper method of pre-fermentation and the temperature of holding mixed dough. After a few hours of mixing, forming, and oven work we had to leave and head toward Alessio on the Ligurian Coast of Italy.
After we left Bonneville, we traversed the Alps again into Aosta, Italy where we stopped to forage and found some great bakeries and a treasure trove of…my favorite…Sausage!
It was here where we found some barky peasant breads and another lost love: the white truffle from Alba!
Aint’ nothing like the smell of stinky cheeses when you’re surrounded by the Italian Alps and some new friends!
After a quick stop in Torino, we headed straight to the Italian coastal town of Alessio where we tasted some great Ligurian breads and pastries.
The tourist season had recently ended so we had to search for places that were still open – but the sea was still beautiful!
We found the awesome Ligurian flatbreads and pizzas. I gave my starter some great ocean air next to the church steeple.
On down the beautiful coast we swept. We traveled into San Remo where we made some more great friends who also turned us onto some fantastic recipes. Laura taught us how to make Bagna Caulda in the Piedmontese tradition: milk and cream with trimmed garlic devoid of the green part (which is not digestible) then reduced with 2-3 anchovies. She also told Bruno secretly how to make “moro” which is the famous fava bean puree. (He’s gonna be mad for me posting this recipe but this is payback for telling Laura and her husband that I was extremely constipated and in need of Metamucil.)
We also noticed the traditional but small fougasse that was so popular to the west of here, past Monaco and in the south of France…we were near, but first we had to experience Monaco.
The Hotel Metropole was a fabulous place and took very good care of us! The cars here were outrageous and shined so much brighter after we learned on a nice rainy day…at a near vertical hill with a stop light…that our rental…had bald tires. Luckily for us, Bruno was driving and instead of easing it up the hill, he burned rubber for at least four minutes in a tires screech and cloud of rubber smoke that could be seen and heard in Bulgaria. I did find that the stinky smell eminating from under my seat was the pancetta ‘steccato’ I had picked up in Aosta. The pork belly is bound by wood and twine after brining to compress the pork fat and you cannot find it in the states.
Then came Monaco and the Hotel Metropole.
It is a beautiful hotel and home to the kitchen of Joel Robuchon. We were fortunate to be invited in by the Chef de Cuisine, Chef Coco where we met the whole staff and did a quick stage in the kitchen. Here is the bread chef and the pate fermentee they use for their breads (right).
During our working tour of the kitchen, we learned how one of the best kitchens in the world operates. The Executive Pastry Chef, Satomi Kanai, showed us how they bathe the sweet breads with yuzu, then popped them back in the oven. Something I’ve never seen before.
Thanks to Chef Coco and his staff for having two pizza guys disrupt his day. The next day, we checked out and headed toward France and the Mondiale de la Pizza in Paris. Not a bad trip so far- three countries in three days, but we had many more cool adventures along the way. Stay tuned for Part 2 next. (I’ve got tons of pics and some interesting video.)