Sometimes I need a midnight snack. Peanut butter or Cheez-Its don’t do the trick. Tonight was one of the more elaborate versions — satisfying my hunger, desire for favorite foods, and restoring delightful flavors to my mouth before bedtime. It also helps that I had a nap for almost two hours this afternoon.
What I often do for this situation relies on bread. Fortunately, I had a portion of a loaf made last week –a Tartine-style Levain Sourdough bread, made from 80% bread flour, 15% home-milled Whole Wheat, and 5% home-milled Triticale. As it had aged a bit on the counter, I sliced it very thinly with the electric slicer and froze the remaining 1/2 loaf. These slices were no more than 1/8″ thick, and they could be defrosted and toasted directly in our electric toaster.
Now I had the plan. Bruschetta with olive paste, roasted sweet peppers, and almond milk ricotta cheese. The other friend I needed to complete the pleasure was Victor Hazan, author of Italian Wine, my first bible on the topic. The olive paste was Pate Olive Nere from Azienda Taurino in Puglia, where I had visited two years ago. The peppers were in a jar, from Turkey, but they were thick and flavorful — perfect for the job.
I had a bottle of a Portuguese red wine open, but this called for something Italian, so I went to the cellar and returned with a 2012 Guidobuono Barbera d’Alba, from Jan D’Amore. I don’t know Barberas that well, so I needed an introduction from Victor, and he provided a beauty.
“Although I had had a bottle of it now and then, I had never had much enthusiasm for Barbera, nor really understood the wine until my first trip to Piedmont. I had arrived in the evening, late in November. It was foggy; the streets of Asti were dark and empty; I was cold. This was the hard, silent, impenetrable Piedmont I had always imagined and had long put off visiting.
It was nearly 10 P.M., and I asked to be directed to a trattoria. Only one was still open. I thought of balmy Rome which I had left in the morning and where at that very moment restaurants were beginning to fill up. As I sat down, I was asked what I would be drinking. In small Italian restaurants one usually talks wine before talking food. Asti is Barbera country, so ‘Barbera” I told the man, but “bring me one of your best bottles.”
The food was sturdy and extraordinarily good — bagna cauda to start with …. and bolitto misto. But the star of the evening was the Barbera, a five-year-old from the village of Rocchetta Tanaro. The color was flashing garnet; the fragrance intense, of crushed flowers and concentrated fruit. It was a mouthfilling, chewy wine, brawny, but without any hard edges. The sense of comfort was immediate, chasing the chill, the loneliness, the oppressive awareness of the fog waiting at the door. This is what Barbara is all about.”
I have no photos of the assembled bruschetta, but they were rich and delicious. My Barbera was 6 years old, and I can not improve on Victor’s description in any way. I can only add that I was very happy that I decided to save the Portuguese wine for another night. And the yelping of coyotes down in our woods didn’t phase me at all.