Monday, August 31, 2009

La Maison du Fromage


Bleu d'Aoste


When one enters in a cheese chop what is the most striking thing is the smell.
I love cheese, and i will never understand those people that define "stink" as that wonderful aroma from cheese.
It can be said that from smell, even before sight, one can distinguish a french cheese shop from an italian one. In fact, the french prefer smooth goat cheese, while Italians prefer those hard or half-hard ones made out of sheep or cow milk. In France the fragrance is more sweet and hints more of milk. In Italy a scent of a cellar, mold and hay prevails.

But here at La Maison du Fromage at La Thuile (Ao) there is a different perfume. Most part of proposed cheeses is locally produced, but they also have something coming from France and other parts of Italy. Also some longer-aged cheeses are displayed. The final result, therefore, is a right mixture of scents from different cultures.

Obviously Fontina cheese from this area lords over it.
The fontina cheese i used to know before was the product that usually is commonly sold in stores, and i judged it a cheese a little "banal". Elastic, a little spicy but without a remarkable personality.
Here at La Maison, instead, they proposed an aged Fontina that didn't look at all like the one i used to know, neither for the color (yellowish to browinsh, with irregular crust covered with dark molds), nor for the texture (half-hard, buttery and not elastic at all), or for the smell (bitter, strong and pungent), and for the taste (direct, bitter and spicy hot, with a note of almonds). After a small taste i was convinced to get a good slice.
We also bought a slice of Bleu d'Aoste (with wonderful veins of blue molds, consistent, buttery and spicey), and a couple of cheeses that i didn't know: the Grotta (harder and more aged, crumbly, strong taste), and the Capriolo (fresh smooth cheese made out of goat and cow milk, intense and spicey flavor).

At La Maison there are also other food products. We bought some Arnad lard and some fresh milk. A free white chocolate bar was offered.

La Maison du Fromage
via Collomb, 10
11016 - La Thuile (Ao)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Saint Leonard

Saint Leonard

La Vieille Cloche
Here i am, back from a short (only four days!) but intense vacation in the Valle d'Aosta region.

We lodged at the wonderful Bed and Breakfast La Vieille Cloche, at Saint Leonard, a small outlying neighborhood in the municipality of Saint Rhémy en Bosses.
The Bnb offers different solutions: we chose the apartment because it also allows the use of a small kitchen although breakfast, in this case, was not included. For the four days the cost was 330€ (80 each night plus 10 for the final cleaning). Dogs allowed. The price doesn't include bed sheets nor bath towels, items that we brought with us, but they are available for rent.
At Saint Leonard, besides the Bnb, there is a bar (the cappuccino is good but the brioches are the prepacked commercial ones), a post office, a church, the small castle and some private houses. It's a little before the Gran San Bernardo tunnel, just after the fork with the road that climbs up to the pass (border with Switzerland).
At the highway junction there is also a restaurant-pizzeria, a little supermarket and a prosciutteria [ham shop] (this is the area of the famous jambon de Bosses). The little village and the surrounding country sides are very quiet and silent, despite the nearby highway.
Saint Rhemy, a little above, along the road of the pass, is a little bigger and typical, and there is the Hotel-Restaurant Suisse, listed on the SlowFood guide, where we lodged (and had dinner!) some years ago.

During this holiday we have seen some interesting things, which i will write about in the next posts. We also made a wonderful hike, short and easy enough also for Maddie, still recovering from the operation of the crossed ligament.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


In our small home in the chestnut forest there are two little (unfortunately not communicating) gardens, about 35 square meters [377 square feet] each.

The CAD project
One is situated in the front of the house, and it is enough level. Most of it is cultivated with grass , flowers and a few fruit trees, but we also planted some vegetables and herbs.
We grow most of our vegetables in the other garden in the back, which is kind of difficult because since we live in a mountainous area, the ground yields to a steep slope. Therefore we decided to make some works to be able to make better use of it.
We started to fix this piece of land two years ago, cleaning it from monstrous nettle bushes and other weeds, a thing which revealed also the base of a big chestnut tree still sprouting new branches that we had to cut back.
Then we built a little path with steps and a hairpin bend that allows easy access to the whole garden. We planted some fruit trees (a pear, fig, cherry and a mediar). In the lower part, limited by a wall with reinforced concrete, we leveled an area, cleaned it from the stones and filled it in with good fertile dirt. Last year, besides this flat area, we planted a lot of tomatoes and other vegetables also on the slopes. That gave us a good harvest, even if, there, the work was kind of difficult. For this reason we decided to build some terraces (this year we built the first). Terraces, besides making work much easier in the garden, helps to prevent landslides caused by heavy rains.

Me, building the terrace
Given the success of this first terrace, in the fall i will start to build another one, but a little bigger.

The original idea, copied by some solutions i saw in other gardens, was to secure one or two tree trunks in the dirt, perpendicularily to the direction of the slope, obtaining a kind of step were a flat amount of dirt could accumulate. The project has then evolved in building a real "wall" made of trunks laid upon each other, about 50cm [1.6'] tall, 2meters [6.6'] large, bordered by two other sides about 1 meter [3.3'] long. The result looks like a big box in wood 2 m2 [21.5 ft2] wide, clinging to the slope, perfectly flat.

The supporting poles you can see in the photos are four steel pipes 1 meter long, unused material i already had. They stuck out about half a meter from the dirt, so they are buried half a meter. The trunks are sectioned in half. They were obtained from nine pieces two meters long (six for the front part and three, cut in the right sizes, for the sides). Their diameter is 8cm, so the total height is a little less than 50cm. I bought them for 3.50€ each at Leroy Merlin. They were already treated with a chemical protection with a high pressure system, but i preferred to paint them one layer of waterproof paint. The trunks are attached to the poles with some screws. The corners are kept together with some angular metal strap. The total expense was, so, 31.50€ for the wood plus about 10€ for other materials.

The final result, with some veggies already planted and covered with hail-protection netting.