Quattro Stagioni (The Four Seasons)
By Laurent Feneau
At Alba, misty sunrises light up the luxurious diversity of crops, regardless of season: vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, cattle, vineyards. The inhabitants of Piedmont are "fiercely attached" to their land, its wealth and the associated traditions. It was a native of Lombardy who said so, Enrico Crippa, reigning over the majestic piazza of the Duomo since 2004.
After Cannes, Paris, Laguiole and especially Japan, Enrico Crippa, now firmly part of the Alba region, can give free rein to his natural inclination for the best produce. True to his memories of the Land of the Rising Sun, he only makes use of the produce at just the right moment to produce visual perfection on a plate. Initially, a transposition of the kaiseki* onto Italian soil, this absolute respect for the produce and the seasons has become second nature to him..
Good King Henry
To some extent, Japan has allowed him to rediscover his native country in the minutest detail of these natural treasures. Thus, the produce guides him towards the content on the plate because Enrico does not follow any rules about his presentation of his cuisine. A few words, natures dictates and the inspiration of the moment leads to the conclusion. For instance, a plate of fried goby fish looking like a shoal of these tiny pellucid fish punctuated by tomato beads. Or perhaps number " 41 ", a starter that is exclusively made up of herbs and flowers in season: chervil, three basils, five calendulas, tarragon, nori, borage flowers, shiso, violets, ginger, sesame and even the well-named Good King Henry The pansy petals dominate and the underlying leaf of red shiso reminds the diner that this is certainly not a random handful of plants.
Joined by a thread
Because balance is of the essence for Enrico Crippa, when, in a dish, an ingredient is missing or when its texture or taste have changed with its maturity, he replaces it. "If a bean no longer contributes the green note that I expect of it, I will replace it with a different vegetable that will keep the same thread of colour and flavour. " However, there is also balance in the way in which the dishes follow each other on the menu where the consistency of each contributes to the overall harmony. This precision approach would be unthinkable without the unwavering support in the kitchens for the trend and mentality instilled by the chef. "With Antonio, my right hand man for some time now, and Angelica, the pastry cook, few words are exchanged. We examine the produce together and already know how we will be using it". Accordingly, he will prefer a simple dessert made only of fruit instead of a very elaborate cake.
The plants that populate his plates mainly come from his own kitchen garden, located on the lower slopes of Barolo, a land that enjoys a sound reputation for its vineyards. Herbs, lettuces, tomatoes, four varieties of beans, squash, courgettes, little trumpet zucchini from Liguria, strawberries, raspberries, the chef refuses to name his favourite produce. "That's like asking a mother which of her children she loves best! " Enrico Crippa does not bend to obligatory systems and demands dictated by existing practices. Surrounded by vineyards as far as the eye can see, this does not stop him from occasionally enjoying an herbal tea instead of a more potent nectar with his food. Also, the truffle reigns supreme in the region but will not be found in all his dishes. "As some people only come here to eat truffles, we have some but, in any case, they are far too expensive to be used in experiments! "
The Alba bubble
And it is in research that can be found the freedom he aspires to most of all as part of his ideal of contemporary lightness. A chef whose dishes are light, he wants a cuisine that leaves the guest feeling comfortable, happy and in a state of grace. Just like his salty meringues and chocolate cream the start and end the meal..
An attentive host, he dreams of a Japanese style inn where the experience would linger, making the guest feel that he was floating in a bubble.
Piazza Risorgimento 4