Heady.  The sole word describing the atmosphere an Alba in autumn covers not just the truffles but the eating frenzy and  the quantity of restauranteurs, foodies, writers and photographers who pop up with far more frequency than the coveted fungus.  Heady, the feeling I get when setting foot in Piemonte.

A long time ago, my college roommate Jennifer introduced me to Alba.  She was the typical curious eater who conned her friends into gastro-vacations where only the voracious survived.  When she would return home, she’d regale those of us left land-locked with her food-ventures, predating slow food and hashtags. [Not so coincidentally, she would go on to found HomeCookingNY, teaching New Yorkers how to cook in their own kitchens.]

Eventually, I too made my way to Alba for the Fiera del Tartufo, and it is enough to write that my senses were almost satisfied.  Truffles smell, taste and feel delicious, but for me, the look (including the cute tartufai and dogs) is not enough to satisfy my travel cravings.  My intent on visiting Alba had a secret motive: Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, FSRR.  (For the record, Piemonte is a cash cow of contemporary art whose foundations, galleries and museums I hope to continue writing about.)  Though Charlotte and I would drive nearly two hours to Torino to visit this fabulous contemporary art foundation, for those enjoying the last two weeks of Alba’s truffle festival, the road to contemporary art is much closer– 20 minutes by car to Guarene d’Alba’s Palazzo Re Rebaudengo.

Palazzo Re Rebaudengo is the energetic little sister to Torino’s FSRR hub.  Hosting international as well as emerging artists, it is a contemporary art enclave and artist residency in the middle of truffle-land.  Definitely worth the detour.  And if an over-nighter in Torino is in your itinerary, check out Un’Espressione Geographica at FSRR through January 9, 2012.
Want current truffle info:  In Piedmont, Season of Truffles and Barolo (New York Times) and Alba Truffles, The Cinderella Fungus (Riviera Times)

Photos:  Charlotte Owen and FSSR