I have been wanting to write this post for just shy of two years now. Immediately after our visit to Tuscany in June 2012, amongst the thousands of pictures and day trips I wanted to capture, this was on the top of my list. A friend recently asked me for some feedback on a trip she was planning to Italy and the memories came flooding back. Quiet time as rare as it is, I just couldn’t help holding these off any longer. So here’s the Tuscan Food Fest. How good was it? Well heres the first food picture…you get it. It was just too good.
Mercato Centrale, thats where this inhaled plate was photographed. It was a heaven for sights, smells and tastes.
After such a wonderful start to a foodie vacation in Firenze, we continued our journey throughout central Tuscany focussing on these four rules.
1. Take your time at every meal. This is not your american fast food drive through zone. Instead, walk a few blocks away from the Piazza and the main tourist areas.
2. Stop at the farmers market and pack a picnic, make a meal out of wine and cheese (and some meat if you are not vegetarian)
3. Gelato and Vino any and multiple times a day are an absolute must.
4. Take time to know the people who cook your food.
Over the next ten days these rules ruled every one of our meals.
Our home base for the next week was a beautiful farmhouse of Agritourismo Niccolai on the outskirts of SanGaminangno
And we wanted to bring this back with us for a lifetime of memories. What better way to do this than some cooking classes?
First of this experience was a Pizza making class with Flavia and her husband Francesco at the Capella St. Andrea Winery. Capella St. Andrea is situated just north of San Gimignano. We got the tour of the winery, sampled some great Vernaccia and then got to work. Spending the next couple of hours making pizza from scratch with freshest of fresh veggies from the garden. They even offer meat but we just stuck to the good old vegetables. Divino!
With this new found appreciation of simple goodness, we sampled and savored every ingredient we could (provided it was vegetarian) and enjoyed the next week supplementing the food with Sangiovese, Vernaccia, Brunello, Chianti and so much more.
The very last day we had a completely different cooking experience. As rustic and quiet as the pizza making class was, our dessert making class with Manuela at Organic Tuscany was a bustling family experience. Manuela and Silvio had been exchanging emails with me for a few weeks now. I wanted to go for a just desserts class but then Silvio reminded me that I would need to eat lunch before desserts (now how can i tell him that i have made dessert my lunch and dinner many times). So we made a plan to make a simple lunch of salad, gnocchi and three desserts. But once you enter the homey kitchen of Manuela they offerings are limitless. It was like cooking with a family member. Salads were supplemented with bruschetta, gnocchi became two types of gnocchi and the desserts were simply marvelous. The table was beautifully set with hand crafted glasses made by Silvio. After two plus years, I can still say that cooking with Manuela was the highlight of my trip. Someday I hope to make it back there for a weeklong class.
And we all ate like one big happy family with Manuela, Silvio, their beautiful teenage daughters and their friends.