Ah Tuscany. If I could drop everything and start a new life, I would build a villa on one of your beautiful hills and make olive oil, wine and pastries. I would get a big dog, and never paint my nails, and just cook and eat all day every day. I only spent a half a day there, and I'm in love.
(the villa we ate at)
We arrived in Trequanda, a town in the province of Siena in the region of Tuscany, early Sunday morning. We started our day by making pici pasta with their chef (it's a specialty of the region). Pasta is so easy to make. It's just flour, eggs, possibly water and/or oil, and a pinch of salt. You make a volcano shaped mound with the flour, plop the liquids in the center, and slowly incorporate the two with a fork. Then you knead out the dough, and voila, pasta dough. So simple, yet so easy to screw up. I tried to make gnocchi once - I ended up having to order chinese food it was that bad. I'm going to try to make my own pasta eventually, I'll take pictures and post them when I do.
(piece of cake for this guy)
We took a tour of the villa grounds and the winery. Our tour guide (who works there) explained how they make their wines, aging the reds longer and which grapes are used and how the weather affects the taste and on and on. He said how some people can taste what's in the soil when they drink wine, but he doesn't buy into that. I like wine, some definitely more than others, but I just don't think that I'll ever be able to taste the essence of asparagus, or dirt, or carrots in a glass of wine. Although I just read a story on bonappetit.com that says that wine experts have more sensitive tongues than those of us who would like to think we're wine experts, so maybe my tongue just isn't special (sorry tongue).
(course 1 of the three-hour-long lunch: top meat is prosciutto, the one to the left is salumi toscana, and the one next to the bruschetta is pancetta. The dark bruschetta is pate)
We sat down to lunch at around 1:00, and did not finish until almost 4:00. Probably the longest meal of my life, but the food kept coming and so did the wine, so I wasn't one to complain. We started with a traditional Italian primo: the meat plate. I think if someone served me a plate of cold-cuts and a slice of cheese back home as an appetizer, I would LOL in their face. But these meats can hardly be considered cold-cuts. (*disclaimer* if you're kosher, skip this part). I love pig. I love bacon, I love crispy pancetta garnishing any and all pastas, I love fatty prosciutto. I can't say I would ever cook a pork chop over a piece of chicken or a steak, but I would take a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich over turkey and swiss any day of the week (and, in fact, I do). The bruschettas were good, even though they don't put salt in their bread in the Toscana region, so it tastes a bit like cardboard (though I've never tried cardboard specifically, but I'd imagine they taste similar).
(pappardelle pasta with, you guessed it, pork bolognese!)
Anyway, back to pork. I'm just being introduced to this whole other meat (my family is a chicken family, I'm so over it) and it's delicious. I know a pig's dirty and all that, but are chickens not dirty? To be a super pretentious foodie/journalist and quote Anthony Bourdain from his piece Don't Eat Before Reading This, "Pork, on the other hand, is cool ... pork tastes different, depending on what you do with it, but chicken always tastes like chicken." It's just so true. But back to the meal, and to more pasta. I was full by now (duh), but because they let you sit for a half hour between every course you're almost hungry by the time the next course comes out. After pasta, we had roast chicken with potatoes, which wasn't pretty so I didn't take a picture. But it was scrumptious.
(tart with apricot marmalade)
I'm a fan of the lunch time dessert. Well, I'm actually just a fan of dessert. At any time. Lunch time, mid-morning, pre-dinner, post-dinner, pre-bed, I don't discriminate. But I do particularly like having a little something sweet after lunch. I would have liked something chocolate, as I usually do, but I'm starting to appreciate non-chocolate sweets (gasp!). Italy's big on shortbread cookies, apricot-filling, and pastry cream. And I'm big on Italy. Ipso facto, I'm into their desserts.
And Tuscany. Did I mention that I love Tuscany?!