too many cooks in the Italian kitchen? never!
everyone has asked me about my favorite this and my favorite that from my 30 day stint over in Euroland. the truth is everything was my favorite and it’s a really hard question to answer. BUT if i had to pick…i guess i could really say there were some things that topped the rest. in an effort to share these favorites, i give you my favorite day in my 30 days in Europe.
it started off at the early hour of 8:30am when the owner of the Florence apartment was coming to check me out. i needed to schlep my belongings to the train station and hop a train to Chiusi-Chianciano, which is on the border of Tuscany and Umbria. OK. easier said than done but with the help of the gracious apartment owner, a cab was called and i was on my way. once in Chiusi, one of the proprietors of the farmhouse informed me that the region had suffered from flash flooding and that 2 out of 3 roads were closed to get the farmhouse. the only open road which was the “long way” was also virtually impassable unless you had an SUV type of vehicle. this day looked to either be a massive failure or an amazing adventure. only time would tell.
after a long car trip, i arrived at Il Fontanaro. it looked like what all the movies make Tuscan farmhouses out to be. it was beautiful. it was rustic. it was cozy – like home. the owners, mother & daughter, were warm and welcoming. it seemed as if the day would be saved. only other thing is, i was there to take a day of cooking lessons and i really don’t cook. insert the UH OH here.
Alina (daughter) and Lucia (mother) said let’s start off by looking at the menu we’ll be preparing – intimidating for the non-chef – but then handed over a plate of cheese, meat and a bottle of wine. ok…i can eat & drink and then the cooking will come – right?!
things to make:
- saffron & pumpkin rice
- home-made tagliatelle & Umbrian meat ragu
- slow cooked beef fillet
- Alina’s spaghetti carbonara
- Lucia’s apple strudel
i’ll just say that Alina & Lucia made it easy to “help” and i felt as though i were really cooking. everything was spectacular. the entire day was spent making the menu come to life and enjoying it along the way at lunch and then dinner. even better than the delicious homegrown organic food we made into meals was the company. you can’t help but get to know people as you spend an afternoon cooking, eating & drinking wine together. and, it turns out we’re kindred spirits as mother and daughter fully endorse wine in every dish! what’s not to amore?!
so why was this my favorite day? well, i guess because i was surprised how much i enjoyed a day of cooking. i learned about making different things, of course, but i also learned about the history of the farmhouse and a lesson in wine, to boot. Alina is a certified sommelier and gave a quick history lesson in Super Tuscan wines, which are of particular interest to me. Alina & Lucia treated me like a friend not a stranger taking a cooking class and staying overnight in one of their farmhouse villas. so much so that the next morning Lucia delivered me to the Chiusi train station with Alina as an escort to Rome.
the best news is, the story is far from over. for one, i’ve enjoyed making some of the dishes i learned to make at Il Fontanaro since returning home. it’s a souvenir that keeps on giving in the reliving of the day and the enjoyment of a delicious meal. secondly, i’ve booked a week-long stay to go to Il Fontanaro this summer and cannot wait to return and discover more about cooking, the medieval village of Paciano and wines of the region as well as seeing my friends, Alina and Lucia, again.
Il Fontanaro is on the border between Umbria and Tuscany, just 2 hours from Florence and Rome. staying as a guest of Il Fontanaro affords you the opportunity to have a slow, eco-organic country living experience. MOLTO BENE!
GRAZIE to Walks of Italy for giving me such a wonderful experience of cooking at Il Fontanaro. you made my favorite day possible and, clearly, i’m a fan since i’ll be returning!