Friday, October 24, 2014

A month in Tuscany Day 28 - The last day and a look back

The last day again was sunny and warm and the remaining 7 of us decided to spend the day at the villa, enjoying the last day there and starting to pack up. It did not seem possible that 4 weeks had passed, the villa felt like home now and I had got used to all it's idiosyncrasies. I knew that I was going to miss the rhythms of Villa life.

Every morning Dave ran or drove to the bakery and returned with fresh bread and pastries for breakfast.

I sat and wrote my blog in the living room while the inhabitants gradually rose and made some espresso ate breakfast and decided what to do that day. Dave started ferrying those that needed to be driven to the station or bus stop and then inevitably drove a few people to Chianti country or somewhere in the surrounding country side.  Many days found me walking in to Siena and having lunch in one of my favourite restaurants and maybe checking out some new area or doing a little shopping.

Almost every day found Dave and I at the Co Op grocery store picking up a few essentials.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A month In tuscany day 27 - Finally a little culture

Day 27 dawned sunny and warm again and we all headed in to Siena, some walking some bussing and some in the car. I was on the walking crew and could not help taking yet more pictures of the scenery on the way.

We decided that since this was the last day of a full house we would do the things in Siena that we had not yet done and all meet for lunch.  Unfortunately our first choice was closed but we went with plan b.  This was the restaurant that we had gone to on the rainy market day. This time though since it was such a nice day we sat outside.  To start we ordered zucchini flowers to share.

Not only beautiful but very delicate and tasty. Unfortunately it is now 3 weeks later and I can not remember who ordered what, but I had the wild boar which was again very tasty, though I was looking forward to vegetables at this point.

The mushroom risotto was a popular choice as this also had been extremely tasty last time we were there.

I think the favourite dish this was the beef steak cooked with a red wine sauce.  This was so intense and flavourful.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 26 - Another rainy market day.

We walked in to the market in Siena and though rain was threatening it was still pretty good heading down the dirt road and as usual the light was just a little different and a picture had to be taken.

You can feel the change of the season in the air and it was quite overcast, though not what you would call cold.  The market in Siena is every Wednesda, it is enourmous and attracts people from all the surrounding countryside.  It is really more of a local market than a tourist one, though never the less we were not the only tourists.  I finally bought a jacket not the one that I had been eyeing each week, but a new one.

After a couple of hours poking around the market it was time for lunch, rain was threatening, so went to the restaurant I had discovered 3 weeks before in a torrential downpour. I ordered the dish that Dave had previously ordered bonconcini of chicken with mushrooms, as did everyone else except Nancy.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 25 - Another day in Siena

With every new arrival I like to walk with them in to Siena to orient them to the city.  I know the shops and restaurants very well but for the more cultural sights they will have to rely on others or a guide book I am afraid. As usual there were beautiful vistas and views down narrow streets that you can not help taking a photograph of.

It was a perfect day warm and sunny, but not too hot.  We decided to eat on the street near the Campo at a restaurant that I had been to for lunch several times.  Ken wanted lasagna, so that is what he ordered.

He said it was OK but not great.  Pat was feeling like a salad, they had been away for over week and really wanted something light.

She was happy with her choice, just salad with grilled chicken.  I ordered the lemon chicken, when it arrived I realised that was what I was cooking for dinner! Oh well I love lemon chicken and this was very good with roasted rosemary potatoes, another favourite of mine.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 24 - Girls shopping day in Siena

Dave took Dennis off for a gruelling bike ride in Chianti country and Debbie joined me and Connie and Nancy for a day out in Siena.  We walked in to the city and it was not long before Debbie had bought a pair of shoes.  Much to Connie's frustration we wandered in and out of shops for the remainder of the morning, stopping briefly every once in a while to admire our beautiful surroundings. We decided to have lunch at the small restaurant just around the corner from the Campo.  I was determined to make it past the pasta course this time, so we ordered two pasta dishes to share.  Ravioli with funghi sauce.

This was, as always, delicious.  Along with this we ordered pappardelli with wild boar sauce, also delicious.

For the second course we shared roast pork, roast duck with potatoes cooked in tomato sauce and zucchini.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 23 - A quick lunch in Chianti

3 of our crew went to Florence for the day, they were heading off early and I had not had a good night due to threatening cold so decided not to go.  Connie Dave and I drove in the Chianti countryside as Connie had not been there yet, and there was a restaurant that Dave wanted to take me to. The countryside everywhere is beautiful, but especially spectacular in Chianti Classico region.

We drove through the countryside admiring the views.  At one point we were able to see Sangimiano in the distance. The towers are very distinctive and set it apart from all the other hill towns.

We wended through the countryside until we came to the restaurant that they had lunch in the day before and indeed it was in a beautiful location with an expansive view over the valley.

The food was not bad either! I ordered scallopini with mixed funghi (mushrooms)

Wonderful very intense mushroom flavour.  Dave ordered pasta with the funghi sauce.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A month in Tuscany Day 22 - A quiet day at the villa

Dave, Gord, Nancy and Al were going to rent scooters and buzz around the Chianti region.  Originally I planned to go, but remembered that I lost my drivers licence just before coming away.  So I stayed back at the Villa with Connie who was not feeling confident enough to ride them. Connie and I decided to walk the other way along the road and see what we could find.  The scenery was stunning and we walked and talked and constantly clicked away with our cameras.

Every directions the views were beautiful.

At the end of the road it turned from rural to more urban going in to a residential area adjoining the University.  So we though we would look for a coffee shop.  What we found was a small market.

Of course we had to check it out, Connie found the perfect black cardigan for 10.00 euros and I found porccetta

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A month in Tuscany Day 21 - Another 3 hour lunch!

Today was the day that my British childhood friends were leaving, so we decided to go up to Siena and have lunch before bidding them farewell.  We were trying to find somewhere to eat when we walked past a restaurant that I had been eyeing for a while and was getting very good vibes on.  There was room for only 8 on their very small terrace and 8 we were.  We let the waiter decided what to bring for us, and he did not dissapoint.

First up was a antipasto platter. We sat 4 at each table and so they brought out 2 platters of everything.

This platter had bruschetta with tomatoes and liver pate, as well as deep fried croquettes.  None of us could figure out exactly what these consisted of except there was definately meat of some kind and they were delicious.

Next came the obligatory meat platter.

In the centre is pecorino cheese with honey to drizzle on it which is a wonderful way to eat it.  Next was the ribilliata bread soup.

This was the best version that I have had so far with a lovely crunchy toasted bread served with it.

A month in Tuscany Day 20 - 33 years of married bliss

Today was Jacky and Howard's wedding anniversary.  When they were married 33 years ago I had emigrated to Canada and was not able to be at their wedding, so I was happy that they invited me and Candi along to celebrate with them.  Well maybe they did not invite us but they put up with us anyway.  We drove to Castallina in Chianti and found this wonderful deck to have lunch on.

After the chill of yesterday it was warm and sunny again and it was the perfect temperature for lunching in the shade.  We ordered to starters to share the first was the charcuterie platter.

As always this was beautiful with 3 different types of bruschetta and and some artichoke hearts.  The bread basket included some wonderful topped foccacia bread.

We also got a burrata mozzarella sitting on a bed of arugula pesto which was not only beautiful, but very tasty.

For my main course I had lamb with the most amazing parsley mashed potatoes and red cabbage.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 19 - Fall comes to Tuscany

Day 19 dawned much cooler, not cold but cool enough that you needed to wear a jacket, I think this was about the first time I have worn a jacket since June! It was cloudy and threatening rain, but we decided we would go to the market any way as it was market day. We wandered around the market for about an hour in small groups and then 8 of us met up for lunch. Dave bought himself a leather jacket and scarf, looking very Italian.

It was starting to rain quite hard so the obvious thing to do is find a restaurant for lunch!  A rather large warm inviting restaurant called to us and we heeded the call.  First thing 2 bottles of vino de cassa.  I ordered potato and mushroom tart served on saffron fondue as I had no idea what that would be.  This is what I got.

What this turned out to be was a crust of mashed potato filled with porcini mushrooms with a saffron cream sauce absolutely delicious.

Dave ordered mushroom risotto as it is porcini season.

Dov ordered lamb chops which were grilled and served kind of like lamb popsicles.

Several people ordered the wild boar which was amazing.

By the time we got out of the restaurant it had stopped raining, but was still cool and overcast so we decided to go in to the Duomo.

The inside is quite dramatic and in the month of September all the inlaid floors are exposed.  The remainder of the year they are covered with carpets.  They are quite stunning and we spent a while in there listening to an audio guide we bought. We emerged into sunshine once again and after coffee in the campo made our way back to the villa.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Month in Tuscany Gato update

Our poor failing cat spent all night in the living room and her paw was getting larger, so we decided that we had to try to find the vet again and deal with her one way or another.  She is such a sweet little thing and purrs every time you touch her though she was no longer eating.  However she managed to get off the chair and limped outside we thought to do her business, but she disappeared.  We assumed that as cats do, she had gone off to hide and die.  So sadly we went about the day and mourned her loss.

That evening however, when I went down to get a cardigan there she was on our bed.  We gave her some cream and she stayed in our room over night crawling in to the closet at 5:00 am.  When we got up we did extensive research found the vet and went to get her. Lo and behold she had disappeared again! Obviously she understands English and did not want to go the the vet.  A few minutes later Jakopo's mother appeared with the cat, it had gone to her house.  She is also a cat lover and said that her two cats would not put up with this intruder, but she knew of a cat shelter where they had a vet and she would take her there.  At least we think that is what she said as she spoke very little English and I only speak menu Italian.

We miss the gato, but I believe she is being well looked after, having used up several of her nine lives.

A month in Tuscany Day 18 - A night at the Opera

I route marched the new arrivals in to Siena, I really have to get a lot of walking in each day or I will not be able to fasten the seat belt on the plane on the way home from this trip.  Dave drove Gord down to the train station and they came up the escalators as Gord does not have the problem of eating too much! We arranged to meet in the Campo, which at the allotted time was packed.

By this time it was time for lunch a good friend of mine who sadly could not be here had given me the name of a restaurant which was reputedly the best restaurant in Siena.  I suggested that we find this and go there for lunch, it turned out that the restaurant was about 1/2 a block from where we were standing! Al and I went and got the table while poor Nancy waited in the Campo for Gord and Dave. We ordered the house wine, the waiter said he would bring 2 litres and we would only pay what we drank. We paid for 2 litres!

There were no menus and when everyone arrived the chef told us the options for pasta. Nancy ordered ravioli stuffed with ricotta and spinach with mushroom sauce.

Which was delicious, I ordered the ribilliata which is the Tuscan bread soup.

This was also wonderful, Dave, Al and Gord had pici with wild boar sauce.

Also delicious.  All the pasta was made on the premises and scooped off a large table in to the pot at the time of ordering. The chef then came back and asked what we wanted for our main course, we were all full and will have to come back another day for the meat course.  Excellent restaurant, not sure if the best in Siena, but right up there.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 17 - Our first winery

Day 17 dawned foggy but warm, first thing Dave, Nancy, Al and I went to the Co op to load up on supplies for food and wine.  Then 8 of us headed out in two cars to Pienza.  We stopped in a small town for lunch.  The special of the day was panzanella the Tuscan bread salad.

We all ordered this and got a large platter of it and plastic plates and cutlery to eat it with! Not the greatest presentation, but very good salad.  We washed this down with a litre of house wine and continued on our way. We happened upon a winery that was actually advertising sampling that was open so of course both cars pulled in.  I lovely young Italian women directed us to sit in a covered area with the a view across the vineyards. We were also greeted by a St Bernard the size of a small horse.

We sat down and she brought out the three wines that we would be tasting and 3 glasses each.  For each tasting we got about 5oz of wine!

The winery had been in the her husbands family for 300 years.  We had one pinot grigio and two reds which both had a large percentage of san giovase grape. This was the best one and we bought several bottles at 15.00 euro a bottle, which to us Canadians seems cheap but not necessarily to the Brits.

Monday, September 22, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 16 - The british invasion

I am writing this a day late as the last 24 hours has been a whirlwind. The day started calmly enough, Connie and Dov arrived late the night before managing to get a train when there was supposed to be a 24 hour strike! So along with Carl and Lois we walked in to Tuscany for lunch.  We went to the same restaurant that we had been to, several times before.  I took a picture of the name on the place mat as I thought they ought to have credit.

Dov ordered gnocchi with arugala sauce, he was very happy with this choice and indeed it was very tasty.

I ordered the cut pork, which I now know is grilled pork sliced and served over apple and radicchio salad drizzled with balsamic creme and topped with shaves of cheese.

This was so good, but unlike most meals in Italy far too big a portion, I was not able to finish it, there was just so much meat.  Carl had a Pizza, Lois had the chicken that I had the previous time and Connie had the pici with wild boar.  All in all a very good meal.  We walked around a little to orient the newcomers to Siena.  Connie told me that I had not posted any pictures of the sights of Siena just food and views so this one is for you Connie, a picture of the unfinished wing of the Duomo.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A month in Tuscany day 15 - A trip to Chianti country

Three of our guests were wanting to rent scooters and scoot around the Tuscan country side.  So Dave and I drove them up to a small town in the centre of the Chianti wine district Gaiole, to rent them.  This took far longer than you would expect.  Jennifer you are far more patient than I. When Bri and Ern get together it is indeed like herding cats! When they finally had there scooters running they took off and we arranged to meet them in Radda for lunch.  Radda is yet another beautiful little hill town and we sussed out a good place for lunch.

We ordered two glasses of Chianti Classico and waited for their arrival.  Amazingly they were not that late, and using impeccable Italian we ordered lunch.  I had Bruscetta Tuscany, which is, warm liver pate with toasted bread.

This was delicious with a real liver flavour which I love.  Bri and Dave ordered the pizza for two, I think really it was a pizza for four!

Ern and Jen ordered salads, which were fresh and probably much better for them than either of the other options.